I have never been one to consider my gender to be a factor when it comes to my career. I am a firm believer that my actions and work ethic bear a far greater impact on my success. I’m not saying that being a woman in business doesn’t change the game a bit — especially when it comes to how my actions are perceived — but it certainly has no place in my daily thought process or leadership efforts.
As the president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce for the past 17 years, I’ve grown right alongside the Chamber and our community. I’ve worked with some incredible individuals, both male and female, and have learned many valuable lessons along the way. If there is one significant variable I have observed between the two sexes, it is the double-standard in communication. When a male leader is bold, frank and opinionated, he is often deemed to be a visionary or strong leader. Conversely, a woman can be considered pushy, aggressive or rude. Have I compensated for this standard over the years? Of course — but I have also never been fearful of this perception.
I can tell you that times are changing and these days I see less and less of a gender discrepancy. Maybe it’s the influence of a younger workforce or perhaps it can be attributed to the changing economic and technological times. What I see is a sense of collaboration — leaders coming together to learn best practices and help each other overcome challenges. I see executives of all ages with a willingness and desire to keep up with trends and try new things. I see male leaders seeking a balanced life just as much as their female counterparts. There is a growing expectation that working fathers will be just as involved and hands-on as their partners — especially as moms take on careers. I see employers becoming more understanding of the need for a flexible work environment and supportive of the idea that family should come first.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have had both male and female mentors. Each of these individuals invested their time in me and my potential. Likewise, my Board of Directors has always been supportive of my professional growth and development and, because of their confidence in my ability, I have been able to take risks and try new ventures. I choose to surround myself with dynamic leaders and professionals and I’m the first to acknowledge the importance of building and empowering a great team.
It’s often said that the world belongs to those who show up and I believe that is true. However, those who do show up and truly make a difference are the ones who are willing to take the risks and weather the storm of controversy for the greater good — no matter what gender. I’m proud of what our chamber has accomplished and I salute my chamber peers for the good work they have done for their communities as well.
Editor's Note: Kathy Tilque is the president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. As part of this ‘Women in Business’ special section, Tilque is sharing with Tribune readers her insights on the dynamics of female leadership in today’s workplace.
Kathy Tilque has been the president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce since 1996.