During Women’s History Month, we’ve been raising awareness of some incredible causes like The Global Fund for Women and The Girls Network. We are also inviting inspiring women to talk about topics that need more attention.
This interview features Jennifer Hill, AVP of Brand Purpose & ESG at RingCentral.
What it was like to work your way up to your position, and what has been driving your career?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to focus on purpose and marketing and started my career in a much more technical role. While advancing in sales, I ended up not liking it. I was torn about what I wanted to do in life. So I thought I’d try business and channel development because I like seeing new things come to market. Business development was probably the role that changed my life because it made me realise that in business development, at least where I was in the company I was at, there was a lot of marketing involved.
I decided to switch my career to marketing because I knew that this was what spoke to me more. After transitioning, I learned about ESG and corporate responsibility, and I knew that making a positive impact is what I was meant to do in life. I made sure that my managers understood that the critical part of my happiness and success was to have some involvement in corporate responsibility.
For years I volunteered. Compressing my job to make room for learning and experience in corporate responsibility. Then I asked to make it 10% of my time, increasing to 30% in the next year. When I started working for Zoom, I made it clear from the start, corporate responsibility was a critical part to my development at the company. I sat on their Global Advisory Board and we began to put a few things in motion when I transitioned to RingCentral in an official role as AVP of Brand Purpose & ESG.
It’s been a long journey of me investing the time in what I love.
Female representation in leadership and technical roles declined because of the events of 2020. What do you think caused this?
First, we know of so many studies that tell us why things like this are happening. The gender gap underpins the modern working world, and the events of 2020 punctuated it.
But if you look beyond just women’s roles in the workplace, you’ll see that women have chosen to take elevated roles in their communities, their families and each other. So while the gender gap is real, we as women also choose to take leadership elsewhere. So when you dedicate more time, energy, resource or emotion to knitting together your community, keeping your family together and safe. That time naturally moves away from being a leader at work.. Your efforts and priorities migrate. I think that’s what happened in the pandemic.
We’re only talking about the lack of women in leadership or technical roles at work, but what about the sudden rise of women as leaders in their families and their communities in roles as supplemental educators and caretakers? One of the most honourable things that a human being can do is lift up others.
In our current culture, we value monetary success as the primary measurement of success. In my opinion, people who uplift their communities are far more successful. Instead of talking about the decline of female power in the workplace, we should be talking about the rise of it in homes and communities.
Are there any initiatives from inside or outside your organisation that you think will make a substantive difference in addressing the workplace imbalance between men and women?
Tied in with what I was talking about where in this society we live in, you get paid for producing, and you don’t get paid for lifting up your community. Across organisations, there is an opportunity to focus on rewarding more social development and community behaviour that benefits the world, and business. The ‘social good’ impact needs to be highly valued by traditional corporations. There are tangible benefits to culture, productivity and reducing turnover (which many companies are feeling now). There needs to be more focus to measure that value, and create reward systems around it. This will help to reward people (typically women) who focus on non-financial benefits to the company, and thus close the imbalance in a way that allows women to do what they’re naturally good at.
What advice would you pass on to other women to help them reach their full potential?
It really is dependent on what someone wants to do or what type of life they want to live. People are so unique from one another that they need individually focused advice. If you’re the type of person who wants to stay within a predefined box for a role that you’re good at, you make sure you become indispensable to your company for that skill. But also show your managers and leaders how you can expand that box and how that role can become even more meaningful.
Maybe you’re the type of person that’s good at a few different things; like a chameleon, you fit into many boxes.
My advice would be to really sit with yourself and find out what you’re good at that doesn’t create friction or unhappiness for you.
For example, I’m good at accounting, but I don’t enjoy it. There will always be a lot of emotional friction for me to get myself into spreadsheets every day and crunch some numbers. But I’m also pretty decent at writing, and I like it, so I don’t have to push myself to do it. Find the thing that you’re good at that gives you the least amount of friction for you to do.
There’s another kind of character I’ll talk to here, the type that doesn’t fit into any box. For those women, build a community of people that believe in you. There will be times (many times) that you will not believe in yourself, and you will be exhausted from the challenge of creating your place.
Finally, sit down with yourself and understand how much your decision-making and thoughts are driven by fear. This will help guide your decisions by true intent instead of that fear, and get you to your fullest potential.
How can men become better allies?
First, I’m going to say that it’s challenging for anyone to be an ally to a group they don’t belong to. There are a lot of different opinions. So it’s hard to know how you can be supportive as an ally.
For men, the best way to become an ally is firstly paying attention to the women in your life. Start to be conscious of their experiences in the world.
Once you have, and this is true of anyone trying to empathise with any group they do not personally belong to, empathy is the first step into true support. That’s because what allyship looks like to me, for example, looks very different to what that looks like to be an ally to other people.
To be the best ally, men need to understand women’s environments, not women. There is a big difference. Pay attention to how people speak and treat women, versus how they would speak or treat you. What laws affect their choices, and what biases do women combat? Understand how the world is for women, and help to change that world.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share about the topics we’ve discussed?
Among genders (men among men, women among women, transgender, non-binary and other types of genders), there’s just competition between individuals where there should be collaboration.
Women are still very, very fragmented as a gender when it comes to uplifting each other. I find that many women talk about other women to complain about them, where maybe we should try to take the extra step to be a little more compassionate.
The next thing is: don’t let the little things slide. Here are a couple of really specific examples.
A woman commented on how they were disgusted at the ‘skinniness’ of the women they were watching on TV. Initially, I thought, “Okay, I could just let that comment slide.” I didn’t feel comfortable with it. It was a very passive thing not directed at me at all, they were simply commenting on what they were seeing. But I chose to stand up and say we shouldn’t be judging other women’s bodies or anyone’s bodies for that matter. By saying something, I hoped that this person would think twice about judging other women. I’m saying this: stand up for each other. Lift each other up and work together, not against each other.