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Four Exceptional Leaders Join Forces for International Women's Day


Joy Lyu Monohan, Julie Harris, Feyi Olopade Ayodele, Karen E. Dunning and Seema Ackerman pose for a photo after the Q&A discussion

March 8, 2017– Chicago, IL- There's no better way to celebrate International Women's Day than surrounded by inspired women. That's what happened on Monday, March 6 at Motorola Solutions during the “Female Leaders: Rise to the Top” event sponsored by the Exceptional Women's Network. 

Feyi Olopade Ayodele, CEO, CancerIQ joined Seema Ackerman, VP, Goldman Sachs; Karen E. Dunning, VP, Motorola; Joy Lyu Monohan, General Counsel and Director of Special Project, World Business Chicago for a Q&A discussion led by Julie Harris infused with humor and advice. The dialogue centered on female leadership and the panelists did not shy away from the real problem with work-life balance, taking risks, diversity and the beauty of having a virtual assistant.

Below is a selection of the evening’s best comments:

On advocating for yourself:

Feyi: “I realized that I’m not [bragging about myself] enough. I’m a female founder of a company in which women are in the dramatic minority. And I’ve realized that I need to start advocating for myself and the successes of CancerIQ because that’s how I’m going to get more women to start working for me.”

Joy: “Over the course of my career it’s been valuable for me to have a group of women that can promote and advocate for one another.”

On transitioning careers:

Seema: “If you’re going to do it, knock it out of the park.”

Feyi: “Whatever you do, remember you are developing a skill that you can always apply to another industry. Don’t think you need to take a step back; it’s about how you frame it to your potential employer.”


On taking risks:

Feyi: “When you reach a point in your career in which you have multiple options going forward, that’s the best time to take a risk. And I was lucky enough to do that.”

Seema: “I took a risk by having two children in the career that I’m in. But it’s important to acknowledge at a women’s panel that science isn’t going to change.”

On managing teams:

Karen: ”While leading teams, accept the fact that all people are very different. Channel what all women do very well which is understand where someone else is coming from.”

Feyi: “Remember what it was like to be managed. Think back to the best and worst bosses you ever had and pull from those experiences to be the type of leader you want to be."

Seema: “Empathy is the number one thing you need while managing people.”

On criticism:

Karen: “You can’t take criticism personally. It’s always an opportunity to grow and become better. I truly believe that people want to help you. And if you believe that, then you'll welcome criticism.”

On work-life balance:

Feyi: “ I use every automated internet service I can find. Amazon stock and save to restock my kitchen, Blue Apron for cooking, I even have a virtual assistant who basically planned my wedding. You do what you have to do to keep everyone happy.”

Below, Feyi comments on why every female leader should be unapologetic and how she became the 14th African American woman to raise more than $1 million in venture capital.