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Taking Risks and Checking in on Leadership Teams, with Jenna Fisher

Taking Risks and Checking in on Leadership Teams, with Jenna Fisher

We sit down with Jenna Fisher, author of To the Top: How Women in Corporate Leadership Are Rewriting the Rules for Success, to discuss pay equity, the strength of networking, and receiving tough feedback as a woman.


Maricella Herrera: This episode is sponsored by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. The Cornell Executive MBA Americas program is designed for goal achievers from any industry. The program works by advancing your career without interruption, by providing global perspectives and intimate classroom settings and by challenging, informing, connecting and propelling you. Achieve your goals with the Cornell Executive MBA Americas program on the weekend and close to home, search Cornell EMBA Americas in my city today.

Megan Oliver: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Maricella Herrera and Megan Oliver.

MH: Hi everyone, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera I'm the CEO of Ellevate Network and your host for this wonderful podcast. I'm...

MO: She's back!

MH: I'm back. I'm back and very tanned, and I'm here with Megan Oliver.

MO: Hi, everybody.

MH: How is it going, Megan? How was it in my absence?

MO: It was good, it was very... I watched various different... Just for fun, video game commentary shows where people were just playing video games and commenting with their friends and whatever, and I've seen them talk before about when the other one will leave the room and they'll just have to do solo commentary for literally a few minutes and they're like, it's terrifying. I was like, "What's the big deal?" And then I did it and I... Bless you Katherine, she took out all my fumbles, she took out all my tripping over words, but I'm quite sure those like raw footage pieces were a mess.

MH: When you did what the podcast intros or are you seriously doing video commentary?

MO: No, I did the... Oh no, no, no, I've never done a video commentary. No. When I was doing the podcast, the podcast intros, and I was just like... I feel like in between segments, I was like, alright Catherine, so now I'm gonna say this, I mean... Obviously cut that part out. Yeah. Okay, so anyway, the history makers are...

MH: It takes a lot of practice to be able to talk to yourself.

MO: Yeah, yeah.

MH: And just kinda go with it.

MO: To talk to yourself and to make it so that other people can listen because I do plenty of talking to myself in my time but it doesn't matter. I know what I'm saying, I'm not projecting for an audience.

MH: Right. Oh yeah. Well, I'm sure you did fantastic. I will be listening to the episodes I've kind of been trying to be disconnected for while I was out, so I'll listen to those and catch up and I'm sure you did great.

MO: Yeah, they were really good. Really fun, both great episodes.

MH: And people are really listening to us catch up because I've only seen you in one meeting with the whole team, so I haven't actually gotten a chance to talk to you since I've been back. My...

MO: How was Cancun?

MH: It was good, it was good. It was a lot because it was a family trip, so my parents, my uncle and his wife and my brother and his partner, and my little nephew. It was all of us meeting up. Which was really, really lovely. I always love spending time with my nephew, which was great 'cause he's getting... He's getting older, he's 16 months now, and so is walking around and starting to say words and that's really cool.

MO: That's my favorite age is 18 months and he's almost there, 'cause it's where you're like, you're walking and you can communicate just enough to get across what you want and need, but also everything is brand new, and like... So everything is amazing, and it's just... It's so cool to see them in that state.

MH: Yeah, it's so cute to see him, and it's interesting because it's this little little human who is, yes. Discovering the world, but also is being spoken to in three different languages all the time. And so it's funny like the words or the things that he picks up, so he now says ball very perfectly, and bumba, which means ball in Latvian, so he still doesn't say it in Spanish so some day. But yeah, the little guy is learning...

MO: Yeah, that's how my mom... That's how my mom was, but this is very hard to get across in podcast format because my mom is... I've mentioned this before, my mom's mother is deaf, she was raised by a single mom, single deaf mom, so my mom literally is a child of a deaf adult, and her introduction to language was sign language, so she didn't speak really until she was like two or three and she started being regularly babysat by a family friend, and she had to be kind of bribed into talking because she would... Her family friend would point to a tree and say, "Look, there's a tree," and my mom would shake her head and make the sign for tree. That's what that is. But she was like... "No, it's a tree. You have to be able to do both." And my mom was apparently very stubborn, but then she became the same family friend, always jokes that once she figured it out, she never stopped, because she then went into marketing and communications and she's been a big communicator ever since.

MH: Yeah, I feel like that's kind of... They develop those skills much more, even if it takes longer for kids in that sense, different languages at the same time. But yeah, it becomes a strength afterwards.

MO: Yeah.

MH: But yes, it was nice. The weather was a little rainy in the first few days, but then it was lovely and sunny. It's interesting being with your family and my family, it's certainly from a very different, very different background, than what I am immersed in and in my day to day, and I think there are moments when I have to stop and think, "Okay, they see the world so differently. And it's because that's what they've been conditioned to, and that's what they've been used to," and it has to be... It's a little hard, I guess, for me to... I wouldn't say, I don't know, I was gonna say, it's a little hard for me to bridge that gap sometimes. When I can imagine that is the case with many people. We always hear the Thanksgiving dinner debacles or discussions, and I don't have those, but I do. It's just in a different way, I don't know, I'm not making much sense, but it was when you're with family and when you're surrounded with people who have grown up in very different environments, and granted, we all grew up in El Salvador, but I left...

