Linda McIntosh Todd: Women need role models that ‘look like them’

To celebrate Women’s History Month and the women of the Dallas Region business community, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Linda McIntosh Todd, President of the Dallas Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, to get her perspective on challenges facing women in business and the things she wants them to know.

McIntosh Todd retired from Xerox after 27 years of leading diverse United States-based and international teams and has now redirected her corporate management, organizational, and collaborative skills to fulfill the mission and goals of nonprofit organizations. She serves on a number of community-based committees and boards, including the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors.

What female figures have had the biggest influence on your life? Why do you look up to them?

My mom, Jean Frances Milligan, had the biggest influence on my life.  She was a loving, strong, supportive, and encouraging mother. She was an educator for 46 years; entrepreneur and owner of a Black newspaper called “The Spotlight News”; author of a book for educators with a companion book for students, “Interference for Young Audiences,” to enhance reading proficiency; and a community leader that was active in Jack & Jill of America, board member of the Dallas Park, and served in the women’s ministry at church.

She taught me that life is tough, but that I’m tougher, and to push through challenges to reach my goals. She was my role model and helped me develop critical thinking skills, effective money management, and Godly wisdom through humble self-examination, persistent prayer, and Godly discernment.

What are the biggest challenges facing women today, and what can employers do to help their female leaders excel professionally?

The biggest challenges facing women today are inequity and racial bias in the workplace, especially for women of color.  There are not enough role models that look like them in areas of leadership.

According to Women Business Collaborative, 46, or about 9%, of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2022 were women. Of those positions, less than 10, or 1%, were women of color and there were only two Black women – Rosalind “Roz” Brewer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA.

Before now, the only other Black  woman to run a Fortune 500 company on a permanent basis was Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox.  She was a trailblazer, and I was fortunate to work under her leadership during my 27-year tenure with Xerox.

Employers must be intentional about hiring and providing an environment of growth and development for women.  It starts at the top with leadership, strategic planning, and awareness that the problem exists, and steps must be outlined in each organization to correct the current course. Programs should include efforts not only within the organization but outreach in the communities in which they exist and investment in higher education programs, especially HBCUs.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you received before you started your career? Do you use this advice in mentoring others?

I wish someone had advised me to share and obtain feedback regarding my career goals and aspirations not only with my immediate manager but also with a senior executive of the company. If I did not have my manager’s support, then I would obtain a mentor that could offer sage career guidance and wisdom.

Being seen by the C-suite is a critical step to being there in the future at the senior executive level.  Of course, you must have a track record of success, a well-thought-out plan, and the ability to articulate what you want to do and how you can contribute to the organization. Demonstrating self-confidence, discipline, and skill in your current role is key.

Know what you want and do not let obstacles deter you from your goals.

If you could write your autobiography, what would its title be, and why?

“She prayed, she planned, she lived her best life!”

I’m fortunate to have embraced the knowledge that placing God first in my life changes the perspective of how I live my life.

I’ve always been a planner and enjoyed creating a vision, planning the steps, collaborating with others, executing the plan, and then enjoying the success of it all.  There have been many challenges along the way, but I’ve learned and grown from each challenge and learning experience.

In addition, I’m volunteering in the community so that my small efforts will make a difference in the lives of others. I’m focused on wellness and enjoying my family.  That’s living my best life.