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Women in Leadership: How Working Shaped My Worldview

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

At the ripe age of 21 years old, I have been in a surplus of different leadership roles between organizations, careers, and club programs within the academic field. I worked as the hospitality director at a restaurant, general manager at another restaurant, stage manager in numerous professional theater productions, and held secretary, treasurer and librarian positions in various clubs. Needless to say, I have learned a lot and experienced a lot that has only made me stronger in my confidence. More importantly, I have worked with a variety of people and have expanded my understanding of how working in a leadership/managerial role can be challenging as a woman.

When it came to theatrics, I worked in a variety of organizations such as my high school production, a community theater, and various production camps. I will say: out of all my experiences, this was one of the most creative spaces, encouraging ideas from anyone involved. I felt very welcomed and quickly became comfortable as it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. I earned leadership roles very early on and it pushed me to understand how much I have a passion for them. I realized I like taking charge, problem solving, and multi-tasking. Due to it being a somewhat small theater, there was a strong variety of men and women in charge of different aspects. Diversity allowed for the creation of a  team product that the audience enjoyed. At this point in my life, I was also very much a control freak and Type A personality. I appointed solutions quickly without using emotional intelligence; that was something I developed over time. I dipped my toe in taking charge relatively early in my life, and the positive experience created the groundwork for my overall future experiences. 

Working in the theater was a hobby that I pursued throughout my early years of elementary school and into my high school career. I learned a lot in my various experiences, but decided to take on some stronger roles in high school beginning sophomore year. To give a brief recap of my high school experience, I was the librarian, secretary and treasurer for my school’s top choir, the Librarian of Orchestra where I implemented a new library system, and the yearbook senior editor. Specifically, the librarian roles taught me how to organize product/music and keep everything up to date in the books, online database and various binder resources. I was trained on how to self-manage my time and be completely in charge of my area within the organization. As secretary and treasurer, I had to work directly with my choir director, the other student leaders, and each inquiring student. I would say this was my first role where I noticed a difference in how I was being treated comparatively to male student leaders. They often got the first pick of music for the semester and were listened to more attentively by the student body. I realized that I needed to be bolder, more confident and louder in my roles. I found my voice during this time and gained the respect from my fellow leaders and the overall students that I was there to support. I became one of the strongest members of this organization and gained confidence in answering questions, assisting with any special projects and developing new systems to put in place. As yearbook Editor, I was gaining confidence through my other responsibilities and I fell into this role quicker than expected. I had a passion for the yearbook and tried to make sure it looked the best that it could, but had no intention of becoming a leader. The faculty advisor approached me because of my hardwork and comments they had heard about my roles in the music department, and encouraged me to apply for the role of yearbook editor. This was my first experience with creating a strong network and building a credible reputation. 

I am now going to move towards speaking about one of the most influential time periods of my life. I began my career working in a restaurant and became a valuable asset to the night shift staff. Striving for more responsibility, I initiated meeting after meeting with my bosses to discuss possible ways to improve my performance in order to become a leader. I received some brutal honesty regarding how I was very strong in my work ethic and overall success in my positions, but I lacked the emotional intelligence that is required of a good leader. I should also mention that my direct boss, who gave me the most feedback, was a woman who I admire strongly to this day. I went into the journey of growing and improving my ability to understand people on a human level. It was revealed that I was seen on the staff as aggressive, overpowering, and over confident, which I perceived as being a strong asset to the team. My boss walked through how working in the industry is different between men and women and how I had to learn how to refine my approach to the staff. At first, this section of my career made me angry and frustrated–I would say the same thing as my male coworkers, but was seen as aggressive, or, for lack of a better phrase: a bitch. It was infuriating and that put a stop to my efforts of improvement for a few weeks. Eventually, I decided that I liked being in charge, gaining respect, and I wanted to be a strong female leader for all the women being told they couldn’t. I wanted to improve myself and earn the respect of my team in a way that had not been easily achieved by women thus far. For the next two years, my boss and I had monthly meetings where we discussed what I needed to improve on and how I could reach my end goal: trainer. She gave me helpful, honest feedback, then gave me suggestions on how to better phrase a situational response or how to motivate people through my work ethic without coming across as bossy or controlling. Eventually, I felt a shift in my team’s attitude and shifts ran more smoothly; it finally felt like we were working towards a common goal. To my surprise, my next meeting resulted in my boss offering me the role of Hospitality Director, which was approximately three hierarchical position jumps from what I was working toward. She told me I was ready and that it would afford me a more accurate understanding of what the guest was experiencing, which could only help me in my career goals. I accepted the position and began the uphill battle of learning patience, care and empathy when engaging in customer service. It added an all new element to my wheelhouse that most strongly impacted how I approach social situations in any job setting. 

I continued my career in hospitality while also training new employees and leading shifts. I improved myself and learned how to be more humble about my abilities when approaching managing a shift. In the end, my idea of leadership is a view of teamwork that is guided together through motivation and inspiration to come to a final goal together. A great leader is someone who cares for the team, motivates them to do their best, and creates a positive environment that spreads the positivity of hard work. When making a huge move across the country after needing a change of pace, I decided to continue my educational career, but also my growth as a woman leader. I interviewed with another company and they offered me a position on the spot working towards any upper management role I wanted. Needless to say, I accepted the role and brought my past experience into a new setting. My experience as a manager at this restaurant taught me many things, but most importantly, how to stand up for myself and understand my worth. I faced many challenges regarding my definition of  a good leader compared to my immediate boss. He did not put an emphasis on emotional intelligence and I felt under appreciated when it came to my work ethic. I faced the hardest struggles of being a woman in the role to this date because of  how my boss spoke to me, treated me, and denied me the same level of respect that my male coworkers received. I struggled for half a year in attempting to look through the struggles and be confident in myself as a leader. The right decision for me was to find a job that allowed me to be the leader I knew I could and gave me more room to grow. I made the difficult decision to switch careers, but was willing to work hard to understand how the job was done right. 

I feel as if I’ve lived several lives at the ripe age of 21 years old. I have experienced successes and failures, but everything has worked to shape who I am today. I understand that my growth as a leader is not over and probably will never be, which is something that I count on with every new experience I face. Being a woman is incredible and does not diminish what you can accomplish in any area of your life. I value being a woman, and the way society has viewed our abilities is something I strive to push the boundaries of everyday. I am a leader and will always be because of so many personality traits and growth experiences that shaped my life.

Dana Cutti

CU Boulder '25

Dana Cutti is a writer for the Her Campus chapter at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is responsible for writing at least two articles a month and attending weekly meetings with the chapter! She enjoys coming up with new ideas for articles and having the ability to write about what she is passionate about. Dana Cutti is a junior studying Strategic Communications as her major and a double minor in Business and Film Production. She has previously worked as the Director of Hospitality, Manager, and Trainer in various companies. Currently, she works as a Marketing Assistant at CU Presents on campus with a focus in the Social Media Team and Marketing Team. She finds great love in organizing, creating culture, multi-tasking, and putting creative ideas into action. One of her biggest passions is leading people in an influential way and bringing happiness to everyone's life to the best of her ability. She hopes to eventually find a career that combines her passions for Entertainment Media and Marketing. In her free time, Dana will often be seen studying, spending time with her family, and playing/listening to music. She enjoys traveling to new places, trying new foods, and attempting to grow in her knowledge of the world. Her favorite TV shows consist of a good binge-watch of Friends, New Girl, or the Big Bang Theory. She loves having a relaxing movie night with friends and taking the time to get to know people better!