MH: My brother left and we have very different career paths, so my brother is a very successful serial entrepreneur, I'm much more in this kind of social justice impact work, and it's hard to not be pulled in to some of the older beliefs or I don't know, it's weird.

MO: It's, it is, it's hard. That's something, you know I've thought about when I'm moving back to Texas, is my family is much more not what you would think of from Texas because we're originally from the East Coast, but when you're surrounded by that, it's not as easy when you're not in a bubble, and it can be a very good thing, it can challenge you, it can make you think about what your beliefs are and why you have those beliefs. It can really reinforce them, but it's not as easy.

MH: It definitely isn't, and there's... I feel bad about it because at some point I'm like, "Okay, how much am I going to spend of my energy trying to bring these people along to some of the ideas and concepts of how the world has changed?" And sometimes I just give up because I don't think that them going back to El Salvador is going to... Nothing's gonna change, 'cause their contacts and their reality is so different than mine. I don't know. I've been thinking a lot, basically is what I'm saying since I've been with my family.

MO: And it's one of those things where one of the constant lessons of my youth that my mother was always having to teach me, and I'm still having to remind myself now is picking your battles, there are some battles that you're like, "No, I will draw a line in the sand right here, we're not gonna move on from this until we have hashed this out," but there's other things where I'm just like, "Is this ultimately A going to change anything or B... I don't know. Does it ultimately matter if I make this argument to them right now."

MH: Yeah. What hill do you wanna die on?

MO: Yeah, and there are a lot of hills that I will die on.

MH: I think I have many too. I'm very outspoken on so many things, and that's where it's challenging to me. I can stand here and talk about. So like these topics that I'm so passionate about like diversity, equity and inclusion, like trans rights, like so many others of these that have... That are important to me. And yet, when it comes to doing that with the closest people in my life, and maybe it is because they're not necessarily the closest people in my life, they are my family of origin, and I love them, but when it comes to doing that with them, it's such a much harder, much harder hill to climb.

MO: Yeah, I will say that there was one instance. The last time I went to visit family again, my immediate family are all very on, mostly like right on my beliefs so oftentimes they believe the same things, they just aren't quite as loud about them, but we did at one point have extended family visiting, and there was somebody who made a crack about gender being male and female, and that being it, and you are what you are born as, and I had been on my best behavior the whole week, but that one, it was like the laser eyes came out. I was just like, "No, we're not doing this today." And I just went into just the whole thing of gender is expression, gender is a social construct, gender... Went under the whole thing and...

MH: Sexuality, gender, and sex are different things.

MO: Yeah. Exactly. And then he tried to go, "Well, I'm more old-fashioned," and I said, "Yeah, plenty of historical beliefs have understood that gender is a construct."

MH: Yeah. Try explaining that to people who are not just old-fashioned, but have very different cultural upbringing.

MO: Yeah.

MH: Which is very hard. El Salvador is still very closed. I don't think that a lot of people there, so even are open to different sexualities, not even gender, not to mention gender, so it's... I don't know, there's so much work to be done, I guess.

MO: There is, and it's one of those moments when you're like, how much do I turn off because I'm on vacation? How much do I need to fight this battle right now? And allowing yourself to take rest because if you fight every single day, you will burn out immediately, and it's still something I'm struggling with, but it's not easy.

MH: It's not. But we're doing the work. I think, like you said, it's about choosing the battles, and it's about knowing where your effort will have more impact, and I think my effort will have more impact here talking to you all.

MO: Definitely. Speaking of which, who do we have set for the interview today?

MH: Yeah Today you're gonna listen to my conversation with Jenna Fischer. She is really cool. We actually had a really fun time talking, she's the author of to the top, how women in corporate leadership are re-writing the rules for success, which identifies the road blocks inhibiting women from reaching higher levels of career success while emphasizing the need for a fundamental shift in how organizations understand leadership. She has quite an interesting background, so you're gonna listen to that. She's been a recruiter for a really, really, really long time, and so we talk about that, we talk about the changing world of work, so not only how organizations need to change, but also how we are adapting to it, and but she gives lots of great tips. So I can't wait for you all to listen to it.

MO: Let's get to it.

MH: Hi everyone, I'm here today with Jenna Fischer. Jenna, how are you?

Jenna Fisher: I'm doing great, thank you so much for having me.

MH: Thank you for being here. I'm happy to have this conversation. It's a sunny day. So we're gonna have some fun.

JF: All good.

MH: So Jenna, I would love for you to introduce yourself to our audience and let us know what you're doing, but also how you got to it. I know it's a huge question.

