By Christa L. McCusker
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women as we strive to break free of stereotypes, bias and discrimination and continue to make strides towards a world where we can celebrate and value differences and inclusiveness.
As I read and then reread the above, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my career as a business professional. My path to executive leadership was not a catapult to where I am now. Rather it was more of winding drive in the fog. One with many twists and turns and various obstacles, but one driven with a purpose of an end goal, that end not always in sight, but finally arriving at desired destination.
Accelerate….cruise….break….accelerate…..obstacle…..detour….accelerate…..break….you have arrived!
For the past six years, I have worked for a family-owned and operated business, within the community in which I grew up. Working in the motorcoach and transportation industry is unlike anything I have ever done before. However, I finally feel as though I have found my home. The skills I have developed through my professional journey on that winding road have prepared me for this role, and they have allowed me to offer my diverse skill set to both Klein and our industry.
From a young age, I was determined and extremely goal oriented. Driven to succeed at everything I set out to accomplish. I was fortunate to graduate from a university and then a graduate school that both taught the art of developing business leaders. In doing so, many of my most insightful classes focused on how a leader MUST value and be able to work with others with varying opinions, personality, ethnicities, seniority levels, and yes, even genders. They homed in on how a leader must identify their individual skill set and personal characteristics, and then motivate, connect and empower others in the organization no matter if they are your equal, or not. More than anything else, these teachings prepared me for a professional career – especially one in outreach and sales.
As a businesswoman, I have honestly never felt slighted because of my gender. I have worked hard to succeed and have encountered numerous life lessons to refine my leadership skills. My career began in professional sports, which was completely male-dominated, and then continued in higher education, where I learned additional lessons on what it means to be a business professional. Like many women, I have had numerous male mentors to assist in my development. Possibly this was due to the industries I worked within. However, my mentors taught me through the years to believe in myself and my skillset, be confident and proud, and to always keep a goal in sight. Self-critical by nature, this transformation did not happen overnight, but rather took time to achieve.
But this all has me thinking; maybe I have not felt slighted because of my journey? Maybe because of my mentors and the belief system they instilled in me? Or maybe because I was strong enough to not allow myself to feel inferior? Did I just accept it as “the way things were?”
Some women do not have the privilege of being groomed with education, mentorship, or even a strong belief or support system. WE, men and women, owe it to ourselves and each other to close these disparities in the workforce, as we have something to learn from each other and the traditional gender differences as they pertain to leadership. This International Women’s Day let us all think about our own journeys. How has the other sex impacted you, for the better or worse? How can we motivate and encourage our co-workers – to empathize more or less; to be less or more assertive; to exude confidence with humility; to be understanding of other’s attitudes and beliefs and put them before yourselves. Wouldn’t this be a start? Wouldn’t this ultimately lead to further success of our organizations?
For those looking for mentor possibilities for themselves or others in their organizations, the answer may be already found. Professionals in our industry are fortunate to have brilliant female leaders showcased in the American Bus Association’s Women in Buses Council. Many women, including myself, have found this organization to be a life changing networking and mentoring opportunity. Every professional, regardless of gender, is encouraged to join WIB and connect with various industry professionals whether they are new or a veteran to the industry. We all have something to learn from each other.
A final thought: I consider myself fortunate to have the experiences and drive that I do. I am proud of my personal and professional growth and accomplishments, as well as my failures (i.e.. opportunities for growth) for they have developed me into the executive leader I am today. I consider myself a great communicator and creative problem solver. I do believe I am a purpose driven and goal-oriented leader. Above all, I am a successful woman executive in the male-dominated transportation and motorcoach industry.
Does this make me inferior to my male counterparts? Only if I allow it to!
Does this make me work harder and dream bigger? Absolutely!
Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.
We can all accomplish more, by depending on each other’s strengths and differences!
Christa L McCusker, MBA is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for Klein Transportation, Inc. in Douglassville, Pa. Christa also serves ABA’s Women In Buses as the Vice Membership Chair. To contact Christa, email firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about her journey on linkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/christa-mccusker-73b16996/ To learn more about ABA’s Women In Buses Council, visit: https://www.buses.org/about/councils/wib