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Ethics and Compliance Initiative: International Women’s Day



International Women’s Day gives us the chance to reflect on the progress women have made in social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It is a call to action and celebration of the extraordinary roles we play every day in every walk of life.

In my career, I have had the privilege of working with some incredible women in ethics, compliance, and risk, many of whom we’ve interviewed as part of our Six Questions with an Ethics and Compliance Officer series. I am moved by the tirelessness and perseverance in the defense of what is right and wrong they’ve shared with us. In honor of this day, we wanted to take a moment to re-share these stories, in their own voices.

Each one of the women below are leaders making an impact in our industry and in their organizations, inspiring the next generation of ethics and compliance professionals. They are champions for integrity and embed ethical decision making in everything they do.

What did you want to be growing up?

“I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, my undergraduate degree is in early childhood and elementary education. I never used my teaching certification, but it certainly gave me the grounding that I use every day now. I eventually went on to get a Ph.D. in the philosophy of education, focusing on ethics.” – Patricia Harned, Chief Executive Officer of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative

“When I was young, I wanted to be a dentist until I found out that spatial reasoning is not my strongest skill. Fortunately, I realized that in high school. In college, my business interests led me to a degree in Economics, which I then combined with my legal interests to pursue an in-house counsel career path.” – Kim Yapchai, Chief Compliance Officer at Whirlpool Corporation

What are some of the most rewarding parts of your job?

“At its core, the most rewarding part of my job is knowing I’m doing something for the greater good. Helping my peers create the best outcomes for all of our stakeholders is something I can be proud of when I lay my head down at night. On a more practical level, I’m blessed to work with a really fantastic team and manager, and they make the work enjoyable day-to-day.” – Samantha Kelen, Lead Ethics Analyst at Duke Energy

“My favorite parts of my work, both former and current, are when I am able to help solve problems and when I am able to show people new ways of thinking about things: I love diagnosing problems, coming up with solutions, and getting people to the ‘Aha!’ moments.” – Hui Chen, Ethics and Compliance Activist and Speaker

“One of the most rewarding parts of being in-house is the exposure to how a business operates; everything from finance to sales to manufacturing, R&D, and human resources. The best compliance professionals make it a priority to really understand how their company functions internally, and in the market, so that they can design internal controls that actually make sense from a practical point of view and are an asset to the business.” – Ling-Ling Nie, Chief Compliance Officer at Panasonic Corporation

What are some of the most challenging parts of your job?

“At times, it has been challenging to convince others that compliance is your friend, not the enemy.” – Joanna Lessman, Deputy Ethics and Compliance Officer at Noblis

“One of the challenges we face is how to leverage data analytics to make us smarter, more effective, and more efficient. As a global company, we have a rich data set that documents our business activities; however, given our matrix organization and geographic spread, accessing and assembling the right data is no easy feat. Likewise, finding the most informative data cuts and correlations to help direct our work in ethics and compliance takes a combination of both art and science. We are working hard in this space, but we are just beginning our journey.” – Melissa Stapleton Barnes, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at Eli Lilly and Company

“I think one of the biggest challenges for compliance professionals today is finding creative ways to avoid ‘compliance fatigue’ – we have to be relentless and tireless in acting as ‘evangelists’ for our Codes, and for ethics and compliance. Also, in a very practical sense, facing the physical challenges of a global role that can call for extensive travel, late night calls, and presentations where you are constantly delivering at a very high level of intensity.” – AP Capaldo, Ethics and Compliance Officer at Tech Data

What are some important traits a Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer should possess?

“If you believe, like I do, that most people want to do the right thing and are truly trying to do the best job possible, you must have empathy. It’s important so that you can understand their point of view and where they are coming from.” – Ellen Hunt, Ethics and Compliance Officer at AARP

“They must have tremendous perseverance. Ours is not an easy profession, and having the ability to press on in difficult times is paramount.” – Patricia Harned, Chief Executive Officer of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative

If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do?

 “As one of my favorite quotes reads, ‘Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.’ I suggest learning about the current company program, reading up on hot topics in the field, and engaging with the compliance officer and other senior leaders who are in ‘in charge’ of the program and offer ideas, suggestions, or just volunteer to help.” – Virginia MacSuibhne, Chief Compliance Officer at Roche Molecular Solutions

“Compliance officers are always looking for organizational compliance champions. Certainly, someone interested in getting more involved should reach out to their compliance officer.” – Kelly Dziedzic, Director of E&C Client Services at SAI Global

What advice would you give to someone who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

“Start by learning as much as possible through resources such as the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, Ethics and Compliance Institute, and OCEG. Connect with E&C professionals to learn about the career and its realities. And if they’re still interested, speak with someone in an ethics and compliance role at their current companies to see about opportunities to transition.” – Caveni Wong, Founder of Principle Compliance

To read our interviews in full with the inspirational women shaping the future of ethics and compliance, click on any of the links below:

  1. Melissa Stapleton Barnes, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Eli Lilly
  2. Ellen Hunt, Chief Compliance Officer at AARP
  3. Virginia MacSuibhne, Chief Compliance Officer at Roche Molecular Solutions
  4. Ling-Ling Nie, Chief Compliance Officer at Panasonic