Janet Riccio

EVP, Dean of Omicom University, Founder of Omniwomen

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

Trustworthiness, first and foremost. Being fair and consistent. Courage. Diplomacy.

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?

My pursuit of gender equality is not something that I feel I need to balance. It is part and parcel of who I am. It is the lens through which I view the world. Economic security, access to healthcare, freedom from violence, and the fundamental right of having an education are global issues about which I care deeply.

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

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court because she is an intellectual giant whose words will impact generations to come. She also embodies all of the qualities that, I believe, make a Power Woman.

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.

I believe that attacking women’s reproductive rights, both here and abroad, are based in the fear of change in the shifting sands of who has power. I believe the U.S. government should cease trying to turn back the clock, domestically, on a women’s right to choose. It is a failed strategy. And, I believe the U.S. government should courageously call out and impose harsh sanctions on those countries that sanction the inhumane treatment of women solely based on gender.

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

I have held fundraisers for women running for office, both at the national and local level. I strongly believe that we need more women in Congress, especially at this incredible time in our country’s history. I am optimistic about the number of women raising their hands and getting involved–whether running for office or supporting a woman who is–it is mission critical for the future fitness of this country.

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?

I think it is two things: unconscious bias and our lack of aggressiveness in negotiating for ourselves. But, I am optimistic about these things, as well, because the discussion is being had and awareness is being raised. However, we have to dig much deeper into the root of why these problems exist in order for us to create solutions that are implementable and sustainable.

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

This is a tough one because it’s been along time since I felt blocked in the workplace. Back at the beginning of my career, I had a boss who I liked a lot, but he was not capable of doing his job for a whole host of reasons, so I did his job and mine because I didn’t want to get him in trouble. It was at a huge client meeting (which he dropped out of, claiming sickness, at the last minute) where I stepped into his role, presented our strategic positioning and ran the meeting. That my boss’s boss and my clients saw me as a leader. I had his job about two months later.

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?

Yes, I do. And yes, we should.

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

Yes. I think we have all seen an increase in women becoming politically active. However, the numbers of women elected remain too small given we make up 50% of the population. Twenty years ago there were nine female Senators, today there are 21; there were 57 Congresswomen, today there are 104. Six women are Governors in 2017, that’s just 12%. Progress, yes. Enough progress, not at all.

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

There were many moments that led me to this place I am today. I said yes to a lot of opportunities that scared me, but ended up being beautiful gifts to me, both personally and professionally. The most recent one that has brought me to a time in my life of deep fulfillment was saying yes to becoming Dean of Omnicom University, our leadership development program that is transformative for every student/leader that comes through it. It is the best role I’ve ever had in business.

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

Yes. I think the objectification of women is harmful not only to women/girls, but I know so many men that are put off by it as well. Men need to stand side by side with women in making this very uncool.

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

My father–you can be whatever you want to be in life. Don’t rely on someone else to fulfill you.

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.

First, I think it’s too bad that great women have to be saddled with those expectations of increased profitability. I would hope the boards and CEOs bring women on because it’s the right thing to do.

I think the key to getting women into high-profile positions is all about sponsorship/championship. If you’re in a position of influence and see a woman within the ranks that proves herself worthy of advancement, then I believe it’s incumbent upon you to be vocal about it–promote her to your CEO/Board. (Side note: You need to strive for true meritocracy within your organization in order to achieve great results.)

Whom do you most admire? Why?

I most admire women who get in the political game because it is beyond courageous to jump into that shark tank and swim with the sharks. Politics is entirely a male construct, which, I hope, we will be able to reconstruct within my lifetime.

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

Moby Dick.

What is your favorite place on earth? Why?

Wherever the people I love are.

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