In my February salon we heard two amazing women speak of their ascent to the Presidency of their firms — Deborah Meehan, who is President of SH&E, a $37M international aviation consulting business; and Mary Ellen Eagan, president of HMMH, a 50-person national noise and acoustical consulting business. Both women fly for work and manage jobs and families. These women have extraordinarily different styles; yet they were remarkably similar. Here’s how they earned their leadership positions:
- They became industry experts. Deborah Meehan became an expert on airports; Mary Ellen Eagan was known widely for her expertise in aviation noise consulting.
- They bet on themselves. They believed in their talents and did not wait for others to tell them that they could do the job.
- They asked for what they deserved. They both indicated that they went to company management, asked for the Presidency, and were prepared to walk away if they didn’t get it.
- They sought the Presidency of their companies and had a clear vision of the value that they could bring.
- They were willing to commit to the preparation and risk-taking it took for the Presidency. In Mary Ellen’s case she went to business school (Simmons School of Management) for three years while managing her job and a family. Subsequently she underwent a two-year competitive process for the Presidency. In Deborah’s case she and a partner took the risk to buy the firm from an outside owner.
- They make difficult work/family choices and accept the consequences. Deborah highlighted that when her children were growing up and she traveled for business, she always flew the red eye back so she could be with her children in the morning; Mary Ellen told of missing her young daughter’s (and her own birthday) for work.
- They love their companies and the cultures that they have been able to create and preserve. Both women take pride in the values, flexibility, and caring of their company’s cultures.
- They understand how to grow the business and make money.
- They are totally engaged in the work that they do and are successful at it.
Being President of a company may or may not be your own personal choice or desire. These women, however, demonstrate that committed women can do it well.
The remarks of Deborah Meehan and Mary Ellen Eagan are on my website. I urge you to read them. I also invite you to my next Salon on March 15th with Nuria Fernandez, Commissioner of Aviation, City of Chicago. Nuria runs O’Hare Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports. If you plan to come, please RSVP to me at email@example.com if you haven’t already. Space is filled on a first-come, first-served basis.