Sharen Jester Turney may have her native roots planted deeply in Oklahoma soil, but since her childhood as a farm girl just outside Ardmore, the CEO of Victoria's Secret of Limited Brands Inc. has become one of the highest paid, most respected female executives in the world.
On Wednesday, Turney, 56, will share her philosophies on philanthropy and business in a luncheon address at a “Giving with Style” symposium hosted by the Women's Philanthropy Network at the University of Oklahoma. Turney holds a bachelor of arts degree in business education from OU. The one-day symposium will explore trends in charitable giving and philanthropic efforts by women.
Business owners should consider not just their own bottom lines, Turney said, but should also find ways to improve their communities. That may seem easily said from a woman who reportedly makes about $9.5 million a year. But she practices what she preaches and has practical advice for managing a hectic career, charitable work and family.
“How do you give back? Giving back is not just money. It's time, it's energy, it's giving a helping hand,” Turney said. “In business strategy, at Victoria's Secret, obviously our business strategy is to make a profit. But I think our higher purpose is to really affect life around us and to make women feel good about themselves.”
For Turney, giving back personally and through the businesses she runs is a way of life. Victoria's Secret of Limited Brands Inc. donates millions of dollars and more than 25,000 volunteer hours each year, she said.
“I think for everyone, being able to do that just makes you feel good,” she said. “And when you work with a company that has very high values, and is living those values, you also have more engaged employees and more engaged customers.”
Women and giving
Women, it seems, are more willing to open their wallets than men when it comes to charitable giving. According to research by the Women's Philanthropy Network at OU, in some demographics, women give twice as much as men with equal incomes.
“Women's economic power has been steadily increasing,” said Cassie Gilman, executive director of the Women's Philanthropy Network, in a news release. “They are now leveraging that power to make changes in the nonprofit sector.”
Getting started in charitable giving will be a topic covered at the OU symposium. Turney said to start by thinking hard about what causes you feel the most passionate about. For her, those causes are the needs of children and the eradication of cancer (she lost both parents to cancer).
“What do you believe in? Where can you make a difference or where do you really want to make a difference?” she said. “Then you need to funnel your energy and your time and your giving to those things that you are passionate about.”
When she was a young girl growing up on a farm with a rancher/auctioneer father and a mother who taught nutrition, Turney's life consisted of school and doing chores around the farm along with her five brothers and sisters, such as herding cattle and changing irrigation pipes. She figured, like her mother, she'd become a teacher.
“It was really a great experience for me,” she said, admitting that sometimes, she misses that simple farm life. “As I left Oklahoma and moved around, I haven't lost that sense of that small-town community.”
How do you give back? Giving back is not just money. It's time, it's energy, it's giving a helping hand.”
Sharen Jester Turney,
Ardmore native and CEO of Victoria's Secret