Daring Women Q&A: Kathy Chi-Thurber, General Manager of Clarisonic

"Carry yourself with grit and grace. Be hungry and go forth with integrity."

This week’s Daring Woman is Kathy Chi-Thurber, general manager of Clarisonic, a skincare brand based in Redmond.

Read about her career high points, challenges, and how men and women can improve gender equity in the workplace in this week’s installment of our Daring Women Q&A series.

1. Tell us about the high point of your career. What do you love about your work? Describe your proudest moment.

I am fortunate to say I have had many high points in my career — from launching the Thanks for Sharing program at Macy’s that amplified the great mission of the Make A Wish Foundation to supporting Starbucks in its China growth strategy. One experience stands out because it was a pure exercise of love for our consumers. This moment was when the My Starbucks Card Rewards program launched in 2009. It was the culmination of significant cross-functional work and months and months of observing and interviewing consumers to understand why they loved the brand and how we continue to position ourselves to their values. In business, it is easy to lose track of the consumer and to just launch new products and stories. This time, we did every step in the name of our consumers and that felt incredibly powerful.

2. What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How have you addressed them?

I have had several experiences where I have stepped into the role of a male predecessor and taken less pay as well as a lower title. It is an unfortunate reality but true. I address these challenges through my work ethic and results. Once I achieve my key performance indicaators, including the support of team members, then I ask for the proper compensation and/or title increase. Furthermore, as an Asian female, I have been told that the first impression I make is that I am young and therefore inexperienced. These impressions tend to change after people spend some time with me.

3. Tell us about a person who has inspired or mentored you. What key lesson did you learn from them?

Jack Arndt was my first senior executive mentor. I met Jack when he was leading the marketing department at Macy’s Northwest. Jack had an incredible ability to connect to all the employees and took the time to always say hello and learn the names and roles of his staff. He recognized my ambition and taught me how to harness it into sales and my passion for philanthropy. A great piece of advice he gave me was that executives are people, too. Another was to always have grace and respect for experiences and accomplishments but to be hungry and an expert in subject matter. He taught me how to build great confidence, to speak my mind and to ask more questions that would lead to a bigger-picture thinking.

4. What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career?

Carry yourself with grit and grace. Be hungry and go forth with integrity. There are no limits as there have been many trailblazers before you, but the job is never done.

5. What can women do to improve gender equity in the workplace? What can men do?

Start with the one rule we all learned in kindergarten: The Golden Rule. Then ask yourself: "Would I feel this way/or think this if it was a man who asked/did/said/looked/acted this way."

6. Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast and why/how it inspires you.

Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam and NPR. It is incredible to learn about our minds and how they impact patterns of human behavior. I have a huge admiration for the scientific community.

7. Where do you find support and inspiration? How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?

My support and inspiration come from my husband, daughters, parents and sisters. I do not work to expand my contacts. I simply treat people with great respect and admiration and commit to being in the moment when I am with them and we tend to stay connected.

8. What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?

The most important characteristics of a good leader are having a vision, leading by example, servant leadership, humility, kindness, being team-oriented, strong communication and vulnerability.

9. What would you do differently in your career if you had a do-over?

Nothing. Every moment provides learning and opportunities.

10. What would be the title of your autobiography?

A Banana Walked Through a Field of Potatoes …

We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire.

Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.

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