2017 Honoree

Claire Spofford

President, Garnet Hill Inc.

“I think all women are Power Women. Sometimes the power is just more quiet! Gender equality is something I have believed in my whole life; I grew up in the ‘Title 9’ era. I think, as long as the playing field is even, then women will prevail as equals.”

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

I think all women are power women. Sometimes the power is just more quiet!

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 something I have believed in my whole life; I grew up in the “Title 9 era.” I think, as long as the playing field is even, then women will prevail as equals.

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

I’d love Reese Witherspoon’s job. What a multi-talented 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 think reproductive rights are under attack because it is a matter of power. Here in the U.S., the Supreme Court has ruled that women have the right to chose. We need to ensure that those rights are protected. Elsewhere in the world, women are less fortunate. I think supporting education is the way we in the U.S. can best help women around the world ensure their rights to make their own decisions.

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 not really involved in politics, but I believe I can make the most impact by encouraging and mentoring young women in the workforce. Interestingly, our industry has more women in leadership roles than most–it is part of why I like doing what I do for a living.

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 we face?

Honestly, I think the gender pay gap is an issue because women are wired differently than men. We tend to be more self deprecating and we aren’t always as comfortable asking for what we deserve. We women need to recognize that delivering results and then standing up for ourselves to ensure we get paid for them is the best way to close the gap.

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

I think given any block or challenge it is best to step back, understand where everyone is coming from–i.e. what everyone involved is seeking to accomplish in the situation at hand–and then proceed from there to find common ground or a solution.

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?

As an employer, I think it is necessary to ask about salary history. Creating bureaucratic methods to address the pay gap issue is the wrong way to fix things. It should just not be acceptable to pay men and women differently for the same work.

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

I consider myself lucky to live in an area of the country where successful women in politics are prevalent. It is a shame though that in the U.S. we are way behind other countries, like Germany and the U.K., in electing a woman President or Prime Minister or Chancellor.

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

There was no one defining moment that led me to where I am today, rather I think I learned to be a strong competitor through years of participating in sports. It’s important in life to learn to be a good winner and a good loser, and to move on from any setbacks and look forward.

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

I don’t believe in censorship, but I also believe that women need to respect themselves enough to not engage in activities that victimize them.

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

Never lose your sense of humor.

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.

Empirical evidence that a female presence in the boardroom is beneficial to the health of a business is the best way to encourage boards to have a gender balance. Ensuring that women hold board seats seems to have some momentum finally.

Who do you most admire? Why?

There are a lot of people I admire for various reasons, but one that comes to mind is Jane Goodall. Her dedication and impact as a primatologist and conservationist are an inspiration.

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

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

What is your favorite place on earth? Why?

Carbondale, CO. I love the mountains and that part of the country is awe inspiring.

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