Quitting a well-paying job on Wall Street is not a traditional path to success, but that’s exactly what Kim Keating did. “While money is important, it doesn’t guarantee happiness,” she says. The founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, a human resources consulting firm, decided her passion to help others was worth following. Although she admits she was terrified of taking the risk, she now notes that “fear is normal, even expected, when you push yourself.”
Keating, 45, also serves as a board member for Lean In, an organization that focuses on supporting women. The company’s recent Ban Bossy campaign sought to rid use of the word bossy to describe girls. As a mother of twin pre-teen daughters, Keating insists, “Words matter; we must take responsibility for them.”
JET: What is your response to the backlash that the Ban Bossy campaign has received from Black women?
Kim Keating: I think it has a lot to do with feeling like the message isn’t applicable to them because they are not as wealthy as Sheryl Sandberg [Lean In’s COO] or haven’t had the same opportunities and therefore believe the message doesn’t apply.
What I have seen the most is that people are taking the idea of banning bossy literally and the focus is on should you or should you not ban a word and how unfeasible it is to really ban a word. That’s really missing the much broader point of the campaign, which is to gain awareness of a word that has been used to describe girls in a negative way.
JET: So how can Black women combat stereotypes they feel are targeted toward them?
KK: I think what we have to do is what people have to do whenever they need to overcome any type of bias, whether it is a gender stereotype or racial stereotype. You have to be aware of it and take steps to counteract it while still acknowledging it. For example, with negotiation, it is important to be assertive, but know that it can sometimes be perceived negatively and have an adverse impact. I have a lot of tools and tips in my chapter of Lean In: For Graduates [out now] that tell you how to do that.
JET: How can women find professional fulfillment in their careers?
KK: Choose a field or job because you love it, then work to be paid equitably. The average full-time employee spends 65-75 percent of a year working; that’s far too much time to be doing something you don’t like. So follow your heart. I am a firm believer that if you go after your passion, the money will come. I urge women to negotiate for raises and get paid what they are truly worth.
JET: Any advice to help women determine if working independently is right for them?
KK: Self-employment can be hugely rewarding, but not everyone is cut out for it. Before you quit your job, assess whether you have the temperament, discipline and financial wherewithal to be your own boss.
JET: Do you have any tips to help women find their passion?
KK: Quieting the mind is a great way to “hear” your calling. If you cultivate a practice of listening to your own inner voice, you will choose a life path that is authentic to your true purpose. Also, don’t let fear stand in your way. I was terrified to start Keating Advisors but I persevered in spite of the fear. Lastly, never give up.
To read more about Keating and Ban Bossy, pick up the May 12 issue of JET. ON STANDS NOW.