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Photos by David Michael Howarth

Our fourth year hosting our popular Women’s Empowerment Series started with a phenomenal evening packed with guests who listened and learned (and laughed) all night long. The topic was “What Happens When You’re Unstoppable,” and our accomplished panelists spoke openly about the life experiences that brought them to where they are today. Each leader shared her stories, which were all worth hearing.

Panelists: 

Karen McClendon
Regional Vice President of Human Resources, Comcast

Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins
Author/Entrepreneur

Carli Lloyd
U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist

Renee Kendzierski, DO
Women’s Imaging Specialist, SJRA

Lucy Noland
Anchor, FOX29

 Moderator
Marianne Aleardi
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, SJ Magazine

  

On being unstoppable…

I do feel unstoppable, but feeling unstoppable isn’t just something I wake up and feel. For me, it’s confidence, and confidence comes from preparation. When I’m prepared, when I’m confident and focused, that’s when I feel my best. Nothing and no one will ever break that.
Carli Lloyd

I don’t like to use the term unstoppable just because they said the Titanic was unsinkable. But I do feel I can do whatever I set out to do. Because even if things don’t work out how I envision them, I know it will always work out for the best. I make it a point to go after whatever I want, and if it starts to veer in a different direction, I know that the plan is to move me over there, and I’m content with that.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

 

On sexism…

I had news directors literally ask me what my bra size was. That was a while ago. After my last baby – she’s now 18 – I was nursing, and my news director pulled me into his office after the morning show in Detroit, and he said, “How long before those things get smaller?” Can you imagine?  And I said, “I’m nursing, and I’m not going to stop nursing, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”
Lucy Noland

When I was a medical student, we were in a room with a patient who had a lot of bleeding. I was on a surgery rotation with all men and me. The attending surgeon said, “Who’s going to clean this up?” meaning somebody was staying back to clean up and the others were going to scrub in.  All the guys said I would clean it up, and I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there, and I looked to my attending. He said, “No, she’s not.”  And I scrubbed in to the surgery and they stayed back.
Renee KendzierskI

 

  On bad advice…

When I was first graduating, they said, “You’re never going to get hired with that thing on your head.”  But I got hired. And then my director said to me, “Did you have that on when you interviewed?”  And I was completely taken aback, I was young, and I said, “Of course, yes, I did.”  And then he said, “You’re never going to get promoted with that thing on your head.” I thought we were all colleagues and having a good time, so it took me by surprise. But now I have to make sure I’m never taken by surprise, so if something like that happens I know how to respond.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

I experienced more of a lack of advice. Because I wasn’t your typical talented young girl playing soccer, my coaches would leave me on the field if I didn’t give 100 percent because my 80 percent was better than most people’s 100.  So they coddled me and patted me on the back, even though I needed somebody who would criticize me and put me on the bench to teach me some lessons. I wish I had that, because I would have been able to accept criticism better as I got older.
Carli Lloyd

 

On key people in your life…

In the first year of my internship, I did a rotation in neurosurgery. I was in the hospital from 5 am until midnight. Sometimes you were there until 1, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning. I sat down at 3 o’clock in the morning one night with an attending neurosurgeon, and he said, “I have three kids, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been around for their birthdays.” He said when he got home, they would be in bed and he would say to them, “I’m so sorry I missed you blowing out your candles.” And they would say, “Oh daddy, I’m sad you missed it.” But as they got older, they never even woke up when he got home, and he said, “Do you know how that makes me feel?” So I didn’t do neurosurgery.
Renee Kendzierski

Every team I played on, I was pretty much the best player. Then when I got on the Under 21 National Team, which was comprised of all of the best players under 21, I suddenly didn’t know how to handle it. I got cut and was pointing the finger at everyone but me: the coach, the players. I compared myself to other players, saying I’m better than this player and that player, when really that coach did me a good service. To this day I thank him for that, because it taught me a lot of lessons and made me grow up and reevaluate everything.
Carli Lloyd

