Jill McGruder, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Western & Southern Financial Group, is featured as a guest on LeadingShe. A podcast created and hosted by Susan Branscome, LeadingShe features interviews with executive women who share stories about the obstacles they’ve overcome in a male-dominated world.
In the episode, “Sports! If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em!” McGruder talks about her early career as an attorney and her experiences being a woman in the financial services industry.
Starting in the fourth grade, McGruder said she wanted to be an attorney. She realized that dream and became an attorney after attending law school. When her career in a general practice didn’t offer as much gratification as she had hoped, she took a job with a financial services company. She was one of the first 14 people hired into a division that grew to employ thousands of people. At that company, where she worked for 10 years, she had the opportunity to learn not just the legal function of the business, but also IT, accounting, operations and more.
When asked what it was like working as a woman in a male-dominated business, McGruder discussed sports and gender neutrality.
McGruder described sports as being “the epicenter” in a lot of her relationships with men. She feels right at home talking about college football because she grew up with a father who loved the sport and became a fan herself as a result. The sport her coworkers loved the most, however, was golf. “They lived to golf. And sometimes I felt like they lived to golf rather than lived to work. And I was living to work. And I’ve got to admit I had a resentment. I resented how much time they spent golfing.” She did try the sport herself – she took golf lessons in order to participate in a golf outing with her coworkers – but ultimately it was not a sport she grew to love like college football. She advises other women to not take interest in a sport in order to join conversations with their male peers. “You need to be yourself. You need to be genuine.”
In regards to gender neutrality, McGruder said, “I’m happy to say that most of the environments I’ve worked in and the people I’ve worked for, gender neutrality has always been table stakes, even though it’s been male-dominated.”
However, McGruder admits she has stories about interactions with individuals who were not gender neutral. “Of course you do have to react to that. You can’t just ignore the fact that one of you is male and one of you is female if the other person is making an issue of that,” said McGruder. A situation like that figured into the equation when she decided to leave her first financial services company.
One key lesson McGruder learned in her career is that “gender is not a card you play unless it’s played on you.” She explains that “it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, there are certain things you need to succeed: humility, genuineness, work ethic, resourcefulness, the ability to get along with other people, listen well, to read people and personality types.”
To hear more of McGruder’s thoughts on being emotional and her experiences as a working mom, listen to her 40-minute LeadingShe episode available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.