2019 Honoree

Virginia C. Addicott

Logistics SVP & President, Custom Critical and Global Operations, FedEx

“As a society, we cannot continue to perpetuate the rules and norms that tend to exclude women from higher level or high impact roles. For example, I have seen that many non-profit boards only want to add CEOs to their ranks. Unfortunately, there are not many women CEOs…”

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

A power woman is strategic, able to organize a team to execute the strategy, and elicit a team’s discretionary effort. She has a sphere of influence, both within the company and within a community. She always looks to develop, encourage, and challenge those around her.

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?

It is my goal to assist anyone who desires to move ahead in their career or grow in an existing role, regardless of gender. When it comes to women, I take an approach of sharing my experiences and also providing growth opportunities in the form of programs, a stretch assignment, coaching, and helping to develop a personal network. I firmly believe we should have more women in leadership, transportation, and logistics industries. However, I think we need to promote our industry as a place where women can build their careers. There are so many different types of jobs in this industry–engineering, data analysis, marketing, and legal to name a few–so, there is room for multiple interests and skills.

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the Climate Change debate?

I do not see a role exclusive to women, but rather a partnership between all people to affect our environment. As we raise a family, steer a corporate culture, or work within communities there are many opportunities to advocate for and guide outcomes in an environmentally responsible direction.

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

I have worked in business for my entire 33-year career. If I could step into another role for a day it would be in the healthcare profession. As a trustee at Akron Children’s Hospital, I am amazed at the impact that our doctors, nurses, and support staff have on the lives of many families. In addition, as the lead officer for the FedEx Healthcare Center of Excellence, I see the pharmaceutical and medical device industry up close. It would be very rewarding to witness the impact of the items FedEx delivers every day, combined with the dedication of the medical personnel to delivering healthy lives.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Oprah Winfrey is a very powerful woman whom I have always admired. Her ability to rise up from meager circumstances, her interest in education, and her drive to empower and encourage others aligns with my values and beliefs. I have had the good fortune to visit the Oprah Winfrey School for Girls in South Africa, where I witnessed her generosity and determination to help girls rise above their own circumstances. Seeing Oprah’s work first-hand was such an inspiring moment and an absolute confirmation of the good work she is modeling.

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)?

I am always looking for ways to work toward equality for all people in my profession and in the community. When focused on women, I use my sphere of influence to bring diverse groups to the table to learn from each other, to understand why diversity is so important. I serve as a formal and informal mentor to women who want to enhance their careers, helping them to develop the appropriate competencies, connecting them with powerful networks and advocating for them personally. As a society, we cannot continue to perpetuate the rules and norms that tend to exclude women from higher level or high impact roles. For example, I have seen that many non profit boards only want to add CEOs to their ranks. Unfortunately, there are not many women CEOs, and therefore, exclude the high level women from joining. In this example, organizations should consider modifying the rules around board membership and open up opportunities to the next, more diverse levels.

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

At a much younger time in my career, I learned a valuable lesson about the balance between producing work and also developing relationships. As a youngster, I had always been taught to do every job to the best of my ability, take on new responsibilities or assignments with great enthusiasm. All of a sudden, I realized that my male counterparts were off playing golf with customers, vendors, and the bosses, developing
relationships that would later prove worthwhile in advancement. While I was completing outstanding presentations, researching new ideas, or working with my team to develop talent, I was missing a component of how to position myself. I recognized that delivering high quality work was imperative, but so was developing my personal network.
As I started to work on my relationship building, I was given an excellent piece of advice from a personal coach. As I was poised to move up, she explained to me that: “Your current boss is not going to make the decision to promote you, he will only give you a reference.” She noted that his boss would be making that decision and I needed to make sure that he understood who I was, what my strong competencies were, and my ability to develop and execute on strategy. As I moved these concepts forward, I was invited more and more to participate with customers and important meetings, and when I was missed from a good opportunity I made sure to speak up and ask for the invitation.

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?

Prior salary should not be required on a job application. Job salary should be based on prior experience and achievement, scope of new role, and expectations of the new role.

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

I am very pleased to see more women taking on key roles in government at the local, state, and federal level with powerful women leading on the global stage. As has been proven in business, adding a woman’s perspective to any organization has a positive impact on outcomes. Globally, women account for 49.6 percent of the population. This statistic alone would suggest that we should be well-represented in country and global rule and decision-making. My experience has always been that diverse backgrounds at the table always come up with the best results.

