2018 Honoree

Anna Griffin

Senior Vice President, Marketing, CA Technologies

“I think I’m at a place where I don’t believe it is the government’s responsibility to take care of people. I believe it’s the people’s responsibility to take care of people, and the government can provide infrastructure to do so. I felt like I can be more powerful, or better useful, in the world if I apply my energy to take care of the people and the flock that I was given and shape their capacity.”

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

I believe a power woman is a woman who is very self aware and uses that awareness for action. When you are tuned into yourself, your position, how people respect you, or respond to you, you are aware enough to listen to those around you. You are able to hear a narrative and you are able to know what your action is.

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?

Yes, I believe we are all a product of a story told in life, and I believe to truly get that across there has to be gender equality. There is some redefining of the story or narrative that has to be told. Sometimes, I believe that women, children, men, and culture have the ability to change your destiny if you can change your story. I guess, simply, destiny follows stories, and we can go back to correct the story and get that right from the beginning, because we were all created equal and somehow we were told stories that started to put us down this path that defined more limited stories or limited paths. I like to put my energy any place where I can re-alter the story and set the narrative as one is equal–that’s where I like to apply my time and energy. Your parents told you stories and created a mindset, where others were told smaller stories. I grew up in an environment where people experienced smaller stories. Culturally and historically, yes, in past stories even your home starts at home. When I am home, I pray for my children and tell them that God created them to do amazing things for the world. He created them with special abilities and his expectation of what is going to be possible with their lives. He can’t wait to see it and it was just a constant when they were babies, and now they are approaching teenage years and I’m hoping it’s a story that they truly believe, because it’s a story that I believe. But, then again, the change in a story can start anywhere; but, regardless of any situation, it certainly starts with simply what you tell on a daily basis.

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

I would like to be a head of a network for one day. I would like to be able to tell stories that, I believe, are more reflective and essential. I would love to use the media today to truly tell people of possibilities, instead of using the media to tell stories of fear, doubt, or manipulation. I get that the world is built with fear and manipulation, so I don’t mean that in a bad way. But, it effects someone’s day if we told everyone without editorial comment.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Probably Nelson Mandela. I love the power of a properly well educated mind and that belief, that pursuit of knowledge, and also the faith and confidence in his own fate that he could change a nation. Hi true initiative was not only to change a nation, but was to change the world, and that was one happily educated mind. I stand for all of his approaches to life and patience, and I actually believe this is how the world works. It’s not about self gratification. It’s about persistence and faith and staying true to what you know is right, and that means enduring pain and relationships. When you stand in the light of the truth, you will ultimately be the award, but it’s a journey. It could take forever and it could have much more hardship than there would ever be in any type of glory or success on the other end. I adore any one who can stand in the light of the truth and wait.

Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? Why or why not? 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’m currently not involved in politics. As a child, it was certainly my aspiration and I think I am in a place where I don’t believe it is the government’s responsibility to take care of people. I believe it’s the people’s responsibility to take care of people, and the government can provide infrastructure to do so. I feel like I can be more powerful, or better useful, in the world if I apply my energy to take care of the people and the flock that I was given and shape their capacity. Currently, I’m not involved in politics, but it is my belief that people have the responsibility to help people and empower them to help other people. The way I have been doing that is: 1) within my workspace and ability to have a real, large group of both friends and professionals who I get to play mentor to. I’ve got two girls and the youngest is twelve-years-old. They have been mentoring since they were ten, then as teenagers, and then college graduates with young professionals in their own workspace. I feel like I have been blessed with a variety of opportunities and when I’m mentoring someone, I get mentored back–it’s completely a mutual thing. 2) It was in my industry, particularly the advertising space, that I was able to be a family member and part of the #seeher movement. I’ve been very passionate about the #seeher movement, and if you can’t see her, then you can’t be her, and so much that happens within the media. You have TV, the media industry, and the advertising industry where you continue to represent women and cast women in roles that tell a story from the story teller’s point of view. It could be flipped. It is always women who tell the story, but that might not be casted. And, in the light of diversity they can be reflected; so, in our industry, we believe in women. Ad agencies, did you consider to cast or bid a female director? Did you look at the production crew? Did you look if there was a female wardrobe? Did you look at the diversity or people who are gonna tell your stories for advertising? Therefore. TV production, or whoever the story tellers are, should be as diverse as possible. We continue to tell women that their role in hospitals is to be a nurse. 95% of the world’s nurses are women. You become the product of the story you have been told. Women are sexy objects. What I deeply care about in STEM are nerdy white boys dropping out of IVY league schools. You’re never gonna get the Latin population or a young African American boys to see themselves because they only sees themselves as basketball players because of ads on TV and how the media projected the idea that this is what cool kids do, and this what you should look like in the world–so, they start to pursue these traits in other roles. It’s a very important initiate in the advertising, marketing community and we have to make a difference. We also have to tackle the lack of diversity in STEM, which I’m passionate about, and my company greatly believes in diversity in STEM because of the lack of engineering talent and lack of diversity. We go and tell stories and find: twelve-year-old Asian girls writing for her grandmother who has Alzheimers; sixteen-year-old girls who are passionate about robotics changing products in motels; or a 24-year-old African American boy who developed his own company and sold it to SONY. We tell those stories and put it out in the world through the media, where they can actually see and discover their fit. One action we can take in society is self-awareness, to go back to your first question. If you’re highly self-aware, you listen, and say your feelings like how you are suppose to, then do something to act on it. I was doing some work in the embassy for the women and technology. They brought a young woman from South Africa over to my company to be mentored. We has a great relationship, and we knew instantly the day that I met her we were going to have something bigger than a mentorship relationship. A couple of years later she brought the U.S. embassy to South Africa, and South Africa said we can’t afford to bring the girls to U.S., but we can afford the girls to be brought to South Africa within international women’s month. I did that, and for five years now I have gotten to visit different countries and work on different initiatives, and one day I will bring sustainability to South Africa. I met these beautiful women–all different ages, from age 12 to 85–who were taking care of six children. These women naturally picked up the pieces and so many of them, 25 to 45, have missed their academics and have the burden of raising their children in their situation. I spent a day with them and, slowly, started to open up this one woman who was 85-years-old and very beautiful. I asked, “If anybody could help you, what would you ask for?” She said, “If my children could achieve their education there would be nothing they wouldn’t be able to do, and they would have every opportunity in the world.” The education system in South Africa is up to fourth or fifth grade–the teachers can’t teach beyond fourth or fifth grade. So, I thought about it one day and I came back to the U.S. I never lost those words, even as I went on runs, trying to be myself and stay self aware. I heard a voice in my head saying, “you need to build a school for these children, they need to be able to do it on their own, you need to go to school in the long run.” I was like, “no, I don’t build schools. Oprah Winfrey builds schools.” But, I just kept hearing this voice telling me that I need to build a school in South Africa. At the end of the run, I called a gentlemen in Mosiac who I met, and I said there’s a voice that is telling me we need to build a school in Mosaic for children in your care. He said, “You’re calling me to plan to build a school? We are so busy, we can’t take it off the ground. We are so busying making housing, jobs, education, vocational training for women to have lives with their children.” But, he said, “If you think you can tackle school, I can work with the municipality here and the land. But, if you can get us off the ground, nobody in South Africa will ever give money if it’s already built. I can get the support once it’s real, but if there’s only a piece of dust on the ground then money is just squandered.” So, we go back and year one was the land and the foundation, aligning the children and teaching the staff. Year two we started with a two-room classroom, and now we have a beautiful two story building. In the township of Ecahin we are educating 250 students on a daily, national school curriculum, which means these children in the township have the same ability as the White africans across the street. We changed the story and said, “You have the same thing as they have now.” So, now it’s up to you. How are you going to try? It’s so easy in our society to point your finger at the government, or say it’s not fair or not just. You have schools, just like theirs, you have teachers who are trained–it really works on the younger children. Our goals were different for the older children because it’s difficult to go back at 10, 11, or 12 and teach them the same way as four-year-olds or five-year-olds. We have 250 children so far who are successfully being educated. If I was in politics, I could have tired to influence U.S. politics to have more policies in local South Africa, so the politics can get it done. For this to be done, we needed somebody who could do it, and going back to question number 1, just take action. When something needs to be done, do it and don’t be fearful, and the rest will come from your heart; or, if you feel like you need to get it, get your resources to get it done. So, it wasn’t me who got it done, it was him who found the resources and I was just a helping hand because I was self-aware and willing to take action.

What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: Accessibility? Unconscious bias (including questions about previous salary requirements)? Economic? Reproductive? Or some other nefarious reason. Why do you think these are still challenges?

