Kristin McHugh

Senior Vice President Marketing & Creative, Verizon

“Take risks. Show up for the opportunities, whether in your life or your career. The path emerges once you’re clear on what you want.” – Kristin

What qualities make for a Power Woman?

In my opinion a Power Woman is a woman with great authority and influence and with that certainly comes great responsibility and it is a woman who gets things done and that could be someone who gets things done in their family, in their community or certainly in their career. And it’s someone who has tenacity and has the ability to have great influence over others and oftentimes and should also have compassion for others while they influence women to get things done on their behalf.

What do you think is the number one action where as a society we can take to forward empowering women in gender equality, which I know is a very buzzword right now.

I think the number one area we need to focus on is bridging the pay gap between men and women and that’s an area we need to focus on. We also need to focus on the way we judge women versus men for career opportunities. Men are often judged on potential where women are judged on their experience and we need to ensure that we’re looking at women and men in the same way and affording them the same opportunities.

We know that in New York City, obviously this is something that is practically made illegal now because you’re not allowed to ask that question. But how do you feel about that in other states? And should it be made mandatory in other states that it should be outlawed as a practice.

I think it should be outlawed as a practice because as we know women are systematically paid less than men and asking for previous salary requirements really perpetuates that gap and as we look at what the role is, the pay should be based on the role, not on previous salary and not and again, as we think about the difference and disparities between women and men and with different races, there are disparities that will be perpetuated as we bring that information into the discussion.

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

I wouldn’t say that it was one experience or moment, but many and the journey for me is always about taking risks within my career and within my life. And I use the quote and it’s not that I’m a huge Fleetwood Mac fan, but the idea of going your own way and going the path that maybe others haven’t gone, taking those risks. Doing what is right for you, for your life, for your family has been what has defined my career and my success. Because my journey doesn’t look the same as someone else’s.

Whether you’re a priest or philosopher, even a writer. We still have the stumbling blocks of how women are seen and perceived, right? What’s your opinion of that?

I think it is true and I do think women and men are trying hard to change that depiction as we think about media and entertainment and certainly in our space in creative and marketing and in not showing gender or race stereotypes and perpetuating stereotypes that exist. But it certainly does. And it happens within general conversations all the time where women might be depicted in a role that is less than a male or is different and we need to make sure that we continue to focus on that and change those dynamics. Because people need to see themselves differently, girls need to see women differently so that they know that they can be something different.

What would you say is your mantra or what phrase do you live your life by?

My career trajectory. My life trajectory does not look very similar to many others and I think I do make choices that are the best ones for me and the best ones for my family and might not look like what others lives and choices look like. But I do believe this is a quote from Oprah Winfrey and it’s “doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment,” and I do believe it’s about doing your best and your best might look different day after day, one day it might look one way and another, but always showing up and doing your best is going to be the best way to get you to where you ultimately want to go in life.

Women are often placed in binaries of strong emotional, weak, sensitive categories. How do you subvert to these limitations and connect with this side of womanhood? How do you deal with it?

Look I think we can rail against it and say it’s not fair or we can say how do we embrace it and show up as are our authentic selves and I would say for me earlier in my career I left my personal side outside of the office I would show up as I was focused, I was determined I was ambitious and it was all about the work and now certainly I have a five-year-old daughter, and an amazing husband and I have a lot happening in my life that I want to share and I think sharing our whole selves and being our whole selves at work brings up an entirely different dynamic and makes better connections with those that you work with and also shows a side of yourself that we’re all still trying to figure it out and we all have our challenges and our day to day challenges and being open to talking about that. Brings a greater connection with those we work with and also just a better way to live our lives. Every day we spend a lot of time at work. We want to be able to talk about all sides of ourselves and I think showing that vulnerable side as well as the strong side, the conviction as well as the challenges that we faced and showing all sides of ourselves is so important as we evolve as people and certainly as leaders.

How has the political landscape for women evolved over the past five years?