I reached out to a lot of people, people who were already successful, and I said, “What do I need to do to get to where you are?” They said, “You need to take this course,” so I took that course. Or another said, “You need to do this,” and I did that. Take other’s advice, and make sure if you always get N-O, then it’s time for you to K-N-O-W.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

When I joined corporate America, I had someone who found an interest in me who really helped me in terms of how you dress, how you communicate, what should you be doing to be successful. She helped to shape and mold me, and build my confidence.  She was instrumental for me becoming a VP before I was 30. Without her, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.
Karen McClendon

 

On coping with criticism…

My daughter started a company at 10 years old making hijabs for young girls. She got a lot of great support, and she also got a lot of hateful comments like, “Die,” “Go hang yourself with it.” The backlash was really, really brutal. As a mom, you want to jump in and say, “How dare you say that to a child?” But I didn’t have to because a lot of other people said it. I’m grateful for people who speak up.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

I call them “people behind the keyboard.” They just sit there, and they critique and think they know everything. Sometimes I get angry, but the last couple of years I’ve just tried to stay neutral.
Carli Lloyd

In our offices, patients can give feedback and if the office feedback is good, we get a pizza party. Well, a patient said she didn’t like what I was wearing. I had on a white linen skirt, and it was really pretty, but she called it my hoedown skirt. We lost the pizza party because of me. So I bought the office pizza, and we called it hoedown skirt day. But I never wore that skirt again.
Renee Kendzierski

 

On saying “no”…

I never say no, that’s my problem. I don’t look at my inbox on Facebook, because I get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages every day from people who need things. If I start opening it, I will dedicate every waking hour to trying to help them. So, if they are able to leap over the wall and somehow find me, I’ll help them, because I can. I feel it’s a blessing to be able to, so I always do. If someone has a broken wheelchair and it’s their only method to get around, and I happen to know somebody over at 2nd Street Medical Supply…more often than not we can make that happen. So I can’t say no.
Lucy Noland

 

On advice to your 21-year-old self…

I would tell myself to quickly identify anyone who is not supporting me with positivity.  I think negativity breeds negativity, and you need to quickly pick up scissors and cut them off, very, very, very quickly. I learned that lesson too late in life.
Karen McClendon

I would tell her to understand that life is not fair, but always play to win.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

Funny as it sounds, it wasn’t until after the 2012 Olympics that I believed I could go on to become the best player in the world. I would tell myself to believe in myself, prepare, work hard, and know that if you put your head down and go to work every single day, eventually good things will come your way.
Carli Lloyd

I would say never, ever settle, always give thanks, and revel in the little things.
Lucy Noland

 

On work ethic…

I think as a physician, you have to have a certain work ethic. If I’ve done a biopsy on a patient and their pathology comes back on a Friday evening, you want to make that call on Saturday. My kids know when I’m going to do that and they’re quiet, but I did have one time where my son knew I was on the phone, he was younger, and he started to act up. I had to run to my side porch and close the door. He’s looking at me, banging on the door, and I’m on the phone, holding the door closed. I realized I had to set aside some quiet time once my husband gets home.
Renee Kendzierski

When you’re a work-from-home entrepreneur, there’s no cutoff to the day, it just blends together. It wasn’t until my children started saying, “You’re always on the phone,” that I realized I needed to fix that. I’m working on that. If my kids walk in the room, I put my phone away.
Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins

I work too much, so I constantly work on trying not to work as much as I do. It’s a battle.
Karen McClendon

 

On personal sacrifice…

I’ve given up funerals, birthdays, births, literally everything you can imagine. It’s really tough, it’s tough to be away. I think one year, in 2015 for the World Cup, we were away probably 270 days out of the year. Everyone is like, “Oh my gosh, you get to travel the world, you get to experience so many things,” and I’m like, yes, I saw the airplane, I saw the hotel room, and I saw the soccer fields.  It’s not very glamorous.  It is work. But I’m not going to be doing this forever. I’ve got a couple more years left, and then it will all be worth it, and we can experience a new me.
Carli Lloyd

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