By Ray Birch
LAS VEGAS—Brandi Stankovic, a working mom who is very active within credit unions, believes mothers in the workforce often face scrutiny men never deal with.
“I have two boys, and I travel a lot in my job,” said Stankovic, an organizational change expert, motivational speaker and author. She is chief strategy officer with Michigan-based CU Solutions Group. “People always ask, ‘Is your traveling and being away from home hard on your kids? Do they even know what you look like?’ No one would ask those same questions of a man who travels a lot and has a family.”
Some Lessons Learned
Stankovic said when she first became a mom, self-applied guilt resulting from those questions was a heavy burden to carry.
“But I have learned a few things—traveling, working, serving credit unions is taking care of my family. And my kids are thriving. They are learning the importance of hard work, witnessing the role of a strong woman in the household,” she said.
Stankovic, however, said she’s getting better at saying no to some work requests.
“I am learning, and it’s a work in progress, on being confident to miss an event when there is a family opportunity,” said Stankovic.
With Women’s History Month being celebrated during March, Stankovic spoke with CUToday.info as part of a series on female leaders within the credit union movement.
She shared advice for other working women to help them advance in their careers.
Self-confidence is especially important to the advancement of women in business, emphasized Stankovic, who said a lack of confidence, as well as the feeling many women have that the need to be perfect, can get in the way of career advancement.
Stankovic said some women feel the need to always be exceptional.
“Women need to let go of perfection. They don’t have to be perfect to be amazing,” Stankovic said, who believes women often feel more pressure to be perfect than men. “I think it’s an inherent gender and cultural difference. More women need to be open, OK with being vulnerable, and let go of the need to be perfect. Look for introspection opportunities. Look at weaknesses as opportunities to design action plans for career growth. Look at what you need to do to improve and just go for things—and be less fearful of what the outcome could be.”
Moreover, women shouldn’t wait for anyone else to pave the way or open doors, stressed Stankovic, who encouraged women to “create their own legacy.”
Prince Charming Isn’t Coming
“Eliminate the Cinderella complex,” she said. “There is no Prince Charming, no glass slipper, no savior at the top of the mountain. Between 1960 and 1980, many girls were raised to be princesses, thinking someday your Prince Charming will arrive on a white horse. You have to eliminate that from your mind, and that plays out a lot of different ways in business—thinking there is a silver bullet or silver lining to come. We eliminate that thinking from our minds and we become masters of our own futures.”
Stankovic urged women to develop other skills, as well. “Use power talk.Use assertive language that holds influence and always be brief and clear,” she advised.
What Women Should Advocate For
As for women in the credit union community in particular, Stankovic said they should assess female representation throughout the organization and on the board of directors, insisted Stankovic.
“Find out where your organization is from a gender balance standpoint and pay attention to board diversity,” she said. “Challenge your board for gender diversity—make sure you have equal representation on the board.”
As for the traits that make for a good leader, Stankovic believes they are found in those who inspire others to create excellent results.
“It is a person who walks the talk, and someone who is experienced enough to provide the vision and create a path for others to follow,” she said. “It’s someone who believes passionately in the road they are taking and believes in the growth of the people who are with them. A strong leader allows for mistakes and enough room for people to fall down and helps them to get back up.”
Leadership Goes Both Ways
Stankovic said supportive leaders recognize they are as reliant on their subordinates as subordinates on the team are on their boss. “Good leaders understand the value of everyone working together to get where the company needs to go,” she said.
Emotional intelligence, Stankovic said, can carry women far.
“It’s not just a matter of not being emotional in meetings, but being able to self-manage and be the best version of yourself you can be in any situation that arises,” she said.
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