Janet Foutty

Former Chair & Consultant CEO Deloitte US

“Our only job as leaders is to make those around us successful.”

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

It is not about being the first woman in a role, or the only woman in the room. It’s about ensuring a first is not the last. Power women help women find and follow their own paths—especially those who are forging new ones. And, to create not just more firsts, but new norms.

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take toward empowering women and gender equality?
(e.g. affirmative action)?

Sponsorship being more at the core of the professional experience. The business community by and large understands what sponsorship is and the value it brings to professional advancement (and conversely, the detrimental effects, especially for women, when they lack leadership support and sponsorship). Therefore, more work should be done to truly make leaders more accountable to it. I’m familiar with how central sponsorship is in the scientific community for example, by learning about it through my scientist father. You become a wildly successful scientist by developing the next generation of wildly successful scientists and the apprenticeship period is very long – it’s a fundamental part of the experience. I’ve tried to carry that forward in my professional journey, and personally experienced the difference it makes. Those in a position of influence need to bake this expectation to identify a woman to sponsor into how their team of leaders lead, and this sponsorship requires time, energy AND political capital.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job
interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? New York State outlawed this practice. Should it be nationwide?

Deloitte was one of the first organizations to stop asking candidates for current salary data and is committed to pay fairly regarding demographics. Regardless of mandates, work should be happening at the organizational level to stay accountable to equitable pay if employers want to retain and attract talent and stay competitive in the market. Approaches such as annual salary benchmarking, the use of salary bands to support consistency, and periodic pay and pay variance reviews can all help to close the gap. It’s all about having a rigorous system of leadership checks and balances in the compensation process. This is a long-term commitment that should be required of leaders to review compensation of their workforce and identify and address potential disparities that may arise.

What was the defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today?

My leadership journey has been more serendipitous than planned. It’s been guided by three key questions I always ask myself along the way which is: 1) Am I doing interesting work? 2) Am I making an impact? 3) Am I valued for the impact I’m having? I’ve found that has allowed me to explore new opportunities, in some cases perceived as lateral moves, in order to be challenged and gain new experiences, all of which has charted my course to where I am today.

What is your mantra? What phrase or parabel best describes your approach right now?

“Our only job as leaders is to make those around us successful.” Even in the most challenging of times, my north star is to ground myself around the fact that my only real job is to create an environment where everyone can be as wildly successful personally, and professionally as possible. Filter out the noise and think about every decision being made and where time is being invested through the lens of – is it helping to create an environment where my teams can be successful?

Women are often placed in binaries. Strong and emotionless or weak and sensitive. How do you subvert these limitations and connect to all sides of womanhood?

Allyship. Men (and women) in roles of influence need to call it out when they see it happening. And, lead by example – build teams with diverse experiences, and attributes; communicate support for women in leadership and why – be specific.

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

I can’t pick just one. I have a few:

GM of the Chicago Cubs – avid fan and season ticket holder.
Peloton instructor – enjoy my early morning rides and other classes before I start the day – pumps me up, keeps me sane, and gives me energy.
National park ranger – I love to hike and be outdoors in nature as much as possible.

What advice would you give to any aspiring Power Women?

Embrace your authenticity. It is your competitive advantage. Leading authentically is not only about who you are; it’s about what you value.

What steps do you take to obtain a healthy work/life balance?

I am regimented with my schedule to create intentional time and space for what gives me energy. For instance, fitness in the morning. I will not check my work email first thing in the morning until I complete a fitness activity. Also, finding balance in my work and family time by making the necessary adjustments when the realities of a role starts to create imbalance.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Madeleine Albright – I never had a passion to pursue politics but what I appreciate and can relate to is her being ‘a first’ woman named to a senior role and her work to put women’s issues as the center of her work. As her famous quote says: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support women.” – and that I absolutely identify with.

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

My father always told me to surround yourself with the smartest people you can. They will challenge you and elevate your own thinking. I’ve taken that advice to heart and in addition to intelligence, I seek out creative thinkers with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. All of those elements come together to challenge the status quo and bring innovative thinking and leads to better outcomes.

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

Little Women – reread it 100 times as a girl – all about amazing women, their relationships, and strength.

What do you most value in your friends?

A shared passion for family, music, theater, and outdoor adventure. I so value making time with my good friends to share in those experiences.

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

I have worked hard on my listening skills and have learned over the course of my career how important it is to be sure as leaders we hear from the voices in the room or around the table. Any time I find myself moving too fast and notice I am not listening, I course correct. When I see that happening in discussions that others are leading, I try to engage the people who aren’t the first to speak. Just because someone is the loudest doesn’t mean they are the only one with the best ideas.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Loyalty – Don’t get me wrong, it is important that loyalty exists, but I caution around blind loyalty where friends, families, colleagues won’t tell you the hard truths that you need to hear. We need to be challenged, that’s what keeps us honest, true to ourselves, and helps us grow.

“Embrace your authenticity. It is your competitive advantage. Leading authentically is not only about who you are; it’s about what you value.”

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