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5 Takeaways For Women, by Women from This Year’s ThinkFest

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“Create a community for yourself.” That’s the advice Visit Philly CEO Meryl Levitz gave at this year’s ThinkFest. When the tourism and hospitality leader sat down with Sara Lomax, CEO of the Kimmel Center, the two discussed the current leadership climate for women in Philadelphia. While the discussion started with some staggering data points on how the C-suite class in the city is currently formed (hint: it’s still mostly made up of men), the women went on to pinpoint just what we can do, as a community, to build new pathways. Here are some of the most important takeaways from that discussion.

Listen to everyone, and listen to no one. Sara Lomax believes that this is the key to being a strong leader. “Women CEOs get second-guessed a lot, and we don’t need to pile that on by second-guessing ourselves,” she says. “Look for people who are going to tell you the truth to help you navigate your career and life.” While you should never go solely with your gut, it is a great place to start. Remember: you’re in the position you are in because you belong here. Don’t doubt yourself. ThinkFest alumni Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Philadelphia’s Montante, agrees. “You need a really clear North Star vision that doesn’t ever change and from there,” she told us in our interview last month. She believes fear of being uncomfortable — or making the “wrong” decision — is what hinders many entrepreneurs from making their move.

Make it your mission to support other women. When asked if she considered herself a feminist, Levitz said, “I generally think of myself as a humanist, but if I look at who I’ve hired over the years, it is probably disproportionately women, because I feel that part of my mission to create a balance.” Look around you. Look for opportunities to mentor or sponsor promising women in — or out of — your field. See how you can help become a bridge for another person’s success, whether that’s by offering advice or even a job.

Love yourself so you can love others. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work that we have to do. We are consuming these media images and perceptions of women as weaker or less capable, and if we don’t do the work to really love ourselves and embrace our own power we won’t be able to be those allies for each other,” says Lomax. Take care of yourself and your needs, and from there, you can share your strength and guidance from a healthy place.

Know how powerful it is to be a woman. “It means power, really owning and stepping into a being comfortable and just knowing your inner power as a human being, woman, person,” says Lomax. “And not letting anyone else’s projections or perceptions diminish you.”

Never stop growing your network. Levitz asks her staff to look at the 100 Most Influential Philadelphians. She tells them, if there’s a woman on the list that they don’t know, they should get to know her. “Give her a call, take her to lunch,” she suggests. “Let’s get somebody else in the family and see what we might be able to do together.” Never assume that your support group is complete; any successful business person always knows there’s room for growth.

Innovation starts by serving the community, and the people, who inspire you to chase your passion. That’s why UnitedHealthcare is proud to shine a spotlight on Philadelphia’s forward thinkers and outside the box ideas through the Inspiring Innovation Series. To find out more about UnitedHealthcare, visit uhc.com/phillyinnovation.