Glass Breakers 2017: Maggie Merry
With the help of strong mentors early in her career, Merry has been able to excel in a field dominated by men. She’s now one of the few female chief administrative officers on campus, a strong leader and mentor herself and an inspiring Glass Breaker seeking to challenge and inspire others.
On Maggie Merry’s climb up the professional ladder at The Ohio State University, she didn’t stop to think of herself as a Glass Breaker.
With the help of strong mentors early on, she’s been able to excel in a field dominated by men to become one of the few female chief administrative officers on campus. She’s a strong leader and mentor, seeking to challenge and encourage others.
How did you get to where you are now?
“I started as a student worker in 1995, and I worked various positions as a half-time staff member and then a full-time staff member at OSU Extension. That’s where I really got started on my path to my current job.
I had a really fabulous mentor there. I was hired to answer and file papers and she was like ‘No, we’re going to do this financial stuff.’ My mom worked at the university for 24 years as a fiscal officer in the Department of Psychology. I kind of worked my way around the university, and when she retired I actually applied for and took her position. So my mom was a huge mentor for me and largely impressive on my career growth.
It’s been really interesting to reflect back on my time at the university, really over 20 years. It’s been fabulous to see the changes we’ve made.”
What has been your biggest challenge?
“I think some of my biggest challenges have been sometimes along the way getting the mentoring you need. I’ve actually been really lucky as a staff member at Ohio State getting a lot of mentoring early on in my career. But then as you advance in your career, you really have to find your own mentors. People aren’t going to help you out with that necessarily. Finding people you can connect with on your own and building those connections are sometimes a little bit challenging.”
Do you still face challenges on a daily basis?
“One of the things that is still challenging in my kind of position, while we’re pretty good at the university of having a lot of women in leadership positions like this, it’s still a male-dominated position.
Sometimes it’s challenging just getting past some of the barriers or what people think when I’m more assertive or more direct or having to probe for information. Sometimes from a woman, it’s not as well received as from a man. Typically.
There are still some daily challenges, like dealing with someone and perhaps they’re not really listening or believing you have the authority to ask those questions.”
How do you work to motivate others?
“This is something I’m really passionate about, and I try to do it every single day. I always am working to encourage my staff, as much I want to mentor them, for them to reach out to their other mentors. I really help to try to provide more education and involve a lot of the staff in meetings that they normally wouldn’t directly need to be involved in but could learn from and help develop them.
We have taught classes, brought in speakers, sent people to training — really anything they need for their professional development. A lot of the staff wanted to learn more about Microsoft Excel, so I taught an Excel class myself. Those little things we can do to help people feel valued and have that feeling that they’re getting some mentoring.
I take a hands-on approach. I meet weekly with my direct staff to see what they need and what questions they may have. That ongoing supervision, mentoring and building a relationship.”
What advice do you have for other women seeking leadership roles?
“Keep pushing yourself. Get out there. Keep trying. Meet people. Sometimes, it’s hard to do that. People aren’t going to just hand you the mentoring and leadership directly. You have to find your own way, your own path. Remember, you’re worth it.
The important part of that for me is to take people with you. You can’t be a leader on your own. You can help lift other people with you as you boost your own skills.”
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a Glass Breaker?
“That was so surprising. I don’t know if I've ever thought of myself like that. I was really honored.
It’s really empowering. I’ve worked very hard to get where I’ve gotten. It’s important for it to be recognized. It’s important that other women know there are lots of opportunities for them. And you can get there, too.”
“My plan is stay within the university. I love it here. I look to kind of keep advancing my career — bigger colleges and units I can help and really getting into more leadership roles in colleges, in terms of committees and where I can help.”