Reflections of Episode 11 with Charli K. Matthews, CEO of Empowering Brands

Cieana and Charli smiles


Author: Cieana Detloff

When I participate at Pump Industry events, I frequently hear, “Oh, I Know Charli!” She is a leader in this industry and (almost) everyone has either met her, seen her online, or knows of her. Starting out as an ‘underdog’, Charli K. Matthews has likely surprised some folks with her ability to stay in this industry – which, by its very nature, is competitive and slow to adopting change. Charli has been leading change in this industry since 2011 (on August 11th, Empowering Pumps & Equipment turns 8!). She has educated people on how to use social media; she created a platform for people to CONNECT (which has continued to grow); and she is constantly searching for ways to EMPOWER people, companies, and brands.

Even though I have known Charli since 2012 and have worked closely with her since 2015, it was still an eye opening experience to listen to her thoughts, feelings, and insights on Episode 11 of the Empowering Women in Industry Podcast. For example, the fact that she has to defend her decision to host the Empowering Women conference & gala on September 26th was surprising to me. I did not realize that she gets comments, daily, about this effort. In the interview, Charli talks about inaction being one of the motivators for this initiative. This idea around “inaction” or ‘waiting too long’ really resonated with me and I’ll tell you why…Bear with me… because I’ve recently been engaged in an online discussion around ‘ambition’ in the CollabSuite group (graciously hosted by Mel the Engineer on Facebook). In that group, I commented that motherhood had been the thing that had knocked my level of ambition down to a ‘zero’ (sleep deprivation puts you in complete survival mode – so Rockstar mode is something I had to work back up to ::grins::). What I realized is that there are many things that can deeply affect a person’s level of ambition and INACTION is one of them.

When a person feels like they are ‘stuck’ in a job, and even ‘stuck’ in a relationship, it can kill a person’s ambition. The minute we recognize that inaction (including inaction from an employer or someone we’re looking toward to lead the way), our power comes back. We realize that something needs to be done, and we make the choice to either stay stuck, or DO something about it. The ‘doing something’ is always the hardest part – because there will always be people questioning your every move, even as you are trying to self-validate. In the interview, Charli states, “It’s disappointing to have to defend the need for a women’s conference.” She shares a story about feeling push-back, which creates a lot of self-doubt internally – even when you’re defending something externally, it can be easy to still feel the need for that validation internally (and I think this is a feeling that has been felt by both men and women alike – so very easy to relate).

I appreciated her sharing the importance of having confidence, being direct, and practicing Mental Toughness (a topic that will be covered at the conference!). Charli is very vocal about where she stands and what she is about, and yet, there were statements she made that I was surprised to hear her say. When she said, “I don’t see myself as a Leader”, I was shocked. In my eyes, she’s always been The Leader. Then, she clarified – “I’m still learning how to be a leader” – and then I realized that her statements are coming from a place of humility (which is an attribute of some of THE BEST Leaders in the world).

It is hard to be the Leader, but she shares her realization that “I need to become a leader to empower others”. She talks about the confidence that is needed to overcome limiting beliefs and that challenging those doubts are necessary to grow in a career.

Another point that is discussed is that women are not brought along the steps of leadership the same way male counterparts are, and this inadvertently, and often unintentionally, sets women up for failure. This discussion is not ‘dissing’ or condemning men, but once again, points out *the need* for a program that highlights Women who are making a difference in the industry. Women who can be role models – who can attract other talented women into an industry that needs a more diverse workforce to tackle the problems it’s facing (skills gap, loss of workforce due to retirement, etc.).

About 30 minutes in and Charli is talking about her experience earlier on in her career “feeling like they don’t want you to be there…feeling like I needed permission… I didn’t know how to ask to grow.” This was a lightbulb moment for me…seeing the inner workings of a leader – the experiences that have helped shape Charli into the Leader she is today. Charli is constantly asking me questions about what I’m passionate about, things I like to do, the parts of my work that get me really fired up. And she does this with all the other members of our team too because she is trying to keep a pulse on making sure every member of her team loves what they do and that they have a path to grow. Charli talks about not originally having a “career development path” – sharing “I was drifting, happy with my job then given more responsibility. I was not thinking about a career path.” I think many people can relate to this experience. I certainly do. I did not set out to join the Pump Industry – I fell into it! And just like Charli, I fell in love with the people – Charli being one of them. I mean, how could you not love her?!

