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Lisa Kaplowitz

Lisa Kaplowitz

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Hi Ellevate! I am Lisa (Stern) Kaplowitz and like many of you, I wear multiple hats, often at the same time. I am 45 and on my 4th career. I have been an investment banker, a CFO, a stay-at-home mom and (currently) a finance professor at Rutgers Business School. I am passionate about advancing women and girls in the workplace, specifically, through the intersection of girls and sports and academics. I am grateful that I have created a diverse portfolio of "gigs" in which I am able to help develop the talent of women at all levels, from high school through college and graduate education to c-level advisory work.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I LOVED the Ellevate Mobile Women Summit. The name says it all. It was more than a network gathering, as I left with a notebook full of specific to dos and follow ups that I will execute as part of the effort towards equal pay and equal representation. I joined Ellevate because my co-leader, Sangeeta Rao, and I have just launched the Rutgers Business School Women’s Initiative. We are creating a thought leadership loop between industry and academia in order to remove barriers and empower women with confidence and expertise to succeed in a continuously evolving workforce. Ellevate is completely synergistic with our mission and we are excited to be part of the network as we all work to advance women!

How would you define your professional mission?

Rights + Equality = Opportunity Give me the right to control my body. Treat me equally and pay me equally. Only then will the playing field be level. Only then will women have the same opportunities as men to succeed. PS. This was the poster I proudly carried during the Women’s March in DC in January 2017.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Being able to reinvent myself. I am on my fourth career and have been able to transition by maintaining my network and not burning any bridges. I made sure to learn a lot during each stop in the journey, and looking back, I now realize that each career phase (and life phase) was a stepping stone. I could not have been a CFO without fundamental finance knowledge I learned as a banker. I would not have been as good of a mother to my kids if I had always wondering “could I be an executive?” I would not be the professor I am without the foundation of both banking and company side expertise, along with the patience and understanding I learned as a mom. And I would not be pushing for change and advocating for equal representation and pay without all of these prior experiences combined.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

My professional career really began with my athletic career. Gymnastics led me to Brown University where I gained the education to land an investment banking job on Wall Street. Simultaneously, gymnastics introduced me to women’s advocacy (we’ll get to that in a second). The investment banking work was exciting and I learned more in those 2 years than I could have anywhere else (it happens when you are literally working 80-100 hours a week), but I hated the lifestyle. I went to the company-side and eventually back to school to get my MBA, where my student loans scared me back to banking for another year. I loved the work but still hated the lifestyle. At least now, we had upgraded from pagers to Blackberries, so I didn’t have to find a payphone when my boss called at some horrific hour. I built a database of 50 recruiters and one introduced me to Bed Bath & Beyond. They didn’t have an open position, but ultimately created one for me and I functioned as the Treasurer of the company for the next 8 years. I wanted a more senior role and my ego told me I need a “C” in my title, so I networked like crazy and joined one of L Catterton’s portfolio companies as CFO. I quickly learned that start-ups were very different than big, established companies. I loved the ethos of the brand, but the company was struggling with cash flow and my older son was struggling with reading. I made a monumental (for me) decision to become a stay-at-home mom. I lasted 2 years (note: 1.75 years longer than the neighborhood pool thought I would last). Around this time, an opportunity presented itself to teach a finance course at Rutgers. That quickly turned into a full-time faculty appointment and I loved it! Realizing that full-time teaching is not full-time investment banking, I have been able to pursue more advocacy and non-profit work, and this is where I pick up the second part of the gymnastics foundation. Brown cut our sport, and as a last resort, my teammates and I sued under Title IX. Spoiler alert: we won. Our case set a precedent as Brown added more women’s teams and didn’t cut any men’s programs. It created a catalyst for other universities, high schools and youth sports across the country to add more women’s teams. In addition, Brown University now has one of the biggest women’s athletics programs in the US. I continue my advocacy today at Brown (co-created Brown Athletics W.O.M.E.N – a student/alumni affinity group) and also as a Board member of PowerPlay, a non-profit that uses sports to advance the lives of underserved girls. This is important because a recent EY/ESPNw study showed that 94% of women in the C-Suite played sports growing up and over half played at the college level. The more that girls and women play sports, the more they are prepared to lead – in business, in politics, in medicine, in law, in life.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

GSD (Getting sh*t done) I often feel like the main character in the book “I Don’t Know How She Does it.” I thrive when I have more going on and am not very good at sitting still. I always have a zillion balls in the air and love it. Being hyper organized is key.

What does success look like to you?

Success to me is: - Being excited to wake up and start my day, regardless of it being a weekday or weekend - Not yelling at our children (note: directly correlated with how well they listen to me) - Seeing that moment of understanding from my students during a lecture or in class assignment - Applying the concepts that I teach in the classroom to a company I am advising and using that company experience as an example in the lecture I give the next semester in class - Laughing with my family on vacation and sharing electronics-free meals (even if our teenage boys overshare sometimes) -Feeling that I have purpose in my profession and am making a positive impact to those around me -Crossing things off my to-do lists -Not worrying about paying for our needs (and wants)

Most importantly, success to me is feeling truly grateful for what I/we have.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Yes. Someone once suggested that balance is a misnomer, since it requires that it is always equal, which it surely is not. She instead suggested “work-life integration.” I like that. However, I have yet to find the no-fail tactic to this. I am trying “to be present” and probably need to do more mindful meditation. I am intentionally not keeping my phone attached to my hand like an extra appendage. This way, when I am working, I can be present and focused on my work. When I am home, I can be present and engaged with my husband and kids. Removing that phone from sight may be a small step for man, but it really is a giant leap for us multi-tasking working moms.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I was fortunate to have Oprah Winfrey teach my leadership course at Kellogg. Her advice: “Find your passion and you will be successful.” There are 2 key elements working here: (1) Define your “passion” – What do you love? What motivates you? What are your hobbies and interests? What would you do if you could do anything you wanted to do with your time? (2) Define “success” – Only you can define what success means to you. Is it financial? Is it a title or status? Is it happiness? Is it comfort? Is it flexibility? I continue to give myself this advice almost 20 years later. It is what led me to create my current hybrid role as educator+advisor+mentor+advocate+mom. I am more passionate than ever in everything I do, and I feel more successful than ever, too!

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Ask for help, early and often, and return the favor, early and often. It takes a village. To find a job. To transition to a “grown up”. To live on your own. To raise a family. To run a company or organization. Leverage the people you know for support, personally and professionally, and let them leverage you as well.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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