Honoring Rhonda Hall with University Federal Credit Union

A Women’s History Month Interview




Honoring Rhonda Hall with University Federal Credit Union

March is designated at Women’s History Month in the United States with International Women’s Day being celebrated on March 8th.  In honor of IDW, the HR Exchange Network will be honoring women contributing to human resources, including members of our advisory board.

As editor, I’ve had the great fortune to meet, work with and learn from some amazing women in the human resources space including Rhonda Hall.  She is the Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development for University Federal Credit Union.  Below is an interview between the two of us on topics related to Women’s History Month.

Mason Stevenson

In the past 25 years, what have been some of the most significant changes for women?  How about the past 10?  Past 5?

Rhonda Hall

I’ve been in this field for 30 years, and indeed changes have occurred not only in the field, but for women in this field as well. When I first started in Organizational Development and Human Resources, it was a male dominated field. At that time, more than 50% of the workforce in HR/OD were men, and women didn’t hold many leadership roles. Over these years I have seen a significant shift in those trends where women now comprise over 50% of the roles in HR/OD, and also hold a larger number of leadership roles.  One might ask why women have moved into the leadership roles at a relatively fast pace. I believe that the number of women pursuing Master’s degrees has increased exponentially during this time and that degree has been instrumental in us moving up into the leadership roles.

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Mason Stevenson

Most significant woman “barrier breakers” of your time and why? 

Rhonda Hall

When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I was highly inspired by women at my university and decided to complete a minor study in Women’s Studies. For me, there were women right in front of me who inspired me more than “nationally recognized” people:

Camille Cates Barnett, City Manager for the City of Austin – My first job out of college, demonstrated for me that a woman could be strong, ethical, feminine and successful. I watched her while I grew, I pursued my Master’s degree because of a single conversation I had with her, and when she moved from the City of Austin, I mourned the hole she left.

Betty Dunkerley, Assistant City Manager for the City of Austin – I was always impressed with how you could meet Betty for coffee or lunch, pitch an idea, she’d take notes on a paper napkin, and within weeks, that idea became a reality. There was something so authentic about her. She listened deeply, asked pointed questions with a pure intention, and followed-through on her commitments.

Having both Betty and Camille as role models for my first 5 years of my professional career profoundly impacted my thoughts, actions and words for the remainder of my career and I truly believe that I am who I am today as a female leader because of some of the foundational learnings I had then.

Within the past 15 years, Pat Hayes, Chief Operating Officer, Seton Healthcare Family (now named Ascension Seton) – demonstrated leading with heart, focusing on doing the right thing, and assessing the impact of business decisions on the people (employees). I watched Pat lead through difficult financial times always with grace. She showed me that you could bring “love” to work, bring it into business decisions, and by doing so, the organization will succeed.

Mason Stevenson

If you could meet any woman, living or dead, who would you meet?

Rhonda Hall

I think I’d like to meet, have coffee with Maya Angelou. I’d like the opportunity to look deeply into her eyes, and ask about her path, her choices, and the choices that were made for her that lead to her path – guided her journey.

Mason Stevenson

What has been your biggest career and/or personal success?

Rhonda Hall

#1 - Marrying the most perfect spouse in the whole wide world. That may surprise people, but having the perfect soulmate who is also my best friend, my confidant, and my inspiration- all rolled into one, has indeed contributed to my personal success more than any other single thing. My spouse became a stay at home dad when I took on an executive level position which required extensive travel. For seven years he was the primary caretaker of our children, our home, and even of me enabling me to focus on my career. He would meet me in the driveway when I came home from a week on the road, collect my luggage, and walk me into the home where everything was “ready” so that all I had to do was simply “be.” All chores were handled, and I could immediately slip into Mom and Wife roles – focusing on being fully present. Each week when I left the house, he enabled me to fly away knowing that our children would we well cared for, our home organized, and life would be handled while I was away. While we are both working again, he remains heavily involved in the care of our teenagers and the organization of our home, and in all honesty, he still carries more than his share of daily home tasks!  

