In this interview, Susan Towler, Executive Director of the Florida Blue Foundation and Chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Board of Trustees, shares her experience as a female leader, Florida 2030 interests, words of wisdom for the next generation of female leaders and more.
Is there a female leader(s) that has inspired you in your professional career? If so, who and why?
If I count the direct leaders I’ve worked under in my career, I’ve had 5 men and only 2 women. Well, and I was my own boss when I ran my PR firm! Both female leaders gave me the leeway to learn, make mistakes, be creative and stretch beyond what I thought possible. But the male leaders did as well – to me, a good leader is a good leader.
Have you ever faced gender-related roadblocks in your career?
Not that I’m aware of – if it happened, I didn’t know about it. Public relations and philanthropy are fields dominated by women. I am blessed that Florida Blue has leaders and company values that encourage diversity of thought, respect and inclusion.
What is a leadership lesson you have learned unique to being a female leader?
I believe in servant leadership – no matter your gender or background. I’ve worked with female leaders who were tough, had high expectations and traits that weren’t my style of leadership. Learning can go both ways – you can model the positive behaviors, and also think about what behaviors you see in leaders that you don’t want to emulate. I’m fortunate to have so many female leaders at Florida Blue who are supportive, collaborative and results-driven.
What made you join the Florida Chamber Foundation Board of Trustees?
Florida Blue is a long-time member of the Florida Chamber, and I knew we could learn more about the issues facing our state through the Foundation. The Foundation gives you an opportunity to plug in and really provide thought leadership for the future of Florida.
You are currently serving as the Chair of the Board. What excites you about serving in this role and what particular sparks your interest about the work of the Foundation and the Florida 2030 Blueprint?
I have been amazed at the care and concern that my fellow Floridians have for our state’s future. Everyone on the board and the entire Chamber team is enthusiastic and willing to roll up their sleeves to accomplish our 2030 Blueprint goals. I enjoy seeing how all the six pillars interconnect and relate to one another.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Learning and growth can come from anywhere – each experience teaches you something, whether positive or not. Remain curious and open to new ventures – be the first to raise your hand for a new project. Volunteer for a cause that is meaningful to you. Have the courage to dive into areas that you aren’t familiar with, and interact with people who come from different experiences.