Regardless of gender, Jean Fahy is one of the lucky ones – a leader who has been able to take her passion and turn it into her profession. She’s been looking at floor plans since she was a little girl, a byproduct of living in a series of houses built and designed by her father.
• On early career influences:
Karen Strauss [of Merillat/Masco Cabinet Group] was the first female executive that I ever knew and worked with. She was very professional, extremely smart and held her own in the boardroom. She was often the only woman in the room and always did so well — I really looked up to her. From working with Karen, I developed an understanding and appreciation of being authentic. Karen carried herself with strength and authenticity. She also encouraged and supported me in the organization. And that meant quite a lot.
• On the difference between a mentor and an advocate.
An advocate is different than a mentor. An advocate is someone who says, ‘I’m going to help you get to the next level because I believe in you.’ I think that is how we actually break through to the next level across the industry. And I would imagine that the majority of women, wherever they are in their leadership role, had somebody advocating for them.
• On steps toward diversity
I really do believe that we – the people in power, including the men in power -- have to make a stand. They should want to diversify, because it’s proven over and over in scientific studies that the more diverse voices you have in a company, the more financially successful the company becomes. And so we have to specifically make this intention for diversity, and advocate for those people and get them to the next level.
• On realizing that other people in the industry might be watching:
After I left Petty Windows & Cabinets (in Tucson, Ariz.), a former Petty co-worker shared a story with me. He said that as he was mentoring a young female associate at Petty, he used my career path as an example of what she might accomplish. ‘She started in the same role as you, and now she’s a national accounts manager,’ he told her about me. When he shared that story, it was such an aha moment for me. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. Someone’s looking up to me now.’ That’s when you realize that you have a responsibility to help people and be a mentor.