As Woman’s History Month comes to a close, prominent woman leaders give their reflections on women in business.

By Cy White, Photos courtesy of each woman

Another year, another month of celebrating women. It’s no secret that women do always seem to have a mountain of obstacles to overcome. Particularly when it comes to women in business. So many industries are so heavily male dominated. However, sistahs are doing it for themselves! Six women in business share their thoughts on working in their respective industries and the significance of Woman’s History Month.

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Lori Bolding, chief operating officer, Austin PBS

My name is Lori Bolding, and I am the Chief Operating Officer at Austin PBS. I came to the station in September of 2013 as the Sr. VP of Development and now manage all of the external-facing teams, including marketing/communication, events and our education services team. I grew up in Dallas, attended UT Austin as a student in the early ’80s and returned to Austin in 1992. I have a long career in the nonprofit space from volunteer coordination, event planning, fundraising and grant review. I have been married to my college sweetheart for 37 years, and together we have three adult daughters.

What are the challenges of being a woman in your industry? The benefits?

I think the challenges of being a woman in any industry is that women CEOs are still in the minority, making it hard to have role models that help one navigate all of the competing interests we each face. From family to work, personal time and contributing to our own communities.

Have you ever been underestimated in your abilities to carry out your job? If so, can you share how you subverted those expectations and what the reactions were when you did?

Of course. I think we all have. A mentor once give me a coaster that reads, “Success is the best revenge.” I still have that coaster on my desk today. Not because I want to be revengeful, but because I want to stay focused and intentional on what success looks like for the project/task/job I am on at the time.

What advice can you give women interested in working in your industry?

The nonprofit space is a profession. It is not just a feel-good job. I have such respect for people who have chosen a career that helps to make a community a better place to work, live and play. Be proud of that choice. It is hard work.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

When you work in the nonprofit world, you are choosing a lifestyle, not just a job. The nights and weekends are long, and the pay is often less than that of your for-profit peers. But the return is of great value. However, remember to take care of yourself, too, and not just of those you serve.

Who’s a woman who’s inspired you?

Tyrrell Flawn. Tyrrell is the daughter of the late Peter Flawn, President of UT Austin when I was a student. I met her when she was named the head of volunteer services at MD Anderson. I never worked for Tyrrell at MDA but continued to volunteer for them after I left my position on staff and got to know her then. Tyrrell later moved to Austin to run the RGK Foundation and hired me to work with the Foundation staff. Tyrrell was constantly driving the team in such a positive and inspiring way. She was thoughtful, strategic, smart, determined, fun and kind. She was everything I wanted to be in a boss and a person.

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Dolores Guerrero-Davis, president and general manager, CG&S Design-Build

My name is Dolores Davis. I am the daughter of Clarence and Stella Guerrero who started our company in 1957. I now own my company, CG&S Design-Build, a residential architecture and construction company. It’s an honor to be able to maintain the legacy they began so long ago.

I grew up around this business, so I feel like I’ve always been a part of it. When I finally decided to actually join the company, what started out as a part-time job for a mom raising a family turned into a lifelong passion. The construction industry is really in my blood. I love the creative process of designing our clients’ spaces in their homes (their sacred place) and then watching it being built. Feeling, seeing and touching this process is pretty amazing.

I’m happy there is a focus on women in business. I feel we take on many roles that are assumed would go to us rather than a man, so we do have more hurdles to overcome. Now I realize that is changing, and that is a good thing. I offer as much flexibility to the primary caregivers in my company, be it for children or aging parents. If my staff is feeling good at home, they will feel
good at work, too.

What are the challenges of being a woman in your industry? The benefits?

The challenges? Well, we started out as a traditional remodeling company. So there were many times when I was speaking in a group with a subcontractor and was never addressed. Instead, they would talk to the project manager, which was always a man. I would gently let them know that I was actually the boss and made the decisions. Over time, those divisions became more blurry, especially when we became a design-build company, and I began to see that less and less. The benefits have more to do with who I am as a person. I get to be a good boss who is fair and respectful. I offer folks the benefit of the doubt and look for the positives in situations. This is true with employees, clients and our trade partners. I have a platform to be the best me I can be.

Have you ever been underestimated in your abilities to carry out your job? If so, can you share how you subverted those expectations and what the reactions were when you did?

