Aiming High: Suzanne Folsom
by NACD Editors |
The prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum has honored 90 women business leaders with its Aiming High Award since 2001. This year’s recipients—Suzanne Rich Folsom,general counsel, chief compliance officer and SVP of government affairs at U.S. Steel Corp.; Gina Proia, chief communications officer, Ally Financial; Eileen Simon, chief franchise integrity officer, MasterCard; and Linda K. Zecher, president, CEO, and director, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—were recognized at an awards luncheon held on May 6.
Aiming High honorees represent the most successful and influential women in the business community and serve as role models for other women and girls. NACD Directorship magazine has served as the media partner for the Aiming High awards since 2012 and each year profiles the exceptional honorees.
For Suzanne Rich Folsom, the overriding reward of hard work is knowing the world is better off as a result. To that end, Folsom’s work has been exceptional. She’s one of the select professionals who are transforming corporate governance and designing and implementing ambitious legal and compliance programs that are restoring confidence in the marketplace.
During the darkest moments of the economic crisis, she spearheaded best-in-class regulatory and compliance processes at AIG and established the company’s first global compliance framework, decisively affecting AIG’s operations worldwide. Under intense public scrutiny, she created a legal and compliance program at security provider ACADEMI—the successor company to the notorious Blackwater—that is now considered to be the gold standard. At the World Bank, she waged war against corruption at great personal sacrifice.
Today, as general counsel, chief compliance officer and senior vice president, government affairs at U.S. Steel, her efforts to build a legal, regulatory, and compliance department that is a true partner with the company’s businesses, and to break new ground in achieving diversity at this iconic American company, have been widely acclaimed. (Praise was most recently offered by The Legal Intelligencer, which honored U.S. Steel’s legal department as the best in Pennsylvania for “General Excellence and Diversity.”)
For Folsom, diversity is much more than a nice-to-have component. Rather, it is key to the kind of team building on which both business success and corporate good citizenship depend. At every company she has worked, Folsom has racked up an impressive list of woman, veteran and minority hires. It’s a commitment to diversity that Folsom has made good on at every stage of her career – from her participation in the United Nation's World Women's Conference in Nairobi and her grassroots campaigning on women's issues for the Republican National Committee to her roles as Chief of Staff to Her Majesty Queen Noor of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Special Assistant to First Lady Barbara Bush, and General Counsel at ACADEMI. Suzanne has been a tireless advocate for the advancement of women and minorities, and a staunch supporter and promoter of those who have served our country.
“Diversity is an end in itself, but it is also a means to an end,” says Folsom. “The world is a kaleidoscope of colors and genders—and you cannot successfully serve your stakeholders unless your team is a reflection of this constituency.” And it is fair to say that Suzanne and her diverse and multi-talented teams have been successful.