ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS —
“Be authentic. Be you” was the message keynote speaker Kristie West gave to the women attending Thursday’s 2014 Wabash Valley Women of Influence breakfast at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Speaking to a room of power players and their supporters, West recounted how she has influenced change throughout her work career and has become the “growth playbook leader” for GE Aviation’s aviation supply chain in more than 80 locations and 19 countries.
“You don’t have to be a big leader, an owner of a company, a person in a high position to be influential,” West said. “I want each of you to think about your roles in life as a friend, a co-worker, a mother, a wife, a working mother, a sister, a teacher, a nurse, a mentor — whatever your profession. I’m sure you have influenced someone else, a decision that was made, a change that was needed for the climate, culture, benefit of others, a business.”
Recognizing oneself and the accomplishments made can be the best feeling one can have, she said. But it is nice to receive recognition from others as well. She commended the 12 Women of Influence — Judith Bengochea, Coral Cochran, Marla Flowers, Deborah Kesler, Laurice Newlin, Trudy Rupska, Sally Stewart, Kathleen Stienstra, Beth Tevlin, Sister Denise Wilkinson, Donna Wilson and Mary Yelton — for their achievements and for making a difference in their communities.
“I think as women, it’s unnatural to think about ourselves that way,” she said of self-congratulation, “but it’s very natural for us to have this very important trait as a part of our skill set that makes us very powerful in all of our roles in life and our careers.”
West said she found that influencing the environment of the workplace to encourage people to do their best was what led to her success. Putting other people first is a natural trait of women, she said, and it can be used to one’s advantage.
She recalled her first job as a 22-year-old woman in an automotive manufacturer. She had to earn the respect of the male majority workforce, and it led her to a larger leadership role with a bigger company. But that didn’t mean that leadership became easier. Instead, she was assigned to help a struggling supplier get back on track. It was a huge growth experience for her, she said, but she found that creating an environment where people wanted to do their best was what made the company rebound and grow.
She was recruited by GE Aviation about nine years ago, and that has included time spent leading the Terre Haute operation.
“GE allows me and expects me to influence others as a leader,” she said. In fact, she now mentors nine women on a monthly basis. She is a member of the company’s diversity council, and she said she is proud to hear of former employees and colleagues who have let her know that they have returned to school and earned degrees.
“It’s an amazing feeling to hear from them and see how they have progressed in life and their careers since we’ve departed,” she said. “I’m proud that many people I have had the privilege of leading in the past 16 years still reach out to me and tell me how they have helped others too. I’m proud of those I’ve had the fortune to give advice to, take it and grow.”
Seeing the Women of Influence program take off in Terre Haute has also been gratifying, West said.
“It is amazing to me the amount of influential women in the community and in this room today,” she said. “All of us together have an amazing amount of potential to influence others and to help others discover this same ability and to use it.”
She encouraged those at the breakfast to emulate the example of the Women of Influence honorees and confidently pay forward their blessings by influencing the people in their lives.
“I can honestly say that I would never have experienced all that I have in my career, in my life and in the communities I have lived and volunteered in, if I wasn’t authentic to who I am and just be me.”
The monies raised from the Wabash Valley Women of Influence breakfast will go to fund programs of Success By 6, a community-based program of United Way of the Wabash Valley. Success By 6 is designed to provide every child with the opportunity to develop basic reading skills so they can enter kindergarten ready to learn. Those programs include Mother Goose on the Loose and Real Men Read.
The presenting sponsors of the event were GE Aviation, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Tribune-Star, Union Hospital, Terre Haute Regional Hospital and Vectren. The underwriting sponsors include Duke Energy, Indiana State University and Jewett Printing.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.