Women Inspiring Women: A Special International Women's Day Episode

On this special episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day. We’re joined by architect Tracy Baker, interior designer Angelica Henderson, marketer Kate Gray, and urban planner Nora Bland to discuss how — when we lift one another up and set a positive example — it can help to encourage other women to thrive personally and professionally.

Episode #302 Transcript | Listen on SoundCloud

Producer 00:00
Today’s special guests.

Tracy Baker 00:02
Hi, I’m Tracy Baker and I’m a project architect.

Angelica Henderson 00:06
Hi, I’m Angelica Henderson. I’m a senior interior designer.

Nora Bland 00:11
Hi, I’m Nora Bland. I’m the director of planning.

Kate Gray 00:14
And I’m Kate Gray. I’m the marketing team manager.

Sarah Steimer 00:26
Welcome to a special episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts. I’m Sarah Steimer. And on today’s show, we are celebrating International Women’s Day. If you’ve been following along so far this season, you know that our theme has been inspiration, which actually aligns rather nicely with a campaign theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which is inspire inclusion. I’ll crib straight from the official IW D website to better explain what that means. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment. That actually perfectly encapsulates our conversation today. Rather than focusing on how women have been left out or behind in the workplace, we’re going to talk about how when we lift one another up and set a positive example. It can help to encourage other women to thrive personally and professionally. This is really a fantastic conversation that you’ll hear today. So I’ll wrap up this little intro so we can get right into it. Well, thank you guys all for joining us today. It’s always a pleasure to get to talk to more than one person at a time, so that we can kind of have like a more full fledge panel discussion, conversation, however you want to look at it. Of course, today, there is a bit more of a theme. Yes, we’re still talking about inspiration, which was the overarching theme of this season, but we’re gonna dig in a little bit deeper, and talk about inspiration as far as being a woman and as far as being inspired by other women. So on that note, I want to ask each of you, and we’ll kind of jump around here a little bit, you know, how have other women inspired you in your career? And Nora, you made the mistake of keeping your microphone on. So I’m going to start with you.

Nora Bland 02:29
Okay, sounds good. I, I would say probably one of my first experiences with this was when I had an adjunct professor in grad school that was a mentor to me. And she was this successful woman in the development world, which is an even more male dominated space than than urban planning. And we talked about how there’s this statistic that says that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. And she encouraged me to apply for any job, regardless of how I felt like I qualified not to lie on my resume or anything like that. But really just to communicate that I’m capable of learning and that I can be an asset because I possess these other skills. And funny enough, that’s how I ended up at Cushing. Terrell was applying to a position that asked for seven years experience when I was just out of grad school. So that was a fun kind of first experience for me.

Sarah Steimer 03:27
Well, kind of digging into that a tiny bit more nor, if you would, but was it about, you know, her being able to lead by example, a little bit? Do you think that inspired you or her really being able to say, look, this is how the world works? Here’s how you kind of work it yourself a little bit? Yeah,

Nora Bland 03:45
I would say it was a combination of both seeing how, how strong she was in her position as the CEO of a development company, and then also her advice to go for it to shoot for the stars to you know, put myself at the same level of men in a similar position or a similar level of experience.

Sarah Steimer 04:04
Angelica, did you want to jump in there?

Angelica Henderson 04:06
Absolutely. I feel like those college professors are always so crucial in our learning. And I also had a really strong female professor in college that was, she was an architect, and she was always very positive and encouraging me to, you know, do for as high as I could go and always, you know, pushing those boundaries and those limits and encouraging me to do more. But I think even into my career paths college, there were, you know, these really incremental moments where there were these women, you know, along the path that definitely left a mark and very impressionable for me. I would say that my first jobs out of college, I worked with a woman that she owned her own business, she ran a sustainability business and that really inspired me to take any initiative to get my LEED certifications. I became a LEED AP In both the BD and C and ID and C programs, and it was how what to do with her and her influence, and that was really my first step into getting the licensure and taking those steps forward to be something more than I thought, you know, maybe I should just be, you know, one thing or another, and to explore those other opportunities. Once I was really in design, and, and working for practice, I think those women that really step up and give you a platform to exercise those things that you’re really good at, and give you an opportunity to speak up and be a voice. Those have also been really inspirational opportunities.

