For this week’s segment of Woman Wednesday, AY About You sits down with Lisa M. Smith, executive director of Community Health & Research at UAMS Northwest Regional Campus.
Smith grew up in a small farm town in Colorado, where she says her upbringing instilled strong values such as resilience, respect, humility and work ethic.
“I moved to Arkansas nearly 15 years ago to attend John Brown University. I had planned to move back to Colorado after I graduated but was fortunate to be connected with some great opportunities and mentors in Arkansas, so I stayed,” Smith says. “I love living in Arkansas and enjoy all that the natural state has to offer. It is so beautiful and has a perfect blend of community, opportunity and nature. I spend my weekends outside with my son, Lincoln, and my husband, Lane.”
We asked Smith what it means to her to be a woman.
“Strong. It is the one word that comes to mind,” she says. “Women are strong in their hearts and minds and bodies. There is a strength that women have that is unique and somewhat indescribable. Even in times of significant hardship, I have found that women are incredibly resilient and strong.”
We asked Smith what challenges she has faced as a woman in her career field.
“As a young woman leader, I have faced challenges of establishing executive presence, gaining trust and respect, and believing that I deserved the opportunities and positions that I’ve had,” she says. “Some of the challenges were external, but other challenges have been internal, and I’ve had to work through each with time, practice and mentorship. I am thankful for the challenges as it forced me to grow quickly — even though sometimes painfully — and now I can talk to other young women leaders with understanding but also motivation about how to face those challenges and establish themselves as leaders.”
Smith offers a word of advice for the young women and girls who read this article.
“I want to encourage every young woman to pull their seat up to the table,” she says. “We deserve a seat at the table; a leadership seat at the table. I want to tell every young woman and girl to never wait for the right training, more education, more information, or more experience to step up to a challenge. Ask for that opportunity, ask for that project, take that challenge. Do it, and then you’ll find that you can. One of my mentors always said, ‘Why not?’ Even when I said I was worried about failure, she said, ‘So what — that is part of the path to succeeding.’ I would tell any young woman or girl to personally challenge any thought or feeling they have that makes them let themselves fade into the background. Challenge the thoughts and feelings of being ‘too much’ or ‘saying too much’ or ‘not knowing enough.’ Women are strong, resilient, brave and smart. We deserve a seat at the table. Pull up the seat.
“The other thing I would say is pursue getting a ‘sponsor.’ Who have you worked for, who do you know that is someone who has been successful in their life and career who is willing to take it upon themselves to mentor you but also help give you opportunities by sharing your name, inviting you to events, and connecting you with opportunities? Find that person and ask them if they’d be a sponsor for you. This was huge for me in my career so far. I am so fortunate and thankful to have other women advocating for me to grow in my career.
“I am very passionate about helping other young women and girls see that they can be successful. If anyone reading this wants to connect with me, I would love to talk with you. Find me on LinkedIn.”
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