My brother, who was also my boss for a period of time, underestimated me for many years. This inspired me to learn as much as I could. I attended workshops, read books, watched webinars, and I belonged to and participated in our local and national NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) functions. I took a negative experience and made it a positive one and eventually bought the company from him.

What advice can you give women interested in working in your industry?

I would encourage women to find a niche they are super interested in and where their skill sets can be of value to others. If you want to be a project manager, get some education and training that allows you to get some experience. It’s a tough dilemma, though. If you don’t have experience, you won’t get hired, but if you don’t get hired, you won’t get experience. Smart owners will hire someone who shows they will work hard and are passionate. You have to show them you are a lifelong learner and that you are coachable, meaning you will be an asset to the team.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

Ask for what I want and don’t wait around for others to notice.

Who’s a woman who’s inspired you?

Many women who are in the industry have inspired me, but my knee-jerk reaction is to say my mom. She ran our family remodeling company while raising eight children. She sewed our clothes and cooked every meal I ever ate. Did all the bookkeeping and payroll for the business. Volunteered at our school and our church. After the last child went to kindergarten, she started a make-ready cleaning company. When she could not find help on how to fill out the taxes for the business, she took a class at H&R Block and learned by herself. Then she started helping other small businesses experiencing the same issues. She loved jewelry, so she would buy and sell to all her friends. My mom had so many side hustles way before they were cool. She is still with us today and is a delight to be around.

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Jaime Garcia, president and CEO, Andy Roddick Foundation

I was born and raised in Texas. I grew up in Houston and moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas. As a college student looking for extra spending cash, I started working as an after-school group leader at Extend-Care for Kids (EAC). My first location was at Harris Elementary on the northeast side of Austin, which ironically is an Andy Roddick Foundation program. It was just a matter of days when I discovered that I found a love and passion for working with children. This resulted in continuing my career after graduation at EAC. I was there for 26 years and completed my career at EAC as the executive director of Extend-A-Care YMCA, which served 100+ programs across the city.

In February 2022, I was named the president and CEO of the Andy Roddick Foundation (ARF), an organization that has raised over $30 million that contributed to grants, direct services and programs.

Joining the ARF team allows me to continue my service of direct afterschool and summer programs to our youth in Austin. The added bonus is ARF supports 44 out-of-school time providers in Central Texas through Learning All The Time with professional development, networking sessions and grants. The foundation is committed to providing high-quality opportunities for our youth and assisting in providing them with a trajectory to becoming
successful young adults in the future.

What inspired you to enter your field of expertise?

The impact I was making in each of the children’s lives in my after-school program groups drove my inspiration for changing my childhood dream from becoming a doctor to becoming a childcare professional. I met kids who were very reserved who would say they didn’t need a “babysitter.” I got them to open their hearts to me and start to breaking down the walls they put up to protect themselves. I would tell the kids, “Even if you had a hard day at school, you can be here at EAC on a clean slate. Let’s have fun!”

As I grew within the company, I could determine the components within the program to make intentional efforts to enhance the experience for children. More literacy components, physical activities, comfortable homework areas, STEM activities, etc. I joined local, state and national boards to assist with quality innovation and advocacy for the critical gap that is filled with out-of-school time programs when children are out of school.

Have you ever been underestimated in your abilities to carry out your job? If so, can you share how you subverted those expectations and what the reactions were when you did?

By my mid-20s, I was a senior leader at Extend-A-Care for Kids. There were times that parents and other stakeholders’ first impressions would be to underestimate my ability to accomplish a
critical issue due to my age.

I made a point to always dress to impress (even on hot summer days at the camps), worked extra hard to exceed expectations, and I made extra efforts to follow through with an intention to build strong relationships.

Never let others’ doubts make you lose confidence in your skills and talents.

What advice can you give women interested in working in your industry?

We are raising the next generation of leaders for our community. The job is beyond rewarding. You wake up every morning saying that you get to do this job. Invest in yourself and your learning channels through mentorships, resources and committees. Finding a mentor isn’t as hard as it sounds. Look at the people you work closely with, on a board or in the community. Find a mentor each year to learn from, ask questions, observe and use as a thought partner. In addition, seek continuous education through books, podcasts, webinars, certifications, classes and training.

