On International Women’s Day, Panthers inspire from the top

“Never compete against your peers,” she shared. “Compete against yourself and you’ll go a long way.”

It’s a valuable but tough lesson to remember for a subset of the workforce—especially in sports—that is underrepresented and too often held up against one another for measurement of merit. This though is why it was so important to Tepper to create not only her own role upon arrival in Charlotte, but one that would serve the larger community, particularly those other women around her.

“I was a tomboy. I wanted to play Pop Warner football. I loved it from the day I was literally born. I drove my mother crazy; I wanted to wear eye black and my shoulder pads and a helmet,” Tepper laughed. Still when she joined her husband Dave in ownership of the Panthers, she was careful, creating a place through time and patience, knowing if she wanted to be a woman at the top, she’d have to earn the respect of those along the way.

“I just wanted to sit in meetings. I wanted to know how the inside of these walls work, how each employee thinks, the departments work,” Tepper continued. “They’re here longer than me. There’re employees that have been here for 30 years. So, I really wanted to give them that perspective, showing me how it really operates and then slowly developing this role.”

Perspective was a key word on the day. Heather Hucks, vice president of consumer connections at Coca Cola Consolidated, in true marketing style, offered three “P’s” to the women in the room, on how to maintain their role in business and in the world, two entities that demand all and more from the women in charge.

Perspective was her first P, then prioritization and partnership.

“There are always times in your career, you are going to be the only woman in the room, the only woman in the meeting,” Hucks said. During those times, she continued, you had to draw on all you’d learned before to react with wisdom, not ego.

Prioritization means understanding there is no such thing as a true work-life balance. Instead, prioritize what’s most important and work around those things.

And finally, partnership; find allies in other women. Perhaps just as important, find allies in the men around you. “You can have as many women in your corner as you want. But if they’re not in that boardroom with you, to support you and give you credibility and to back you up—” what’s the point?

It was said of Ginger Rogers, longtime dance partner of Fred Astaire, that she could do everything Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. In other words, she could match everything a man at the top of his game was doing but add an extra degree of difficulty to it all.

The world of women in sports, particularly the NFL, has grown exponentially in recent years, with those in both leadership roles, football operations roles and even coaching roles, increasing end over end since 2020. The ability to break through is still tough at times. The mobility within an organization can seem daunting more often than not. And there inevitably is still times we fall. But with each woman that steps into the room, there is another hand to pick us back up and help us walk through the door.

First appeared on www.panthers.com

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