Audrey Boone Tillman

EVP, General Counsel, Aflac

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

Integrity, because the spotlight shines bright on women of power. Women in particular must be authentic and stick to their convictions, even when facing adversity. It is the mark of a strong leader. Empathy, because we are not all the same; however, we can all bring something important to the table. Decisiveness, because it’s important to be able to make decisions and make them without analysis paralysis.

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?

Diversity education and awareness is a common thread in everything I do. To that end, minority recruitment in the legal profession has always been of particular importance, because I’ve seen firsthand how diversity enriches a team. I believe companies that hold “innovation” as a priority would be wise to emphasize diversity and inclusion–the source from which innovation organically grows. I spent several years as Aflac’s chief human resources officer, and our workforce is currently 67% female. I am proud to say that, when comparing job titles for which there is more than one occupant, we compensate females at a 100.73% rate compared to males.

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

If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be a fashion designer or personal stylist. I take a lot of personal pride in selecting a wardrobe that expresses my personality and serves the sophistication of a corporate office and a courtroom. I think these characteristics of my personal wardrobe would translate well to a collection for other power women.

Why do you think women's reproductive rights are under attack? Globally it seems women's health and security are under such attack; from religion, to cultural attitudes, to lax government protection, women are more vulnerable than ever. What policies would you propose that he US government pursue (or change) to alter this.

Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? No Why or why not?

Yes, I am quite involved in local politics. In fact, I was the campaign manager for both of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s campaigns. In 2010, she was elected as the first female mayor of Columbus, Georgia. In 2014, she was re-elected to a second term, making her the first mayor since the city’s consolidation in 1971 to win re-election in a contested race. She is a personal friend of mine with dynamic and progressive ideas for our city. I knew the importance of getting her elected and supporting her publicly and privately once in office. I take a lot of pride in her tremendous success in office over the past seven years.

We are living in challenging times right now, and while it seems very banal to say this, I think that our society needs to simply be nicer to each other. I completely support women’s equity in the workforce and greater opportunities, as well, but right now, at a more macro-level, I think people need to empathize with each other and approach solutions from a place of respectfulness rather than always “us against them.”

What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: accessibility? unconscious biast (including questions about previous salary requirements)? economic? reproductive? or some other nefarious reason. Why do you think these are still challenges we face?

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

When I first began working at Aflac, my immediate supervisor was the kind of leader who would not share any portion of the stage with his team members. I worked on important corporate issues, but never was allowed to receive credit for it or even be associated with the work. I am definitely a team player, and the important thing is that the mission was being executed, but it’s demotivating to know that someone else might be getting credit for the good work that you do.

I never had to “do” anything to fix this situation, but over time, the quality of my work began to speak for me, and it no longer was necessary to go through him to get matters handled. Leaders began reaching out directly to me. During the time spent under his thumb, I learned patience and how to consistently produce superb work. I also learned that there is truth to the old adages–patience is a virtue and cream rises to the top.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?

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?

In my professional life, my most defining moment was when I was asked by our CEO, Dan Amos, to leave the Legal division and lead another division. It was a scary thing to me because all I had ever done or been trained to do was be a lawyer. It turned out to be the best investment I could have made in my career!

I was out of Legal for 13 years and learned so much about the business and the different divisions and about how to manage people, projects, and even P&L (profit and loss statement). As I recently returned to the legal environment as general counsel (GC), these experiences have helped me be a better leader and conduct the business of the office of GC from a more rounded perspective, knowing so much about the nuances and intricacies of Aflac and the insurance industry. The years I spent running other divisions are definitely helping me to be a better GC.

Do you believe that open access to porn (including violent video games, social media etc.) contributes to gender inequality and violence against women?

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

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your life experiences that have shaped your opinion on something will be different from someone else’s, but it’s that exchange of ideas that leads to the best solution.

There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the board room increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions.

Whom do you most admire? Why?

For sure, I have to say both my parents, from a personal/character standpoint. Professionally, this might sound like I am being a homer, but Aflac CEO, Dan Amos, is certainly someone for whom I have tremendous admiration. I have known Dan for more than two decades and have seen in him all of the attributes that I have listed throughout this interview as what I want in a leader. He is compassionate, intelligent, a brilliant businessman, and a man of integrity. He is fond of saying that he doesn’t want to look around a table at a meeting and see faces that look like him. “I already know what a 64-year-old white man thinks; I need to know what others are thinking, too.” This is the measure of a man who understands diversity, gender issues, and who empathizes with others. I am truly fortunate to work for Dan.

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

One book that definitely inspired me was “Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on Becoming the Woman I was Meant to Be,” by Myrlie Evers-Williams. It’s inspirational for so many reasons. As a young woman reading it, it helped to shape my perspective on handling whatever life threw my way.

What is your favorite place on earth? Why?

Home, with my family. Because, like Dorothy says, “there’s no place like home.” There is always something pretty nutty going on in our household, but there is nothing like Team Tillman.

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