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Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Women are helping women – who can you hold the door for?

Publisher's Perspective

Posted online

Each year as SBJ’s Women in Business issue approaches, I contemplate all the amazing women that opened doors for me along my career path and even some of the women before them that opened the doors that they walked through.

I was an eighth grader when my mother started the business journal, and I still can remember the doubts she experienced and the day she almost quit. Paula Glossip, her banker with Citizens National Bank at the time, was there to listen as she expressed her frustrations with trying to keep a business going. After taking it all in, Glossip was also the one who told her to get back in her car and drive back to the office and keep doing what she was good at.

I started my own career at Ozarks Technical Community College teaching in a women’s construction program. It wasn’t what I had set out to do with a master’s degree in communications and some experience in general contracting, but there were some important women holding the door for me. Springfield trailblazer Elise Crain held the job before me and was one of the program founders. Sheryl Letterman and Louise Henson, then executive directors of the Springfield Contractors Association and Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, respectively, joined forces with Crain to help identify the next project leader. I was known to them only through my mother, whom they also had helped propel to success through introductions in the construction industry.

My work at OTC led me to another important mentor, Shirley Lawler, former dean of technical education, vice president of academic affairs and one of the smartest women I know. She encouraged me to complete a doctorate program in higher education leadership and held the door for me in each of the next steps I took at the college while my colleague and friend, Diana Parker, helped ensure my success in completing the doctoral program by doing what only a great friend would do. Parker went back to school with me, making the trek to St. Louis from Springfield on at least a monthly basis.

Publishing Springfield Business Journal may not have been the next logical step in my career path, but it is the door that my mother held open for me and I chose to walk through it. I was afraid at first, but I knew deep down that I could do it because I already had seen my mother do it.

My story is not unique. Very few of us, male or female, succeed entirely alone. More often, we meet someone along the way who believes in us enough to hold the door open. There are more men and women who have created opportunities for me than I could mention here.

I believe the way to pay homage is to make the very best of each opportunity afforded me and then to turn and open the door for the next person. My challenge to you is to join me. The one who needs your help is likely right within your reach.

There are lots of great ways women are helping women in the Ozarks. Here are a few on my radar:

  • Women In Need of the Ozarks is dedicated to supporting working women through a short-term crisis. According to its website, WIN helps single, working women not receiving any other form of public assistance with one-time financial help. For more information or to volunteer, go to WomenInNeedOfTheOzarks.org.
  • WomenConnect4Good was founded by Nancy O’Reilly and has donated over $1 million to support empowerment of women and leadership parity and healthy families and communities. It has supported local charities like Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, Child Advocacy Center, Convoy of Hope and Harmony House. More information can be found at DrNancyOreilly.com/foundation.
  • Lift Women Up is a related movement supported by O’Reilly that encourages women to be advocates for each other. At LiftWomenUp.com, you can download The Lift List which consists of 52 weekly actions to create an environment of gender equality.
  • Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge is a selective, experiential program for female leaders to participate in multiday sessions with in-depth information and discussion of state policy issues and business in an effort to broaden their participation in addressing the critical issues facing Missouri. More information is available at GreaterMO.org/the-leadership-challenge.

This current issue of Springfield Business Journal is a testament to some of the amazing women of southwest Missouri and the work that they are doing. I encourage you to read, but also take a moment to reflect on your own path. Who helped you along your way? More importantly, who can you help in return?

Springfield Business Journal Publisher Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jjackson@sbj.net.

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