Jolen Anderson

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Jolen Anderson 2017-06-12T01:45:43+00:00
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SVP, Chief Diversity Officer
Visa, Inc.

At the end of the day, my work helps Visa adopt a strategy that shows people that bringing their authentic selves to work is what we want; that is how you get the best out of your people.

The Diversity and Inclusion Journey

1. What has your experience been as a woman in Silicon Valley?

I’m even more focused and attuned to who I want to be and the point of view I want to project as a leader, a subject matter expert, an executive and HR professional.

It can be challenging when you don’t have those visible examples of individuals who reflect your background directly around you to drawn from. That’s where I have relied on my own personal “board of directors”— my husband, my parents, my sisters, my friends and my mentors— to help me challenge myself and problem-solve, both personally and professionally. Building these support networks is critical to successfully advancing your career, especially when that path is unconventional or requires a unique skill set or point of view.

2. How have you navigated periods of uncertainty in your career and what steps did you take to prepare yourself?

As much as I have said yes to different opportunities, I’ve definitely had moments where I was thinking, “What did I just do? How am I going to approach this? Am I going to be successful?” When I moved from my role in legal to becoming Visa’s first Chief Diversity Officer, I just dove into it, given my belief in what this position means for an organization. I consumed as much information as possible about diversity and inclusion, reviewed the latest trends, and reached out to my network to ask people at other companies how they are approaching these ideas and what was and wasn’t working. And then you put your own spin on it because there is an opportunity to bring a little bit of yourself into the role.

At the end of the day, my work helps Visa adopt a strategy that shows people that bringing their authentic selves to work is what we want; that is how you get the best out of your people. I’m fortunate that my career has allowed me to focus on my passion, solve complex issues and problems, and be exposed to something new and different.

3. How does Visa view Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion is a strategic imperative for us. Universal acceptance for everyone, everywhere is not only our brand promise, it’s the foundation of our company culture. We foster a feeling of connectedness in the workplace, support diversity of thought, culture and lifestyle, fight for important initiatives like Equal Pay and actively work to eliminate unconscious biases that hold us all back. We want to impact positive change – not only to close any race and gender gaps that exists, but to begin much broader global conversations around this vision for universal acceptance.

4. How has your idea of Diversity and Inclusion changed over time?

One of the biggest surprises for me, is the idea that inclusion is a competency that can be learned. It can be broken down into a set of behaviors that you can teach people, and you can get better at it. When you can break something down and teach leaders and individuals how to recognize their biases, be inclusive and not just consider it as “fluff;” but things that are basic, good leadership behaviors that’s how it naturally becomes a part of the culture. We’ve recently required all of our managers to go through an unconscious bias training to recognize their own ways of thinking and created leadership principles that guide how we treat people within our organization. Everyone is a leader at Visa. It’s about asking people what they think and creating an environment where people feel like they can challenge you as a leader. It’s acting in a way that’s empathetic to your employees and showing your own vulnerability and authenticity, so people also feel like they have permission to show their true selves.

5. What will the workplace look like for your children in 20 years?

What’s interesting about diversity professionals is that we are essentially all trying to work ourselves out of a job. At the end of the day, my goal is to help organizations build seamless diversity and inclusion strategies, where everyone prioritizes putting diversity and inclusion at the forefront of what they do. I really hope that in 20 years, I don’t have to talk to my daughters or my son about breaking glass ceilings, about being the first to do something, and that they naturally feel that there are no boundaries and that there’s nothing they can’t do.


• Award: Powerful Women of the Bay
Award Event: Powerful Women of the Bay Awards Luncheon (Oakland, CA), March 2016
Award Organizer/Grantor: CDA Consulting Group and The Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment

Published: June 2017