Maggie FitzPatrick, Hall of Femme 2019

SVP, corporate affairs, philanthropy and customer engagement, Exelon

What would you do if you weren’t in PR?
I love what David Letterman once said about hosting a talk show: "I’m just trying to make a smudge on the collective unconscious." I am intrigued by interesting people talking about fascinating ideas, so I would host a radio show or podcast and interview people doing groundbreaking and impactful work – in everything from science to the arts, medicine, and politics – to make a "small smudge" on the collective unconscious. 

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.
Does a heart-pumping moment count? I was happier than I have ever been when I was married in 2016, less than a year after marriage equality became the law of the land. On the professional front, I recently participated in a rigorous program at Harvard Business School focused on women on corporate boards. Of course, I knew it would be all women. But there’s nothing quite like walking into a storied Ivy League lecture hall and seeing every seat filled with highly accomplished women from around the globe.

When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?
It’s agonizing to realize you had read something completely wrong. That moment came most sharply when, at a certain point in my career, I confronted the stark reality that I was working in a position where I couldn’t bring my full self to work and there was a fundamental misalignment with my core values. Difficult to pivot, but always important you do. As a friend once said, it’s OK to make mistakes – just don’t make the same mistake twice. I have worked hard to reflect on challenges and learn from all of them.

When did you last take the time to recharge your batteries?
Nothing recharges me like full-throated, roll-your-head-back laughter, and I’m lucky to have some incredible people in my life who always oblige. I recently attended Sundance with a small group of friends and family. We skied in the morning and watched film after film for the rest of day and night. The trip was ridiculously fun. The mountains were invigorating. The films were inspiring. And no one broke their leg.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
More women should be in charge. Exclamation point. Full stop.

When have you seen this industry, or your organization, really shine?
The reason we all do this is to make a real difference in people’s lives, and that was never more evident to me than in the energy sector’s response to the devastating 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico.

I watched a coalition of companies come together and deploy nearly 1,700 power restoration experts – line mechanics, crew leaders, safety personnel, and bucket truck operators – who took time away from their families to help their fellow citizens and human beings turn the power back on and get their lives back on track. Our company played an important role in the restoration. I have never felt prouder of our people than when I witnessed families across Puerto Rico approach our power teams day after day to express gratitude for caring enough to be there. Those same families prepared meals for our employees and welcomed them into their homes. 

Words to live by?
Surround yourself with people you love, and open your heart and home to a rescue puppy.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Maya Angelou once famously wrote, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." I would tell my 20-year-old self to tell her story. I have learned the most extraordinary thing you can dare to be in life is yourself – and that trusting your voice and the unique things you have to offer is one of life’s greatest and most rewarding journeys.

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will…
Continue to be a fierce advocate for women in every possible way that I can, from every position I hold, as long as I am able, developing programs and pathways to advance the meaningful ascension of female leaders to spectacular heights.

After I joined Exelon, I worked with a group of women leaders to advocate for pay equity and increased family leave benefits for our employees. Our CEO’s swift approval and adoption of our proposed programs was groundbreaking in the energy sector. We announced the changes with the White House and other industry leaders in late 2016. I’m proud Exelon is held up as a model that others follow.

It’s really important to remember you don’t have to be an executive to be a good advocate and mentor for other women. We can help each other to find our voices, develop skills, and encourage each other to pay it forward. I am living proof of that – I’m in a position to make a difference today because other extraordinary women did that for me.

Who are the three people, living or dead, you would like to host at a dinner party and why?
I’d probably choose three poets: Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, and Maya Angelou. If I could expand the table, I’d add the sculptor Camille Claudel and painter Agnes Martin.

Sadly, in our culture, people are turning away from one another. I believe that art, and the search for truth embodied in art, has never been more important or more essential to our national conversation. Art and artists dedicate their lives to uncovering truths we all share, of making sense of all that is "deep and complex in the American spirit" – not just by entertaining but also by exploring the ever-changing meaning of diversity, community, and connection in America.

Among the art forms, it is poetry, as Percy Shelley wrote, that most "lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar." If there is anybody who can show us how to look at the familiar in each other but see one another in entirely new ways – appreciating what we have in common and articulating why that’s worth protecting and cherishing – it is poets. Particularly women poets.

Among them, Denise Levertov taught me about faith, Adrienne Rich taught me about courageously naming the unnamed, and Maya Angelou taught me about everything else. And I’d just like to have them over for dinner to express the one thing all three of them make me feel: gratitude for courageously lifting their voices to pierce oppressive silence.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
Hi, Mags, welcome home. Your hilarious and loving family members are waiting for you.

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