These opportunities help fill your toolbox with an array of skills to advance your work. Remember you can work in the industry for decades, see the lives you are changing and through your experiences and investments, you can make every year look and feel different as you enhance the experience of our youth.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

Your work, especially in childcare, seems to be never ending. You will end each day with work undone. Look at all that you have accomplished for the day and be okay with stepping away. Life-work boundaries are essential to recharge. When you work with children you have very little room for error. That can take a toll on a person. Again, the work is very rewarding, but you can’t care for others unless you are caring for yourself.

As we strive for excellence, look at setbacks as an opportunity to try a different approach. Through weaving in practices such as the plan, do, study, act method, it helps us understand we aren’t aiming for perfection. We need to embrace tweaking a process, learning from errors, and striving for realistic excellence.

Who’s a woman who’s inspired you?

Inspiration comes from an array of amazing women. The core of who I am was inspired by my mother who taught me kindness, to find the good in people, stay committed to your values and faith and make everyone around you know they matter.

Throughout my career, I had two influential leaders who taught me two different philosophies regarding leadership. Both equally inspiring. My first Executive Director, LaVerne Rodriguez, was committed to ensuring the legacy of the organization’s work through her investment in financial reserves to push us through an unexpected event. Who would have thought we needed this for a pandemic? She inspired me to think about the long-term goals and bigger picture. She was a business-centered leader who taught me what I needed to grow our company and handle any problem that came our way. We have to do everything we can to be financially sound to serve the community for generations to come.

Our next fearless leader, Dr. Joan Altobelli, was just that. Fearless! She inspired me to look beyond the day-to-day operations and spend time developing my staff, bringing joy to work, giving staff a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. She always made taking a chance and pushing her boundaries look easy. I needed all three of these leaders in my life to shape me into the individual and professional I am today at the Andy Roddick Foundation. I can only hope I am doing the same for others around me.

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Chelsea Kloss, director, interiors + curation, Lincoln Ventures

I’m Chelsea Kloss, and I like to say I’m smiling my way across the globe, gathering inspiration via adventure. I’m a creative soul and use interior design as my outlet for expression. I’ve been practicing interior design in Austin since 2005 and have experienced partnerships, business ownership and now an exciting opportunity as Director of Interiors + Curation with a fast-growing ATX developer. I’m a wife and new mom and a dog lover.

It’s exciting to be in an era where so many women are taking the reins of their careers, businesses and lives in general. That their relationships with significant others are truly about partnership and camaraderie versus being led or financially supported. There is a power in that which weaves its way into all aspects of a woman’s existence. I hope to see this coming into fruition for many more women and that I may somehow be able to further influence that independence in others.

Being a new mom at 38, I also want to champion the idea that prioritizing yourself and your career/passions before becoming a mom is 1000% acceptable and should be celebrated. Navigating mom life and professional endeavors is incredibly tough. But I’m grateful to have laid such critical groundwork prior to the arrival of my baby. This level of establishment has given me the confidence to feel that I can successfully tackle both at the same time.

What inspired you to enter your field of expertise?

I got my first room when I was 12 years old and realized it was an outlet to express myself and feel free to experiment with materiality. My friends loved spending time in my space as it was a completely unique experience to anything they’d seen before. This sparked a passion for creating spaces and setting the stage for creating memories through design.

What are the challenges of being a woman in your industry? The benefits?

In school, a majority of the interior design courses are predominantly women, but when you graduate and get into the field, oftentimes you are the only female in the equation amongst architects, contractors, developers and trades. There are often big personalities and assertive individuals at that table. Speaking up with confidence and a strong desire for collaboration early in the process has always been key.

Have you ever been underestimated in your abilities to carry out your job? If so, can you share how you subverted those expectations and what the reactions were when you did?

I may have been called an “interior desecrator” at a kick-off meeting by an architect based on his past experience in working with other designers. I think there is a misconception that designers come in with their own agenda and take the “my way or the highway” approach. I’ve subverted those expectations by listening to the needs of clients, collaborating with all members of the team and allowing space in the design process to incorporate any and all great ideas, regardless of where they originated (designer, architect, client, contractor, etc).

What advice can you give women interested in working in your industry?

