In Praise of Successful Women, from a Stevie Awards Judge

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Thu, Sep 01, 2016 @ 02:55 PM

Tania Hummel is Director of Thrive Coaching and Consulting in London, United Kingdom.  She assisted in judging the Company/Organization Awards categories for last year’s Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

2016 Stevie Awards for Women in Business is accepting late entries through the final entry deadline of Wednesday, September 21.  REVIEW THE ENTRY KIT HERE.

Preliminary judging of the 2016 Awards has just commenced. Tania will be joining the final round of judging in October. If you are interested in being a judge this year, apply to judge here.

Following are some surprisingly moving comments Tania sent us on her experience of judging in 2015.

1608Thrive.jpgThis time last year, I was approached by an old friend to judge the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.   Not knowing what to expect, I gamely applied and was accepted. At the allotted time and date I accessed the judging website to view entries.

The first thing I discovered was that there were many more entries than I had expected– and from all over the world.  

The next thing I discovered was just how challenging judging could be.

Pressure to Succeed

Some submissions were about women who had scaled the heights of corporate giants, landing in senior roles where the competition and pressure to succeed could scarcely be imagined. Closer inspection of supporting documents to these applications showed that these were often “winners” from childhood–starting in their earliest school days, often mentored or supported by other high achievers, and given the best education money could buy.  In some cases, the question wasn't how could they succeed, but how could they possibly fail?  Yet the pressure to succeed, the perfectionist standards, and the constant striving made clear that success was without doubt hard won.

Rising from Obscurity

Then there were women who rose from complete obscurity, with no advantages at all, who told stories of how they worked during the day, and studied at night, sometimes working more than one job just to make ends meet.  They also scaled the corporate heights, sometimes in areas you might expect such as NGOs and charities, where sheer pluck and strength of character might get you places, but also in more conventional and male-dominated industries.  They added a quality of sheer grit and determination, inspiring others to believe that they, too, could make it, against all odds.  I identified with these women, as their story was my story–but I was careful not to allow my conscious bias to affect my objectivity.

Building Businesses from Scratch

I noticed there were women from all kinds of backgrounds: corporate refugees; stay-at-home moms; apparently ordinary women who started up businesses from their living rooms.  Sometimes they succeeded first time, sometimes they didn't.  Some of them had succeeded so well they had more than one entry, as they were running more than one business.  This demonstrated the power of the Internet to create new businesses, but these entries didn't shy away from illustrating the long hours, moments of doubt and despair, and sheer commitment and sacrifice needed to build a business from scratch.

Turning Weakness into Strength

Then there were the women who defeated the odds by overcoming their personal demons, and in so doing had succeeded beyond all expectations. These were women who had been given harsh feedback because of some personal flaw, but had not given in to either self-pity or self-loathing. Instead–with courage, determination, and the will to work on themselves–they had turned things around, and turned those weaknesses into strengths.  

Harnessing Technology to Solve Suffering

And then there were the women in technology roles, who started out in global organizations but who managed to use their positions of power to lobby their organizations to use their technology for a purpose beyond profit.  One such example was a woman who showed how her company brought first-line medical care to the remotest parts of the world via telecommunications in a way that made me rejoice at the limitless possibilities of harnessing technology to solve suffering in the world.

The Capacity to Care

Finally, there were the stories that made me stop in wonder at the human capacity to care.  One woman had started an obscure charity in a faraway country to which she apparently had no personal links. As an example of what must have been pure altruism, she showed the difference she had made–with no personal gain that I could see–to a group of blind and disabled people in a developing country, who, as a result of her efforts, were able to earn a living in a supportive community.

Mentoring and Inspiring

How clever, how kind, how determined, and how creative these ladies were. And how wonderful that so many of them cited other women as mentors, and were mentoring young women themselves.  It shattered the myth of the Queen Bee who pulls up the ladder behind her, and renewed my gratitude to the great lady who gave me my own big break.  And how encouraging, too, that many cited as inspiration their fathers, the male bosses who mentored them, or the husbands and partners who provided much needed moral, practical, or financial support.

I was once asked in a consultation forum what was the one thing I thought a woman with a family most needed to be successful. Without hesitation I replied: “A quality husband!”  Looking around at my successful girlfriends, however, I note that these can be a rare commodity, which makes the women who succeed as single parents, or who recover from adversity, all the more to be admired and respected.  

At any rate, there is usually someone, whether male or female, who is prepared to take a step down while you take a step up. Someone who is prepared to be a little bit beta while you go a little bit alpha … because no one gets to have it all–at least not all at the same time. 

So, in celebration of all successful women and the people who helped make them so, here is an anthem to Women’s Day from Peter Gabriel & Youssou N’Dour to play us out. 

Read more of Tania’s views on the world of Coaching and HR on the Thrive Blog.

About Tania Hummel:

Currently the Director of Thrive Coaching & Consulting, for six years until 2014 Tania Hummel led the HR function of the Nature and Macmillan Publishing Group, one of the world’s most renowned scientific, academic, and education publishers, during a period of transformation from a regionally organized, traditional, print-based business to a global digital and data-driven information provider. She had strategic and operational accountability for over 5,000 employees in over 50 markets, dealing with complex people and organizational challenges in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia, and the US. Her key experiences include managing complex employee relations issues in the UK and internationally, executive coaching, talent management, employer brand development, leadership and management development, communications, and global compliance and risk management.

Creative, pragmatic, and focused, Tania creates a safe space for teams and individuals to develop transformational goals whilst building confidence and increasing strategic capability. She is equally comfortable coaching groups, or individuals and is passionate about developing talent through strategic talent management initiatives. She uses innovative, award winning tools and techniques to create bespoke initiatives and has coached senior executives internationally via Skype or Google hangouts.

Topics: stevie awards for women in business, women awards, awards judging, Awards for Women