2019 Honoree

Cheryl Guerin

Executive Vice President, North America Marketing & Communications, Mastercard

“Another area I particularly have a passion for is focused on women entrepreneurship and small businesses. Women are a force to be reckoned with in the small business space, contributing over $3 trillion to today’s economy and opening over 1,800 business every day. It’s these women, and the women they inspire, that have true impact on society, on our communities, and on economies.”

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

No “Power Woman” is the same. They all have different backgrounds, have encountered different challenges and learnings along the way. However, one quality that they all hold is their impact and their ability to drive a real positive change. How you impact those around you takes caring, resilience, and sometimes a sense of bravery. Being a “Power Woman” means being a leader, speaking up, and taking action–sometimes on heavy subjects in order to make a difference. Their impact is contagious, their actions inspires those around them and helps lift others up along the way. At Mastercard, we believe in “Doing Well by Doing Good.” I come in to work every day to ensure not only that the company and my team continues to thrive and grow with purpose and impact, but also that we continue to build an environment and a culture that makes every day interesting, exciting, and empowering.

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?

Gender equality is not only a personal issue I care about, but it is a topic my company has made a commitment to support internally, as well as externally, in the community. At Mastercard, we believe inclusion and diversity are about more than bringing together people with different backgrounds. It’s an understanding that when we create meaningful connections, inspire acceptance, and cultivate a culture where we all belong, we are a better team—-one that makes better decisions, drives innovation, and delivers better business results. Being on Mastercard’s North American management team, I am proud to say there is nearly a 50% balance of female executive leadership, and gender equality is always a priority. We also have created a global female leadership development program to ensure we are focused on providing our women with the necessary skills to take on broader roles within the organization–whether through intensive workshops, career moves, and other means. In my marketing role at our company it is important to understand all audiences, trends, and cultural dynamics. Understanding gender equality is critical to our business, with over 70% of purchase decisions being made by women, it is important we understand the purchasing power she holds. Another area I particularly have a passion for is focused on women entrepreneurship and small businesses. Women are a force to be reckoned with in the small business space, contributing over $3 trillion to today’s economy and opening over 1,800 businesses every day. It’s these women, and the women they inspire, that have true impact on society, on our communities, and on economies. Through understanding their needs, we were able to launch new product offerings to power them with the tools and resources they deserve and launch the “Her Ideas Start Something Priceless” campaign that shines a light on women small business owners to celebrate how these women are not only running businesses that are successful, but are making a real impact in their communities and even the world.

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

I really do love my job. I have the pleasure of bringing Priceless to people’s lives–whether that is through Priceless Causes, where we help connect people to the causes that mean the most to them, or through Priceless Cities, where we curate the most amazing experiences that enable people to truly connect with their passions and spend quality time together. I am lucky that every day I get work with my team to Start Something Priceless in the world around us. However, being so immersed and passionate in the small business space, I would be very interested to spend the day and work alongside the founder of Spanx, Sarah Blakely. I love Sarah’s journey, and how her challenges and failure helped her discover what her strengths were. She took what she knew she was good at in sales and pushed herself to eventually sell something that she created and cared for, which ended up becoming a multimillion-dollar company. In addition to Sarah’s personal story and success, the actual Spanx product being a unique type of body shapewear continues to solve a need for real women, helping give confidence to women along the way is truly inspiring.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Supreme Court Justice, and now pop culture icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She exemplifies true determination, focus, and resilience. All incredible qualities that helped her push boundaries, realize her dream, and change society overall. I grew up at a time when women did go to college and were going into the work force; however, I watched my fellow male graduates enter the advertising business roles, while there was a certain path for women to start as a secretary. Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t just a Supreme Court Justice, she is a trailblazer for gender equality. She has played an incredible role in the advancement of women’s rights and changing work, for both women and men, in pushing for true equality. She is a powerful woman that I look up to and continue to be inspired by every day.

What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: Accessibility? Unconscious bias? Economic? Reproductive? Or some other nefarious reason. Why do you think these are still challenges we face in 2019?

I think there are some tremendous trends happening in the workplace for women. They are starting businesses, hiring and creating opportunities for other women, and making great impact on their community. While there is still a long way to go in closing the gender pay gap, I think, as women, we can take action and talk about the matter, ask questions and be transparent, do our research and know our worth, and encourage others to do the same. We as women have to be confident, but at the same time, corporations have to give opportunities to close the pay gap. I am lucky that I work at a company, and work in an environment, that supports and lifts women, where we are balanced on pay and dedicated to maintaining practices to ensure equal pay for equal performance at the same levels. I have received great opportunities in the work force, both given and asked for. I encourage all women to ask questions, speak up, and raise each other up–together we can continue to make a difference.

