by Jordan DeWald
The Burleson community has wonderful women-owned businesses and leaders. In the March issue of Local Life, I want to take the opportunity to celebrate some of these women and their accomplishments.
Being a working woman with a career can be challenging by itself and the stigmas do not make it any easier. You must juggle day-to-day life, looking good, looking young, working out, being a Pinterest mom, being a mom that has patience, being a wife, running a business, dressing the part, volunteering at school, taking care of elderly parents, making sure the cat is fed… the list never ends!
The women interviewed are Jennifer Huffman, Owner of Elizabeth Scott Bridal, Penny Johnson, President/CEO for Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South, Angela McGarity, Owner/Artistic Director at Artistic Motion Dance Academy, and Roxanne Myers, President of Lost Oak Winery. I hope you enjoy reading about and learning from these great female leaders within our business community.
Owner and Publisher,
Local Life Magazine
The Challenges and Benefits to Being a Woman in Business
Every industry faces its own unique structure, history, norms, and culture. How a woman fits into that industry, particularly as a leader, is ever evolving and each person approaches it differently. Just as personality traits and breadth of knowledge shape how someone leads, the experience of being a female in Western culture also plays a role.
It is the people in an industry who shape how the businesses are run and how people respond to leaders. The experiences of a woman in business will be unique to their industry. Roxanne Myers, President of Lost Oak Winery, describes the grape growing and winemaking industry as a “very male-dominated field, from owner to winemakers.” Their primary consumers are females though. Roxanne said “I don’t think of myself in the context of being a woman in the things that I do. I hold various leadership positions and in all my roles, I try to put the people and the organization ahead of me, thus helping me focus on the right things not on what might benefit me.” She finds there are advantageous aspects of being a female: “I would argue that leading employees might be easier as a woman because we see the human side of the business.” Jennifer Huffman, owner of Elizabeth Scott Bridal, is in a field that has a large percentage of female ownership. She too has found the upside to being a female leader with mostly female employees: “As a mom and wife, I relate to the issues of my female employees.”
Angela McGarity, owner of Artistic Motion Dance Academy, acknowledges that her role and challenges have changed significantly over the years of owning her own business. She has been pushed out of her comfort zone but enjoys being a part of something bigger than herself. “I started with only myself running everything and teaching all forms of dance, administration, custodian…I did it all.” She jokes that she needs a wall of hats because she plays so many different roles throughout the day, a sentiment many business owners can echo. Jennifer also addresses the many hats a business owner wears: “Owning your own business is hard enough in and of itself. Add in the titles of mom of 4 kids and wife, and the entire situation becomes a complex maze of navigating giving your business the attention it deserves, returning emails and phone calls in a timely manner, making it to sports games and practices, kids doctor appointments, helping with homework, cooking dinner. You want with all your heart to be a rockstar in your business, but you also want to be able to be there for your kids and spouse when they need and want you to be there.”
Penny Johnson, President/CEO for Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South, said she often finds herself as the only woman in the room and the nature of that allows her to bring a different perspective to the conversation. Just as there are additional challenges that can arise by being a female in business, there can be benefits. Penny said that the trait of multitasking comes naturally to most women, allowing them to get many things done. This skill means she is “used to being adaptable, and I can easily change hats when needed to handle different situations.” Penny advises “I believe if you are honest, authentic, and transparent with employees they will resonate with you and support you regardless of your gender.”
At the same time, there are real challenges that do arise from being a woman in business. Women can be perceived in ways that are different than a man as leaders. What may be seen as “assertive” in a man can be viewed as “being difficult” in a woman. Young boys can be described as “future leaders” whereas young girls are called “bossy.” Jennifer finds that she must be aware of whether her decision is perceived as being emotional. Tiffany Griffin, the owner of Local Life Magazine and Marketing Group, has encountered challenges in the sales industry. That field has long been male-dominated and carries a stigma for women in sales. At times, Tiffany has found it difficult to gain respect right away, based simply on her appearance, and will get treated inappropriately. Not long ago she had a business-related conflict with a male. She went to address the situation, but he just attempted to intimidate her. She returned with her fiancé to see if there would be a change in attitude. She said he was nowhere to be found and she was able to take care of the business matter. Tiffany described the situation and difference in treatment as eye-opening.
Being a business owner has enough challenges on its own, and whether or not the owner is treated differently as a female is simply one of them. These women have learned how to respond, as they would any other challenge. Roxanne addressed it this way: “Personally, I don’t find being female a huge barrier to success probably because I haven’t noticed. I’ve been too busy trying to build the business.”
What fulfills you in your job as a leader?
Penny: “Knowing that just one conversation I had that day may have made a difference for someone. When I was younger the accomplishments and the growth are what provided fulfillment. Now, that fulfillment comes from pouring into people and seeing those I have mentored grow and find their way as leaders.”
Roxanne: “I love results. I love compromise and collaboration. When we get results through compromise and collaboration, I feel like we all win.”
Angela: “I absolutely love watching the children grow and learn new things with a passionate heart about dance. My greatest success is passing on the love of dance and providing a safe place to be able to grow and call home.”
Jennifer: “Knowing that I am a business owner who is creating jobs for people in our town and helping be an integral part of what is supposed to be one of the best days in a women’s life gets me up out of bed in the morning.”
