In honor of Women’s History Month, Taboola hosted LeadHer, an inspiring Women in Leadership panel and dinner, to empower women and ignite a transformative dialogue within the media community. The event brought together four trailblazing women to discuss how they carved their own paths across the advertising ecosystem, and advice to attendees on how to do the same.

Taboola’s Head of Publisher Account Management, Evangeline McDermott, moderated the event, which featured Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, the Founder of OhHeyCoach and Host of The Career Clinic Podcast, Lynda Clarizio, the Co-Founder and General Partner of The 98, Meg Jones, the Senior Director of Partnerships and Programming at The Female Quotient, and Rebecca Deng, the Commercial Advisor to the CRO at TripleLift.

Each leader shared their unique journey, shedding light on the challenges they’ve faced and the victories won in environments often dominated by traditional leadership models. They imparted wisdom on resilience, mentorship, and the power of authentic self-representation, encouraging the audience to pursue their ambitions with tenacity.

Read on to learn some key takeaways and invaluable advice, or watch the video below to hear everything discussed during the event.

Mentorship, Networking, and Community

Evangeline led the way into the first topic, mentorship and networking, noting that it always comes up during professional and personal development discussions. All of the women underscored the importance and incredible value of having a mentor and building a community.

Meg, an admitted early career serial mentee, said she used to think mentorships would lead to promotions and believed they were transactional. However, she now pictures them as community building, which removes the tit-for-tat aspect.

Lynda shared that she developed valuable, deep relationships with her mentors during years of working together and encouraged women to “network the hell out of your career,” as those relationships, while different, were equally important.

Ronnie mentioned she sees those in her community as co-conspirators – people she can turn to for help and support – but she emphasized that to build that kind of relationship, women should embrace vulnerability with each other.

Rebecca told the audience that she thinks of her career and personal brand in terms of PIE (performance, influence, and exposure). While performing well is critical, she suggested women also focus on how they can influence decision-making and gain exposure to build their personal brand. She said that thinking about what she could do industry-wide was her “segue way to get around not having that stronger one-on-one mentorship” and that “if you’d like to conspire with people long term, you should build your community just outside of your organization so you can take it with you.”

Create Opportunities by Building Trust

Evangeline then shifted the conversation, asking how companies and managers can create allyship and equal opportunities for women.

Linda recounted how she initially tried being the smartest girl in the room but learned that wasn’t effective because “no matter how smart you were, if you didn’t build the trusted relationships, you would just be dismissed as the crazy, smart person in the room.” From her experience, women can get ahead and create opportunities by building trust, relationships, and mentorships and not being afraid to speak up when they have ideas or want something like a promotion.

Be Clear About Value Exchanges

An audience member asked the panel how they navigated the mentor-mentee relationship when the mentor was a man, and they wanted to avoid being the subject of office commentary, legacy thinking, and power imbalances.

Ronnie suggested that one of the best ways to diffuse an incorrect perception was to be clear about the value exchange and discuss the scope or specific skills you’d like to learn from the person. That approach created a shared language for her and her mentor so others couldn’t question the relationship.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Another audience member explained that even when grinding through and delivering great work, they often wonder if they should stay at their company or look for other opportunities.

Rebecca told the group that she’d never expect her manager to be more invested in her than she is in herself. She acknowledged that it’s a tough decision, but “if you’re not learning or you’re not earning,” you should consider leaving.

Ronnie shared the framework she uses to make these critical career decisions. She believes every person works for ‘You Inc.,’ meaning a person’s board members and shareholders are those most important to them, so women should ask themselves if the decision will serve their most important stakeholders. Ronnie believes everyone should have their own hierarchy; hers are flexibility, financial stability, driving impact, and a workplace with integrity. If one of those is out of line, she considers whether to stay or go.

Diversity and Connecting with People Who Don’t Look Like You

Someone from the audience asked the panel how they reach out and connect with women who don’t look like them or cross the gender line and connect with men.

Meg expressed how lucky she has been to work at companies that prioritize diversity, explaining that having friendships and business relationships with diverse people has helped her grow. From her perspective, “If your company is not a place that values diversity and is full of people that just look like you, you should probably think about that and evaluate if that’s a place you want to be.”

Lynda emphasized the importance of reaching out to other women, not “necessarily people that look like you, but to people that share your values.”

Ronnie pointed out that throughout your career, you should interact with every possible person because everyone has something to offer. She explained that she owns who she is, shows up for people, and is honest and transparent; those traits allow people to connect with her and be vulnerable. She said, “For the folks who may not be in my shoes or I’m not in your shoes, I think empathy is the thread we can all carry with us that makes us better leaders and makes us better partners, colleagues, and friends because we all have a differentiated lived experience.”

The women shared more advice, anecdotes, and experiences during the panel, so if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch the video!

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