2018 Honoree

Kathleen Campisano

Vice President, GMM Barnes & Noble

“It makes me sad in this day and age to even say that I have to be passionate and an advocate for women’s equality. I want that to be part of our history. I can’t let it be our future. The focus should be on the idea of just humanity and understanding the skillsets–regardless of whatever opportunity it is–the skillset is the critical element here, not the gender. Who cares what your gender is.”

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

The qualities are probably grounded in this idea that there is kind of a strength in leadership and opportunity I think to really listen and extend influence on good listening skills. For me, I think about what is power. It could be strength, but that’s usually something loud or bold. I think strength is in the quality of listening and in the quality of the insight, as you seek opportunities personal or professionally. So for me it’s that skill of discernment in what you hear, so you can use that for something good and something powerful

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?

For me, I am absolutely passionate about it as an issue. I think gender equality is necessary and it’s well past its time. I like understanding that I don’t necessarily want to be identified or singled out because of my gender. I think it’s in that “singling out” that gives strength to inequality versus the force of equality. And I think if we talk about human leadership and human skills, I think we are in a better focal point of creating equality in the future. I think when you focus on the gender differences, you actually prevent progress.

It makes me sad in this day of age to even say I have to be passionate and an advocate for women’s equality. I want that to be part of our history. I can’t let it be our future. The focus on the idea of just humanity and candidacy and really just earning it and understanding the skillsets and regardless of whatever opportunity it is, the skillset is the critical element here. Not the gender.

I am very proud of the other minorities… the evolution of what is love and who we love… I think it has just surpassed the most obvious: who cares what your gender is. How do we take a page out of their progress and just move past this.

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

I think it would be my job in the future. I hope to take my life experiences and hope to eventually to teach college at the college level. I would love to teach an MBA class and not have a gender in the title and talk about strong leadership and how to have a powerful world for purpose. The job I want is the job I hope to get in the next 5 years.

[On who to switch with] I am too old to want to be anybody else. If you asked me in my 30’s I would have told you a different answer. If I could make an impact… I’m sad to say, I don’t think anyone right now has clarity of voice because I think if they did we’d be more united and I am probably speaking more North American than I am globally… There’s no one out there doing enough, unfortunately. I don’t mean to not sound hopeful, but there’s no one that I am admiring. I know what I would want but I can’t find what I want in an individual right now. That’s the problem.

You have to choose your role models carefully. When I was young, I certainly had role models. Being older, I think the focus is being the role model rather than looking for one. I think it is a call to action in this point of my life. It’s not a call to wish.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Teddy Roosevelt! He is my historical hero for sure. And I think it has a lot to do with his nature: His persistence, his will, he was a no nonsense type of guy. And if you like that, that was great, but if you didn’t then get out of the way because he still has things to do. He did good work in government, but he also did good work for the planet, and he did good work for the arts and he was friends with the arts. I love his relationship with John Muller.

The arts in particular and the lack of acknowledgement about it is so important and how we treat it so trivial.

“With great power comes great responsibility” and I think the responsibility is the people going to define it. It’s listening. It’s basic. it’s not complex and I think that we think since it’s a modern world that the basic issues have to be so complex, it’s a woven nest we have to unravel. It’s
just common law. Humanity is not in question… Basic rights… I don’t understand how this got so confusing for people.

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)?

It ties me to my mother who has passed. My mother was the president of League of women’s voters In the state of Ohio. We’re talking early 1960s. For me growing up it was a part of how we were raised which was that voting and having a vote Casting your vote and being knowledgeable
about your vote was a privilege just like good health is a privilege And the love of the family that should never be taken for granted. It really helps me find my voice. I grew up in a household where My mother was at one political belief And my father was clearly at the other It was very fiery very vocal very passionate, but also proud of their individual points of view and I watched them coexist throughout their entire marriage and they did it with love and integrity and sometimes anger and sometimes they were on complete polar opposite sides of issues and yet they found a happy medium. If it can happen in a household, it can happen in a town in a community in can happen in a state it can happen in a country. I believe that it can happen because I have witnessed different points of view and finding common ground to move forward. Just from our citizenship to be political and that doesn’t have to be an ugly word. It should be a privileged word and something we are proud of.

