Darelyn 'DJ' Mitsch

Grit and Grace: Happy Mother’s Day, Gal Pals!

“You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones you see building one another up, instead of tearing each other down.”
– Unknown

I’m a GRITS, aka Girl Raised in the South, through and through (thank you, Fannie Flagg). Better yet, I’m a girl raised in the south by a tribe of storyteller women, who made it clear from the beginning that if I was going to succeed, I will need to use a good dose of grace along with my strong will and determination.

We are in a revolution for more conscious leadership and women are using their voices in a wave that I haven’t seen before. #TimesUp and #metoo movements have given women at every level in society a platform to say we will not be objectified, overlooked, or underpaid for same work. Many male leaders are supportive of this wave of change. I wonder what I would have done when I found myself at the bottom of the pay scale according to shared data (Miller Kaplan reports) in an area with 17 competitors, while managing radio stations that were always in the top two for revenue production. Would I have thrown down an ultimatum or set up consequences? Maybe. Yet, I most of the time I found that I would have lead the teams I hired and developed for no pay. I loved what I did, so even though noticing the monthly reports gave me a bit of a soul cramp, it didn’t deter me from staying the course and continuing to provide a space for teamwork and performance excellence.

Fast forward to today. I see many women telling their stories. Many who have balanced children, careers and checkbooks now refusing to be considered less than. I champion that. Women are becoming bolder. We are holding each other up. We are doing what we’ve threatened to do for generations.

  • Moms are tackling big legislative issues across the nation simultaneously (#MomsDemand)
  • Women profess, “We’re not objects. We’re not toys. We are not to be harassed in workplaces or public places. It’s not happening any more” (#metoo).
  • Teenage girls now take the lead in speaking up about their own safety and the safety of all students at schools across the nation, (#MarchForOurLives) demonstrating a maturity and eloquence and passion well beyond their years…. that gives me hope for the future.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I’m reflecting on the continuum of my life and the many changes I have seen. I am celebrating a community of women I call the gal pals, professional colleagues and friends, these powerful women have made incredible contributions in the world.

  • Kristin, a judge who started a world recognized program to help fathers get back to work, find the right counseling and leave Jail to support families.
  • Anne, a CEO and her mentor, Lu who have led world class pharmaceutical organizations and partnered with me to create a space and program for women to accelerate their careers — where 92 women in 4 years gained a platform and 78 were promoted to more senior careers with male and female mentors all learning together about what a diverse healthcare workforce meant to those whom they served.
  • My 28-year-old wise daughter, Jessica (now a CEO of her own code school, www.momentumlearn.com) who claimed in 10th grade that she would change the face of education for people like her – those with unique learning styles that were underserved or could be lost in traditional public school curriculum.
  • Pat who was the foremost female for Dell, and stepped up to serve women as she left a high-paying role to shift gears and start a chapter of Dress for Success that has now served over 12,000 women to kickstart careers and get back on their feet.

Today, I’m thinking about how grateful I am to embody both Grit and Grace, and to know that taking myself lightly, a gift from my mom and Maw Maw Precious for who I am named, was instrumental to expressing who I am, and learning to persevere through even my toughest challenges. I have learned to let go of things that no longer serve me. And to those women around the tobacco barn who were keen judges and gossips, I am grateful for the power of discernment and learning to say no, when I meant no.

I am also encouraged by the numbers of men I have seen paying attention to this new wave of consciousness and leadership acumen. I have coached many male leaders, and I married the man who is my business partner 31 years ago. I also have a son, Hank who makes me proud to be a momma as he is a peacemaker and philosopher who leads from his heart and will impact the world around him in his career path. A nature boy, he has always invited me stop to see the awe in simple things.

So, on this special weekend, as we celebrate Mothers, I hope we can all take a moment to remember how the women in our lives have helped to shape us. Let’s make this weekend a time to elevate women, and what it means to lead and nurture others as we seek to make our biggest contribution. Let’s hold each other close and in high regard as we move into this new space of leadership…. women and men, side by side, all views expressed and appreciated.

I’d like to know about a woman, a mentor, a friend, who lifted you up and encouraged your dreams. Leave a comment below.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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