Jocelyn Wooten Giangrande ’88 uses her corporate experience to help women build careers.
Jocelyn Wooten Giangrande ’88 uses her corporate experience to help women build careers.

What’s in your career sandwich?

Jocelyn Wooten Giangrande ’88 has built a business around helping women answer that question.

An ambitious employee with an undergraduate psychology degree from Colby and a master’s in human resources management from Marygrove College, Giangrande rose quickly through the Hilton Hotels Corp. ranks. Eventually, she became the executive director of human resources—a position that gave her a clear view of how women and men succeed or fail in their careers.

Giangrande observed how men and women spoke during presentations, how they negotiated salaries or jobs, how their body language exuded confidence or self-doubt. “I saw a lot of differences between men and women,” she said. “And I was always fascinated by that.”

Giangrande’s experiences in the corporate world—both personal challenges and obstacles she saw other women face—prompted her to start a business counseling women on how to succeed in the workplace.

In 2008 Giangrande launched Sisters Achieving Success Harmony Empowerment (SASHE), and she has since counseled hundreds of women across the country on how to fulfill their career goals.

She also is the author of What’s in Your Sandwich? 10 Sure-fire Ingredients for Career Success, published last fall. Much like a cookbook, it has Giangrande and other “chefs” (executive leaders) advise women on identifying key ingredients missing from their career goals and strategies.

Giangrande said she learned from experience that a strong work ethic, topped with lots of ambition and accolades, is not enough to succeed.

“My mother was a single parent and put herself through college and worked the whole time,” she said. “She pulled herself up by the bootstraps, and I was going to do the same. I prided myself on learning things on my own.”

But when her own career stalled, Giangrande realized the importance of mentors and sponsors. Now she believes one of the most important ingredients in a career sandwich is networking, which men are much more comfortable doing.

“Men and women manage their careers completely differently,” said Giangrande, who lives in Michigan with her husband and son. “Men have lots of sponsors. They build relationships and have a lot of support. They network, tap into those leads and contacts.”

But women, she explained, traditionally focus more on the quality of their work instead of seeking advice and guidance from an experienced supervisor or colleague.

“As women, we work really hard to meet our goals and objectives, and then we wonder, ‘Why don’t we get the recognition that we deserve?’ We tend to keep our noses to the grindstone. We don’t always build support and relationships, and at the end of the day that’s what matters.”

Women, Giangrande said, also typically have poor negotiating skills when it comes to asking for raises or getting paid appropriately.

“We second-guess our worth, and sometimes we don’t even know our worth,” she said. “So we feel uncomfortable with negotiations. A lot of women in the workplace tend to take the first or second offer and never really negotiate or research what the industry or organization pays.”

Businesses are also to blame for salary inequity, Giangrande said. Women, according to the federal Bureau of Labor and a Career Builder survey, make up 51 percent of management positions, but men are three times more likely to earn six figures and twice as likely to earn $50,000 or more.

The gender pay gap is unacceptable, Giangrande said. She coaches women on how to minimize the salary disparity and educates businesses on the benefits of hiring women in upper-management jobs and paying them fairly.

“Studies show that if you have an inclusive environment with all different types of styles and community, then you really leverage the full potential of the organization,” Giangrande said. “When organizations have women in leadership roles, it brings different perspectives and innovative solutions. And if you diversify your leadership, the company performs better financially.”

In between counseling women and corporations, Giangrande blogs about career tips on her website, Her posts range from “The Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss” to “Career Lessons You Can Learn from the Super Bowl.”

A career sandwich is never really complete, Giangrande advised. Ingredients may need to be added or improvised on an ongoing basis.

“After every speaking event, every workshop, I do a reflection and I focus on what I did well, what I’m proud of, and what I want to change,” Giangrande said. “Every experience is a learning experience. If you look at it that way, you don’t have to feel defeated when things don’t go well. It’s all part of being a success and being successful.”

—Barbara Walsh