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Houston Female Leaders Gather to Celebrate International Women's Day at 12th Annual Rise to the Top Event

Published Mar 10, 2023 by Alex Peña

2023 Rise to the Top panelists

The Partnership’s 12th annual Rise to the Top event convened over 600 attendees this week to hear a dynamic discussion among diverse female leaders on how the Houston region can embrace equity.

“Although International Women’s Day was Wednesday, the Partnership continues this global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women by coming together to detail what it means to rise to the top,” Chief Development Officer and Senior Vice President of Member Engagement Katie Pryor said. 

Today there are 44 female Fortune 500 CEOs in the U.S., which is up from 41 in 2022. Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said the Partnership’s Board of Directors is currently 26% female and the Partnership staff is over two-thirds women.

“Houston has made great strides in terms of women represented in leadership positions,” Harvey said, adding female representation must improve.

The panelists covered a wide range of topics including juggling priorities with such tremendous responsibilities, how to be change agents for creating inclusive workplaces, and the challenges and triumphs of their personal career journeys. 

Katie Pryor served as the moderator for the event’s panel discussion featuring:

  • April Bailey, Regional President, Central Texas, Amegy Bank
  • Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young, President, Texas Southern University
  • Shiva McMahon, Executive Vice President, International Operations, Woodside Energy
  • Maria Rios, President & CEO, Nation Waste Inc.

While embracing equity was this year’s theme for International Women's Day, “transformation” was the recurring word during the discussion to describe how we can move equity forward. 

“I'm going to encourage us to build upon the equity conversation to transformation," Crumpton-Young said. She applauded the efforts to move the focus from equality to equity but encouraged attendees to push the conversation further by focusing on the transformation aspect and how it can lead to action.  

Creating a more inclusive workplace was another topic of discussion. McMahon said we should tap into empathy as we look to support and amplify others. “We have to transform and make the table a lot bigger to make room for more seats – that’s how we can make people feel welcome.” 

Other impactful takeaways included the topic of prioritizing, especially as accomplished women in various industries. 
Bailey revealed she struggled with anxiety until she finally pursued the help she needed. “People look at you in these positions and they think you have it all together. But we don’t,” Bailey said.

Crumpton-Young also reiterated this sentiment, saying “I think I was liberated the moment someone told me that ‘no true balance exists.’”

The Partnership is committed to addressing diversity and equity in the Houston business community through the One Houston Together initiative. The second-ever One Houston Together Regional Assessment, which serves as a critical tool for business planning and advancing progress on DEI, launches on April 1.

“The regional assessment provides the only local data available that takes an intersectional look at how women and ethnic minorities fare in the Houston workplace,” Harvey said.

Rise to the Top is the signature event of the Partnership’s Business Resource Group, Women’s Business Alliance (WBA). To learn more about getting involved, click here or contact membership@houston.org.

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