2021 Honoree

Sandra Lopez

VP, GM, CMO, Microsoft

“I always tell people new business is never easy, but because you are creating new business models and forging new relationships, there’s no playbook.”

What qualities makes a Power Woman?

In my opinion the qualities that a power woman has is one of understanding of her specific purpose in life in general. And providing clarity and getting towards that. And that really I know it’s overused a lot in terms of the authentic self but we all have unique experiences, we all have unique DNA, and we can contribute uniquely to business and society and really unlocking the power of who you’re meant to be and who you’re meant to become is what makes a Power woman.

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role that a woman can play in the Covid pandemic do you believe that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic highlights and emphasizes the natural resilience of women?

I would say yes to all that stuff. I think it’s really interesting that historically there has been research which highlights female characteristics like strategic, analytical, and makes great leaders. I would argue for Covid it would be the traits in terms of compassion, understanding, and collaboration that will become great leaders. Especially for Covid and the next generation of who they are and what their values are is going to I would argue make leaders better equipped to become leaders of companies than men. And we should leverage that to our advantage.

With all of the different issues one can be facing, how do you balance effort of pursuit of gender equality and you feel that it should be a global approach or is it specific within the issues that you’re passionate about?

It’s global. I mean it starts with the day that you were born. I mean I didn’t ask for my double X chromosome and in the bare nature as soon as you start you I mean there are countries where females do not get an education and we know if they get education it can help raise the GDP. We have enough research that when you talk about the most athletic and class clowns, they end up being mad and not females and so equality will only be reached when we start to raise all of our children in a manner that everybody has an equal shot. From education, from athleticism and who they want to become you know a woman can be president. A woman can be on the front line and fighting a war. A woman leads a sports league…You have to be a good negotiator and you have to really care about athletes so let’s just change the note. How do we make that happen for you? And so it’s not about a particular passion, it’s about how do you lead a society better and I do believe that it’s on a global scale. It touches almost everything.

What do you think it’s the number one action we as a society can take to empower women and have more equal gender equality? What type of affirmative action do you think we need to take to highlight and make it possible?

I would say, it’s interesting that you say affirmative action because that would lead me to putting systems in place to drive equality like in California you have to have a minimum of two underrepresented minorities in a public company. And that’s the system that’s put in place to drive change but at the same time that system is worrying because once you hit two, you’re done. So my perspective is systems help yet where you can drive the most meaning and change is ensuring that we are not silent and that we speak up and that we’re not silenced because we speak up. So we as females have to find the male counterparts who want to be on our journey. We need to be the vocal voices and we have to vote by our wallets and buy our badges. So that if you feel like an injustice is happening you know you drive change by how we vote.

Have you ever in your lifetime and where you are today have a story to share where you might have encountered something that kind of made you feel like your gender was a block?

I always tell people I feel like every day my double X chromosome is something that is keeping [me back] or I’m behind my male counterpart just because of what I’ve inherited when I was born. But one specific example and it was the start to my career which was very poignant and at the time I didn’t even know and at this point I chose to walk and I pursued a different path. I started my career actually as a merchant at a pretty large company and the chief operating officer mentioned to me that he was wondering why the other gentleman had a great advantage over me and I honestly thought because he was so good at analytics and statistics and on the merchant side there’s a lot of number crunching, so I was like okay I’m going to have to go to MBA school for finance. And that’s what I was thinking in my head okay Sandra look at Aaron who is super good at analytics and stats said you need to get ahead in your career we want you to hone in on that and you should consider MBA school. It wasn’t that he said you know there’s a glass ceiling that exists. And so I was like OK so you’re telling me that I can spend countless hours and years making this company successful yet you would never give me the opportunity to be a C suite. So the next day I woke up, I went in, and I quit. And my mother was like Sandra, you’re making such great money, it’s a great company and I was like no. Why would I allocate a second of my life when they’re always telling me I will not succeed in this company…And I didn’t have any mentors or sponsors but I did have my own intuition. And that in itself was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to pivot into technology where I knew technology was going to change how we lived. And I am forever grateful for him making that statement because it allowed me to land in tech where I think I could add more value than in the fashion industry.

What can we do to continue the growth of female presence in High profile positions?

We just have to be so vocal. And challenge every single time there are people not being engaged with the sea level in the board to say you need more diversity. And if they can’t find somebody, we are more than happy to find them qualified candidates…And those individuals that are able to be influencers in the business world, I think they need to use that power… to challenge the patriarchal system that has to challenge you know the XY chromosome and will make a little dent. And make the dent bigger and bigger and bigger and change happens.

Was there a defining moment in your experience in your life that took you to where you are right now?

I have two. And they’re very different and they sent me to where I am today. And I think that they are equally important so I can’t say one is more impactful than the other. I’ll start with the one in which I joined Intel in 2006 and I joined as a senior level and I was lucky in that. And I had a gentleman schedule a meeting with me to talk about the leadership Council for Hispanics. And I was like why is this person putting this meeting on my calendar at Intel. I don’t do anything Hispanic. I don’t do anything around Latin culture… So I was like okay I’m new to Intel I need to take the meeting and learn a little bit more about this and be open minded…We were talking and I was like look I’ve never participated in any Hispanic leadership programs while I was in college . I never talked about that I was Mexican American, I will not begin to talk about this at this point in my life. And I was 35 or 36 and he was like so you’re telling me that being Latino has not affected lack of success or success and where you are today? You know the question that bothers you because maybe you’re not honest with yourself, so this was a question that became transformative because months later I started thinking about ‘okay, being a Latina did affect me’ and trying to get the answer and I realized that I was never who I was. And it absolutely affected me. I never showed up as the woman who was Mexican American that can bring her culture out on the table and represent arguably the growing majority in the US. Arguably Latinos are the first ones to buy technology because in a cultural perspective we like to be the ones advancing. At the expense of sometimes not even having food. So I totally hid my life. And in that process I’ve spent two years of uncovering and removing the mask and understanding who Sandra Lopez was meant to be in this world and this is why we started this conversation is because the greatest gift that I have given myself is to walk in my shoes, and walk in my skin, and know what I was supposed to get done in this world. And I say this kind of emotionally but really believe I can breathe my last breath knowing that I have chosen my path from a professional standpoint that I think will leave the world a little bit better.

If you could have anybody’s job for a day, it doesn’t matter if they’re alive or thy’re dead just anybody’s job for the day, who would it be and why?

I don’t want to name a person because they’re not necessarily good people but I would want to be them so I could make the world a better place. So if you were to search for the most powerful people in the world there’s two, the Chinese president and Vladimir Putin, and I think I’d want to be a person that’s creating harm in the world to create harmony in the world. [That] is what I would want to do.

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

I’ve had so many nuggets of advice but the one advice that I’ve been given and learned to practice more recently is the power of asking for help. Help is strength. Oftentimes help is viewed as lack of confidence or lack of knowledge and that’s not true. Health is recognizing where you have a gap. Help is recognizing that you can’t accomplish it all. Help means that you’re so self-aware and so I would say when you need help, just ask for help.

What is your favorite book?

God I think it’s so personal because I read books on different phases of my life and what’s happening whether it’s self-help books or fiction or nonfiction. I would say a transformative book that I have read is Joseph Campbell‘s The Power of Myth.

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