Matlock Spotlights Woman Business Leader Charmaine Ward

Happy April first! Instead of praising a day celebrated by pranks we thought we’d share the last installment of our Women in Business series acknowledging Charmaine Ward, Director of Community Affairs at Georgia-Pacific.

Matlock's Spotlights Woman Business Leader Charmaine Ward

When you were a child, what did you want to ‘be’ when you grew up? I have always loved to “talk.” Even when I was very young I loved public speaking and was a very good communicator. I decided early on that I wanted to be a news anchorwoman…I loved Barbara Walters. So, in grammar school and church I read the prayers aloud and served on both the forensics and debate teams in high school. In college the trend continued as commentator for the Atlanta University Center Fashion Troupe. I also served as emcee for many college programs/initiatives. While attending Clark College in Atlanta, Monica Kaufman became my new “shero!” As a civic and community servant in Atlanta, I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know Monica Kaufman Pearson. She is amazing and still one of my “sheros”. Now that she has retired, I may have a chance to be a news anchor after all! Smile!

Why did you choose this career path? Most of my career has been spent in marketing, with the last five years in corporate affairs. Both careers “picked me.” I have always loved creating programs, initiatives and special events. Early in my career as a System Engineer, I started developing different creative programs and communications to help sales meet their numbers. At one point my manager said “you are a really good communicator and very creative”. I realized that marketing is really the business of communication. That one statement changed my career focus and I spent the next twenty years in a successful marketing career. Throughout my career, I always volunteered, served on civic boards and was very involved in the community. As I progressed throughout my marketing career, I had some components of corporate affairs in my more senior roles. I thought it would be awesome to be in corporate affairs where I could merge my passion for serving with work and still be able to use my marketing skills. I moved into the role of corporate affairs five years ago and can honestly say this is my dream job – and I love it! Ultimately, I would like to serve as president of a corporate or private foundation. If you had not chosen this career path, what do you think you would be doing now? I would be a news anchorwoman, TV talk show host or an actress.

Do you find it a challenge to balance your career with your personal life? I believe “ balance” is looking at every day and every week and trying to make sure that you are managing all aspects of your life: work, family, health, relationship and spiritual. Some days or weeks you may be focused more on one aspect of your life and other times you may be focused on a different aspect of your life. I think the key is to make sure that through the ebb and flow you are consistently focusing on ALL aspects of your life.

Have you ever felt at an advantage based on your gender? If so, please explain. I feel the advantage of being a “female” is our ability to be more sensitive to situations and to use our intuition. This allows women to sometimes be more discerning and to make better decisions given all the facts, both qualitative and quantitative.

What advice would you give to young women hoping to become business or nonprofit leaders? Three things 1) Make contributions in the areas that are valued by your organization 2) Do what you love, what you are passionate about and the compensation and accolades will follow. 3) Be open to new experiences and new people because you never know who or what will lead you to your next opportunity 4) Always give back, no matter how small – it does make a difference.

There is a concern regarding the ‘Glass Ceiling’ for women, with fewer senior roles going to women – or women going for the senior roles. As a ‘glass breaker’, what advice can you give to other women? Be the very best YOU that you can be. Remember that you are the competition – not anyone else. If you can look in the mirror and honestly say “I have done my best” then there is no glass ceiling that can keep you from your ultimate goal. But, most important, be authentic, lead with integrity, work hard and have fun… life is a journey, not a destination!