Navigating the Waters of Female Leadership with the Girls on the Run St. Louis Pacesetters

Posted by Maggie in on Tue 03/31/2015 9:53

by Emilie Docter Fan

On Thursday morning, March 12th, a group of 25 women gathered together at SenseCorp, a local management consulting group, to have breakfast and engage in challenging conversations with each other. You may ask, why were these lawyers, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, healthcare employees all together having breakfast? The answer is simple – these women are all Pacesetters.
What is Pacesetters and how is it connected with Girls on the Run St. Louis?
Pacesetters is a group composed of remarkable women who are leading families, businesses, organizations, teams and government institutions. These are the women making the tough decisions, challenging the status quo and boldly setting the pace for our girls.

Through Pacesetters, our hope is to connect with women leaders to help support the program goals and inspire the girls, volunteers and families invovled with Girls on the Run St. Louis. The girls in our program often look up to their teachers, mothers, family members and coaches as their role models, and we want to continue providing them with strong women to inspire and encourage them. We love that so many women in St. Louis support the mission of Girls on the Run and that they embrace our mission and core values in their own lives. We hope to see the women involved in Pacesetters become empowered through their connection to the program, expressing joy and gratitude in their thoughts and actions, leading with an open heart and assuming positive intent, as well as embracing differences and finding strength in our connectedness by leading as a Girl on the Run.

What does it mean to engage in a challenging conversation about women as leaders?

As the 25 Pacesetters gathered together on March 12th, we encouraged them to start engaging with each other by pulling questions out of a cup and discussing them. A few of the questions we asked are below and we encourage you to use these to start your own challenging conversation:

• What if we could change the way women interact with each other to be more supportive? What are three things you would suggest?
• Why as women do we sometimes struggle to embrace the title of leader?
• What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
• What are some of the messages you believe girls and young women are getting regarding women in leadership? Is this different in different communities?
• The mission of Girls on the Run St. Louis is to empower girls for a lifetime of healthy living. What do you believe is possible when we achieve this mission?

The atmosphere in the room was inspiring with this diverse group of women sharing their thoughts, feelings and personal experiences, and this feeling continued to grow when Dr. Katie Bucklen shared her story with the group.

Katie Bucklen, M.D. is a mother of two boys, the wife of a pediatric critical care physician and a pediatric hospitalist providing in-patient care at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  Her academic and clinical focus is on caring for children and families who are coping with complicated, life limiting illness. Prior to coming to St. Louis, Katie lived and worked in San Antonio, Texas, where she and a dear friend co-founded, coached and directed Girls on the Run of Bexar County.  Ever since Molly Barker trained her to coach Girls on the Run, she has a deep personal commitment to mentoring young women professionals as they navigate the challenges of becoming medical professionals.

Katie shared her journey to Girls on the Run and her own struggles to acknowledge and embrace the title of leader, despite being recognized as a leader by others. Katie’s candor and authenticity resonated with the Pacesetters group and truly set the tone for the conversation. Why do women, despite their abilities, skills and the recognition of others, often hesitate to identify themselves as leaders? Perhaps an even greater challenge is what we need to do, as women, to cultivate women leaders – what do effective mentor relationships look like? Why does this matter across work environments? As Katie guided the conversation with Pacesetters that morning, she referenced the powerful moment of accepting that she was, in fact, a leader. When Katie shared this with the women in the room, she challenged them to think about if they see themselves as leaders and what could be done to change the way women everywhere view themselves.

As this group of women joined together and held a powerful discussion surrounding leadership, Girls on the Run St. Louis hopes we can continue to have challenging conversations and engage women as leaders and role models for our program participants. As women in the St. Louis community join together with Girls on the Run St. Louis, our hope is for the Girls on the Run movement to permeate the girl box and help empower the next generation of girls for a lifetime of healthy living. Pacesetters will hold a second discussion on Thursday, June 4th, to continue the conversation about women as leaders and the importance of recognizing the internal and external influences we face daily as women in leadership roles.  

If you are interested in learning more about Pacesetters, and joining us on June 4th for our second Pacesetters breakfast, please contact or (314) 862-6266.