Female leadership at helm of 'City on the Rise'

Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Manager Sheryl Sculley open up about gender equality at city hall

SAN ANTONIO – From their offices at city hall, Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Manager Sheryl Sculley spoke candidly about their leadership in of the state's largest cities.

"I think we've done pretty well over the years. I'm sure there is still more work to do," Taylor said.

Taylor is the city's first African-American mayor and one of a few women to hold the position. As city manager, Sheryl Sculley is in charge of the city's multi-billion dollar budget. Both women are proud of the city's record when it comes to hiring women and elevating them to leadership positions.

"We have 12,000 employees and approximately 100 executives, and of those, 42 percent are women. (That's) an improvement from where it was 10 years ago," Sculley said.

Both women are highly educated, outspoken, and fiercely independent. They're both educators and mothers. Though their gender sets them apart from their mostly male counterparts in other large cities, both women said it does not define them.

"It's just a part of who I am," Taylor said. "I'm a mom as well, and so I think that brings a great perspective to the roles that I play."

One of those roles is as a mentor to other young women, something Sculley said she lacked in the early parts of her career.

"For the first 30 years, I was the first woman in every position that I had earned," Sculley said. "Candidly, there were men that really mentored or saw that I had promise. There have been too few women, I think, that have been able to mentor first-generation female leaders, but that's changing."

The young women the two are hoping to inspire can be found at the Young Women's Leadership Academy. Students consider Sculley, Taylor, and many of the city's other female leaders role models.

"It's definitely something that is very encouraging to all of us here, and I'm really glad that we've gotten to experience it in our lifetime," said senior Ilanna Villagran. "We understood the importance and significance (of Taylor's appointment) that we are one of the few large cities in the country that can say that, and can attest to the fact that we have females running our city."

Viagran's classmate, Azel Garza, said San Antonio should serve as a model for the federal government, which is dominated by men. She said much of her ambition is driven by women such as potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"They are an inspiration to me because I see that women can do what men do, and if you have that perseverance to do it than women can," she said.

It's that message that Taylor and Sculley hope to impart to all women in San Antonio.

"I think the message is for them to stay focused on whatever it is they want to achieve, and to make sure that they define for themselves what success looks like," Taylor said.

"Know where you want to go, be flexible enough to adjust that plan because opportunities present themselves and you need to be open to them," Sculley said. "Your education, hard work, and stepping outside of that comfort zone, is going to help you a great deal."