LaShanda Reed-Larry, director of inclusion, diversity and equity for ophthalmic optics company Essilor, was the featured speaker at the Oct. 22 Women in Leadership Series program. Her presentation, “Living an Integrated Life,” was the third in a three-part series on the theme of disruption.
“We chose this as the theme because life seems a little chaotic,” said Pamela Foster Brady, director of the Executive MBA and Global Leadership Executive MBA programs at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, which hosted the event. “We wanted to focus on a series that helps women understand that chaos is part of life, and how to best navigate through those chaotic moments.”
The first program in the series focused on the ways that technology can be a disrupter, as well as a help, in managing chaos. The second program was a panel discussion about creating career changes. The series them next year will be innovation.
Reed-Larry, who told the audience that her passions include supporting programs that improve the lives of children, women and underserved communities, shared some of her personal life lessons to illustrate the need for women to support each other in order to bring about change.
Creating gender parity is a cause she feels strongly about, she said, pointing to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, which conducts business and economics research. It showed that $4.3 trillion could be added to annual gross domestic product by 2025 if global gender parity were achieved.
“Women make up half of the world’s population, yet that isn’t reflected in the number of company executives,” Reed-Larry said. “Think what could be achieved if we were not ignoring half of our population.”
Although women may be doing well at the supervisor or manager level, after that, the numbers decline. “We tell our girls that they can grow up to be anything they want,” she said. “They go to college, where they see other women, but when they start to move along in their careers, they realize they aren’t seeing women in leadership roles. They don’t see themselves.”
Frustration over a lack of advancement opportunities is one of the primary reasons that women leave the workforce, along with having a family or caring for children.
“We need to think of ways to keep women who want to be in the workplace from leaving,” she said, sharing a personal experience to illustrate the challenges of balancing work and home.
For 20 months, her husband stayed at home to care for their three sons and manage the household while she worked.
“It’s hard for couples to have dual careers,” she said, “but society still doesn’t entirely embrace the concept of a husband or father who stays at home.”
Her advice to other women was: If you choose to have a life partner, choose well; know what you can give up; and keep your tribe — the group of friends and family who provide support — close. “You can’t do it on your own,” she said. “It really does take a village.”
She also stressed the importance of having a sponsor at work, someone who will help pull you up the career ladder and tell others about your attributes. “We need to look at sponsorship over mentoring,” she said. “You may not know when you’re being sponsored, but you will absolutely know when you aren’t.”
Reed-Larry received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Southern University and A&M College. One of her areas of focus is working to encourage an interest in math and science in more girls in grades K-12.
Her current and former board service includes North Central Texas Workforce, Leadership Women, North Texas Industry Liaison Group, Jack and Jill of America Inc.; Susan G. Komen Dallas County and Dress for Success Dallas.
JSOM’s Executive MBA programs hosted the event, and Solis Mammography sponsored it.
— Glenda Vosburgh