TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett urges women to let go of the ‘mental gymnastics’ that hold them back
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! President Biden is using defense powers to combat the baby formula shortage, AOC is engaged, and CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett takes stock as she hits one year at TIAA.
– Year one. It’s been one year since CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett took the helm of TIAA, the retirement services and investment firm. It hasn’t been the easiest year to tackle her first Fortune 500 CEO job; amid soaring inflation and a tanking stock market, Duckett is fielding calls from TIAA participants worried about their retirement savings (she urges them to stay invested in the market).
But the CEO is optimistic that challenges like these—and increasing C-suite diversity—will result in stronger leadership across corporate America. “We’re going to see more innovation,” she says. “We’re going to see the ability for leaders to tackle the toughest problems.”
Duckett sat down with my Fortune colleague Susie Gharib for an exclusive video interview to mark her first year in the job. She’s one of just two Black female CEOs to currently lead Fortune 500 companies (the other is Walgreens chief Roz Brewer) and the third ever (the first was Xerox CEO Ursula Burns). Previously the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, a division of JPMorgan, her corner office appointment was cause for celebration among many who were thrilled to see two Black women run Fortune 500 companies at the same time, for the first time.
That’s a lot of pressure, as Susie points out, but Duckett is unfazed. “No one could put more of an expectation on me than what I put on myself,” she says.
Her retort provides some insight into why she urges women to let go of the “mental gymnastics” in their heads that hold them back from taking on opportunities and risks. “Know that you are worthy and deserving, and your voice is required and necessary,” she says.
While business leaders and employees look to Duckett as a leader on diversity in corporate America, she emphasizes that her passion for the issue doesn’t make it her job alone. “It’s not just my responsibility,” she says. “It’s the responsibility of the boards, of all the companies that may not have the level of representation, as well as my allies and my counterparts leading companies.” One of Duckett’s allies? Her former boss Jamie Dimon. She says the JPMorgan CEO has checked in with her regularly over the past 12 months as TIAA’s top chief.
Watch Susie’s full interview with Duckett here.
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