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Women in Business Q&A: Star Jones, President, Professional Diversity Network

Star Jones is President of Professional Diversity Network. A former Senior District Attorney for the City of New York, she previously served as an NBC News Legal Correspondent and Analyst over the last two decades. From 1997 to 2006, she was co-host of ABC's hit daytime show The View.
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Star Jones is President of Professional Diversity Network, a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: IPDN). As President, Ms. Jones leads a nationwide team dedicated to supporting and advocating for PDN's over 3-million-member network of diverse job seekers along with providing expanded career opportunities for the more than 600,000 diverse professional women members in the over 200 Chapters of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW).

Ms. Jones is responsible for the overall development, expansion, integration and implementation of Professional Diversity Network (PDN) development and programming strategy. By utilizing the collective strength of the PDN affiliate companies, members, partners, technology and unique proprietary platform, Ms. Jones and the PDN team set the standard in business diversity recruiting, networking and professional development for women, minorities, veterans, LGBT and disabled persons globally. In addition, she serves as PDN's "brand ambassador" conveying the organization's message, brand and image worldwide.

Ms. Jones, a former Senior District Attorney for the City of New York, previously served as an NBC News Legal Correspondent and Analyst over the last two decades. From 1997-2006, she was co-host of ABC's hit daytime show The View. For her work in television, Ms. Jones has received nine Emmy nominations.

Also an accomplished author, Ms. Jones has written two best-selling, non-fiction books: You Have to Stand for Something, or You'll Fall for Anything (Bantam) and Shine: A Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Journey to Finding Love (Harper Collins). Her third book, Satan's Sisters, was published in 2011 (Gallery) and is being developed into a network television movie and series.

Since 2011, Ms. Jones has been the face of the American Heart Association's (AHA) National Go Red campaign as a National Volunteer. She has lobbied Congress on behalf of AHA and was asked by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to speak on heart health at the National Day of Service during President Barack Obama's 2013 Inauguration.

Ms. Jones frequently lectures on a variety of topics, including law, politics, race, gender equality, networking, women's empowerment, pop culture, fitness and heart health.

How has your life experience and career made you the leader you are today?
I am guided each and every day by the principle that you are not allowed to step on people to reach your goals, but if they are impeding your success, you are absolutely allowed to walk around them. You truly have to know what you want and go get it, both in life and in work. I like to call that owning and recognizing your own power. In addition, I have learned the importance of compromise. Too often people get bogged down fighting over the details and forget how everything, including one's attitude, fits into the bigger picture. It is absolutely possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at PDN?
My guiding force in every job I have held has been the desire to bring a voice to people who may not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. I did that as a New York City prosecutor, as a talk show host and legal analyst, as President of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), and now I do it as the President of Professional Diversity Network (PDN). The diverse perspectives and experiences of every American bring so much value to the business world. For that reason, it is my mission to ensure employers leverage the power of this diversity as a competitive business advantage. It is not just the right thing to do--it is the smart thing to do.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PDN?
Since the merger between PDN and NAPW officially closed this year, I have been laser-focused on implementing our integration strategy and growing our roster of national employer clients. PDN's number one priority is helping all of our members--African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Veterans, the Disabled, the LGBT community and Women--find meaningful work that allows every individual to provide for their families. Between our online communities, career fairs and technology solutions, and networking events, we are putting Americans back to work and providing opportunities for business success.

What advice can you offer women who are looking for a career in the media and/or business?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is to be patient and be persistent. I have heard "no" several times in my career, and it hurt each time, but I never gave up and that was the key. Every time, I would regroup, think about what I could to do be ready for the next opportunity, and push forward. I am a big believer that when preparation meets opportunity, nothing is out of reach. Second, women need to help women. I mean it. Whenever you have the opportunity to mentor someone, recommend someone for a job opening, make an introduction or even act as a sounding board over a quick coffee, do it! Women have made a lot of progress in the workplace but if we are ever going to get to a point where women make equal money and are afforded equal opportunity, women have to help women.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I do not think there is such a thing as work/life balance but I have developed a strategy that works for me: loving the work I do. I am a firm believer that helping women and other diverse individuals find their own success through jobs that pay well and work that they are passionate about, is my purpose in my life. Since I am so invested in this work, it stings just a little bit less when the work/life lines blur and I have to miss a family event for a work event, or I have to wake up well before the sun rises and get into the office. Being physically and emotionally healthy and loving what I do have made all the difference and that gives me balance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Plain and simple, women need equal pay for equal work. An American woman still makes about 78 cents to an American man's dollar. That right there is unacceptable. And more than that, equal pay is not just a woman's issue, it is a family issue. Today more than ever, women are leading their households. They are paying the bills, buying the groceries and taking care of every little thing that makes a house a home, but that work is made infinitely harder because they are making less than their male counterparts. I truly believe that when a woman finds success, those around her succeed, and don't we all want our families to succeed?

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My mentors have made all the difference in the world, and I have been fortunate to have two first-rate, top-of-their-field mentors. The first was the late Johnnie Cochran. He instilled in me the importance of the law and the necessity of it. Every day, and in so many ways, the sense of justice and fairness that the law is meant to provide shapes our lives. The law is in the DNA of our society and in my DNA as well. My second mentor is the incredible Barbara Walters. A true pioneer in broadcast journalism, I learned more from her in a decade than from anyone in my own family. So much of what I have learned both in front of and behind the camera I gleaned from working with her. In addition, these two incredible individuals showed me that the mentor-mentee relationship is a reciprocal experience, meaning you get what you give. For instance, my relationship with ballerina Misty Copeland is as much about my mentoring her as it is about learning from her as a young, pioneering artist.

Which other women leaders do you admire and why?
First and foremost, the leading lady of my family--my grandmother! She is 96 years young and the true definition of a lady. I also greatly admire the leadership of my mother who filled me with just the right amount of attitude to ensure I always stood up for myself and never let anyone take advantage of me. Beyond family, I admire Donna Brazile who is a longtime friend and colleague, and who also happens to be one of PDN's newest Board members. Her fortitude and resilience are unflappable. I also hold Barbara Jordan in the high esteem. It was Barbara who as a young African-American woman legislator inspired me to attend law school in Texas. Finally, I have the deepest respect and admiration for former First Lady and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her intelligence and uncanny ability to find common ground is a skill I try to mirror on a daily basis.

What do you want PDN to accomplish in the next year?
I intend for PDN to be the thought and action leader when it comes to supporting and advocating for our more than 3-million women and diverse American members. Using our online and in-person professional networking communities, I want our members and prospective members to have, at their fingertips, everything they need to advance their career, make a change in their career or start their career. I am going to utilize the collective strength of our companies, members, partners, technology and platform to really set the standards of business diversity with recruiting, networking and professional development for all of my affiliate groups; and that's a pretty big responsibility because we represent women, minorities, veterans, LGBT and disabled people globally. You know, 3-million-plus people are already a part of our network so the responsibility is to help American businesses bring in diverse talent that is skilled, ready and prepared for the opportunity to actually participate in American businesses.

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