Getting to Know Our Conference Speakers – Barri Rafferty

While our annual conference is going virtual this year, one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to bringing an incredible line-up of inspirational speakers to share their expertise and unique insights. Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to these dynamic and engaging leaders by sharing some of their personal and career advice.

Today, we are honored to introduce Barri Rafferty, Executive Vice President & Head of Communications for Wells Fargo. Barri is the former Global CEO at Ketchum Public Relations and was one of the first women to lead a global public relations firm.  We can’t wait to hear how Barri was able to completely engrain flexibility into the culture at Ketchum and how she is always looking for ways to help to advance women and flexible work.


Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: What was the most meaningful piece of leadership advice you have received? Who has had the most influence on your career?
Barri RaffertyBeing a woman from the south it took me years as a leader to understand that “it is better to be trusted than to be liked.” People follow who they trust even if they don’t like every decision you make.
I don’t think one person most influenced my career but so many wonderful bosses, leaders I interacted with, and people who gave me feedback along the way had an impact on the leader I became.  I also think sometimes you learn from seeing behaviors you don’t want to emulate.  The key is to be authentic to who you are.  
DFA: What have you learned during COVID that has changed your perspective?
BR: Nancy Koehn from Harvard Business School studied courageous leaders in crisis and spoke of courage, brutal honesty, providing direction and getting used to ambiguity.  She also discussed the concept of “point to point” leadership where leaders must make decisions with the information they have on hand at a point in time and continue to adapt and be agile as new information becomes available.  This agility and ambiguity with resilience mixed in became my COVID mantra. 
DFA: How do you recharge? Where and when are you most content?
BR: I love to get outdoors and walk with my husband, sisters or close friends.   I have walked in the woods, near the water and in my neighborhood throughout COVID to unwind.  Put me in front of a body of water or mountain and I am most content.
DFA: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?  
BR: Not to take things so seriously.  So many things that were upsetting in my past I don’t even remember now. 
DFA: How do you pay it forward? 

BR: I volunteer with organizations that mentor female leaders and young girls to help them reach their full potential. I also use my corporate positions to help foster equity and inclusion.

DFA: What can we be doing to create more inclusive organizations?
BR: Be self aware of our own bias and be allies for others. We can each have an impact in small ways and big ones by being advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion.

DFA: How has flexibility impacted your life? How has your experience been with COVID-related remote work?

BR: When leading a large global agency, I leaned into flexibility to make it available to our employees worldwide.  I have always felt that if we trust people to do their jobs it doesn’t matter where they work or what time of day. Flexibility allows women and men to be successful in the workplace, as parents, as friends and helps with better self care.  We all win.  
Starting a new job during COVID has been a challenge, but thank goodness for technology.  I miss the energy of interacting with people and breaking bread together, but video has become the next best thing. We are all adapting and making the best of it.

DFA: What book is on your nightstand?

BR: I just finished “American Dirt” and always have my journal close by. Despite 2020 being a year full of obstacles there is much to be grateful for.  

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear more from Barri Rafferty and all of our dynamic and inspirational speakers on November 5.