In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women’s achievements throughout the month of March. The women’s history theme for 2023 is, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” With this in mind, we are taking time to celebrate and recognize the stories of some of our own women leaders at Longbridge Financial.
The latest segment in our “Ladies Who Lead” series is Kelly South, Longbridge Channel Marketing Manager. We met with Kelly to discuss the culture at Longbridge, her female role models, and her advice to women looking for mentorship.
Q: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
A: To me, Women’s History Month means thanking and celebrating the women who have helped me throughout my life, including my career. We’ve all said, “If I only knew then what I know now!” Sharing our experiences, both good and bad, is so important because it allows us to learn and grow from each other, while ultimately furthering our progress as women!
Q: How could you contribute your wisdom, expertise, or ideas to empower other women?
A: My own wisdom comes from hearing others’ stories. No one person has all the answers, so sharing our life experiences, achievements, and failures with one another is paramount to our individual and collective success as women. And this is just as important in the corporate world. The more we can learn from each other, the more we can achieve – and that’s empowering! As a personal rule, I try to never assume my way is the right way, but rather a way. I encourage you to ask questions, pay attention, and, above all, learn from others.
Q: How does Longbridge set a culture of equality and inclusivity?
A: What I love most about Longbridge is that many of our leaders are women and we lift each other up. There is a true cross-organization camaraderie here that I have never experienced before. In my experience, many organizations are hesitant to promote women due to unfortunate stereotypes and biases that persist in our society. I’m so proud to work for a company that rejects this way of thinking, where there are many women in leadership roles holding their own and empowering others.
Q: Who is your female role model?
A: This is the most difficult question yet! There is no one person I look to as my role model. Instead, I learn bits and pieces from many women who are collectively influencing my life. Like I said before, no one person has all the answers; no one has it all figured out. But sharing our experiences like we’re doing right now helps everyone. I can say that anyone I consider a role model understands the true nature of loyalty and has never sacrificed their integrity to get where they are in life.
Q: What is one piece of advice to all women who are juggling between home and work?
A: My one piece of advice is, you can have multiple priorities, but make sure “self” is included on that list. I strongly believe you can’t be as present with your family or as good at your job if you aren’t taking the time to care for yourself. Find a little time each day or week to do something just for you, even if you don’t feel like you need it in that moment. Go for a drive, take a walk, enroll in a dance class, take a bubble bath – anything that is just for YOU!
Q: What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?
A: My advice here would be to never let yourself get intimidated and always be true to who you are! It sounds simple but I know firsthand what a challenge it can be. The sooner you realize that everyone- and I do mean everyone – has their own insecurities, the easier it will be. We are all human! Another important aspect is finding the right fit for you. In a corporate environment, company culture is so important. Make sure you are the right fit (personality and skill set) for the job and the job (role and company culture) is the right fit for you. It matters!
Q: How can women find mentors?
A: Mentors are all around you and they can come in many forms – and most would be honored to be your mentor. Find someone you admire and respect and reach out. It doesn’t have to be super formal, but as situations come up, you’ll want someone to lean on and run things by for their perspective. I have a few people I reach out to for different types of situations, and it makes all the difference.
Q: What do you think helped you get so far in your career?
A: Focusing on the work! If you spend too much time focused on the pay or the title, it’s easy to lose focus of the job at hand. I truly believe that if you are working for the right company (for you), when you focus on the work – the rest will come. President Obama said it best, “If you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.“
Q: Do you believe you have achieved everything you wanted to?
A: Not even close! While I’m very content at the moment, there is so much more I want to do with my life. For instance, I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I know I can do it, but I love what I’m doing now so much, I might save the “business owner” title for retirement. There’s a little tiki hut that rents beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach in Waikoloa, Hawaii, and I plan to put my name on it!
Q: What would you say to your 20-year-old self?
A: I would tell her, “Don’t wait so long to get your education.” I didn’t complete my MBA until I was 32 and working full-time – it was much harder that way. And although a degree doesn’t guarantee you the job – it can help get your foot in the door, boost your self-confidence, and give you some of the tools you need to succeed.
Kelly, thank you for sharing your expertise and being a great role model for women in or working toward leadership!
About Women’s History Month
Celebrated annually throughout the month of March, Women’s History Month dates back to 1981 when Congress authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as “Women’s History Week.” It wasn’t until 1987 that, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), Congress and the President proclaimed March as Women’s History Month.
Since then, presidents have annually proclaimed the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” This recognition honors the contributions and achievements women have made throughout American history.
The women’s history theme for 2023 declared by NWHA is, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” To learn more about Women’s History Month and this year’s theme, visit https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org.