Anna Sedgley, CFO of Dow Jones
Anna Sedgley serves as the Chief Financial Officer at Dow Jones & Company, Inc., a position that she has held since 2012. As CFO, Ms. Sedgley is responsible for preparing and reporting the company's financial performance, managing treasury, and taxation matters. Additionally, she provides the company with strategic guidance, forecasts and analytical insight to support business performance.
This morning, as Ms. Sedgley took the stage, she flashed a warm smile at the attendees and at her husband and eleven year-old son who sat among them.
She begins by talking about her role within the Wall Street Journal and the challenges that come with managing the finances for a major newspaper. She is keenly aware of how much money the WSJ is making and how their budget is being spent. She is constantly mindful of the global advertising market and even diverges momentarily to describe how the luxury market in China is currently affecting the newspaper's cash flow. She knows how many tons of paper are used to publish the paper on any given day as well as how much a full page ad on the Wall Street Journal app is worth.
As a seasoned finance professional, she says that one of her biggest points of pride in her career is being able to be involved in all the areas of the industry. As CFO, she states that her primary role is to be as effective in spending as possible. “A number is a number wherever you go,” she promises, encouraging everyone in the room to take advantage of the global aspect of finance as a career path. “It is much more than being a bean counter,” she promises.
Ms. Sedgley then stops to tell us a little bit about herself. She mentions how she grew up in South Australia and pauses momentarily to say “g’day” to a fellow Australian attendee in the audience. She goes on to say how growing up in a small town, her biggest horizon was get to Adelaide University. She studied finance and law over the course of five years and was so ready to get out of college that she booked a plane within 48 hours of her last exam.
After college, she traveled through Southeast Asia and made her way through Europe until finally landing in London. She says that when she stood in London she felt she was in a city where she could do anything. So, she resolved that she would do everything she could to do to stay there. Shortly after, she joined PWC, a global accounting firm. After a short three year stay, feeling that she had by that point taken full advantage of the firm’s resources, mentorship, and training, she moved into retail.
She met her husband while in London and together they decided to move to America to support his career aspirations. She admits that she loved her job in London but realized that it was a time in her and her husband’s careers where they could make the move together. Sedgley cautions that a two-career family is a challenge in supporting each others ambitions, but that with dedication it can work.
Segueing into the topic of women in business, she talks about a study the Wall Street Journal conducted about a month ago called Women in the Workplace. Studies compiled showed that women are underrepresented at every level of business. The results should not come as a surprise to anyone, but what the study is able to do if provide accurate numbers about just how broad this disparity is. The study showed that the drop off in senior ranks among women is not due to attrition, which was one of the findings she found most fascinating.
Sedgley mentions how a phenomenon of “shift in roles” in the workforce channels women into staff roles while men go on to get line-management promotions at the beginning of their careers. She also talks about “thinning ambition” as a reason that women do not reach for top executive positions.
As a follow-up she talks about how things with hard PNL responsibility are important in the initial stages of your career to show that you can deliver. The reality is that companies are run for profit and you will be judged by whether you can earn that profit. Operational experience is stepping into a job where you’re leading. She advises to take a job that’s tough, where you can point to the benefits of what you’ve done. Don’t take a job where you can hide. It is also important to realize that you’re in this marathon for the long run. Pick something that you like and that you want to stick with for a while.
On everyone’s first day of work, a gun is going off, marking the start of a race to the top. The marathon begins. For the first six months, the company you decide to work for is training you and making sure you are well equipped to handle your new role. The next twelve months, you are dedicated to giving back to the company that has made an investment in you. Then afterwards, you’re looking up, looking to see how you can rise throughout the organization and what it is that sets people in the next level apart from you. Sedgley advises women to behave as if you’ve already been promoted. Afterwards, the promotion will follow. Reset and repeat, all the way to the top.
She encourages us to keep climbing up the ladder, regardless of how others around you might be faring. Some will stop climbing, others will plateau. Through it all, keep striving, keep climbing. And along the way, make sure that you start identifying individuals who are climbing alongside you. Network with the people that are working up together with you, you will all become the future leaders together.
People make a lot of short term decisions, especially when it comes to salary. She cautions women not be blindsided by initial salary numbers, to never make a decision in the early first years of their career in terms of money. Take the challenge and opportunity to grow and advance in those first years. Make a decision based on opportunity.
Never stop climbing the mountain. Keep going until you find the position that is hard enough for you. Never signal that you’ve had enough, because the moment you do is when people will stop offering. Be the most confident person all day, every day. Don’t be afraid to show emotion, but never reveal weakness. If you keep believing in yourself you’ll go further than you believe you can.
Talking about the complexities of home-work balance, she doesn’t bother sugarcoating anything. She admits that it’s not easy. But she also emphasizes that stress fills your day regardless of your profession, whether it be that you’re a CFO or a college freshman. You will be just as stressed in a top job as you will be in a dead-end job. It’s just a different kind of stress. And you shouldn’t be scared of something just because you think it’s going to be stressful.
Her final word of advice to everybody looking up to her from the audience is to just keep going. She encourages us to show confidence and to have faith in ourselves. Women manage their ambition because they want to do everything right. And yes, balance is tough but it’s not impossible. Don’t rule yourself out, Ms. Sedgley pleads. Sedgley confidently states that she picks up her son from more soccer matches than other non-working moms, even if that means that she won’t get to browse around at department stores as much. She says the sacrifice is worth it because it’s a balance that works for her. She encourages the women in the room to strive in their careers and to find their own balance on their own mountain. In the audience, students smile up at her, and her son blushes and smiles up at his unconventional soccer mom.