To celebrate International Women’s Day at Verisk—and to showcase Verisk as a leading data analytics company with diverse leadership—Verisk is highlighting its women leaders through a series of Q&A blog posts focusing on this year’s theme, #PressforProgress.
We spoke with Barbara Sohn, vice president, corporate marketing at Verisk. Ms. Sohn directs content strategy, messaging, and generation for the company, providing a consistent and visible identity as the “voice” of Verisk.
What do you believe are the major areas of opportunity for progress in the workplace?
Progress in the workplace can take many forms. Certainly today, on International Women’s Day, my thoughts go to areas where I see opportunities for progress for women. I’ve observed several themes that seem to come up again and again that hopefully are on the radar of workplaces throughout this country: pay parity and more women in senior management and executive roles.
Corporate America has made great strides in the area of pay parity—equal pay for equal work—over the past few decades. That’s because companies today understand full well that to compete they need to ensure fairness at all levels. But there’s room to improve, and that means there shouldn’t be differences in pay for the same type of work.
Another area of opportunity is the presence of women in senior-most roles. It’s no secret that, for the most part, men are in the majority when it comes to the composition of boards, corporate leadership teams, and the top executive tiers and officer ranks. There are many reasons for this, some of which have been cultural, such as women taking time off to have families or assuming the majority of responsibility for the household. Those career stops and starts can slow the trajectory of women moving up in an organization. But workplaces today can offer a multitude of benefits and institute family-friendly policies to help level the playing field. Workplaces also need to ensure that they develop career paths to senior positions, establish leadership development programs, and provide the support and resources necessary for women to grow and advance.
Who has inspired you as a leader? How have they embodied progress?
Many people in my life have inspired me—both men and women. I could go with the expected answer and name a famous politician or social activist or business icon. But the truth is, my father was a true inspiration to me, and from the time I was young, he built me up and told me I could accomplish whatever I wanted to. He had extremely high expectations but was honest and fair. He was my biggest advocate and encouraged me always to pursue what had meaning for me.
He embodied progress because, even when we were children, he exposed us (I’m one of four) to opera, ballet, and classical music concerts while my friends were in summer camp. He embodied progress when he became the youngest person in the history of the New York City school system to become the principal of a high school, one with thousands of students during a time of cultural and societal upheaval and racial clashes. As I watched my father achieve success, work hard, and still make quality time to spend with our family, he inspired me to pursue my goals and taught me anything is possible.
Sadly, he passed away just shy of his 67th birthday. But every time I’ve accomplished something or feel I’ve made a difference, I hear his words of encouragement and support in the back of my mind.
What is your greatest accomplishment, and why?
My manager—and mentor—at Verisk decided to retire and basically told me (meaning he didn’t ask me!) I’d be stepping into his shoes and filling his position. After the initial wave of panic and self-doubt left me, I doubled down and put my all into doing a good job and running with it. I haven’t looked back since! I learned that I could overcome whatever obstacles came my way and not to be afraid to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. I’m so proud of what my team has accomplished, and I get great satisfaction every day from my work and the people around me. That of course is my business accomplishment. My greatest personal accomplishment has been raising four amazing children who’ve grown up to be incredibly successful and wonderful human beings.