By Joan Muyskens Pursley
Mary Anne Alhadeff, a Robson resident and head of the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership at Texas Women’s University (TWU), was the guest speaker at Voices United’s June meeting. She previously served as president and CEO of KERA, a position she held for 14 years. Overall, Mary Anne has spent 40 years in broadcasting, as an executive and as a television producer. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Texas Business Council for the Arts, a PRISM Award from Mental Health America, and was named a Global Leadership Honoree by the United Nations Association.
TWU, a public university, is the largest university established for women’s education, although men now make up about ten percent of the 15,000-student body. The Jane Nelson Institute is dedicated to preparing women to achieve successful roles in business and public service – a goal for which Mary Anne is passionate. She is proud that during her time at KERA there were twice as many women in management as men. This was because she screened women in and helped them reach their full potential.
The Jane Nelson Institute has three specialized centers: the Center for Student Leadership, the Center for Women Entrepreneurs, and the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy. These centers ensure that women have the education to establish careers as successful executives, the skills for building entrepreneurial businesses, and the framework needed to run for public office. They also provide multiple platforms for mentoring and networking.
It is as mentors that we can help today’s generation of women succeed, says Mary Anne. We can do this through the benefit of our valuable life experiences. We can share our mistakes, what they taught us and how we recovered from them. We can talk about our successes, how to set a goal and achieve it, how to be gracious winners and losers, how to recover from a faux pas.
“Every job is a step on the path to leadership,” Mary Anne says. For example, at age 16, she was a pizza parlor waitress. Management let staff eat for free, not only while they were working, but also when not working -- when they came in with family and friends. Because of this, she says, “management got our loyalty.” Later, she worked at a bank where there was constant pressure to open new accounts. But never once did management ask staff what the customers wanted. Another learning experience: mangers need to recognize the value of each and every employee. Following her presentation, there was a lively discussion about women-in-business issues and other concerns members had.
More about the TWU Women's Leadership Institute:
TWU Institute for Women's Leadership website
“When we believe in someone’s potential and really give them the time and patience, incredible things can happen with just the right tools and people to help them.”—Christine Hunger, speech pathologist, author who taught her dog Stella to talk.