Written By

Kiran Patel



Stay up-to-date with OST blog posts.

October 22, 2019

Recap: "Women in Leadership: Gaining Influence and Inspiring Innovation"

Panel Sign that says "Women in Leadership: Gaining Influence and Inspiring Innovation

You know the saying that there are no stupid questions? Tammylynne Jonas, Global CIO of Self Esteem Brands, disagrees. “Be aware of your audience and be prepared for the environment you are in,” she said. Ask questions accordingly.

Jonas was one of four leaders who spoke during Twin Cities Startup Week’s “Women in Leadership: Gaining Influence and Inspiring Innovation” panel. OST’s Lisa Jilek, VP of Sales and Marketing, moderated. The event was an opportunity for women to network, share ideas, and be inspired by four successful leaders.

Listen to the full audio of the event here.

The Panelists at Twin Cities Startup Week Women in Leadership Panel

Career Advice for Women, From Women

Jonas shared her perspective on the importance of knowing your audience before you dive into your questions for them, and other panelists had additional insights and advice for women at every stage of their careers.

For Beth Klawitter, Sr. Director of Customer Success and Operations at Attivo Networks, a bad move would be staying in a role that is safe and secure and not being your own advocate.

“Especially at a smaller organization, I think it’s so important to chart your own goals and make sure leadership is aware of them,” she said.

Kathleen Miner, VP of Solutions Marketing at Thomson Reuters, said she has been happier and more successful at an organization when she doesn’t solely evaluate an opportunity by its title or compensation. Instead, she focuses on the individual she is working for.

Tonia Teasley said never to listen to those who say, “We’ve tried that already. It will never work.”

“I’ve heard that a lot in my career,” said Teasley, VP and General Manager at Capella University. “Fortunately for me, I’ve taken that as a challenge, not a deterrent, because it has actually allowed me to take on things people thought couldn’t be done.”

It took Teasley a long time to learn, but this lesson was invaluable: “If you are constantly advocating for your own viewpoint without consideration for others’ perspectives, you are going to run into obstacles,” Teasley said.

Eventually, she came to realize that she doesn’t know everything that everyone else in the room knows. And that’s okay. Asking questions and making sure all the voices in the room are heard is the best way to influence across the organization.

Women in the Audience of the Twin Cities Startup Week panel hosted by OST

The Importance of Women in Leadership

Although women make up more than half of the United States population, women lag far behind men when it comes to serving in leadership positions in companies.

For example, according to the Center for American Progress, in the legal profession, women are 45% of associates but only 22.7% of partners and 19% of equity partners. In medicine, women represent 40% of all physicians and surgeons but only 16% of medical school deans. In the financial services industry, they constitute 61% of accountants and auditors, 53% of financial managers, and 37% of financial analysts. But they are only 12.5% of chief financial officers in Fortune 500 companies.

Globally, the number of women in leadership roles is increasing in 2019, according to This year, 29% of senior management roles are held by women, the highest number ever on record. But in the United States, where women make up nearly half of the labor force, they represent only slightly over a third (40%) of managers, according to a article citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Be Influential

Being influential means building a track record of collaborating, listening, and working well with other people.

“If you do that over time, your ability to influence others only increases,” Miner said. “No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, assume the person on the other side of the table is there with positive intentions, and it’s amazing what actually starts to happen.”

To hear the full conversation, listen to the podcast now!



Stay up-to-date with OST blog posts.

About the Author

Kiran Sood Patel is the former Managing Editor of The Rapidian and hails from Illinois. Born and raised in the Midwest, she has reported for daily newspapers for years, with experience covering education, business, technology, city government and feature reporting. Prior to moving to Michigan, she worked as a multimedia reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She holds a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and a Bachelor of Arts in News Editorial Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an active volunteer in all communities and cities she has called home. She is the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the Junior League of Grand Rapids. The Junior League of Grand Rapids is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Kiran has served as the Assistant Chair of Research in Community Impact. She served as JLGR’s Chair of the Beneath the Wreath committee in 2017. She is a past Educational Programming co-chair for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids. In the past, she has volunteered as an adult literacy tutor and with the Junior League of Cedar Rapids for three years in the area of youth aging out of the foster care system. She enjoys baking, reading popular fiction, blogging, writing and being a tourist in her own city. In Grand Rapids, you can find her in search of baked goods, coffee, good food and captivating stories across the city.