Thank you so much for visiting us at Ask Ajna! I can’t tell you how excited I am to share my stories, my passion and my journey with you through my Ask Ajna blog.
I’ll start this journey by introducing myself. I’m Jae Lynn Rangel – a single mother, veteran HR executive and passionate advocate for the advancement and equality of women in the workplace. I’m open-minded, value the contributions of others and have been an agent of change throughout my career. If you ask anyone that I’ve worked with, the key characteristic most will describe me as having is ‘managerial courage.’ I’m outspoken and not afraid of conflict which means I often say what others won’t and call it like I see it. In a performance review once, my male boss told me that these were my biggest strengths, but also my greatest weaknesses. I listened, thanked him and walked away wondering if he would have called these characteristics weaknesses if I was a man – I doubt it. These attributes have served me well through the years, but I wasn’t quite so courageous when I began my career.
I started working at 15 and haven’t stopped since. I often say I’ve had many careers. I started in retail with hopes of being a clothing buyer, ended up in general management; had a short-lived career in financial services; then finally found my niche in human resources. I had never thought about or really questioned gender disparity in the workplace until I went to graduate school and became a financial planner. In both circumstances, I often found myself the only woman in the room (this was back in the late ’80’s before it was common for women to get an MBA.)
I distinctly remember sitting in class one day, surrounded by men (all of them older than me) discussing a case study of a Fortune 500 Company. Up until this point, I was quite honestly intimidated by these men. I felt inferior to them, thought they were smarter than me and very seldom spoke up in class. But, as I sat there that day, listening to these men espouse their theories (most of them wrong and not very insightful), I realized I knew the answers and that these men weren’t any smarter or better than me at all. It was at that moment I truly found my voice and haven’t been afraid to use it since.
I’ve used my voice when faced with bad bosses, back-stabbing co-workers, demanding clients, and intimidating boards of directors. I used my voice to work my way up from a recruiter to being SVP of HR for a multi-billion dollar corporation. I’ve had the great privilege to work with and learn from many great women and I’ve benefited from a few great men who advocated for me along the way, but I credit my success to finding my true voice in that graduate class.
Girls in our society are brought up to be nice, to get along, play fair and make sure everyone gets a turn, to not complain or speak out. But, these aren’t typically the attributes sought after and rewarded in corporate America. As a result, many women struggle at work to get the pay, recognition and opportunities they deserve.
Marian and I founded Ajna Inc. to change the game for professional women. Our mission is to help you find and strengthen your voice in the workplace. I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing in your journey. Together, I truly believe we can break down the barriers to pay and opportunity for all women.
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