Profiles in Leadership
Jill Smart, '81 Business Administration
1. What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced thus far as a successful woman in the corporate world?
I feel that women and men face the same challenges in terms of competency development, opportunities for growth, and the need for luck along the way. However, I believe that women find it more difficult to balance work and family because they want to compromise neither and have high expectations of themselves. For me, it is near impossible to be balanced on any given day, but I strive to be balanced over a period of time.
2. Why is philanthropy important to you?
Philanthropy revitalizes me. I am happiest when I am being productive, and so my involvement with non-work organizations allows me to take a mental break from my paid job while still doing something useful to society. It is also important to me however, that I have time to dedicate and actually contribute some value to the philanthropies that I am involved with, thus I limit the number of not-for-profit boards that I am involved in.
3. What other organizations are you involved with?
I am on the Board of Trustees of The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and am a member of both The Executives’ Club of Chicago and The Chicago Network. I am also a trustee on the board of the Accenture Foundation, a public charity that supports educational activities and disaster relief efforts. Being the dedicated Illini fan that I am, I of course keep close ties to the University of Illinois as a member of the Alumni Association Board, College of Business Dean's Business Council, and Illinois Business Consulting's Advisory Board. However, my favorite external activity is being a 'room mom' at my children's school, and sitting on the school board.
4. Do you have any expert advice for other women who are currently in the process of trying to advance their career in business?
I believe everyone – man or woman – needs to define what a satisfying career is for himself or herself. There is not a universal definition for what it means to 'advance' your career or to be 'successful'. Therefore, after defining what a satisfying career means for you, my advice is to never stop trying to achieve that. When one path does not lead you to a destination that appeals to you, find yourself another path—and notice I said find it yourself, versus depending on someone else to find it for you! And don’t go down any path alone….having someone there to talk to, learn from, and commiserate with is vital!
5. List some of your credentials to date.
- HR Executive – 25 Most Powerful Women in HR
- Crains – 100 Most Influential Women in Chicago
- Chief Learning Officer Award