Sarah Steimer 05:38
Tracy, can you tell us about how you’ve been inspired by other women in your career? Yeah,

Tracy Baker 05:45
I guess working in, you know, kind of a male-dominated field that we do, when there’s a woman who really stands out, you really kind of, you know, grab on and follow and pay attention to that person. And I think, for me, it was a project architect that was so adept at client relationships, and making connections on a personal level, I think we’ve all seen the way men can relate to each other, but to watch her relate to CEOs and heads of departments on a completely different level, and, and just really make an even stronger connection that I’d ever seen before. I really enjoyed watching that and learning from that and trying to apply what looked like the strategies that she deployed as a woman in kind of sometimes very male dominated environments, that was really fun to watch. And I think something that she sort of tapped into was removing that really hyper competitive thing, that men have sometimes in the work environment, and just making it more personal, like we’re doing this together. And I’m not trying to beat you at something. And it was a really interesting strategy and a different way of approaching things. And so that’s something that I try to do now. But it was really fun to watch her interact with people. And she just the people loved her every time. It was unbelievable.

Sarah Steimer 07:20
That’s I mean, that’s such an interesting insight right there. You know it because it is so important to be able to relate in the workplace certainly relate in your career, but instead of her trying to, you know, pardon the phrase like play the boys club card or whatever, and try to get into that she chose to go okay, my strength maybe as a woman is to see the we’re all in this together versus like you’re saying being competitive. And looking at it that way. I think that’s so interesting. Kate, talk to us about how women have inspired you and your career.

Kate Gray 07:50
Yeah, I think one of the things that is so inspirational to me, and I’ve been fortunate, especially through Cushing Terrell to have so many women who have just been such an inspiration and really kind of stepped up and been a mentor to me, but when they openly share their triumphs and their successes, but also their challenges, I think that just provides such a shining example, to everyone around them of how we can take and learn from each and every one of these situations, and be able to apply that, you know, professionally and personally in how we conduct ourselves. And so with just the shining example we’ve had of women in this industry, I think, I’ve been so blessed to have unfortunately, Stacey Speck is no longer with us anymore. But she I think was just such a great example of how to just really jump into a, like Tracy said a male dominated field and just have the confidence and being able to walk into a room and say, Hey, like, I know, myself. I know what I’m what I need to share, and I’m confident in showing up at the table with that.

Sarah Steimer 09:02
So I wanted to talk about really how maybe any of you have tried to inspire other women because as you’ve all mentioned, this can be a very male dominated field. And oftentimes, just existing as a woman within the field can be inspiration in and of itself. But what is it you know, when it is something like okay, using one of your strengths when it maybe you’re more female minded strengths, like the community building, you know, As Tracy mentioned, are there other ways that maybe you do try to act as inspiration you know, in terms of bringing certain characteristics up or making a point to mentor other women? You know, Can any of you talk to me about maybe something that you have tried to do and anyone can jump in here something that you have tried to do to bring other women into the fold are helping them to step up where maybe they didn’t think they could you know, when you know, like you’re saying Nora about like, Oh, I didn’t have this much experience, but I was He kind of pushed toward it urge toward it a little bit nudge toward it,

Kate Gray 10:03
I think the biggest thing is being able to provide, you know, the guidance and support and encouragement, I think a lot of especially younger women who are maybe starting out in their career, that’s something that they really and sorry, for the background noise, we have a little co worker with us, we have my three month old son on the line. So in the spirit of multitasking, and but I do, you know, the kind of one thing that I tried to do, especially with kind of some of the, the younger new people with on our team, who are just coming out of school is really kind of focusing on their development and really homing in on what are their unique skills and abilities that make them then not trying to mold them into, you know, what we think they should be or what Cushing Terrell expects them to be, but really kind of taking and seeing, hey, what can they bring to the team. And I think with that, especially for young women, because that’s how a lot of people kind of helped me kind of grow, I think in my career is that really gives them the competence that they really need to kind of be able to step up to the table and, and really be able to have a voice and share like, Hey, this is what we what we know. And we’re, we’re confident in that. So yeah,

