Susan Sher Speaks at WOV Event in Chicago

Women of Vision hosted Susan Sher at the organization’s AOA event in Chicago. Sher is the executive vice president for corporate strategy and public affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Previously, she served in the White House as assistant to the president and chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and associate White House counsel.


Sher’s talk shared the 6 Lessons You Wish Your Mother Told You About Succeeding:
1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or take risks. I have friends who are not fulfilled or not satisfied. They say they can’t take on a challenge, but really they’re risk averse. The best jobs I’ve ever had were due to me taking great risks, such as trying a new job, moving to a new city or taking on new responsibilities.

2. There’s nothing wrong with shameless promotion. I was taught that hard work is its own reward, and it will be noticed by others. Sadly, that’s not always true for women. I think men tend to learn early on to take responsibility for their own careers. Women need to learn that lesson.
3. It is more important to be respected than to be liked. I worry sometimes that I might ruffle feathers. But really, the issue is, “Was I effective?” Women fear a reputation for being difficult if they work for respect.

4. Just ask. The fact that women don’t ask is such a problem that there is a book titled, “Women Don’t Ask.” Women consistently undervalue their own knowledge, while men tend to overrate their expertise. Banish the word “lucky” from your vocabulary. It’s a word commonly used by women to attribute their successes to others. I always said I got lucky when I got a good grade or something went well that I had worked for.

5. Guilt is a worthless emotion. Guilt wastes energy. Men seem to have less guilt, especially regarding balancing work and family. Whatever you decide is the right for you, it will work. Just go with it.

6. You should always wear a little bit of lipstick.


For the first half of my career, I had male mentors. There weren’t many women there. As I moved to more senior positions in my career, I felt an obligation to mentor others. I mentored Michelle Obama. I hired her and became her boss. We were colleagues and had lunch, we talked about work, we talked about her kids. Then she asked me to go to Washington, D.C. I was 61 at the time, and I had a great life. Why would I want to go? Then I thought about it and saw what was going on. I said that I felt like it was Friday night, and everyone else was going to a party while I was staying home to do my homework. I agreed to go to Washington for one year while my husband stayed in Chicago.


Remember that relationships change. You as a mentee may find yourself mentoring your former mentor. Michelle Obama has now become my mentor. For example, I wouldn’t make a job change without talking to her about it. She established the first White House mentoring program, which is huge.

Broaden your reach for a mentor. You’re looking for a champion who will give you uncensored advice.



Fake It til You Make It
I have never felt the confidence that the outside world would assume. You have to be willing to lead. Think three steps ahead of your next move. You have to be willing to accept rejection and be willing to leave. And that’s the scarier thing.


Vice President Louise Sclafani greets Susan Sher before the event.


Sandy Block asks a question during the presentation.


Many attendees wish to speak to Susan Sher after her talk.


Teacher and student reunite! Jan Jurkus and WOV Treasurer Mandy Mataya-Pietig are happy to catch up.


Leora Berns, Canadian Association of Optometrists President Kirsten North, and Vikki Davis linger after the presentation to chat.


From left:
President Gretchyn Bailey, WOV Founding Member Jan Jurkus, Immediate Past President Christine Sindt, Vice President Louise Sclafani, Susan Sher, AOA President Dori Carlson, WOV Board Member Glenda Secor.