Executive Women’s Day helps females advance in the workplace


By: Chris Stephens

Published: Monday, April 14, 2014

DULUTH — Hundreds of women from throughout the Atlanta area showed up to Monday’s Executive Women’s Day at the Greater Gwinnett Championship at the Gwinnett Center. The day was designed to give women advice and practical tools to use in the workplace as they look to advance in the future.

“The advice that was given was very helpful,” said Doreen Blaha, whose company, Georgia United Credit Union, was one of the sponsors.

The day included a forum, lunch (including a guest speaker) and breakout sessions in place of a behind-the-scenes tour of TPC Sugarloaf, due to the weather.

Channel 2 Action News’ Jovita Moore hosted a forum where five of the area’s most successful women sat on a panel.

Debbie Smith, president of Georgia United, said she advanced because she was willing to work hard to get where she wanted to go.

“I was given an opportunity to prove myself,” she said. “I put myself in positions to succeed. When I worked with a Japanese company, I took Japanese conversation so that I could better communicate with executives.”

Melinda Ashcraft, former president of Six Flags Entertainment, recalled when a human resources person told her a supervisor’s position wouldn’t be the best fit for her.

“That lit a fire in me and drove me to succeed,” Ashcraft said. “Wherever I worked, I learned about every aspect of that job and I learned how to communicate with everyone I worked with. I didn’t communicate in the same way with everyone. I learned how best to communicate with them and they liked that.”

The crowd got a few laughs when social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn spoke about the foreign culture when women work with men.

“I’ve seen women do things where they’re not seen as a leader by their male peers,” she said. “Women think if you’re doing your job as a manager you don’t have to ask for a promotion. The fact is, all of these women up here asked for promotions at some point. You have to let people know what you want and you have to dress for the job you want.”

Marci Fair, founder of Kares for Kids, said women need to get out of their head finding balance in their life.

“There is no such thing as balance,” Fair said. “The secret is tilting. You find it over time. You’ll never find it in one day. The main thing is you don’t need to beat yourself up over trying to find perfect balance. The main thing is to put what’s important to you first.”

All in all, the women attending the Executive Women’s Day were able to take home a lot in the inaugural event.

“We all have struggles and this shows that somebody else has had those same struggles,” Blaha said. “It’s all about taking the right approach to succeed.”