Women leaders talk mentors, the pay gap and the power of silence

Meet the roundtable panel, from left, Kathy Anderson-Martin, director of resource development, The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region; Amanda Lavis, partner, Rhoads & Sinon; Jayne Huston, chair, Harrisburg and Greensburg Women Presidents' Organization chapters and Kathy Prime, chief learning and talent development officer, The High Companies. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Highlighting issues that are important to women business leaders, Central Penn Business Journal recently played host to a women’s roundtable. See where the conversation led.

Our Women In Leadership roundtable took place March 23 at the Business Journal’s office in Harrisburg.

The discussion reflected the issues that women face in the workplace, but did not lead to suggestions that women need special circumstances to succeed. In fact, our panelists focused on the opposite: There are no free lunches in the workplace.

Our panel included four leaders with a variety of leadership experience:

Kathy Anderson-Martin, director of resource development, The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region

Jayne Huston, chair, Harrisburg and Greensburg Women Presidents’ Organization chapters

Amanda Lavis, partner, Rhoads & Sinon

Kathy Prime, chief learning and talent development officer, The High Companies

The discussion was moderated by Cathy Hirko, managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. The following version was edited for clarity and length.

Gender pay gap

The first question delved into the gender pay gap issue. The panel offered clear advice and valuable insights on why women might be paid less.

Hirko: What is behind the gender pay gap? Is it self-inflicted, or do outside factors come into play?

Amanda Lavis: When employers ask for salary requirements and salary demands, some people, particularly women, aren’t necessarily advocating for themselves. They are not putting forth a salary that’s the market equivalent. It’s maybe $10,000 to $15,000 below that. Factor that with a company not doing a pay equity analysis, and then you have a gap. Part of it is having transparent compensation structures.

Hirko: What is transparent compensation?

Kathy Prime: Transparent compensation is the salary range that everyone is in. Companies that are transparent with their compensation help a lot. Our own knowledge of what our skills are worth on the market is also very important. I do think we sell ourselves short sometimes by not doing that research.

Amy Spangler

Lavis: Even if you love your job it’s going out and seeing how other companies are valuing your skillset. It’s not being disloyal to your company. It’s knowing your worth.

Jayne Huston: Ask. Just ask. Women don’t ask. We just think that we are offered this salary and that’s what it needs to be. Do your homework and find out what you are worth, and then ask. I find out that mostly people don’t say no.

Kathy Anderson-Martin: I would answer differently at age 30, compared to now. I’m older with two children. I’ve seen a lot of women in my peer group who have taken years off or changed (their job position) — I’m one of those people — because they want to give time to their family. If I’m out of the workforce or part time by choice for five years, that does affect compensation. There are more complexities to it, and I kind of get irritated (looking at the pay gap) in simplistic terms.

Prime: I agree with you. The back story matters. Life happens to all of us. In our own situations, you are married, taking care of kids, taking care of families, you are choosing to shift careers and that does impact the price of your skills in a new industry.

Advice for the next generation of leaders

Hirko: On millennials, and those wanting to be leaders, how can the younger generation stand out?

Anderson-Martin: You know what I tell my 15 and 16-year-old daughters? I tell them to do things that are simple: Say thank you. Go in person, not a text. You will stand out doing the little things correctly. You will gain an opportunity and then you have to take advantage of the opportunity. So, say thank you, show up in person and be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. It’s really not rocket science.

Prime: I think sometimes (women) talk too much. We say too much. Here’s a simple example: If someone needs a meeting with me tomorrow at 7 a.m., my answer is ‘I already have a commitment tomorrow at 7, I can meet you at 8:30, will that work?’ Not, ‘I have three kids, I get up at 5:30 and it will take forever to get the baby fed and out the door, my husband travels,’ and on and on. So immediately we are providing details that really don’t matter. Talk about what people need to know, not what you want to share, and remember that it’s a business environment. When was the last time you heard a man talk about his sore throat and he had an earache and was up all last night?

Anderson-Martin: And for heaven’s sake, don’t cry.

Amy Spangler

Huston: Be genuinely interested in other people. One of the greatest compliments that I have received was when someone said, ‘When I’m with you, I feel like there is no one else around.’ I thought, take note of that and do that more. And do it more and do it more. With networking, it’s not what you get, it’s how can you help other people. That comes back in spades and women are good with that. Don’t think selfishly, think selflessly about how you can help someone else.

Lavis: I am technically a millennial. In high school, in college, my parents always had me send personalized thank-you notes. I am more comfortable talking in person and on the phone than a lot of my peers. And I’ve noticed that the way I can gain leadership positions and became partner at a law firm is by being willing to put in the extra work. Step up and say, ‘You know what, this might be a little out of my comfort zone, but I’ll do it. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll find a mentor: Hey, can you help me succeed in this?’ I find that a lot of millennials are not willing to ask for help because they don’t want to be perceived as not knowing the answer.

