saulsOn January 27, a panel of dynamic women gathered to discuss the challenges, opportunities, victories, and lessons they’ve encountered along their journeys and careers in leadership. 

“A manager supports the movement of the ball, a leader directs the direction of the ball”, shared Shanaysha Sauls, president and CEO of Baltimore Community Foundation as she reflected on the lessons she has learned as a leader. 

Dr. Sauls spoke on the panel with pediatrician-in-chief and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Tina Cheng, MD, MPH and Alicia Wilson, JD, vice president for economic development here at Johns Hopkins which was moderated by Lisa Cooper, MD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity and a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Health Equity and James F. Fries professor of Medicine.

Throughout the evening the panelists and attendees related over observations and occurrences they’ve experienced in the workplace, including commonly heard phrases such as “how does it feel to be the only woman of color?”, and challenges experienced when negotiating compensation compared to their male counterparts. One audience member brought up the gender pay gap between men and women noting that “men tend to get hired and paid based on their potential while women tend to get hired and paid based on experience.” 

Many of the women in the room agreed that one of the most important aspects of growing in leadership is finding and using one’s voice, especially in spaces where women are the minority. 

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“Our voice is not always recognized as relevant in comparison to our male counterparts […] so sometimes as women you have to learn to toot your own horn without blowing it”, shared Dr. Sauls.

Many personal stories were shared throughout the evening. Dr. Cheng brought her “school years” book that she has had since she was a young girl “In my school years book it asks what do you want to be when you grow up? And the boy column had all action jobs, cowboy, policeman, baseball player etc. and the girl column had mother, nurse, teacher, airline hostess, model, or secretary and if you look at my school years book I crossed those out and added a space for doctor.” Cheng

Ms. Wilson reminded aspiring leaders that they have value and encouraged women in the auditorium to not be afraid to speak and contribute their ideas by sharing her own personal story when a colleague encouraged her to speak up, “sometimes when you are young you think of all the best ideas are already in that room. If it was so smart, someone else would’ve said it.” 

wilsonPanelists were also generous with the tips they shared, including building a strong support system, having work-life balance, not being afraid to speak up, creating opportunities specifically crafted for you, and methods for properly negotiating salary and compensation.

Alicia Wilson wrapped the evening up with this gem, “You will never reach rock bottom I promise you. It only goes up."