Invest in Yourself: 4 Powerhouse Women Share the Successes, Struggles and Strategies That Led Them to the Top of Their Game

For women navigating a career in business, it is a marathon not a sprint — or so say the panelists at the May 19 Women of Impact virtual event, hosted by Make It Better Media Group. The all-women panel — including Kathy Roeser, Managing Director and Wealth Advisor of Morgan Stanley; Monica Gray-Fong, Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder of Nice Guys Delivery; Dr. Jordan Carqueville, Founder and Medical Director of The Derm Institute of Chicago; Maureen Sedonean, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco; and moderated by Cheryl Berman, Chief Creative and CEO of Unbundled Creative — come from varied industries, from philanthropy to medicine to finance. But all have the same common denominator: they have navigated a career in fields that are otherwise predominantly male.

Each member of the discussion was given time to recount how their career has unfolded over the years — from setbacks to accomplishments. Each narrowed in on the idea of uncertainty as they came to a crossroads between pursuing what is clear and attainable and what is more abstract and strenuous. For Gray-Fong, the first speaker of the event, her marathon began fresh out of college when she landed her first job in the fashion industry after facing the age-old question, “What now?” After shifting between states, relationships and careers, Gray-Fong found herself launching a cannabis delivery company with her husband — all while raising a young family — but this resting point in her career did not come without difficulty.

Similarly, Dr. Carqueville went on to explain the serendipitous nature of the breakthrough in her career that was nurtured by a fellow woman in her field. At the intersection of change in her career and in her personal life, she ran into the CEO of the hospital she had been working for. When Dr. Carqueville relayed her worries, her superior’s response was simple, “I will help you. Email me.” And so she did, which led to an in-person meeting, which led to relief from some of her stressors and an alignment of opportunities she “thought was impossible.”

“Uplifting other women is so important and has been key to my successes,” she continued.

The concept of women supporting each other or being strongholds for support in their families and close circles was echoed by Roeser — who wove into the conversation statistics about women and how they navigate finances. One such being that women make 90% of the financial decisions in their households. Roeser noted that women who are successful in helming their financial affairs do so with “roadmapping,” or making conscious lists of must-dos and logistics.

“Organized, successful people have a checklist for all aspects of their life. … You start by thinking about the important aspects of your financial wellbeing,” the Morgan Stanely veteran stated.

The checklist she uses to help “empower” her clients is broken down categorically into a multitude of steps — sometimes even up to 20 — most often covering:

  1. Financial Planning
  2. Retirement Planning
  3. Education and Legacy Goals
  4. Insurance Review
  5. Safety and Documentation

This list is less of a set of demands and more of a guide that should be checked in on and evaluated as life and goal posts change. “Make sure when you have this checklist that you don’t run out of gas. That somebody is warning you about the potential problems that are on the horizon, how to get in front of it and fix it,” she said.

An overarching theme to Roeser’s pitch was that of preparedness for the uncertain — such as untimely death, illness or other unexpected changes to your financial situation. In other words, having intentionality in everything you do, from planning to enjoying the fruits of doing so.

Intentionality, too, is something Sedonean brings to the table every day. As the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Great San Francisco, she has recognized that without that direct thoughtfulness for the people she and the organization serve, she would be doing them a disservice. “I realized, one of the things that is important to be a leader and to have impact is to be a learner, and to continue to be a life-long learner. I’ve learned so much about … most importantly, that direct connection and impact on families and young people.”

Berman brought the conversation to a close by asking each panelist to share what their goals are, whether immediate or long term. For Gray-Fong, her immediate goal was to re-invest in herself — a notion spurred by her mother’s advice from long ago to “stop doing everything yourself, you need to ask people for help more.” The consensus then was largely that in order to invest in what you do or hope to do — assisting clients reach their goals for Roeser; putting time into yourself for your own wellbeing for Gray-Fong; developing a mentorship program for Dr. Carqueville; and mindfully showing up for your team for Sedonean — you must first invest in yourself.

Watch the full Celebrating and Empowering Women on the Rise virtual event.

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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

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