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 challeng

I think this is on the women who are hiring and in the seat of influence … or men… I do think it is changing. I am optimistic. By sheer talent… I run a whole team at Barnes & Noble that is entirely women and that was not by design. Over the years I have hired several gentlemen and the truth is that what we are looking for is that is the capabilities in the role. I think when we talked earlier I think it was clear and super important I don’t think you go into a role with salary in mind or an individual in mind. You go into the role with the objective in mind. What do I need this individual to accomplish and that accomplishment is worth X to the company. If you don’t know what success in the role means from an outer wide perspective, to the financial company, how do you know what to pay that individual? I think it comes down to simple structure and lining it with the financial objective and then you fill the seat with the most qualified talent. it sounds so basic but somewhere along the way the whole planning and organizational development model gets muddled with the drama. I think we have to shatter that model and go back to a very sustainable model and I think that will actually improve the company. I think that adds value back into the organization. Right person, right role, right value.
You get the executive team, the people in power around the benefits of having the right person in the right role, they align to the goals and the objectives of the strategy put forth you demystify any bias of salary because you are saying “who cares who is doing it?” it is the right person in the right seat. The dilemma is the qualifications of the candidate. Candidacy is king and I know there will be biases, but what I believe overcomes bias is a litmus test that you would be able to check off that strategic objective: financial ties and things like that.

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

I can honestly say no. I have been fortunate and I say that with all humility because I have several friends that have not been so fortunate. I know it exists and that is the only reason I comment that way because I don’t want my lack of experience from preventing me or causing me to take a detour in my career. I just never had that experience, but I acknowledge that is real. Ironically for me, If you asked me where there were challenges, it was more with the women above me than it was the men. I found in my personal experience, my male mentors within the organization have been some of my best champions and especially early on in my career where I have hit a stumbling block that actually resulted in changing career choice and moving onto something different forced a difficult decision on my part was more where I felt like it was the woman above me who were more challenging than the men. I wouldn’t necessarily equate it to a gender issue, as much as just style and personality and a leadership conflict, more than I would assign it male/female. But if I did look back, ironically, they happened to be more female than male.
In my peer group right now, I don’t identify with those experiences of my youth. I find that more than ever, women are supporting a feminist movement of real equality. I see it in their friendships. The relationships they have . The way they are supporting each other and supporting their male counterparts. I love when Emma Watson did her thing about asking the gentlemen to
join the movement. True feminism is just equality across the board. I am lucky to employ a lot of youth. i think they come in with that understanding already. And it is so refreshing. And it makes it so easy on me and the other team members that might be of another generation because that is something they can emulate upwards. They’re contributing a brighter vision of how we can support each other.

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?

It’s an archaic notion that you need to come in and disclose your salary. I think it is irrelevant. If I am applying to a position you need to demonstrate to me what that role is worth to the organization and my application into that earns me that salary. It is irrelevant what I made before. Why force a bias unnecessarily? It forces a bias for what a person’s worth is. The organization should know the value of what the role is regardless.

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

I don’t think the country is against having a female in power. I think that we need to show up and vote and prove that. I think the burden is on us for what the country really believes. We have to hear the country which means the popular vote should matter. No having a women president right now means that it is not the right time and I don’t know that we have the right candidate yet. I don’t think I’ve seen across the political landscape a woman I’d be willing to vote for president yet. She doesn’t exist in the political arena. She might exist in my neighborhood, my corporate office, or in my vendor partnerships, she’s not out there in the political arena yet and I think we have a call to action for the country to say let’s demonstrate to the world on a global platform that when the female candidate for president is ready, she will emerge with great support and less controversy.

I think the focus should be on what are the characteristics and what are the issues that are going to create common ground and let’s go find that candidate why don’t we model that role and who that individual is that could unite the country and go find them. Come up with the right role that makes sense for the business. Come up with a role that is right for the country and go find that person.

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

For it was the support from my husband to get my MBA. I was at Fisher Price. I had two children in diapers. I had an incredible opportunity given to me that paid for my MBA that I had to continue working of course. With that fabulous opportunity came a lot of burden on the family and my husband. And the truth of the matter is that when your spouse stands up and says for the next two years it can be all about you. That’s a powerful moment and a gift especially in a partnership like that. That changed the complexion of my career. It changed the security of my finances. it changed the opportunities I gave my children. had I not had my support system in him and others around us, that was impossible. What it taught me as a defining moment is that you achieve nothing alone. The ego has to be put aside because my accomplishments are completely by the grace and generosity of those around me and I take that with me. Not only with my family, but into my team environment because it helps keep focus off any individual and that together you accomplish more than you could ever accomplish alone. And that was taught to me by my husband in that moment.

