Fairygodboss of the Week: Subha Barry

Photo Courtesy of Subha Barry.

Photo Courtesy of Subha Barry.

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May 24, 2024 at 5:17PM UTC

If you were to look at Subha Barry's resume, you'd think she's done it all. She's been a trader and a wealth advisor and a professor and the head of countless diversity and inclusion efforts, many of which she built. Now, she's the president of Working Mother Media and oversees their many efforts to support women in the workplace. But one thing has been true of Barry across her roles: she's always found a way to tie her passions and talents to the mission of her company, and she's always found a way to bring people with her.

We spoke to Barry about her inspiring career, much of which was built while she battled cancer and raised two children. Then, she shared her best advice for women who want to make a difference in all of their roles. 

Fairygodboss of the Week: Subha Barry

President of Working Mother Media

Greater Philadelphia Area

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

I first came to the US from India when I was offered a scholarship to study at Rice University. I began working as a commodities trader and then a Wealth Advisor at Merrill Lynch. I also built a Multicultural Women’s Business Development Unit there, then took on the role of Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion. I was also a Senior Vice President, Head of the Freddie Mac Foundation (as well as Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Freddie Mac) and taught gender policy at Columbia University. I came to Working Mother Media over four years ago, where I’ve had the opportunity to hone my skills as a business leader and leverage my background in D&I to oversee Working Mother magazine (workingmother.com), Diversity Best Practices (the leading corporate membership organization supporting diversity and inclusion), the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), the Working Mother Research Institute and our newest strategic advisory and analytics division, Culture@Work.  

What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

Building the Multicultural Business Development Unit at Merrill Lynch and showcasing the tremendous opportunities to advise diverse and multicultural communities on wealth creation and management. I am also very proud of creating the Autism Internship Program at Freddie Mac to provide employment opportunities for individuals on the Spectrum — and hope for their families that they can lead productive and financially successful lives. And, of course, having the opportunity to raise my own 2 successful and kind children. 

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

As a six-time cancer survivor, overcoming immense health challenges remains one of the hardest hurdles I’ve dealt with in my life. During the course of those 22 years, I built my career, strengthened my marriage and raised my children.

What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you? 

I have a few! Be self-aware to clearly understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Look beyond your immediate job to understand more broadly what your company is doing and identify an alignment between your skills, talent and passion and how it connects to the company's mission. Be bold, take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. And at every level find a way to mentor and be mentored; Sponsor and be sponsored.

Why do you love where you work?

It is an alignment of my skills, abilities and passions where I am able to connect that to doing something positive for my community and the world. I am surrounded by colleagues who share in my vision and passion, and I work with clients who deeply appreciate the work we do.

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?

I have many! Different people at different times. Sometimes it’s mentors and sponsors like Gerry Laybourne and Madeline Weinstein. Madeline was an early leader at Merrill who was far senior to me but was always accessible to ask for help and support. Gerry Laybourne is a great role model, and always found a way to bring out the best in others. There is also my mother, who is my rock of Gibraltar and my biggest cheerleader. She is always stepping up to lend a hand of support and backfilling the gaps in my home life with my children.

What do you do when you're not working?

I love home renovations shows, reading and cooking. Drinking a good glass of wine with friends, walking on trails less travelled and adventurous travel round out my list!          

If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song? 

"Fight Song" by Rachel Platten and Bruce Springsteen’s "Thunder Road."

Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie? 

The Shawshank Redemption 

Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island? 

"Mahabharata" (an Indian epic) — I’ve re-read it about a dozen times so I would be set for life on that island!!

Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? 

Scarves and shoes 

What would you buy if you won the lottery? 

I would donate to three different charities: The Rutgers Cancer Center, The Rice 360 Institute for Global Health Technologies NEST program (helps neonatal babies in Africa) and I would help to revamp and support the Trenton, NJ school system with before and after school enrichment programs. 

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