Prestigious Women Awards Honorees: Deborah Shelton
With three decades of experience as an HR executive, community leader, and entrepreneur, Deborah is a dynamic motivator and inspirational mentor.
She has served as an independent HR consultant, Division VP–HR for a Fortune 200 company, various merchandising and HR roles, and founded businesses in wellness and performing arts.
Deborah has held numerous leadership roles in non-profit organizations.
Favorite quote: “Try not to be a man (woman) of success. Rather become a man (woman) of value.” — Albert Einstein
Fun fact: I am a multi-certified yoga, Pilates, meditation, mindfulness, and Reiki 1& 2 instructor with over 20 joyful years serving as a practitioner and life-long “student” of healing movement and mindful behaviors.
How do you unwind after a long day of work? I have a passion for gardening with an exceptional love of orchids. Over the years, gardening has become my ‘therapy’ as it is both highly meditative and highly productive at the same time! The approach I take with my 75+ orchids is comparable to how one should treat others—with compassion and great care. I like to get my hands dirty to remind myself of the rawness, simplicity, and beauty of life.
What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? As a young executive trainee, I often sought out mentors to guide me, but it was not a best practice as it is today, with so many organizations now sponsoring female leadership. It was also a time when women did not openly share their personal lives out of concern of not being viewed as career oriented. Fortunately, times have changed for the better, and we are discovering pathways to soar both personally, professionally, and philanthropically!
What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? At this juncture in my career, I am absolutely enjoying the greatest level of contribution and enjoyment as I merge all of my career and life experiences into my current chapter as Practice Leader of the C-Suite Services & Executive Career Coach at Right Management. My leadership skills and business acumen come from experiences gained through best practices gained at FORTUNE 100 and FORTUNE 200 corporations; later spearheading highly successful entrepreneurial businesses; serving as a certified instructor and motivational speaker in wellness; as well as leading respected not-for-profits. In my current career chapter, it is a gift to guide other executives in their career transitions, which allows me to share my lifelong learning experiences, training, and intellect to elevate their outcomes.
Who are your role models? My first role model was my Great Grandmother, who lived with my family as I was growing up. She epitomized strength, courage, and love of family after losing her husband at an early age. She later witnessed her adult daughter die during childbirth to my mother. My Great Grandmother went on to raise my mother as her own and provided for her and my uncle by turning her small Southern home into a boarding house.
One of my earliest business role models was Bruce Atwater, the CEO of General Mills. He supported females in leadership roles and was an early supporter of mine. When I was on maternity LOA, he called to let me know the Board had granted stock options to me. His message was clear: we believe in you; we recognize your potential — and we do not want to give up your career goals at the sacrifice of an equally important role, motherhood. This act of encouragement propelled me to seek the balance between my career goals and my personal life.
Currently, I am proud to share my role model is my boss, Maureen Shea, who has represents the ideal female role model I never had earlier in my career. She is a dedicated CEO, exceptional wife and mother, contributor to many philanthropic causes, and an amazing friend to many! Through my partnership with her, I have learned that you are never too old and it is never too late to benefit from a role model!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Stay the course and recognize that sustained efforts produce extraordinary results! My Great Grandmother used to repeat this phrase every day to me, “Good, better, best…never let it rest, until good is better, and better represents your best.” It stuck!
What advice would you give a young woman at the start of her career? Despite the years of debate amongst business leaders, business media outlets, and even female leaders – I believe we can all agree that women deserve equal pay and a seat at the leadership table. So my advice is to never give up on your dreams. Females can have it all – if we respect that, we can uniquely define ‘having it all’ in the way that best supports our individual core values and goals!
How has being a woman impacted your career? I have been challenged at times to find the delicate balance between motherhood and career, and I have learned through success and failure to break down big goals and any perceived obstacles into manageable ‘bite-size’ pieces. While it has not always been easy, it has always been rewarding! I truly believe that now is the best time to soar as a female leader. Doors have opened, and it is up to all women to provide the foundation, encouragement, and mentorship to the next generation.