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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 Questions with Cecilia Carter

Tuesday, November 1, 2011  
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Vice President
Global Diversity, Community and Civic Affairs

"Having mentors of both genders is important for a well-rounded perspective."

Cecilia Carter is responsible for the strategy and management of Starbuck’s diversity, community and government affairs and philanthropy functions. She also serves as general manager of the Starbucks Foundation. Previously, Carter was head of community affairs at UBS, one of the world's leading wealth management firms. She served as director of public relations at Burson-Marsteller and has also held communications and marketing roles at General Electric, Saatchi & Saatchi and American Express. Carter is active in community affairs, including the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, the Urban League and the University of New Haven. She holds a master of management degree from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a doctorate in human letters from the University of New Haven.

Why is being a diverse company to work for and do business with a business imperative for Starbucks?

Starbucks has taken an innovate approach to building a diverse culture and brand by integrating the diversity, community and government affairs functions. This allows us to move from compliance-focused, traditional diversity strategies and programs to creating a sustainable path to be a global employer of choice. We operate in more than 50 countries around the world with 126,000 employees, whom we call partners, and 17,000 stores. The ability to operate across the globe in these diverse communities requires an understanding of markets, cultures and local community needs. Creating a culture of social relevance and a workforce that reflects the communities where we do business are key goals.

How has Starbucks worked to make itself an employer of choice for women?

The career opportunities and programs we have in place for all of our partners provide a strong foundation for skill development and flexibility. We understand the needs of our partners and develop benefits to meet these needs. We offer flexible work hours; tuition reimbursement; Bean Stock, a way for partners to share in the financial success of the company; and health benefits for part-time employees. When combined with the retail skills obtained from our barista training program or managerial skills from working in our stores, working for Starbucks is an extremely attractive opportunity for career-focused women of all backgrounds. However, it is the Starbucks culture that differentiates us as an employer of choice. I have one of the best jobs in the world! I have launched three new community programs, led the integration of a new department and learned to whip up a pretty good latte all in one year. It is a fast-paced, highly creative environment where partners truly care about each other. We treat each other with respect and we are true to our mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.

What are some of the biggest opportunities you see at Starbucks for greater advancements toward being an employer of choice for women?

Starbucks continues to focus on partner and community needs. It is embedded in our global growth agenda, which focuses on building the business by increasing our channels to market, digital outreach and global expansion. Annie Young-Scrivner, chief marketing officer and president of Tazo, and Michelle Gass, president of Starbucks Coffee EMEA, two of our most senior women, are leaders in the development and execution of our growth plans. Working jointly with Howard Schultz, our CEO, they help expand and build awareness both internally and externally of Starbucks as a diverse company for women to enjoy a career and experience leadership opportunities. Support at this level is one of the many reasons I believe we will continue to see a demand for Starbucks employment.

How effective has networking been to you as a career-advancement tool?

You often hear people say it is not what you know, but who you know. There is definitely a lot of truth in that. Networking is a critical tool for succeeding in today’s competitive environment. It is a skill that should be honed over time. It has been extremely important in building my career. But more importantly, the time to craft your networking skills is not when you are seeking a new job or career change. You should begin building your "network” resume with the colleagues and people you interact with every day. Get to know people through activities and organizations that you are passionate about so that they can learn about your style and effectiveness. For networking to be a good career-advancement tool, it must always be combined with the ability to deliver on your goals.

Who have been some of your own mentors and role models as you've built your career?

I have had several mentors throughout my life, both personal and professional. I make the distinction because some of the best mentors have been my closest friends. They are the people able to deliver a tough message when you need one. When I graduated from Kellogg School of Management, one of the first women to mentor me was Lenora Cartright, who was Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne’s commissioner of human services. She taught me the importance of serving on boards, engaging in the community and understanding my role relative to helping others. I have never forgotten these lessons. Having mentors of both genders is important for a well-rounded perspective. Today I am fortunate to have mentors such as Ann Fudge, retired CEO of Young & Rubicam, and Terry Stewart, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I met them through my positions at work and in the community and developed these relationships over several years. I enjoy not only the mentoring aspects, but the sharing of friendship and support.

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