My Woman Of HR

I first saw her confidently walking down the hallway.

Well-dressed. Big black hair. No eye contact. I wasn’t sure if she was Jewish or Italian. It didn’t matter.

She had an air about her. Confident? Standoff-ish? Shy? Bitchy? It didn’t matter.

I said “Hi.” No response. I would later learn that she knew who I was and claimed that she wasn’t impressed. It didn’t matter. 

We were married 18 months later and for the last 18 years, I have lived with a Woman of HR.

My wife, Lisa, is McDonald’s VP of Worldwide Compensation and Benefits. I think she is a hotshot and I’m proud of her success. Reaching the pinnacle of her profession was not easy and I thought her story might appeal to the Women of HR community.  

Beyond hard work, Lisa’s success (and yours) can be attributed to the following:

Having a Goal. Lisa’s goal was to run a Fortune 100 compensation department.  She honed her compensation knowledge as she assumed increasingly challenging opportunities at 3 major corporations, Ameritech (now AT&T), Kraft Foods and McDonald’s. She never went looking for her next opportunity.  Through industry relationships, she established a reputation where new challenges found her.

Knowing Her Stuff. Lisa developed a deep expertise in her area of compensation and benefits. Through research and study and outreach to industry experts and peers in other companies, she  develops and maintains a compelling insight into her subject matter. She uses this expertise and insight to push creative and innovative programs within her organizations and never settles for the status quo.

Taking No Shit. Lisa is tough. I’ve witnessed many men try to intimidate this petite female and, true to her Italian roots, she held her ground and her resolve. Buoyed by her knowledge and preparation, she was prepared to go toe to toe. Her aggressiveness was not emotional – it was steeped in fact.

Accepting Sacrifice: Lisa has ambitious young women on her team who want to “have it all.” She sympathizes but is candid in her advice. With three kids, we had our challenges. Whether by her female inclinations or my poor partnership, she assumed responsibility for worrying about and managing the kids’ day-to-day needs. We had physical help, but she carried the mental and emotional accountability and made personal sacrifices to progress.

Dressing for Success: Lisa believes in presenting a serious appearance if you want to be taken seriously.

And that’s how my gal got to be the Woman of HR that she is today.

Oh, one last thing, it doesn’t hurt having a supportive, loving and charming partner cheering you along –  even if he isn’t very impressive.

About the Author

Shaun Emerson

Shaun Emerson is a Partner at Tutto Persona. After 12 years with big companies, he has spent the last 11 years indulging his entrepreneurial spirit by starting two companies and running both a venture-backed and privately funded company. Shaun resides in Glen Ellyn, IL with his wife, a woman in HR, and his three kids. He blogs at Tutto Persona and you can connect with Shaun on Twitter as @shaunemerson and on LinkedIn.


Trish McFarlane

Shaun, I have to tell you that I always enjoy your posts. This one in particular appeals to me. Not only is it a great example of what a woman needs to think about in terms of a successful HR or business career. It also shows how men think of the impression we make in the workplace. I like the line ” She had an air about her. Confident? Standoff-ish? Shy? Bitchy? It didn’t matter.” That line is what I strive for at work. It does not really matter as long as I’m able to make a valuable business contribution, to move the mark toward the organization’s main goal.

Thank you for being a Woman of HR. I bet your wonderful wife never thought she’d be married to one too. 🙂

Debbie Brown

Great post Shaun- please tell Lisa to say hello to my cousin Alan T. he is a man of HR at McD’s.

Crystal Peterson

If I could “like” this, I would. Terrific story! Thanks for sharing.


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