Women of LeadHERship – Interview SeriesMHS Talent Development
A Conversation with MHS CPO, Jenni Pitkanen
How many of your organization’s leaders are women? Have you ever worked for a female CEO? Have you ever stopped to think about female representation in leadership positions? According to a study we conducted with HR.com, the Women in Leadership Survey 2020, women are not only under-represented in the leadership ranks but gender diversity in leadership positions is not a priority for most organizations.
At MHS, we take pride in the progress we have made in providing equitable opportunities and gender diversity amongst leadership ranks. In 2020, we are proud to say females comprise of 48% of our leadership team, 60% of our executive team, and we are led by an incredible female CEO, Hazel Wheldon.
We connected with Hazel and our Chief Product Officer (CPO) Jenni Pitkanen, as well as several other inspiring women across various industries who have made the climb up the corporate ladder. Each of these women has taken risks in environments that didn’t always feel safe to do so. They looked at barriers as new challenges to overcome while building their resilience and gumption along the way. They shared their stories, their advice, and took this chance to empower each reader – no matter their age, gender, or career path – to take the risk, harness their internal power, and aim for the top.
The following is a snippet of the “Women of LeadHERship” interview, featuring the responses of Jenni Pitkanen, CPO of MHS.
IS THERE STILL A GLASS CEILING?
WHAT WAS YOUR “GLASS CEILING MOMENT”?
HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED A BARRIER AS A RESULT OF STEREOTYPES OR LINGERING STIGMAS, MAKING YOU WORK HARDER OR DIFFERENTLY THAN A MAN WOULD FOR THOSE POSITIONS?
As a whole, the glass ceiling unfortunately certainly still does exist. I have been fortunate to work in an organization where one can succeed based on merit and equitable opportunity.
I do think that overall, we still have a lot of work to break through many lingering stigmas and inequities that still prevail. Some of this comes down to perceptions vs. the reality of what a good leader looks and acts like.
THERE IS A LOT OF WORK BEING DONE TO ENCOURAGE AND HELP WOMEN SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. HAVE YOU BEEN MENTORED BY A FELLOW FEMALE IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
HOW WERE THESE MENTORSHIPS ESTABLISHED AND FOSTERED?
WHAT ARE THE 3 MOST INSPIRING QUALITIES OR COMPETENCIES YOU SEE IN OTHER FEMALE LEADERS?
Supporting other women in their journey towards their personal and professional goals is so important. I have been extremely fortunate to have had a network of mentors in both my professional and personal life. I have a leader who has been a role model for me as I’ve watched her take bold steps to achieve great success and who has recognized my strengths and helped build up my weaknesses. I also had an opportunity to work with a coach during my transition to leadership positions and she was instrumental to me on that journey.
In my personal life, I have a group of close friends who are all leaders in their respective industries. Beyond the close friendship that we share, we are like a close peer-mentoring group to each other. There is no one like a good friend to give honest input, perspective and encouragement!
The most inspiring qualities I see in other female leaders, or any leaders for that matter, are passion, humility and empowerment.
HOW CAN WOMEN LEVERAGE ASSERTIVENESS WHEN BATTLING CLICHÉS AROUND BEING BOSSY?
HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO JUSTIFY YOUR DIRECTNESS?
DO PEOPLE ASSUME YOU WILL BE MORE LENIENT, KIND, AND PASSIVE RATHER THAN A FIERCE, ASSERTIVE LEADER? DO YOU BELIEVE WE HAVE OVERCOME THIS STEREOTYPE ALREADY?
My style is not outwardly fierce, so for me, fierceness is about unwavering internal strength and resilience through challenges big and small even when things feel like a tough go. It is about the ability to make tough decisions and have candid conversations. Given the stereotypes and expectations around what kind of leaders women are, I do believe that it is important for women to be very conscious of this bias as we have a ways to go before an assertive communication from a woman is regarded the same way as it is from a man.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, OR EVEN JUST 5 YEARS AGO, WHAT CAREER OR EVEN PERSONAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
Get out of your way. There are enough external obstacles around all of us and adding internal obstacles to the mix doesn’t help us reach our personal or professional goals. The path ahead is often clearer than we let ourselves believe.
THE WAY FORWARD
Each of the women we interviewed has been supported by colleagues, friends, and family, but most importantly, they have supported themselves. It is vital that we celebrate the triumphs of female leaders but also to work towards a future where:
“There will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
-Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Read the full report on The State of Women in Leadership 2020 here. Help prioritize the development of women leaders and shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.