Kelly Gray: Creating a network of support, one woman at a time
Sometimes we need people to help shepherd us through our professional fears and anxieties. I’ve been very fortunate to have that network of support throughout my 33-year career.
There was an individual early-on in my career who had a lot of confidence in me. He gave me a nudge for a promotion into a job that I didn’t think I was quite ready for. I was a new mother working for a growing company when my boss – Neil – offered me a position that would have made me the youngest Director in the organization at the time.
I was nervous about balancing work and family. Could I do it? I wasn’t sure, but Neil was. He looked at me and said, “I want you to do this job. I know you can do this job.” He was so confident in my abilities, offering to help every step of the way. At that moment, I knew I had to accept the position. His push was invaluable for me to gain the confidence that I needed to jump-start the rest of my career. He just turned 80 this past year and I am so thankful that we are still in touch.
Aside from Neil, I have had a very large network of supportive people during my career, most of whom were women. I’ve had a number of mentors who were male, but there is something special about that network of women who are peers, friends, career counselors and confidants. We are always able to call on each other when we’re in need.
Throughout my career I have strived to help women develop the same network of support that I have enjoyed. When someone saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself, I was taught some of the greatest lessons of my life, including servant leadership and the importance of always being grateful. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these networks of support helped me break out of my comfort zone and fulfill my desire to succeed. I can only hope that the network of women that I have fostered – and am proud to be a part of – find the same confidence to fill their own desire to succeed. Because when women succeed, we all succeed.