Janelle Simmons worked as an intern at Limited Brands while studying journalism at Ohio University, which helped her land a full-time position as public relations specialist in 1995. “I had the opportunity to work in community relations and communications and a little bit in investor relations, and I gravitated toward the community work,” Simmons says.
Simmons, 40, left the company to work in development and public relations for the United Way of Central Ohio, the Community Shelter Board and Ohio State University before rejoining Limited Brands as manager of corporate giving in 2007. She was promoted to director of community relations and philanthropy in 2008 and now also oversees the Limited Brands Foundation. Part of her job includes coordinating the second-largest United Way employer campaign in Central Ohio. “It’s very important to the community, and I want to make sure it continues to thrive,” Simmons says.
Outside of work, Simmons chairs the board for I Know I Can and also sits on the boards of the YWCA Columbus, the African-American Leadership Academy and the Columbus City Schools Education Foundation.
What’s the best part of your job? “It’s definitely getting to interact with the nonprofit organizations and the people who work at the nonprofit organizations, and getting to see firsthand the difference that individuals and organizations are making in the lives of people in our community.”
What’s your biggest challenge? “Knowing that there is a great need in the community and that there are limited resources.”
How do you maintain a work-life balance? “Sometimes my work probably does cross over into my social life because of the nature of my position, whether it’s attending an event that’s being sponsored by a nonprofit or attending a lecture or something like that.” In her free time, Simmons says she enjoys working out, traveling and spending time with family.
What strengths do women bring to the workplace? An even temperament and an unselfish perspective are assets for many women, Simmons says. “I think sometimes being able to deliver information in a way that is palatable is a skill that women have.”
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration? Simmons cites her grandmother Ruby Mathis. “I just remember her always telling me to do the right thing, work hard, be the best that I can be and treat others the way that I want to be treated.”
What are your goals for the next five years? Simmons says she wants continued growth for Limited Brands’ charitable campaigns, particularly Pelotonia, a bike ride that raises money for cancer research at Ohio State University. “I think there’s still a lot of uncharted territory as it relates to getting our associates involved and the rest of the community involved.”
How can employers ensure that more women achieve high-ranking positions? “I think exposing younger women to women within a company or organization who are in senior roles or leadership roles and encouraging them to progress through their career within that company or organization.”
Michelle Davey is an editorial assistant and Jennifer Wray is a staff writer for Columbus C.E.O.
Reprinted from the May 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.