To get her start with a news station, Natalie Allen sought help from everyone she knew. The choir director at church made a call to the boss of the local Memphis newsroom and helped secure her first media internship.
Once she had her foot in the door, she seized the opportunity and was the first intern to become a general assignment reporter as a student. Just three years later, Allen was a co-anchor for the network's 10 pm News show. In her 25 year career in broadcast journalist, Allen has worked for MSNBC, NBC News, and the Weather Channel, where she served as an environment and climate correspondent.
The rest is history -- Natalie Allen is now a highly respected international anchor for CNN, as a sustainability correspondent. She showed impressive professional dexterity as she wrote, shot, and produced the 3-part CNN Freedom Project special on child trafficking.
As a high-profile anchor that has covered a number of breaking news stories for CNNI and CNN/US, Allen recognizes that her position is somewhat unique. Women in general do not commonly fill high-level roles. "We are still not in great numbers in leadership positions, including environmental leadership positions," Allen said. "I go to many conferences that are put on by various entities, and I’m always taken aback by how few women are in the room. Most of the people who are leaders in the environmental space are men."
TriplePundit picked her brain for words of wisdom for women wishing to advance as leaders. The takeaway message is that it can be difficult for women in this space, but there are resources to tap to make it happen.
"I just interviewed Susan Packard, and she talked about her early years in leadership," Allen told us. "She didn’t want to be too soft, or be everyone’s mother. Women are judged more harshly. It is hard to walk into these [leadership] roles. The more women that come through and read books, and people write books about the mistakes they’ve made, we might see more women at higher echelons."
Susan Packard's new book, "New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace," focuses on these very items, helping to give women the skills to thrive. The Women's Leadership Conference from the MGM Resorts Foundation is also a valuable and motivating resource for women, she said.
Allen will speak at the 2015 conference next month in Las Vegas, and the insightful and motivational Pat Russell-McCloud is the featured keynote speaker. The purpose of the conference is "to inspire women to seek their highest level of personal and professional growth by presenting participants with role models, varying perspectives and strategies for development." The conference offers sessions on enhancing leadership skills, gaining new skills to grow professionally, and increasing networks of peers, mentors and sponsors. Allen described effective breakout sessions, where participants were given opportunities to master new skills with difficult scenarios through role-playing situations.
When it comes to money, Allen advocates for women to stand up for themselves. Many bosses report that women do not commonly ask for raises. "You have to believe in yourself and ask for what you feel your value is," Allen said. "Apparently men are doing it and we are not... Make sure you are taking care of yourself and your value."
Allen specifically sees the importance of women as leaders in sustainability, because women care deeply about environmental and social issues facing humanity. It is therefore a loss to humanity to have women not performing to the fullest of their potential. Allen stated during an interview a few years ago that the environment is "the most important story of our time."
She still believes this powerful statement. "I think everything comes back to our environment," she said. "Thomas Friedman says war will be fought over water. We are now seeing so many extreme weathers affecting people in their lives. We are all connected to our planet. What can be a bigger issue than that?"
Ed note: To hear Natalie speak live, check out the Women in Leadership conference next month in Las Vegas. Tickets are going fast!
Image credit: Flickr/Fortune Live Media
Sarah Lozanova is a green copywriter and communications professional specializing in renewable energy and clean technology. She is a consultant for Sustainable Solutions Group and a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Home Power, Earth911, and Green Builder. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine.