In 1987, the United States Congress passed a proclamation declaring the month of March to be Women’s History Month. To celebrate, this year the staff at Committee of 100 sat down virtually with a few of our amazing female Committee of 100 Members for a new blog series called Chinese American Women Shaping the World: A Special Q&A Series. In these interviews, Committee of 100 members will talk about their career paths, the challenges – and opportunities – in being a successful Chinese American woman in today’s society, as well as their hopes for the next generation of Chinese American women.
Committee of 100 recently spoke with Mrs. Lulu C. Wang. Lulu is the CEO and Chair of Tupelo Capital Management, which she founded in 1998. Prior to that, Lulu was a director and executive vice president of Jennison Associates Capital Corporation for 10 years. While at Jennison, she managed multibillion funds for pension, endowment, and mutual funds. She joined Jennison Associates in 1988, after serving as senior vice president and managing director at Equitable Capital Management for 10 years.
Lulu serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller University, the Asia Society, and Columbia Business School, where she endowed the Lulu C. Wang Senior Asian Scholar program under the Chazen Institute for Global Business, which she co-chairs. She also serves on the advisory council for Bank of America, is a retired director of MetLife Insurance and is a trustee emerita of Wellesley College, where she was the commencement speaker in 2016. Lulu has been honored for her professional achievements by New York Public Radio, Columbia Women in Business, China Institute, Girls Inc, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller University, the Asia Society, The Museum of Chinese in America, the Women’s Economic Round Table, and Ernst and Young.
Lulu earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in English literature from Wellesley College. In her free time, she and her husband collect and race vintage cars. They also collect American paintings, furniture, and folk art. Lulu has been a Member of Committee of 100 since 1993.
Committee of 100: What is one of your many achievements that you are most proud of, which helped dictate the course of your career?
Lulu: As I look back on my career, the achievement in which I take the greatest pride and pleasure, is the success of young people, especially women, I’ve helped in their careers. There were very few senior women on Wall Street when I started, so I had to figure things out for myself. As I can now be an example to women early in their careers, I consider it a great privilege and encourage other senior women to do so as well. Not surprisingly, we all keep learning as we counsel others!
Committee of 100: What is a major lesson you learned from a failure or setback in your career, which also helped dictate the course of your career?
Lulu: I am a curious person, so my interests tend to be broad. Because of this, when I first began to manage investment portfolios, I would take on too many holdings in my funds. This not only spread my time and concentration too thin, it also diluted the intensity I could bring to each of the names in my fund. My investment style now is still bottom-up growth, but I’ve learned to successfully focus my portfolios in fewer, high conviction holdings. This also applies well to career choices – always prioritize options by where your interests and talents are highest.
Committee of 100: What topic or topics do you feel are not being talked about enough when it comes to the advancement of women as leaders?
Lulu: As a society, especially in an industry as competitive as investments, we expect talented people to step forward, seize opportunities, and take the credit if they succeed. At the same time, cultural norms, and often ourselves, still model girls to be modest, not push ourselves forward. We sometimes hesitate to jump at opportunities, thinking we need more preparation, or fear appearing presumptuous. This reticence often causes us to miss out on being “fast tracked”, especially if we decline advances because of family issues. Sadly, this often brands women as “lacking in ambition” or “not committed”. If employers do not want to underutilize women’s talent, they still need to more actively encourage women to step up. Family friendly practices, open feedback, role models and managers incentivized to draw out women’s talent, would be vital to advance this. The talent, ambition and commitment are absolutely there, we are making progress, but still need to work more intentionally through gender differences to access this valuable pool of human capital.
Committee of 100: What qualities do you see in the next generation of Chinese American women that brings you hope and joy for the future?
Lulu: More advanced degrees, successful work experience, and role models are now convincing women that they can contribute to a better world. This growing confidence is now encouraging women to lean in with less timidity, believing it is their responsibility to make a positive difference. Women are often bolder when doing something for the greater good, rather than for themselves. But, it is alright to be successful – by doing well, there is much more opportunity to do good. Witness the extraordinary impact of philanthropy today.
Committee of 100: If you could go back in time and give advice to your 20-year-old self, what would you say to the younger version of you?
Lulu: I would advise greater and more strategic focus, to prioritize what is most important, whether in life choices or holdings in a portfolio. A more focused set of plans for the long term, will concentrate the mind, the intensity of the choice, and ultimately, the direction of our lives. I facilitate this by writing a simple long term set of objectives for myself and putting them away into a drawer. At the end of each year, I find it helpful to pull out these objectives, and assess how well I’ve stayed on track during the past year. Course corrections are always possible, but clarity of the path I’ve set for myself helps to minimize distractions and enrich the path taken.
Committee of 100: What is your inspiration and why?
Lulu: My mother, who raised her four daughters to be fearless, to have self-respect and when in doubt – “just do it” (long before Nike coined the phrase). Even if I did not have my mom, I believe I would have found role models from the many biographies I read in my youth, of men and women, who had strong values and dreams, which enabled them to make a difference in whatever they did. Seeing how they could succeed, despite adversity, being different, or even when they first failed, gave me the confidence that I could succeed as well. Let’s all give gifts of books about people who’ve truly made the world a better place to the young people we know!