Senior Vice President, Secretary and Chief of Staff • MetLife Inc. • New York, N.Y.
An only child, Gwenn L. Carr was the apple of her father’s eye. “He always gave me the encouragement and impetus to pursue what I loved, without any doubt or restrictions,” says Carr, senior vice president, secretary and chief of staff of MetLife Inc. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Social Sciences from Michigan State University, she went on to read law at the University’s College of Law.
Carr was an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan for three years before becoming the chief Securities and Exchange Commission officer at American Natural Resources in 1976. It was an ANR that she found a mentor in Bob Walters, the company’s chief financial officer. “[He] wanted me to take the position if I promised to stay in the role for at least two years, no matter what,” explains Carr.
There was no shortage of critics who challenged her competence for the job, but Walters accepted Carr as his protégé, colleague and equal.
“To be an African-American female attorney for a public company [at that time] was almost unheard of. But Bob never factored that in; it never stopped him from putting my professional expertise before the status quo of the time,” Carr says. She rose to become the company’s vice president and secretary before it was acquired in 1985.
With more than 25 years of experience, Carr is an expert in corporate governance issues. She is director of the Lawyers Alliance for New York and a former chairman of the American Society of Corporate Secretaries. She hopes to create an organization dedicated to providing women—especially minority women—the resources needed to appreciate themselves and reach their full potential.
To those who strive to reach the professional levels she has attained, Carr offers this advice: “Focus on becoming a recognized expert in your chosen field, but remember that the strength of your relationships with the people in your professional and personal lives will determine your ultimate success in life.”