Empowering women business leaders

At Blue Wagon Group, we believe in empowering and celebrating strong, working women. In honor of National Business Women’s Week, Oct. 17-23, we asked Susan Matthews Apgood for her advice to women looking to lead and succeed in business. 

Apgood has served on the adjunct faculty at American University since 2016, teaching an intro to business course. Her students often come to her for advice and guidance on the challenges of navigating the business world as a woman.

Seeing the need for more information and education, she began collaborating with a colleague to create and co-teach a “Women in Organizational Leadership” course. Through extensive research, the two were able to create learning pillars they believe most beneficial to learn for women in business.

The course’s success led Apgood to create workshops for women within all stages of their careers around the topic of women in organizational leadership. Her workshops dive into subjects such as imposter syndrome, confidence, home responsibilities, and mentorship. These workshops focus on awareness – encouraging women in the workforce to see what is really going on within their organizations and to cultivate change based on that awareness of different behaviors being projected towards them.

“Women tend to want to take up less space and attempt to make everyone else happy without acknowledging personal needs and wants,” Apgood says. “Women need to pay attention to our surroundings and become more aware of the actions of others and their impact.” 

Apgood explains it is important to get to know those you work with to understand the whole person. “It’s amazing to me how many leaders don’t care about the people that we are. It is extremely important to understand those within the organization outside of the workplace, caring for the whole person.”

“External factors affect women every day, and when a leader doesn’t recognize this is when problems can arise,” she says. “Women in the workplace tend to diminish their own external problems due to fear of being minimized within their organizations.”

Apgood recommends striving to instill a culture of transparency and support so you can get to know your employees and peers: 

  • Be cognizant that people have a life outside of work that could be affecting them within the workplace.
  • Ask people if they are okay and give room for an answer.
  • Cultivate a comforting environment to open the window for further discussion and understanding.
  • Allow individuals to feel understood and aid in problem solving.

“Having women in leadership roles can provide many benefits for an organization,” Apgood contends. “Women are nurturing, understanding, and problem solvers. Women are motivated to create change rather than a quick fix.”  

Asked for one piece of advice to the next generation of female leaders, Apgood says, “Go for it!”

“There is never a perfect time to take the leap,” she says. “Just do it. Women are missing out on opportunities purely because they think they cannot do something. Women think they have to be perfect when entering a job and that there’s no room for learning to take place. Women have the idea you must be a star from day one or you aren’t qualified.”

Apgood adheres to the quote, ‘don’t let perfection get in the way of progress,’ and offers that maxim to all working women. “Do not be afraid to ask for advice or guidance – it is what will help you grow as an individual and a leader.”

About Susan Matthews Apgood: Apgood founded News Generation in 1997 as an issue-driven media relations firm specializing in satellite media tours, radio media tours, audio news releases, and public service announcements for associations, non-profits, government agencies, and clients of pr firms. In April 2020, News Generation was acquired by 4MediaGroup, where Apgood now serves as executive vice president of client engagement. She is active in a number of professional groups, including the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter and Washington Women in Public Relations. Apgood is an adjunct professor in the Kogod School of Business at American University and a facilitator with Her Corner, a business coaching program specifically for women business owners. She earned her MBA from American University and bachelor’s in economics from George Washington University.

About the author:  Katelyn Helton is a graduate student at High Point University, studying communication and business leadership.