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Viewpoint: Women leaders can continue to shine a light for others

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I distinctly remember the tune of the Enjoli perfume commercial blaring out of my black and white television with a bended up hanger wrapped with aluminum foil.

Dr. Vilicia Cade

I can still clearly see the sultry blonde woman who appeared in various scenes as the song played “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man. ‘cause I’m a woman!”

If you analyze this commercial, you can see it symbolizes female empowerment that stresses gender role identity – you can be a nurturer who innovates while multitasking with excellence in the workplace. This commercial is a benchmark for women in the boardroom. It characterized the pinnacle of success for women as a boss without relinquishing her feminine charm.

Back then, I had no idea what this song would represent for me years later. As one of the three female Delaware school superintendents, it validates why female leaders must ensure more women need to make it to the board room. More than ever, executive female leaders must assist with creating a blueprint to help other women leaders get through the door.

According to a Global Strategy Group study, “It is no secret that women have historically faced greater barriers than men when it comes to fully participating in the economy. Across geographies and income levels, disparities between men and women persist in the form of pay gaps, uneven opportunities for advancement, and unbalanced representation in important decision-making.”

Last year, it seems everyone was understandably consumed with fear and uncertainty spurred by the COVID-19 health crisis. The lesson learned from COVID that resonates the most is that leadership today embodies compassion, innovation, problem-solving and multitasking at a fast pace while adjusting to the new significant role of technology.

Women leaders are prepared to assume pivotal roles under the cloud of COVID, in part of the inequality they have faced. For centuries we have had the opportunity to master domestic responsibilities while hurling our overpriced stilettos to break glass ceilings in every sector of service from the non-profit, public and private sectors.

Gender inequality was the incubator that can now serve as a springboard, building a case for why female CEOs can impactfully aid in international recovery efforts on the heels of COVID in the non-profit, public and private sectors. I believe these variables are transferable skills earned on the path to assuming executive leadership.

If we connect our natural nurturing skills with business savvy, it can elevate the humanity of others to advance success as a leader. Women leaders must support each other to advance up the corporate ladder, and we need to embrace our strengths in times that demand more humility and care.

It is my responsibility to lead in a way that spur the audacity of hope to galvanize those who I serve. It is critical to create holistic partnerships not only to advance the Capital School District’s vision of “educational excellence today for a changing tomorrow,” but light a path for other women to follow.

Vilicia Cade is the first African-American female CEO and superintendent of the Capital School District. 

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