2017 Honoree

Shelley Broader

CEO and President at Chico’s FAS Inc.

“The women that I would consider Power Women are all lifelong learners. They have an insatiable curiosity and never stop understanding the ‘whys.’ They’re passionate, trust their intuition, believe in themselves, and have the courage to take risks and learn new things.”

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

The women that I would consider “Power Women” are all lifelong learners. They have an insatiable curiosity and never stop understanding the “whys.” They’re passionate, trust their intuition, believe in themselves, and have the courage to take risks and learn new things.

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 reason? Why do you think these are still challenges we face?

Women must have confidence in their abilities and take risks. I’ve seen and experienced genuine differences between men and women in the workplace. In many cases, even if a man does not have the experience for a more senior job, he believes that he can learn quickly and develop the skills required for the position. This is something that women need to do. Many women wait until they have all of the experience listed in a job description before applying. This is one of the reasons there’s a gender gap at the top. It’s not skill or talent, it’s because there’s a difference between how men and women assess their own readiness to take it to the next level.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?

Determining what a job should pay relies on many factors: position impact, size of talent pool, geography, etc. I don’t believe that a candidate’s salary history is particularly important when you’re hiring qualified individuals with the right skills, knowledge and experience. Regardless of what someone has made in the past, what’s important is what they can contribute AND what the company has deemed appropriate pay for the position. Also, women do not negotiate salary on their own behalf as often as men, especially when they enter the workforce. If a woman enters the workforce earning less than her male counterpart in the same role, providing her salary history to future employers can perpetuate that gap.

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

My father died in an accident when I was in the 8th grade. For my mom, my siblings, and me this profoundly changed the course of our lives in every way. And while my mom did everything she could, I quickly understood that I needed to chart my own path, which, though I didn’t know it at the time, was empowering. Knowing that there weren’t roads paved for me, and that I needed to create my own destiny, has helped shape who I am, both professionally and personally.

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

A dear friend gave me an unforgettable bit of advice years ago. He said to be “a humble teacher and a proud learner.” When you’re in a leadership position, you have the ability to help others be successful. The way in which you go about sharing knowledge with others is just as important as actually sharing that knowledge. Stay humble, check your ego at the door, and never stop learning from others.

The other piece of advice that’s helped me throughout my career is to surround myself with great people who compliment my own strengths and weaknesses. I consider myself to be a “coordinator of experts,” building a team of talented people who bring their expertise and opinions to the table. It’s critical that this executive team function like a cabinet, rather than a House of Representatives, advocating and supporting the big picture, not just their own area of the business.

There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the boardroom 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 positions?

Those of us who have the power to make change should just do it. We need to insist on board and executive diversification, and encourage mentorship and sponsorship in the workplace. At Chico’s FAS, we’ve been recognized by several indexes for our commitment to women’s empowerment and leadership by having over half of our board seats held by women, and 80% of our executive committee is female. There are many reports, notably Catalyst, that correlate diverse viewpoints, experiences and skills with better shareholder value. The board should reflect a company’s stakeholders–its customers, associates and shareholders.

Who do you most admire? Why?

I admire my mom tremendously.

What is your favorite place on earth? Why?

Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Not only is it beautiful, but both my kids were born in Maine, so it holds a special place in my heart. When the sea roses are in bloom, it smells like heaven.

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