BUSINESS WOMEN: Local women share advice for finding success

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

Heber Espinal, left, speaks with Angela Tinsley at RE/MAX Select in Tahlequah.

National Women's Small Business Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of women throughout the country, but also to support the women who make up the Tahlequah community.

Women can be found leading the charge in every aspect of the local business world. Some have been confronted with more barriers than others, but no proverbial glass ceiling could stop many in their mission to advance their careers.

Angela Tinsley, of RE/MAX Select, is on hand to help people find their new dream home. After purchasing the franchise four years ago, she's contributed her success to due diligence.

"I would have to say our treatment of our customers, the customer care that we provide, the honest and the integrity in our transactions has been the biggest factors," she said. "Our end goal is to always take care of the customer."

Tinsley hasn't faced any gender-related roadblocks with regard to her career, as she said all it took was for her to "walk through the door of opportunity." But she said it's important to support women in business, and encourages people to work hard, stay humble, be kind, and invest in people.

"I truly value other women and I'm excited when women win and succeed in business, and I celebrate with them," she said.

While Tinsley is there to help homeowners transition, Jennifer Yerton, with Farmers Insurance, is at the ready to insure locals' new homes. She started as an agent in December of 2010, after years of getting little sleep so she could take care of her children. She now has a 26-year old daughter, a 12-year old daughter, and a 10-year old son, so she needed a job that provided flexibility so she could keep up with the family.

Yerton said her family support was a major component to her achievements.

"If my husband didn't support my career option, I never would have survived the first five years of a new business," she said.

"It was a struggle. If a woman is not married where this is another income, starting a new business can be really tough, because you don't have that other income coming in to help pay the bills."

Managing professional lives with home responsibilities can be difficult. It's historically been a balancing act performed by women, although men have increasingly supported gender equality on the homefront in recent years. But still, it's something that Yerton deals with, and she said there's still more work to be done to establish an equilibrium between men and women in a business sense.

"I think [men] get more respect in the business world," she said. "I think it's gotten better, but it's still a little challenging at sometimes."

Yerton recommends women in business - and people in general - find a mentor. She said those who are the smartest person in the room should go to a different room.

"It doesn't even have to be the same kind of business," she said. "Just find someone that's been in the business world for a while and get to know them. Most women in this community would love to chat with you, share ideas with you, give you advice on failures when first starting and things to watch out for."

Before people start looking for their new home, they might want to get in touch with Bank of Cherokee County so they can finance it. There, CEO Susan Plumb has worked to develop herself professionally as much as she can.

She said it takes dedication outside of the work place to get ahead, and in banking that may be essential for women to advance.

"The field of banking - in the managerial positions - is about 80 percent men," she said. "There's a huge gap between women and their financial decision making and their money. So there are absolutely gender-related issues."

Plumb said she's tried hard to become a great communicator, and has found that if people have the knowledge required to do something, there is nothing that can stop them. And in regard to the disparity between men and women in banking, that's something she's working on.

"A lot of our upper management is female, and I really think that a lot of small community banks are going to have to change owners before that really changes," she said. "In Oklahoma, anyway, I call it a country club-type environment. It excludes a lot of women and it really impacts a lot of women's ability to get credit and to get financing for things that they want and need."

In agreeing with Yerton, Plumb said women should look for a mentor to follow. But at the same time, she said women should be mentoring others.

"You need to be doing both," she said. "You need to have somebody that you're looking up to and that you are gaining knowledge from, and then you really need to be passing that along at the same time."

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