I am back in Cambodia, my third visit here in less than 18 months.  I am smitten with this country and its people, and committed to spreading the word about the important work being done by The Harpswell Foundation (http://harpswellfoundation.org/)  to “Empower the Next Generation of Women Leaders in Cambodia.”

Last weekend, I was privileged to host two executives from the Dow Corning Corporation, Suzanne and Scott Fuson, as they presented a leadership seminar to the 81 young women living at the Harpswell Dormatory and Leadership Centers in Phnom Penh.  Suzanne and Scott currently reside in Singapore, and early this year they committed to traveling to Cambodia to speak to the students.  The focus of their program was to talk to these smart and ambitious university students about how they were able to successfully combine two busy careers and raising two great kids, as well as share their wisdom on managing one’s own career.

Before their presentations, we had a pizza party. Pizza is always a hit with Harpswell girls!

On the top floor of the dormitory is The Hall of Great Women Leaders where we gathered to hear Scott and Suzanne speak. Each shared their career journey. Scott explained how their family had moved many times for Dow Corning, including stays in France, Belgium, and now Singapore. This gave them perspective on life outside the United States, a useful and increasingly critical leadership dimension in a global company.

Suzanne explained how, in her opinion, women lead differently than men. To help with translation, she held her arm out to the side in a “come with me” kind of motion while walking across the front of the room saying women tend to “lead from the side.”  She then turned and marched across the room while telling us that men often “lead from the front”—and expect people to follow them without the personal connection and encouragement so prevalent in women’s style of leadership.

As I listened from the back of the room to my former colleagues telling their story, I watched one young lady in the last row taking furious notes on advice from Suzanne projected on a screen in a PowerPoint slide. Advice such as “know your core values.” Take jobs which will force you to learn new skills, even if you are afraid of failing. Realize that no one cares as much about your career as you do—don’t rely on someone else to manage it. Be patient and find the right life partner—one who supports your career and is a partner in managing the family.

Suzanne then showed a slide which illustrated four quadrants of one’s life which need to be in balance: health and spirituality, family and relationships, career, and community involvement.  One piece of advice seemed especially heartfelt and meaningful to both she and Scott: of all the roles a woman takes on, there is only one role in which she cannot be replaced: her role as a wife and a mother. So pay attention to how much time you spend at work and don’t short-change the time you spend with your spouse and your children.  Scott stood up and interjected that this advice applies to men as husbands and fathers, not just to women. Thank you, Scott!

We closed the session with Scott leading the group in what he refers to as his “Yeah-Boo” exercise. It was a great way to demonstrate the importance of both positive and negative feedback when leading people. This part of the program required no interpretation, and the students were energetic participants!

On behalf of myself and The Harpswell Foundation, I would like to thank Suzanne and Scott for sharing their wisdom about both family and careers with this “next generation of women leaders in Cambodia!”

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