By Nathaniel Percy
The Orange County Register
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Scharrell Jackson, the COO of a Newport Beach-based accounting firm who started a speaker series called “Leadership in Heels.” The series began as a way to help empower women.
Scharrell Jackson is not one to take opportunities for granted.
Recognizing an opportunity to leave her mark in helping others realize their full potential, Jackson, 51, started a speaker series called Leadership in Heels, which began as a way to empower women to realize their leadership qualities, but has since branched out to be all-inclusive.
For her efforts, Jackson was recently named an Entrepreneur to Watch at the National Association of Women Business Owners, Orange County Chapter’s 21st Annual Awards Gala at the City National Grove of Anaheim, May 11.
Jackson also works as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Newport Beach-based accounting firm, Squar Milner, a post she’s held for nearly 18 years.
Jackson, 51, said she’s lived in Lake Forest for more than 20 years and her speaker series has sold out five times.
She runs the series three times per year at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.
The next series will take place July 27 and will center around gender communications between men and women. It is titled, “He Said, She Said — Bridging the Gender Communication Gap from a Man’s Point of View.”
For more information on the upcoming speaker series, visit Jackson’s website, scharrelljackson.com or find Leadership in Heels on Facebook.
The Register recently reached out to Jackson to hear her thoughts on how Leadership in Heels got started and how she felt about being honored with the award.
Q: You started a philanthropic team at your place of work, Squar Milner. What led you to start the team and how many events do you do per year?
A: Really, what it was about was it was about bringing the awareness of the need in our community to the firm. I think so often we get caught up in the business of life, whether it’s working or raising and contributing to your family that we forget there’s a host of people out in the community that have a need.
By serving on the board of Human Options and Big Brothers, Big Sisters and a former Girls, Inc. board member and Working Wardrobes, I really wanted to introduce those organizations to the employees of the firm, so what we have been able to do over the course of years is do donation drives, where we may sell raffle tickets and donate the funds to a nonprofit or create backpacks or buy hygiene items for people in shelters and a host of other things that we’ve been able to do so it’s not so much we do an event at the firm, it’s more that we bring an opportunity to serve in the community through our time and our treasure.
Q: What led you to start Leadership in Heels and what was your vision for the speaker series?
A: About 10 years ago, I was asked to speak on behalf of being a female leader in a male-dominated environment. Being an executive at a (Certified Public Accounting) firm in South Orange County, it’s no secret it’s a male dominated world and I was asked many years ago to speak about what it’s like to be a leader in this environment and so I titled the theme of my talk “Leadership in Heels” and I talked about how so often women compartmentalize their life and they feel like they have to transcend almost to hide their femininity in order to fit into a male-dominated world.
I was challenging the fact that we can still maintain our femininity and hence become a leader in heels and be a woman a girl and still be able to think like a man and work like a dog and look like a woman and act like a lady and ultimately be a girl and so I had that talk and it went over well and there was a gentleman in the audience who asked me to speak somewhere else and it kind of just spread like wildflowers and so about in 2015 I decided to start my own speaker series and I titled it Leadership in Heels since that was my first talk and themed it around matters of the heart that affect the whole woman, personally, professionally and in the community and I set it up to be an event that highlights a woman in business and then I donate a portion of the net proceeds to a nonprofit.
Q: In terms of women business owners, how do you see that community? Is it growing?
A: I think that the whole idea of what is leadership and what is success is a misnomer because personally, as I say to anyone who comes to the event and it’s not just for women, it’s for men as well, is if you have one person in your life that you have the power of influence and you have that power of influence then you’re a leader.
It doesn’t matter to me if you’re at home raising your children, taking care of your home and being a spouse, or being at teacher, raising our children, on the manufacturing line, or an executive in a CPA firm, the fact that you can change a life makes you a leader and so how do you want to use that to not only grow an organization but to grow people, empower people and change the fabric of our community and so I think that when women are stimulated to recognize the highest potential they have which is to influence someone else, it changes our careers, it changes our homes, it changes our relationships, so I think it’s definitely becoming better and broader for women, not just from an occupational perspective but from a personal perspective.
Q: How did you feel being recognized as the Entrepreneur to Watch by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Orange County?
A: To be perfectly honest with you, I was literally floored because every talk about Leadership in Heels as a business, ultimately, I do it as a way to motivate and inspire others to reach their highest potential and to donate money to a nonprofit.
When I think about leadership in heels, I hadn’t really thought about it as a business, so the idea that it has become an event that is talked about throughout our community and well-attended by men and women, it was just an absolute blessing that the community is accepting of something that’s real and authentic and raw. People want something different and so I was grateful that the risk that I took, the fear that I had, it has been beneficial to the community.
Q: What does the award mean to you?
A: What it means to me is exactly what it said, I am encouraging everyone in the community to look out for Leadership in Heels because we have something special for you. What it means to me now, when they say Entrepreneur to Watch, everybody get your eyes open, fasten the seatbelt because we’re coming with something special and I’m just hoping that people will take the time out to invest in themselves and come out on July 27 and experience something that they can never experience anywhere else.
I’m looking forward to what God has in store for Leadership in Heels and as a result, what Leadership in Heels can do for others.