Daring Women: Pushpay’s Clare Gould Values Empathy and Transparency in Leadership

Marketing executive also advises that ‘we all need to take our careers into our own hands’
  • Seattle Business magazine's Daring Woman of the week is Pushpay's Clare Gould

Over the course of her career, Clare Gould, director of product marketing at Redmond-based Pushpay, has developed expertise in building brands for technology companies.

At Pushpay, she oversees both product and customer marketing teams and is focused on executing the company’s marketing strategy. The software-as-a-service company provides nonprofits and church groups with donation, engagement and management solutions through its cloud-based mobile platform.

Gould previously served as senior manager of product marketing at Seattle-based Socrata, a data-service platform serving the public sector. As part of the latest Daring Woman interview, Gould shares some insights about the barriers faced by women striving to achieve leadership roles and ways to overcome them, her views on mentors and networking, and she also shares some advice for the upcoming generation of female leaders.

What are the most important characteristics of a good leader and what leadership traits are overrated?

Two big things that I think are necessary to even step into a leadership role are empathy and transparency. As a leader, empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really feel what they’re feeling ― or at least try to understand where they’re coming from. This is needed both professionally and personally. As my team continues to grow in head count, I’ve realized that I have to negotiate a lot of different scenarios. What’s going on at home? How does this person like to receive feedback? Are there internal team dynamics that are impacting work? Being a good leader is not only recognizing those factors and approaching them with empathy but doing something about them to help your team.

Secondly, transparency is key to being a successful leader. It’s my job to make sure my team understands the why. What are the motivations behind company decisions? People are more likely to jump on board and contribute if they understand the meaning behind decisions. Buy-in is key, and the key to buy-in is transparency. 

Overrated leadership trait? Positivity. I think there should be room in every leader’s toolbelt for some healthy skepticism. Skepticism breeds innovation. The notion that what exists today isn’t enough, isn’t the best, isn’t all that we could be doing leads to creativity and big thinking. There is a natural difference between being positive and being optimistic. I tend to embrace optimism, with a side of skepticism to keep our team grounded.

As a woman, what is the most significant barrier to becoming a leader?

Simply stated, ourselves. I read an article recently in Harvard Business Review that shared data on common barriers for females in the workplace ― more specifically, looking at the underrepresentation of women in upper management. And do you know what differences they found in workplace behavior between men and women? Absolutely none. Depressing, I know. As women, we are fighting a barrier of unconscious bias. How do you even fight against that? Something so big, daunting and virtually uncontrollable ― the unconscious.

Overwhelmingly, women that I talk with have experienced some form of impostor syndrome. And in numbers that I don’t hear coming from the mouths of male friends and coworkers. The unfortunate barrier for a lot of women is our ability to believe in ourselves, to know we will be a good leader, that we have earned it and ultimately deserve it.

How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?

There are three main things I would recommend:

Figure out the process. Although an unfortunate reality, we all need to take our careers into our own hands. A part of that is finding out the process within your organization to be seen, heard and ultimately promoted. From that, make goals to help you move toward whatever your desired role is.

Find a sponsor ― of any gender. Someone who knows your achievements and can help mentor you through the process, as well as give you a helping hand up the ladder.

Ask for it. Think you’ve earned a promotion? Or want to switch roles and know you’d be an asset to a new team? Ask for it. I keep a log throughout the year of things I’ve accomplished or successes along the way. It’s not only come in handy during review cycles, but it’s a constant reminder of the ways I’m adding value to the organization. Better yet, it might just be what encourages me to take a leap and ask for the next thing.

What key lessons did you learn from a woman who has inspired, mentored or sponsored you?

I’ve learned to not accept the unacceptable. Oftentimes women simply take whatever they’re given in the workplace ― whatever job, whatever wage, whatever tasks. A mentor of mine was in a position several years ago where she was ousted to make way for a male leader who wanted her role. As a result, the company offered her a much lower-impact position. She declined and ultimately decided to leave the company. It was a bold move and showed her character. And, in fact, she’s now the CEO of a company in Portland. Today, I think twice before merely accepting what I’m handed. Fight for what you’re worth and don’t settle.

What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders?

Don’t stop. I hope that one day I’ll be able to see global equality across all races and genders. But most likely, the next generation of female leaders is going to have to pick up the baton, as we did from our sisters before us. And let me tell you, I’m tired. But you can take the tired, the anger, the frustration, and you turn that energy back on the problem. Keep pushing, keep demanding change, keep fighting.

At Pushpay, we started a group called WLEAD (Women’s Leadership Exploration and Development). It’s one way of investing in the women (and men) of our organization and helping give them a platform to connect, share and grow. Take part in leading the change.

How important is networking, and how do you expand your contacts?

As an introvert, it’s the thing I hate the most, but I know it’s incredibly important and leads to unexpected opportunities. In fact, a few months ago, a colleague phoned to ask if I wanted to speak at Google Cloud Next, one of the largest technology conferences in the world. Luckily, in today’s digital world, it’s easier to find and connect with groups that align with your interested, such as Together Digital. However, nothing beats building a strong body of work and making time for human connection. Connections you make in the workplace are valuable, but taking the time to nurture them, even after someone leaves the company, is critical.

What would you do differently in your career?

I wish I would have had a female mentor earlier on in my career. There’s something powerful about women supporting women in a time of political, corporate and global debate on the strength of women. There have been stints early in my career where I didn’t value my worth and voice. I would take back that time. I’ve had a journey to get to where I am today. From owning my own consulting business to pursuing the path to be a neurosurgeon, I think those moments and learnings have enabled me to lead a team and be successful in my current role.

Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon?

You can find me playing games with my family, reading a book, or driving up to Stevens Pass to go mountain biking on a sunny afternoon.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

“No, Really, I’m Fine”: Note, I am a mom, a cancer survivor, a daughter (youngest of nine kids), a fighter and a boss. No, really, I’m fine.

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. Feel inspired? Join us for our second Daring Women event on May 21, 2019.

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

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