2018 Honoree

Heide Gardner

Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Interpublic Group

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

I think purpose is very critical because that becomes a true norm that you can organize and move yourself around. The other piece of it is having a learning orientation because, whatever it is that you want to focus on having an interest in, there is broad range of topics that affects your North Star, so your purpose is essential. Resiliency is absolutely critical because, whatever your goals are, there are going to be setbacks, so having a mindset that accepts that and doesn’t linger too long in tax too much in difficulty can make all the difference. I think another piece that makes a Power Woman is the commitment to sharing a vision with other people that motivates them to be a part of a mission.

With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?

Looking at my personal life regarding gender equality, if there were a part of my sensibility about being a part of the world and the importance of women participation and the ability to drive globally. The world needs it to prosper, and it seems gender equity cuts across every aspect of a country, various professions, individual organizations, public policies, and even family. It has to do with defining the world of women. It’s also has to be addressed simultaneously with the other half of the gender equation, which is manhood and masculinity, because they’re defined relatively. If you look at it, and for women their roles and their privilege–or lack thereof–is based on the privilege and roles of men, so you can’t separate them. The other thing I’m very passionate about when talking about gender equality is that women are not monolithic, and what happens is, especially when much of the conversation coming out of the U.S. and the U.K., solutions are often shaped by white women. So, you can tackle gender equity as a global issue and also as an intersectional challenge because of the layers of identity that defines how a women experience the world, treated by the world, and how they even see themselves, so its quite complex. For me, one of the way this is playing out in my work is being part of a global initiative, like unstereotype which brings advertising agencies, marketers and media companies together to address harmful stereotypes, and they are advertising for both genders. It’s not just about portraying people as they are, it’s also about portraying people as they can be and, in doing so, that embraces all women regardless of their background, and all men in the same way.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

It would be the chance to spin an archiving a Prince’s estate, and the reason is that I am fascinated by his genius, but also by his surroundings involved with woman from the business side of what he did, to his music, and the way he gave women opportunities.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?

I am not currently in any political organization or working to a set public policy directly right now. However, I do make contributions and I’m like many people who still feel they are part of that cause of social media, so it enables me to advocate for certain positions, or to inform my network of important developments they should be aware of. Next, something to note is something very different. Now people not might think of themselves as being part of the political realm. But, today, we are able to have a voice to amplify a point of view in a way that we haven’t been able to in the past. But, I feel that I am part of the political fear by virtue of what I do and how I approach what I do. For instance, in terms of policy, when I see politics it’s about affecting public policy, so part of what I do is work to see existing policies brought to life in the corporate world. What I mean by that is things like ensuring pay equity, a workplace that is free of discrimination, etc. because it’s the forces that are often so subtle and unconscious that in order to bring law and policies to life, you have to implement that policy. Also, I am involved because I am inherently advocating that woman, people of color, those who are disabled, and the LGBTQ community are equal and should have the same opportunities.

Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?

Actually, earlier in my career I was offered an opportunity that was a big in terms of roles and responsibilities, in part because the men who would ordinarily get that were relocated and the men advocated for me to have that opportunity. So, I was offered the opportunity and they were wonderful and told me what the job pay was and said, “don’t accept a penny less.” When we actually had our negotiation, which I was absolutely going to accept the role, the management did not want to pay me the entire salary. So, what we said was 50% of the increase, and during the first year and the remainder I guess, after proving myself, I felt that I didn’t think that would happen to a man. Then, when it was time for me to receive the rest of the salary increase I reached out to management who were in another state, I got held because people knew what my salary was and had complained about it and used that to argue for salary increases for themselves. So, that was back when the employers proactively banned employees from talking about compensation. So, there I was to explain to the guys who told me what to ask for, and of course I told them when I got it. I have never yelled like that. The bottom line is that I got the money and I moved on.

Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

It was at that time when I made a switch from being in the business side to being focused on diversity and inclusion. I was in a myth of profound change in my life. I was recently divorced with two kids and a newly single parent. We lived in different states and I had to start all over because I moved to be closer to my family and, based on previous work relationships, I was referred for a role at the American advertising confederation, which is a trade group for the ad industry. For this role, starting up their diversity and inclusion, I saw that all of my professional experiences positioned me in a unique way to have an impact in an area that was so very important, and I thought about the role of advertising–in marketing, in culture, and shaping views and images–and I also thought about the opportunities in the industry and how important it was to have more representation of women and people of color under utilize groups, and it was this “uh-huh” moment when it all came together because I had such a diverse professional experience and arrangement of these skills. That was the moment when everything made sense to me. It was also an “uh-huh” moment when I realized the importance of social capital, not just to me, but to anyone, especially people from under utilize groups. What I mean by that is that I was able to have that opportunity and to be successful because I had an extensive network of supporters and influencers and social capital in my instinct, which gave me a lot of influence and power.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The first is when I was going to take on that new role I mentioned and the CEO of the company called me to talk to me and was really encouraging that I was on this radar and he said, “Let me give you this advice: play to your drinks.” And then another piece of advice that I received from a woman who had been a long time mentor and role model for me said this when I took on that new diversity role: “Remember, everyone wants to meet and to feel important.”

Who do you most admire? Why?

What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

What do you most value in your friends?

I value unconditional love and support, the ability to be transparent, and reciprocity.

Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?

My need to just check out emotionally. I am very empathic and focused on my work and, again, going back to my identification with people and knowing that what I do and the reason for my work is the consequences of systemic, institutional human bias that it affects people, and another way looking at that is that I have a very difficult time detaching.

What do you consider to be the most over rated virtue?

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