Friday, December 2, 2011

Recognizing Women of Distinction

Earlier this week, I was honored to be among 25 women business executives being recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal as “Women of Distinction.”

The Philadelphia Business Journal celebrated its 14th anniversary of recognizing women leaders who are having a positive impact on our businesses, our communities and our families here in the region – and I am humbled to be among the outstanding women who have received this honor. The women I shared the dais with this year are paying it forward, because, as fellow honoree Clara Rivas of WWSI Telemundo Philadelphia said, “We owe it to other women to light the road.”

In lieu of acceptance remarks, Lyn Kremer, publisher of the PBJ, challenged each us to write an 11th Commandment. Each and every response was inspiring, providing us a glimpse of what makes each woman a great leader and a sense of where her passions lie. For example, Patricia Miller of Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. deemed that “Thou shalt provide educational opportunities for all children – the cornerstone of a strong society.”

Improving our communities and ourselves, and educating our young people, were common themes, and each honoree was taking significant steps to address these issues – putting her words to action.

But like Clara, many of these distinguished ladies focused on their responsibility to lend other women a “helping hand” so they also might achieve their own lofty goals in business, the community and the home. Here are a few that stood out to me, and, while they may not be verbatim, I hope I have captured their essence.

Kamil Ali-Jackson of Yaupon Therapeutics Inc., reminded us all to do no harm to women who are trying to balance their lives, while Eunice Heath of The Dow Chemical Co. encouraged us to remove barriers so women can reach their full potential. That means helping those in need as well as accepting help from others, as encouraged by Irene Chang Britt of Campbell Soup Company.

We all cannot be Wonder Woman – and should not strive to be – but we can be the best CEO of our own lives, which means having a great team around you. In talking with many of these very special women, this philosophy is key to their success. While enabling others to reach their goals, they are also confident enough to ask for help in reaching theirs.

I think Lisa Nutter, awarded for her work with Philadelphia Academies, Inc., summed it up best – “Those who say it could not be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” These inspiring women are helping change Philadelphia, the Commonwealth and beyond – so get out of their way.

I leave with you with my 11th Commandment, which partially echoes a UnitedHealthcare mantra and I try to remember it every day:

Don’t sleepwalk through life. Be present. Be here now. As Maya Angelou said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” I'm trying hard not to miss a single one of those moments, like tonight.

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