Recognizing women of influence: past and present

Gale Mote / Guest Editorial

Once again, we are celebrating the CBJ’s Women of Influence. I would like to personally extend my standing ovation to all of this year’s nominees and winners. You truly make a difference in the lives of so many. Your influence is measured not by your title, age, education or experience, but rather your impact – you see what needs to happen and have the determination to get it done.

Women of influence have graced us for centuries with their courage, passion, vision, determination and compassion. In tribute, let’s look at some of these historic figures and how their lessons of influence are being displayed by this year’s honorees. As you read their stories of excellence in the CBJ, reflect back to the mentors who went before.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face – you must do the thing you think you cannot do,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, United Nations Diplomat and former First Lady of the U.S.

Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean advised, “Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done!”

Women of influence are not about status quo. Their dissatisfaction with the way things are and their vision of what can be give them the courage to risk. They are creative, challenging self and others to stretch to do what seems impossible. The word “can’t” disappeared from their vocabulary at an early age.

Of course, no one can achieve greatness alone. Building strong teams, valuing collaboration and establishing a loyal network of colleagues to help make dreams a reality is a common thread among women of influence. Helen Keller said, “Alone, we can do so little. Together, we can do so much!” Wilma Rudolph, who suffered from polio at an early age, eventually learned to walk and later run without her leg braces because of her mother’s inspiration. When she became the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals, she noted, “No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helps you.”

Don’t you admire those who have the gift to say what needs to be said, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons? The power of voice, along with encouraging the ideas and opinions of others, allows our women of influence to build understanding and commitment.

Mary Kay Ash, woman entrepreneur extraordinaire, said, “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around her neck that says ‘Make me feel important.’” Always remember, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to be appointed U.S. Secretary of State, states, “Differences can be a strength. We should not have a monologue with other people. It has to be a conversation and you cannot do that without exchanges and openness.” Women of influence are masters at getting others to be open to hearing what is right with an idea while engaging in healthy, robust dialogue to find common ground and make the best possible decision.

Influencing others, driving change and staying the course are not for the faint of heart. Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of England said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Dogged determination and the will to persist against all odds give women of influence the stamina to never quit. Florence Nightingale, the founder of trained nursing for women declared, “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuses.”

Holding self and others accountable, without blame, helps us to keep on focused on how to be a positive contribution and a road sign, not a road block.

“I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope, looking forward to a better day.” The words of Ms. Rosa Parks, mother of modern day civil rights, remind all of us that belief and attitude are undeniable strengths for influencing others.

Passion and positivity are strong magnets that align people around a common purpose. “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier,” encouraged Mother Teresa. Women of influence, with their spirit and positive energy, bring out the best in each of us.

It is so interesting to me that women of influence rarely nominate themselves. They are humble and non-assuming. Their focus is outward, not inward. They believe in the wisdom of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that making a living is not the same things as making a life. I’ve learned that you should not go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”

Women of influence are selfless – putting the team, organization and mission first. Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress said it quite simply. “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.”

The courage to think anew, the wisdom of teamwork, encouraging open communication, demonstrating persistence, displaying optimism and giving back distinguish our 2014 award winners. Just like our women of influence in years gone by, they will today and always have a positive impact on the lives of those they touch at home, work and the communities they serve.

Bravo Zulu!



Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at