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New York City Commissioner on Women's Issues for more than a decade after her appointment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Joanna Barsh is dedicated to helping more women achieve leadership positions. She is the creator of the McKinsey Centered Leadership Project, which includes over 125 in-depth interviews with global female leaders.

In addition to her public service work, Joanna is a leader of both the Consumer Package Goods and Organization Practices. She has been involved in performance transformation, organization development, corporate growth strategy and mergers and acquisitions.

Passionate about serving her community, Joanna has worked on the Partnership for New York City, the New York City Economic Developing Corporation, the American Museum of Natural History, the Manhattan Theatre club, St Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Sesame Workshop, the educational entity behind Sesame Street, has enjoyed her services as trustee for more than 15 years.

Full Profile

Deep experience collaborating with clients on organizational strategy and passionate about accelerating the development of women leaders

Joanna Barsh serves as a leader of both the Consumer Packaged Goods and Organization Practices. Joanna’s client experience spans mergers and acquisitions, corporate growth strategy, organization development and performance transformation.

Joanna is passionate about many things, but accelerating the development of women leaders is at the top of the list. She has been a New York City Commissioner on Women’s Issues since 2002, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Joanna created The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project, including a video archive of more than 125 in-depth interviews with women leaders from around the world.

A dedicated contributor to the New York community, Joanna has served the Partnership for New York City, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Manhattan Theatre Club, as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. She has been a trustee of Sesame Workshop, the education organization responsible for Sesame Street, for 15 years.


Joanna Barsh Speaker Videos Back to top

Joanna Barsh: Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work


In this short video, Joanna Barsh discusses findings of the Mackenzie & Company study, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women, which is based on research conducted in over 60 companies. Using four metrics for success, the study investigated the work environments and how they affected the chances of women getting to the top. She gives some practical advice for what to do as a woman when you get a new management position.

Joanna explores for her audience the ways in which women can be empowered to achieve their full potential of work. Hugely experienced in this area as a New York City Commissioner on Women's Issues, she explains her research and what it has shown about the position of women in the workplace. Talking of sponsorship, she explains, “It really, really matters. 90% of the successful women had sponsors… you really need to have two or three sponsors, and you need to be a sponsor for two or three women."

Expanding further on her in-depth research, she reveals what the secrets are of empowered women in leadership: “For me the biggest ‘aha!’ was how important mindsets are, for the company and for the women, unbelievably important."

Joanna's experience is rooted in the real world of business, and she acknowledges all the problems and challenges that women will have to face to attain leadership positions; “Sponsorship is not about being cuddly, it's not about people who bear hug you on your way up to the top. In fact many of the women who had sponsors said, ‘That guy was the meanest guy in the whole place, he was a total curmudgeon, yelled at people, said nasty things whenever he could, and behind the scenes he got me promoted over and over again."

Joanna Barsh: How Remarkable Women Lead


Keynote Speech


Joanna Barsh: The Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy Task Force Conference



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Joanna uses years of research to support her programs and delivers information with a no-nonsense approach. She gives practical advice for achieving the five principles of “centered leadership,” a program which can be a keynote or a workshop, or full program. She also relies on her years of research into discussing how remarkable women lead and offers unique ideas about success.

Joanna has spent over a decade researching Centered Leadership and has put that experience into practice in dozens of training programs across the world. She provides her audiences with a route map to follow the five crucial aspects of Centered Leadership that will enable them to discover their strengths, develop relationships and be as productive as possible. Joanna can deliver this program as a keynote lecture, a workshop, or a program over a longer time period.

Joanne also speaks specifically on the ways in which women attain and retain leadership positions; she shows her audience that they have the power to choose success.

Moving Mountains Quickly: The Centered Leadership Project
Based on ten years of research and dozens of training programs globally, this lecture equips audiences with a tool kit of practices based on the five dimensions of Centered Leadership:

  • Meaning: finding and using strengths on a path to living into one’s leadership vision
  • Framing: learning to manage feelings and actions in difficult situations to lead in one’s most resourceful state
  • Connecting: developing relationships, forming communities and cultivating sponsors in service of one’s vision
  • Engaging: stepping up to challenges and opportunities, taking risks and actions
  • Energizing: managing one’s energy through recovery and renewal practices

This program is available as a keynote lecture, workshop, or longer program upon request.

How Remarkable Women Lead
In this lecture, Barsh offers a hopeful outlook and unique ideas about success. It’s the new “right stuff” of leadership, teaching participants self-awareness and their power to choose, offering practical take-aways and a road map to positive impact.





* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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Centered Leadership Centered Leadership
What enables some talented people to rise to the top and live their full ambitions at work and in life, while others stop short?

In 2007, Joanna Barsh led a team at McKinsey & Company to answer that very question. In the process, they uncovered what distinguishes leaders who are successful from those who achieve true greatness, developing an approach called Centered Leadership. They drew on research from across the academic fields of leadership, organization behavior, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and positive psychology. In addition, Barsh interviewed over 160 leaders from many fields—including business, government and the arts—and from many countries. With quantitative research, the team learned that these leaders have mastered practices to find their balance in the midst of chaos and lead from their most resourceful selves, unleashing the potential of others. In 2009, Johanne Lavoie joined to lead development of programs that help executives build these capabilities. Their research and development work continues as more and more leaders experience Centered Leadership.


How Remarkable Women Lead

How Remarkable Women Lead
The remarkable discoveries about what drives and sustains successful women leaders.

Based on five years of proprietary research, How Remarkable Women Lead speaks to you as no other book has, with its hopeful outlook and unique ideas about success. It's the new "right stuff" of leadership, raising provocative issues such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive, and increasingly complex world.

Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston establish the links between joy, happiness, and distinctive performance with the groundbreaking model of Centered Leadership.

The book's personal stories and related insights show you the magic that happens when you put the five elements of Centered Leadership–meaning, framing, connecting, engaging, and energizing–to work. They include:

    • How Alondra de la Parra built on her strengths and passions to infuse her life with meaning and make her way in the male-dominated world of orchestra conducting
    • How Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, avoided a downward spiral when the company turned down by "firing herself" on Friday and re-emerging on Monday as the "new" turnaround CEO
    • How Ruth Porat's sponsors at Morgan Stanley not only helped her grow but were also her ballast for coping with difficult personal and professional times
    • How Eileen Naughton recovered after losing her dream job, landing on her feet at Google and open to a new leadership opportunity
    • How Julie Coates of Woolworth's Australia makes energy key to her professional success, with reserves for her "second shift" as wife and mother

How Remarkable Women Lead is both profoundly moving and actionable. Woman or man, you'll find yourself in its pages and emerge with a practical plan for breaking through at both work and in life.


Moving Mountains Quickly: The Centered Leadership Project
Based on ten years of research and dozens of training programs globally, this lecture equips audiences with a tool kit of practices based on the five dimensions of Centered Leadership:

  • Meaning: finding and using strengths on a path to living into one’s leadership vision
  • Framing: learning to manage feelings and actions in difficult situations to lead in one’s most resourceful state
  • Connecting: developing relationships, forming communities and cultivating sponsors in service of one’s vision
  • Engaging: stepping up to challenges and opportunities, taking risks and actions
  • Energizing: managing one’s energy through recovery and renewal practices

This program is available as a keynote lecture, workshop, or longer program upon request.

How Remarkable Women Lead
In this lecture, Barsh offers a hopeful outlook and unique ideas about success. It’s the new “right stuff” of leadership, teaching participants self-awareness and their power to choose, offering practical take-aways and a road map to positive impact.



Joanna Barsh: Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work


In this short video, Joanna Barsh discusses findings of the Mackenzie & Company study, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women, which is based on research conducted in over 60 companies. Using four metrics for success, the study investigated the work environments and how they affected the chances of women getting to the top. She gives some practical advice for what to do as a woman when you get a new management position.

Joanna explores for her audience the ways in which women can be empowered to achieve their full potential of work. Hugely experienced in this area as a New York City Commissioner on Women's Issues, she explains her research and what it has shown about the position of women in the workplace. Talking of sponsorship, she explains, “It really, really matters. 90% of the successful women had sponsors… you really need to have two or three sponsors, and you need to be a sponsor for two or three women."

Expanding further on her in-depth research, she reveals what the secrets are of empowered women in leadership: “For me the biggest ‘aha!’ was how important mindsets are, for the company and for the women, unbelievably important."

Joanna's experience is rooted in the real world of business, and she acknowledges all the problems and challenges that women will have to face to attain leadership positions; “Sponsorship is not about being cuddly, it's not about people who bear hug you on your way up to the top. In fact many of the women who had sponsors said, ‘That guy was the meanest guy in the whole place, he was a total curmudgeon, yelled at people, said nasty things whenever he could, and behind the scenes he got me promoted over and over again."

Joanna Barsh: How Remarkable Women Lead


Keynote Speech


Joanna Barsh: The Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy Task Force Conference