Susan Kellogg points out that when she began her career in fashion 30 years ago, only 15 percent of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies were filled by women. When she left her job as group president of VF Corporation, the needle hadn’t moved—still only 15 percent. In spite of the fact that women are over half the population and are earning more college degrees than men, they still lag behind in positions of top corporate leadership. So Susan decided to help by filling in the mentoring gap between college and career.
As a graduate of UCLA, Susan joined that university’s board for the sociology department and also serves on board for the Cal Poly Pomona Apparel Merchandising & Management and Agriculture Departments. She notes that we’re doing a great job of educating women to prepare them for leadership careers, but there is little follow-through after that. Now, as a consultant pursuing her mission to give back, Susan guides women in their senior year to make choices that puts them on the path toward successful leadership careers.
Choosing That First Job after School
Susan says that people get paralyzed by that first job, but it doesn’t have to be the perfect job. It doesn’t even have to be the right job and it certainly doesn’t have to be what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. She urges women to ask themselves:
- Is it interesting?
- Is this something I can dedicate myself to?
- Do I find it inspiring?
- Do I have talent in this area?
If in the first year, it’s not right for you, move on. She says to treat every job experience as adding to your tool box. Even if you realize that you made a mistake, sign up for a year, then figure out your next step and redirect your path.
She also advises that you don’t have to move up every time or even make more money. She moved sideways, accepted a less prestigious title, even less money if it would take her to a company she wanted to work for and where she wanted to live. She always had to feel that she was learning something new and there was opportunity to advance.
“Women Can Have It All, Just Not All at the Same Time.”
Susan reflects that people often ask her if she has any regrets and she answers “no.” She did miss a lot of weddings and funerals, but while on her corporate path, she did all she wanted to do. And she helped other women along the way. A point of pride is that she prioritized racial and gender diversity in her new hires, although qualified women weren’t always available in the technical areas of production and finance.
Also, she notes how sad she would feel if she never had her daughter and believes women need more than a career to feel fulfilled. However, because women’s partners often do not do an equal share of domestic chores, they fall behind in networking and other activities that would advance them into senior positions at work.
Listen to this interview for more insights from a woman who has been in the top ranks of the corporate world, been the only woman in the board room, and continues to work toward helping women achieve a greater percentage of top leadership positions. Learn about what women need to do to achieve their fair and equal share of CEO positions. Whether you’re just starting out, making a transition or looking for a way to give back yourself, this conversation will help inspire your next move.