President and CEO, Blue Apron
One of the most fundamental ways we ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment is to ensure access to universal health care and child care. A narrative has been allowed to persist that government-sponsored health care and child care are strictly “social programs” when really these should be viewed as drivers of economic growth.
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
A Power Woman leads by example and encourages others to do the same. She is clear in her values and does not waver. She also understands her impact on the world around her and uses her influence to elevate others.
The polarized society in the US today seems to threaten our democratic values if not our democracy itself. What actions can we take to bring the various factions together?
We’ve forgotten the underlying causes of angst that create this environment. In reality, most people want to live a balanced life with thoughtful approaches to their relationships, but the day-to-day challenges of positions taken to extremes make careful thought difficult. Getting the U.S. back in balance requires careful policy implementations that drive access to education, equity, and higher income and wealth equality, all resulting in feelings of safety and security that help with that balance. We must ensure the sanctity of our democratic processes and use them to create foundational changes that broadly ensure everyone feels safer and more secure.
With all the different issues one could focus on (e.g. gun violence, child poverty etc.), is the pursuit of gender equality the most pressing in today’s world?
The focus shouldn’t only be on gender equality, although gender clearly remains one of many critical points of equity and equality issues. Unlocking solutions to issues, like gun violence, child poverty, innovation, and economic growth, comes from ensuring broad access to feelings of safety and security—something that most currently don’t have. These feelings come from greater income and wealth equality, access to education, and the heightened belief that positive change individually and collectively remains possible. Addressing these foundational issues is the high leverage move that starts a new positive cycle to manage these adverse symptoms.
What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take toward en-powering women and gender equality? (e.g. affirmative action)?
One of the most fundamental ways we ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment is to ensure access to universal health care and child care. A narrative has been allowed to persist that government-sponsored health care and child care are strictly “social programs” when really these should be viewed as drivers of economic growth. Making these benefits accessible to everyone allows for an equal division of responsibilities in a home and offers the option for members of a household to pursue opportunities outside the home without each participant making more binary choices. Child care unlocks the innovative power of over half of our society that too often today becomes the default provider and program manager at home. Rebalancing the management of family and home toward a more equal weighting and offering the proper level of support for all families across the board really sets the tone for allowing all genders equal access to career growth, personal growth, and independent choice and influence. The resulting rising tide from unlocking more productivity lifts all boats.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block due to your gender?
There isn’t one specific story that I can point to, but instead, I think of the inherent biases that are made based on a person’s gender, including the surprise when someone learns you hold a senior position in a company. I genuinely feel that the microaggressions and bias do the most damage rather than single events. That being said, I do consider myself lucky that I have mostly been supported by a strong network of mentors, both male and female, who have helped me continue to stay focused on my path, including taking on what many see as impossible challenges.
Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? Should we push for a nationwide ban?
We should focus on removing all bias in staffing decisions, including sharing salary requirements. It’s crucial that we ensure equal access and pay to open roles for everyone qualified to fill them.
There are many studies that support the assertion 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 to and presence of women in high profile positions?
We need more diversity at all levels of companies, and I believe, to achieve more diversity, it all starts at the top. It is on us to ensure we are bringing people up with us as we move through the ranks of our companies. It is on us to set up a process and actively ensure we create a system that gives everyone a chance – not just a few. I am very proud to say that at Blue Apron, we are a female-led company with women holding the majority of roles on our leadership team and our board of directors.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
Throughout my career, I have sought out both new ways to learn and challenges that have allowed me to grow. My move to Hong Kong where I worked for Alibaba for several years was likely the most formative. Not only did I gain skills and experiences that stretched me, but also broadened my perspective. I believe that completely immersing yourself in another culture is one of the most defining experiences anyone can have.
Have you seen changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
Despite an incredible record high number of women serving in Congress, the Senate and the U.S. House, more work will always be required. At the current pace, we won’t have equity in political leadership in my lifetime nor likely in the lifetimes of those born today. It’s perhaps important to note that the power to change, however, rests largely in the hands of women. Women represent 50.5% of the U.S. population and greater than half the populations of 38-40 states, many of which aren’t seen as strongly supportive of equity. The math supports a path to equity.
Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive?
First, we need to focus on primary and secondary education because we know that investing in and improving individuals at that level can make university-level education more impactful, or even less needed. But broader economic issues are at play when you look at primary and secondary education. Globalization has largely masked the extent of inflationary pressures in the U.S. by enabling cheaper goods to flow across borders. These same deflationary dynamics by and large don’t exist in education (with health care, child care, and housing as other examples). Sadly, this cycle has dramatically reduced intergenerational economic and social mobility in the U.S. while the differences in the bands have widened. It all comes back to the inequities created by policy choices we’ve allowed to continue for too long.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
An architect. I absolutely love building and design, especially functional design, and seeing how environments can create happier and more productive people. Design and architecture are underappreciated drivers in our lives. Creating spaces for people to be their best is a real passion, and I think creating functional buildings, especially homes, is just a fascinating, universally applicable outlet for that part of me.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I first started working, my father told me that most people he worked with, especially women, would order room service when traveling on business to avoid going out and eating alone. Instead, he said to look for a restaurant that I really want to try or have heard good things about, go eat at the bar and start a conversation with the bartender. Then, ask them for suggested places for other meals. You can learn about the city where you are, meet new people, and learn new things. If I am ever on my own for a meal, I still love eating at the bar and chatting. It is also a metaphor for work and life– just put yourself out there and great discoveries can happen.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
This is one of those questions that is impossible to answer. There are too many good ones to choose from and reading all types of books is fundamental to who I am and my journey. Reading helps us think and exercise focus. It is impossible to just pick one.
What do you most value in your friends?
Which trait do you most uncomfortable in yourself? In others?
In myself –empathy. It’s delightfully uncomfortable to share the weights of another.
In others –“drama.” The world tapestry we share is rich enough without creating situations that serve only to direct one’s feelings for the moment as a temporary distraction.
What do you consider the most over rated virtue?
Being “nice.” Genuine kindness is understanding that niceties can often serve only to prolong a bad circumstance, while direct authentic feedback may delay appreciation that will usually be much more pronounced in a way that forms lasting trust and connection. This balance is one that I continue to work on.