JF: Yeah. I'm happy to. Well, so let's see, in terms of what I'm doing today, I co-lead the Global Financial Officers practice here at Russell Reynolds Associates, which is a leading global search and assessment firm, and I've been working here for nearly 20 years. During that time, I have completed over 500 CFO and board searches. And before attending business school at Wharton, I worked at Bain & Company as a management consultant. Before that, I attended Duke Law School and Rice University. Today, I live in the San Francisco Bay area, but I'm originally from the East Coast, from the suburbs of Boston, and I've been married for almost 20 years now, and have two children, a son who's 16, and a daughter who's 12. In terms of... I think you've also asked how I got to where I am today, and I was just gonna say that one of the things that I'm so grateful for is that I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who drilled independence into my head from the earliest age I can possibly remember.

JF: Always be able to stand on your own two feet financially. And otherwise, my mom had seen the unfortunate result of her mother being married to an alcoholic who was unable to keep a steady job, and my mother and her brothers were so negatively impacted by that, that she vowed to create a better life for her child when she had me. So I never suffered from what I might call a Cinderella complex thinking someone would come along and take care of me, and as a result, I've been focused from a very young age on finding a career that I was both passionate about and could make good money doing. And my parents really sacrificed and worked hard to pay for my world class education, and of course I worked hard in return, and I feel so fortunate to have found my passion in executive search nearly 20 years ago.

MH: It's so interesting, how our younger experiences bring us to really look for something that fills a void maybe. So this idea of not having a Cinderella complex, which I hadn't heard the term, but it's... I understand it perfectly. Is fantastic.

JF: I think I made the term up, so.

MH: Really, but it's great.

JF: Thanks.

MH: Let's make it a thing. 'cause I think it's an important lesson.

JF: Me too. Absolutely. For both, honestly, for both boys and girls in a way.

MH: For anyone.

JF: And that everyone should find what fills the passionately and not be circumscribed by what society's expectations of them are.

MH: Yeah, I fully 100% agree. So what brought you from consulting to search?

JF: It's funny, I remember very clearly when I was in the process of applying to business school. I was having a meeting with one of the partners with whom I worked closely at Bain, he was going to write one of my letters of recommendation, and he asked me, "Okay, what's your angle? What's your shtick? What are we gonna talk about in your application essay?" And he said, "What do you wanna do after business school?"

JF: I don't know, I'll just probably come back to Bain. I really liked my clients and colleagues were awesome, and he was like, "Yeah, you know, I don't really see that happening." And I looked at him like, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Look, we're judged on three things here, there's the client piece, the team piece, and the value add, which is Bain's way of saying the quant piece." And I had been a sociology major, had gone to law school, so my love language was not in Excel, it was in Word. And he said, "You're amazing with clients, you're better than most partners here, you're incredible with the team, everybody loves working with you, but you're just average with the value add, with the quant piece. And at first I was... I remember in that moment, I tried not to cry because I thought, "Oh my god, what is he telling me?" But then upon reflection, I realized he's not wrong. I had colleagues who would send emails in pivot tables and that was never going to be me.

JF: And.

JF: And so it really, that feedback was such a gift because it allowed me to think about, "Well, what am I great at?" And it really liberated me because I think up until that point I hadn't taken a lot of risks. I had kind of done things that nobody could argue with. They looked good on paper. You know, going to law school, that's prestigious. Working at a management consulting firm, sure, why not? But it was really when I discovered executive search and the nexus of professional services, I just always had a passion for professional services. But with a focus on human capital, I always have loved connecting people and connecting with people and hearing their stories. And when I learned about this industry that I had never even known about, I mean, here I am at age of, you know, 25, I wasn't getting calls from the likes of the Russell Reynolds of the world. I thought, "Oh my gosh, this sounds like such a perfect fit." It took a little bit of courage for me to say, "yes, this is what I want to do," but I'm so grateful that I made the leap and I've never looked back.

MH: Thank you for sharing that story because those hard nuggets of feedback are, when you look back on them, so valuable.

JF: Absolutely.

MH: And you know, we hear that, you know, men, okay, how do I want to phrase this? We hear that women get less feedback than men because sometimes male bosses or supervisors or whoever you are, want to get the feedback from, are scared of making you cry. And to have someone, and I had someone like that in my career actually, to have someone that is not afraid to tell you something that might be hard to hear, but that they know it will be so beneficial to you is huge.

JF: Absolutely. And I really try to model that, you know, when I first started in search, one of the hard things to do is when you think about a search process, it's, "I'm going to talk to a hundred people before my client is going to hire one person." So, you know, just by virtue of those statistics, 99 people are not going to get the job. And it used to be at the very beginning, so hard for me to turn down candidates. But what I realized is that by giving them the feedback, it was such a gift to them because it wasn't always about them. Sometimes the reasons why they didn't get the job were completely exogenous to them. It was that their compensation was too high or the CEO was brand new. And so therefore they needed a more experienced person. But just letting them know and calling them at the end to say, "Hey, you know, I just wanted to share this with you." I've really found it to be a differentiator in what I do. And I so often hear, "Oh my gosh, thank you so much for sharing this with me. So often I don't get this feedback from recruiters. And I always sort of cringe a little bit because I think, you know, you invest a lot of time when you're going through a search and that's the least that the recruiter can do to share the feedback with you." And I do it really out of care and compassion for everybody with whom I interact.

MH: Yeah, you're seeing it with the right eyes, right? Like it's feedback is a gift. And I was listening to this podcast. I don't know if you listen to You Can Do Hard Things. It's with Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach.

