Published Mar 03, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta
Determination. Mentorship. Strength. These and many other characteristics drive female leaders to reach the upper echelons of industry. Here in Houston, women sit atop the org charts of some of the region’s largest companies and nonprofits, inspiring a new generation of young people to greater achievement.
As the Partnership prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day with its annual Rise to the Top event on March 10, we spoke with several female leaders about what inspires their hard work, what it means to champion others, and what building success looks like in Houston.
Creating Opportunity for Others
As Senior Vice President of Business Development and Community Affairs at Comerica Bank, Pam Lovett recognizes she’s in an industry that has long provided a solid career path for talented and capable women. “Banking is a relationship business, and the industry continues to identify, attract, support and promote talented females,” she said.
Throughout her career in Houston, Lovett said she’s been fortunate to connect with accomplished women leaders willing to share lessons learned, meaningful connections and resources. Having women tap her for volunteer leadership positions through the years has also enriched her life and led to new opportunities.
“I am a continuous learner and always seek to add value to any role I accept,” Lovett said. “Providing opportunities for others to learn, grow and thrive motivates me.”
To help ensure the success of the next generation, women leaders “need to stay approachable and remain willing to take an interest in helping develop and advance talented, motivated young professionals,” Lovett said.
Rani Puranik, CFO of Worldwide Oilfield Machine, said she was first inspired by her mother who taught her “the importance of having a dream, working hard, making it a reality and making life better for the next person.” Puranik said her mother’s dream was to educate the underserved children of India—one she’s realized through Vision International, a successful K-12 school in Pune, India.
Puranik said she strives to work with enthusiasm and passion, placing significant value on her teams. That’s what drives her as a leader. “Working closely with them, investing time, learning about their priorities, strengths and needs, we can better work together towards success,” she said. “I recognize and genuinely appreciate all of the work they put in and the value it brings.”
When it comes to strategy, Puranik said she likes to think ahead to the big vision of success and then work backwards to develop a plan to get there. But having the plan is just step one. “Articulating and sharing the vision passionately and clearly with my team is imperative,” she said. “Also listening to their visions is equally important, so that we move forward, toward our common goal of success, together.”
Skills women often excel in, such as active listening, are sometimes interpreted as weaknesses by society at-large. “Soft is looked at as being meek or not being equal. Quiet is looked on as a lack of confidence or not being smart,” Puranik said. In reality, “these are attributes that serve us well in the workforce and allow us to approach situations and conflict with a unique perspective. Quiet allows us to really listen.”
As for growing a career in Houston, Lovett said she appreciates the city’s welcoming and collaborative approach to developing talent. “Houstonians largely believe that there is more than enough opportunity for talented, motivated, hard-working individuals to succeed,” she said. “Rather than viewing the world as having a limited number of slices of pie, Houstonians embrace making more pie.”
Being a member of the Greater Houston Partnership gives leaders like Lovett an opportunity to come together with like-minded professionals and “collaboratively work to create the brightest future for our broad community,” she said. “Competitive agendas are put aside in GHP meetings as participants embrace a regional agenda.”
Houston “can be the model for leveraging diversity for improved outcomes and leading in energy innovations,” Lovett said
“Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. 'Here, open it, it's perfect. You'll love it.' Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing, and hard to recognize. They're risky. They challenge you.” – Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Click here to register for Rise to the Top on March 10 and learn more about the Partnership’s business resource groups for female leaders: Executive Women’s Partnership and Women’s Business Alliance.