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How Women Can Shape Their Community and Careers

Recently, I was invited to attend a Women's Breakfast Forum in Fort Lauderdale on how women can shape their community. Women, we do have the ability to shape our community, but do we use it? Do we even know how?

I had a conflict with this breakfast sponsored by Akerman Senterfitt, Grant Thornton and SunTrust but asked if one of the women attending could be my fill in. I am thrilled that my fill in was Laura Holm, a shareholder at Akerman Senterfitt in Fort Lauderdale. Holm is strong in general corporate matters and represents public companies in their corporate transactions and compliance programs. Below are some of the topics the panelists discussed and Holm's personal perspective on those topics.


Holm, Laura

 (Laura Holm)

1.  Taking Credit for Your Work. Diane Magnum, panel moderator, former TV news anchor and founder of Magnum Force Productions asked Diane Holtz, President of Pet Supermarket, to describe her greatest accomplishments in businesses. Holtz noted that Pet Supermarket has increased sales consistently over the past few years, even though the economic environment has been weak for retail  She feels it's important for women acknowledge their accomplishments and take credit for their own work. Sometimes other people, men or women, may try to take credit for your ideas.

My perspective: I think its important for women to take leadership positions and be visible. Sometimes, women want to sit back and watch. I think it's important to get involved in the community, volunteer to do public speaking and take leadership roles.

2.  Work/Life Balance.  These panelists all try to maintains a work/life balance and make time for something they enjoy.  Lori Parrish, Property Appraiser of Broward County, said that she likes to garden and cook.  She noted that in politics it takes several years for new legislation to be passed, but she can cook a great meal in a few hours.

My perspective: I also think it is important to make time to do something you enjoy. My newest hobby is golf.  Because my work is reading, writing and numbers, golf is something different. I like it because I can spend time outside,it's a challenging game and something I do just for fun.

3.  Mentoring Relationships.  Each of the panelists discussed the importance of mentors to their career and noted that these mentors were not only women, but also men.  Gillian Thomas, President & CEO of Miami Science Museum, who is from England,  said her work experiences in Europe were different from those in the United States. Because there weren't as many women in museum management, and fewer female role models, most of her mentors were men.

My perspective: I have had several mentors, throughout my career. Some of these mentors have been other lawyers and some have been clients. One of my clients, Lewis Gould, the CEO and founder of QEP,  nominated me to serve as a director of QEP, a public company traded on Nasdaq with revenues exceeding $200 million at that time. It was a wonderful business opportunity for me and this experience has helped me be a better lawyer. I also enjoy mentoring younger lawyers at my firm, both men and women.

4.Leadership/Training. Diane Holtz stressed that it is important to train and teach employees.  This is critical to shaping your community and your company. She said she will never tell an employee to do something, unless the explains the reasons why the task is important. She also said that Pet Supermarket engages in a daily training with its employees so they are knowledgeable and helpful when customers visit the stores. 

My perspective: I agree that it's important to create a team environment where people want to work together and contribute the company or community's growth.

5.  Creativity in Working with your Employer. One of the audience members who was a new mother of a 6 month old baby asked if the panel had any advice on balancing the demands of work with motherhood.  Diane Magnum said she had a similar issue when she was working as a new anchor at Channel 10.  She had 3 young children and was an anchor on the evening news show, so she had very little time with her children during the week.  She was thinking of quitting, but she told her employer (Channel 10 News) and they switched her schedule so she could handle the news during the morning and the day and spend time with her family at night.

My perspective: I really enjoy working with start up and growing companies. Usually, my firm represents bigger companies, but I got them to be open to idea because I sold them on how it will benefit the firm.