Over the past century, women have made significant strides in obtaining gender equality in the political, social and career realms. While some may struggle with gender discrimination today, the women of Lincoln County’s School Board have refused to let such obstacles impede their journey to becoming strong community leaders.
Superintendent Sherry Hoyle attributes much of her leadership success to her teaching background. She began as a full time teacher at Catawba Springs, while working to acquire her masters along with administrative and curriculum instruction certifications. During her time there, one individual in particular made a lasting impression on Hoyle’s leadership practices.
“Dr. Marvin Chapman was a great role model and cheerleader,” Hoyle said. “He encouraged me…to assume leadership roles within the school and at district level. He was one of those individuals who saw abilities in others that they may not have initially realized.”
After leaving Catawba Springs, Hoyle pursued further educational opportunities, completing her doctorate degree and assuming several central office positions. In addition to her role as superintendent, she also serves on the boards of UnitedWay, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Economic Development Association and the YMCA.
“I have never considered the fact that I was female as a barrier that kept me from achieving my goals,” Hoyle said. “Aspiring female leaders must not allow the notion of gender to be a barrier for any aspirations they may have.”
Hoyle explains that by developing their skills, maintaining a passion for their work and practicing a strong work ethic, they will be able to accomplish their goals.
Lincoln County School Board member Candy Burgin echoes Hoyle’s advice.
“A strong leader should possess a passion for what they are involved in, [along with] dedication and honesty,” Burgin said. “If you have passion for what you are involved in, you will work hard to ensure positive results.”
In addition to her current position with the Board of Education, Burgin serves as an active member of First Baptist Church of Lincolnton, Chair Member of the City of Lincolnton Board of Adjustments and as a member of Lincoln County’s Planning Board. Starting in January, Burgin will begin serving on the board for Strategic Planning for Lincolnton’s Child Advocacy Center.
“I am really excited about this new role because the Child Advocacy Center is such an important group for Lincoln County, and I want to be a part of making a difference in a child’s life,” Burgin said.
She advises aspiring female leaders to never let anyone tell them what they cannot accomplish.
“You have the power within you to reach your dreams,” she said. “And always step out of your comfort zone and say yes. It will enable you to do all things possible and be a strong leader someday.”
A Lincoln County native, School Board member Cathy Davis began her roles in leadership in a more corporate setting. For 25 years, Davis worked as the Human Resources Department Manager for Belk Department Stores in Hickory.
In 2005, Davis opted to make a career change.
“There were a lot of changes going on in the corporate world that year,” Davis said. “My friend convinced me to apply for a local United Way position.”
During her time at United Way, Davis worked with the nonprofit’s board to begin grassroots efforts to develop a homeless shelter for the county. From there, she talked with numerous community leaders and businesses to develop a rotating shelter.
“We only started with five churches and a YMCA after having talked with numerous churches and organizations,” Davis said. “It was difficult to deal with the ‘no’s.’”
Despite some discouraging news along the way, Davis persevered. Today, the county now hosts a fully furnished shelter.
“It would have been easy for us to throw up our hands and move on, but we didn’t” Davis said.
After serving several years with the non-profit organization, Davis now finds herself as the Director of Lincoln County’s Cultural Center. Her work schedule allows her to interact with other non-profits.
Prior to her appointment to the School Board, Davis’s dedication to the community was shown through her work with the Coalition Against Child Abuse and the Hesed House.
“I believed that helped me gain credibility,” Davis said. “It was an opportunity for people to see that I wanted to make the community the best it could be for everyone.”
She has currently served on the School Board for a year. While she has never felt her gender has limited her voice on the school board, the same cannot be said for her other leadership positions.
“There have been instances where I felt it necessary to be more vocal with my opinion in order to be taken more seriously with the county’s Planning Board,” Davis said.
However, now that Davis has served on the Planning Board for four years, she feels her veteran status carries more weight.
Davis attributes much of her success to the support of her family.
“In order for females to step out, your spouse, significant other or family has to be supportive, or else you’ll be in emotional conflict,” Davis said. “A lot of women that are successful have learned to manage their schedules. I try to give as much to my family as I do to other things.”