Rising within the ranks of human resources understandably requires a deep affinity for managing, developing and caring for people. But to be a professional “people person,” in this sense, doesn’t necessarily mean being an extrovert. Take it from Beth Whited.
As Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer of Union Pacific Railroad, Whited’s true job function at the end of the day is not only making sure the company hires the right people, but ensuring they retain them by offering the kind of support and resources today’s talent needs. That’s one reason Whited helped found Union Pacific’s LEAD women’s initiative, for instance, of which she formerly served as president.
“I believe very strongly that it is incumbent on me as a successful woman to make the path easier for the women coming behind me,” Whited said. “I am focused on any HR policy — i.e. maternity leave, childcare benefits, etc. — that is not competitive with our peer group to ensure we modernize where needed.”
Her efforts seem to be paying off; the strength of the company’s family-friendly benefits is one of the things female employees applaud the most in their reviews on Fairygodboss. But Whited doesn’t stop short at benefits. Though she may identify as an “introvert by nature,” dedicating time to women’s professional development continues to be one of the highlights of her work days.
“I take a meaningful amount of time to coach and mentor women at all experience levels in the company so that we can be sure we’re building a great talent pipeline of women ready to serve in more senior roles,” she said.
Recently, she spoke with Fairygodboss about her leadership style, how she approaches knocking out each day’s to-do list, and the three qualities she looks for most in candidates.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been CHRO for one year. Prior to that, I was EVP and Chief Marketing Officer.
Describe what you do in one sentence.
My job is to ensure that we have the right people ready and in place to execute the company’s business strategy.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
First thing I do is review my schedule for the day ahead and ensure I’m prepared with whatever thoughts or materials I want to gather in advance.
How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?
Every day is pretty different for me, and the inbound demands are largely unpredictable. I do my best to prioritize tasks that require spending time with people during working hours and tasks that require things like responses to emails before or after business hours.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe in empowering and enabling the team. I’m at a point in my career where people development is the thing I should be doing the most of, so I try to create a vision and strategy that I guide my team to execute on.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
I believe very strongly that it is incumbent on me as a successful woman to make the path easier for the women coming behind me. I am focused on any HR policy (i.e. maternity leave, childcare benefits, etc.) that is not competitive with our peer group to ensure we modernize where needed. I also take a meaningful amount of time to coach and mentor women at all experience levels in the company so that we can be sure we’re building a great talent pipeline of women ready to serve in more senior roles.
What are you trying to improve on?
I’m an introvert by nature, so I am constantly working to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I have to interact more with people.
What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate?
Curiosity, critical thinking, and team orientation.
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