In 1987, the U.S. Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the often-overlooked achievements of American women. In honor of Women’s History Month, the following Olivet College female leaders shared their own experiences as leaders, emphasized positive leadership attributes and gave advice to developing female leaders.
- Traci Corey, presidential spouse and Women’s Leadership Institute director
- Maria Davis, Ph.D., provost and dean of the college
- Lisa Lehman ’02, assistant vice president for admissions
- Linda Logan, Ph.D., vice president and dean of student life
- Karen Lutzke, head men’s and women’s track and field and cross country coach
- Cea Noyes, J.D., Social Sciences Department chair, professor of sociology and anthropology, and Betsy Dole Women’s Resource Center director
- Samantha Pearl ’00, director of alumni engagement
- KayDee Perry, assistant professor of health and human performance
- La’Rae Trice, Gospel Choir director
What traits or characteristics are essential for strong female leaders?
I believe the traits that are essential for the best leaders, regardless of gender, are the ATHENA International core principles of leadership Martha Mayhood Metz brought forth: collaboration, being true to one’s self and living authentically, learning constantly, building relationships, collaboration, acting courageously, advocating, giving back and celebrating. They are not only great leadership traits, but life traits! – Traci Corey
Strong, responsible leaders lead from the heart, with passion, courage and conviction. They identify a few guiding principles and apply them in all their decisions and actions. They care about people as individuals and seek to serve the common good. – Dr. Davis
Know your talents and build on those talents. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Accept a challenge even if you are not sure you can do it. Surround yourself with people that are doing the things you want to do. Always reach out to help someone less fortunate. Stay focused on your goals and you will find the success and advance you seek. Be a lifelong learner. Look fear in the eye and take on the challenges of life. Be flexible enough to make the most of each day no matter what the circumstances. Take ownership of your mistakes. Remember, you are someone’s role model. We all are role models. Act accordingly. – Dr. Logan
A strong, responsible female leader must have a vision of her own. It doesn’t matter if it is short term or long term. She must have an awareness of her abilities and limits. A good female leader perseveres, has the ability to listen and to understand what is being heard, can communicate and has the ability to let others do what needs doing. – Professor Noyes
I believe it’s critical for a woman to know what her own values are, and to stick to them unapologetically. Whether it’s climbing a career ladder, pursuing a passion like art or writing, or making time for the people God has assigned to you, it’s important to be true to what’s important to you rather than allowing culture and peer pressure to steer you. It’s also important to be kind. Always be kind. – Samantha Pearl ’00
Be willing to take calculated risks, be resilient and tenacious, seize opportunities that take you outside your comfort zone, build a support system and be prepared to amaze yourself. – Professor Perry
Have integrity in everything you do, and everything you do will last. Integrity is simple: say what you mean and mean what you say; always follow through on your word. Lead with your convictions, not with what’s popular. Leadership doesn’t have a gender – people know good leadership when they see it! – Professor Trice
Is there a time you faced and overcame on obstacle that is an important lesson for young women today?
As a graduate student, I was struck by how few women there were in my chosen field of entomology. I was a member of the Association of Women in Science and helped found a local group called Women in Entomology. Having a group of other women for support and mentoring opportunities made all the difference in the world to helping me feel connected and supported to others like me in the field. The lesson I learned was that seeking out a professional support system can make a great deal of difference in one’s professional life. – Dr. Davis
I began my working life in the days before there were any employment protections. I worked for a man who would put his hands on female employees, tell sexually offensive jokes and treat his female employees less than respectfully. It was difficult to address for two reasons: one, it was the way things seemed to go in many places. If you quit and looked for another job, your expectation was that things would not be different anywhere else. Two, you wondered if there was something wrong with you. You doubted your own abilities despite successes you had because your supervisor was constantly trivializing your work.
I lucked out and worked with two incredible women who gave me great advice. First, understand your work. Take pride in your work and make sure you understand that gender-based assessments of your work are meaningless. Second, understand your limits and when they are breached, give yourself permission to go. – Professor Noyes
I learned the lesson of self-sufficiency at a young age. It’s wonderful to have others on whom you can depend, and to be able to be interdependent with a spouse or family is a beautiful gift. But first, building the capability for independence is critical. In order to make the best decisions for yourself and your own life, you must be able to do so without influence. If you can support yourself, you have a whole world of choices. – Samantha Pearl ’00
One of the biggest lessons my parents taught me was to be courageous enough to ask. Oftentimes the worst answer that can be given is no, which leaves me no worse off than I would have been without asking – but sometimes the answer may surprise you! – Professor Perry
What advice do you have for developing female leaders?
Develop and rely on your strengths and don’t fret about perceived weaknesses – we all have them. Build at least one strong relationship with a mentor from whom you will learn much but who will also learn from you – good mentoring always goes both ways. – Dr. Davis
I would tell girls and women to stop apologizing and not to be so hard on themselves. If you are working hard, giving it all you’ve got, taking feedback, learning and doing the very best that you can do, don’t apologize for that, even when you fail. Acknowledge your faults, be self-aware, make the change and move on! Never stop learning and growing. There’s a take-away from every person you meet and every experience you have, good or bad. Soak knowledge up and then use it every chance you get. – Lisa Lehman ’02
Explore different places, foods, and connect with people different than you. Enjoy your life to its fullest. Walk into your destiny boldly and fearlessly. You are living your history, your story. Create your history by making sure you create the best day you can each and every day. Even in difficult times, find that silver lining. Remember, happiness is your birthright; claim it and protect your right to happiness each day. – Dr. Logan
Pursue your dreams. You can have a family and a career if you choose. It is not always going to be easy, but it is all about balance. Every person has different values and goals, and each person needs to make sure that they are happy doing whatever it is that makes them happy. For me, coaching makes me happy so I worked at balancing family and coaching. I was able to share my love of my job with my children every day. – Coach Lutzke
Don’t fill up all of your spare time. Life has a way of moving you along in directions you didn’t necessarily choose, so always make the time for dreaming and planning and choosing exactly what you want. – Samantha Pearl ’00
As you chase your dreams, you will encounter obstacles. You have a choice to either view those obstacles as stopping points or challenges to overcome and build character. – Professor Perry
Don’t worry about falling in love! You’re wonderful and someone will fall in love with you. I’ve seen too many women sidetracked by trying to fall in love or being in love, myself included. Learn to love yourself first, and the right one will come at the right time. You don’t have to chase love; love always chases you. – Professor Trice
Be Your Best Self
At Olivet College, these women are more than just role models, they also serve as mentors to all students. As a Comet, students earn a relationships-based education, giving them the unique opportunity to build a support system that meets their needs, challenge their thinking and grow into a responsible leader. OC has a long history of empowering women to first be themselves, and then to be their best selves, and that history grows richer every day.
Apply to Olivet College or schedule a visit to connect with many of the outstanding female leaders across campus and unleash your leadership potential. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.