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 Donna Westerman, head of retail and consumer goods and vice president for consulting at Verisk Maplecroft. Verisk Maplecroft helps organizations optimize and strengthen their risk management processes and supply chains by providing a full-spectrum solution that blends an unparalleled portfolio of global risk analytics with world-leading analysis, real-time locational monitoring, and innovative risk-calculator technology.
What do you believe are the major areas of opportunity for progress in the workplace?
I believe that our educational system does not focus enough on teaching people leadership, and so that is a major opportunity for progress. I also believe that as far as we have come in encouraging diversity and promoting a work/life balance, these too are areas where we sometimes take one step forward and two steps back. I believe all companies would benefit from striving for a culture where acceptance of all the responsibilities of life is second nature.
Who has inspired you as a leader? How have they embodied progress?
I have been most inspired by many amazing women at different points in my life. One woman who has been consistent is my maternal grandmother, who I had the privilege of having in my life for more than half a century and who actually passed on my birthday at the age of 92. She was a coal miner’s daughter, married at age 15, and had 78 years with my granddad. She worked in factory production lines during the war and became a supervisor, sold Avon, and became the treasurer for Deborah Hospital, among other volunteer roles, which lead to leadership roles. By her totally nonjudgmental manner and natural instinct to only think the best of people, she made you want to give more and be your best even as she was the least demanding person I ever met. Leaders should not require respect or ever be intimidating. To me, they are people who are doing things for the right reasons, and they practice a genuine concern for other human beings while working for a cause.
What are you doing daily to ensure your continued growth and development as a leader?
I try to read as much as possible, time permitting, since I believe a good leader is well-versed and well-rounded. I also believe that at this stage of my career, I have a responsibility to give back to both the business community and my personal interests through mentoring and advisory boards, where my voice is not only heard but respected. In doing this, I continue to grow as well, by acknowledging the diversity of thought and the opinions of others. Lastly, I allow time for self-reflection. I like to consider myself a work in progress.