#2 - Listening to my (then) 13 year old daughter’s request for me to stop travelling for work, to be home during the most difficult years of her life… and LISTENING to her, making a career change that is better for both me and my family! She was in middle school, those can be horrible years, and I was leaving home every Sunday night and getting home Friday night. She sat me down one day and simply told me that she needed me home, to be there for her (even though when I was home she was slamming doors in my face, she needed me there). I listened. I networked, I put it out in the universe that I would find another role, with another mission-driven, values-based organization, and I DID!  I’m proud of myself for recognizing when the time to listen is important, and for having the courage to leave a solid career with an organization that I loved after 14 years, and realizing that something even better could be waiting for me!  

Mason Stevenson

What factors have contributed most to your success?

Rhonda Hall

I’m stubborn, in a good way. If something is proving to be too difficult, or if I can’t get it approved, then I find another way – another path. I have believed that so long as my intentions are pure, that what I’m doing or suggesting is what I truly, deeply, honestly believe is the right thing, then it is a matter of timing of when the organization will be ready to listen. Being my best self, and doing the right thing – two keys to my success.

Mason Stevenson

Who do you see as leading woman role models in your company/organization?

Rhonda Hall

Laurie Roberts, Chief Lending Officer, UFCU is indeed a dynamic role model for women. She rose to lead a lending team at a time when there were few women in the lending field. She is a strong businesswoman who has demonstrated that if you put the people first and you do the right thing, the business with flourish.

Heather McKissick, SVP Community Impact and Marketing, UFCU is an inspirational leader and mentor for women. I had the privilege of working with Heather in 2003 and 15 years later to once again work beside her. Heather has been a key leader in role modeling being a strong business leader who can be both honest and kind.

Mason Stevenson

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women leaders?

Rhonda Hall

Impatience. In this world of getting what you want in 3- 5 seconds, I fear that this next generation will be impatient with processes, systems, people and that impatience will be held against them from other generations.

Mason Stevenson

What advice would you give young women aspiring to be HR professionals or those just entering the practice?

Rhonda Hall

Never stop learning and remain open to learning. I’ve been in this field for 30 years (I’m embarrassed to admit) and I am still learning new things every single day. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days with a young female professional from another organization where we were both attending an event that was outside our industry. She approached the event with an attitude of “I know everything, there is nothing new here for me,” and she was 20 years younger than I am! Wow! It was a huge eye opening experience for me to strive to help her find aspects of this new, shared experience where she could learn, grow, think differently… and she simply wasn’t open to it. She truly approached the situation/experience with a closed mindset. Be a voracious learner. There are no excuses to not be learning every single day. With the number of online books, podcasts, and networking opportunities, every single woman should find something new to learn every single day. Change your commute to listening to podcasts that will introduce you not only to leadership, or Human Resources, or Leadership Development things, but learn about the BUSINESS in which you work, where is your INDUSTRY going? What are the current industry challenges – these things will make you a better business partner in the office. Learning is something that I hope I’m doing when I take my last breath on this earth.

Mason Stevenson

Are there any challenges that are unique to women in leadership in the workplace?

Rhonda Hall

Yes, I once had a male leader who would call my office at 8:00a on the dot to ensure that I was in the office “on time.” As the only female leader reporting into him with small children, I was the only one who received this treatment. I found it a challenge that his “perception” of working moms was that I would always be late and/or leave early.  While luckily I only encountered this once in my career, I also needed to decide how long I would choose to work for such a person, and I chose to make a change, to help invent/create another role within the organization that would provide me not only a promotional opportunity, but a change in leadership – in other words, I was able to create a Win/Win.

Mason Stevenson

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

Rhonda Hall

Another way of reading this is what is my biggest fear for the next generation of professional women, and it is that they will question themselves too much, compare themselves too much, judge themselves too much… instead of simply being their best self. I am concerned that social media will have them only seeing the “positive” spin that others post publicly about what is happening in their lives and they will then wonder why things appear more challenging for them personally – authenticity will be the differentiator in our future leaders – both men and women.

 

Rhonda Hall is Vice President of HR and Organizational Development at University Federal Credit Union.  She is also a long-time member of the HR Exchange Network Advisory Board.

 

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Photo courtesy:  StockPhotoSecrets

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