In celebration of International Women’s Day, Compliance Week caught up with a handful female chief compliance officers (CCOs) who had heaps of valuable wisdom and words of advice to share on being everyday leaders in the profession. For more International Women’s Day content (free to access), click here.
Q: What words of advice do you have for others looking to make a mark in the compliance field?
Comcast CCO Candy Lawson: My mother never had a seat at the management table, but the lessons I learned from her are there with me. Work hard … you are entitled to nothing. Show an interest in everyone in your workplace, regardless of title or position. Genuinely apologize when you cross a line. There are people who take advantage of their position and try to use it to control or humiliate others … stand up and challenge them. I am proud to play a role in helping to ensure a workplace focused on integrity and respect. And I am, and have been, privileged to work with boards of directors and management teams who share that commitment.
Amgen CCO Nancy Grygiel: Own the honor but also the responsibility of being part of the organization’s ‘ethical heart.’ It is a privilege to be in compliance today—in today’s social world, organizations are constantly under examination. The newest generations expect businesses not only to provide quality products, but also to have strong commitment toward ethics and governance at the core of their organization. We are privileged for serving in such a capacity, but we also have the responsibility to drive cultural change across business organizations and without borders.
Arcutis Biotherapeutics CCO Courtney Barton: It’s a cliché … but be a business partner. To be successful and implement a program that addresses meaningful risk, you have to be a trusted adviser and deeply understand what is actually happening. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.
Bridgewater Associates CCO Helene Glotzer: (1) Work only with people who you believe have your back and want to do the right thing. It’s hard enough on a good day to feel comfortable that you have your arms around everything your business is doing that can present intolerable risk and to have confidence that you have a great understanding of all the laws, regulations, and rules to which your firm is subject. I would not do that in a toxic environment, where you have to question peoples’ intentions and ethics; it is not worth any amount of money, and life is too short. (2) Be brave and be willing to ask stupid questions. If something doesn’t make sense or sit right with you, it’s your responsibility to either get comfortable with it or escalate your concerns. If you don’t view the buck stopping with you, neither will anyone else.
Global Widget CCO Margaret Richardson: The most critical component is to stay relevant. Make sure you know how your industry is changing and how compliance and any regulations are changing. The key to being effective as a chief compliance officer is understanding how the business operates; demonstrate how compliance impacts the bottom line in a positive manner. This will set you apart as you build your career.
Whirlpool CCO Tanya Jaeger de Foras: Use your teams, leaders, manager, mentors, and everyone around you to understand the scope of your challenge and the best ways to confront compliance where you are responsible. Apply and keep your subject matter expertise cutting edge. Have a clear vision from there of what you want to enable and achieve—building and sustaining a values-based compliance culture as the foundation for lasting impact in the field requires an army. Understand and use your recruits.
Q: What unique perspectives do women bring to the compliance profession?
Richardson: I think everyone brings a unique perspective, because we are all different and have different backgrounds and experiences. The key is listening, asking questions, and being open.
Barton: Every aspect of diversity brings something important to the workplace. This is a particularly interesting question at this point in our country’s evolution, as much has changed since I entered the workforce. I feel strongly that stereotypes and labels hinder our ability to set aside stereotypes and see individuals for their true potential.
Q: What advice would you give to someone faced with a difficult decision about whether to leave an unethical workplace?
Barton: One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came from [the person] who gave me my start in this profession, which is this, ‘If you’re going to have a career in compliance, fully fund your 401(k) and build your savings. You have to always be in position to stand up for what’s right and walk away if that’s what has to be done. Integrity doesn’t have a price. When you can truly be independent, you make different decisions.’
Q: What personal challenges, if any, have you encountered in the workplace?
Barton: We all face challenges in the workplace, regardless of gender or any other important factor of diversity. Early in my career, I never saw myself as being any different as a woman in the workplace. However, I now see and recognize the unique challenges that women—and so many others—face in a very different way. It has been a part of my personal growth and evolution as a leader.
Glotzer: Regardless of how well one is treated and respected, it takes a lot of strategic thinking and mental energy—in preparation and in the moment—to ensure that I am leaving no stone unturned, asking every question for which I need to know the answer, and appropriately fulfilling my role to really listen and challenge myself. The great part about this is it has challenged me intellectually, developed my listening and thinking abilities, and has given me more confidence and courage to ask the hard questions and do the hard things required of any CCO.
DraftKings CCO Jennifer Aguilar: It’s no secret that our industry still has a lot of work to do when it comes to equity and leveling the playing field, but it’s nice to see more females being promoted to executive leadership positions, joining the conversation, and sharing their perspectives.