The Federal Reserve Bank

Sometimes when I go to cocktail parties or meet other business people, they don’t take me seriously. I mean, really, here I am a 50-something woman (not always dressed like a CEO), trying to make interesting conversation and appear relevant. My absolute favorite conversation starter is to mention that I used to be a director of The Federal Reserve Bank. Yes, THE Fed.

And, yes, I met Chairman Alan Greenspan. But, that’s another story.

Mostly people want to know just exactly HOW I got to be a director. And that’s my favorite part of the story.

I’m kind of a competitive person. And, so when I was at a NAWBO Conference (National Association of Women Business Owners) about 10 years ago, and heard that a fellow woman business owner was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, I decided that I wanted to be a director, too. So I asked that friend, Whitney Johns, how did she do it?

She said, “Karen, why don’t you send me your C.V. (fancy name for a professional resume), along with a packet on your company, and I will pass it along?” So, I sent her a packet and then forgot all about it.

About 12 months later, I got a call from the vice president of the Los Angeles Federal Reserve Bank Branch. He said he was doing Community Outreach and invited me to lunch. After about 45 minutes of chit-chat about our families, exercising and business, Mark finally came clean. He was actually interviewing me! He said there were no guarantees, but he was going to put forth my name as a potential nominee.

The following January, I began my three-year term as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank, Los Angeles Branch. (There are 12 Federal Reserve Districts, and the 12th District is based in San Francisco, which actually covers the nine western states. The Los Angeles Branch is one of 5 branches inside the 12th District).

Because I had to go through a very thorough background check and got fairly high-level FBI security clearance, I cannot say a lot about what went on at our monthly meetings. But I can tell you that each of the 7 directors gave a monthly report on what was going on in our particular industry. I updated the group on the produce industry, water shortages, trucking regulations, workers compensation insurance and the Atkins Diet’s effect on the potato industry! (Personally, I think my reports were the most interesting!). And, yes, we also voted on the interest rate.

The lesson here is – if you want to do something – ask for it! No matter how outrageous a possibility it is! If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

And, about meeting Chairman Alan Greenspan. We were at a cocktail party at the Federal Reserve Bank building in Washington, D.C., and he was standing next to me (no one else noticed that he had entered the room). I offered to “buy him a drink.” When I turned to order, the bartender said, “The Chairman likes a Diet Coke!”