Of course I smiled when Charli mentioned that “Cieana leads me a lot of the time.” It’s very nice to be called an “Empowered, Confident Woman” (and I know that I am!), but I am probably one of her more challenging employees to work with (for reasons I will not go into ::smiles::). What I am grateful for is that despite my shortcomings, Charli continues to Lead. For example, when I mentioned one of my “weak spots” performance-wise, she corrected me…responding with “you mean learning spot.” Now that is Powerful. How many bosses do you know do that? Take an employee’s acknowledgement of falling short, and turn it around with a response that makes a person feel better about themself… A response that inspires a person to DO Better. To BE better….that is Powerful to me and further reinforced by her statement that “We’re stronger when we work together.”

“One of the most important things I could do is contribute to another person’s life for good.” Charli is not talking about me in this story, but I know who she is talking about, and it makes my heart swell.  Charli is on her own journey, but while she is learning and growing, she wants to help others “be the real you…and grow in confidence and leadership”. She admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but that’s the beauty of being real. That’s the beauty in what she is working to build. And I, for one, look forward to being part of it.


Authors note: If you’re curious about what we do at Empowering Women in Industry, Empowering Brands, and/or Empowering Pumps & Equipment, don’t hesitate to ask…every position from every single member of our team is “how can we help you?”. It’s never been about what our team can get, or how much money can we make – we are not driven by money. We are driven by collaboration for mutual benefit. So if you’re wondering how we can be partners and support each others’ missions, just ask! As Charli says…. It’s better when we work together!

Originally posted

Champion For Girls

Champion for girls photo

Today was a great day!

I don’t know if it is just me or if others experience this as well, but when I am about to hit a breakthrough it seems that it instantly starts to fall apart around me.  I think it’s a test, a test to see if I will just give up or actually push through to get there… You feel me? All too often however I let self-doubt and workplace frustrations creep in to my thoughts, so much so that recently I couldn’t even make a simple trip to the post office without making wrong turns…This was my morning… Thankfully, I had a Women’s Leadership luncheon planned.  Not at my best, but I thought at least I can sit and listen to the speaker on “Why Mentors Matter”, which has always been a big interest of mine.

Little did I know the treat that I would receive! First, the tables were set up with the non-sponsors in the back (now y’all know I typically never sit in the back) but I knew exactly where to sit. The ladies at my table were amazing and I instantly could tell they were driven leaders in their field! I met several ladies in finance, a grant coordinator, a marketer, and Emily Baker. Emily, who is currently working at B.F.Goodrich in Supply Chain, had a spark and excitement about her!  As you can probably guess I was drawn to her almost instantly.  When I ask her about her background and she explained she graduated as a mechanical engineer…. I am not sure I heard what was after… I was jumping up and down inside… A LADY ENGINEER!  I was so excited!  If she had been sitting right next to me I am not sure I would’ve been able to stop the endless questions I wanted to ask her!  I got her number and knew I would talk with her later… This connection was just meant to be!

As the speaker, Connie Hill, PHD and CEO of Girls Inc. of Central Alabama was introduced, I wondered what was Girls Inc.  As she spoke about her previous careers and mentors, I was really touched by her early work with the Alliance to End Homelessness and Domestic Abuse. She spoke about mentoring as a duty that we have to build a better future.  Then, she explained to group, her mission to raise awareness for Girl, Inc.!  This is the good part!

“Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold”

That one line was enough for me to want to support the organization, but then I heard more… At age 6 (my daughter’s age), girls start thinking they aren’t as smart as boys.  That stat is NOT ok with me. I immediately thought… how can we fix that?  She went on to say that Girls Inc. empowers girls to succeed by helping develop the skills and confidence they need to achieve at their highest level. They help girls reach their fullest potential by providing gender-specific, age-appropriate programming that teaches life skills and promotes healthy life choices.  They TEACH! This was the biggest takeaway for me.  As I plan to develop a Women’s program in our industry, I have been asking myself, what do we want to talk about? This was also a topic at our lunch table and I think we found the answer we needed. It’s about teaching the actual skills for the job!  It doesn’t matter the mentor or the mentee.  At the end of the day, they should both leave the session with an ‘I CAN do it’ attitude and the skills to accomplish it!

As a woman in a male dominated industry, I am excited about the opportunity to create this type of peer group for the ladies I know in engineering, marketing, and management!

Speaking of engineering, this is really what made my day… Connie explained they focus on areas where women are not. “Girls Inc.’s core areas of programming include: science, math, technology, career development, economic literacy, English & creative writing, healthy living, arts, sports and cultural enrichment.”

So for me I met a present day engineer working in a male-dominated industry and the woman who is the CEO of an organization that is focused on building the future for WOMEN engineers, scientists, and basketball players, to name but a few, in Alabama!

Stay tuned because you will be definitely be hearing more and more about this organization as I take the next step of finding out how I can be more involved. For now, make sure you check out how to be a #ChampionForGirls on their website: