“Women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees…but only account for 6 percent of CEOs.”
That’s how Laura Freeman, chief people officer of Schnucks, powerfully begins her talk for the Women & Leadership series. Freeman has had an incredible career working in HR at some big-name corporations including Wendy’s Carlson Companies, and her current position at Schnucks.
Her commanding go-getter attitude was evident from the moment she stepped into the room. Using her broad range of experience, Freeman shared three pieces of advice for women in the workplace.
Ask for what you want (and make it known)
Freeman expressed that throughout her career, she noticed women around her waiting to be “tapped,” while men had no problem asking for what they want.
As a single parent, and therefore sole provider, to five children at home, Freeman pushed herself to ask for what she wanted and deserved in her career. Her imitative allowed her to excel in HR roles from an HR consultant to vice president-level role, and finally her current C-suite role.
Diversity, equity, and inclusive workplace
Since working in her first international role at Bekaert Corporation, Freeman understands the importance of working in a diverse workplace. Freeman strongly believes that a diverse workplace is a productive workplace. She defines diversity as coming from different backgrounds, thoughts, and experiences.
Freeman notes that many companies believe a diverse leadership board will just happen, but the truth is, we have to all take on the responsibility of helping diversify the workplace. She mentioned that in her long career, she had never had a female boss. This fact hit hard in a class called “Women & Leadership.” If we work hard and embrace diversity, coupled with equity and inclusion, we can better our working environments as well as ourselves.
Purposeful development and succession planning
Ideally, managers would take time to sit down with their employees and open a conversation about career planning, but often that’s not the case. It’s important to take initiative with your manager to start a dialogue about what your career looks like and map out your career path.
This shows ambition and also gets you on the same page with your manager. Further, it’ll help you see whether your career goals align with your proposed career path so you’ll know when it’s time to move on.