Spotlight on Cindy Reid-Shelton, President of Intent Planning Group

This International Women’s Day we asked Cindy Reid-Shelton, president of Intent Planning Group, to reflect on her experiences as an entrepreneur and leader and what her hopes are for the future of women in business.

What is something you think women entrepreneurs have in common?

Almost all the women entrepreneurs I’ve interacted with over the years, myself included, have this desire to control the narrative. Being a woman in business has always meant living a double life, of sorts. There’s the at home version which, for many of us, means being an attentive caregiver and then there’s the polished, professional version. In both spheres, there’s enormous pressure to be perfect because the stakes are so great. Mediocrity seems out of the question because at any moment, it can be used against us as proof of why we can’t or shouldn’t lead.

When you’re a business owner, you have more flexibility to show up authentically and do the work you love while worrying less about how you measure up to male counterparts who often don’t have the same kinds of gendered caregiving responsibilities or expectations placed on them. It’s freeing to be your own boss and know your success is determined by how hard you work, not someone’s biased perception of women as a whole.

What is one thing you would like to see change for women in your field?

I don’t really have an original answer to this question because I think most of us know what needs to change but get stuck on the how. The workforce has definitely made some significant improvements since I began my career but there are still a lot of challenges women face today. We are still being talked over, denied credit and forced to jump through hoops to prove our value.

It makes me think that a huge part of being a woman in business, perhaps a woman period, is wondering how much we must endure to remain in the running. We put up with things like jokes and harassment that compromise our values and senses of self because the alternative – being alienated or written off as too emotional – feels worse and can damage our career trajectory. There’s so much mental turmoil that goes into being any kind of minority in a historically unwelcoming environment.

Women should be able to go to work and feel like their team wants them to thrive and succeed as much as any other male colleague. I think to make meaningful change, we need more women in positions of power, not just for the sake of visibility or meeting a minority quota but because they are qualified and have the potential to reimagine the nature of work. It’s a huge responsibility though, dismantling and changing a system so I hope there are fewer and fewer barriers to doing that work going forward.  

What is one aspect of where you are currently in your career that brings you joy?

Building trusting, safe relationships with clients so they feel supported and able to open up about victories as well as what keeps them up at night. Most fulfilling about what I do is helping others achieve their dreams and I love that the experience I’ve gained – good and bad – from growing up in this industry helps me do that.   

What advice do you have for young women in business?

The same advice I give my daughters. Follow your gut. Life is short and you can end up pouring a lot of energy into the wrong buckets. Women are as diverse a group as any so don’t feel compelled to follow the narrative of what society thinks women should be doing. Your unique dreams and ambitions are precious, and it takes courage to keep them alive. Don’t stop exploring, make time for joy and take up space. We need more women of all ages following their bliss, whatever it looks like.

For over 30 years, Cindy has been a relentless pursuer of professional education and development. She has obtained six accreditations including Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP), Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) and Certified Business Advisor (CBA). In addition to starting and running Intent and being a mom of three young adults, she enjoys mentoring, speaking at international events and building connections with other women in business.