CEO Eileen McDonnell: Ignore the Glass Ceiling

Posted by on Jan 23, 2015

McDonnell_Eileen_005_f-1385x1940Key Lesson:  Propel your career by being authentic and sharing your unique perspective with your peers.

Our Grounded Leader this week is a trailblazer of sorts. While many women try to behave more like men at work, Penn Mutual CEO Eileen McDonnell embraces her femininity as an advantage. She says she never experienced the glass ceiling, and suggests that it may not even exist.

“I’m a firm believer that if any person empowers themselves — women in particular — you take control of your own destiny.”

This belief has been a touchstone for McDonnell throughout her career. Like many women, she notes, she brings a unique perspective to a business world dominated by mostly male leaders. She’s also quick to note that she was not shy to ask for help as she worked her way up the ranks, and that all of her mentors have been men.

“One of the skill sets I have — and many women have — is that I can step back, listen to what other people say and connect the dots. I’m a good reader. Throughout my career I contributed clear, focused thoughts while everyone else was talking over each other. I gained a lot of respect for that — not going out for drinks after work.”

When asked about the pay differential between men and women, McDonnell readily admits that she’s never experienced it firsthand. She believes the problem is perpetuated through the way we learn to communicate with each other:  “Rather than teaching young people to view the other as the enemy, the question should be, ‘How do we partner with our mentors and those who can help us advance in the workplace?’”

Eileen McDonnell is our Grounded Leader of the Week for encouraging others to embrace their uniqueness, and for articulating a vision that may well lead us beyond the notion of a glass ceiling.