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

I have been lucky that I personally haven’t experienced a block in the workplace for a long time. I work for a forward thinking and fair company, where inclusion, diversity, and equal rights are part of the fabric of who we are. One issue that I encountered, and learned from, was when I entered the workplace immediately after University. I was eager and ready to get into the Advertising business and learned that, in order to get a job at an ad agency, even after I received my education in Marketing/Advertising, I would need to take a role as an assistant, answering phones, typing, and taking care of the packages–a true “secretary” role. The men with the same level of education were given roles immediately out of school as Account Coordinators on key clients or in the New Business department where they had the opportunity to learn the ropes. I watched men be given a better chance of success right out the gate. However, this didn’t discourage me, in fact, it made me work harder. In my assistant role, I focused on taking on more work and creating opportunities for myself. This is something I have done in every role that I have had. You have to do more than what is in your job description, you must redefine the role, take on special projects–whatever it takes to truly make an impact in the role you have and ready yourself for the next role you might get.

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

I had an incredible boss who pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone and pursue new experiences and opportunities. She encouraged me to take on a digital marketing role, which, at the time, was new for our company and new for the industry. So, while I definitely took a risk jumping into the unknown, after a few months I had become the expert in the space and, eventually, ended up leading the new function. From that experience I learned that when you push yourself, you continually collect skills and create multiple paths for your career.

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

I have had some terrific mentors throughout my career. One piece of advice I received that has helped me grow as a professional and in my career was to continue collecting new skills by taking on new jobs, functions, and roles you haven’t before. I tended to want to go right back to what I loved, and my boss at the time said, “You already did that and mastered it. It’s time to do something else.” This was the advice that helped me get to my defining moment in my life that eventually led to the path of where I am today. I have always reminded myself of this piece of advice and it has encouraged me along my career to take on new roles, expand my knowledge and experience. This has helped me not only grow to be the marketer, but leader I am today.

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?

We have to encourage women to take risks. We need to encourage companies to invest in strong development plans for executive women and ensure that there is a diverse slate of successors moving into readiness for these positions.

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

Living and working in a constantly connected world, when I find the time to relax I enjoy reading as a way to disconnect and escape. I love a good fiction story and “Gone Girl” is one in particular that always kept me turning the pages and constantly thinking what’s next. While I enjoy reading for pleasure, it is a form of leisure that still stimulates your imagination and creativity, which ultimately is an ever important asset for anyone in the business world.

What do you most value in your friends?

I value my friends and the individual relationships I hold with each of them. However, it is the overall closeness and trust that we share that I value most. My friends know me so well, and I can always count on them, regardless of the situation. Through the good days and bad, they are always there for me without judgement. When I need to vent, simply escape for some fun, or need them for advice, my friends are so important to my happiness and help me maintain a balanced life.

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

I disprove of any behavior that is off the charts hierarchical. I believe the most important trait in leaders is the ability to stay grounded, be approachable, and authentic. I am so grateful for the success I have experienced individually as a leader and collectively as a team. The more time I spend with diverse talent, across all levels and ages, the more inspired I am and the work is better for it. Doing Well by Doing Good–how can I make a difference? I am incredibly honored to work for a company that sees success as supporting others and driving impact. Having been part of the launch of Mastercard’s Priceless Causes platform with Stand Up To Cancer was truly a humbling opportunity. What started as a test of a cause marketing program in NY, turned into a national program, resulting in success for Mastercard, but most importantly, today has raised over $50MM in donations to Stand Up To Cancer. We are in our tenth year of the program this year, and every year is a reminder that together, as a team, you can change the lives of many. I truly believe in paying it forward. I have had the honor of leading a circle of women in our Women’s Leadership Network for many years now, where I’ve had the opportunity to mentor and advise women in a safe and supportive environment. Being a mentor has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring. Not only have I watched my mentees advance in their careers, but I have had the opportunity to learn from their challenges, successes, and personal journeys.

What do you consider the most over rated virtue?

Patience. I know the most famous virtue is patience, but working in a highly competitive environment and in a category where being the first positions you as a leader with customers and consumers, it’s incredibly important to be a visionary in the space, pushing the limits and making the impossible, possible. We have to move quickly albeit thoughtfully and graciously. At work, I constantly encourage my team to be innovative thinkers, to try new things and put new ideas into motion.

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