NORMAN — There have been numerous outstanding women leaders throughout history. Most of them were born for greatness. Women like Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great and Queen Victoria ruled nations, made reforms, and widely influenced cultural attitudes.
Fortunately, women no longer have to be born into leadership. Modern women leaders come from all walks of life.
“Historically and gratefully, we have observed the transformative and changing role of women in our society,” said Cindy Merrick, past winner of the Norman Chamber of Commerce’s leadership award and proprietor of Therapy in Motion. “Women have risen from being considered as property to people.”
The Norman Chamber of Commerce recognized women of distinction in the community for years with an annual Athena Award. Past recipients included Molly Shi Boren, Dr. Nancy O’Brian, and most recently, Merrick.
“In my personal experience, I have witnessed the silent power of women leaders who want to embrace solutions, rather than clench their fists in opposition,” Merrick said. “I have watched women leaders focus upon similarities instead of highlighting differences.”
This year, the Chamber has reformulated the award somewhat and made it Norman’s own. The 2012 Women’s Leadership Award will honor female leaders “who actively inspire other women to achieve their full potential.”
“Norman has an outstanding group of women leaders, those who inspire others through their genuine concern and dedication to making our community the best it can possibly be,” Chamber President John Woods said. “These women deserve recognition for their positive influence.”
“I believe that balance is the key to a successful community,” Merrick said. “In terms of local leadership, balance entails the integration of both male and female leaders. Being a civic leader is not my entitlement, but my responsibility to contribute and give back to our community.”
The Leadership Award will recognize women who challenge themselves toward the highest level of personal and professional accomplishment, excelling in their chosen fields, while also giving to the community, setting a path of leadership for others to emulate.
“I came from a family which was not blessed with financial abundance and learned a hard work ethic early on,” Merrick said. “My first entrepreneurial endeavor was the creation of my own yard mowing service in the fourth grade. I hand made business cards that said, ‘You grow it and I'll mow it.’
“I bought my blue stingray bike with a white banana seat and high handlebars when I was 10 years old for $29.99 and my first stereo for $125 when I was 11,” Merrick, a former ATHENA recipient remembers. “I believe my business success is the result of my underlying goal to be of service and to share with those less fortunate.”
Nominations for the Women’s Leadership Award are reviewed by a diverse group of Norman leaders. This year’s recipient will be announced at the Leadership Reception on Nov. 14 at the Assistance League Chapter House.
“Norman is a progressive community that does not discriminate against a successful individual because of gender,” Merrick said. “Equal and human rights abound in our city with little prejudice and judgment.”
Business and professional accomplishments are only one aspect of how these women are role models of leadership.
“This award also recognizes women who have devoted time and energy to our community in a meaningful way,” Merrick said. “As a past recipient of the ATHENA award, I felt truly honored to be selected and stand in the shadow of past recipients such as Molly Boren, Joan Barker, Becky Payton, Kathey Drummond, and Nancy O’Brian.”