Women in CSR: The Best Advice They Ever Received

By: Net Impact staff | July 1, 2015

Our friends at Triple Pundit published a series of interviews with leading female corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners, asking what inspires these women and how they found their way to sustainability careers. As Editor-in-Chief Jen Boynton wrote when she kicked off the series, "Men still dominate CSR, at least at the higher levels ... yet, the connection between gender diversity and CSR runs deep. Study after research study has found that simply having an executive team with gender diversity is highly correlated with having a strong CSR performance..."

We're shining a light on a few of those women working to make corporations more sustainable, featuring the best advice they've ever received.

Trisha Cunningham
Chief Citizenship Officer, Texas Instruments

The best advice she ever received: I was taught from an early age to treat others how I want to be treated no matter their title or background. My mother would always say, “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do.” This has led me to develop a respect and appreciation for diversity of people, thought, and cultures. These experiences energize me and help make our citizenship programs better when we think broader. Second, take advantage of good opportunities presented to you. Instead of automatically saying, "I’m too busy to take on that additional project or job," think about why you were approached and what value it would provide. Someone had confidence that you were uniquely qualified to take on the role, so think twice before passing on a potentially good opportunity. The next time, you may not be offered the chance.

Cecily Joseph
Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility for Symantec Corporation

The best advice she ever received: The best advice I have ever received is from my dad, who told me to keep pushing forward, to always keep pushing the boundaries. This advice is so relevant for CR (corporate responsibility) work because all of us are continually trying to move our companies and society along. Even though it can be challenging, and sometimes you may think you’re the only person or the only company pushing, you are rewarded when the company makes progress. I think about and am inspired by my father’s advice to keep on pushing, don’t ever give up, always keep moving forward and push against the barriers.

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz
Founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and Sustainable Brands

The best advice she ever received: Just do it (thanks, Nike!). Realizing that the whole global economy needs to be redesigned is a pretty gobsmacking notion and can cause any manner of reactions: fear, depression, helplessness, hopelessness. Or it can be energizing. Either way, it’s hard to know where to begin to tackle something as daunting as what we have to contend with this century. The key, though, is just to begin — put one foot forward in whatever way you know how to do. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Find like-minded friends and get moving. We have come a long way over the last decade and we have a lot more to do. Awareness of the need and action around it is picking up steam everywhere I travel – that’s something we need to hang on to and encourage.

Meghna Tare
Director of Sustainability for University of Texas at Arlington

The best advice she ever received: This quote from author H. Jackson Brown Jr. perfectly describes the principles by which I try to lead my life: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg
CEO of Transitioning to Green

The best advice she ever received: The best advice I ever had was from my sister Sharon to follow my heart. While I think logic, reason, research, and analysis are incredibly important, and what I have done for much of my life, ultimately we need to find ways to listen with both the heart and the mind simultaneously. When I have a really tough decision to make, after weighing all the factors logically, I go deep within myself to see what my heart is telling me to do, and I do that.

Tanya Bolden
Program Development Manager, Corporate Responsibility for the Automotive Industry Action Group

The best advice she ever received: My parents always told me, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” And “try to leave things better than you found them.” Their words have inspired me to do my best in every situation.


Jacqueline Drumheller
Manager, Environmental Affairs, Alaska Airlines.  

The best advice she ever received: “Just do it, and things will have a way of working out.” This is what I remember my mentor telling me. I was terrified that we would propose something or begin a program and then fail miserably…but her words always gave me the confidence to push forward. My favorite advice to give is a modified version of this: “If you want to make things happen, don’t ask for permission.”

Angela Parker
Co-Founder and Partner of Realized Worth

The best advice she ever received: The best advice I ever received came from the Indigo Girls. They are profound poets and in one of their older songs, called Touch Me Fall, they sing about the pressure to meet high expectations, both of ourselves and others. With what feels like a shrug of the shoulders, they sing “If I stumble, I will stumble. If I fall, I will fall.” This advice is along the same lines as business gurus who say “fail forward” and “don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” If I could have a personal wish, it would be to be free of my fear of making mistakes. When the Indigo Girls sing about the potential to fail with such nonchalance, I find that I believe them. I believe it’s OK, and even important, to fail.

Julie Urlaub
Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company

The best advice she ever received: Sadly, my mother passed away from breast cancer years ago. Upon her passing, she shared with me that “you can have everything in life – money, great career, family, whatever your heart desires – but – if you don’t have your health, you can’t enjoy any of it.” As a result, I have passionately committed my life to one of wellness and work/life balance. I’ve been active in competitive sports my entire life. Currently, I’m an endurance mountain bike racer, racing 100-mile events, 12-hour and 24-hour races, and multi-day stage races in events across the country. At Taiga Company, we promote cycling as alternative transportation but also as eco inspiration. Being outside in the natural environment is a compelling way to pair the eco actions we promote with the very reason to take them – to preserve our natural resources.

Laura Noctor
Global Director of Corporate Responsibility for InterContinental Hotels Group

The best advice she ever received: Be present. I think it’s really easy to be distracted nowadays by 24-hour communications. I love traveling, (not surprising for someone who works for a hotel company!), and when I go somewhere new, I try and make an extra special effort to absorb what I am seeing, hearing, and experiencing. Last year, I was lucky to travel to Iguassu Falls, which was breathtakingly beautiful. I just paused to empty my mind and take it all in…. And of course this skill is really important to my day job. Especially in developing my network and making myself fully available to those I manage so I, in turn, can help them grow.

See more women in CSR on Triple Pundit, and follow us on Twitter for more updates.


It is very interesting to read the interviews that you had conducted with the leading female corporate social responsibility practitioners. We could know about their desires and what inspired them the most that made them reach this position. Keep updating more such interesting interviews. background removal service


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