CULLMAN, Ala. – Matriarchs of Cullman gathered in the banquet room of the All Steak on March 16 to share stories, insight and wisdom. The event was hosted by Les Dames, a local nonprofit focused on mentoring and bridging gaps between women in our community. The panel of speakers included Cullman City Council President Dr. Jenny Folsom, former First Lady of Alabama Marsha Folsom and former Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Peggy Smith. Laura Quick, co-founder of Les Dames, moderated the panel.
Questions varied from personal to professional, with many focused on women in the workplace, mentorship, serving the community and the importance of having a support system. The overall message of the evening was one of perseverance.
Smith talked about her years of working in a male-dominated industry. “I’ve been there against that ceiling many times in my long career,” she said. “The only way I got through it was that I had to keep going and moving forward. It was explained to me, very clearly, that it was not enough for me to be good. I had to be better. You can bang against that ceiling for years, and then all of a sudden, one day, there’s this tiny little crack. And you just have to keep trying.”
Based on her experience, said Jenny Folsom, the advice she would give a woman just starting out in her career would be: “Have a lot of self-confidence, not false confidence. You have to be able to back up what you’re saying, your skills, your talents. Therefore you have to work a lot harder to do that. You have to be positive and create a strong network. Know your talents and strengths, and play to them.”
Marsha Folsom said that through her years of entrepreneurship she learned just as much from failures as successes. “I co-founded a company in 2011. In 2021, we had an investor group who came in and wanted to buy us. At the very last minute, two of our existing 60 investors refused to sign a change of control. This was hard. It felt like a failure. How do you not internalize that? Well, I’m helping other businesses move to Alabama. When one door closes, another opens, but let me tell you, you still have to knock on them.”
For more information about Les Dames and its next event, visit www.lesdamescullman.com.
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