What is it like to work not only as a woman in compliance, but as a woman in an international company? Stephanie Davis is the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for the Volkswagen Group of North America and she’s here to share what it’s like to be the only woman — and sometimes, only American — in the room.
Stephanie came to Volkswagen not from a law firm, but from KPMG. How did that impact her career?
An academic background gives a lot of credibility, especially in German companies, as Germany is a country that prides itself on amazing education.
In the US, it was the consulting background that was really helpful, because it’s given Stephanie the lens to approach problems more collaboratively. Where legal will say “no, you can’t do that” and end there, she might say, “no you can’t do that — but here’s what we can do instead,” because she understands how businesses are run and knows companies still need to make a profit. Her job is to make sure they do it in the most ethical and integral way.
What is it like to be a woman in compliance, and what is it like to be a woman in compliance with a company that has a headquarters in Germany?
Stephanie comes to her job bringing a distinctly different perspective: she hasn’t worked at Volkswagen her entire life (like many in the company have), she’s a woman, andshe’s American.
But she learned that you can’t let “being the only x in the room” be an issue. If you fixate on that, that’s all you’re ever going to be. She had to give herself permission to not focus on the fact that she was the only woman or American there. She was in the room for a reason. She was in the room because she had value. No one else was questioning her presence, and it took time for her not to question it either.
In all of her otherness, she has come to realize: “It’s too much stress to be anybody but who I am.”
On speaking in the room
Stephanie speaks at many conferences and talks for women’s groups so that “one day, we don’t have to do it anymore.”
She postulates that women’s conferences and groups grew out of this world of golf games that we saw our fathers participating in growing up, where all the work was done on the golf course. Women weren’t really involved — and so we’ve decided to build our own golf courses. But she hopes we don’t have to do it forever.
We all bring something to our organizations. We shouldn’t have to fit a “bucket” of what our careers must look like: partner by 35, x amount of dollars in the bank by 40. We’ve created a world that can be really hard sometimes, and we have to be easier on ourselves.
Stephanie Davis (LinkedIn)