JF: Yes, it's great.

MH: I love it. And they were talking about feedback and they were saying, you know, where do you take criticism? Who do you take it from? But a lot of it that I found it really interesting was they were talking about feedback as like, it's something you ask and receive when you're not asking for it or like commentary online. It's just this like onslaught of potential hate. But when you are doing something like this, like you're saying, with compassion, with the person's best interest in mind, with, you know, it thinking of it as something as a gift. It's so valuable.

JF: Yeah. And I think, you know, maybe the flip side to that when I think about women in the workforce is there are a lot of societal expectations of what women should do and how we should be, especially mothers. There are a lot of shoulds that are put out there either implicitly or explicitly. And I remember earlier in my career, I had a senior partner pull me aside. My favorite color is pink. And I have a lot of pink in my office. I have pink folders, pink pens. I wear pink nails. I just love pink. It makes me happy. I think it's like such a joyful color. And he said, you know, maybe you shouldn't wear so much pink if you want to get ahead in your career. And I think he had good intentions. Like he's a really nice guy, but it was so shocking to me. And I'm thinking, "Okay, I'm a top decile performer. I'm doing awesome work. I just got promoted and he's looking at the color of my sweater." And I do think this kind of feedback for women is sometimes too common. And I've heard so many stories from women that I've interviewed over the years who've told me, I mean, crazy things you can't make up like advice they've been given on how they should act differently.

JF: Like, you know, "You'd look a lot prettier if you'd wear some lipstick or, you know, you're wearing too much makeup, you know, you should think about wearing high heels or don't laugh so much. You know, your teeth are distracting. They're too pretty. Don't show so much emotion." And the list has bordered on the absurd. And I do think we have to get away from fixing women and start looking at the actions and attitudes of companies and their leadership teams, because I truly believe it's the narrative that needs to change, not the women, because after all, I believe the reason that women constitute fewer than 10% of CEO spots in this country is not because we're not working hard enough. It's not because we're not leading in enough. It's because we're trying to get to the top of a corporate ladder that was not built for us to climb.

MH: Absolutely, thank you.

JF: And, you know, I really learned that in writing this book to the top. I had, of course, several hypotheses when I went into writing it. But one of the things that I realized, just a quick data point here, in heterosexual couples, when men and women get married, on average, the woman is two and a half years junior to the man. And how that manifests itself or how that impacts women's career sometimes is that when that couple, should they choose to have children, they look at that point in time and they say, "Oh, you know, you woman, you are earning 30% less than I, the man, am. Therefore, it makes logical sense that your career should be the one to take the back burner. And when there are doctor's appointments or the kid is sick or the school needs you, whatever, you are the one on call." But the problem with that, of course, there are many problems, but one is that it speaks nothing to potentiality. And that divide really starts to be exponential in both directions, both for the man and the woman. And when you think of what the successful career arc looks like, it was really designed for men by men. And it's not that men are trying to harm women, of course, but that's the way the system has been set up. And so one of the things that I very strongly promulgate in my book is that companies need to have more grace for people to run the race at a different speed sometimes.

JF: And again, this might add your more to the benefit of women, but ultimately it benefits both men and women.

MH: Absolutely. I mean, I think we tend to think about the advancement of women just for women's sake, but there is so much research that makes it the humanization, I guess, of work is gonna help everyone.

JF: Yeah. And I think one of the other surprises that came out of my research, something I hadn't really thought about much personally, is how critical normalizing extended paternity leave is. Parenting should be done by both genders to the extent that there are two parents. I'm sort of making some assumptions here, but if there are two parents involved in the family, both of them should be actively engaged. And it's not enough for a company to have paternity leave options. You need to also create a culture in your organization where men feel no friction about taking that time with their families. Otherwise, we're all inadvertently sending the message that home and hearth are really in the women's sphere and that's up to them to manage. And I think that's really, it's a big thing that companies can do to help gender equality.

MH: Yeah, I keep thinking of the, as you're talking, keep thinking of the cover of the magazine where Rihanna is with her family and it's gotten so much, so much, kind of been on social media because is that Rocky's holding the baby? And it's gotten flagged, but it's, you know, why is, why there is a normalization of parenthood that needs to be to take over.

JF: Yeah. Well, I think we used to be able to hide it, right? I mean, it used to be a hundred years ago with the beginning of the industrial age, the rubric was for the most part, men would go work and women would stay home and men were at the beck and call of the company at any hour at any day to do whatever needed to be done because the woman would be at home taking care of the family. And, you know, that, that worked perhaps. I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's been a great outcome because I think it's really impacted women's financial success. And I believe that until there's economic parity, there won't be true equality, but nevertheless, that was a system that was in place for a long time. But, you know, one of the reasons I wrote my book when I did is that COVID, I believe, although it had obviously terrible repercussions, it also gave us a new found freedom to leverage the technology. We frankly already had to do our work in a different way. We had to do it in a different way. Many of us are knowledge workers. And I think there are actually some wonderful things that have come out of this that are so liberating for parents and families in particular.

