By Hannah Lester
The Opelika Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Council hosted Leslie Sanders as the guest speaker for its Keynote Luncheon on Oct. 20.
The Women’s Business Council was developed in 2016 and provides programs to women in business and the community like the Keynote Luncheon or the upcoming sport series: self defense class.
“The Women’s Business Council was formed to promote participation and leadership of women at all levels in the workplace, community and in government,” said President and CEO of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, Ali Rauch.
Sanders is the vice president of the Southern Division of the Alabama Power Company and was invited originally to speak in April, when the luncheon was supposed to be held. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was rescheduled to October.
“This is the first [post-COVID discussion] that I have had the opportunity to do, so I’m thrilled to be here,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that she has changed since the pandemic began and expected that the audience had too. So she decided she would change the topic of her discussion.
Despite the negatives of the pandemic, Sanders said she was able to learn a lot about herself and how to proceed with her goals and career.
Sanders encouraged the women in the room to stay true to their core values.
“If you look at your own core principles, and I know that sounds so basic, but when you look at that, you will determine the difference between success and achievement,” she said.
Years ago, stuck in a career that was unfulfilling, Sanders looked at her life and principles and was willing to break away — into something that would lead to her long-term success, she said.
“[Steve Jobs] said the only way to be truly satisfied is to believe that you do great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Sanders said.
The phrase, ‘can you have it all?’ is often used to remind people to focus on one aspect of life over another, Sanders said. Choosing family over work, or work over family.
“I just want to plant this in your mind that you can have your ‘it,’” she said.
Sanders said that she believes women, and men, can have it all.
“That really relates to some gender equality,” she said.
There can be a lot of “it”s, Sanders said: to be a great mom, to succeed in your career, to lose weight.
“A lot of my training and thought process has been, either/or,” she said. “You either travel, you don’t get home at 3:30, have cookies made. If you don’t do this, if you have to put your children in daycare, you’re not a good mom, right?”
Sanders said that society also says that fathers who want to take an equivalent paternity leave or be stay-at-home dads are seen as lesser men.
There doesn’t have to be a choice, Sanders said, between career and family. In fact, Sanders hopes employees will have a balance.
“I believe that if I have an employee that was totally focused on work, then that employee would lack some of the qualities that I value: patience, empathy, understanding, strategy. If I had an employee that totally focused on the family, I would wonder why they were there. When you have employees that focus on both, those are the kind of employees that get it.”
One way to help find the balance, Sanders said, was taking time for herself.
“For me, personally, that meant devotion time. Spending time with the Lord, just talking,” she said.
She talked about her needs and desires and said she started to feel more at peace. Sanders was able to focus on her core values and find balance.
The Keynote Luncheon is held annually, and the next Women’s Business Council event is set for Nov. 5. Sgt. Pam Revels, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, will lead a self-defense seminar. The event will be followed by networking and wine at Ampersand.
For more information, visit the chamber website (www.opelikachamber.com).