2018 Honoree

Therese Bassett

Chief Strategy Innovation & M&A Officer, Avnet

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

We hear a lot today about grit, and I defiantly think grit is probably one of those qualities of a power woman; but, if you break it down, to me, it’s having passion, being passionate about what you believe in, having perseverance, and actually be able to get it done, combining it with good old-fashion hard work.

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?

Well, I do think there is a global approach; however, I’ll tell you, one of the areas that I’m very passionate about is equal pay for equal work, and in the course of my career, a corporate career, I took a six year stint in a bar where I actually helped set up our global centers of excellence. And, in doing that we went through a process to establish formal job grading structures, and it was really helpful because, using that science, we were then able to create guidance around what reflected pay should the work be, and when we saw somebody paid below a man, or paid below a peer group, it was a red flag, and it gave us the opportunity to go back and count the leaders, because, in many cases, they were paying that person what they were making previously and not necessarily thinking about what they should pay in the open market. I really feel strongly about that. And, often times, leaders just they don’t think through that process well, and we have a lot of work to continue to educate people about paying full performance of the work.

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

Mine was always to be a Supreme Court Justice. If I could have the money to pursue that and to go to school I would. If I could have Ruth Ginsburg’s job for one day, I would absolutely love to see how all the justices go about the process of interpreting the constitutional law and applying it to modern day situations that requires a judgement and opinion. That would be my dream job for the day.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I’m totally fascinated by the author J.K. Rowling. In my role strategy, well, there’s a couple of things: 1) her story. The fact that she came from a very humble beginning and followed her dream and passion and brought something to life really changed the world. Her story has a really profound impact. So, the other thing was in the role of strategy the fact that she was able to create something that has not existed before–kind of an innovative idea that you can bring to life, and I really love that. In our role, often times I try to find pattern, or an observation, that hasn’t existed before and I have to tackle that series to see if it had contraption. Not only am I fascinated by her, and how she migrated to becoming a successful author, I just love her imagination and her innovation.

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 bit, in fairness, disenchanted with some of the things that are happening, only because of such polarization in our political process today. I do see more active women in politics taking a stand and being very articulate and influential, especially at the state level, so I’m excited about that. It’s a very odd dynamic in our environment right now, and we see people who are willing to step out and take a stand and represent the rights of people and take political stands that are very bold and may not always go with what the party lies within.

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

I was trying to think about a very specific story and I couldn’t come up with one particular example, but what I can say is, throughout my career and throughout time, I might have perceived either: a level of unfairness, or being overlooked. I think what I had to do, if I felt that I had to, was find the time and place to let someone know, and often times it was just my perception, that there were other factors that went into it. I think you have to be honest, and if you feel like you are not necessarily being considered for something that you might have a chance for, then you have to go and address it and see if you were perceiving things correctly. But, I couldn’t think of one specific block of where I really did something formal. I guess it’s just an ongoing thing.

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

Typically, in corporate careers we need to stay somewhat neutral. However, being able to contribute to things I’m passionate about, absolutely, I do think there are certain regulations, like equal pay, and there are definitely people who invest more time for self-support. I think the NY practice is 1000% a line behind.

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

What happened was that in very early on in my career and in my life I decided to go to private high school. My parents were divorced and they didn’t have the money, and I remember just pleading with them if there was any way I could to go. My mother was like, “I guess you can get a job at the age of 13.” I said, “Well, if I get the job and am able to cover the tuition, really could I go?” and she said, “yes, but with certain conditions, and tell me, what are you going to do?” So, I actively went out and got the job at the age of 13 waitressing at an Italian restaurant. By the time I was fifteen, I had two jobs, and one of those jobs I ended up working for over nine years. I just went to work very early, and I think it just proved to me that if I want something I can work hard for it and I could make it happen. That has been a hallmark of mine since. So, I feel willing is how hard you can work to go make it happen.

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

I’ve gotten such great advice over my career. I think the one that sticks with me the most, and that I apply all the time, is to always be clear about my objective. What I mean by that is, throughout our days and weeks and all the things we are working through, we might feel emotional over a situation–something political or through agendas–and before reacting, ask two questions: what do I hope to achieve? And, how do I want that person to feel? After I ask myself those two questions, sometimes I delete my first reply and come back with a much more thoughtful answer.

Who do you most admire? Why?

I choose my grandfather because he is a military man. His career was in the navy and he grew up through the ranks. One thing I always loved about him was that he would wake up every day and have a list of things he wanted to accomplish, and then every night he would do this manual process of checking off the things he has accomplished, and anything he didn’t accomplish he would carry the list into the next day. We use to think it was kind of funny as kids. Slowly, but surely, I got to the same process of creating my list and then crossing it off. It’s really a cathartic process. Look at how much you accomplish in a day, your hard work actually produced some strong deliverable. I’ve always admired that about him and, hopefully, I can. I’m not as good as he was, but I try.

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

The one book that was impactful for me that I read years ago was Tuesdays with Morie, by Mitch Album. The reason I loved it was because it’s a story of how much you can love about life and it was just so beautiful and poignant. Just a reminder in this whole scene of life that we gotta take time out and just savor the day, savor the moment, as ordinary as they may be, savor them and really see the beauty in them. It still gives me chills when I think about it.

What do you most value in your friends?

Authenticity, I think having a friend means you can be yourself. You don’t have to showoff, you can be whoever you are and friends will love you for your authenticity. They know your weaknesses and help you through any kind of struggles you may have. To me, it’s authenticity.

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

I drive myself crazy when I triple things in outcome. It makes me nuts. My motto is: “trust my gut and kick my brain out of the gutter.”

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

I think that I would pick patience. Believe me, I am a huge advocate for exercising patience in the right kind of space, and I feel strongly that you have to have a real sense of urgency and try to get things done. Sometimes, we wait for things to be too perfect and we start to execute our urge or motivation to get things accomplished is very healthy.

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