I am so blessed that I had a mentor and a boss who worked at three companies and who was a real pioneer. I know I’m the highest paid female in the company and one of the top five paid executives, and there are a lot more men executives than women. So, I always felt that I know how hard you work, and you are going to get paid for how hard you work. Period. She was an advocate and fought for me, so I never felt unjust in pay equality, ever. But, that’s only because I had someone who was willing to fight for me and say “no.” It’s only because you’re a man or a woman, not because you work harder than four people combined, so you should be paid the same as four people combined. That’s kind of my mentality, but one thing I do love, and I see this happen a lot in my company, is that they called me and consciously said, “I know in some states it’s a law, but you’re not going to ask anybody what they were making previously,” because women who have been, perhaps, unfairly paid for years will say they were was making $55,000, and then companies say we are going to hire you and make it $60,000. But, in theory, she should be making $85,000, instead of $55,000, but she’s just given an employer the chance to not equal up the chance of payment. The company will work really hard and believe you are going to get paid the industry rate for the job that is scoped. Period. I do love that, which is asking someone what they are currently making. When I go out into the world that’s gonna work against me, actually, because I don’t think people will actually believe I’m paid what I am paid. That is sad, and that might work against me, but I do love that. For women, it will go far in changing the inequality of the pay grade.

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?

Absolutely it should. I would love to hear somebody’s argument of why it shouldn’t. I can’t even imagine.

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

The political landscape has not changed enough. We are not represented by the diversity that reflects us, we’re just not. I don’t like how politics has made it very difficult, having contended with lobbyists and how much money you made. There are so many things that could have been done, or can’t be done, to equalize and neutralize the privileged Whites–those who are able to raise funds and those who aren’t. It just hasn’t been warrant for ideation. The best idea is the one backing them that gets elected and that’s not fair about ideation. I do not believe the political landscape can be changed, but what I love is that people are more aware that they don’t have to rely on politicians. I believe we are seeing an uproar of businesses we should be more involved in, like Starbucks. The government thinks they can do what they want, but in our company these are our values, this is what we believe in, and this is what our responsibility is. The fact that politics has changed, just as they should, you see others rising to the cause, and I honestly believe that’s what the Founding Fathers wanted from day one. I love the rising of the people and how they perceive responsibility.

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

I think it goes all the way back to being an eight-year-old girl in front of a ballet bar in a dance studio, where there was a poster hung over the record player. There was a long bar facing towards the record player and the PAs. The poster over the record player said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” There was a little girl who wanted to be a dancer, a professional dancer, more than anything in the world. So, like it said in the poster, if I can dream it, then I can become it–I’m really obsessed. What does it take for me to fall asleep at night to have that dream? I really took it literally like the poster said. To me, to have a dream about it I’m gonna have to think about it all day long because that’s the only way I’m gonna fall asleep at night and dream it–it’s gonna be on my mind. I think I learned through that exercise the power of imagination and what it really takes–if you really want something to happen, then good actions gotta be a little bit harder to think a little bit more and you have to apply yourself. You have to push further to be able to dream it in your bed at night, so you can become it. You gotta be a little bit more obsessed, you gotta worry a little more, and try a little harder. You have to strut a little more, be there in the moment, do what you are told to do, and point your toes, tuck your tush under, rotate your knees out. You have to go a little bit further, which actually stuck with me for the rest of my life. If you want the big opportunity, you need someone who’s gonna make a difference. You can’t just go to the mission, you have to push a little bit harder than everybody else.

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

Probably my dad. He was a gentleman and lovely to see, but he was filled with all of these little things. He was a Southern gentleman and always said to me that “cream always rises to the top,” meaning it would take $1 whip cream and cup of coffee, but, eventually, it does rise to the top. Basically, he was saying, “Anna, keep your attention first and work hard. You may have set backs, but you can’t keep that down,” and I always thought about that light inside of me. Not a lot of people want to see the light, meaning your light won’t come out at the right place and the right time. It reminds me of the Mandela situation: cream always rises to the top if you are pure in attention to the world or whatever you believe in, karma or fate, whatever you may believe. It will not be distinguished. I always thought cream always rises to the top, so be cream.

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

Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom would be my non-fiction, and I can think of another, which is Jim Lair Power of Story. I actually had no idea he was a psychologist and that was actually a work of philosophy about how your mind has a lot of interesting reasons in terms of the brain, and it just doesn’t take random facts–we’re always looking for cause and logic. The power of stories, it’s not just philosophy, it’s how we are wired to work. Reading his story made me realize: “Wow, the limitation of your capabilities are in your mind, not in your world.”

What do you most value in your friends?


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

Authenticity, rather authentic what you see in people. Or, probably empathy and try to really understand what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. I hate self-doubt. I believe all of these–-everything that I told you–-and yet, sometimes, I am still limited by my own stories.

What do you consider the most over rated virtue?

Collaboration, and it’s not because I don’t believe in collaboration, it is that everybody doesn’t really know how to do it. That true collaboration is truly to be collaborative, it’s your ideas, it’s not just your ideas in the room where we all agree to collaborate. I think that is very difficult to achieve because it means you have a faultiness in all people and the voice. In true collaboration it’s easier to say that a collaboration is a coming together relationship, but what does that really mean? We say this word, and no one really knows the meaning of it.

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