Women in Leadership: A Roundtable Discussion with the Industry’s Top Executives

The office technology ecosystem is blessed to have a small but meaningful cadre of women leaders represented throughout the industry. Championing the cause of the next generation of women in executive positions is a responsibility we all share.

In that spirit—and in conjunction with our August State of the Industry report on women in leadership—we’ve gathered the thoughts of 11 impactful female leaders in the OEM space for a roundtable discussion. With such a large panel of participants, ENX Magazine decided to break the interview into a multi-part series. This week’s installment encompasses their insights into what leadership entails and takes a look at some of their personal female role models.

Our panel consists of the following executives: Kerstin Woods, vice president of solutions and outbound marketing, Toshiba America Business Solutions; Kendra Jones, chief legal and sustainability officer, Epson America; Moonsun Park, CFO and senior vice president of finance, Sharp Electronics Corp.; Melanie Hudson, senior vice president and chief commercial officer, Lexmark International; Charlene Fischer, vice president, U.S. channels, southeast region, Xerox Corp.; Caty Di Maggio, vice president, commercial sales, Brother International; Wylie Van Ness, vice president and general legal counsel, Kyocera Document Solutions America; Jennifer Healy, director, marketing strategy and programs, dealer and partner channel, Ricoh USA; Karin Harrington, senior sales director, Canon U.S.A.; Jennie Fisher, vice president and general manager, office equipment group, GreatAmerica Financial Services; and Laura Blackmer, president, dealer sales, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A.

What does leadership mean to you?

Caty DiMaggio, Brother

Di Maggio: Leadership inspires and influences others to pursue a shared vision through values, empowerment, communication, and most importantly, trust. It is listening to your team and providing transparency on new ventures, motivating and empowering them to persevere through the challenges and the roadblocks in the process. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to fail, but leadership means recognizing failures and coming back tenfold. Show resiliency, perseverance, adaptability and flexibility. Good leaders are those who are able to be a support system in times of crisis but also foster growth and motivation to take their team to the next level. 

Wylie Van Ness, Kyocera

Van Ness: Leadership, to me, is a multifaceted role that requires many different skills. Foremost, it involves leading through hard work and setting a compelling example for others to follow. It requires the ability to craft a clear vision and navigate the path toward its successful execution, while also embracing a team approach that values collaboration and leverages diverse perspectives. A true leader also prioritizes the growth and development of her team, creating opportunities for them to excel and reach their full potential. Moreover, I believe that through providing unwavering support to peers, one can foster a culture of trust and camaraderie. A commitment to excellence permeates every aspect of leadership, which, accompanied by open communication and transparency, facilitates trust-building and alignment within the team.

Jennifer Healy, Ricoh

Healy: Leadership, to me, means inspiring and guiding a team or an individual toward a shared objective through collaboration. A true leader leverages the strengths of individuals and allows them to flourish and add value to the organizational goals while continuing to work with them on areas of development. Furthermore, effective leadership fosters unity and shared purpose, which allows team members to work together to achieve a greater outcome than could be done alone. Those individuals who think selflessly, acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses, allow bi-directional communication and creativity, foster collaboration and are passionate will build a natural followership.

Laura Blackmer, Konica Minolta

Blackmer: Leadership to me is about finding a common vision and purpose for the work we do. It’s helping the organization and its individuals achieve beyond their potential, and being present and available in both the difficult times and the good times. It’s also about accepting your own vulnerabilities and looking for opportunities to create a system that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Karin Harrington, Canon

Harrington: To be a leader, you need to be able to inspire and motivate people, but with the intention of actually achieving a goal. There should be an end game, a mission, a goal, that you’re trying to lead people toward achieving. I also think a leader is someone who is authentic and has a strong capability to build relationships.

Who is/was the biggest female influence in your career, and what leadership cues did you take from her?

Jennie Fisher, GreatAmerica

Fisher: While we often don’t wish to share our marginal experiences, I strongly believe doing so helps us learn from them. I think about a leader I had for a period of time who taught me a great deal about how not to lead. This person had a “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. They had elevated expectations of others but didn’t hold themselves to those expectations. In working under this leadership style, I quickly began to understand the qualities my leader was lacking, and the absence of those qualities brought light to what kind of support I needed to help me develop and excel. This experience helped form the leadership style I have today, and as I naturally began to mentor others, it was a good reminder of how my thoughts, actions and directives as a leader could impact those I lead, either positively or negatively.

Kerstin Woods, Toshiba

Woods: With a background in mechanical engineering and working in IT my whole career, female mentors have been unfortunately very rare. I’ve been especially grateful for the male mentors that I’ve had who fostered talent based on merit and never made me feel as though I didn’t deserve a seat at the table. Nor did they make me feel like I’d get a seat just based on my gender, which is equally as important a message.  I did have one specific female mentor when I was at Sun Microsystems who was very impactful for me. She was one of the highest-ranking females in their services organization and she was also a mom. It was the first time that I saw in real-life that it was possible to do both, and it was very inspiring.  She led with both grace and strength in a beautiful combination that was immensely powerful, and she was not shy about balancing work and family. We need more authentic leaders who can show the next generation that it’s possible to be a woman executive.

Kendra Jones, Epson

Jones: Andrea Zoeckler, Epson’s COO/CFO has been the biggest female influence in my career.  She has been extremely supportive since I joined Epson eight years ago, and she has given me the vision, inspiration and friendship to take my role to the next level. Like me, Andrea started out in a specific discipline (accounting) and for me, that was law. But she has evolved her career to COO, with responsibility beyond finance to a huge range of operational disciplines within Epson. Seeing her do this through her relentless passion for learning, “roll your sleeves up” hard work approach and willingness to step up and take on huge challenges outside her original area of expertise gave me the confidence to do the same. Now, with my new role encompassing sustainability, I am following her leadership cues – adopting a continuous learning mentality, working hard then harder and having the confidence to leverage core leadership strengths across new disciplines.

Moonsun Park, Sharp

Park: I have a female mentor who was a CFO for most of her career. She thrived in organizations where she had to consistently prove herself, not just as a leader, but as a female leader. My mentor has given me strength when I felt like I failed as a leader. She shared with me that all leaders learn from both successes and failures. It’s rare that I notice that I am the only female “in the room” and I believe it’s because of my mentor’s advice to make a difference and not focus on the differences.

Melanie Hudson, Lexmark

Hudson: My mother was the person who influenced me the most. She is such a strong person, constantly dealing with whatever comes her way gracefully. She did not attend a university and always regretted it, advising me often that I should ensure I could stand on my own two feet and “be independent.” She also instilled a “mind over matter” approach in me, which has served me well throughout my career, which essentially means using the mind to overcome adversity. 

Charlene Fischer, Xerox

Fischer: Anne Mulcahy was a significant influence on my career as a young manager at Xerox. She showed what it means to really listen to your employees, customers and shareholders, especially during challenging times, and what could be accomplished as a result. Anne also demonstrated that, with transparency and frankness about the task ahead, you can gain significant support from those in your organization, enabling the company to achieve even the most ambitious goals.

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.