As an interior designer, it is advantageous to round out your expertise by having a thorough understanding of other aspects of the design/build/development process. Rather than coming in and simply doing your portion of the scope, you add value when you understand what has transpired in advance of your incorporation, how the decisions and recommendations you make impact the others on the project and in the field, and the lasting impact you can have on those who will use your design for years to come. Take the blinders off. Immerse yourself in the various arms of the industry beyond just the interior design portion.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

I was told early on that designers are underappreciated when it comes to compensation for their creativity; you can’t make money doing interior design. The right people find immense value in creating beautiful, functional, practical spaces. By aligning yourself with those individuals, the sky’s the limit for what you are able to achieve as a designer, in both your portfolio and your bank account. Just because interior design is creative and artistic doesn’t mean your compensation should be compromised.

Who’s a woman who’s inspired you?

My mom. She’s always been the hardest working woman I know between her passion for teaching and raising three kids. She conquered a stroke and lives each day to its fullest and with a smile on her face. Having just become a mom myself, I have a newfound respect for all that she sacrificed in order to allow me to have the opportunities I’ve had in life.

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Meme Styles, president and founder, MEASURE

My name is Meme Styles, and I am the founder and president of MEASURE. We are a research and public education nonprofit led by Black women who are working to advance equitable access to data and antiracist evaluation support. My core value that drives my work is “community voice.” I believe that those that are most impacted by systems that perpetuate oppression should be the same people driving the solutions.

I just want women to realize they already are enough. Far too often we don’t give ourselves the credit for the consistent change-making that we actually do each and every day. If we knew we were enough, some of us would ask for more, and if some of us knew we were enough, we would give more away.

What inspired you to enter your field of expertise?

The need for community-led solutions inspired and continues to inspire my work. Far too often the solutions to address racism and complex societal issues are created without the input of the community.

What are the challenges of being a woman in your industry? The benefits?

The work to advance equality is already an uphill battle. Being a woman in this work adds the burden of a weighted backpack, the obligation of navigating bias, all while wearing heels when climbing that mountain. I take on my challenges and use them as fuel to press on. This perspective allows me to continue to grow in my leadership and MEASURE’s capacity to meet the needs of other organizations led by people that look like us.

Have you ever been underestimated in your abilities to carry out your job? If so, can you share how you subverted those expectations and what the reactions were when you did?

Always. As a Black woman in the data and technology space, I often feel unseen. I believe the success of MEASURE is evidence that all of my naysayers and overlookers were wrong. When Black women come together to create solutions to change systems, we win.

What advice can you give women interested in working in your industry?

The data and evaluation space is evolving every day. It needs our voices as women. My advice would be to lean into the industry and learn more about where your impact can be most valuable.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

To rest intentionally. This work is hard on the mind, body and soul. Carving out intentional time to actually breathe is essential. I am also a heart disease survivor who had a heart attack at the age of 36. So I wish someone told me about how important it is to get my heart checked earlier.

Who’s a woman who’s inspired you?

My mom and grandma both inspire me every single day. They are not only accomplished businesswomen, but they are also both beautiful leaders in their homes and in their communities.

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Sarah Yant, founder and principal of Twistleaf

I’m a seventh-generation Texan and a landscape designer and contractor with more than 15 years of experience in my field. I launched Twistleaf in 2020 as an ecologically minded,
women-led land design firm based in Central Texas. We specialize in multiphase large-scale design and build projects.

In 2021 we completed the design development and phase I construction of an 11-acre nature park in Horseshoe Bay. Now open to the public at no charge, Horseshoe Bay Nature Park
restores and preserves a native Texas Hill Country habitat and was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect our passions for conservation, community and education. We’re especially proud of creating the “Just for Kids” activities for the park website.

Reach out to women you admire in the industry and grow your network. Build strong and positive connections. Go after what you want and don’t give up, no matter what. Advocate for yourself and be your best self every day. Perseverance will pay off.

What inspired you to enter your field of expertise?

I grew up gardening on my family’s farm on the Blackland prairie of northeast Texas. I was lucky to have a mother who was an organic gardener and interior designer and a father who was a self-employed entrepreneur in the agricultural industry. So they both really influenced my career path.

What are the challenges of being a woman in your industry? The benefits?

Landscape design and build is a really rewarding industry because it calls upon so many disciplines. Every day is different. It can be a struggle for younger women to establish themselves and earn respect in the construction world. We often have to prove ourselves, and that can be exhausting. Age and experience help with this, as well as seeking guidance from other women in our field.

What advice do you wish someone had given you coming up in your industry?

You are playing the long game, so always keep that in sight.

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