MH: Yeah. And in your book, you also talk about why women are particularly well-suited to lead companies in, you know, tough environments or currently with challenges in the world. Can you talk a little bit about that?

JF: Yeah. It used to be thought that the more "traditionally male" and I'm using air quotes around that, male forms of leadership, like being disruptive, being risk-taking, being heroic, being galvanizing, all these more loud and extroverted qualities. Those were the hallmarks of a great leader that in probably being six feet, three inches tall. But what we've come to learn through our exclusive partnership here with Hogan here at Russell Reynolds and Hogan is generally regarded as the preeminent executive assessment tool. And we've put thousands of leaders through this analysis and we've looked at what are the differences between men and women? It turns out there are none. I mean, there are some very, very small differences, but none of them are statistically significant. And moreover, the leaders who can be those loud qualities that I just mentioned, but also at times those leaders who know how to span or flex to be seemingly the inverse of that. So for example, to be connecting to others, to be vulnerable with others, to be pragmatic, to be collaborative, those more quiet, again, air quotes, female forms of leadership. Those are the leaders who really win the day. And I do think we saw this in droves with COVID with a real need to lean in with connectedness and empathy and kindness.

JF: And we saw so many women shine as leaders, both politically, as well as leaders of companies during this time. And we also looked at our position specifications over the last several years, and we found that those qualities have been mentioned more than 10 fold times more frequently in terms of what our clients are asking for in their leaders versus a decade ago.

MH: Wow. Do you think as why, like, is it because we need to make work more an aspect of emotional intelligence now that we're finally kind of looking at and saying we need that?

JF: Yeah, I think we've seen a real shift in the balance of power over the last few years with when you think about racial justice issues, when you think about the growing need and demand for women's equality, I think that the lack of supply of talented workers, I think we've seen a shift and the power is shifting to that of the employee, not the employer. And I think millennials won't put up with work sucking. And I think they're helping to reset expectations about what people will do. And it's not just about singularly making money. It's also about loving their lives and having an impact. And so I think that simultaneous equation of work and family has never been more important to young people in the workforce.

MH: It's interesting that you bring up millennials, because I've said in the podcast a few times, like, God bless, Gen Z, as they're coming up, because I do think that they're bringing in some much needed as much as they get flak from other people or from other generations, they're bringing some very different perspectives right into the workforce. And millennials got the same thing, right? It's always, it's been proven that every generation thinks the next generation is lazy and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But we're seeing a shift now that millennials are kind of more on the management level or coming up into these roles that are a little higher and more people focused. And I think it's great.

JF: Yeah. Yeah. And it's, you know, I think that I remember when I was choosing where to go work after business school, one of the things that really resonated with me was the thought about see it to be it. And I think, you know, when I think about women in the world of work, of course, men and absolute men can and absolutely will be both mentors and sponsors for women rising up through the ranks. But there's nothing quite like having the representation at the top of companies for younger women to look up to as role models, people who can reassure them that it's possible to stick with it even when it's hard. And one of the stories I share in my book is about Sally Ride. When she was about to become the first American woman to go into outer space, NASA engineers, who were all men at the time, came up to her and they asked her, you know, "Ms. Ride, we want to think about what will happen if you get your period in outer space for six days that you're going to be up on the shuttle? And would 100 tampons be the right number for you to have with you?" And she said, no, 100 is not the right number. And it's funny, of course, and I'm sure the question came from a very earnest and well-intentioned place, but for me, it really highlights the very present concern.

JF: In fact, that when the people who are making decisions don't represent the people they're serving, there can be a lack of understanding and unintended consequences. And I think to your point, I think people and especially younger people today are demanding that they're demanding that their leaders represent them and are emblematic of who they are collectively and individually. And so we're seeing that in terms of legislation being enacted to make sure boards represent people who are the ultimate consumers of brands and companies. And I think we're seeing it in more micro ways as well.

MH: So I want to ask you a couple of questions. One is, what are you seeing in your work and through your research, but what are you seeing are the skills today that are most in demand? But you also mentioned boards. So I want to, and I know you work on board recruitment as well. So I want to divide that question into what are the skills that are most in demand in like just the employment world? And what are the skills we should be thinking of if you at some point want to be part or, you know, experiences we need to be thinking of if you at some point want to be on a board?

JF: Yeah, well, I think, you know, when I think about how we get candidates on searches on a typical executive search, it's really through three simultaneously vectors in parallel. So one is all I do is talk to CFOs and board members every day, and I have partners who have other areas of expertise, obviously. But I know the market, right? So that's one piece of it. Two is that we always have a team of researchers who very methodically build a target map of companies. And we look at that quite carefully, dotting our I's and crossing our T's to make sure we've considered every potential company on the list. And then the third area is sourcing. So if it's a non-confidential search, we're going to reach out and ask people, "Hey, I'm working on the search and who's the best person or people I should be talking to about this?" And so I think, for me, that really highlights the importance of, of course, doing a great job at your job day in and day out, but also the power of the network. And I think sometimes it...

