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Gender Equality: The Inspiring Voices of P&G Women Leaders

P&G women discuss the importance of diverse leadership and how we can put an end to gender bias and inequality in the workplace and the world.

Creating a world free of bias — with equal representation and equal voice for everyone — has been a long-standing aspiration at P&G. Throughout our history, we have used our voice to spark conversations on gender equality. We’re changing the way women are portrayed and represented in advertising, engaging in social impact programs and advocacy efforts to remove barriers to education for girls and create economic opportunities for women, and fostering an inclusive, gender-equal environment for our own employees.

Yet, at a time when women represent just under half of our country’s workforce, we still live in a world riddled with gender bias. Women continue to be held back — sometimes by ingrained cultural norms, sometimes by law and sometimes by subtle attitudes.

We believe that when we make bias visible and bring awareness to it, we have the power to change mindsets. It’s time to bust the myths holding women back, to change the way we think and talk about women, and to learn a new narrative that enables a world free from gender bias — a world where everyone sees equal. We asked women leaders at P&G to share their unique perspectives and insights, and to discuss how we can change the perception that gender equality is just a women’s issue.

How is the work you’re doing helping to tackle bias or promote gender equality, at P&G and externally?

One of the best parts of my job is working on the Olay brand, which is focused on empowering women to be fearless to “Face Anything.” Olay accomplishes this goal on a functional level by helping the women who use our products achieve their skin goals. On a higher level, the brand is tackling racial injustice and enabling a more diverse and inclusive world by donating money and media to the fight for racial equality. Additionally, Olay is working to elevate women in STEM careers through partnerships with organizations such as Girls Who Code, with a goal to double the number of women in STEM careers by 2030.

Were there any important mentors or influencers in your life who helped lead you to your current position?

As a promote-from-within company, P&G is dedicated to developing the future leaders of our company. At every stage of my career, I have been supported by amazing managers, mentors and sponsors. P&G has a particularly strong legacy of women leaders who have been an inspiration in terms of what is possible for someone like me at P&G, and who have directly invested in me to help me achieve my goals. These women have coached and encouraged me, given me straight talk when I needed it and helped me develop a leadership style that is authentic to who I am and what I value.

__What is your leadership motto? __

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” — Arthur Ashe

I use this quote to re-ground myself and shake out of the analysis paralysis that can take over when facing big challenges. We tend to be our own worst critics, and as such, we undervalue our personal strengths, resources and abilities. It’s easy to obsess over all of the barriers, all of the things you don’t have, all of the reasons “why not.” Refocusing that energy toward moving forward allows me to quickly get into the solutions mindset, which for me has been the most important step to overcoming any obstacle.

What myths about women in leadership positions do you think need to be broken?

A common myth is that low representation at leadership levels is a result of women choosing to opt out of a career to start a family. While some women do make this choice, a more common occurrence is that women want to balance careers and families, but the systems around them don’t always provide the appropriate support. Some policy changes, like extending paid parental leave or supporting good work roles as mothers return to the workforce, go a long way in minimizing attrition. Supportive managers who focus on results, while providing temporary flexibility when needed, can also make a difference in retaining and developing great female talent.

What characteristics do you admire most in other women leaders?

I believe it all starts with empathy. Many of the women leaders I admire achieve great business results, but they also build great cultures. They develop talented individuals by leveraging their strengths and challenging them to expand their skills in a safe environment. They are great at listening to the consumers and customers we serve and can easily turn insights into actions. Finally, they are focused on winning, but they ensure that their teams feel rewarded for a job well done.

Can you share some advice for young women starting out in their careers?

For young women starting out, I have three pieces of advice:

Don’t take balanced representation at the entry level for granted. There were brave leaders before you, men and women, who saw the opportunity to create more diverse and inclusive organizations and took action to make it happen. It’s your turn to keep improving on the current models.

Work tirelessly to address bias every step of the way. Recognize bias in yourself and others, and take action to address it. Attend trainings, engage in mentorship opportunities, seek out the right role models and speak up when you see bias negatively impacting your organization.

