#PrivilegeTax Story: Jen Jackson Brown - EleVen by Venus Williams

#PrivilegeTax Story: Jen Jackson Brown


Jen J Brown
Jen Jackson Brown 
President & EVP of Nordstrom Product Group, Young Adult and Kids

Q. I believe you must constantly be in pursuit of your best self. How have you prioritized doing so over the past year with the world being in a state of constant chaos?

One of the first things we did at the beginning of the pandemic was write a future vision of how we wanted to lead through it as a team, and we came up with a mantra—take care of ourselves, take care of each other, take care of our families and the communities where we serve. The other piece I’ve gotten more disciplined about is  taking the time to reflect on what I am proud of and what I would have done differently at the end of each day. This allows me to let work be work and home be home during a time when everything is blended together. It helps me continue to improve and learn as a leader.  

Q. Where did you first discover that women were paid less than men?

I first discovered this in the fifth grade when I wrote a book report on the gender wage gap. My dad—a father to two girls— was working on a case for a union on the inequality of women’s pay. I decided to write a book report on this and as I did research on the topic I remember thinking, “this isn’t right.” I also remember by dad saying, “this doesn’t have to be your reality.” 

Q. Tell me about one woman in your life whose impact you admire most?

My sister is someone I admire most—she is five years older than me and was always a great athlete and scholar, all things you admire when you are young. In high school she came out as a lesbian —this was in the 80’s, so a time when it wasn’t widely accepted. What I admire about her is she kept true to herself as she dealt with adversity and showed great strength. She went on to medical school and became a doctor and now focuses on women’s studies to ensure there are medicines for women’s bodies, not just for men. She fought for what she believed in then and now as she continues to make a difference. As I encounter obstacles in my personal and professional life, I try to channel that same tenacity. 

Q. Any advice for women that want to advocate for pay equity?

On an individual level, always negotiate and do your research to understand what the job is worth. At Nordstrom, we encourage our employees to do this. In fact, pay equity is very important to us as we announced in 2019 that we reached 100% pay equity.  

The workforce I support is 70% women and women make up the majority of our customers and Nordstrom Made factory workers, so for us, supporting women’s empowerment isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s a business imperative. That helped us build partners internally and externally and will help us reach  our goal of sourcing 90% of all Nordstrom Made products from factories that invest in women’s empowerment by 2025. 

Q. What one piece of advice would you give your 13 year old self?

Be more confident and care less about what others think of you. Vulnerability can be positive, in fact it’s empowering and it helps you at any stage of your life and professional career. 

Q. What’s your go-to resource recommendation for learning about business and/ or leadership?

Recently I have been using the Blinkist app. Based on your preferences it gives you a list of business books, which they call blinks, allowing you to read a book in 10 minutes. This gives me a quick snapshot of the book and lets me decide if I want to read any further. I can educate myself quickly by using the app.  

There is also a book that I read about 30 years ago that still resonates with me and has shaped me, called The Four Agreements. Another book that resonated with me was Joy Inc, written by a CEO of a software company. The book has inspired me in how I lead my team. 

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