Tracy Baker 11:13
I think to kind of add to something that you mentioned, Kate was like, when you share what your challenges are, you know, everyone has challenges, but everyone has strengths. And so when I think about mentoring younger staff, I usually really tap into my, what I see are my strengths. You know, were my mentor, the person that I looked up to, you had really these wonderful soft skills and relationship building things. And these are things that in my personality I have to work harder at. So I’m always working harder at that. But my strengths really maybe are more on the technical architects side of things. And so that’s where I really like to bring new employees up in those areas, because I think they come out of school, they’re super creative, and it’s so wonderful to watch. But then they get sort of like thrown into the frying pan of the technical side of architecture and the nuts and bolts of doing our job in producing this product. And that’s where I like to really step in and help them understand what they’re creating and identify processes, and just help them make more than more efficient and more confident and give them tools they can apply to every project just to kind of help them be successful.

Angelica Henderson 12:27
Yeah, I think, especially when you’re talking to folks that are really early in their careers, sometimes they come to you with questions, and they’re honestly a little bit fearful of maybe doing the wrong thing. And I think just like Kate and Tracy are saying that positive encouragement, and that constructive feedback and encouraging them to take those steps to put yourself out there, it’s always going to be a little bit intimidating, when it’s brand new. But with time it gets easier you find that confidence, the more you can, you know, exercise those muscles and get more familiar with it. Yeah,

Nora Bland 13:04
and I think maybe the to kind of close that loop, I find that when I when I have a younger female employee that’s working with me, and I’ll ask her her opinion on things, I’ll ask her questions and, and really bring her into the decision making process so that she understands how it works, but then also building up that confidence, like, like everyone has said, and has some more ownership of the process and our work in general. And then, you know, encouraging her hate, like you could speak up on that client call, like that was an incredible idea. Being really quick to give praise, I’ve found has been successful in the past and helping shape or I guess, build that confidence.

Sarah Steimer 13:48
I’m going to jump off of the little outline that I had here for the cadence of our conversation. But something that just kind of popped up to me was, you know, we’re talking a lot about, you know, how do you help maybe folks who are earlier in their career and you also all talked about when you were early in your careers, but you know, looking at your peers, in terms of really kind of inspiring your peers, your female peers, what’s been important, has it been sort of going like, Hey, I see you’ve got a lot on your plate, you know, like, let’s do this together, you know, how was sort of that peer to peer inspiration worked for you.

Tracy Baker 14:24
I’ve learned a ton from my peers, you know, with in this industry, every project is a different experience. Every project is a learning opportunity. You never know everything. I know that with confidence, I can turn on my chair to my peer, Amy Lindgren, and she is just got some skills that I don’t have and some strengths that I don’t have, and I’ll tap into her and ask her how would you handle this or what are some of the strategies you deploy here and she does the same for me and I think that that is just us building each other up, us building each other’s confidence as we move forward and through what we do. I think that’s just empowering, knowing that I’m not sitting there silently waiting for someone to sink or swim. And they’re not doing that, to me, like it’s a team effort, even if my project isn’t her projects, or whatever other peer that you’re kind of reaching out to, it’s just, it’s the supportive nature of it, which I think kind of goes back to us not having that, like, I’m not in competition with her, you know, you take the competition out of it, and now you have an ally. So that’s kind of how I approach that.

Kate Gray 15:37
I love that I think supportiveness like, when women come together to support other women, I think it creates a really powerful and engaging dynamic that can really happen within the workplace, period.

