Score CEO Connects Women in Business

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Being a woman in business doesn’t come without its challenges, and Score CEO Bridget Weston says those hurdles need to be shared.

“There is a power in sharing our experiences and learning from what worked and I think even more importantly, what didn’t work,” Weston said during the NEO Women Connect Lunch, Learn and Network event Sept. 27. “I’ve been the beneficiary of many strong women who have opened up to me and shared what happened and what worked for them.”

More than 130 women attended the networking event on Kent State University’s Stark campus in North Canton.

Pat Ripple, Score Canton mentor and the event  organizer, said the conference has been held since 2017 but this was the first year since onset of the pandemic that it was held in person. The event also featured a business expo with local vendors ranging from boutiques to bank branches.

Ripple said the purpose of the event was clear in the title: lunch, learn and network.

“I think we accomplished our mission of just getting people talking and connecting and hopefully furthering businesses and careers. That’s our goal,” Ripple said.

Weston, the keynote speaker, highlighted the trials and tribulations she experienced in her journey to CEO of the national business mentoring organization.

“I am a firm believer in the power of speaking up about what your problems are. Because there’s either someone in the room that can help you because they’ve been there through it. Or you’re going to help someone else by sharing the experience,” Weston said.

Weston shared her experience of having her thoughts and ideas be brushed aside by male peers, making less than her male coworkers and often being “the only woman at the table.”

Early in her career, she said, “I would speak up about an idea and have it ignored or brushed aside just to have a man share that same idea days or moments later and be praised for his awesome thought. I was in meetings and asked to take notes because my typing skills were the best in the room,” she recalled.

In her 10 years at Score, Weston led the marketing and communications team, oversaw the centralization of field accounting functions and worked with congressional staff to secure continued federal funding for Score.

Weston became CEO in July 2020 – a promotion she said was especially daunting because of Score’s largely male presence. “As a younger female coming in to lead Score, a volunteer organization where the majority of volunteers are retired men, that presented some challenges.”

She recalled being questioned if she were ready to assume the responsibility of the position because she was a mother going through a divorce at the time, a factor she said would not be questioned if she weren’t a woman.

Women have innate leadership qualities, according to Weston. She said women tend be to clear communicators and problem solvers and have a knack for reading emotions.

“It seems to me that the world is turning more to women to lead organizations through times of drastic change. And that makes sense to me. We as women have the right leadership qualities for navigating a crisis,” Weston said. “We tend to be strong and transparent communicators and many of us have an innate ability to read and understand people’s emotions. We can think outside the box and find solutions. And these are the qualities needed in today’s leaders.”

Weston said that women are often viewed as one thing or another – a mother, a strong professional, a leader – but she argues that women are all of the above. Her mother, who served as a state representative in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, gave her an example of making your children your first priority while being a successful business professional.

“She was the one that taught me to embrace my contradictions. It’s our contradictions that make us our true and whole selves. You can be strong and feminine,” she said. “You can be a mother and a boss.”

Weston is a mother to an 8-year-old boy, who she said comes before her work.

Her speech emphasized a common theme of the day: the multifaceted nature of women in business. The event featured two breakout panels. One focused on the journey to “becoming your best self.” The other explained the importance of delegating and not taking on every task yourself as an entrepreneur.

Marianne Senvisky, a panelist and chief navigator of Pathfinder Career Consulting, based in Kent, said that women tend to try and take on every task but she learned the power of delegation.

“Women aren’t required to do it all, you know. They’ll say, ‘I’ve got this. I don’t need help. It’s easier if I do it myself.’ But it’s really a strength to ask for help,” Senvisky said.

Senvisky started her consulting business after being laid off from her job in 2018. She said the bump in the road gave her two choices: find another employer to rescue her or take her future into her own hands.

“I spent most of my career in workforce development helping people of all abilities find meaningful employment. That’s my mission,” she said. “This unemployment ended up turning into an unexpected field. It’s hard to put a positive spin on something like that. But I really tried to look at it that way because it gave me the time and the space to reflect on what I wanted to do next.”

Senvisky has managed community employment programs for United Disability Services and Benchmark Human Services and has a background in business development, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship.

She said delegating tasks that weren’t her strong suit, such as accounting and taxes, was an important step to creating a successful business. “I want to take care of my clients. I want to help them reach their vocational goals. That’s what I want to spend my time on – not doing things like accounting for hours or figuring out and setting up an Excel spreadsheet.”

Lisa McGuthry, another panelist and “serial entrepreneur,” also realized the beauty of asking for help when she established her Cleveland-based businesses: Our Favorite Things Boutique and Event Center, Signature Events Venue & Catering and Wholehearted Transportation Services.

McGuthry came from the education sector and spent 15 years teaching before becoming a business owner. She said she began to find success after
she identified the need she was filling in her community and began to operate her business with a purpose.

“Once I found out what my purpose was, what problem I was meeting in the community, who my target market was, that’s when I began to see the scale. And I began to grow,” McGuthry said. “And once I grew, that’s when I had the issues of ‘Who’s going to take care of all of this?’”

McGuthry quickly realized that she needed a “tribe” of employees to perform day-to-day operations so she could focus on her new role as a business owner.

“What I’ve learned is to work on my business, not in it,” she said. McGuthry said working “on” her business includes hiring and training a dedicated staff that can perform necessary tasks with the same heart and same quality that she would.

Pictured at top: Score CEO Bridget Weston rose through the ranks.