UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Achieving new heights: Future is bright for women professionals


Michelle JarrardDon’t worry about your future in the job market or life plans, Michelle Jarrard told attendees during her keynote address at the eighth annual Carolina Women in Business conference Nov. 8.

Jarrard is the director of firm personnel for McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm.

“I was a big worrier and I wanted someone to tell me everything would be okay. I’m happy to report to you that everything is going to be okay and it’s going to turn out great,” Jarrard said. “It’s factually the case that in the laws of supply and demand, not only in the U.S. but in the world, you are a scarce commodity and you will be for your lifetime.”

For those holding advanced professional degrees in the United States, more than 50 percent of the population is female, she said.

“Unless the U.S. and Canada and the U.K. do not want to grow, they have to find a way for women to stay in the workforce and to fill the top chairs,” Jarrard said. “Mathematically, it is a requirement … or the economy will stagnate.”

While having plans in life is important, it is fine when they change and you make accommodations, she said.

Her son, A.J., was born with cerebral palsy, and her husband, Jimmy, chose to become a stay-at-home father so Jarrard could continue working.

Jarrard has moved around the world throughout her career, and McKinsey has always been a supportive institution. It like an extension of their family, she said. “McKinsey feels like they’ve raised A.J. and (our daughter) Hope and they have,” Jarrard said. “They have made a lot of stuff work for us. If I had a wish for everybody else going into the workforce, it’s that the place that you work feel familial.”

Jarrard outlined what institutions and leaders need to do to cultivate an atmosphere where women are retained and advanced. That includes maintaining a culture of mentors and sponsors, as well as focusing on professional development.

Focus on building your expertise and your capabilities, Jarrard said, including “the whole set of interaction skills, negotiation skills, what we call IQ, CQ,”