Women in Leadership: Charlotte Yarbrough (Reading Center)
Charlotte Yarbrough, Director, IRIS Reading Center
Charlotte joined the IRIS team in 2017, bringing with her more than 15 years of leadership experience in the healthcare industry. Presently, she leads the network of 120+ physicians and optometrists who make up the IRIS Reading Center (IRC).
Collectively the IRC provides consultative interpretations for more than 170,000 exams each year. Charlotte earned a Bachelor of Science in cellular and molecular biology from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in an organization?
“Working harder than your peers and producing better results than your peers will make you stand out in a crowd and highlight your drive, bringing positive attention your way.
I think it helps when you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, volunteering for projects and work that may not necessarily fall within your realm. This creates exposure to new skillsets and other team members to which you otherwise may not have had access, all the while broadening your own experiences—and that is what makes you a more valuable employee.
I believe that drive and initiative are critical traits for success. Always, always take it upon yourself to increase your knowledge and technique whenever possible.”
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
“Creating a safe environment for your team is invaluable, but it is not something that is automatically granted. It requires treating people with decency, respect, and kindness; honesty plays an enormous role in it as well. It does a lot of good to build a foundation of reciprocal trust within your team, whether you’re leading that team or not.
The good news is that these skills are ones that we learn early on in life but having the self-awareness and being mindful of your own contributions are what require a little finesse.
Being a good decision maker builds trust—it shows you can be relied upon and are responsible. This is not a profound concept or anything complex, but I believe it is one of the best qualities a leader should have.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
“Aim and aim high. You can and will achieve your goals if you do the work. Give yourself grace because you will make mistakes, but as we know, in those is mistakes are where you learn to innovate and grow.
Surround yourself with strong, good people, and nurture those relationships. Seek feedback. Be nimble. Learn quickly. Listen well. It’s okay for you to be aggressive and assertive. Stop waiting for the perfect moment to speak up. This is your path to carve.”
Who inspired you and why?
“As a little girl, I would watch my mom in awe as she got ready for work each morning. I was fascinated by her precision and attention to detail. I had no concept of what exactly work was, but those are some of my earliest memories.
When I got a little bit older, I remember reading a newspaper article about a woman being appointed as the first female VP for a bank. That woman was my grandmother, and it left a mark on me. I have long been surrounded by strong, career-driven women—my bonus mom and my aunts too— have all inspired me in one way or another.”
What changes do you hope for the landscape of women in leadership roles?
“Even though I have not been subjected to gender discrimination or gender inequality in the professional setting, I know that it does exist. It is not lost on me, and while I know my own experiences are rare, I am cognizant that it is an issue that still requires great strides to repair.
I hope that we continue to make progress on pay equality, closing the gap between wage differences in men and women. We are decades behind the mark when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, and I hope that in my lifetime we will feel a shift there as a country.
We have plenty of examples to follow so I am hopeful. This will help so much with the delicate work/life balance we’re all trying to achieve. It is up to us to advocate for what is fair and just.”
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