On a Tuesday morning in August of 2012, I called the Greater Philadelphia Film Office to invite Executive Director Sharon Pinkenson to be a guest on my show. I had just read an article in Philadelphia Magazine that Sharon, a one-time wardrobe stylist, had successfully generated $4 billion of revenue in helping Philly become the movie metropolis she always knew it could be.
At the time, I did not know what the theme of my show would be—I didn’t even have a name—but what I did know was that I had an insatiable curiosity for people, and where they came from. I also had the ability to connect with people, and get them to open up. She said yes, and Women to Watch™ was born. That’s the short version of my story.
Two and a half years later, I have interviewed more than 150 female CEO’s, founders, leaders, and entrepreneurs from across the country and outside the U.S. in an effort to share their stories with the world. I realized when you get women to open up about who they are behind their professional title, the greatest lessons are learned, and that led me to my mission—to inspire and encourage more women to pursue leadership roles worldwide.
I would imagine that if you are reading She Is Fierce!, you know why that’s a good mission—once we have more women in policy making positions, in C-Suites, on Boards, and in the field of STEM, the world is simply going to be a better place.
What have I learned from my conversations with 150 professional women and counting? The most profound lesson I have learned is that we all suffer from fear. Whether we are the president of a fortune 500 company, or a woman raising her children at home, the fear is the same. What sets us apart is whether or not we chose to move through the fear and take a risk toward what our inner voice is telling us. That choice is the difference.
Clare Munn, chairman of TCG, taught me about the importance of emotional intelligence over IQ. That made me feel smart. Natalie Mashaal, founder and CEO of Mashaal Media Corporation taught me the importance of “just do it.” If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. LeAnn Talbot, regional senior vice president of the Freedom Region for Comcast Cable taught me that you could be kind and generous and still be successful working in the tech industry. Tracy Davidson, NBC 10 News Anchor, taught me the importance of being vulnerable in order to really have an impact on people. And Michelle Tenzyk, president of East Tenth Group, Inc., reminded me that everyone we meet is battling something we know nothing about.
While each of these interviews has brought incredible insights to the surface, I’ve learned that sharing our stories with one another can have a real and lasting impact. When we create an environment where women leaders are open to telling the truth about their own journeys, it inspires those still struggling to find their own way. This human connection always touches people, and it allows people—especially women—to see themselves differently. It inspires them to aim for something that perhaps they felt was out of reach and be better, smarter, and achieve more. Learning from others teaches us about our own potential and capabilities. We just need to move past the fear.
Meet Susan Rocco. It’s not every day that a 5’2” woman in pumps walks into a radio station and says, “Hey, I’d like to have my own show,” but that’s exactly how Susan Foley Rocco landed her gig as founder and host of Women to Watch™. (Once you listen to a sampling of her interviews, you’ll be glad she did.)
A life-long resident of the Philadelphia area, with a Communications degree from Villanova University, Rocco’s career has included stints in public relations, sales, marketing, and advertising. Each one of these experiences was a lesson that would eventually lead to the position she holds today, and the show she decided to create.
Never one to pass up a quality get-to-know-you chat, Rocco discovered a knack for getting people to open up and share something personal about them. (No doubt spurred by her Irish- born affection for storytelling.) It didn’t click until much later though, that she was grooming herself for a job she had dreamed about her entire life.
When life handed her an opportunity for a career transition at the age of 48, she eschewed lament and went straight into formulating plan B: creating a radio show spotlighting mid-to high profile women in a variety of professions. Her deeper goal was to use these stories as a way to educate and inspire women in order to strengthen their self-esteem and assist those still trying to find their own way.
From C-Suite executives like LeAnn Talbot of Comcast, to fashion icon Norma Kamali, to the Founder of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, Nell Merlino, Rocco has brought attention to not only the successes, but to challenges, doubts and even failures faced across the board by women trying to make it in their chosen field. In choosing to create conversations that avoid bragging in favor of inspiring, Rocco is providing a non-threatening platform for women to learn confidence. And though she’s on the other side of the microphone, Rocco is an inspiration herself, proving that taking risks and following your instincts IS the key to building self-esteem.
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