Celebrating International Women’s Day: Faculty reflect on their careers and share their best advice

By: Katelyn Godoy
Women of SHA

For International Women’s Day, women faculty at the School of Hotel Administration (SHA) reflected on their careers and shared some lessons they learned along the way. These women are leaders in business and hospitality, and we’re proud to have them as part of our community. Whether they’re engaging with new undergraduates or experienced executives, there’s no doubt the women of SHA are making an impact.

To the women who wear many hats—teacher, mentor, mother, entrepreneur, friend, researcher—we celebrate you today and every day as you empower others and exemplify what it means to live a life of service.

Kate Walsh, dean and E. M. Statler Professor

Kate Walsh

“I would tell my younger self to trust my instincts, to be myself, to know I’m really competent—way more competent than I might feel at the moment, and that my career path may seem illogical, but will all make sense in the rear-view mirror. I abandoned an accounting career soon after obtaining my CPA license. But I always carried my accounting training with me, and it made me better at every job I’ve had since.

I would also tell myself to be patient and that my calling would reveal itself as I moved along and tried different types of work. I would advise my younger self that networking means nothing more than engaging professionally with others—getting to know your colleagues in and out of work, and perhaps working with them on an initiative important to your professional community.

If a young professional—female or male—works really hard and does a great job and still feels frustrated or not acknowledged for his or her contributions, then it’s time to find out why; it may be the job or organization is not the right fit and doesn’t enable one to thrive. If you’ve given it every chance, then move on.

Finally, I would tell myself to remember that while working so hard, and living the life that brings the greatest meaning, to remember to be a great colleague and help others be successful. This doesn’t mean to do their work for them, which some women tend to do, but it does mean to be supportive and help out when someone is in a pinch—and to deliver as a team member.

One last thing: Negotiate those job offers! As women we tend not to ask for more and/or what we need, but that is precisely what we should do when accepting a position. I have never heard of a company pulling an offer because a young professional expressed interest in a position, expressed how excited he or she is to contribute to the team and wanted to check in about the value they expect to provide and its associated compensation. When you frame negotiations that way, you appear very impressive!

Every single one of our students impress me each and every day. Our female students are so smart, hardworking and professional. My message to each one of them is: ‘You’ve got this!’”

Pamela Moulton, associate professor and finance area coordinator

Pamela Moulton

“I will share my favorite mantra for business and life and the intersection of the two: ‘It isn’t what it is, it’s what you make it.’”

Peggy Odom-Reed, MS ’97, PhD ’07, senior lecturer, marketing and management communication

Peggy Odom-Reed

“As women in business, we bring unique and diverse perspectives that expand our companies’ intellectual, social, emotional, and moral capital. If our voices are embraced, women can redefine what we do and how we think about business across the world. My best advice to women is to own your voice, empower rather than compete with other phenomenal women, and know the substantial value that you bring to business. By challenging longstanding but less relevant practices, we can help businesses to grow and to avoid insanity—‘doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’ (Albert Einstein). Owning our voices is the start for women in business to make a meaningful and collective change.”

Mona Olsen, assistant professor of entrepreneurship

Mona Olsen

“Each day, we have 86,400 seconds to use in consideration of our future hopes, goals, and dreams and in response to our past experiences and education. When I close out class with my TAs, I ask the question: How have you made a difference since last class? They teach me different ways to embrace their 86,400, that each person has a dream in progress to articulate if you take the time to engage, and that a TNT (try new things) approach to life opens possibilities for reflection, community, and active learning. Nothing fuels my focus more than when a student flips the question back: I make a difference, do you?

Being on the faculty at Cornell has reinforced a lesson I learned on Fulbright: It is a conscious choice to leverage education to create opportunity. I take seriously the belief that it is necessary to exchange ideas and perspective with students and colleagues across cultural boundaries, both inside and outside academia, to be an entrepreneurial and inspiring university professor at increasingly international universities.”

Jamie Perry, assistant professor of human resource management

Jamie Perry

“Notable alumnae Rachel Etess Green ’98 and Heather Jacobs ’94 both defy the notion that women can’t have it all. Both were highly successful and were able to climb through the ranks at their respective organizations, while still being mentally and emotionally present for their family, friends, and colleagues.

What next for women in business? There needs to be more women in leadership position. Currently, of the CEOs included in the S&P 500 list, only 24 are women. We can move the needle forward by not only moving up the ladder, but also helping other women advance through their careers. This can occur a number of ways: serve as a mentor, write a recommendation letter, recruit more women, connect women to more opportunities, etc.”

Cheryl Stanley ’00, lecturer, food and beverage

Cheryl Stanley

“There are endless opportunities for women in business and hospitality. We have amazing female students and alumnae who are doing incredible things in the business world. No matter what they decide on in life, both personally and professionally, they handle themselves with grace and appear as if nothing phases them. In order to keep moving ahead, we need to see open communication and transparency at all levels.

Thinking back, I’d tell my younger self not to be afraid to speak my mind. That said, remember that everyone deserves a place at the table. Respectfully listening with an open mind can lead to different opportunities. You never know how two ideas can come together and become something incredible.”

Jeanne Varney, lecturer, operations, technology, and information management

Jeanne Varney

“Take more calculated risks and own each decision you make. Women have a tendency to be more conservative and risk-adverse in the workplace. This can hold us back from bringing forth great ideas out of fear that they won’t be met with approval, or they could potentially fail. Of course, no one wants to fail; however, failure is an important experience in the process of learning and achieving eventual success. If you do your homework and prepare your data and rationale to the greatest extent possible, the likelihood of failure is greatly diminished. Be calculating and never rush presenting a great idea!

If you do end up making some decisions that lead you down a path of sub-optimal outcomes, still own your decisions, but in a positive light. Although you may want to view failure as negative, change your mindset. Make every choice (and possibly failure) meaningful to your professional experience by extracting every lesson possible. Craft your ‘story’ to include why those experiences have enriched you as a professional and made you a more valuable asset to any company.”