Breaking Barriers: A Conversation With Melissa Barra on Leadership, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Oct 10, 2022 4:30 PM ET

As published on the Pentair Blog

By Karla Robertson, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary & Chief Social Responsibility Officer

At Pentair, our Business Resource Groups help foster a sense of belonging across the organization, and provide an opportunity for employees to develop connections, share experiences and perspectives, and support each other in professional and personal development.

The Pentair Women’s Resource Group (WRG), in partnership with Pentair’s Latino Resource Group (LRG), recently hosted an event with Melissa Barra, Pentair Board Member and the EVP, Chief Sales and Services Officer at Sleep Number Corporation. As an Executive Sponsor of the WRG, I had the honor of moderating the conversation with Melissa who shared her candid experiences of how she has navigated her career journey as a Latina, a spouse, parent, and active member in her community.

It is estimated that women of color comprise only about four percent of C-suite leaders.* Melissa is truly breaking barriers, and I am grateful that we had the opportunity to hear her story and insights. A common thread throughout Melissa’s life and career is her deliberate approach to the choices she has made, from the companies she has joined and the roles she has accepted to finding balance in her personal life.

Here are a few key takeaways from Melissa and our conversation about career development and diversity, equity and inclusion:

On Pursuing Your Goals…

“Embrace your ambition – in fact, be unapologetically ambitious. Work hard. Work very hard. That is exactly how you earn your seat at the table.”

On Mentorship…

“Take time to build relationships…find a sponsor and be a sponsor. Pay it backwards, pay it forwards, and pay it sideways. Take the opportunity to make an impact – you can change a person’s life.”

On Embracing Diversity and Breaking Barriers…

“Most people will face bias at some point, but we can choose the environment where we live and work. Embrace your cultural diversity and look for where you are accepted and valued for your true self.”

On Life Balance…

“It is hard to have balance 100 percent of the time – you’ll always be slightly skewed one way or the other. I encourage you to find joy in the sweet spots.”

Since she joined our Board last year, I have been impressed by Melissa’s thoughtful approach to leadership and commitment to mentorship as she inspires the next generation of great talent. I am proud to be a leader at Pentair where we value diverse leadership, contributing the different perspectives and innovative ideas that enable us to improve every day, from our Board of Directors through every level of our teams.


*Source: Women In The Workplace 2021, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey, 2021