Founding Member of Chief
Throughout the month of March EA Creative is collaborating with a member of Chief, Sandhya Jain-Patel, for a round of questions with women in leadership positions who are making history today.
Sandhya Jain-Patel: What was a defining moment in your career which led to your current industry and role?
Michelle Ferguson: In March 2003, I was at a male colleague's retirement party speaking with two women and realized we were the only women in the room of at least 100 people … other than his wife. I decided that I needed to do something to ensure there were more women in senior leadership positions.
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?
Michelle: It was certainly hard being a working mom with sole responsibility for my sons. There were times I had to bring them into the office to work on weekends or holidays. The only time it was easier was when I founded the women's organization at McGraw Hill (WINS) in January 2004, and launched the mentoring programming in July of the same year. Both initiatives allowed me to connect closely with other women at all levels. I called it my "work/work balance," as my time with those women gave me a break from stressful work days.
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?
Michelle: I've never had a mentor, but plenty of people (mostly men) helped me along the way. I am a serial mentor with many formal and informal mentees; I've benefitted from those relationships. It's a great way to learn about other industries, cultures and functions. I'm the co-founder of a successful mentoring program at S&P Global which has had thousands of participants globally.
Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?
Michelle: Gloria Steinem. She's the trailblazer for the advancement/protection of women. I had the honor to sit on a panel with her in March 2012 and hear her speak; she's smart, compassionate, funny and energetic.
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Michelle: Take care of yourself once in a while.
Sandhya: What are you proudest of?
Michelle: Raising my sons on my own. They are wonderful men; fabulous husbands and fathers with successful careers in Financial Services.
To learn more about Michelle and keep up with Chief, follow the links below.