JF: And this is a rational thing to potentially decide, but sometimes we see, especially women, when they have children, they think, "Okay, I'm gonna go in to the office everyday and I'm gonna crush my day job, and then I'm gonna rush home and I'm gonna be an awesome mom," and that makes a lot of sense. You're really prioritizing the two most important things, but what falls by the wayside in that calculus is that you could get to a point in your career where you're underpaid, where you've run out of options at your current company where you don't like your current job, and you find yourself without a lot of optionality or even the knowledge or know how about how to get your next role and you feel stuck. And so for me, it really highlights the importance of what I call in my book, the once a month rule, which is once a month, take yourself on a work date, which means go have lunch with a mentor, go to an industry event, go to a conference, go somewhere where you can hear a speaker where you're gonna learn something beneficial that's applicable to your work, and I think all of that will really help to benefit you in the medium to long term, and by the way, that's also true at the board level, so one of the dirty little secrets about board search is that only half of board searches get effectuated through a search firm like Russel Reynolds, the other half...

JF: Yeah, the other half go through friends and family networks, "the old boys network", which is why sometimes people say, How come white men aren't getting on boards, white men are absolutely getting on boards every day of the week because 50% of board searches are their buddies, calling them and not to take anything away from them, many of them are super talented and deserve to be on boards, but I think that it's super important to work your network, particularly if you're a woman who wants to get on a board.

MH: Yeah, we say at Ellevate a lot, your next opportunity is going to come most likely from a loose connection, and research shows you need to have two networks, your close-knit circle that will tell it as it is, almost like your personal board of advisors, where you can really share things, but also a broad network so that you can have little tentacles into what is happening outside.

JF: Yeah, and I think it's important to remember that some people might feel awkward about networking, they think it's kind of cheesy, or it's about asking for favors, or it's about going into a windowless ballroom and exchanging business cards with people, if people even have business cards anymore but it's not, it's... You have a skill set that some people might actually be looking for, so think of it as I might be doing somebody a favor by getting to know them.

MH: I love that because I was one of those people I will not lie, which is really ironic for now, leading the largest network of women in the world. But I was like that, I thought networking was eew, dirty and a lot of it was cultural for me, I know that now, but the moment it clicked for me was when... And I remember it perfectly, I was at an event and it was Samantha Etters who was fantastic, she was speaking, and she's like, "Well, networking is just helping other people." And I was like, "Oh, I can do that. I do that all the time."

JF: Yeah. I think absolutely, and I think that sometimes I've seen women really needing to reframe their own ambitions as helping other people, and if that helps you to get ahead, then I say go for it. One of the ways in which I saw that was one of the amazing women I interviewed in my book, and I interviewed 50, just incredibly diverse and talented women all around the globe for my book. But one of them is TD Cole, who's the President of City group. And she talked about how when she would push for a promotion, she thought about it, not just in terms of her own financial benefit, but really this is something that I am doing to set up my children for success. This is something that I am doing to ensure multi-generational wealth for my grandchildren, this is so I can make donations to non-profits I care about deeply, and so if you need to reframe it and pretend like you're advocating for your best friend instead of for yourself, then do that if you need to think that networking is helping other people, then do that too.

MH: Yeah. It's kind of a different way of fake it till you make it.

JF: Yeah, exactly, I love that.

MH: We've talked about different generations coming up the tracks, we've talked about how to frame feedback, we've talked about how to frame your own progression, but what advice would you have for the younger generation of women who are coming up the ranks?

JF: Yeah. I think there are four things that younger women can do. One is find your passion. This is really critical. There are potentially, especially if you want to have children, could be so many distractions along the way in your career, so you really need to love what you do to make opting out non-negotiable. So it doesn't mean that your passion is something that's easy, but it means it's something that you really can fall in love with, so that's one, and don't be afraid of making "mistakes". I did not know what my passion was, and very few people do when they're 18 years old, sometimes it takes some trial and error, and that's okay, because every step gets you closer to what is going to fill you up.

JF: Two, I would say as you're contemplating what you're going to do, do consider the element of financial planning, again, I mentioned this earlier, but I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who really drilled financial independence into my head, and I think financial planning is something that we should be talking to more young people about in a whole lot more detail, because it's so important, again, if when you get to this point of having kids and a career, and if your career is not one where you can afford to have the kind of baby sitting and care that you need, it'll make it that much harder to stay in it, so I think that's something to contemplate from an early age.

JF: Three, pick an organization that has a history and track record of supporting and promoting women. I know when I joined Russell Reynolds in our San Francisco office, I did so in large part because it was full of women who were married, had children and had working spouses. And for me, I thought, "Wow, that's really cool." And I really felt like I would be supported and I was.

JF: And then fourth, I would say, look for both mentors, yes, but also sponsors, and I think sponsorship is something that gets overlooked at times, but it's really important, and here's the difference, a mentor is somebody that you really admire and you look up to, and you want to kinda be like in some way, and that's great, but a sponsor, it doesn't have to be necessarily somebody you love, but they are the ones who have influence in your organization, and they will talk you up around the company to other people, so find those people. Work with them, work hard for them, learn from them, make them look good, and in turn, they will make you look good, and by the way, 90% of CEOS are men, so don't think that your sponsor has to be a woman far from it, you wanna have lots of men singing your praises too, and I really believe...

