"I got interested in helping women leaders because it became clear that women really are the future of the workforce."
For the past two decades, Terry Barclay, president & CEO of Inforum Michigan, has helped women progress once they find themselves in a senior leadership role.
Inforum recently released the 2020 Michigan Leadership Report. What stood out most?
We are seeing with companies that it can be done. For example, General Motors: How many people realize more than 50% of the board are women? They have a woman CEO and CFO. There are many others here in our home base of Grand Rapids. We are inching forward. The change of pace is really slow. We are making changes more quickly on the board level than we are in the executive suites. That is of concern, because the pool for board opportunities are the people in the executive suite. We need to pay attention to that pipeline. Women and men are entering the workforce at the same level. But at the first promotion is where fewer women are progressing. Their progression is stalled at that very first promotion.
We can do better.
Who were your early role models?
Everything, I think, starts with our family. I had a very strong grandmother who owned her own business. It was a small business, but she actually was the breadwinner for her family. My mother grew up in that environment and my family always had the sense that even the sky is not the limit for women's achievement.
Did you always work in the nonprofit sector?
First, I worked out of grad school in a human service organization that helped people find work and jobs. Then I went to work for higher education for a time and I became CEO of a nonprofit organization very early—in my 20s—and never looked back.
What is your take on the perception that women are too competitive with each other?
It is a little bit overstated and a little bit of a stereotype. Men are very competitive with one another, too. Competition is a fact in the business world. The key is to not make it personal, to not take things personally. Understand that you can like and support one another as human beings.
If you had a chance for a "do-over," what would you do differently?
I would invest in myself. The times in my career and in my life when I've seen the biggest gains is when I have taken a moment to accurately self-reflect, and really develop an honest understanding of my strengths and my skills and realize I do not need to be good at everything. But I do need to have a really good understanding of what I am good at and what I am not good at. When you get really clear about that, I think it opens all kinds of opportunity going forward.
Visit facebook.com/WestMichiganWoman to hear more from Terry Barclay.
Written by Jennifer A. Pascua, Content Engagement Manager for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Apr/May 2020 issue of West Michigan Woman.