Professional Women’s Panel … Melts into Hugs

It was after a recent professional women in business panel that I got to meet some inspiring young women – and feel the joy of helping them believe they can overcome obstacles and pursue their own bright futures. What inspires you on your professional journey? Leave a comment and share it! #BeyondMyWildest

The best part about the event for me? The young women who came up afterward and asked me for a hug.

I recently joined a panel discussion for professional women in business at the Salt Lake Business Conference. What a privilege to share the stage with Jane Ann Craig (Jane Ann Craig, International) and Tricia Schuman (BachHealth), along with my dear friend and colleague Katie Holland (Corporate Alliance). Each of us was asked to share our perspective on overcoming obstacles throughout our careers—and lives. As anyone who has read my memoir, Beyond My Wildest, knows, I wasn’t at a loss for words on this topic.


I shared that I was raised in the tradition that dads worked and moms stayed home. I didn’t know any women who worked and had no idea that women could be professionals. If it weren’t for the circumstances I found myself in – a single mom running from an abusive husband at 18 – I probably wouldn’t have even thought about getting a job, let alone pursuing a career.

But I took the filing job at an insurance company so I could feed my baby, Randy. And because I was raised by tough-as-nails parents who’d grown up as Oklahoma sharecroppers, once I started something, I was going to put my whole body, mind and soul into it.

It’s funny, though – old ideas tend to die hard. As I got promotions over the years, it was a mental game for me to allow myself to be okay with being one of those “professional women in business.” I literally got up every morning and told myself, “I deserve to be a professional – I have worked hard.”


I also shared my take on the challenges of juggling a career and home life. I’ve always felt guilty when I miss something with the family because of work – I went through this as a single mom, crying almost daily when Randy was younger.

I go through it now as I try to manage being there for our grandson Zach, who Jim and I are raising (thank the heavens for my amazing Jim, who handles a lot of the running around now that he’s retired). It’s tough every day, with a challenging career as president of Univantage, senior vice president of WCF, chair of Utah Business Week and many obligations serving with nonprofits like United Way – and now working to build our foundation, Amber Haven (formerly called AmberCo).

All three of us panelists echoed similar advice for professional women coming up in the workplace: Do more than anyone else, be heard, be seen, learn as much as you can, and most of all, do not let anything stand in your way of achieving what you want!

It felt good to connect with young women in the audience afterward. One of them especially touched my heart. She was crying, worried that she did not have a degree. I gave her a big hug, saying, “Although I do believe education is extremely important, it is not everything.”

I shared my own situation – I only had a high school diploma but was determined to earn every industry credential I could – and encouraged her to be the very best at whatever she is doing. I also reminded her that if there is not opportunity for advancement where she is, go ahead and look elsewhere – sometimes moving is better than staying.


I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to be a part of this event, and will forever appreciate all the people along my own professional path who gave me a chance to prove myself, who inspired and mentored me, and who are giving me opportunities now to give back. To all the women (and men!) out there – dream big, work hard, and when things get tough, keep in mind my dad’s advice: Failure is not an option!


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