JF: Look, I mean, most men have a daughter, a wife, certainly have a mother. A sister, and I think men want to help get more women to the top as well.

MH: I agree with that actually. I think they do. I think they might just be misguided at some points.

JF: Yeah, just not know what you do and my book does give many, many suggestions of what to do, it's for men and women to read.

MH: Lovely. Thank you so much.

JF: You're so welcome, thank you.

MH: So we're gonna do a little lightning round.

JF: Okay, I'm excited, I'm nervous.

MH: It's all fun. All fun.

JF: Okay.

MH: If you could time travel. Where is the first place you would go?

JF: Oh, I would like to see San Francisco in the year 3000 to see what global warming has done, and I'm praying that we found technology or something to change the trajectory we're on.

MH: Every time I hear someone that wants to go to the future, I'm like, You are brave, 'cause I'd be terrified to be like, "Oh my god, we destroyed the world."

JF: I know, but I do believe the world is getting better. I love... One of my favorite quotes is The Martin Luther King quote, the Arc of Justice is long, but it bends toward truth. And I do believe that.

MH: I love that. Would you rather explore outer space or the bottom of the ocean?

JF: Outer space, I'd love to see the earth from above.

MH: Yeah, me too. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

JF: Invisibility, I'm obsessed with interior design, and I wish I could just walk into people's houses and look around.

MH: That's a good one. I've never thought about that. Favorite recent read?

JF: I just read Atomic Habits, I know it's been out for a couple of years, but I just read it last week and I loved it. It really resonated with me.

MH: Yeah, someone was... Told me the other day, you love that book and I'm like, I actually haven't read it, but this feels like a sign that I should read it.

JF: It's a quick read. You should definitely read it. It's very good, it made me feel very good about myself 'cause I'm like, "I do a lot of these things, go me."

MH: If your house caught on fire, what's the first object you would run to save?

JF: All my scrap books.

MH: Ooh, nice.

JF: My passion, I've made over 200 of them.

MH: Wow.

JF: Yeah.

MH: That's a nice hobby. Best piece of advice you've ever been given.

JF: Well, I think major setbacks, other people's judgement of you, even if they're unfair, missed expectations, all of those things are going to be a fact of life. But suffering is optional, that's in your head, you control whether you suffer or not.

MH: I love that so much. That's so good. Finally, what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

JF: I would say be gracious to yourself and try to ditch perfectionism, our society puts a lot of unrealistic expectations on women, and I think all too often we think having it all means doing it all, and we all need to give ourselves and each other a little more grace, I think you can be an awesome mother without making weekly excursions to the farmers market to purchase organic vegetables, to make your own from scratch baby food, but you have to figure out what's meaningful to you, so you don't get caught up trying to score an A+ on everything, or you'll be exhausted and resentful, so don't feel like you've gotta check all of the boxes personally or professionally. There's no such thing as a purple unicorn. I know this from recruiting people for 20 years, nobody's perfect, so be brave and go for the promotion. You've got this.

MH: Yay! Thank you for that.

JF: Yeah.

MH: And I love the no purple unicorns. Well, thank you, Jenna. Thanks for being here and taking the time to talk to me and share some of these insights with our audience.

JF: Thank you so much for having me, I've loved talking to you.

MH: And we're back.

MO: Can I just say something I think is kind of funny now that we're back, you earlier called your brother a serial entrepreneur, but I'm so used to you talking about true crime that my brain automatically filled it in with killer and I was like, "Your brother's a very successful serial killer."

MH: No, he is not or at least not that I know of. He is not a killer. He's an entrepreneur.

MO: Good for him. Yeah, ordinarily I would say if you do something be successful at it, but don't be successful at being a serial killer. I don't endorse that.

MH: Yeah. No, no, no, even though I am fascinated by them, I really hope there are less and less of them.

MO: Yeah, I know, I'm like, I hope that I especially... I don't like learning about serial killers nowadays, I'm like, "You're right." The ones from the past, you know, that's nice, but let's not... If somebody goes, "Oh yeah, we just arrested a serial killer." I'm like, "Oh, okay, no, no, no, no, no, no."

MH: No. Yeah, those should not be a thing, but... No, he is not that. He is a very successful serial entrepreneur, so yeah, it's an interesting dichotomy in my family between him and me. So what's going on this week at Ellevate? Tell me.

MO: At Ellevate this week, so we have several roundtables going on, we've got our Ellevate round table this Thursday, which is all about essential skills for first time managers. I know that I've talked to a lot of people, we've had a bunch of articles published on our website about this, it's a huge topic of people getting promoted to management, but then saying, "Okay, but now what do I do?" And I think this is a really needed roundtable.

MH: Yeah, I actually talk about this in some of the... A lot of our interviews, to be honest, and you will hear about it, I don't think it's up yet, but you'll hear about it in one that's upcoming, because it is... I learned that people get promoted to manager around age 35, but they get management training by age 40, so there's like five years where you're just like figuring it out on your own, and I say during that interview, I have never had formal management training, so I don't know if I'm doing... I mean, still kind of figuring it out, but I'm a nerd, as you all know, and I read a lot of books.

