She’s the executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. She will share her experience and new insights gained since the inception of programs she has helped develop, like the Governor’s Conference for Women, and then the importance of these events that have helped both women and businesses across the nation.
Cathy, welcome to the call.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Thanks, Relly.
I am particularly interested in today’s program because it really does focus on the importance of women in education, women in healthcare, and women in government.
I am so excited to have a wonderful woman and someone I love to call a friend, Leslie Stiles, on the program with us today.
She is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the co-founder of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for women. We will talk about this conference and how it invigorates women and also stimulates our businesses and helps us think more about women in business.
Leslie is a fabulous person and she has been appointed by the Governor and acts as the State Government’s advocate for all issues as they impact both women and girls.
Her 28 Women Commission educates, advises, and advocates for the constituencies, and especially opportunities for women and girls to reach their highest potential.
Leslie has used her innovative and her creative leadership style to promote the Pennsylvania Conference and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the priority issues that they focus on. As I said before, healthcare, economic stability, and, most importantly, education.
She is a vigorous and outspoken advocate for women in government and women’s healthcare.
In addition, she has also broadened the outreach for women across the commonwealth by initiating and implementing the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women. This is a wonderful annual event of personal and professional development, which I’m thrilled to be a part of this year.
Prior to her appointment as the executive director, Leslie served as director of marketing for the National Constitution Center, a huge undertaking here in the Pennsylvania region. In that capacity, she created distinctive branding and advertising while initiating corporate community and, most importantly, industry partnerships.
Before working with the National Constitution Center, she was also in business, an executive in her own right as vice president of First Union Bank and CoreStates Bank, managing the marketing for both the commercial and international side of the business.
Throughout her career, Leslie has been active in the realm of public outreach. She serves on the board of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Philadelphia as an affiliate. She’s been honored with the Susan G Komen for the Cure Celebrate Life Award and she is also the recipient of the BMW Local Hero Award.
Leslie currently serves as the honorary chair of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition and is the 2006 recipient of the BTCC Pink Tie Award, as well as the Professional Women’s Round Table Leadership Award.
She served as an honorary chair of the United Nation’s Day between 2004 and 2005 and she’s also honorary chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon.
Here, in Philadelphia, she is known for helping turn our fountains pink.
Leslie serves on the state’s Cervical Cancer Task Force, she is also on the Network Advisory Committee of the Pennsylvania Cancer Education Network.
I could go on and on, but Leslie has used her increasingly responsible roles throughout her career strengthening both the industries in which she has worked and the communities in which she has served.
I am proud to call her a friend. Leslie, welcome to the show.
Leslie Stiles: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, Leslie, this is a pleasure and an honor to have you here. We are really glad to have you share some of your experience and wisdom with us.
We always like to ask our guests to start off with, around leadership, who has been the most influential people in your life? Especially in your role as a leader.
Leslie Stiles: Well, you know, that is a frequently asked question, of me. I would love to say some very famous media people, but I have to tell you that my first and for most role model was my mom.
She’s a woman who was widowed very early, my father died when I was about 10 years old and she was really the strongest woman I know. She kept my life going without a blip, she instilled the ideals in me that have lasted throughout my life and really a marvelous foundation for, I think, success and happiness. You know, looking back, I have great respect because as a single woman bringing up a family with not a lot of money, it wasn’t easy. She did it really seamlessly.
The other role model I have to say is, was my very best friend in the world, a woman by the name of Judy Schooley who passed away two years ago. She, you know, was just extraordinary, she was probably the brightness, most creative person I know. She was press secretary to the Governor of Maryland. She really made communications her field. She was just extraordinary but everything she did, she did with a great wry sense of humor.
Again, that’s something that I think is invaluable to everyone as they move forward in life, you can go through just about anything if you maintain that humor.
So, those are really the two standouts, for me.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: It’s amazing, you know, we have so few people talk about their mothers. I just can’t imagine what a wonderful mom you had because many of us have such wonderful, wonderful mothers that we are so proud of and it’s great to hear you talk about her that way.
Leslie, let me ask you about how does a Governor appoint someone to this position and, in particular, how did they find you? And how were you appointed to this?
Leslie Stiles: Well, I really had a history of public outreach in corporate America, I did a lot of community outreach. Of course, I did a tremendous amount of community outreach as a breast cancer survivor, which I am. And I really saw that as a way to reach out to other women, I mean, we all deal with hardships differently.
For me, it was very healing to reach out to other women. So, I did a tremendous amount of that as well.
I’ve got amazing respect for the strength of women. The Governor and I have known each other for many years and he was aware of that kind of outreach and thought, “Good fit for this position.”
And, I’m very grateful to him because it certainly plays to my strengths and gave me a state-wide platform to help women, which is invaluable.
Dr. Relly Nadler: So, Leslie, just for our listeners, maybe you can say a little bit about just this role. It sounds like such an honor that the Governor appointed you. I know Cathy said a little bit in the intro, but what’s the scope of your role?
Leslie Stiles: Well, we are the umbrella organization, we report to the Governor’s Office and to the Governor. I am an appointed position as are all 28 commissioners. We are appointed by the Governor, we are a bipartisan group.
I am fond of saying women’s issues are not Republican issues or Democrat issues, and they shouldn’t be. They are everyone’s issues.
You know, that was really the point of instituting a commission like this, to be a watchdog, to be the link to Government for other organizations across the states. To advocate on a legislative level for bills that are going to impact and improve women’s lives. To initiate programs and policies that are going to do just that, make women’s lives better, and make children’s lives better.
That’s pretty much what we do.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, that’s fabulous Leslie. We want to hear a lot more.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Leslie, we wanted to continue with some of our questions for you. Looking at your career, it sounds like you’ve always been an advocate for people and communities, where does this passion come from?
Leslie Stiles: Well, as I said, I was very active in corporate community outreach and, of course, if you have been in the workforce any length of time, you see injustices for women. You see many things, and think, “Gee, we’d like to make this right. What’s a way that we can make life better for women in the workforce?”
So certainly, this position is a fabulous way to really change social behavior, but I think the decisive thing as I mentioned is that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly, it’s like an out of body experience, this couldn’t be you, it has to be someone else. Someone you know about, but not you. In fact, it is you.
So, after you go through the process and it is a journey, I call it. For me, the most healing thing was the reach out to other women and give them the benefit of my philosophy and try to help them go through a similar crisis. It was very healing for me and hopefully for them to.
That really started the process, for me, of reaching out and appreciating how strong women are. Watching someone go through breast cancer treatment, is watching someone on the front lines of a really big battle. Women are pretty amazing. You gain a new-found respect, certainly any illness that we battle, gives us that feeling of empowerment and other people have to respect that.
That was where the passion came from, I think.
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