2024 Influential Women in Business: NKU

Cady Short-Thompson,
Northern Kentucky University
Cady Short-Thompson, President Northern Kentucky University

Q. Who inspires you?

I find myself inspired by those who are first-generation college students. They’re forging new ground, tackling new challenges, finding their way to college, pursuing their degrees and changing the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families. I never lose sight of the power of that path. Because they are the pioneers in their families, they often inspire their siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, or uncles to get their degrees, too. It changes the whole family tree.

Q. How do you support other women in your field?

At NKU, we have a lot of leadership groups that involve multi-department, multi-college activities. We have leadership readings where we talk through and digest assorted topics. Across multiple universities in Greater Cincinnati, we have a program called WILD (Women’s Institute for Leadership Development). It essentially provides women who are middle management leaders with more exposure to top leaders and the opportunity to learn more about strategies for success through training and professional development.

Q. Do you have any advice for young women starting their careers?

Work hard, play by the rules, be ethical, and learn what you don’t know. Sign up to learn new skills and strategies in areas that are blind spots. For example, if you don’t know finances or governance, be vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know that, but I’d like to learn.”

Q. What are the benefits of having women in leadership?

If you look at various work environments, there are still more men at the top in executive suites. That’s true still in higher education. Individuals often imagine a different future or path for themselves if they see someone like them in those roles. I know I was heavily influenced by my mentor, a woman faculty member at the University of Cincinnati and a graduate dean. She helped shape my career in many ways, from simply seeing a woman in leadership to all the success she achieved. Often, if you can see it, you can be it. There’s a sense that if you see yourself represented, your imagination opens up to greater heights. Having leaders with different faces, voices and life experiences makes for a better-run organization.

Q. What has been your most memorable experience as a female leader?

We recently had an alumni event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first commencement in 1973. There were 10 female alums who wanted to take a picture with me because they were eager to share with their granddaughters that the university that had such an impact on their lives so many years ago, now has a woman serving as president. It was a moment I won’t forget.

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