Sarah Steimer 15:53
You know, there’s something that you kind of tapped into Tracy there that made me think of I read this study, and I wish I could remember where exactly the study came from. But it was really the whole idea behind it was this idea that when women do support one another, when they are there, sort of as each other’s point of nurturing, almost like there’s this cyclical nature of nurturing, when women get together, a lot of times whether it’s within a friendship, or a support group, or within the workplace, where it’s sort of like, there’s just this helping happening, the cycle of helping that happens. And, you know, it made me think of that, when you mentioned that there, it’s not a competitive thing. It’s not this idea of I’m going to end up using a bunch of my energy just to prove something. It’s almost this opportunity among women, where it’s almost like the inspiration comes in a way that is regenerative. And I just immediately when you when you started talking about I really thought about it. And so I wanted to talk more in that same vein, you know, what are some more uniquely female traits that really lend themselves to inspiration? And you know, anyone can kind of jump in and answer this, you know, we’ve talked about sort of that ability to community build, nurture, that can feel very inspiring, I think anything else that tends to feel pretty uniquely Fed will say, perhaps,

Nora Bland 17:20
I think this, this ties into the community building piece, but emotional intelligence, I feel like women are naturally really empathic listeners, natural mediators, we tend to have a little bit of a higher level of patience. Communication in general, is a little bit easier with a higher level of, of emotional intelligence, and being able to really read people and situations and understand what’s needed at the moment. If it’s support, if it’s a little push, it feels like that’s something that is a little bit more uniquely feminine, that I’ve been inspired by in the workplace.

Kate Gray 18:00
I think women have some really strong natural leadership skills. I mean, we’re not afraid to get stuff done, we see what needs to be done, we’re not afraid to take those steps. As well, as I think just being courageous, we’re not afraid to break down the barriers that have, in some cases been set in front of us. And so being able to take a step back, but being able to kind of plow our way through.

Sarah Steimer 18:22
And this is, I think, it’s worth mentioning to you know, the whole point of this conversation, we talked about this before we started recording, this isn’t about necessarily like girl power, or like men over women or anything like that. But you know, we have seen especially more recently, all of these, again, studies, things like that, that show how important diversity in the workplace is, and bringing different perspectives and bringing different strengths in because that’s really what’s going to make a huge difference. As soon as you have a variety and diversity of strengths, you’re gonna have a more well rounded organization, right? Have any of you seen maybe, and of course, this is always inspiring. Have any of you seen whether it’s within Cushing Terrell or anywhere else that you’ve worked? Or even you know, when you were going through school, things like that? Have you seen women step into roles where they maybe previously haven’t been? And you’ve seen either a culture shift, or you’ve seen problems solved in different ways, anything like that?

Tracy Baker 19:20
Yeah, I think this, you know, harkens way back to my life before life in the A&E industry, but I was a wildland firefighter for a while and one of my mentors in that profession was a woman who really broke a lot of barriers becoming fire captain, leading crews becoming a battalion chief later, this was someone who I saw as real like they really really broke some glass ceiling. You know, there were maybe three or four of her equals in the state of California. So it was really kind of an honor to watch her work and just mind blowing to see her confidence and how boldly she went. And it just sort of blazed a trail that a lot of people followed. And you know, there are those women in all the industry and just to watch her prove that it can be done and that a woman can do it. And that a woman can lead and a woman can make decisions, I think is fantastic. So I love when I see a woman in a leadership position, and you just watched sort of a dynamic in a room changes a little bit. And I’m sure some men recognize that shift or that change in just the way they respond or react as a group, when there are female leaders that are at a high level in a room. I just really love seeing that. And we need more of it.

Sarah Steimer 20:51
Well, the last question I have for you guys, and once again, thank you all for taking some time to chat with me today. I know you’re all certainly very busy. So it’s great to be able to take some time to have these sorts of discussions, but just in general, and everyone can just, you know, say briefly and we’ll start with Nora, you know, what do you think? Is it about representation about diversity? That is so inspiring, especially when it comes to your career and the workforce in general?

