Female Leaders Share Lessons From Personal Experience

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Women speaking at a leadership panel

Four women from a variety of backgrounds with one core thing in common – the influence of Jesuit education – came together for a panel discussion on the Rockhurst University campus Monday night, “Leading With a Woman’s Voice: A Conversation With Jesuit-Educated Female Leaders.”

Nancy Creasy, ’84, Nicole Jacobs-Silvey, ’92, Megan Sneed, ’13, and Tania Tetlow, J.D., president of Loyola University New Orleans, answered questions from Cindy Schmersal, vice president for mission and ministry, on how Jesuit education shaped their approach to careers, receiving support from other women, their individual approaches to leadership and related topics.

Tetlow, who served in several capacities at Tulane University before becoming the first woman and first lay president at Loyola-New Orleans, said her Jesuit education came at home, from her family. Her uncle, the Rev. Joseph Tetlow, S.J., served as a dean at Loyola and her father was a former Jesuit who left the order to start a family and a psychology professor at Loyola.

“We were taught to question assumptions, challenge authority and not to be satisfied with orthodoxy,” she said. “We were supposed to be willing to get in to trouble once in a while.”

Jacobs-Silvey, president of Connection Coach KC, said one of the things that fuels her passion in her work is the ability to connect people with opportunities – especially those from marginalized communities. In her role as founder of Sisters’ Circle KC, which encourages philanthropy among women in the African-America community, she says she hopes to show the face of philanthropy is broad.

“When we step out from behind our computers and look at someone face to face, it’s hard to hold stereotypes,” she said.

Creasy, a recently retired executive vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City and Rockhurst University board member, invited people to expand their ideas when looking for guidance in the workplace.

“A mentor doesn’t have to be someone higher up than you in the organization,” she said. “Some of my best mentors were my peers.”

Several of the panelists discussed facing challenges regarding how female leaders are perceived in the workplace.

“Women are expected to be likeable and charming but power in women is deemed to be unlikeable,” said Tetlow. “You end up having to be likeable and charming but constantly defend against the idea that when you engage in power you will offend people.”

Sneed, director of inside sales operations at C2FO, said she navigates these waters by staying true to her principles.

“My motto is ‘tough but kind,’” she said. “At the end of the day, I can’t control what others think about me. I have to be accountable to my convictions and my faith in God. If I’m out of line with that, I need to own it.”

Although the audience comprised primarily women, there were several men in attendance, one of whom asked during the Q&A what advice the panelists have for how men can better work with and for women.

“Be respectful, listen, know that women have a lot to contribute and bring different things to the table,” said Tetlow, “and be particularly wary of the way you view niceness and vulnerability.”