Women of Power: CBS Corp.’s Josie Thomas Talks Diversity and Young Female Advancement

Josie Thomas, executive vice president and chief diversity officer, CBS Corp. (Image: File)

They say that millennials nowadays are more likely to job hop than remain at one company for many years, however, for some professionals, if you find a winning combination of talent and advancement—within one company where you can grow—you may have struck gold.

Many corporate leaders take on this path, building years of consistent excellence as part of their brand and moving up the ranks to find professional fulfillment. Josie Thomas is one of those leaders, a woman of power who has seen exemplary growth and development at CBS Corp., having been with the company—or worked in related capacities—for almost 20 years. At her start, she was broadcast counsel for the law department of CBS Inc. She has since served as director of business affairs and vice president of business affairs at CBS News and advanced ultimately to senior vice president and chief diversity officer at CBS Corp.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Thomas on the heels of her recent promotion to executive vice president and chief diversity officer at CBS, to talk diversity and how young women can truly map out their advancement in Corporate America.

BlackEnterprise.com: What inspires you to wake up every day and go in to work?

It’s the idea of impacting lives in the industry and creating a legacy that hopefully will survive after I move on. Every day, I wake up and say, ‘How can I poss have a positive impact on diversity discussion, the diversity issue, and how I can make sure CBS remains at the forefront of that discussion at all times?’ That truly drives me.

You’ve been able to move up the ranks at CBS Corp., with a proven track record for excellent leadership. What drove that advancement in your career and your professional development?

Every opportunity, I’ve had at CBS, I’ve looked at them as the ultimate opportunity. I try to go at it with an enormous amount of focus and dedication. I make every effort to do the best I can.

You really have to be willing to look around, identify the opportunities as they come along, and recognize early mentors along the way who can help you as you build your career. I was determined early that CBS was the company where I’d really like to have a long-term career, and I also recognized that it’s a very diverse company, with a lot of different components.

How has your legal background helped in your career advancement and experience?

I think it has been very helpful, because you get the opportunity to interface with a lot of executives at various parts of the company, learn about different businesses as you perform legal functions, and it gives you a broad perspective.

Also, in terms of thought process, I found it useful to me in approaching a challenge or opportunity and figuring out how to manage an issue with more of a methodical thought process.

How can women today, especially minority women, overcome challenges in the workplace in order to advance?

It’s really important to have mentors in the corporate environment. Find someone who’s style, perspective or career trajectory is one you admire and reflects your own style and career growth desires. Sometimes that’s a challenge for us in terms of reaching out and saying, ‘I need a mentor and I would like you to be my mentor,’ and be assertive in that regard without overstepping boundaries.

Do research on the person you’d like to be your mentor, and be able to identify something that you have a common interest in. Reach out to them if they have time for coffee or quick chat in their office. That’s a great place to start.

What career advice would you have for your 21-year-old self if you knew then what you know now?

First I would say eat healthy, get ample rest and get exercise. [Laughs] Also, you need to be ready for any and every opportunity because you never know when it will come again. Don’t hesitate too much or question when an opportunity comes your way, and always be prepared for them.

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