Nora Bland 21:23
Yeah, I mean, I think as women, we tend to be really logical thinkers. And we’re much more hesitant to necessarily like waste our time going after something that’s not achievable. Or without a precedent, we just be less likely to seek it out. And so I think it’s it’s really important to have those female peers that we can look to for inspiration and talk to and seek advice from that are or have been in similar situations as us that we know that we have our, you know, our sisters to lean on.

Kate Gray 21:56
Yeah, I think when there’s a lack of female representation within the workforce that could lead to the reinforcement of stereotypes. As a new mom, it’s been so encouraging for me to see so many women, not just within Cushing Terrell, but within the our industry, being able to really have a successful career on one side, but then also be a hands on and attentive, mom on the other. I think in years past, there’s always been that stereotype that you can’t have both. And I think the women, especially in our industry, have just broken down those assumptions beautifully. Yeah, like drop sorry, we’re spitting up over here.

Sarah Steimer 22:38
Don’t apologize. That’s like a perfect explanation on it. Right. Angelica, go ahead.

Angelica Henderson 22:45
Yeah, I feel very similarly to Nora, just in that feel like regardless of whether it’s a challenge in life, or a challenge in the workplace, seeing others having overcome a challenge, regardless of what it is, it gives you that same sort of confidence to, to navigate those new waters for ourselves.

Tracy Baker 23:06
Yeah, like Angelica said, you know, it gives you confidence when you see women in leadership in your industry or other women at the table in a big meeting. And there’s also kind of a comfort that goes with that, like, if you’ve ever seen them, you know, some of the books out there saying, Well, you know, you should do some power breathing in the bathroom before you go into a meeting, you know, some of these kinds of things and have your power stance in front of the mirror and just really build up that confidence. And that’s when you’re feeling like, oh my gosh, I’m gonna be the only woman in a room of 20 people or something of that nature and you walk in and, and you see another woman or two women or something at the table, you’re like, Okay, we’re here, I feel represented, I feel some commonality, I feel some camaraderie. And it’s less intimidating. And it just feels better to know that there are other women in it there with you. And you just forge ahead and do it you do and demonstrate your your leadership and your skills and your expertise. Without question.

Sarah Steimer 24:08
Let it be known that Tracy is wearing red, which is a power color.

Angelica Henderson 24:14
One, one small thing, I feel like we do find empathy at the table, right? Just knowing that other folks have have kind of gone through it gone through the thick of it. And just knowing that there is empathy around you. I think it gives you that sense of comfort that Tracy is talking about and it is so comforting. And I see that time and time again. I had a colleague reach out to me just last week saying you know I’m worried about coming back to the workplace after taking time off to to be a mom and what do you think that means for me moving forward and like go for it like if you’re ready to come back, come back like we’re all here. We’re excited to have you back and I think there’s just that level of intimidation of what am I missed while I’ve been gone? Just from personal experience my sis You’re 14 years away from the industry. She’s an engineer. And she just came back to the workplace. And there’s a place for her. And I think that’s so inspiring to know that regardless of, you know what life’s twists and turns are for you as an individual, there’s going to be opportunity waiting for you around the bend. It might not look like what we thought it was initially, but it’s there. Just gotta take it and run. Right.

Sarah Steimer 25:26
Awesome. Well, you guys, thank you so much. This was really a fantastic conversation. And I’m so grateful that you took the time to chat with me today. I mean, Happy International Women’s Day, Happy Women’s History Month, etc, to a saw, and I hope these conversations can certainly continue. So thank you guys. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Sarah. Thank you.

Tracy Baker 25:47
Thanks, everyone. Really great.

Producer 25:57
Music for Good, Thoughtful Hosts was written, produced, and performed by Sam Clapp. Our moderator is Sarah Steimer. Editing by Travis Estvold. And a special thanks to our content development team, Amanda Herzberg and Marni Moore. For more information about the podcast, visit thoughtfulhosts.com Thanks for listening!

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