Mar 08

International Women’s Day Feature: Pamela Parriott

03 / 08 / 20

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Since its inception in the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has been all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action. It also marks the beginning of National Women’s History Month in the United States where we celebrate the contributions of women and girls during the month of March. 

To celebrate, KConnect is highlighting its President, Pamela Parriott, as she answers questions about life and leadership, and offers advice for the next generation of strong leaders. 

What are your responsibilities and achievements in your career and specifically at KConnect? 

My most important responsibilities and achievements are being a full partner and parent in my own home. Raising six kids who are healthy and have a sense of their own personal agency is no small undertaking. Another key responsibility is my life-long commitment to creating a stronger trajectory of access, achievement, and prosperity for all children and youth. That has been a consistent driving force throughout my life and career.

I think one of the greatest achievements in my career has been the work of transforming schools from places that were not inspiring of dreams and excellence to places that were vibrant from a holistic perspective; climate, culture, academic and experiential learning. That was a work of love that in many ways transitioned very well into my work with KConnect which I lead today. I believe that KConnect is in fact, in the process of creating another “great achievement” through the housing stability initiative that we are facilitating. When we shift that trajectory for children and families, it will be one for the list!

What was your dream job as a kid and why?

I was always the kid who was doodling, drawing, painting, or writing so the arts were a natural part of my fabric. I really thought I’d end up in architecture or design. While I would never have thought of it as a child, I do put my love for creativity to use today in the work of bringing people together to dissolve complex social problems.  

What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in leadership positions?

Access. Women are incredibly resourceful, communicative, empathetic, creative, hard-working, and masterful at time management. Who wouldn’t want that list topping their management team? Once we’re in the door, we make it happen. I certainly stand on the shoulders of my sisters who came before and rose to leadership despite these challenges. By the way, if I had to pick a second, it would be self-care. I meet so many women who are over-scheduled, over-committed, and overloaded. Building in time for ourselves, slowing down, taking stock and perspective gathering are essential and necessary pieces to leading others well and creating healthy work environments.

What qualities make a great leader? 

An inclusive mindset, courage, integrity, vision, candor, and compassion. 

What woman inspires you and why?

When asked this question I have had a tendency to look back to women from the past who have inspired me through their work or lives, but in more recent times, I like to think of younger, emerging women who inspire me. One such young woman is Malala Yousafzai. I am hard-pressed to think of a person that has risked more – literally her own very young life – to stand for her belief that education should be a basic human right. I hold courage in high regard and she is the definition of that word. Simply an incredible woman. Begs the question, as a leader, what am I willing to risk in standing up for basic human rights?

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

Behind every storm there is the daylight after. I think we are in a time of considerable change – from seemingly smaller things such as our transactional life and currency to our technological advancements and the potential for increased AI to large scale changes such as population dynamics and the impact of global warming (yes I am a believer!). 

I believe that these current-day challenges will give rise to a generation of new and different leadership opportunities, particularly for women who often find collaboration, teamwork, and open communication to be natural areas of strength. By nature of the term, leadership is about people – bringing them through something, together, and ultimately to a better (safer, more equitable, more productive, more effective, etc) place. 

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women who are starting their careers? 

It’s the advice I give now; keep the first things first and don’t lose sight of them; essentially your values. The world of work, leadership as a woman, and all the other parts and pieces of who we are, can co-exist – even thrive – across the many pivots and shifts throughout your career but to keep the first things first, you have to know what they are.