Tiffany: “I love the relationships that I have made over the years. From clients to employees, they are all important to me. I also love the calls and emails I receive telling me how much the magazine has helped them grow their business.”
Balancing Work and Home Life
There are strongly held opinions regarding the balance a woman must find in between their work life and home life. No one denies that it is a fine balance and struggle that takes a lot of work. All these women have had decades of experience in that balancing act and offer what they have learned over the years.
Penny suggests: “In order to have balance, you have to think about it in seasons. For example, I will never have the type of schedule that allows me to work from 8-5. There will be weeks or months that could be extremely busy that include long hours and a lot of travel. On the other side, there are times you have a stretch where you have more flexible time. My advice is to take the time with your family when you can and be fully present in those moments.” Roxanne’s thoughts are similar, saying it helps to compartmentalize her life. All the factors such as work, kids, friends, and phones in their nature distract from something else. When she is home, she does not plug into work. When she works out, she does not answer her phone. Roxanne stresses that it is a challenge that requires tremendous focus but has found the compartmentalization is the best way to accomplish her goals.
Jennifer offers a practical tool. She starts the day by making a list of the things that need to be accomplished that day and then rates them on a scale from 1-10 in importance. She addresses the most important things first and goes down the list in order of priority. If something doesn’t get done, it is automatically moved to the next day. She has to consider things like “does getting an order finished up rank higher than making it to my son’s soccer game?” Jennifer said saying it out loud, allows her to figure out the answer more quickly than reading it on a piece of paper.
Angela has found that she benefits by giving herself permission to have time away from work. She said “I have worked really hard at learning how to delegate and letting it go. It might not have been done my way, but their way was efficient and it saved me time.”
It is certainly not an easy challenge and women have been walking that balancing act from the beginning of time. These women have learned over the years and found out what works for them. As Jennifer put it: “If I had the answer to this question, I honestly believe I could bottle it and make millions.” Only an entrepreneur would be able to think like that!
Influences in Your Career
Every successful person in the business community can tell you of the people who they have looked up to and learned from. For Penny and Roxanne, their examples started at home. Penny attributes her work ethic to her parents. Roxanne learned from her stepfather, Gene Estes, who was the founder of the company she now runs. She said he helped her to be confident in what she does and taught her an important lesson: everyone will make mistakes, but the important thing is to pick yourself up and keep moving. She describes Gene’s trait of being “a hard worker, disciplined and kind person” as traits that she admires.
They have also found professional mentors. Angela has an extensive list of people she has danced and worked for, including Jan Moore Hamilton, Debbe Busby, Li Chou Cheng, Fernando Bujones, Densil Adams, Michelle Davis, Liz Imperio. Penny describes hers as people she did not work for directly. Instead, she says “they sought me out and took their time to entrust me with their knowledge. They challenged me to continue to always grow and learn, and I believe it’s important to surround myself with individuals like this, even now.” Angela echoes the sentiment of continuing to learn from the people she purposes herself to be around. She said, “I truly believe you are always learning and I have really utilized my women friends with businesses as the years have progressed.”
Advice to a Future Businesswoman
A good leader is always looking to be an example to the next generation. Each woman has their own piece of advice for someone who might follow in their footsteps. To close, let’s learn from what they would tell a young woman.
Jennifer Huffman “Don’t feel like any job is beneath you. The people you lead need to know that you’re just as capable of sweeping the floors as they are. Second, don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something or know how to do something. Admit your weakness, and then learn how to push through or overcome them.”
Penny Johnson “Don’t spend so much time worrying about the future. Excel in the role you are performing, be a go-to person, and always be willing to do something extra that will challenge you. Lastly, something I strive to live out daily is, each day try to be a little bit better than you were the day before.”
Angela McGarity “Grow and nurture the business because it makes you respect and trust the process. I am blessed to have really been able to watch my business grow from one student (mine) to now 270 to 300 children. It is such a blessing to be able to know your clients as we grow to be family.” “We create, teach, and develop our future dancers of the world. It takes our whole heart, body, and mind to be able to do all that.”
Roxanne Meyer “Know your strengths and know your weaknesses. Know when to look for competent help in areas that you don’t excel in or things that are taking away the focus on working on your business. Always work hard, nothing comes easy. Just work smart.”
Tiffany Griffin “Pick a business/career that you are passionate about and love. It won’t feel so much like work. Know you will make mistakes but as long as you learn from them that is okay. Be true to yourself and surround yourself with people that will encourage you and give you great advice.”
Leadership Prayer by Richard Kreigbaum. While it isn’t healthcare specific, every time I open it the exact guidance I need is there. (Penny)
Traction by Gino Wickman. This recent read has really helped implement the systems necessary to accomplish your business goals. It’s a process and one you must hone but simplifies what we should be doing as entrepreneurs to be successful. (Roxanne)
Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live by Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes, Catherine McCarthy. This book helped me personally and professionally. (Roxanne)
Soar by TD Jakes. This book changed the way I look at building a business. In it, he teaches you to take your God-given gifts and purpose, and strategically apply them to build a business from the ground up. (Jennifer)
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek (Jennifer)
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (Tiffany)