Women in Leadership: Passing the Torch and Kathy Ryan’s Advice for Success

On February 27, as part of the Women’s and Gender Resource Center’s inaugural Gender Week, Dickinson College had the privilege of hosting a woman we are proud to call a Dickinson alumna! Kathy Ryan, a member of the Class of 1984, is the founder and president of Pinnacle Leadership Institute, a company dedicated to teaching working professionals leadership development skills through programs and webinars.

At her talk here at Dickinson, Women in Leadership: Passing the Torch, Ryan discussed different hurdles and situations she has had to overcome while moving up in the workplace as a woman. She told us about her firsthand experience with the gender wage gap, which included sharing stories of female clients who had been unjustly treated by their employers when asking for higher—and fairer—wages. Ryan also countered the myth that women ask for raises less. In fact, she said, women ask for raises just as much as men. However, women are less likely to receive what they asked for and, in addition, are more likely to be punished for asking in the first place.

Ryan also called to attention the subtle sexism that happens in the workplace, specifically pointing out the wage gap again. As someone who has been present during salary negotiations, she claims that employers tend to assume that men support the family or will support a family in the future, and therefore tend to give men higher salaries. She states that although this is not at all the only reason for the wage gap, this subtle discrimination hurts women. By having conversations about this issue in the first place, and calling it out when we see it, we can help stop this type of problem.

At a young age, Ryan realized that the opportunities her male peers had would not be available to her as easily. So she made a conscious decision to make sure she was “in the room.” By “in the room,” she means that whenever you see a chance to be there, whether it be a meeting, a dinner, a conference—be there. Make yourself available for these opportunities, and even if your employer tells you the event is not mandatory, or that you do not have to be present, make it known that you would like to be a part of it regardless. Additionally, Ryan taught us what other skills she needed to develop as a woman in the workplace, which included becoming a skilled negotiator, letting your voice be heard, and supporting other women who are trying to make it.

Towards the end of her presentation, Ryan talked about mentoring and networking. She encouraged the audience to reach out to other successful women in their life for guidance, recommendations, and other help. With all the wisdom Kathy Ryan had to give herself, I know we’ll all be listening!

We are so grateful we had the opportunity to hear from Kathy Ryan ‘84 and thank her for her insightful stories and advice!

Written by Ella Wiley ’18, WGRC student worker