When Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne was in high school, women only played half-court basketball, because the conventional wisdom was that they weren’t strong enough to run the full court. Women weren’t permitted to run marathons and they certainly weren’t leading companies.
“My dad said I had the choice of three jobs: nurse, teacher or secretary,” she said. “Those are great jobs, but they just weren’t the direction I wanted to go in.”
The message: Women have come a long way since then — but there’s still a long way to go, Lynne said. Currently, only one in 10 board members for Fortune 500 companies is female, and women hold only 17 percent of C-suite offices.
“At this rate, it will take 100 years before women are represented at the same level as men in the boards and offices,” she said. “In Colorado, we’ve had 45 governors, but none of them have been women. We’ve had 49 lieutenant governors and only five of them have been women. We still have some work to do.”
Lynne was the guest speaker at the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s annual Accolades awards ceremony. The program honors women in business, young professionals and the group’s active members. The crowd of about 400 gathered Tuesday to celebrate women’s contributions to Southern Colorado.
Women should do three things to succeed, Lynne said: Speak up, take risks and support each other.
“I know it’s hard,” she said. “I’ve often spoken up at meetings to suggest a different direction than everyone else in the room was talking about. And I’m confident, but I would go home and worry that I was too forceful, that I was going to be fired for speaking out. But don’t be afraid to speak out. Those creative differences are good for the company, as long as it’s done respectfully.”
Also, Lynne said it’s important to build a network of women for mentors, for bouncing ideas off — people who understand what women encounter in the workplace.
“I was speaking at an event, years ago,” she said. “And my thoughts were about my dry cleaning, my shoes, my hair, all the things I had to get done. And afterward, a woman came up to me and asked if I had time to be her mentor. We became friends and colleagues. And when I was in the governor’s office, I thought about who I could hire to get things done. And I knew who that could be. Take time to build that network.”
After Lynne’s speech, board members and sponsors announced the award winners for four categories: member of the year, young professional, minority-owned business and the Accolades award, which honors women who have made an impact on their business and the community.
Tamara Moore won the member of the year award. Moore, who opened Relevel in 2016, formerly worked at UCCS where she held the positions of dean of students and executive director of auxiliary services. She served as a fellow in the University of Colorado Emerging Leaders Program and the Academic Management Institute. She received the University of Colorado Shared Practices Award in 2012 and the University of Colorado Service Excellence Award in 2009.
Krithika Prashant, director of Krithika’s Performing Arts Center and a member of the city of Colorado Springs’ communication staff, won the young professional of the year award. Prashant, who was one of the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s 2013 Rising Stars, is an instructor and mentor for A Positive Note, a program for the developmentally disabled at the Colorado Springs Conservatory. She also serves as board chairman for Colorado Springs Rising Professionals.
Nohemy Montes, president and financial adviser for Mont Wealth, won the minority business of the year award. Montes moved to the United States from Mexico and then established her own financial planning business.
And the big winner of the day: Barbara Winter, executive vice president for Ent Credit Union. Winter joined Ent in 2001 after a 28-year career with Colorado Insterstate Gas Co. She serves on the boards of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class at UCCS, Discover Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado, and the Intergenerational Foundation