Janet Hill '69 Tells 'Women of Washington' about Wellesley's Influence on Her Career

October 10, 2014
photo of yearbook page with Janet (McDonald) Hill photo

Women only hold about 16 percent of corporate board seats in the United States and 14 percent of executive officers positions. Further, just 23 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female.

“This is a sad statement about corporate America today,” said Janet Hill ’69 this week on Radio 1500AM’s Women of Washington, a weekly radio program that features interviews with Washington D.C.'s influential female executives. “I don't know why this is the case. It has nothing to do with qualifications. Women are just as qualified as men to serve on corporate boards.”

Hill certainly knows something about corporate boards, having served on a number of them herself. She holds, or has held, board positions at Sprint Nextel Corporation, Dean Foods Company, Carlyle Group Management L.L.C., Echo360, Inc., Duke University, Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and the Military Bowl. She is currently a principal with Hill Family Advisors, where she oversees her family's assets and investments. (She is married to former NFL running back Calvin Hill and is the mother of NBA star Grant Hill).

As a guest on the show, Hill spoke about her Wellesley education, her career, and the importance of diversity in American corporations. “In our consulting business we were involved in helping companies attract and retain women and minorities in senior jobs, but we didn’t use the word ‘diversity,’ because... the dictionary version of ‘diversity’ is differences, and people are more alike than they are different in the workplace, sharing common goals that are associated with the work that they do,” she said. “We thought that it highlighted too much the differences on gender or on race or ethnicity… when that’s immaterial if we’re all working for the same corporation.”

Hill said she believes it is the responsibility of those in hiring positions at corporations to hire more women and minorities.

Program hosts Aileen Black and Gigi Schumm asked Hill about her time at Wellesley and about Wellesley’s track record for producing “glass ceiling smashers” like herself.  Hill remembered, “I heard a former Wellesley president say, ‘Wellesley doesn’t give you an equal opportunity, it gives you every opportunity,’” and said,  “There’s a historic sense at Wellesley of community service, of public service,” Hill said, continuing that the College’s mission, Non ministrari sed ministrare, “not to be ministered to but to minister” was, “in a sense …adopted by everyone.”

Hill seems to have carried this mission to serve others into her professional life. Even with all of her obvious career successes, she said, “To me the greatest sense of personal satisfaction is really not in how much money you make or how successful you are, but if you can make a positive difference in the life of someone other than yourself.”

She spoke for several minutes about her years at Wellesley and the influence that had on her life. Hill majored in mathematics at Wellesley, and then pursued a master’s degree at the University of Chicago. “I chose math because I love math,” she said. “I found it exciting. I thought it would help me without knowing what career I would go into… I would say I use my mathematics training every day of my life. So, I’m very happy that I had that type of training, that type of deductive reasoning.”

When asked what advice she would give her younger self or her granddaughters (Hill has two), she said, “I would suggest that they use their college degree productively, in whatever area they go in. That they look for mentors amongst men and women... and that they extend the benefit of the doubt to other people, and not judge them by any preconceived notions and certainly not by groups of people.” The last part, she said, was advice she received from her mother, adding that it was the best advice that she had ever received.

Listen to the interview, From Wellesley to Wendy's: How Janet Hill became the 'General', on Federal News Radio. (That's Wendy's as in the restaurant chain, where Hill once served as director!)