I think about the past five years I think we have made tremendous progress, though there’s certainly much more that we need to do and we’re certainly not done. As we talked about the pay gap between men and women, work that we need to do, as we think about the Me Too movement, there were certainly, and you cannot deny the heightened public awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault assault in the workplace. And I think it has put a light on the way women were treated and it has fundamentally changed the way women are treated in the workplace and what will be tolerated and that it has given women a voice. It has allowed for women to speak up about the way that they’ve been treated about the experiences that they’ve had and that is a massive step forward. And that paves the way for the way women will be treated moving forward. And that is incredible, so more work that we need to do as we think about, you know, the role of women and as we think about the equity between genders and across genders and race and our work is not done and we have a lot more to do. But there has been tremendous progress and it’s been incredible to see and I admire the path of so many that has led us to where we are today.

If you could have somebody else’s job for a day, who would it be? And why?

It’s a great question and this might be a surprising answer, but I would be my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. I could see her in her element in kindergarten with her friends and her growing and learning and learning new things and the way her teacher talks about how well she behaves and how excited she is. I would just love to be that and to see her in that and I would take that job for a day anyday.

What advice would you give any aspiring power woman today?

I think the advice I would give is, and I know I’ve shared this throughout our discussion, but it is to take risks. It is to show up and show up for the opportunities, whether that is in your life, whether that is in your career and it’s not just about whether it’s going into the office or showing up on Zoom. It’s about showing up and being your best self and taking on those opportunities because it’s going to take you to the next best thing. And I do think it’s to be clear on your goals, but don’t have such a defined path of how you’re gonna get there because I think the path emerges once you’re clear on what you want and it might not be the path that you assume. So if you try to force something to happen, it’s not always going to go your way, but to be clear on what you want and what your values are and what’s important to you. The path generally emerges and allows you to take a path that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

What’s your trick to having work life and balance?

My trick is my daughter. My daughter’s five years old and when I had her, it was a forcing mechanism in my life to make space, outside of work and making space for her and for my husband and it brings such joy and it’s not a chore to spend time with her or to have dinner with her or to spend time with my husband. It is a joy and it’s the joy of my life. It is also about how you find harmony between work and life and I know balance is such a hard thing because it’s not always balanced. I like to think of it as harmony and the two working in conjunction together.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

So that one’s a tricky one for me and I wouldn’t say there’s a historical figure I identify with in terms of saying I see myself in that person. I will say the person I admire is a modern historical figure and a modern leader, which is Oprah Winfrey. And I think the way, what she has gone through in her life, where she came from, where she is today, how she has been so true and authentic to herself and to the role that she plays in society and the role she plays for other people, and her ability to evolve and maintain her position of authority and influence and power.

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

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was from a boss that I had when I was working at YNR and I was making a decision at the time to stay in a role in New York, or to take a role in California and he gave me very sound advice but was enormously helpful for me at the time and enormously helpful for me since which is: make a list of pros. Make a list of cons. Throw the list out and go with your gut. And I think it’s so true as you think about decisions you need to evaluate, but you need to go with your gut. You need to go with your intuition and make the choice that’s best for you.

Favorite book?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I think it is an incredible book. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions and always do your best.

What do you value in your friends?

I love my friends, I value laughter and I value compassion and I value friends who show up and show up to have a good time and show up when they’re needed, and those who I can trust. And I can trust with all aspects of my life.

What trait do you most deplore in yourself and others?

I would say overcommitting is a trait that I deplored myself, which is trying to do too much and then letting someone down. If I’m not as responsive as I want to be and it might be perceived as well, I’m not responding to that person. I care so deeply, but sometimes overcommitting doesn’t allow me to do all the things that I want to do as well as I want to do them right.

What do you consider is the most overrated virtue?

I do think patience could become dangerous when it is a solution for inaction or not, making a change or not, pivoting when you need to, whether that’s in life or whether that’s in business and just waiting for things to change and having the patience for things to change. Sometimes you need to make a move and when patience is there it causes inaction. I think it’s dangerous.

“Patience is needed, but it can be dangerous when it becomes a solution for inaction. Sometimes you need to make a move.” – Kristin

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