Stepping Up in Times of Crisis: Insight from 4 Women Leaders

Vicki Fuller, Melissa Bean, Sharon RamalhoAngela May-Miller

What does it take to lead in a time of crisis? On May 12, the Roosevelt University Women’s Leadership Council invited four prominent business leaders to discuss how they were guiding their organizations through the pandemic. Over 430 people registered for the virtual event.

“I earnestly believe that women lead differently,” said Roosevelt trustee and alumna Vicki Fuller (BS ’79), who moderated the discussion. “Our approach is sorely needed during the worst crisis many of us have experienced in our lifetimes.”

The leadership journey

During the webinar, the panelists offered insight into their paths to their current roles.

Sharon Ramalho drew on her 35 years of experience with one of the most recognized global brands as the retired senior vice president and chief people officer of McDonald’s Canada. She stressed the importance of finding a mentor who can support your growth.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your peers for constructive criticism,” Ramalho said. “Really learn how to listen.”

Panelist Melissa Bean (BA ’02) is the chief executive officer of Mesirow Financial Wealth Advisors. During her three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, she was known in Congress and the business community as the “go-to” leader for practical, nonpartisan policy.

“Being that go-to person in the office shows that your peers can rely on you,” said Bean. “When others know they can rely on you, more opportunities come up.”

What makes a true leader?

Angela Miller-May serves as the chief investment officer of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, which serves more than 88,000 members and administers benefits of almost $1.5 billion a year. She reflected on the importance of humility and thorough preparation on her journey to the top.

“Constantly prepare yourself,” Miller-May said. “No matter what the situation is, always be prepared.”

Bean’s advice to aspiring leaders was to think first, speak second. “Communication doesn’t mean speaking all the time,” she added. “It’s about facilitation.”

For Ramalho, successful leadership depends on more than pure logic — especially in times of crisis. “Leadership is leading with your head, your heart and your gut,” she said.

“Stepping Up to Lead was a great success,” said Roosevelt trustee Ann Ford, co-chair of the Council. “It addressed relevant and timely topics through engaging and experienced leaders. It also served the guiding principles of the Women’s Leadership Council, most acutely that of fostering personal and professional growth.”

Roosevelt’s New Book Club

On June 1, the Women’s Leadership Council is launching a book club to connect the Roosevelt community, discuss important topics and learn from each other. Our first book selection is Becoming by Michelle Obama.

To receive more information and join the discussion, contact us at alum@roosevelt.ed