Shaping the Future Leaders of the Pacific Northwest

President Audrey Bilger and wife Cheryl Pawelski were among 25 influential leaders selected to share their wisdom at The Women's Summit.

By Sheena McFarland | March 3, 2023

Hundreds of women gathered on Monday, February 27, for the Women’s Summit featuring Mentoring Monday, and Reed President Audrey Bilger and her wife, Grammy-winning record producer Cheryl Pawelski, were on hand to lend their insight as mentors.

Hosted by the Portland Business Journal, the event featured three rounds of 20-minute speed mentoring where attendees could choose a mentor to learn from and discuss their situations. Bilger’s topic dealt with finding courage amid challenge and leading with heart. She counseled mentees by drawing upon her own 30-plus years of experience in higher education, including her presidency at Reed.

“Thinking about how to open up space for those who have been shut out is one of the most important roles I have,” she said.

When asked about how to combat the imposter syndrome that many women face as they advance in leadership roles, she recommended they “give themselves permission to be in that space. Thank your superego for checking in with its self-doubt, notice it, and then dismiss it.”

She also encouraged women to find the courage to lead, and for Bilger, “the courage came from recognizing that we are in this together” when facing a challenging situation.

At her table Pawelski shared about navigating a nontraditional career path, as she has experience maneuvering her way through the world of record production in Los Angeles and has at times been the only woman working in the area of historical/catalog music at the major labels.

She recommended women build a support network, and emphasized that all business is relationship based.

“My greatest mentors were people who saw me. If you find people like that, you’ll have career success,” Pawelski said. “Also, look for your peers. Find the people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about.”