For Women’s History Month, we are celebrating the inspiring and hard-working women at Businessover who are helping to create the success of the company each and every day, including our Chief Strategy Officer, Rae Shanahan.
Rae has worked tirelessly to not only improve how Businessolver operates, but she has become a thought leader in the HR/benefits realm as a whole, modeling empathetic leadership tactics that have been proven to increase employee retention, work production, and overall wellness in the workplace.
Rae has also championed transforming Businessolver’s culture and employee engagement strategy to highlight strength-focused management tactics as well as developing revolutionary team structures that are improving the way Businessolver can service clients, ensuring delight and keeping communication open, honest, and transparent.
We sat down with Rae to chat about her professional career and personal journey as well as highlight her role models and her advice for the future leaders.
What were the biggest hurdles in your professional career at Businessolver? How did you overcome them?
I actually want to go back to the beginning of my career, to my first professional job. Out of college, I went to work for Maytag Company. At that point, there were very few professional women in leadership positions there; in 1990 many were mostly in administrative roles. Graduating college and starting in a professional role as a woman, I faced the challenge of not allowing others to place me in the role they generally thought of women in. The image that presented itself when some of these guys thought about women in the workplace looked different than me. Change is difficult for people. It was also difficult to have to be on the continuing end of change in certain industries. Even though I was young, in fact especially because I was young, I had to prove that I was competent being in a professional role.
What has been your greatest moment at Businessolver?
Every day. I am serious; over the course of 18 years, it's fun to see how everyone evolves and see the success people have. It’s a wonderful place to be.
Businessolver is somewhat unique with so many women in top positions. Was this part of the hiring strategy? If so, why? What has the company gained because of this?
Do I say it was intentional? No, but it made sense. Here's why: Jon and Sean were founders of the company and I came on board in 2000 when we were really starting to grow and ramp up. We had a lot of positions to fill and a lot of work to do. Plus, we were on the edge of the industry, changing and adapting all the time. It was a whirlwind! We wanted to hire good, smart, adaptable people with a growth-oriented state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you're male, female, what race or gender - it doesn't matter. What matters most is that you have the right spirit and attitude. What ended up happening is that women rose to the top because of their drive, innovation, and overall attitude. It wasn’t intentional, it just worked.
Why do you think it’s important to have women in positions of power in a company (and the world)?
I believe there needs to be more thoughtful and empathetic people leading organizations that understand how they want to engage their employees, both women and men. If you aren’t empathetic, if you aren’t hiring good people who can push you and your business forward, and if you aren’t looking around you at the changes in the world and adapting and pivoting to grow, then you shouldn’t be a leader in the first place.
What is your ideal future for women in the workplace?
My vision for the future is that we no longer need to ask this question. Women will just be in the future of the workplace. No questions asked.
What woman/women in history do you admire most and why?
When I thought about this question, I instantly went back to high school. I did a research paper for one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Spiker, on Harriet Tubman. One of the quotes that has always stayed with me is, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." I’ve always remembered that message, and it's something I’ve thought about over the years and have tried to embody in my everyday work. Sometimes we can find it hard to admit, but I’m proud to say, I am working hard to change the world, every day I work hard to give others the opportunity to succeed and I strive to push myself to keep improving my strengths, listening to my peers and employees, and to reach for the stars.
What woman/women inspired you to be the leader you are today?
I'd have to say it's two wonderful women: Anne Wignall, who was another professional woman I worked with at Maytag for a couple years and I always thought, she exuded such poise and professionalism throughout her career. I really respected her. About 4 years ago she introduced me to Cy Wakeman. I’ve been working very closely with Cy, and she has really changed the way I approach leadership. She’s been a revolutionary mentor and has truly inspired me along my journey.
What advice would you give to women following in your footsteps?
It's ok to be real. True performers are going to succeed in spite of their circumstances. Sometimes it's easy to blame things on other people but whether you are a woman or a man, you need to believe in yourself and believe that you can succeed.
If you could give advice to your 20-year-old self, what would that be?
I lived and learned a lot; I wouldn’t change a thing. But some advice I would give to myself would probably be have a little more fun and don't be quite so serious. I was a pretty serious 20-year-old. I graduated from school early and I had my first professional job before graduation and started working right away. The positive end of that is where I am today. But, I must admit, I was pretty intense. (laughs)