‘If You Can Dream It, You Can Achieve It’: Lessons in Leadership and Female Empowerment

As a female leader, the fact that women are vastly underrepresented at the executive level is astonishing, especially as I watch my young daughter continue to grow. I’m anxious for her to see more strong female executives in the workforce and understand that achieving leadership roles as a woman is possible.

Unfortunately, reality paints an ominous picture, and that shouldn’t be the case. In the staffing industry, for example, which seems to have a higher percentage of female leadership than most industries, only 6 percent of board seats at the 27 public staffing firms in the U.S. are occupied by women, according to Staffing Industry Analysts.

While we need to place more women in corporate leadership roles, there are definitely women who’ve shattered the glass ceiling and achieved the highest ranks within their companies or organizations. We must view these women as role models and celebrate them because they’re influencing the leaders of tomorrow, today.

Staffing Industry Analysts’ Global Power 100 – Women in Staffing honors the incredible women leaders who are transforming the staffing and recruiting industry. I was extremely fortunate to engage a Global Power 100 honoree — Traci Fiatte, CEO of Randstad Professionals and Commercial Staffing — to share her experiences with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, the Frank Hammond Girl Scout Troop from Munster, Ind.

Fiatte is a remarkable business leader who is also dedicated to her community. A former Girl Scout, she serves on the board of the Girl Scout Council of Chicago and Northwest Indiana. She is passionate about nurturing young women’s aspirations and helping them pursue their careers.

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Here are three lessons from Fiatte’s conversation with my daughter’s Girl Scouts troop that I know will inspire the next generation of female leadership:

No Dream Is Too Big to Achieve

The size and scope of anyone’s ambitions are limitless. At the beginning of her conversation, Fiatte asked the girls how many of them would like to be responsible for billions of dollars. All hands went up. She then asked how many of the girls would like to be the boss of 3,000 people. All hands darted up again. At Randstad, Fiatte oversees a multi-billion-dollar operation and 3,000 individuals, and her scope of responsibility is proof that no dream is too big to attain. For Fiatte, the enjoyment of working with people and solving in-depth problems led her to the staffing industry. Achieving an exciting career, especially as a female business leader, starts with passion and then actualizing that passion throughout school, extracurriculars, and eventually into the workforce. The lesson to the girls is: if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Hard Work Yields Future Opportunities

No one starts their careers at the top — they have to work their way up there. But that career journey is filled with many rewards and challenges that help people become better at their jobs and reach their goals. For Fiatte, her career journey began when she tenaciously walked up and down the streets with a poster-covered wagon selling Girl Scout cookies. Being at Randstad for 22 years, she uses many of the skills in her job today that she learned as a Girl Scout, such as self-confidence, good citizenship, and dedication. Ultimately, focus, eagerness, and hard work fuel career advancement and future opportunities.

Perseverance Overcomes Obstacles

It’s vital to never give up – no matter how insurmountable a challenge may appear. For Fiatte, her message is simple: when you keep going, things get better and better. She applied this concept not only to her years at Randstad, but also to the evolution of the Girls Scouts program as the girls progress through it, especially when they move from grade school to middle school. For scouts in middle school and above, the troop and their activities are girl-led, instead of parent- or troop-led, which gives the girls opportunities to further develop their leadership skills. It’s important to seize these opportunities because they help girls build the foundation for successful careers. However, when assuming leadership roles for the first time, sometimes obstacles will emerge, and it’s important to confidently approach them to succeed. It may be difficult tackling unfamiliar challenges at first, but in the end, this willingness to embrace the uncomfortable will create even stronger leaders who are ready to handle more complex projects or tasks.

As the Girl Scouts closed their meeting singing loudly in a friendship circle, arms crossed, and holding hands, I could already see, from the glimmer in these girls’ eyes, that some extraordinary leaders would emerge from the group in the coming years. And that wouldn’t be possible without the tireless, loving mentorship from today’s leaders, such as Traci Fiatte, who are showing our nation’s young women that there is simply no limit to the heights they can climb.

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Gretchen Keefner

Gretchen Keefner
Gretchen Keefner is a managing director, global accounts for Bullhorn, the global leader in CRM and operations software for the recruitment industry.

Gretchen Keefner

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