VP, CUMMINS INC; CEO, CUMMINS FOUNDATION
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
A Power Woman is a woman who makes visible the invisible challenges facing women and girls globally, and personally invests in solutions.
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?
I have the good fortune right now to be able to advocate broadly on behalf of women as the CEO of the Cummins Foundation and a Vice President at Cummins Inc., a Fortune 200 global power leader. At Cummins, engineering solutions that build prosperous communities has been a part of who we are since our company’s founding. Working to promote women’s equality is not new to Cummins. We’ve seen, firsthand, positive transformation when we ensure diversity and inclusion within our organization, bringing more women into our business at every level. In March of 2018, on International Women’s Day, Cummins launched “Cummins Powers Women,” a $10.7 million (and growing) investment by the Cummins Foundation to advance equity for women and girls around the world. It is our most ambitious community initiative ever. Cummins Powers Women unites Cummins leaders around the world in finding solutions to gender inequality in our communities, reinforcing Cummins’ commitment to the advancement of women everywhere. Through Cummins Powers Women, we are partnering with best-in-class organizations with research based programs to advance gender equality, such as Rise Up, led by Dr. Denise Dunning, and Girls Inc. Cummins Powers Women addresses the complex array of challenges facing women and girls globally, and seeks scaled solutions wherever possible. I’m really excited about it and so is our entire company. Cummins Powers Women is my current passion and focus on gender equality.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
I actually have a great job now! My job leading the Cummins Foundation allows me to use all my days to promote not only gender equity, but the concepts of opportunity, diversity and inclusion to advance entire economies and all people.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
There are numerous women in history, like Susan B. Anthony, who courageously catapulted the cause of gender equity into an ongoing national conversation. I also admire J. Irwin Miller, an ahead-of-his time former CEO of Cummins, who said: “In the search for character and commitment, we must rid ourselves of our inherited, even cherished biases and prejudices. Character, ability, and intelligence are not concentrated in one sex over the other, nor in persons with certain accents, in certain races, or in persons holding degrees from some universities over others. When we indulge ourselves in such irrational prejudices, we damage ourselves most of all and, ultimately, assure ourselves of failure in competition with those more open and less biased.” Words to live by.
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)?
The challenges facing women and girls globally are incredibly complex and diverse–from lack of access to education, jobs, and even birth certificates to prove age and citizenship, to the subtle, unconscious acts of bias that hold women back for generations. Given this complexity, the one action we can all take is to invest in gender equality with our time and resources locally, nationally, and globally. I try to do both. In my personal time, I’m working to help bring people together locally to create change through cooperation and mutual respect. For example, I currently serve as the Chairperson of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, which works to address the most significant issues of concern and areas for opportunity related to the progress of Indianapolis. It’s a group of diverse people who all want to see Indianapolis succeed and do not care how you vote. I’m also working locally to advocate for women to participate equally in leading our major institutions in Indianapolis. Cities are a dynamic force for change, and we should all work on enabling equality of participation in our private and public institutions. For example, building diverse pools and equitable succession plans in institutions are effective instruments of change. My broader platform for change in the advancement of women is through the Cummins Powers Women. I’m incredibly optimistic that if business invests time and money, and all people take small and big steps to advance women and girls in their communities, all women will have limitless opportunity to advance. Imagine the acceleration of global leadership, invention, skill, and creativity–all powered by women–when change is upon us. A world in which progress accelerates, invention amplifies, and solutions become easier to find. It will be awesome.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
Women who have been in the workforce for many years have encountered so many blocks and have so many stories that it’s hard to pick one. I’m not sure dwelling on the stories is all that helpful. I’d rather look forward to action and solutions.
Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
Yes. As a noted advocate for women said, “The rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” I think we are at the cusp of a transformational change for women around the world right now, and we’re seeing exponential change in many ways. In the U.S., we’re seeing record numbers of women running for office. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are also bringing about global changes in access to education, health, and employment, for example.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
I was raised in a family of mostly girls where gender was never an issue. Where my parents looked at me as an empowered person and told me I could have whatever I wanted if I worked hard for it. I want every girl in the world to have the same opportunities that I had, to not look at gender at all in terms of a barrier, but to only see the opportunities that exist in the world.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Who do you most admire? Why?
My parents, who loved being parents and were great parents. They loved and supported my siblings and I unconditionally and saw the unlimited ability in all of us to reach our potential.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
Dr. Linda Ginzel was one of my favorite professors at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. When I graduated, she gave me “Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders,” by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli. It sits on my bedside table as a constant reminder, both, of the research that evidences the challenges facing women in business, and also how to meet those challenges on the path to leadership. I hope one day the data changes, but in the meantime, it’s recommended reading.
What do you most value in your friends?
Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?
In myself: a mind-numbing focus on word-choice and punctuation; in others: impatience as I reach for a choice turn of phrase.
What do you consider to be the most over rated virtue?
Any virtue traditionally associated with women that is still expected, consciously or unconsciously, of women in the workplace to advance into leadership positions.