Women Leading the Business Community

Last Wednesday Women in Philanthropy and Leadership at Coastal Carolina University put on a panel discussion of five CEOs and women involved in the Chambers of Commerce in our area. The panel discussion started at 5:30 and ended at 6:30 on stage in the Johnson Auditorium in the Wall building at Coastal Carolina University. The panelists in attendance were: Lou Kennedy the owner, president, and Ceo of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp, Cheryl Kilday the President and CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, Karen Riordan the President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Beth Stedman the President and CEO of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, and Tammie Greene the supplier and outreach program manager at the South Carolina Department of Commerce. 


When asked who was their motivation the panelists had all different answers. Kilday responded with her mother was a big motivation for her and that she inspired her. Her mother would always tell her that she could do anything and be whatever she wanted to be. She also discussed how she learned a lot from bad work experience from other bosses and that lead her in the direction of what she didn’t want to be. Kennedy’s answer was that her professor motivated her and held her to a high standard which made her work harder. Her professor also told her she could do whatever she wanted to do. Riordan's answer was that she only had men mentors and not too many women she could look up to. Her male mentors came from jobs she’s worked at where they challenged her and made her step out of her comfort zone because they believed in her and her work. She also felt that in her career a lot of people underestimated her because she was a woman, but she found joy in proving them wrong and that motivated her to work even harder. Lastly, Stedman was told she could be whatever she wanted as long as it was a teacher, secretary, or a nurse from her parents, but she knew from the beginning that was not what she wanted to do. When she was 24 years old, her ex-husband left her 5 months pregnant and that changed everything for her. Her daughter became her motivation and she worked extremely hard to do right for her. 


When asked what’s the number one way to make a difference for women there was a common theme to “Be brave not perfect”. They felt that women constantly feel the pressures to be perfect in today’s society meaning that they always have to look flawless and act passively in the workplace. Kennedy felt that women need to speak up and stop waiting for positions or a raise to be handed to them--if you feel you deserve something, ask for it. Following along with that idea, Riordan said to “be brave and go negotiate.” Ask for a little bit more like a higher salary, more vacation time, flexibility, etc. The worst that can happen is that they say no. Even getting half of what you ask for is still a big win in Riordan’s opinion. Stedman wants women to take advantage of all the opportunities that come their way because they never know what could come of it. Kilday and some of her colleges created a network for women called “Smart Women that get Sh*t done”. This was a place where women get help from one another and empowering one another. 


At the end of the panel discussion, Greene left the audience with “No matter race, sexuality, class, we need to uplift each other and to help each other”. There is too much hate and tearing down of others in the world and in order to get things done, everyone needs to come together. It is important for women to empower one another so they can accomplish things for the better. Very often in society women are pinned against each other for so many different reasons. Instead of being in competition, motivate each other to be brave instead of perfect and who knows what women can accomplish in the future.