Jessica Grounds, Co-Founder of Project Mine the Gap, is the fourth panelist for our Changing the Conversation event on April 20th. Here's her take on challenges she's faced in her career, as well as her passion for both diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Describe a challenge that you’ve overcome in your career.
Often, when women (in particular) read my biography they see only the successes, but don't realize that those successes have been met with failures and disappointments along the way. There have been a number of times when I have had supreme failures in what I expected to have happen in my career. The first experience of this happened when I was just starting my career in Washington, DC. I knew that I wanted to work with women political leaders and I applied to all the organizations and groups that helped to get more women supported and elected. Even though I applied and interviewed at many of these organizations, none of them wanted to hire me and nurture my interest. Instead, I took my passion and volunteered for a women's group, which led to me co-founding a group and then running the organization for many years. Often times we think that our careers are going to happen a certain way, and that is just not the case. We have to be open to the opportunities and the failures, and learn from each of them.
What is a piece of advice that you wish you could give your former self?
Don't sweat the small stuff and attempt to live in the moment. It is super easy to get upset about small things not going your way. This still happens to me! But as I've gotten older I have learned to let little disappointments roll off my shoulders rather than really letting them get to me. I think it is also easy to take things personally, when often times it is not about you, but about the situation. Learning to read these different factors helps to strengthen your confidence and approach.
In terms of living in the moment, that is something I never used to do. I've learned to be a little bit more present in the now. Yoga really helps with this! Trying to be in the moment nurtures your ability to listen and be a more effective leader.
What fires you up re: diversity and inclusion? Why is this a passion?
The core of my passion is my belief that the world will never be peaceful nor as productive as it could be if we don't tap the largest resource of talent in our world -- women! Women are under-valued, under-appreciated and under-nurtured as leaders. Whether I am in Lesotho, Germany or the United States, or anywhere else in the world, the challenges impacting women's abilities to reach leadership roles are universal. We share many of the same limitations in our access to meaningful work and appreciation. All of these factors fire me up to create a world that truly values women.
Women's experiences and approach to leadership are desperately needed in our world today. We are more inclusive, more aware and address problems that are not being seen by leaders who don't look like us. We know from research and practice that advancing women is not only the right thing to do, but by far the smartest thing to do.