Travelers Institute President Joan Woodward: "Take a Risk on Yourself"
As part of the SHE Travels® initiative by Travelers, advocating for women in insurance, Joan Woodward shares that her biggest career risk was leaving her successful career on Capitol Hill for the financial services industry. Joan’s advice to others: “Be confident in yourself, and you can learn things as you go.”
Logo, She Travels, Q and A with Joan Woodward. Text, What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
You know, the biggest risk I ever took in my career really was leaving government. I worked on Capitol Hill for 12 years and I was so comfortable there and confident, I was chief of staff to a big committee, I worked for Senator Bill Roth and I felt like I had it all. And one day, Goldman Sachs came knocking on my door asking me to start a Washington research operation. And I knew nothing about Wall Street, I was a government person.
And I just took a deep breath, I said, I don't think I'm going to get this opportunity ever again in my life. So I took that risk on myself and I spent nearly 10 years at Goldman Sachs running their Global Markets Institute. And I am so grateful that I had confidence in myself, which I really didn't think I had at the time as a young woman with four little kids, and taking on a global job was really a risk that I cannot believe I took. And I'm so grateful that I did.
Image, Joan and a group of people behind her at the New York Stock Exchange with a Travelers background.
When Alan Schnitzer asked me to come to Travelers and establish the Travelers Institute as a thought leadership platform, I knew I could do that but I wasn't sure about insurance. Insurance kind of scared me because I really didn't know about it. So my advice to others is take a risk on yourself, be confident in yourself, and you can learn things as you go. So you might not have the 10 ingredients you might need immediately, but you can learn those things.
A lot of smart people we're hiring these days at Travelers, and you can adjust, you can be flexible, your bosses can be flexible. We have a lot of training programs here. So the support you get at Travelers allows you to take those next risks in your career.
Text, What's your advice to others on taking career risks?
So a lot of times, women, in particular, don't have self-confidence in themselves to take that next risk in their career because they always believe they have to have every single ingredient to be successful. The imposter syndrome is real, where you walk in, you say am I good enough to do this job? Are people are going to figure me out, you know?
Images, Joan gives presentations on stage.
And so I'll just give a piece of advice here really helped me along the way, is every time I stand up to give a speech or give a talk or give a presentation, I assume that I know more about the subject material than everyone else in the room and I'm sure that's not true but it's helped me along the way. And when I make a mistake, which I obviously do a lot, someone will come up and say, hey Joan, you know, you said this a little bit, it was a little bit off but if you just tweak it a little bit. So they help me.
Having self-confidence, being vulnerable to accept criticism, to accept that constructive feedback, and I think sometimes women have a hard time getting feedback and sometimes men have a hard time giving feedback to women. So let's just break down the barriers and say let's help each other out, and lift each other up. With that self-confidence, especially for young women and women of my age, we still struggle with that. And know it's real, that you're not alone in that, that everyone has a problem with self-confidence.
Logo, SHE Travels.
President, Travelers Institute
Executive Vice President, Public Policy, The Travelers Companies, Inc.
Joan Woodward is Executive Vice President of Public Policy for Travelers and President of The Travelers Institute. She is a member of the company’s Management Committee, Operating Committee, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Committee, and also serves on The Diversity Council, and the Travelers Foundation Board.
Woodward joined Travelers in 2008 from Goldman Sachs to establish The Travelers Institute as the company’s thought leadership and public policy platform.
Prior to her current role, Woodward worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. for ten years, where she was the founding Executive Director of the company’s Global Markets Institute, the firm’s international public policy and institutional investor educational platform. She also served as Founding Director of Washington Equity and Bond Research for Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research where Institutional Investor magazine recognized her as a top Washington analyst for investors.
Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Woodward worked on Capitol Hill for 12 years, as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee working for Chairman Bill Roth, where she was instrumental in creating the Roth IRA. She also was the Chief Economist for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the U.S. House Budget Committee under Chairman John Kasich.
She serves on the Board of Directors of Plunk, a technology company; on the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation; is Vice Chairman of the Board of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice; and a member of the President’s National Small and Medium Enterprise Export Council. She is also a member of the American Corporate Partners Board. Reactions Magazine named her to the Top 50 Women in Insurance, and in 2016, she was named to the Hot 100 in Insurance list by Insurance Business America Magazine. In 2017, she received the 2017 Power Women’s Leadership Award by NY Moves magazine.
Woodward holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science and a master’s degree from The American University. She also studied at the University of London.