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Positive outlook for women in leadership

Posted on Sunday, Mar 8, 2015

Sue Hanlon headshotSue Hanlon holds the title of General Counsel for Veredus | Hays - A new partnership in recruiting experts, where she is responsible for the company’s legal function. Sue previously worked for Veredus for three years before the newly announced partnership with Hays, where she was promoted to General Counsel of North America.

”I think the biggest obstacle I have had to overcome was when I went away to college I didn’t have any family members to talk to about what to expect or to guide me.  I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and the only one, until recently, to earn a graduate degree (my sister received her Master’s in Nursing a couple of years ago).   My Mom got her AS in Nursing while I was in law school and my Dad went to school at night on the GI Bill when we were growing up, and came within a few classes of earning his Bachelor’s Degree, but never finished. I was totally clueless about college life when I left for UF.  I worked and took out loans to pay for school, but I don’t think that put me at a disadvantage—I appreciated my education and learned to work hard.

I think there’s still a double standard when it comes to being a strong leader—it’s admirable in a man and sometimes referred to negatively when a woman displays those same characteristics.  We walk a fine line at times.”

Growing up Sue started to notice that most “strong leaders” were predominantly male and that being a superior woman was frowned upon.

The Pew Research Center recently surveyed the combination of women and leadership. They found that four-in-ten Americans agree that there is a double standard for women seeking to climb the corporate ladder, especially where they have to prove themselves in order to beat out their male colleagues. The survey revealed that people believe corporate America is just not ready for women to be in leadership positions.

“I get the sense that some European countries may be ahead of us in workplace equality, but it’s just anecdotal—I don’t have any firsthand knowledge.  In the US, I think there are still lingering differences for women in the workplace in some regions and I think we, as a society, still have role biases.  I see that changing, though. I think my niece and nephew’s generation will have a vastly different experience in their working lives. When I talk to them about the experiences their mom and I had in school, church, relationships and work it’s hard for them to relate, I think.  For example, it was hard for my then teenage niece to understand why the election of Barack Obama to the presidency (all politics aside) had such an emotional impact on so many people and why having women in cabinet level jobs and high ranking congressional roles is so important.  To her and her brother, they don’t know any different—there’s no basis for comparison in their lifetime.”

There are more women than ever entering the workforce and the direction of change in most countries has been greatly positive. But we are seeing a gender struggle in several other countries and there is still much work to be done.

“I have never had a female mentor. I have had some very good male mentors who have taught me about the businesses/industries I’ve worked in and allowed me to grow and learn.  I think it’s important to provide mentoring opportunities for anyone who wants that experience, not just for women.  I have been blessed tremendously in my professional and personal life and I believe in paying it forward.”

Sue is tremendously active in her community. She also stands by the benefits of mentorship. She is currently a Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay Program. Through this program she mentors an elementary school aged girl. She believes that mentoring girls young will help in building future leaders.

“My advice for women in the workplace is: If you expect to be treated differently because you are a woman, you will be. I don’t necessarily ascribe to the “you have to work harder than a man” mantra—I just think that women have a harder time talking about their contributions and making the right people aware.  We need to get over that.”


Read the Hays Global Gender Diversity Report for insights into workplace equality around the world. 

Hays North America is a sponsor and member of Women's Executive Network.

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