It’s difficult to imagine a time when women did not have the right to own property, were not encouraged to obtain a real education or pursue a professional career, and were arrested for simply attempting to vote. Our country has come a long way since the 1800’s, and that is something to be celebrated! Specifically, we celebrate the adoption of the 19th Amendment into the United States’ Constitution on August 26, 1920. Every year, U.S. citizens recognize this date as Women’s Equality Day, and reflect on our nation’s progress. As a result of over 40 years of the women’s suffrage movement in America, women were finally granted the right to vote. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), formed by two powerhouse American women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, gained enough traction to lobby the Congress for a constitutional amendment in 1878. After years of parades, pickets and marches, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified 97 years ago.
Today, women hold influential leadership positions nationwide, and they’re killing it! Among Forbes’ list of the most powerful women in the United States are Janet Napolitano, who served as the Governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009 as well as the United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013. Sheryl Sandberg is the current COO of Facebook, and an activist, author, and founder of Leanin.org (an organization whose mission is to empower women to achieve their ambitions). Virginia Rometty is the chairman, president, and CEO of IBM, and notably the first woman to head the company. Meg Whitman is the current President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the former President and CEO of eBay, a former executive for The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro, as well as a political activist and donor. While these women and many more are dominating the business and political worlds, here at PayLease we have quite a few impressive women who are on the same track.
Michelle Hammer graduated from San Diego State University with an English degree, and joined PayLease as the twenty-first employee. As the company grew, she found her sweet spot in Marketing, and was given the opportunity to build out the department. She says she “loved having the opportunity to find and foster talent and move the right people in the right places. It was hard work, a lot of pressure, and to be honest a lot of people thought it would be a disaster, but I had a few really strong supporters, so sitting here now and looking at a team that I think is the greatest group of hard working people, is amazing.”
Michelle’s advice: “In the beginning of your career you need to be willing to grind and put in the hours. It’s painful sometimes, but you’ve just got to say yes to everyone and every project that comes in. Even if you don’t know how you are going to finish it in time, or you don’t even know how you will figure out how to start the project, say yes anyways. Build your reputation as the person that can always get it done.”
Janae Portugal also attended San Diego State University and received her degree in Business Administration, Management. She was the sixteenth person to join PayLease and has seen every department expand and develop. She worked hard to become the Vice President of Account Management, and has some excellent advice for young professionals.
Janae’s advice: “Find the right company for you: For me I was looking for a company with good people that I wanted to work for day in and day out. Work hard: Put in your time and show you are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Continue to grow: Learn from your mistakes, admit what you do not know and push yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Be positive: Be the person that finds the best of every situation. Find the solution instead of finding the problem and see others strengths instead of their weaknesses. Be Caring: Take pride in the work you do and the service you provide and care about the people around you whether that be your co-workers or your clients.”
Janae feels that great leadership has nothing to do with gender, all that matters to her is that whoever is in charge “can lead by example, [is] someone who can influence and motivate others, [is] a great communicator, transparent and [can] delegate work to foster collaboration. [I want] a leader that can think critically, and a leader that takes the time to develop others and provides constructive criticism.”
Amanda Anderson graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Communications, and a Minor in English. She began her PayLease career as a Convergent Biller, but her prominent leadership skills eventually earned her a management position on the Billing Operations team. She hopes she can inspire and empower her colleagues, who are currently in entry level positions, to have the confidence to advance their careers as she did.
Amanda’s Advice: “Although it is important to emulate leaders and colleagues that you respect, it is just as important to know what you value in leadership and know what path you want to take in your career. Once you know what you value most and how you want to use that to better your organization, be genuine in your actions & words. Produce work that you can be proud of and never stop learning and growing in your position.”
Amanda believes gender does not play a role when it comes to excellent leadership. She encourages all working professionals to be true to who they are, and own their responsibilities in order to gain respect.
Julie Wright started her college career at the University of Northern Iowa, then moved to San Diego, and finished in the first graduating class at Cal State San Marcos. As PayLease’s Senior Director of Accounting, Julie is a numbers gal. She holds a Bachelors in Accountancy, and she successfully passed the CPA test on her first sitting. Around the office, Julie’s nickname is the “Velvet Hammer” because she has the sweetest, most demure nature, but is swift and decisive when it comes to completing an arduous task.
Julie’s Advice: “Stay motivated, take initiative to create opportunities, work smart and exceed expectations! Be willing to share your wealth of knowledge, and be open-minded to keep on learning.”
Julie believes women have a unique approach to leadership that can be extremely beneficial for any company. A great leader, by Julie’s definition, is a person with the “balance of being a great motivator, mentor, decision maker, communicator and listener; being able to gain respect and give constructive feedback, getting things done efficiently and effectively, as well having as the fundamental technical expertise of the business.”
Sydney Cowie attended The School of Theater and Music at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Sydney is our Training & Development Manager, and knows our billing products and business better than anyone in the organization.
Sydney’s Advice “figure out your strengths as well as your weaknesses and then figure out how to use both to your advantage.”
She recognizes that women in the workplace tend to downplay their skills and knowledge because they don’t want to come off brash and bossy. She says, “on the flip side, we don’t want to ask for help because we are afraid of coming off as weak. It’s ok to know your stuff and it’s equally OK to be vulnerable at times.” However, Sydney pointed out that “gender does not have an influence on an individual’s ability to be a leader. We all bring the benefit of our different life experiences to our teams.” Sydney’s strengths and personal experiences, along with her knowledge of the company make her an invaluable PayLeaser.
Kristin Runyan has her BBA in Accounting from TCU, and her MBA in International Business from SLU (Texas Christian University and Saint Louis University). Her passion for Agile methodologies inspired her to write and publish two books; Introduction to Agile Methods, and Change Inc: An Agile Fable of Transformation. She currently serves as our Senior Vice President of Operations, and throughout her career has been a mentor to many young professionals who have been promoted within their organization. She considers this to be one of her greatest accomplishments.
Kristin’s Advice: “Do not speak in a self-depreciating way thinking you are being humble (or honest). You will seldom hear a male counterpart say ‘well, I am not very technical…’ but women do it all the time. You are smart, you are capable and you deserve a seat at the table. If there is something you want to learn, then learn it – but don’t announce that deficiency to the world.” Although women are equally capable of becoming great leaders, Kristin acknowledges that “women bring a different perspective that is needed in the workplace. We all know that men and women think differently and so we need that balance at all levels to make sure we are thinking through all courses of action with the appropriate considerations.”
These seven outstanding women are just a few of the female movers and shakers of PayLease who have been integral contributors to the company’s many successes over the years. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “the history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” Susan B. Anthony had the same wish when she said, “oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done.” We are not done yet Susan, but at PayLease we celebrate and admire the female leaders of the present and invest in the female leaders of the future. Happy Women’s Equality Day!