Barbara J. Kelley and Leilani Latimer reflect on International Women’s Day

News & Events
March 08, 2022
In celebration of International Women's Day, Megan McPeak sat down with both Ms. Latimer and Ms. Kelley to discuss their perspectives on female leadership, keys to success and breaking new ground. Below, we share the highlights of our conversations with these two inspirational leaders.

Barbara J. Kelley – Independent Director, Chair: Environmental, Social and Governance and Nominating Committee

KellyBarbara.jpgWhy do you think it’s important to observe IWD?
I think it's important to celebrate International Women’s Day to recognize the success, opportunities and challenges that women face globally in terms of the economy, governance, social integration, diversity, the whole gamut of issues that we as a society have to deal with, that women are a vital component of that society. 

What are some of the keys to your success?
Over the years, there have been many, but I think that there are two that really stood out as I think back. One is finding my own voice and being willing to be heard and my presence known and not taking a back seat, not just being the follower. I have always been actively engaged in whatever endeavors I find myself in. And secondly, I have found it incredibly helpful over the years to seek out and be active in professional and community organizations that are both gender and non-gender directed. It’s important to remember to not just focus on women's groups, but society in general as well. Many of them very openly welcome the participation and active engagement of women.

What is some of the advice you share with young women aspiring to have a role like yours one day?
Have a presence, work hard and know your stuff, so you can stand out as being among, if not being the best – the very best.

Do you have a female mentor or role model? What have you learned from her?
What I call the first feminist I knew was my mom. She was very independent, and my father was very supportive of that independence. She was a teacher and really worked hard both in her professional life and in her community life. Another was my eighth-grade teacher, who always imposed that I had the abilities to do extremely well and encouraged me to use and really develop those skills. Finally, when I was a young lawyer starting out at the beginning stages of my career, I had the opportunity to work with another woman who had worked in the same organization who subsequently moved on to become one of the first women Supreme Court justices in Colorado. She Really encouraged me to step out beyond the usual expectations that people had. She encouraged me to do something different, to stretch my goals and to imagine myself doing completely different things and stepping out of the usual and the expected and just striking out on new grounds.

What do you believe can be done to address gender stereotypes?
I think that's a really broad issue that touches on a lot of the cultural dimensions of our society’s perspective, and not every society will be the same. Not all the challenges faced by women in those societies will be the same. But I think it will take the acknowledgement of, for example, what's called unconscious bias. Again, it's the expectations that women should have certain roles and that you should be able to do certain things. Addressing those and finding a way to have people become more conscious of those biases.

What achievement are you most proud of to date?
The opportunity to be the executive director of the Colorado Department of regulatory agencies under two administrations in the state. That agency manages most of the business transactions and licenses and associations in in the state, so it had a really important role in the business development in the business community and the and the business development in communities around the state. And having the opportunity to lead an organization for over 5 years across two different gubernatorial administrations, was just such a unique opportunity and one that I have a lot of pride in what I was able to accomplish.

Leilani Latimer – Independent Director, Member: Environmental, Social and Governance and Nominating Committee

Black-Diamond-Group-Director-Leilani-Latimer.jpgAs a woman in a board leadership position, how do you strive to break new ground in your role?
As a Board Director, I believe I have a unique opportunity to help shape and improve corporate governance, and to connect other Board Directors with new and different perspectives, in particular as those relate to ESG, and risk and reputation. I also think it’s important to be a connection – or a conduit – to new disciplines, new ways of thinking, and new networks. The biggest hurdle to increasing diversity in leadership, and at the Board level today, is access to talent in different networks, not the lack of talent. Most people operate within a network that they trust – so when we are looking for talent – that’s who we reach out to. People in power, people who have the opportunities need to be the first to go way outside of their own networks. When I think about “breaking new ground,” it’s really sharing a different perspective, and learning a new perspective so that as a whole the board can continue to improve its oversight of the company. 

Why do you think it’s important to observe IWD?
I love celebrating Women’s History Month, along with International Women’s Day. I think it’s important to continue celebrating progress. Despite great strides, women are still sorely underrepresented in too many arenas, in particular in positions where decisions are being made that will have an effect on the quality of life for women.  

Do you have a female mentor or role model? What have you learned from her?
I have had numerous female mentors and role models throughout my life, but I’ll start with both of my grandmothers. One was a registered nurse, a full-time professional working woman who started her career in the ‘30s and worked through to retirement. I never doubted that women could be professionals and mothers, because I had a model in her. My other grandmother also worked while my grandfather was getting his legal career started, and then she also went back to school to get a college degree at the same time her sons were in college. She taught me the value of education and prized it more than wealth. 

As a leader, I learned a ton from one of my first real corporate mentors who was a senior level executive woman and was an excellent model leader for women. She was in a man’s world for sure – but she modeled certain values and behaviors that even the men appreciated and emulated. Thanks to my time with her, I decided that I too would pay it back like she did and started mentoring young women early in their careers. I also realized that the best way to get women into the room where decisions were being made was to get in there myself, and pull others in. So, I started focusing on getting into leadership roles and on boards so that I could make the change happen from the top.

What do you believe can be done to address gender stereotypes?
All stereotypes are silly – they limit us from seeing the richness in people, perspectives and the world. Language is one of the most important ways we can break stereotypes, and we need to look hard at the words and language we use in business, at home and in our communities. For instance, is saying that you are “ambitious” a compliment or not? Similarly, we need to look at the language we use for men – just like we should not over feminize women, we should not over masculinize men. 

What is something you wish you had been told during your career journey?
One of the most valuable lessons I wish I had learned earlier was on negotiating a promotion.  I was sharing with a male mentor of mine that I really cared about a promotion, and a title increase that demonstrated additional responsibility and career progression more than I cared about a huge salary increase. He told me that if I was negotiating with a man, I would be devaluing myself by not asking for more money. While not all men think this way, he helped me understand that you have to match your currency with the person on the other side, and you have to know your value in many different ways, including what your “market worth” is. It was a great lesson for me, and now I am seeing more women really stand up for the titles and the salary they deserve.

What is some of the advice you share with young women aspiring to have a role like yours one day?
Be brave, be curious, be audacious and be persistent! Also, know your value and your unique superpowers, and be able to articulate it. Many decisions about you will be made in a room you are not in, so you need to arm the people who get into that room with what they need to know about you and your potential. The better you can articulate how you will bring value to a role or an organization, the easier it will be for the people making that decision about you to see that “future you,” and help you get to that potential.