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Lessons In Leadership

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Dec 1, 2017
Mona Badie, chief information officer and chief digital officer for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)
Despite their varied industries, these five women in the Wilmington area helping run organizations, companies and institutions have a lot in common. Their passions for their various fields – whether it’s in technology, health care, law or politics – have driven their successes and commitments to being lifelong learners. They recently shared their thoughts on what it takes to be a leader.


Own Your Decisions

MONA BADIE, a 13-year GE veteran, is chief information officer and chief digital officer for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a role she assumed in August 2015. Prior to GE, Badie held various leadership positions at Fitch Risk Management, an arm of Fitch Ratings, and Polaroid.
 
What has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?
 
Badie: “Passion, consistently delivering results and mentors and sponsors throughout my career at GE. Best practices for success: Do what you love, raise your hand for challenging assignments, work hard and deliver results – you will get noticed, and this is the first step to success. Passion is probably the biggest thing. I never did the work because of a paycheck. I do it because I love what I do … And because of this passion, I have always looked and signed up for challenging work – work that impacts the company’s bottom-line and top-line growth.”
 
What is your stance on the wage gap?
 
Badie: “Unfortunately, wage gap exists. Actually, there is a 20 percent wage gap in technical fields. Studies show that part of the problem is that women expect less and therefore ask for less when they get hired. Women also feel uncomfortable negotiating for higher salaries. I believe it is very important for women to do the research and understand their worth before the interview and go ready to ask for it. They need to realize that what they ask for in their first job will impact their overall career income. It’s also important to be confident and believe that they deserve, and should ask for, the same pay as men if not more.”
 
What advice do you have for other women looking to take on leadership roles?
 
Badie: “The buck stops with you. You will be responsible for the results of your overall organization. Be decisive and own your decisions. Believe in yourself. You bring a different perspective to the leadership team, and every leadership team is better off with diversity of thought.”
 
How do you feel you are changing the idea of women in similar roles in your industry?
 
Badie: “There are not many women in technology leadership roles in the nuclear industry, so being in this role gives me the opportunity to demonstrate that a woman can be a successful, innovative leader in a complex and regulated industry”

What do you feel that you have in common with other women within your field? 

Badie: “I am an electrical engineer by education and software engineer by training. What I have in common with other women within my field: love for technology and innovation, pride in what we do, and wanting to make a difference in the society, and have more women in technology. The number of women in technology, especially in leadership positions is very low. It is our role to change this equation for the generations to come.”

How do you juggle work, family, outside activities and time for yourself?

Badie: “I always remind myself and my family that not every day or week will be perfectly balanced. There are weeks where work consumes most of my waking hours, but when things are calmer at work, I make sure I spend a lot of quality time with my family and friends.

“I think that work-life balance is a myth … you can have a good career and some kind of balance, but if you really want to push the envelope and go through that glass ceiling, and assume bigger leadership roles, that balance becomes more difficult. As women we have choices. Not every woman has to pursue a very demanding career, but if you do, you should know what you are signing up for. You should accept the fact that you will not have the perfect balance.”
 

Look For Opportunities

 WANDA COLEY became president and COO of Well Care Health in October. Prior to that role, Coley directed Well Care’s daily operations for seven years as COO. She has more than 20 years of finance, accounting and technology experience in health care.
 
What do you feel that you have in common with other women within your field?
 
Coley: “I feel that I share many commonalities among other women in the fascinating field of health care. I’m passionate about making a positive impact on others, confident in my abilities to be an industry leader and desire to inspire other women to pursue their dreams. Exuding strength and perseverance in the face of adversity is essential to be an effective leader. I feel that’s what many of us have in common.”
 
How do you juggle work, family, outside activities and time for yourself?
 
Coley: “It’s certainly a work in progress … I love being a wife, a mother to my two children and spending time with family and friends. I know my career is demanding. However, I’ve learned I need a life outside of work to maintain a healthy balance. I use one calendar to manage my work and personal schedule. This helps me prioritize and keep up with my busy life.”
 
