#WomenExcel: Seek understanding, embrace challenges, open doors
Celebrated globally on March 8, International Women’s Day recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. AECOM has devoted the Impact blog to featuring women leaders across the globe throughout the month of March. This week, AECOM board director Linda Griego, president and CEO of Griego Enterprises Inc., discusses her work and shares her thoughts on workplace diversity and global gender parity.
How can we overcome workplace challenges, and how does doing so influence attitudes toward workplace diversity?
Work hard, work smart. In my experience, successful men and women work equally hard and know their business. Early in my diverse career, Pacific Bell challenged me to participate in a management training program where I had to climb telephone poles and learn to install and repair phones. While unorthodox, the exercise led to me managing a crew of men (many of whom were older than me) with much more experience and who were skeptical (to say the least) of their new female boss. Two years in this field served me well in learning to interact positively with a diverse work force and in gaining their respect.
I learned to never expect or ask for preferential treatment, but insist on being treated fairly and treat others the same way. Learn what you don’t know. Accept change and challenges. Open the door for other women to follow; be a sponsor and mentor.
How have you balanced/integrated your personal and professional lives throughout your career?
I’ve been lucky to have avoided some challenges that many leaders face. I’ve had an exceptional 45-year marriage to my husband, an attorney who has always supported my varied career: working for a U.S. senator, serving as deputy mayor of Los Angeles, developing and receiving management training, starting my own business, running for mayor of Los Angeles, becoming the CEO of Rebuild LA, working in TV production, serving on corporate boards and numerous other ventures. My biggest challenge has been balancing and integrating my business endeavors, both entrepreneurial and corporate, with civic and community activism. I have always done both — I currently serve on the boards of five non-profit organizations or charitable foundations, several advisory boards and three corporate boards — which takes up a great deal of my time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Talk about global gender parity and changing attitudes toward women around the world. Where are we seeing the most progress, and why? How can we (both women and men) do more?
I am a big supporter of the Global Fund for Women, one of the world’s leading foundations for gender equality and human rights for women and girls. We have made progress in achieving gender parity, but much more needs to be made on a global scale. Business leaders in the United States can learn about expanding availability of child care and early education from countries in Europe. New technologies, like mobile telephone banking in Africa, and innovative business models, like micro-loans for entrepreneurs and farmers in developing countries, have done much to empower women and help them succeed. Perhaps most importantly, as attitudes toward women in developing countries pose a major challenge, encouraging and opening doors for girls and young women to pursue higher education will pay big dividends.
As an entrepreneur in the ‘80s, you helped companies thrive in an economic recession. As a civil servant in the ‘90s, you worked to advance urban economic development in LA following the 1992 riots. How has your work over the past two decades furthered economic growth for those that need it and aided struggling businesses and/or low-income communities?
My skills in the private and public sectors have enabled me to give back to my community in ways that my grandmother, who raised me, would have been proud of. Along with my brother, my grandmother worked from dawn ‘til dusk running the only bakery in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and while their pay was modest, they always found time to help those who were not as fortunate. Her guidance taught me about “bottom-up” economic development to alleviate poverty — after all, no one understands what a community needs better than its residents.
When I became CEO of Rebuild LA, I refocused its efforts on surveying business needs to develop growth strategies for organizations in the South-Central region; much of that work continues to this day under the sponsorship of Community Development Technologies (CDTech), where I serve on the board.
I am also a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, which opened last year. When I learned that the surrounding community lacked an OBGYN clinic due to budgetary restrictions, I started a foundation to raise funds to build one. My current civic project is the redevelopment of a large parcel of county-owned land surrounding the new hospital. I recently formed a community development corporation to create a biotech and medical campus, with the hospital and Charles Drew Medical University as the anchors. The campus will create much-needed jobs for nearby residents and be a magnet for community development.
Linda Griego was appointed to AECOM’s board of directors in May 2005 and has been president and CEO of Griego Enterprises Inc., a business management company, since 1985. She is a director of CBS Corporation, American Balanced Fund and Capital Groups’ Income Fund of America and International Growth and Income Fund; a chair of the MLK Health and Wellness Community Development Corporation; and a trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. Ms. Griego has extensive executive management experience and expertise in government relations and public policy through her various appointments, including as deputy mayor of Los Angeles, and service on not-for-profit boards.