Lift other women as you climb. As you grow in an organization, you will benefit from networks and sponsors. You will also build your own personal credibility. Sharing your network and using your social currency to help younger women navigate the organization will benefit all parties involved … and the cycle will go on exponentially.

How is the work you’re doing helping to tackle bias or promote gender equality, at P&G and externally?

I strongly believe that when an individual can bring the entirety of themselves to work, and do so in a way that their voice gets heard, the world is richer for it. Human resources can play a big part in making sure employees are thriving and feeling the impact of culture. My team and I strive to meet the needs of today, tomorrow and every day, making sure there is an intersection between work and life that has milestones, transitions and everyday inflection points. We need to have an in-depth understanding of those and to help address or at least acknowledge them to enable people to bring their full selves to work. And when they’re in the workplace, we need to create an environment that allows them to speak and bring their voice as well as be heard.

What qualities do you possess that make you an effective leader?

It’s really important to me that individual voices get heard, and in my approach to leadership, I want to make sure that as many voices as need to be heard can be heard. But I also don’t believe your voice needs to be the loudest to be powerful. Sometimes sitting back and taking stock of things enables you to gather different perspectives and then add value differently. Sometimes if you’re busy talking, you’re not busy listening, right? For me, listening is such a critical part of leadership. And I think part of listening is being able to turn around and communicate to people so you can meet them halfway.

__What is one way you approach leadership uniquely? __

I’m a fairly private and introverted person, but humor is one place where I feel like I can bridge things and enhance the culture. For all the seriousness of the things we work on, humor brings a common ground. It’s a great equalizer. I think when you joke with people and you have that humor aspect, they get to know that not everything is make or break. I think it helps others voice their opinions a little bit louder in more serious situations.

__What is one way women can combat bias and advance gender equality in their own workplaces? __

Be a role model for the next generation of leaders. Many women starting their careers have told me they look at top men and women leaders in the organization and wonder if they had to sacrifice work-life balance to get to senior leadership positions: long hours in the office, lots of business travel, a stay-at-home spouse. They are seeking more balanced lives and want a fulfilling career for themselves and their partner and to be a great parent.

That’s why it’s great to see more senior leaders model flexible work arrangements, use virtual tools to reduce travel and support dual careers. Yes, there will often be times when you have to carefully balance work and home life, and there are realities to the demands of senior leadership, but there is more than one formula for becoming an executive and we want our employees to consider the possibilities before deciding whether it’s right for them.

Can you share some advice for young women starting out in their careers?

Be kind to yourself. After a tough meeting or review, ask yourself if this will matter in five years, five months or five weeks. The answer will often be no.

Raise your hand for opportunities, even if you are out of your comfort zone. A well-known study found that men will apply to positions where they meet 60% of the requirements, whereas women will wait until they have 100%. Don’t just put your head down, do good work and expect to be rewarded. Ask your manager for what you want — and seek out opportunities to grow and learn.

Be a force for positivity. Don’t comment negatively about female peers or counterparts. Treat women as allies, not competition. We are all in this together.

What advice would you give a woman going into a leadership position for the first time?

Play to your strengths and follow your gut.

What does being a successful leader mean to you?

It means being able to drive change by bringing my team and other leaders along, so we can all deliver even better results while enjoying how we do it.

What is the best piece of business advice you were given starting out?

It was actually from my mom, who always reminded me to believe in myself and ask for what I deserved, because I had everything I needed to be successful.

__How can women combat bias and gender inequality in their own workplaces? __

First, we should all be aware of our own bias and use it to educate ourselves in those areas where we don’t have enough context or understanding of why things happen. As we do that, we should also take the time to educate others in business conversations, talent-management conversations or any opportunity at work or outside of work. Lastly, be a champion of others in those unique moments when your voice can make a difference.

What is your leadership motto?

Everything is possible. Find the way.

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