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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Natalie Kaddas at work Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, comparing old and new catalogs at Kaddas Enterprises Inc. in Salt Lake City.
Hopefully, I’m showing that women can do anything. —Lori Chillingworth

SALT LAKE CITY — Growing up in West Jordan, Natalie Kaddas had no idea she would one day become a top executive for a growing local company that sells products in all 50 states and seven countries around the world.

But as fate and hard work would have it, Kaddas finds herself among the more prominent businesswomen in Utah, leading a multimillion-dollar manufacturing firm into its next phase of development and growth.

Kaddas is among the growing number of women rising to roles of prominence in Utah — in business, academia, politics and more.

“I always knew I wanted a career, but I just didn’t know what that was,” she said.

After high school, Kaddas briefly considered a career in nursing but said she was turned off by all “the blood.”

“There was an 'icky' factor that I didn’t anticipate,” she said with a laugh. “So it just didn’t work well for me at all.”

Kaddas soon took a job at Marriott Hotels working in a call center and hoping to use it as a way to travel with her new husband. That environment sparked an interest in business that eventually led her to the position she holds today.

As the general manager of Kaddas Enterprises, the 43-year-old mother of two oversees operation of the company founded in 1966 by her in-laws. The firm designs and produces high-tech plastics for industrial applications, including in the aviation and transportation industries.

Kaddas' engineer husband, Jay, works primarily in design, while she focuses on the everyday business aspects of the company.

When she started with the company in 2008, there were only six employees. Today, there are 27 producing more than 200 products with annual revenues around $5 million.

Kaddas said the privately owned company is forecasting double-digit annual growth for the next several years. Despite her initial inexperience in the manufacturing industry, Kaddas said she never doubted she could become successful when she took the job.

“I had led people before and wasn’t as concerned about that,” she said. “I was more concerned that I didn’t have the industry background. That’s what kept me up at night.”

Over time, however, Kaddas gained confidence in her abilities and the respect of her industry peers. She said one of her best attributes is her ability to take ideas and bring them to market, in addition to being very competitive and “a lifelong learner.”

“I’m not afraid to say I don’t know (something),” Kaddas said. “As part of my learning, I network and talk to others (for knowledge). If I don’t know the answer, I’m going to learn the answer.”

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be challenging, she said, but displaying confidence and competence is virtually always a successful way to overcome those issues.

“You have to command the room and make a presence,” Kaddas said. “Show them that, 'I’m here and deserve to be here.'"

* * *

For Lori Chillingworth, 53, the path from young single mother to banking executive has been a bit circuitous, but it has given her the perspective and wisdom to emerge as one of the most respected people in her field.

Recently recognized by American Bankermagazine as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Banking,” Chillingworth is one of the leading figures in Utah business and banking.

However, her career began much less auspiciously as a drive-up teller at a small, two-branch financial institution not long after graduating from Bingham High School.

After about two years, Chillingworth moved to Key Bank, where she served in various positions before moving on to Zions Bank, her employer for the past 18 years.

Though she today is a woman of outstanding accomplishment, Chillingworth said she did not take the traditional path into her chosen career.

“I didn’t graduate from a university, but as I continued my banking career, I continued my education through the Utah Bankers Association,” she explained. “Fortunately, in banking there are so many (educational) opportunities. There was just no limit for me as long as I was willing to do it.”

A graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School, the American Institute of Banking and the Northwestern Bank Leadership Program, Chillingworth has served as executive vice president of Zions Bank’s Small Business Division since June 2010 overseeing business development, loan approvals and management of the bank’s small-business loan portfolio.

Previous management positions with the company included senior vice president and director of business banking, as well as the founding manager of the Zions Bank Women’s Financial Group.

Currently, Chillingworth is also chairwoman of the Salt Lake Chamber's board of directors — just the third women in 148 years to hold the position — and chairwoman of the executive committee of the Women’s Leadership Institute.

Those same types of opportunities still exist today, she said, but it takes a highly motivated person who is willing to “make the sacrifice” necessary to achieve their long-term career goals.

For young women today, "there are no limits," Chillingworth said. "If someone tells you that there are, then don’t listen to them because they’ve been under a rock for the last decade.”

Chillingworth said she would like to be looked upon as an example for young women in the industry.

“Hopefully, I’m showing that women can do anything,” she said. “I’m doing something that is a nontraditional woman’s role, but is certainly starting to become more traditional.”

* * *

Under the title of overachiever, you might find the name of Susan Madsen.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communication education from BYU, a master’s degree in exercise science/wellness from Portland State, and she received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in human resource development.

Today, Madsen is the Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics in the Woodbury School of Business at Utah Valley University. For more than a decade, she has been heavily involved in researching the lifetime development of prominent women leaders and has authored numerous books and articles on the subject.

Madsen, 54, has spent much of her career in support of promoting the idea of women in leadership, in addition to her efforts with the Utah Women and Education Initiative aimed at getting more Utah women to graduate from college.

And she does all this while raising four children with her husband, Greg.

Madsen said her passion for education was stoked by her father, who earned a doctorate in educational psychology.

“I knew that I was supposed to be an educated person,” she said. “I watched my dad attain those advanced degrees, so I knew what they were.”

Though her mother never formally completed her nursing degree, choosing instead to marry and raise her family, she too continued her pursuit of knowledge, Madsen said.

“She was a learner beyond belief,” she said of her mother. “She always was reading and took classes. Every day I would see her with books and other things. Even though it wasn’t formal education, she was always learning and still is today.”

Madsen said using education as a foundation can help more women rise to leadership roles. She also said more women should take active roles in helping other women gain leadership skills, including becoming mentors for the younger generation.

Madsen also implores women to avoid limiting themselves by allowing old notions of gender roles to dictate their current behavior.

“Be broad-minded. Don’t think that you have to do certain things because you’re a woman,” she said. “Continue to develop yourself, become a lifelong learner. Go to things, find events, become more confident.”

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Even the most accomplished person can gain extra confidence to help them improve their sense of self, Madsen said. Additionally, women should not be satisfied to be “in the background or subordinate,” she said.

“Women need to be equal, and we need more women’s voices,” Madsen said. “Whether it’s in business, community politics, schools or churches, we’ve got to have the perspectives of both women and men to make the best choices for our children and for society at large.”

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com

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