Meta Braymer has always believed that more women need to be in leadership positions. And that conviction was exemplified throughout her career as she made decisions to help women succeed. One of her lasting legacies is the Leadership Colloquium @ UMW, which she founded in 1994. In the following interview, Braymer discusses leadership with me and how women can be inspired to have a more active role in leadership positions.
1. What attributes should a female leader have?
Interesting that you should ask that; I was just working with the Girl Scouts on the idea of a Girl Scout Leadership Institute, and I think of their mission of building courage, commitment, and character. That sums up so much about leadership.
2. What is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
We’ve had some fantastic speakers at the Colloquium. Early on, Mary Sue Terry in 1996 was talking about the need to be at the table – and the fact that women can always make room at the table for another person. A really special thing about women is that they will always be inclusive; they will find room at the table for others.
Frances Hesselbein said that women are very good at multi-tasking, but they are not good at listening to their bodies. You’ve got to stop sometimes. You can’t do everything all the time. You always hear on an airplane that you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help others. Women tend to help others first—but the fact is you’ve got to help yourself…to take care of yourself…before you can take care of others. We all forget that.
3. What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
It would have to go back to your needing to be at the table. I was uncomfortable walking into a room and not knowing anybody, but you’ve got to take the initiative and get your place at the table. Take on projects that have some visibility. If people don’t see you and hear you, nothing is going to happen.
4. Who was the most interesting speaker that you heard at the Colloquium over the past 20 years?
Belle Wheelan – with the humor and great stories, she just has the room in the palm of her hand. I loved to hear her say, “It’s great to be in a room full of estrogen.” There’s nobody like Belle.
5. What women do you admire as mentors?
I never realized that my mother and grandmother were role models until I was asked to give a speech years ago. It just proves that you can always lead from where you are.
Hilary Clinton, Alda White from Stafford, Norrine Bailey Spencer from Virginia Tech—it doesn’t have to be a national figure; it can be any number of people.
6. What do you picture for the future of the Colloquium?
I see it becoming much more than a one day event, which was the hope from the beginning.
Melina Downs is the media manager in the UMW Office of University Relations and a member of the Leadership Colloquium @ UMW advisory board. Check her out on LinkedIn.