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

There were several defining moments or people along my career journey that helped me to get into my current role. Most importantly, I had many champions and mentors encouraging and facilitating my growth. Certainly, it all started at home with supportive parents who never pigeonholed me into a “girl’s” role. I played sports, played in the band, helped to run a company under the guidance of local business mentors, via Junior Achievement, and volunteered for the less fortunate alongside my mother. My parents encouraged all activities and experiences. In later years, as an executive himself, my father helped me to work through some of the more difficult leadership issues that I encountered. As I joined the workforce, I was fortunate to have a boss who immediately recognized my potential and gave me stretch opportunities that gave me confidence, put me into early leadership roles, and exposed me to every facet of a company. As I worked hard and succeeded, he kept the challenging work coming. He allowed me to get involved in developing programs, researching, inventing new ways of completing work, revising our operations process, and developing training programs for team members. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed feedback and encouragement from many men and women who have enthusiastically supported my growth. I recognize the power of mentors and champions in my career and I strive to give back in the same way to those coming behind me or working alongside me.

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

The best piece of advice I have been given as a leader is the importance of employee engagement and communication. Without an engaged workforce, understanding their role and their value, even the best strategy cannot be executed to its potential. I have worked throughout my career to communicate with a high level of transparency and to empower my team to perform. As young leaders, I believe we tend to want to control and do things ourselves, to show our worth. As I progressed, it was crystal clear that if I hired the right people, valued their unique abilities and communicated with them, then we could have a lot of fun while producing results. I have made a practice of developing a strategy with the entire executive team, describing the journey to success and the actions needed to achieve goal. With the whole team involved in the conversation from the beginning it has been easy for them to understand their specific role and to get to execution without waiting for a top-down, command and control delivery of “what’s next.” When the team knows where you are trying to take the company, what their role is on that journey, and is recognized for work well done, the possibilities are endless.

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 positions?

I work to place women in challenging roles that will increase their visibility and give them more responsibility. I encourage women who want to move up to stay in P&L responsible roles where they can have the most influence. I help women to find mentors, internally and externally to their company, and also suggest seeking out both male and female mentors. Being a champion for top performers is a must. By champion, I mean being their advocate, even when they are not in the room. Putting forward top talent for that special project, a move to a new role that they may or not be clearly “on paper” ready for, or suggesting a developmental program all helps an up-and-comer gain credibility, confidence, enhanced skills, and leadership experience.

Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive? If not why not?

I tell everyone around me to never stop learning. Education, both formal and informal, is critical for people at all stages of life and career. The ever-changing world in which we live makes it imperative for us to keep up on technology, leadership breakthroughs, the competitive landscape, and innovations. As a trustee at my alma mater, Kent State University, I get to see firsthand the cost of education and the need for us to keep the cost increases to a minimum, while still running a top notch university. Out local community colleges are also working hand in-hand with the four-year programs to improve access to an affordable education. In our area, students can receive an Associate degree from the Community College and transfer those credits to most of our four year schools. I am proud to say that FedEx offers tuition reimbursement, allowing our team members to work on their degrees with company assistance. Our HR team has worked to make access to college very easy through higher percentage of reimbursement for classes taken at the Community College. Team members who are just starting out can go to community college and receive 100% reimbursement for achieving top marks. Once ready, they can easily transfer to the four year school to gain a Bachelor degree.

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

In the spirit of continuous learning, I am voracious reader and audio-book listener. A recent favorite is Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. This true story about “a family and culture in crisis” really points to the diverse circumstances in which people are raised and how they are impacted by their environment. Living in an area that is one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, this book is of great professional and personal value to me. As the leader of an organization, and as part of our Community Task Force on Addiction, I have gained knowledge that I can apply to my work and community involvement.

What do you most value in your friends?

I value honesty, support, and positivity in my friends. I love to be around interesting people who are ready to try new experiences. I also enjoy people who have a good understanding and appreciation for diversity, within the community and on the global stage.

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

I tend to not enjoy the company of people who are pretentious, or people who cannot see things from another person’s vantage point. In such a diverse world, we all need to understand that other people have different opinions and come at opportunities or challenges from different faith, social, economic, and geographical perspectives.
I cannot say that I deplore anything within myself; however, I do constantly work to make myself a better parent, leader, and community advocate.

What do you consider the most over rated virtue?

In a world with such a global and diverse population, being open to another person’s views, even when they conflict with our own, is critically important. I strive to learn as much as I can about other people and their cultures so that I can appreciate their viewpoints. Given my global role I have been focusing my understanding of global, cultural differences. I am rereading the book The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, by Erin Meyer. This book does an excellent job of explaining how different cultures come to the table. It is helpful to look at these differences and determine how to structure meetings, give feedback, ask for work completion, etc. A great read for anyone working across cultural lines.

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