Women of Power: One-on-One with Apple Environmental Executive Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives (Image: File)

Lisa P. Jackson, vice president of environmental initiatives at Apple, talked with Black Enterprise Business Report host Caroline V. Clarke on a subject that hits close to home for many women of power: keeping your cool under fire.

The former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) endured intense political heat during her tenure with President Obama’s administration, and she ultimately resigned from her position but was able to push through and helm environmental innovation at Apple. She shared with Women of Power Summit attendees how she managed to overcome and how professionals can apply the same determination and tenacity to get through tough times in their careers. Check out key highlights from the discussion:

On facing criticism while at the EPA: “I was definitely surprised at the comments and attacks that happened in Washington. I got a lot of advice going in [from people including] Donna Brazile and Yolanda Caraway, who pulled me aside and helped me understand things,” Jackson said.

The EPA was started by Richard Nixon. He signed the Clean Air Act, and he signed the National Environmental Policy Act. The amendments to the Clean Air Act that are some of the most important passed under President [George H. W.] Bush … So for us, in such a short period, to go from ‘These are things we all care about because we all agree,’ to ‘You must hate business,’ and ‘You must hate industry’ and ‘You must be trying to destroy the country’ was pretty shocking for me.

My belief is that I try not to make it personal, although there were days when it felt very personal. To me, if you cross that line of feeling that it’s personal, you’ve lost your humility.  … I always thought about the mom, dad or community that really didn’t have a political voice when it came time to decide where the next landfill will go, or where the next power plant would be built.”

On transitioning from the public to private sector to work for Apple: Apple’s the most innovative company in the world. … For me to be able to say—whether it’s energy and climate or pollution or making sure that we manage electronic waste responsibly—it is a company, as I’m learning, that wants to do right by those issues.

I spent so much time as a regulator saying to companies, ‘You don’t have to choose between a clean and healthy environment and a growing, thriving economy.’ I say it over and over again. I wanted to go to a place where we could make some [advances] around that.

On how to get through pressure-filled times in your career: ” have to find people who’ve been down the road you’ve been down, and they remind you that first, you’re not the first one, second, it will pass, and third, they teach you how to keep your perspective,” she said. “You have to keep some amount of happiness.”

CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Join us for the landmark 10th Annual Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm, March 2—4, 2015, at Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, FL. This exciting, one-of-a-kind executive leadership summit is designed to train, equip and encourage women to become industry leaders, learn career strategies, and discover proven work—life balance techniques. Register Now! http://www.blackenterprise.com/wps

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