Raleigh woman says executive ranks 'pale and male' in Corporate America
Posted October 3
Updated 3:51 p.m. today
Raleigh, N.C. — Lindsay Singler has spent time working abroad, but she says the Triangle will always be home.
She has spent the majority of her professional career in central North Carolina, serving as a director at Quintiles, a local biopharmaceutical services company, and is now the associate director of trial and project engagement at the Duke Clinical Research Institute.
As she moved up the career ladder in biopharmaceutical and health communications, Singler said she had many female co-workers at the start of her career but they quickly became the minority.
“When you start getting towards the top, it suddenly becomes pale and male,” she said.
Singler said she believes women become scarce at the top in many companies because women tend to have children when they’re in their 30s, the same time a worker’s professional career is starting to heat up. She says companies still don’t do enough to help working parents juggle their careers and family responsibilities.
“I remember immediately when I got back from maternity leave, I was sent to Buenos Aires to run a meeting and then to London, and I would have found that incredibly exciting before having my daughter. But I found it to be so stressful with an infant,” Singler said.
“I was carrying around my breast pump on these 8-hour plane rides,” she said. "It was madness.”
Singler earned a Master’s in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts in communication from North Carolina State University.
Singler now works at Duke — a work environment that she says challenges her professionally while still leaving room for her family and personal responsibilities.
She also co-founded the Women for Success Triangle. The organization promotes economic independence of women through providing professional attire, support networks and professional development tools.
“Supporting women and independence is something I’m so passionate about,” she said.
WRAL sat down with Singler to talk about her career and how women’s professional ambitions can take a back seat to their personal lives, and why they shouldn't have to.
This conversation with Singler has been edited for clarity:
WRAL: How do you think your gender has affected your career?
LS: I never really thought much about my gender in regards to work until my mentor at Quintiles came up to me and said, “I don’t want there to be anything between yourself and the position in front of you, except for you.” And I really had to think about that.
But I think as you advance, you start to become more aware of the discrepancies in pay. When you start getting towards the top, it suddenly becomes pale and male. Communications and marketing is majority female. So what’s fascinating is when you look around the ranks, and it’s almost all female, but you look at leadership, and it’s almost all male.
WRAL: Why do you think women get passed up for these opportunities?
LS: It’s a lot of reasons. But one thing I have noticed is that in today’s world, it's pretty common for working women to have their first child between 30 and 35. And that is really when your career is beginning to fire on all cylinders. Sometimes women can get passed up for advancement.
I found myself in a role that I couldn't merge with my family life, and in a way I was forced to go because there wasn't any flexibility with scheduling. Most working moms want to work. I like going to work, and it’s part of who I am and what I do. It also provides for my family. But people need flexibility to succeed.
WRAL: Do you think women often support other women in the workforce?
LS: The more senior women in my life have been instrumental. But I do feel like the mentality of some older working women is that women need to work harder than the men to get ahead and prove themselves. That’s what they had to do. It’s almost a bit of a chip on the shoulder because they have endured. But I think that is fading.
With the people I manage, men and women, I say if they’re a high performer, they work three days in the office and two days flexibly. They can manage their life and manage their work. That means if we’re in a bind, they will step up for me because I respect their time.
I had the opposite experience as I was moving up, but I learned from what I would have wanted to succeed. Interview your potential boss and make sure your values align because that’s huge.
WRAL: If you were to talk to your younger self what would you say?
LS: I watched a documentary, and I heard something that really resonated with me: "Do what you love. Do it in the most adventurous way possible, and help other people along the way." That’s the essence of what I stand for. I love travel, and I loved going back to school. You pick your adventure.
I also think I’ve learned that I need to work for a company that aligns with my values and a company that makes a difference. Especially going back and getting my degree in public health. There’s something about working for the greater good that really matters to me. I need something more than only the bottom line to drive me.
WRAL: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
LS: Leadership is hard and inconvenient. It’s what people aspire for, but it’s the truth.