By Katie Beary | Heartland regional marketing manager, Gallagher Benefit Service Inc.

I grew up bonding with my girlfriends over a variety of favorite songs like "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Wannabe." Fast-forward to my adult years and the one song that most resonates with my professional drive is Miranda Lambert’s "Keeper of the Flame." 

This song struck a chord with me when I was driving in winter 2018 because it promotes tradition, pride and boldness. I had just moved to Omaha for what I considered a career move (literally) and was trying to immerse myself in the community and the Omaha insurance industry by serving on a committee to host a first-time women-in-insurance event. Because I was trying to make my way and working closely with women who were seasoned in the industry, I knew it was my turn to carry this message forward: "I’m the keeper of the flame, the teller of the story."

And while Miranda finds herself passing the torch of female talent, pride, leadership and boldness from country music’s legendary ladies to the next class of leading ladies, I found myself embracing this idea. I realized that I, too, had to carry and in turn pass the professional torch. How do I intentionally keep the flame burning?

Reach out
Don’t wait for people you admire to reach out to you. Make the first move. Send a note or call to connect with women and men who are older and younger so you can build your network. The confident person who asks to meet with someone personifies initiative. Then, when they need someone with a spark, they’ll remember to call you. 

I recall setting a meeting with my boss to discuss professional development. She sat down, rubbed her hands together with zest and said, "I love that you want to meet to talk about your career path." If you want to foster your growth and leadership — and represent the fierce female leaders we continue to read about — initiate the first reach.

Be vulnerable (ask the dumb question)
I don’t know how many times I’ve squirmed on a conference call, staring at the phone and manically debating, "Do I ask? Do I not? Is this a really dumb question? Should I know this? Am I adding value?" Sometimes I unmute and ask, and sometimes I don’t. 

One of my colleagues, a woman to be reckoned with, asks whatever she doesn’t know — boldly. Watching her gives me the confidence to do the same. There are some dumb questions and several redundant ones, no doubt, that may come up. However, at the same time, you don’t know if you don’t ask. Be the reason someone else has the confidence to raise her hand or unmute the call.

Be proud
Celebrate your accomplishments. Yes, post on LinkedIn when you speak at a conference or get a promotion. Soak in what you’ve earned because the more we share, the more we become "tellers of the story" — a story that young professional women will soon recognize as the norm and not the exception to the rule. 

And be proud of your fellow female colleague for her accomplishments. We don’t do each other any favors when we wish it was us who changed job titles or posed in the local publications. Shared victories must be part of the story. Shared celebration (and shared challenges) will keep the flame of inspiration burning brightly.

Katie Beary is a regional marketing manager for Gallagher, a risk management, insurance and consulting firm. She lives in Des Moines and is happy she finally found her niche after starting her career as a secondary English teacher. Beary enjoys performing improv, cycling and watching college football. Finding work-life balance is an ongoing challenge she hopes to tame. She can be reached via email