Lisa Osborne Ross, Hall of Femme 2020

U.S. COO, president of Washington, DC, Edelman

Lisa Osborne Ross, Hall of Femme 2020

What word would you use to describe your childhood and why?
Empowering. I grew up in an environment where I was led to believe I could do anything and that everything is possible. The best (and possibly worst) thing about working with me is that I still have those beliefs.

Do you have a nickname? Explain.
Not really. My alter ego though is Lucy Ricardo. I can be really scatterbrained, goofy and gullible.

Tell us about your most embarrassing fail. How did you recover?
Let’s do my most recent embarrassing fail — I envisioned an approach to integrated communications that I thought a former colleague who happened to be a very, very good friend would be great at. She accepted the job I created and then reneged the day after I announced it. It felt devastating at the time. I was new in my position and was in the middle of a reorg that this job was critical to. I began the recovery process by saying a lot (exactly what happened) to my colleagues and a lot (why and how did this happen) to my friend. Two years later that function is running swimmingly with the leader it was intended for, and my friend (we are still friends) is doing swimmingly in her new post.

What fictional female character (in a book or movie) has always inspired you?
In a book: Mother Theresa, recounting how she handled a crisis in faith in order to continue to serve. And more recently, Ramonda, the queen mother of Wakanda in Black Panther, for leading with grace, love of family, mission and vision.

Any real-life women or men you look up to?
All day, every day, 24-7, my mother: Thelma Little Osborne. In the “if you can see it you can be it” moniker, I saw it, valued, coveted and modeled it all her life and now mine.

What’s something about you no one knows?
Loaded question but only my closest friends know that I lose my mind during the holidays and decorate outdoors with a wide array of colorful bunny rabbits and eggs; talking pumpkins, ghost and goblins; and Black Santas, sleds, nutcrackers and tree lights.

Favorite song and why?
Right now it's Beyoncé’s "Before I Let Go" — the perfect blend of old school, global community engagement and modern beat. When I’m pitching it's DJ Khaled "All I Do Is Win," and for my family it’s the Jackson Five’s "Maybe Tomorrow" — my son is the book that I read, my daughter the song that I sing, my husband the four seasons of my life.

Tell us about your hobby.
True and socially acceptable answer — I’m a voracious reader. Less attractive but equally true answer — I spend a lot of time shopping!

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will...
Continue to encourage women I work with to speak up for pay that reflects their contribution; actively listen to these conversations and address when and where I can; create and advocate for environments in my workplace and for others to do the same.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you?
I’m too committed, entrenched in this industry to let that much “frustrate the hell out of me,” but it does annoy me that the industry (already disproportionately female) applauds its efforts or defines diversity by the number of women when the real issue remains the paucity of people of color, especially black and brown women and, acutely, black and brown men, at all levels, especially in leadership.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
Edelman's, Richard in particular’s, willingness to put resources behind beliefs. Not just the Trust Barometer, which gives real data to inform decision making, but big enterprise efforts like our comms support for the Gun Safety Alliance and at the geo level opportunities and latitude to make a difference in the communities where we do business.

What is your golden rule at work?
So many golden rules. Culturally — always do your best. Personally — things are never as bad or as good as they seem.

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