In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting the women leading our organization to a successful future. Tania Secor, IAS’s Chief Financial Officer, chatted with us about finding work-life balance, asking for what you need, and being a spark in your workplace.
Tell us about a woman who has impacted your career journey.
I’d like to share an event rather than a specific person. When I worked in investment banking in the early 90s, my analyst class did have a few women and I appreciate JPMorgan for its imperative regarding gender diversity at that time. However, I was struck that the majority of the women at the Managing Director level did not have children. To frame the environment further, we were not allowed to wear pantsuits, only suits with skirts. Words like “glass ceiling” were discussed in the hallways. Did I have to choose between a career and having children? With my hard work and analytical skills, why couldn’t I break this mysterious glass ceiling? And why couldn’t we wear pantsuits?
Approximately 10 years later, I received a last minute invitation from a senior female investment banker to attend a dinner hosted by the editor of Fortune’s Top 50 Women in Business.
As each of the 20 women went around the table introducing themselves, everyone shared – unprompted – she had two or three children. I had three kids under the age of six at the time, and I reveled at how far we had come. I always believed I could have both a career and be a mom despite the headwinds of my 90s experience, but look at all these other women who were able to do it and proudly share that in this setting! Thank you to the women of the 90s who made very big sacrifices. And thank you to this new generation of women who were driving this change and making it happen.
What advice do you have for young professional women starting their careers?
In terms of work-life balance, you have to find what works for you. Everyone has different circumstances — what’s one small thing that could make a huge difference to you but might not be a big deal for your company? Speak up and ask for it.
Another story: It’s 2002 and I just had my first son. I had finally left investment banking and I asked my boss if I could come in on Thursdays two hours later than normal on a recurring basis. After several weeks of discussion, review by HR, and my unwavering commitment to ensuring the work would still get done, my manager approved this arrangement. This flexibility enabled me to take my son to school one day per week. This small change didn’t “cost” much at all to my company or manager, but had a huge impact on my happiness and motivation, as I could now have some level of interaction and engagement with my son’s preschool teachers.
It’s a bit crazy how hard it was to make this arrangement at the time; and I believe times have changed. But my point in sharing this story is to encourage you — if there is something important you need, ask for it. If you want to keep propelling your career, show your managers that you’re all in, but don’t be afraid to ask for that one thing that can make all the difference for you.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “embrace equity.” What does “embrace equity” mean to you and how do you hope this is represented in the workplace?
I embrace equity because of the “why.” I want a diverse team because I want to embrace different perspectives to make the best decisions possible.
As it relates to International Women’s Day, I want to see people embracing equity because of the diversity of thought that women can bring to decisions. Women are 50% of the world’s population. How are we making the best decisions possible if we are not embracing half of the global workforce?
How do you empower other women in the workplace? What can peers around you do to ensure women feel empowered?
There’s a book I reference frequently called “Spark” by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, which describes the seven traits of a spark. Sparks have character, credibility, accountability, they act with intent, they are of service to others, they are consistent, and they are confident.
If you’re a leader focused on developing your team, how do you identify the doers, the innovators, the change agents? How are you embracing them and giving them a voice? If you’re not a manager but an individual contributor, do you embody being a spark?
I think the spark model works really well for women because it’s equalizing. If there is a lack of diversity at the more senior levels, speak up and push and be that spark. If you’re a female individual contributor, why not be that spark?
What is something that women, at any stage in their careers, can do or keep in mind as they seek equity in the workplace?
Pay it forward at all levels.