What advice do you have for other women looking to take on leadership roles?
 
Coley: “Take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Look for opportunities to be a leader and seize the moment. If the opportunity isn’t presented to you, forge your own path and create opportunities to be a leader. Don’t wait for the perfect timing. Maintain your integrity, do what’s right even when no one is looking … Know your value as a woman, clearly articulate your value and own your seat at the table.”

What do you feel has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?

Coley: “I’ve always had the attitude to approach situations globally as opposed to being singularly focused. I’m a risk taker and challenge myself to perform at the highest level personally and professionally to avoid complacency. Personal failure is not an option which requires self motivation, resiliency and the desire to overcome all odds.”

“I have a strong support system which allows me to meet the demands of my career while being a wife and mom. Best practices for success include being a lifelong learner to expand upon your knowledge, pursuing your dreams which often times requires you to step outside of your comfort zone, surround yourself with great people who are concerned about your wellbeing and most of all humility.”

What is your stance on the wage gap?

Coley: 
“Studies show there is a wage gap between men and women. It's unfortunate in the 21st Century this is still a topic of conversation. I would be naive to think wage gaps do not exist in health care. However, I expect the wage disparity will continue to close as women pursue leadership roles, fill board rooms and demand equal pay for equal work.”

How do you feel you are changing the idea of women in similar roles within your industry?

Coley:
“I don’t necessarily feel that I am changing the idea of women in similar roles. I’m simply striving for the best in all aspects of my life. I’m truly grateful for the opportunities I have had personally and professionally. I want women to know they can do anything they set their mind to. I’ve always told my daughter and nieces, the sky is the limit. The only thing in between the sky and your dreams is yourself. No one else can hold you back from achieving your goals except for you.  As my father often says, 'I'm living the life that I love and I'm loving the life that I live.'”
 

Just Do It

Judge OLA LEWIS is the senior resident Superior Court judge of the 13B Judicial District in southeastern North Carolina and has held the role since 2006. She has 27 years of legal experience.
 
What is your stance on the wage gap?
 
Lewis: “There is nothing definitively I can point to except myself. When I was a young lawyer I lived that wage gap. So yes, I believe that a wage gap exists for women in the profession. But that conversation cannot take place without we as women reflecting upon our history and taking it into account because we have moved from wood floors to shattering glass ceilings. With regard to being state employees, all judges are paid the same.”
 
How do you feel you are changing the idea of women in similar roles in your industry?
 
Lewis: “When I became a Superior Court judge in 2000, I was only the second African-American Superior Court judge in the entire state of North Carolina. Well since that time … there have been nine African- American women on the Superior Court bench, three of whom that I have known at least 30 years because we were in law school together.
 
So though I was the first of our crew to ascend to the Superior Court bench, I would like to think that my going was encouraging for them. There are not that many women period at the Superior Court level.”
 
What advice do you have for other women looking to take on leadership roles?
 
Lewis: “The Nike motto: ‘Just Do It.’ And there are a lot of ways that you can serve – if you don’t like to be out front, if you are shy – there are plenty of things that need to be done by way of support and lifting people up. So if you have a passion, a desire, something where you feel you can make a difference in the community that you love, then just do it.”

What do you feel that you have in common with other women within your field? 

Lewis: “I have followed the same career path as judges who are similarly situated. We’ve had to go through law school, the passage of the bar, usually some form of private practice or clerkship. And then as it relates to the judicial side, it either starts with an appointment or a general election. And so those are the things that we have in common. In terms of what you have to do to prepare, the process very much the same. It’s just finding our niche … because the thing about the practice of law is that it is so varied.”

What do you feel has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?

Lewis: “I had a very strong upbringing -- one that was faith-based. My father was a command sergeant, major in the United States Army. My mother was the first African American female to become a principle in Harnett County. And so, I had great role models. My parents just had very positive attitudes and a good can-do attitude.

