Sen. McCaskill: an ambitious, confident fighter

Claire McCaskill participated in her first political campaign in 1960 when she was 7 years old. It was Halloween and when her neighbors in the conservative Missouri town of Lebanon opened their doors, she chimed, “Trick or Treat. Vote for JFK!” She didn’t realize it then, but clearly sees now that her parents were teaching her how to be a risk-taker and stand up for what you believe in.

McCaskill, now the senior senator from Missouri in the US Congress, was a guest speaker  Oct. 30 in the Women & Leadership course co-taught by Michelle Duguid, associate professor of organizational behavior and Maxine Clark, founder and former CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop. The course examines career paths, challenges, and choices for women in today’s workplace. McCaskill is one of nine women leaders scheduled to share their stories with students in the class.


Image Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

During her informal talk with students followed by questions and answers, McCaskill talked about her unbridled ambition to be in politics ever since she was 13. She emphatically told her audience of undergraduate and graduate women (and a few men), that “women should own their ambition.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of, she said, instead,”women need to embrace the fact that ambition is using your abilities to drive toward your goals.”

The Senator shared many lessons that she learned the hard way as she broke barriers for women in the Missouri legislature, Kansas City prosecuting attorney’s office, as Missouri Auditor and a US Senator.

Despite a 3 a.m. roll call in the Senate the night before, McCaskill delivered an energetic and inspiring talk in her signature straight-shooter style. In addition to comments on the current presidential campaign and gridlock in Congress, she shared timeless words of wisdom with the students:

“Every time I was marginalized, I used it as fuel to focus my drive.”

“Don’t submit to the disease to appease. You can’t lead by making everyone happy – if you do you are naive.”

“To grow confidence, you need to do something a little scary to push through the fear.”

“You are not evil and manipulative if you are strategic.”

“Be authentic to what you believe in. Stay grounded.”

Sen. McCasskill’s recently published memoir, Plenty Ladylike, is on the syllabus for the course along with case studies involving discrimination and research on gender differences, bias and stereotypes in the workplace.

Other speakers scheduled for the Women & Leadership course include:

Rebeccah Bennett Founder of Emerging Wisdom LLC and InPower Institute
Sharon Price John Chief Executive Officer and President of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc.
Terry Crow Entrepreneur and Attorney
Deborah Patterson President of the Monsanto Fund
Ellen Sherberg  Publisher, St. Louis Business Journal
Suzanne Sitherwood Chief Executive Officer and President of The Laclede Group Inc.
Nina Leigh Krueger CMO for Nestle Purina PetCare Company
Kathleen Mazzarella Chief Executive Officer and President of Graybar Electric Co.



In Teaching & Learning
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