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

I would not subscribe to censorship. I don’t believe we should censor, but I do believe that we have a responsibility particularly to our youth to monitor. it is a parent’s right to monitor what comes in to specifically children of age beyond that I will tell you that I think it is the growing awareness. i remember the comment “you are what you eat”. It’s the same kind of feeling. You become what you take in. The question really is be mindful. It’s not unlike karma. It’s this whole idea of boomerang. I think what we can do is raise the awareness of the truth of that and still allow people to make their own choices. The more violence in the more violence out. It becomes tolerant to you. We’ve got to be mindful and accepting of those people as long as it doesn’t infringe on what we are all about. I don’t believe in censorship, but I do believe in creating awareness around the notion and the truth that what we take in we end up evolving into. It is on the parents to create this generation of some kind of filtering. But who am I to say what is pornographic and what is violent. And then you say you don’t want your children to have sexual hangups or does it evoke passion in others. I don’t know. it is a really tricky thing. When we become extremists about any issue versus open to discussing pros and cons, an extreme response to the question… we should sit down and see what their united point of view is. So that the adults can sit down and make a decision. I would hate to over legislate, but at the same time we have to protect. this is more complex that what it appears.

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

I think the best advice came from my mom and it was just to be yourself and to know your voice. I do think that it is critical to represent your firmly and completely and to not hide behind anything. It is important because it confirms your reason. That is how you identify your worthiness is linked to your uniqueness. At the same point in time of sharing your voice to get the feedback of confirmation it’s joyous that you are not alone in the world. Your unique being has another unique being in a belief system and there’s a real confidence in that and there’s a real security that the world is a great place. I am a good person. The world is a great place and now I know how to go out into that place.

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 po

I tend to want to diffuse the gender and i think the way to do it is immediately bring the conversation about if there is a board seat available or who should advance, the conversation should be in the value generation of the company so we’re talking professionally now. I think who is going to bring the company shareholder value. I think the only way to strip away any bias of gender is to psychical focus on the real rationale that substantiate the individual for the role and how those results will bring value to the organization. I don’t think we will win being manipulative. I don’t think we will wing with any device outside of nature outside of an unabashed point of view to focus on value generation. We have to demand that of the organization and I was consensus built. i would do my homework. if I had personal self interest in because I believe as a share holder that i want somebody in the seat.

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

There are two books. The Harry Potter series because it was a shared experience with my son when he was young. We read every book cover to cover. We have two of each. They’re highlighted and notes on the side. That was a moment I shared with my son and it was all reading based. It was beautiful. The Twilight series which I read with my daughter and that was our series that we dug into together. I remember reading feverishly in advanced to see if the content was appropriate because it was a love triangle between Bella and a vampire and a werewolf. Not something I would choose to read, but I knew my daughter’s interests and we devoured that series as well. They are how I spent quality time with my children.

The themes in both of those series are beautiful. Good and Evil. Right and wrong. They are these metaphors of how you want to present yourself. I think that children need to know that their interests are engaging enough to attract adults. I think that gives them a real identity of purpose and confidence as well that wow what they’re interested in could attract this person and it makes
them feel really great and that is a beautiful gift and they grow up and you look at them and say if you weren’t my kids I’d still hang out with you. They are great children. 16. What do you most value in your friends?

What do you most value in your friends?

Their Time.[little emotional since she is flying out to meet her friends] I love that they give me their time. It is so precious today.

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

There are times when i have a little self deprecating sense of humor. With the humor, I go a little to large and I think “what did I say about myself.” it might be true, but i don’t think i needed to tell the room. I think it is a weird tendency I have to make people feel comfortable. I’m trying to break myself of that habit.

We can be intimidating in our roles. The way in to make others feel better that is a tactic. I think sometimes it can be a really good thing. They see you more as a human rather than something that you are not.

What do you consider the most over rated virtue?

I think it is the idea of saying that somebody is honest. It’s not because I don’t believe in honesty, it’s because I don’t believe in dishonesty. I have a hard time giving people credit for that because it is an expectation.

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