MO: You're also not 40, so you haven't gotten your management training yet.

MH: What?

MO: I said you're also not 40, so you haven't gotten to the age yet.

MH: Oh, that's... I have not thought about that. Good point. So it's coming soon, I guess.

MO: Yeah, that's when the management fairy will come down and make all your management problems go away.

MH: Bestow it upon me, but, no. It's a super interesting topic. I also believe first time managers, middle managers, that's where you have lots of opportunity to show... Business culture, so if you are moving towards that path, really the skills that have gotten you there are not the skills that are gonna make you successful there. Go to this roundtable. You'll learn a lot.

MO: Yeah, also coming up at our entrepreneurs' roundtable, very topical thing this week is chat GPT versus me beating the bots with a personal touch, that's also on Thursday. And then next Tuesday, we're gonna have our women seeking confidence around table, which is gonna be all about overcoming procrastination and fear thoughts, which I might have to attend because you wanna talk about some issues.

MH: They all sound really good.

MO: They do. We also have our next upcoming community circle is gonna be for remote and hybrid professionals, that's gonna be next Tuesday. So if you are a remote professional, if you are just a hybrid professional and you want support from others in that zone, definitely be sure to show up, and then we've got some in-person events coming up, NC triangle on Wednesday, which is today, is having an elevating together series about stress management during turbulent times. Los Angeles, tomorrow is putting on their happy hour at serendipity labs and Atlanta also tomorrow is putting on their book club all about Atomic Habits, which I know is a hugely recommended book that I think... I own but I have not read yet, and so I should probably overcome procrastination and fear thoughts and read Atomic Habits.

MH: I think that's a great idea.

MO: Yeah.

MH: There's a lot of stuff going on both in our chapters and online, so come and join us, you won't regret it. It's a great community to be a part of. You can sit with us.

MO: You can sit with us.

MH: And speaking of people we wanna sit with, let's talk about our history makers... I missed the last couple of weeks. So I'm...

MO: I know, there were some really fun ones because I thought of you because Karol G became the first female artist to have an all Spanish language album top the billboard 200 albums chart.

MH: She is fantastic. She is really great.

MO: Yeah. So, that one already got said last week, but I thought of you when I read that one.

MH: I love it, I love it. Yeah, I'm sad, I miss these. So I will start today with Olivia Pichardo who became the first woman to play in a division one baseball game.

MO: Such a big deal. She's been making firsts left and right, this is not her first appearance at history makers.

MH: No...

MO: But, it's so cool. The pictures are great. The video is great. So excited for her. Annie Menz became the first Latina to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

MH: Selena Miller will become the first woman command master chief of US, Fifth fleets combined maritime forces, the largest naval partnership globally. That's very exciting. And that's a mouthful.

MO: It is a mouthful, but it's a mouthful for a reason. That's a lot.

MH: Oh, yeah.

MO: Congratulations.

MH: Oh yeah.

MO: Keylin Perez became the first Latina to be crowned Miss Coppin State University in Baltimore.

MH: You're getting all the Latinos, maybe because I...

MO: I am getting all the Latinos.

MH: Holly Mulholland, became the first woman Deputy Fire Chief of the Rochester Fire Department in Rochester, Minnesota.

MO: And Dr. Lori Stewart Gonzalez became the first woman president of Ohio University.

MH: I love seeing so many, and it's not so many because they're still really few, but we've had quite a few first of first women presidents or first women deans, and makes me very happy.

MO: Yes, and we get them... I swear we get a new batch of them every two or three weeks, and it just... It's so good.

MH: Yeah. Still a lot of work to go, but so good.

MO: Yeah.

MH: Well, so happy to be back here with you all next week you're gonna have a treat because I get to talk to Spicy Mari, Spicy Mari is a relationship and communications expert, focus on creating unforgettable experience through innovative initiatives that transform perspectives and fuel connections, but really, she's so interesting. Her work is that of a matchmaker relationship expert, and most of it is really about how do you find your purpose-mate, which is very interesting concept, and as a single woman nearing my 40s, as you can imagine, I had a ton of questions for her and we had a really, really, really fun conversation, so I hope you can listen.

MO: I am looking forward to that will be a fun one, I remember when her... She was pitched to me whenever... Remember when that came through, I was like, "Okay, this is the coolest bio."

MH: Yeah. It was very, very fun. Cool, so we'll see you next time.

MO: See you next time. Ellevate Network drives real results for ambitious women trying to break through the glass ceiling and achieve success in their careers, we offer a platform full of resources and opportunities for growth, all designed to help you unlock your potential. With Ellevate support, you can take the first step toward achieving your professional goals with a supportive community and tangible resources at your fingertips, you're only one step away from reaching your fullest potential, join us today and take advantage of our 30-day free trial to start building the career of your dreams. Thanks so much for listening to the Ellevate Podcast, if you like what you hear. If you can subscribe. Give us five stars and share your review. You can learn all about Ellevate membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website,, that's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E, And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller. She rocks thanks so much and join us next week.