Apr 3, 2017
by Women's Leadership Initiative
"Be bold. Take action. Ask for feedback, and make sure you act on it." - Miriam Shou doesn't shy away from sharing her advice on leadership and building a career. And there's no better example of the value of women's leadership than Miriam, who received United Way's 2017 Next Generation Leader Award - presented to a woman under 35 who have accomplished exemplary professional success but also share a deep commitment to Give, Advocate and Volunteer - at United Way's Women's Leadership Initiative Gala on March 22.
We sat down with Miriam to learn more about her story and what has influenced her to become one of Philly's key #WomenLeadingToday.
JC: What's the greatest lesson you learned along the way?
MS: Family comes first. I've always been very driven, and I like to be active and engaged. Early in my career I would regularly work 14-hour days and spend my weekends volunteering. This was all before I had children. Now, as a mother of one with another on the way, I realized slowing down does not hinder your growth and development, and it doesn't mean you are not ambitious. You need to be present and put your family first because you cannot get back those experiences.
JC: What advice would you give to women seeking leadership roles?
MS: Be bold. Speak up, ask for feedback and make sure you act on it. In reality, if you're not struggling, you're not growing. [As a leader], give constructive feedback with actionable steps and exemplify the model of female support. I also believe in real-time feedback. If you have something to say to someone, say it to them now. Don't wait until the project is over to say it.
JC: What are some of your philanthropic passions?
MS: Youth education has been a passion of mine for a long time. I grew up in the city and saw a lot of my friends not make it. I'm very big on showing youth where they can be in the future. Women's initiatives are another passion. [I helped] launch a Mentor Mom program. My return to work as a new mother was very difficult. I thought I could still go at 100 miles per hour and I learned I had to slow down. I didn't want other mothers to make the same mistakes, so we started the program to provide coaching before and during maternity leave and when they return to work. I'm also currently working on a partnership with Girl Develop It, an organization that teaches girls how to code. My goal is to take the knowledge and power the 16 women on my team have we have, give back to the community and teach girls how to code.
JC: Why do you believe in United Way's Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow program?
MS: Growing up as a girl in Philly, "girl power" was not a thing, especially as an Asian woman. People told me I should be a pharmacist because I could make good money and find a good husband. GTLT shows girls that you can be bold and go after your dreams. I love the goal of empowering women, girls and urban youth to aim higher and bigger.