“I think that what I have found in my career for the best practices for success is just to be grounded spiritually. And I have an outstanding team of professionals that work in my office and they lift me up, and do an excellent job. You have to learn to love and you need a ride-or-die -- somebody that's just with you through thick and thin no matter what. And ... you have to have to be a ride or die for somebody. I think those are the things that have set me upon this path to success.”

How do you juggle work, family, outside activities and time for yourself?

Lewis:
 “Well of course going back to a good team that can help you manage the professional side. So to have good people that you can dispatch, so you don't have to be everywhere at one time. And then on the personal side of it; the hard part is learning to say, “no I can't do it.” Even when you really want to do it. But I think to be the best at anything you must be able to say, “no.” And that's tough.”
 

Have Confidence

LAUREN HENDERSON is the CFO of CastleBranch and president of tekMountain. She joined Castle- Branch in 2006. Over the past 10 years, Henderson has grown with the company starting in the accounting department and becoming the organization’s financial leader.
 
What has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?
 
Henderson: “The most impressive women leaders that I have met all share a common trait: an intense curiosity. I’ve always had a desire to learn how something works and challenge the way things are done. This trait is instantly recognizable in others, and when you work with like-minded people, the energy and synergy are incredible.”
 
What is your stance on the wage gap?
 
Henderson: “Wage gaps exist in most fields. By acknowledging that they exist, we can find tangible ways to improve. But we also need to focus on the gap in the number of women in top corporate management and leadership roles. I believe that if we work on increasing the number of women in these types of positions, we will continue to reduce the wage gaps.”
 
What advice do you have for other women looking to take on leadership roles?
 
Henderson: “Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves. Search for those opportunities, and be willing to take chances. Have confidence in your abilities. Better yourself as you provide enhanced value in your workplace.”

What do you feel has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?

Henderson: “My path to success has been one of partnership with my company. My work ethic, knowledge and commitment has been rewarded with opportunity – not only in terms of promotion but with a shared investment in my continued education.”

How do you feel you are changing the idea of women in similar roles within your industry?

Henderson:
“Challenging my personal comfort zone has allowed me to flourish in areas that I would have never thought possible. By challenging my own role, I feel that I am promoting the concept of versatility through action.”

How do you juggle work, family, outside activities and time for yourself?

Henderson:
“I have grown to understand that I can only be at my best professionally if I prioritize spending time with my family and the people that are most important to me. Taking the time to enjoy other activities allows me to approach work in a much more refreshed and focused manner. ”
 

A Unique Perspective

Gov. Roy Cooper appointed SUSI HAMILTON to serve as secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in January. Previously, as a legislator, Hamilton represented Brunswick and New Hanover counties in the state House from 2011 to January. She is founder and CEO of consulting firm Hamilton Planning.
 
What has set your path to success and what is your stance on best practices for success?
 
Hamilton: “I may not know all the answers, but I make it my job to know who to ask. I also think it’s important to give life the laugh it deserves every day and cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself along the way.”
 
How do you feel you are changing the idea of women in similar roles in your industry?
 
Hamilton: “I’ve had the privilege of working with many amazing women, and I’m conscious of my responsibility to help other women succeed and have a seat at the table, especially in government. We have a unique perspective that is valuable and needed in politics.”
 
How do you juggle work, family, outside activities and time for yourself?
 
Hamilton: “I can’t think of a time in which women weren’t juggling a million things at once, and the world is only as loud as we let it become. I’m very intentional about carving out quality time with my family.”
 
What advice do you have for other women looking to take on leadership roles?
 
Hamilton: “You got this. Don’t underestimate yourself. Fail forward.”

What do you feel that you have in common with other women within your field? 

Hamilton: “A natural curiosity combined with not being afraid to challenge the status quo.”

What is your stance on the wage gap?

Hamilton: “I think it's important to keep the conversation moving forward and for professionals in all fields to ask for what they know they're worth.”
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