Board Profile: Jillian Griffiths
Jillian Griffiths is the Chief Operating Officer of Clayton Dubilier & Rice, a private equity firm based in Manhattan. In that role, she has leadership responsibilities for finance, information technology, human resources, legal, compliance and office services operations. Prior to joining CD&R, Jillian was a Deals Partner in the New York office of PwC, where she participated in over 150 transactions. She joined Turnaround for Children’s board of directors in 2014, sits on its finance and audit committees and serves as secretary.
THE 180: Where did you first hear about Turnaround for Children?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: I heard about Turnaround from David Wasserman, a fellow board member, when I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers. David was a longtime client. He had called me to discuss donating to Turnaround. He told me about the science behind Turnaround’s work, and how the organization was addressing and fortifying school environments, creating a place where it was safe for students to learn, and where they were being provided the tools to address their stress. I mentioned that I really care a lot about education, because I think that if you can fix public education, a whole bunch of other things are addressed down the road in someone’s life.
THE 180: What was it about the organization’s particular approach, and your interest in education, that seemed to mesh?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: The organization’s work is based on science, on the science of adversity and stress. And I can relate to it, in the sense that all of us deal with stress all the time, and if I struggle with focusing when I am stressed, and I have learned to cope, then how does a child who hasn’t learned how to cope manage? I was able to understand how stress in a child – whether it was not knowing if they would have food on their plate, or because of disruptions at home or whatever – would have them struggle to focus on education. If we weren’t addressing that, then it would be an even bigger climb for the children to learn.
THE 180: Why is education core to your interests?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: Because the higher level of education you achieve, the more skills and opportunities you have and the greater the network you have to be able to stand on your own two feet. And I find that often times while it’s not the only cure, I think education is extremely helpful in addressing other issues, such as poverty.
THE 180: When did you first become cognizant of there being inequity in the way children are educated?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: I moved around my whole life due to my Dad’s job, and lived in a lot of different places. The North and the South of the US, and then in Canada. And I think being exposed to so many different communities gives you a perspective on how different education can be, and allows you to see what people are getting access to, and what people aren’t getting access to. I also remember certain students acting up. I wondered, why were they? Were they bored with school, or was there more to it, in terms of their inability to focus in on learning?
THE 180: Why did you decide to join the board at Turnaround?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: I think several factors: One is the broad mission of the organization – connecting the dots between science, adversity and student performance – I thought it was super-important. Two, I have a lot of respect for Pam (Cantor) and the entire organization. It’s not just one-person deep; there are a lot of really talented people. Also, there’s an openness by the organization to learn and to receive feedback from the board, not just financial support, which you don’t always find.
THE 180: How does your professional expertise feed into your ability to support the organization?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: I think one, I bring a fresh perspective on how you look at the numbers, or the analytics, or how you look at the tools. Often times, I find after having done due diligence for so many years, everyone has the same set of information, but we all interpret it with a different lens. And so I feel like I’m able to look at the data and provide maybe a slightly different perspective than others. Two, I think from having worked with a lot of companies, including clients who understand how to capture data, I can help because I have had to communicate to various audiences over the years. And third is through my day-to-day experience in my operational role. I can help answer questions such as, how do I manage technology as a small organization? How do I get my video and conference calling to work effectively? How do I deal with benefits in the world of ACA (Affordable Care Act)? And how do I compensate, benefit, review and evaluate and motivate my employees?
THE 180: What excites you maybe most about what Turnaround has to share that could help many more children be more successful in school?
JILLIAN GRIFFITHS: Well, I think it goes back to the science. If people are distracted by stress, they can’t learn. Or they’re not going to retain as much. And I think that we’re lucky to be at a place right now where the world seems very open to listening to what Turnaround has to offer. Because sometimes timing is everything. And I think our timing, combined with the substance of what we’re doing, combined with what’s going on in the world, is at this perfect inflection point which is really great.