Jennifer Willey: Beyond the Grant Member Spotlight
By Janet Mazur Cavano
You’ve been a member of Impact 100 since 2018 – what inspired you to join?
The idea of bringing women together for good, so we can not only support and empower each other and build connection, but to do that with the interest of helping to achieve change in our community – it’s the perfect combination of ways that I want to spend my time!
How did you hear of us?
Through my husband, who learned of it through Heather’s husband (Heather Burke, Impact 100 vice president and co-founder). Much of what I do focuses on women’s advancement and empowerment and as soon as I learned about what Impact does, I thought, this is totally my jam!
You are the founder and CEO of Wet Cement – tell us about your company.
We help to unlock fearlessness to accelerate inclusivity and growth. We do a combination of services from keynote speaking to coaching and consulting, all based around work I started doing in my spare time, when I was an advertising and technology executive. I realized how important it was to empower and connect women.
We’ve been fortunate enough to work with Fortune 500 companies – I’ve been a keynote speaker for International Women’s Day at iCMS; I’ve done trainings and workshops for Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk, Salix. It’s about advancing women in those organizations, from senior executives down to entry level associates. Our approach is based on a combination of landscape analysis, peer reviewed information and research we did with fearlessness.
So, what holds back U.S. professional women?
We have less confidence in our abilities in the workplace. Yes, outside of work we are more confident in our skills and abilities. Yet at work we don’t advocate; we are less likely to share our most innovative and creative ideas. We are less likely to ask for a raise or promotion and less likely to have a mentor, one of THE most important things that will drive your career.
Do you work with women on an individual basis?
I don’t work 1:1 but we do have a program, Career EXCL, an online women’s leadership with remote, self-paced learning videos with activities and challenges to help women move their mission forward.
What drove you to create your company?
Looking back, I had a lot of external variables that made me feel “less than.” For example, as a fitness instructor, having to parade around in front of my bosses in workout clothes — to being in male-dominated environments and feeling completely out of place. That, combined with my own imposter syndrome, held me back from thinking about the leader that I was.
So, back to Impact 100. Tell us about your favorite memory or success story.
I helped as part of the Enrichment Committee to get New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver to speak about making an impact in the community. Getting to interview her for that experience really showcased how diverse we can and should be to make an impact. It was a very memorable night for me.
Also, we couldn’t have the Summer Soiree this year, so, in an effort to keep the event close as possible to normal, I hosted a virtual workshop for the women of Impact. The goal was to help us to connect and emotionally deal with the pandemic. We focused on defining our sense of purpose in line with the Japanese concept of Ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy), meaning, “a reason for being.” We provided women with something to focus on and allowed then to authentically build some relationships, talking about those four different dimensions.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a member?
It’s an opportunity for women to leverage the skills that they feel they’re not using all the time and put them to use for good. Women in Impact are in different phases of their lives – they may have “off-ramped,” from a career, or they may be at a later stage in life, “down-ramping” and starting to think about retirement and “how will I use those skills and strengths?” With all the different committees at Impact, women have the opportunity to leverage those skills or build new ones.
It’s a mission-driven organization where everyone can find a sense of purpose.
What advice would you offer to a woman considering joining the 2021 cohort?
It’s as simple as this – if you love being surrounded by amazing women, you’ll find your crew. If you want to make a difference in the world, this is the best place to do it, You can be as committed or as involved as you choose to be.
What keeps you sane and balanced in these pandemic times and otherwise?
Zumba! Love me some Zumba! I’ve been doing it outdoors in parking lots these last six months. My husband and sons also keep me busy playing football and wrestling – there’s a lot of activities here.
What’s the most recent book you read?
“The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women; why capable people suffer from imposter syndrome and how to thrive in spite of it,” by Valerie Young. It will change your perspective of who you are.
How about the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
This too shall pass.
Jennifer lives in Old Bridge, N.J. with her husband two sons.