October 1, 2018, was a historic day for Acxiom. We had come through a lengthy and emotional process of separating from our parent company and integrating into a much larger agency holding company. We felt many emotions … relief, excitement, sadness … but most of all we were energized at the thought of turning the page to a new chapter in our company’s history.
With this new chapter, little did we know the changes that were only just beginning – both top down and grassroots within the company. The changes included the way we collaborate, changes to the way we do business and changes to create an even more inclusive work environment. It’s the latter that I’m most proud of, because at Acxiom we believe having a company where all our associates feel included increases our collaboration and improves our business results.
In early 2019, a group of women who had never worked together before began having conversations. It started with one-on-one conversations, and it grew into full-fledged, heart-felt, deep conversations about ensuring our next chapter was one in which all gender identities could thrive. As I reflect back on those early days and early conversations, I’m still inspired by the vision these women had for the next chapter in Acxiom’s legacy – Women LEAD, Acxiom’s gender diversity business resource group,. It was not just the renewed focus of our gender equality efforts, but the foundation of our overall diversity, equity and enclusion efforts that today are facilitated through the Acxiom IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, awareness) program.
Holly Marr is one of those influencers, who to this day continues to give back to Acxiom. Over Holly’s impressive career at Acxiom, she held several roles, including group leader for the insurance industry, a critical and growing market for Acxiom. As the leader of a new area of business that generated tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue, Holly joined the ranks of many strong, smart and incredible women who helped Acxiom grow to become the driving force that it is today, the trusted marketing partner for many of the world’s top companies.
In the early 1970s, just a few years into its existence, Acxiom was working on a project with the state of Arkansas when Acxiom leaders met a young computer programmer named Jennifer Barrett. Jennifer joined the company in 1974, quickly making a difference at Acxiom. Jennifer blazed a trail no other woman or man would by becoming the industry’s first Chief Privacy Officer, a feather in Acxiom’s cap as the leader in the ethical use of data and consumer privacy. It is literally impossible for any company to have a longer history of a demonstrated commitment to data ethics and privacy, and we owe much of that to Jennifer’s leadership and commitment to this work.
No Acxiom leadership review would be complete without highlighting Acxiom’s organizational development and human resources leader, Cindy Childers. Cindy was (and still is!) an icon within Acxiom. Her business and financial acumen, coupled with her belief in and care for all Acxiom associates was unparalleled. Cindy achieved much success in her role, but perhaps some of her best work was in creating the Acxiom business culture – first called Race for Excellence and later retitled Quest for Excellence (because quests, unlike races, have no finish line). Cindy not only created this, but she modeled it every day. The example she personally set has instilled in all of us the importance of treating one another with dignity and respect. She remains an inspiration to many Acxiom associates, most especially to me in my role as Acxiom’s current Chief People Officer.
Join me today in remembering the tremendous legacy these female leaders, and so many others, contributed to our company. We are forever changed for the better by their contributions and their leadership.
Looking forward to today, Acxiom continues to focus on increasing female leadership on our executive leadership team and other leadership roles. While we have work to do, we are committed to both developing internal female associates as well as attracting more women in key roles across all levels within the organization.
We were proud to name Janet Cinfio as our first female Chief Information Officer in 2014, and her leadership has provided more awareness for the importance of bringing in and growing more women in technology roles at Acxiom. Beth-Anne Bygum joined Acxiom in 2019 as our Chief Security and Compliance Officer. Beth-Anne is responsible for all aspects of Acxiom’s global cyber security strategy, enterprise risk management program and information risk governance, but her contributions do not stop there. She and two other associates founded Acxiom’s Black Employee Network in 2020.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t also share my personal Acxiom journey. When I joined Acxiom in 1998, I was a young mathmetics major seeking her first “big job.” I began working on a newly forming team whose charter was to build a database for one of our key financial services clients. My journey from Delivery Analyst to Chief People Officer had a winding path filled with many opportunities, but the ever-present constant was the support I received from associates and leaders, of all gender identities, along the way.
Acxiom Women LEAD is one of the foundations of Acxiom’s overarching emphasis on inclusion, diversity, equity and awareness. Since its launch in March 2019, Women LEAD has reached a member base of nearly 700 associates across all gender identities. It hosts monthly events, collaborates across Acxiom’s other business resource groups and serves as a guiding force in the ongoing cultural transformation at Acxiom. I’ve never been more thrilled to work at Acxiom and alongside our colleagues each and every day. Acxiom Women LEAD … they do now, they always have, and they always will!