When asked to describe what she does for a living, Karlyn Edmonds always responds that she has the best job in the world. Karlyn has been the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama for 18 years and is tremendously proud of the fact that she gets to watch girls grow into amazing leaders who know the value of community service and who are catalysts for positive change in the community. She continues to be inspired by the girls each and every day. Karlyn holds a Bachelor’s in corporate journalism from Auburn University and a Master’s of Public Administration from Auburn University in Montgomery. Originally from Wetumpka, Alabama, Karlyn now resides in Pike Road with her husband and two beautiful children.
Tell us about your business(es)/employer. List services offered and/or work you do and how you describe what you do to others:
Girl Scouts is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls across the globe. Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama serves K-12 girls across 30 counties in southern Alabama. Our girls are members of traditional troops and also participate in extensive outreach programming to girls in underserved communities.
Tell us why you chose your profession, the value it brings to you and/or the community:
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to find a job where I could make a difference in people’s lives. I’m a “helper” by nature, and giving back is in my DNA thanks to an amazing set of parents who taught my brother and the value of service. I strongly believe in the power of women to make the world a better place, so building girl leaders through Girl Scouts is the perfect “home” for me.
What is your vision or hope for women in the Mobile and Gulf Coast communities?
I want women in Mobile, the Gulf Coast, and beyond to understand the power of working together to make a difference. We can–and do–change the world. I see that in the girls we serve all the time. When we work together, as sisters, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.
How important are relationships/networking to you?
They are critical to personal and professional success, but family is the most important for me. My children bring me so much joy. My husband is the cheerleader who tells me what I need to hear, even when I don’t want to hear it. And then there’s my mother, who is–and always has been–my biggest fan. She does not tell me what I need to hear (that’s my husband’s job!) but provides an ear to listen and to support (plus, she always thinks I’m right!).
What advice or suggestions can you give to women walking the path of empowerment or struggling with self doubt?
We all struggle with self doubt, and some days are just plain hard. When this happens to me, I remind myself that this (work, parenting, life) is a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes we all deserve a pass. We have to take a break, recharge, regroup, and get ready to hit that pavement again.
Was there a moment for you that was a game changer and can you tell us about it?
The first day at a “real job” after college was a huge pivot point for me. I began working for the Governor’s Office and immediately realized I was WAY out of my league. I looked around and saw “important” people who were smart, driven, and completely absorbed by the work we were doing. I had two choices, retreat and just be “ordinary” or lean in, and I decided to lean in. I paid attention to how my supervisors spoke and interacted with others, and I made it my goal to learn from them. I was the FIRST person to raise my hand when a job needed to be done or to ask for more work, and whatever I did, I did it 110% percent. And very soon, I was not “way” out of my league anymore. Instead, I had a seat at the table.
“We all struggle with self doubt, and some days are just plain hard. When this happens to me, I remind myself that this (work, parenting, life) is a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes we all deserve a pass.”
You seem to really love what you do, tell us why:
I really do have the best job in the world. How could you not love a job that allows you to serve young women (your own daughter included) as they do amazing things and grow into strong, confident leaders? I am awed by our girls and volunteers every day. They make me strive to be a better person and to join them in making the world a better place.
How do you think professional environments need to change to support and/or be more welcoming to women?
We need to embrace women in the workplace and respect the many roles that they play in the community and at home. Professional environments that value their workers must be adaptive to their needs by developing flexible working hours, providing strong benefits, and/or allowing time for professional development and volunteer work. Women who have the support they need at work will excel and make important contributions to our communities.
What/who inspires you?
I am inspired every day by the girls we serve and the amazing things they are doing across Southern Alabama. I look at my daughter, a longtime Girl Scout who has earned her Bronze and Silver awards and is about to start working on her Gold Award, and see what she has learned and accomplished through our program, and it makes me excited for the future of our community.
What’s the hardest part about being a working mom?
As a working mom, I feel like my attention is always divided, and that leads to lots of “mom guilt.” My phone is ringing or emails are pinging while my son wants me to read to him or my daughter needs homework help. Sometimes there’s a phone call that I have to take in the middle of dinner. It’s a tough balance. Some days I feel like a good mom and some days a good CEO, but those are rarely the same days!