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New female executives in the Fortune 500

June 2, 2014, 12:55 PM UTC

Kim Bowers

Company: CST Brands
Position: Chairman and CEO

What is the best advice you ever received?

When you think you have communicated enough, keep on communicating. Make sure all employees understand the importance of the company's mission and how their actions contribute towards that mission every day.

What is your take on the "having it all" debate?

Balancing means never standing still -- some rare moments you balance perfectly and all is perfect, but most days you wobble. But, wobbling isn't bad -- in fact, it can be kind of fun.

Cynthia Jamison

Company: Tractor Supply Company
Position: Chairman

What is the best advice you ever received?

You're never as good as you think you are and you're never as bad as you think you are, just keep going" -- I believe women tend to be hard on themselves and strive for perfection.  It's an impossible standard.

What is your take on the "having it all" debate?

The definition of "having it all" means different things to different people; but at the heart of it is a desire to have a multi-faceted life, not overly focused on one area to the exclusion of others. It is absolutely possible to do as long as you are clear in your commitments and priorities; you bring energy and focus to all areas and NOT in equal measure at all times; you learn to say 'no' firmly and protect boundaries and you forgive yourself for slipping up from time to time. It is all about choices and energy.

Ann Ardizzone

Company: Alaska Airlines
Position: Vice President, Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain Management

What is the best advice you ever received?
My dad told me that I can be whatever I want to be, I just have to work hard for it. It was good advice when I started college, and remains good advice today. I was curious about roles outside of finance (where I started my career) and I’m thankful I’ve had opportunities to grow my career into marketing, operations, and supply chain. What’s important is for women to develop their skills and this takes experience in a variety of roles and continually learning. Business acumen doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a journey, and companies that are supportive of women in leadership positions gain a tremendous amount in terms of cultivating better business results, thought diversity, loyalty and stronger leadership teams.

What is your take on the "having it all" debate?
I’m squarely in the camp that women can ‘have it all’. I recognize that there is still a lot more work to do, to see women reflected in top-ranking roles proportional to their roles in leadership positions. However, more opportunities exist for women today than ever before, and there are tremendous role models to help motivate younger women who are starting their careers. What’s difficult for women is juggling career and family. I don’t see that changing very quickly, so give lots of consideration to the timing of your career decisions and look for companies that support, or even encourage, job transitions.

Paula Brown Stafford

Company: Quintiles
Position: President of Global Clinical Development

What is the best advice you ever received?
Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of receiving tremendous advice from many individuals – family, colleagues, customers. At the end of the day, I really try to abide by three key pieces of advice: First, my parents guided me to “Always remember who you are.” The next piece of advice came from my father who told me: “Don’t let others put their monkey on your back.” The final bit of advice actually came from a customer several years ago who, at the end of a meeting, thanked me for: “Providing solutions to problems rather than simply answers to questions.”

What is your take on the "having it all" debate?
From my own personal experience, I believe you can “have it all” as an executive. I’m married. I have two wonderful children. I have enjoyed a successful 29-year career in an industry and with a company that I love. However, to really “have it all,” it’s all about balance, expectations and buy-in.

Jane Hamilton Nielsen

Company: Coach
Chief Financial Officer

What is the best advice you ever received?
If you do what you say and say what you do there is an authenticity and transparency to your leadership style.  As a leader one of the most powerful things you can do is model what you want your team to do. The other came from my mother, the chief operating officer of our family!  She said, “life is a feast”, if you approach life as an abundance of riches before you, you will find and celebrate the joy in the journey. What that means to me is to have passion for what you’re doing and appreciate your bounty every day.

What is your take on the "having it all" debate?
First, I think there’s a definitional question of what ‘having it all’ really means, it’s subjective.  It’s an individual decision and a personal definition about what fulfillment means to you. The more women are empowered to decide what having it all means to them, the higher the probability that “all” can actually be achieved. Ultimately, isn’t “all” really defined as everything that’s important to ‘me’?

Personally, I do believe you can have it ‘all’, defined as a full and complete life, but it’s a balancing act, it requires compromise and there are always trade-offs to be made.

Eileen O’Neill

Company: Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity
Position: Group President

What is the best advice you ever received?
Some of the best advice I ever receiver was from my 2nd grade teacher and it’s not on a lot of plaques. My teacher said “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” That has been with me for a stupid amount of years. I think that in a competitive and difficult marketplace those are good words to live by.

What is your take on the “having it all” debate?
You really can’t have it all. You have to really appreciate and take advantage of the moments when you can savior a victory as work or get to a child’s performance or enjoy a weekend afternoon. Technology, in my mind, has made it more difficult to have it all because you are never entirely present. You really have to enjoy the moment you are in and savor it and keep going.

Mary Falvey

Company: Wyndham Worldwide
Position: Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten is not to be afraid to get out of my comfort zone. People say the bigger the risk the bigger the reward—and I couldn’t agree more. The feeling of satisfaction after successfully completing a challenge outside my comfort zone is far more gratifying.

What is your take on the “having it all” debate?
I don’t actually believe we can “have it all” – at least you can’t have it all at the same time. Something is always going to take precedence over another at various times in your life. I’m the type of person who wants to be the best at everything I do—the best mom, the best wife, the best employee. And I’ve learned that for me, in order to be the best, I really need to compartmentalize all the things in my life. By doing so, I can shift my focus on one thing at a time, do it well, and then move on to the next thing.

Laura J. Schumacher

Company: AbbVie
Position: Executive VP, Business Development, External Affairs and General Counsel

What is the best advice you ever received?
A former boss and mentor once told me that for true leaders, it is never to be about you, it must be about your team.  Leaders publicly and privately support and give credit where it’s due.  If your people do not feel supported by you, especially when faced with challenging circumstances, they are less likely to take risks, make decisions or be seen as a contributor to the business strategy.  As I’ve advanced in my career, I have tried to live by this while also imparting the same on leaders I have had the pleasure of helping to develop.

What is your take on the “having it all” debate?
The idea of “having it all” is unrealistic.  “Work-life balance,” is impossible to achieve because it implies that work and life are two separate things.  I tell my team, and this goes for both women and men, focus on “integration,” because your family life doesn’t stop during your workday, and it’s especially important when you’re in high-level positions.  The best integration of work and life is when you can be true to yourself and don’t have anxiety about prioritizing what matters most.

Suzi Raftery Herbst

Company: Harbinger Group Inc.
Position: Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources

What is the best advice you have ever received?
The single best piece of advice I have ever received came from my parents, who wanted me to understand that, while hardships can come at any time, you are in control of how you respond to them.  In short, they didn’t want to let anything prevent me from becoming the best that I can be in life, and for that, I’m truly grateful to them.

What is your take on the “having it all” debate?
I believe “having it all” is based both on the individual as well as the company for whom she works.  I think we have reached the point where the majority of corporate America recognizes that simply having a family doesn’t mean you can’t have the same drive, ambition and goals at work as someone who does not.  At the same time, I am extremely fortunate to work for one of the best companies in the world, because we have a culture that understands how important it is to provide people with the flexibility to excel at both family and work life.