Gina Cotton 2018 Philadelphia Business Journal Women of Distinction Award Winner

The Philadelphia Business Journal turns the spotlight annually on influential businesswomen in our region through their Women of Distinction Awards.

In 2018, they received about 300 nominations and selected 35 women for this year’s Women of Distinction class.

They select women from every industry and profession looking for professional achievement, dedication to mentorship and community involvement.

Congratulations Gina!

Each of the 2018 Women of Distinction were profiled in the Nov. 16 issue of the Philadelphia Business Journal – In their own words:

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would tell myself to have more fun and enjoy being 18! From the time I finished high school I was on a mission to have a career, whatever that meant to me back then, and fun did not seem to make its way too far up on the priority list.

What does being a Woman of Distinction mean to you?
Having been honored in this way is humbling and I am grateful to all those that have challenged and believed in me throughout my career. If I were to describe what a Woman of Distinction would be to me, it would be a woman who makes a difference in her life and the life of those around her through a constant and continuous effort for goodness and greatness. I would also say it is a woman who doesn’t let being a woman get in the way. She understands that we have a prominent place without giving up who we are.

What obstacles have you faced in reaching your current position?
The obstacle of fear that I should or could take a position such as this and still be the kind of mom I want to be. There definitely are trade-offs but have come to realize that it is more about being who you are because that is the best gift you can give your children.

If you had one piece of advice to tell further classes of the program, what would it be?
If you’re like me, you have a hard time saying no. Read the book essentialism by Greg McKeown. It was recommended to me and I hope that you will find it worthwhile.

What motivates you?
At its core I believe it is a relentless desire for improvement and service to others. Being in the accounting profession which is primarily a support role within an organization aligns well with what motivates me.

Give us one fun fact about you that I wouldn’t find in a bio:
I still remember how to tap dance. Growing up I spent years taking dance lessons. Now I am a dance mom. So happy that my daughter has found a passion for the art of dance. She and I find ourselves tapping in the kitchen from time to time. (Or she and I enjoy a riff now and again.)

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
The ability to not just build a team but build the right team that is aligned with the leader’s objectives, passion and vision; empowering them and creating a collaborative environment. I read this quote about collaboration and think it is so true. “People own what they create.”

What is the biggest challenge facing women leaders?
Professionally, I haven’t really felt bias because I am a woman but do believe woman leaders face the challenge of just being in the minority. It can sometimes be isolating and forging the types of business relationships men are able to can be limiting in comparison. I think the reasons more women are not in leadership positions is the struggle between caretaker and career. I also think there still is a bit of a stigma on whether a woman is the right “man” for the job from a commitment and dedication perspective. I do believe that is turning around though as more men today are prioritizing a work/life balance.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I sit on the board of an elementary school. Although it is a way of sharing my talent and treasure for something that is very important to me, I also look at it as a development opportunity. Through this association I can collaborate with people of different professions and learn about the role and practices of a board.

Through the example of a colleague, I have a new-found passion to read books that focus on awareness and self-development. There is so much to learn from the wisdom of others.

I am also realizing that reaching a position of leadership gives me a bigger voice that I need to use to influence a discussion I might feel committed to. Flexibility in the workplace for women and men for that matter is a charge I hope to champion even if in a very small way. Women in the workplace want to maintain the kind of job that is equal to what they trained for yet have flexibility to do other things that are important to them. It is not an easy question to answer especially for smaller organizations. The one thing I am committed to do develop is that voice to at least explore an answer as opposed to just saying something isn’t possible.

Did you have a mentor? Do you mentor anyone?
I can’t say I ever had a formal “mentor” but cherish the working relationship I had with my first boss in my first real job. His leadership style I remember to this day was one of inclusion, opportunity, and caring. He was a teacher in the way he provided challenges, demanded accountability, and shared knowledge. He went so far as to send me on a job interview with a friend of his because he felt it was a good career move for me. I didn’t get the job but that made him a mentor in my book.

As I reminisce about my first mentor it seems that is the way I feel I mentor. It is most important to me that the team of people I lead understand that their continued growth and success is top priority and I try to provide the time and thoughtfulness to help them achieve whatever level of success they are interested in driving towards.

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