Huston: Asking for help is a sign of strength. It’s not a sign of weakness. I think we need to create that safe space. Safety is really important in the workplace. When my WPO members walk into a room, one of the greatest compliments I get is, ‘This is my safe space.’ If you feel safe, you are going to respond in a way that you will ask for help versus, ‘I can’t ask a stupid question because it’s a sign of weakness.’

Lavis: It’s also understanding that women can be role models and mentors to the younger generation. It’s helpful to them to say, ‘Put your phone away during the meeting. No, you can do this, let me help you.’ And if they are not reaching out for a mentor, doing what you can to bring them along and develop them. It’s so important not only asking for help, but providing help when you see someone else struggling.

Prime: Don’t be afraid to jump in and solve a problem when you see it, rather than sit back and wait to be asked to take on a project. And when you see a problem that no one else wants to fix, go fix it and that’s how you can get real recognition.

Building a personal brand

Hirko: What is the definition of good personal branding, and why is it so important for women to brand/market themselves?

Huston: We often talk about how women are way more conservative. I’ll give you an example: CPBJ has wonderful awards and there are wonderful women that I have nominated them for. The response that you get when you call them is, ‘I’m not doing anything special. That feels like it’s bragging to me.’ I would turn that. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ That portrays a role model that others can look to, ‘If you can do that, I bet I can do that, too.’ It’s presenting your authentic self and becoming a role model for other people.

Amy Spangler

Lavis: Everyone has a personal brand, whether they are trying to or not. There are CEOs in the Harrisburg community who are women. Their brand is, ‘I’m a CEO. I’m not a woman CEO, I’m a CEO.’ It’s empowering people to establish their own brand. Look at me. Rhoads & Sinon has been a pillar in the community for the last 80 years. It has its own brand. But I have my own Facebook page, I have my own Instagram.

Prime: Brand is in your actions and behaviors. Inside the company, when something happens, do you choose to lean into it and figure out a way to address the concern that you see in front of you, or do you choose to sit back and say nothing? That’s your brand. Don’t be known as that person who has the meeting after the meeting. Don’t be known as the person who sits at the water cooler or in a gossip circle.

Anderson-Martin: The first mentor that I had in sales said you have to sell yourself first, your company second and your product third. Because if no one likes you, it doesn’t matter what else you have. I call it the likeability factor. With women the negativity is a problem. Misplaced emotion is a problem. You can be hyper or react to an injustice but you can’t be nuts all the time.

Women need a basic financial sense. I notice this with women — and they are very high-achieving women — they get into the financial statements and they say, ‘Oh no, that’s not my thing.’

Lavis: It should be everybody’s thing.

Anderson-Martin: Even if it’s not your thing, go learn four things to say that sound like you know something.

Amy Spangler

Prime: Know your P&L (profit and loss) I’ve spent my whole career in succession and pipeline development internally and externally and participated with a lot with women and with research groups and we look at why women do not make it to the Fortune 100, Fortune 200, the C-Suites. Candidly, over 50 percent do not have direct P&L experience. I see women in executive positions and they seem to be in HR and marketing. Why are they not in finance? That typically is the root cause issue. Move around inside your company, or move around from industry to industry to get diverse experience. If I was a business owner, I wouldn’t put somebody running my business who hasn’t shaken the hand of a customer and asked for some money, who hasn’t run the operational side or hasn’t run the financial side.

Lavis: Some people don’t have the opportunity to move and shift into different areas. So if you want to be a business owner and don’t have the opportunity to move within the organization, go out and get the education.

Prime: Education is important, but what I do every day, education alone won’t get you in the door. But I agree with you, if you happen to be with a smaller organization, go get it somewhere else.


Hirko: I’ve talked to a lot of women about mentorship. How do you find good mentors and why is mentorship important?

Prime: A lot of people come to me looking for mentors. What I say instead is, ‘Tell me more about why are you asking for a mentor. What is it that you are looking to learn?’ I spend more time now on getting to know the individual and what I can help them with. And if it’s not me that can help them, I’m pretty sure I know somebody who can.

Huston: It’s really our responsibility. I have people say, ‘How can I get an advisory board? Let me help you create that.’ But it starts with you. Someone is not handing you an advisory board or mentors.

Anderson-Martin: When people say mentor, I think they usually mean, ‘I need someone to fix something about me.’ versus that day-to-day conversation. Some people are really good with the 14-point outline. If I walk away with six words (of advice), I’m good.

Click here to see a slideshow of photos from the roundtable.

Cathy Hirko
Cathy Hirko is Associate Publisher/Editorial Director for the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business. Email her at chirko@bridgetowermedia.com.

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