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On Tuesday, International Women's Day, the world celebrates gender equality under the theme #BreaktheBias. Mainebiz asked business and nonprofit leaders from across the state to share their advice for young women about career building and leadership. Here's what they told us.
"Always stay true to yourself and know in your heart that you have the potential to do anything. Then commit daily to taking care of every aspect of your life — your physical, mental and spiritual health, your family and loved ones, your professional growth — so you can unleash your full potential to give this world."
— Laurie Lachance, president of Thomas College and a 2015 Mainebiz Next List honoree
“Watch the older, the tenured, and the wiser, observe their integrity, then follow in those footsteps.”
— LaNiece Sirois, executive director, Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, in Presque Isle
"Be confident in yourself, push yourself to grow, and don’t be afraid of change. It is a constant evolving journey — every twist and turn is an opportunity to learn so embrace it."
— Rebecca Hatfield, senior vice president of real estate, Avesta Housing, and a 2021 Mainebiz Woman to Watch
"It's more important than ever for women to lift each other up, praise each other and support each other in business and in life. When you get the opportunity to connect with someone, genuinely connect with them, and don't be concerned about what's in it for you. Some of my very best connections while building Dream Local Digital started with a connection introducing me to someone else that they knew, or doing a favor for someone that needs it. Build and curate your network, and it will support you on your own path. And finally, know your voice and own it. You can accomplish whatever you're willing to hustle for."
— Shannon Kinney, founder of Rockland-based Dream Local Digital and a 2013 Mainebiz Woman to Watch
“As a branch leader, I encourage young women to get involved in initiatives that leverage their existing skills but also teach them something new, even if it’s an area they aren’t completely confident about. Learning is growing! Raise your hand, ask questions and try out new opportunities that will help you grow personally and professionally.”
— Kelly Eberly, Chase Bank Portland branch manager and vice president, expansion
"The best advice I can offer is to get involved as a volunteer with an issue or organization that matters to you. You will meet wonderful people who care about the same issue, get to know your community better, feel the satisfaction of making a difference, and you’ll be able to develop skills that will help you move ahead with your career aspirations, as well.”
— Liz Cotter Schlax, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Maine and a 2019 Mainebiz Woman to Watch
“Do not let your career become a series of checkboxes and prescripted timelines. Embrace your current role. Seek advice, find mentors, and lead with transparency and authenticity. Commit to your own personal growth, as empathy and vulnerability will improve any team you’ll ever lead.”
— Jenn Lever, president, Baxter Brewing Co., Lewiston
“It is important to have strong emotional intelligence and self-awareness as a leader. Practice humility and play to your strengths. Always balance high expectations with empathy. Listen more than you talk and surround yourself with people you trust to help make sound decisions, take risks and make great things happen.”
— Julie Mulkern, executive director, WinterKids
"Surround yourself with people who believe in you, do your best and, when you can, always say yes to opportunities."
— Leslie Hyman, co-founder and CEO of fintech startup Circa
"Build connections — value the power of the collective but retain your perspective and own integrity [and] find others whose judgment you trust and seek feedback."
— Sandra Stone, Maine Angels chair emerita and a 2013 Mainebiz Woman to Watch
"Don't be told 'No.' If someone says you can't do it, prove them wrong. If someone says girls are not supposed to like science, tell them 'No.'"
— Kay Aikin, founder and chief product officer, Dynamic Grid, and a 2020 Mainebiz Next list honoree
"Believe in yourself. The only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself. If you can overcome self-limiting beliefs, you can accomplish anything."
— Michelle Accardi, CEO of Portland-based IT outsourcing and consulting firm Logically
"Seek opportunities that allow you access to leadership. Good leaders don’t just focus on leading today, they also focus on the development of future leaders. The best way to do that is to give young leaders both the ability to witness leadership in action and the opportunities to participate in key initiatives."
— Sarah Belliveau, BerryDunn CEO
"As a nonprofit leader in Maine, I have learned to slow down, focus and invest in people whom I respect and trust. Get to know your community, one by one — that's my advice. Building relationships with local artists and arts organizations makes the job rewarding."
— Dinah Minot, Creative Portland executive director