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2 women leaders on tackling the pandemic at work

Diane Devaney, president of marketing services firm Devaney & Associates.

Diane Devaney, president of the marketing services firm Devaney & Associates, writes in a journal every day. She recently went over some entries from late 2019 and 2020. Her first priority when the pandemic was declared in March 2020 was making sure her team stayed intact and productive, she wrote.

“Nobody knew what was going to happen — nobody,” she said recently. “It was scary not knowing, but I think the flexibility and the adaptability that we brought to (the situation) really did help.”

Devaney said she focused on two primary areas: her staff and her clients.

The company’s employees were sent home to work, along with the unwieldy computer equipment they require to do their jobs.

Devaney said she told her staff: “Whatever happens, you are going to be OK. We are going to be OK.”

Meanwhile, Devaney’s Owings Mills-based business had to adjust to its clients’ own challenges.

Near the beginning of the pandemic, as their revenue plummeted, some clients asked if they could suspend Devaney’s services.

“For those clients, we actually said, you can stop paying us, but we are going to keep doing the work because we think you need to keep your message out there,” Devaney said, adding that all those clients kept their contracts with the firm, with some enlarging them.

“That came back to us, like, tenfold,” Devaney said of her decision to allow clients to suspend payment in the early days of the pandemic.

Kim Schatzel, Towson University President

At Towson University, President Kim Schatzel has nothing but praise for faculty and staff, particularly for their resolve in the first few months of the pandemic, when much was unknown.

“Our community rallied around our students and one another in a way that made me so incredibly proud,” Schatzel said.

When the pandemic was declared, the university sent employees home to work and shifted to remote classes. Within three weeks, it also built and outfitted a 6,000-square-foot COVID testing center in a parking facility.

“If anyone ever says that higher education is lumbering and not agile, the response of universities nationwide demonstrated our nimbleness and ability to innovate,” Schatzel said. “The response to the pandemic was monumental for a university our size, and it was all due to our faculty, staff and students working together in support of each other.”

Towson University’s leadership team helped inform the community through a website with a live chat function, as well as through weekly emails and regular town hall-style meetings on Zoom.

Schatzel and other top university leaders also took a temporary pay cut, according to a university spokesman.

“We made sure our students had what they needed, we made shrewd fiscal decisions on behalf of our people and we made sure that we could get through this period of uncertainty without any layoffs or furloughs,” Schatzel said.

Beyond that, Schatzel said, the university put together a task force to develop an updated telework policy to guide the transition back to an in-person working environment before the 2021-2022 academic year.

“The Towson University community is resilient and compassionate,” Schatzel said. “I learned that when faced with tough times, our community can rally around one another.”

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