How Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, Continues Her Legacy While Giving Hope to Others in Times of Need
Even after eight years, I still haven’t quite gotten used to looking in the eyes of someone who has completely lost everything,” says Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, “it breaks your heart every single time.”
The American Red Cross delivers about 40% of the nation’s blood supply. They respond to nearly 66,000 disasters every year. In Washington DC alone, they respond to over 500 disasters per year– most of which are house fires. “We give people a blanket, comfort, hope, a hug, place to sleep, clothing, shelter. It’s really quite remarkable,” states McGovern.
Certainly the Red Cross is well known in the US and around the world for its humanitarian efforts, but what I wanted to know more about is Gail McGovern, a woman who left corporate America to become the head of this amazing organization. After just a few minutes of speaking with McGovern, you can feel her heart. She loves the people she serves and is often right in the middle of responding to disasters, comforting people and giving hope along with her staff and volunteers.
Gail talks about meeting with victims of various disasters. “They always say, ‘I’m going to figure out how to build back up.’ The courage and resiliency mixed with the heartache of losing everything is really unusual. And, on some level, it restores your faith in our country.”
Giving back has been a part of Gail’s family for generations. She remembers how loving her grandparents were and how her mother and father created an environment of giving. When her father retired from his medical practice, he threw himself into charity work. He received his license in mediation and started placing children in the foster care system, earning him the New Jersey Volunteer of the Year Award. It was that example that inspired her.
As a girl and young woman, Gail says she spent much of her time as a volunteer. Then her career took off and her daughter was born and she just didn’t have the time to contribute as she would have liked. She still kept up some involvement by serving on the board of nonprofits for causes she cared about and organizing fundraisers for the United Way and other nonprofits. Still, much of her effort was focused on being the President of Fidelity Personal Investments and before that Vice President of AT&T Consumer Markets Division.
When the Red Cross contacted her about a position as CEO, she was a faculty member at Harvard Business School. “Everything clicked in my brain,” she says. “It was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others in a way that I had not experienced up until that point.” She accepted the position immediately.
A Legacy in the Making
When I asked Gail what she enjoyed about her job, she told me, “the list is pretty long.” The first thing she listed was her phenomenal team. “They have no agenda,” she says, “they just want to do right to the people we serve.” They are smart, kind and mission-driven – unlike anything she’s ever experienced (and she’s worked in extremely high-performing teams).
She loves the service they perform, such as installing smoke detectors in vulnerable communities. They’ve already had reports of 131 lives saved. “It’s not that many people who can wake up in the morning and say, ‘Wow, the work I’m doing is saving lives.’”
She is always so grateful to the donors who give blood. “These are people who open up their veins for a stranger. When you think about that, it’s really profound.” She’ll speak with the donors and ask them why they donate and some have unbelievable stories of loved ones who were saved or a child who is going through a tough time medically, but “most people will tell you, it’s the right thing to do.”
“Out of all the jobs I’ve ever had – after 28 years in business and 6 years in the classroom – this is, without a doubt the best job I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
11 Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week!
Why Secure Passwords Matter and How to Create Them
10 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day
Becoming a Great Podcast Host with Celeste Headlee
New Guiding Principles for Opportunity Zone Investors
Leaders: Do You Challenge Your Status Quo?
9 Marketing Trends That Will Dominate This Year
How To Keep Envy From Destroying Your Workplace
6 Tips to Help Your Journey to Retirement
Who Do You Sell to First
Forward-Looking Investing2 days ago
Moat Investing: Powered by Morningstar
Market Strategist2 days ago
We Are Not Convinced the Market Storm Has Completely Passed
Development2 days ago
Advisors: How To Answer “What Do You Do?”
Markets2 days ago
Higher Mortgage Rates, Student Loans and Nike
Equities3 days ago
7 Stocks That Pay the Largest Dividends of All That Trade on Nasdaq – Or Do They?
Advisor3 days ago
The Wizards of Wall Street vs. The Selbees from Michigan
Markets4 days ago
The Chameleons Are on the Run
Compliance4 days ago
Regulators Focusing on How Firms Identify, Monitor and Test Custody Scenarios With Client Assets