With JPMorgan Chase’s Samantha (Sam) Saperstein
“Effective leadership isn’t about standing on a pedestal and barking orders to people around you. It’s often about getting in the trenches and working alongside your team members.”
Q: What was your dream job as a kid and why?
I wanted to be a writer, as I loved writing stories on an old typewriter as a child and always enjoyed reading. That led to my earliest jobs as a journalist in college and upon graduation. In addition to writing, being a journalist allowed me to continue to learn about different topics, like technology and the economy. It’s a great profession for people who are curious.
Q: What is one of the most surprising things you have learned about effective leadership—and how did you learn it?
Effective leadership isn’t about standing on a pedestal and barking orders to people around you. It’s often about getting in the trenches and working alongside your team members. It’s about knowing the details and being able to dive in as needed. This player-coach model is something I have observed among the great leaders I have worked with. It makes them more human, humble, and able to develop strong followership.
Q: Who or what most inspires you about women’s progress in the workplace, and why?
Even though the numbers of women in the labor force and among corporate CEOs have plateaued, we do see increasing investment in diversity and equality by companies of all sizes. I am very inspired by the momentum I see in the work world around gender equality.
Many companies now talk about unconscious bias; have explicit goals for hiring and retaining women; acknowledge that leadership comes in many forms, and that women don’t have to act like men to be successful; and recognize that caregiving can have a huge impact on women’s career trajectories. The focus on all these areas will help us to continue to move forward and improve the environment for women and girls.
Q: You run the J.P. Morgan Chase Women on the Move global initiative, which has among its goals supporting women-owned businesses and helping women become more financially healthy. What is your best advice on both of those goals?
Many entrepreneurs start out because of an individual passion or desire to be their own boss, which are great motivations. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone! There are more resources than ever to help you incubate an idea, launch and grow a business. Find the people who can help you, such as your own network, Chase bankers, and local women’s business associations. In 2018, Chase pledged to lend $10 billion in new credit to women-led businesses in the U.S. by the end of 2021. As of June 30th, we are ahead of pace with nearly $2 billion in new loans and lines of credit extended to women.
There are more people who are investing in women’s ideas, so don’t be discouraged if you hear “no” from the first investors you speak to. You may hear multiple “no’s” before you hear “yes.” Take inspiration from other women who have persevered through challenges, and remain confident in your ideas and talents.
Regarding personal finances, we want to help women save and invest more. We recognize that thinking about money can stir up anxiety, and many women shy away from it. But it’s critical for women to be financially savvy so they can be prepared for anything that comes their way, be it financial emergencies, helping their families, or being financially independent. The good news is you can start saving at any time, and can start small. It helps to set goals for what to save for, and to use automatic savings tools to make sure it happens. We have more information to share on this topic here and here.
Q: If you were just starting out today, what would you want a mentor to tell you?
It’s not enough to work hard and master your area of expertise. You also have to build and cultivate a network of people who can support you. This group should include mentors, but more importantly, sponsors. Sponsors are people who will develop your skills, give you real feedback, and provide you with stretch opportunities.
You can capture their attention by working hard and showing results, but then you need to stay visible to them and show how you can help them in return. Think about building your network consistently, so you can ask people for help when you need it and not feel awkward about it.
Samantha (Sam) Saperstein leads the firm-wide Women on the Move initiative at JPMorgan Chase. In this role, Sam works on programs that are designed to make JPMorgan Chase the best bank for women-run businesses and women consumers, the best company for women to work at, and a strong partner for women in communities around the world.