Who better to give career advice than the 5 very impressive Pittsburgh businesswomen nominated for the prestigious Athena Award?

The Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce has been honoring the area’s inspirational businesswomen with the ATHENA Award since 1991.  All nominated are not only savvy about their careers, but also deeply involved in their local community and in mentoring other women.

This year’s  finalists come from the banking, education, healthcare, finance and online marketing industries. They spoke to NEXTPittsburgh about what their many years of career experience have taught them. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 29 at a luncheon–known for inspiring women–that attracts upwards of 900 attendees and sells out every year (buy your tickets now!).

Linda Croushore. Photo by Tracy Certo

Linda Croushore. Photo by Tracy Certo

Linda Croushore, executive director, The Consortium for Public Education

Linda has made a career out of putting students first, no matter what age. She has developed outreach programs not only for preschool learning readiness and literacy, but also for babies with the help of the new mom. She was instrumental in negotiations over the closure of Duquesne City High School and enabling its students to attend other area schools.

What career advice would you give to a young woman just starting out today?

“I have a quote from John Quincy Adams on my emails that says, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.’ I think that women can rise to that and perform to that and I would encourage every woman to be one of those folks. I think women are inspirers.”

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

“I wish I’d known what a long journey it is and it is endless, and it is never boring. Each small victory inspires you to have the courage, the faith, the energy and the commitment to continue.”

How can every woman help promote others in the workforce?

“I think recognizing that everyone is an individual and each one has their story and it is to be listened to and nurtured and supported. Together, a community of individuals can really be a powerful, energizing force.”

What is something you learned or some advice you were given at the start of your career that has influenced you?

“Women have to work harder sometimes and have to rise to the challenge even more than others, but it’s all worth it.”

What do you do to relax after all you do for your company and community?

“I love to read, cook and I love antiques. I collect 18th and 19th century furniture, stoneware and vintage linens. Once you find something you love, it’s easy to keep finding more and more.”

Diane Holder. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Diane Holder. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Diane Holder, executive vice president, UPMC; president, UPMC Insurance Services Division; president & chief executive officer, UPMC Health Plan

Diane has managed to find work-life balance even as one of the more powerful business women in Pittsburgh. It could be because she was formally trained as a therapist and psychiatric social worker before embarking on her current course and now leading 16 of UPMC’s healthcare and insurance divisions.

What career advice would you give to a young woman just starting out today?

“Keep your options open, be willing to try different things and try to really find people early in your career that can give you some guidance in ways that are both formal and informal.”

 What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

“Oh my—just about everything! I wish that I knew earlier in my career that there’s not huge downsides to taking calculated risks, and I think that as you get more confident in yourself you start to do that. I think that sometimes young women are more cautious early on, and that’s understandable, but sometimes it’s worth it to take that calculated risk that can allow you to open other doors.”

How can every woman help promote others in the workforce?

“One of the things that’s important is to begin to look at the colleagues around you—both women and men—as both people you can learn from and that you can provide help to. Most of us find in this very virtual world we live in that it’s not really the effort of one person that usually makes a big difference, it’s really people working together.”