Original post date March 8, 2019
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re excited to showcase the next woman in our profile series, Ruthie Hubbard!
A recent graduate of Kellogg School of Management, Ruthie is entering the world of strategy and business development in media and technology.
While we feel fortunate to be in a industry that has long celebrated and created opportunities for women, fashion is far from perfect and still has a ways to go. Size inclusivity is core to our foundation at Shayne, however the need for greater inclusivity in fashion spans much wider. We wanted to feature Ruthie in our profile series not only because of her achievements and experience on Wall Street and her MBA, but also because of her passion around media's representation of people of color.
Read on below to find out more on Ruthie!
What inspired you to pursue your early career in finance and then your MBA?
“I started college at the height of the full-blown international financial crisis. Banks piqued my curiosity because of the scale of their impact and interaction with a diversity of clients in the private and public sector...After completing my research, I reflected on where I might be a good fit...and then landed in the wonderful world of asset management.
Pursuing an MBA was always a goal I had for myself in order to build more technical skills and have new professional experiences in different functions of interest like strategy. I tried looking for new jobs before being admitted to business school and noticed that there were certain things I was missing— managerial experience and data/tech skills— and felt that business school would be a good way to help fill those gaps.
More personally, I believed learning from and with a powerful and dynamic group of international people for two years both in and outside the classroom, could fortify a growth mindset and expose me to new ways of thinking about the world and my role in it.”
Finance is such a heavily white and male dominated field. What was it like to not fit into this mold? Was there a time when you felt an imbalance or disconnect with your personal and professional life?
“It was not dissimilar from most of my life experience. I have always been one of a few people of color or women in communities and institutions I have been a part of. With that said, it was easy to adapt because I actively sought out networks, such as black professional development clubs in college, Penn alumnae or young NYC professional circles for support and advice throughout the recruiting process and mentorship once I was within the bank.
I felt that the biggest imbalance arose when charging socio-political topics were not openly discussed. The aftermath of 2012 Re-Election of President Obama, the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement and a few major police brutality incidents exposed an uptick of hate for black people across the country. It seemed as though many of my colleagues did not have to reconcile the psychological burden of dealing with what was going on in the news that could impact someone like me, with being present, “on,” composed and highly functioning every day even when there was an onslaught of negativity. I liken this experience to needing a mental health day from just being black and expected to perform, because the outside world has no bearing on my work product or self-esteem and comfort in the office.”
What do you think companies can do to proactively help change representation broadly?
“Companies can change representation broadly by putting serious dollars towards diversity and inclusion efforts as it relates to recruiting, retaining and investing in talent. An easy first step to take would be partnering with organizations whose missions are to do this exact work. These organizations include Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, Jopwell, and INROADS.
I have benefited from several of these programs throughout my education and professional experiences. Exposure and information sharing are so important for groups of people who historically have not had access to extensive networks in spaces such as professional service firms and similar industries.
Lastly, an important part of the conversation that is always overlooked about representation, is retention. Often, there are many highly qualified women that join companies, but they do not last long because there is a breakdown in the pipeline to the leadership. Companies can address this dearth of representation by simply just prioritizing discussions, workshops and training about why we are losing these women and how to prevent the pattern from happening in the future. ”
As it relates to media and what you see on TV, how does that impact how you show up in the world and your sense of self?
“I find that I am constantly searching for positive representation—in terms of my womanhood, race, romance, professional prospects and socialization in major cities.
Since I value having unique experiences, I often seek out new ways to show up in the world. As I mentioned earlier, media’s representation of people of color, particularly black women, of course, is one of my biggest passions. Being visible, simply existing WELL (might I add) in spaces we don’t usually occupy, contributing to conversations and recognizing the reality that many people across our own country, do not have real or personal exposure to women like me is why I made the trip across the pond to cover the Royal Wedding on behalf of Northwestern University/Kellogg. The opportunity to share my thoughts on Meghan Markle and this historic occasion with the new UK alumni friends that I made while on the Long Walk at Windsor Castle, rejoice in African American culture and ritual proudly displayed on the world’s stage through her carefully selected ceremony and to top it off — have our newly minted Duke and Duchess legitimately wave at me and see my face in the purple pride crowd cheering them on made it all so worth it.”
Can you tell us about a time when someone has inspired or helped you in your life that's made a lasting impression?
“Soledad O’Brien, CNN Journalist and Founder of Starfish Media Group, made an indelible impression on me in 2008 when she created Black in America for CNN. She hosted this limited series of documentaries (airing over four months) that took an incisive look at the modern realities of black life in America beyond the stereotypes, numbing statistics and identity politics. It was the first time where I completely saw myself represented in mainstream news. Funny enough, I saw several friends featured but more importantly organizations that I grew up with to help me build my strong identity while growing up in predominantly white environments.
Her storytelling was didactic, rich and personal. It really pushed me to look to media for holistic representations of people of color as opposed to the usual pure entertainment they are usually relegated to. She ignited my passion to pursue the business of media, support creators of color and to always think critically about content I consume from news or entertainment, particularly on subjects with women who look like me.
I followed her work over the years and was inspired by her commitment to giving back to young girls of color through her Starfish Foundation and so I volunteered to be a mentor. When it came time to identifying a pre-MBA internship, she created an opportunity for me to shadow her for a few weeks at her company, Starfish Media Group. I helped with developing content for her then-new show, Matter of Fact and researching into the changing demographics of Georgia during the 2016 Presidential Election so that she could discuss it with Chris Hayes on his show.”
Given your experiences on Wall Street and business school, what have you learned that you think would be most helpful to a woman entering the workforce, and how are you thinking about this as you continue your career?
“The best advice I can share for women entering the workforce or considering business school is twofold. I believe there is immense power in putting yourself out there in spaces where you don’t know anyone, perhaps a conference or employee resource group you do not identify with, because you can learn immensely through observation and by building important relational skills with exposure to new people. Additionally, I think information sharing and gathering datapoints is critical to our success. We often put our heads down, work hard at our crafts and try to make it on our own to demonstrate competency, while men utilize the insights, tools and tips from others to lift themselves up while they climb. We should definitely do the same!”
What is your version of a power suit? When do you feel most empowered?
“A great fitted black pant-suit with gold accents and a pop of color shell top.
I feel most empowered when I am in control of how I feel when I show up in a room and that I am confident I can contribute well to any discussion. Even better, if I am an expert in that topic of discussion, I feel golden."
When work & life get overwhelming, what is your favorite way to decompress?
“I usually use apps like calm and mood tools when I want to reflect on the day or relax. I just started seeing a therapist in January. I look forward to speaking with her each week to really flesh out my thoughts with someone objective and because she has provided me with new ideas on how to deescalate potentially stressful situations with family members, and tips to improve my sleep pattern.”
We want to give a big shout out and thank you to Ruthie for being so open and wonderful to work with on this feature!!
Through these profiles we hope you find some inspiration to make a change, go after a dream, or they simply make you smile. :)
Any positive, inspiring, and/or strong female role models you think we should feature?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca & Samantha
**Some of the above quotes have been edited for length.**