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Women to Watch: Shella Bowlin has a plan for success

Women to Watch: Shella Bowlin has a plan for success

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The “30,000-foot view” cliché might be one of the most overused of the past few years, but it seems appropriate when discussing a long-term strategic growth planner who started out as an airline industry engineer.

Shella Bowlin, senior director of strategy and analytics for Cherokee Nation Businesses, is helping the tribe’s business arm plan for success at a time when one of its two main business units — gaming — has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The answers likely will come with a little creative thinking.

“That’s one aspect of engineering that I miss — the innovation and the focus on creativity and developing of new products,” she said.

The business aspect became a necessity, though.

“I never thought I wanted to go back to school,” she said, but as situations arose where recommendations were needed, “I didn’t feel like I had the foundation in business to feel confident in making those recommendations.”

An MBA added some depth and helped Bowlin take another step on the ladder, but she laments that so few of her peers on that ladder are women.

“There is progress” for women in the workplace, but “the progress has been slow,” she said. “Women outnumber men in bachelor’s degrees received, but we’re not progressing up the ladder as quickly as men.”

Bowlin excels at numbers, but those in a study about the ladder’s “broken rung” trouble her:

For every 100 men promoted or hired as managers, only 72 women were similarly promoted or hired.

Because fewer women are promoted to junior management, fewer are available to promote to senior management. Thus, men end up holding 62% of management positions while women end up holding 38%, the study says.

“I think women should expect more, and the world can do more for us as educated women,” Bowlin said.

She has a similar message for younger women.

“They must know that there is room at the table for them,” she said. “Go after your biggest dreams, even if you don’t see someone who looks like you.

“We have to make women aware that they have the ability to do it, and we have to show them how fun and interesting the field can be.”


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