Close this search box.


Women In Marketing: Empower and Support Others

Empowering your employees is a path to success for many women in marketing. Bernice Clark, chief marketing officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), utilizes empathy and understanding when managing teams through a crisis and strives to encourage them to appreciate and respect others. NYCEDC works to strengthen New York City’s neighborhoods and economy. On June 18th, Young Mi Park of AMA New York spoke to Bernice Clark about several topics including how NYCEDC is currently involved with COVID-19 efforts in New York City, how Bernice got into marketing and advertising, how to maintain leadership in challenging times, and how perseverance has served Bernice well in her career.

4:40 Young Mi Park
For starters just to get us warmed up here, can you tell us a little bit about the NYCEDC and what you do over there?
4:52 Bernice Clark
Sure, so I’m the Chief Marketing Officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and after this, I’ll just call it EDC, because it’s so much easier to say. I just passed my one-year anniversary with the organization on June 3rd.
5:13 Young Mi Park
Congratulations! Good for you!
5:16 Bernice Clark
Our organization is really engaged in I’d say four core mandates. One of them is to be very involved with strengthening communities, really helping neighborhoods address needs that have been long-standing. One is really around sustainability and particularly dealing with the effects of climate change on New York City. We do believe that climate change is real, and so we put a lot of effort in along with other partners into addressing it. One other major initiative is around workforce and job development and particularly helping New Yorkers be ready for 21st-century jobs like cybersecurity, so jobs that are going to be increasingly and ongoingly important in our economy.
The other area is innovation, and for us, innovation could be in industries like life sciences that are really beginning to become much more of a lifeblood of New York City. Certainly, that innovation and those partnerships in industries like life sciences have helped us to really be a strong partner and to really have an impact within this COVID-19 crisis because it really helped us to be able to help New York City and to help New Yorkers through some core needs. Whether it was ventilators our organization was very involved in helping to develop and ultimately to help to get produced ventilators when none were coming from the federal government and also with gowns and face shields, we worked with a number of smaller businesses and production companies. I mean it’s really just amazing, we know the New Yorker spirit. The New Yorker spirit if there’s a crisis is, “what can I do?” Working with small businesses, manufacturers, and Broadway. Xavier Munos from Hamilton, seamstresses from Broadway just in making gowns and face masks and face shields. Now we’re very involved in the test kit endeavor and have really gotten involved in the design and now the manufacturer of test kits. Now even as a marketer, I’m very involved in working along with the City Hall comms team on the test and trace efforts to get that message out to New Yorkers.
8:21 Young Mi Park
Oh my goodness! I had no idea!
8:25 Bernice Clark
These three months have been incredible not only for the impact that it’s had on communities in particular in New York City, but I think it’s really just galvanized our organization. The organization created a number of cross-functional teams to set up how we could source and manufacture. I have really found that, as hard as it’s been just as an overall crisis, it’s really been meaningful to know that the organization that you’re working for is really impacting the life of New York City.
9:16 Young Mi Park
That’s incredible, I mean what a wonderful resource for New York City during this time of crisis. It sounds like your organization is doing tremendous things for the long term, so I’d love to hear how did you end up in marketing?
9:32 Bernice Clark
Ah yes, so I got involved in marketing after college. Actually, during college one of my favorite classes and I took this class in freshman year, more as a distribution credit, try out a class, I took sociology and I loved it. I loved my professor Viviana Zelizer and the whole topic of why do groups of people do what they do, why do they make the decisions that they do, why do they have the thoughts and the perceptions that they do. I just loved it right from the beginning and so I knew right then that I wanted to major in it. Now I didn’t want to become a sociologist, but when I was coming out of college I went to business school and actually went to NYU business school. At that time, almost everybody who was at the business school was a finance major and I was a marketing major. We used to say that marketing majors the few the proud, and I loved it, and what I took into the marketing courses was just this understanding and thinking about people and why they do what they do.
From there I went into advertising, and I remember I was having interviews with different product companies and investigating those companies and then I met a recruiter from Leo Burnett company in Chicago and he just made advertising not only sound, I’m not gonna say something like fun, but inspiring. I think what I found inspiring about doing marketing in the setting of an advertising agency, now I think it’s changed a lot, but when I went into advertising it was to be really a close business partner and marketing partner to your clients, so to be involved in their business. What would their customers look for? Who were their customers? What were the demographics? What did they think? You went to focus groups, you helped to put together research. I remember when I worked on Kellogg’s, I went and worked on new business, new brands for Kellogg’s for a number of years, and I remember going to the plant. When a new plant was coming off the line, and so not only because there was business and a creative end. One of the things that probably people don’t know about me is that my other major in college, I went to Barnard, I was a piano performance major. It was a wonderful program called program in the arts and I majored in piano performance, so for my senior year projects, I had to write a paper for sociology and perform a piano concert.
13:22 Young Mi Park
Do you still perform?
13:27 Bernice Clark
I still play, actually, one of the things that I’ve picked up again during these last three to four months, have been practicing again, and also teaching my two 13-year-old boys lessons. I’m sure they’re loving it.
13:50 Young Mi Park
Oh! If they’re not now, I’m sure they will soon.
13:52 Bernice Clark
So that’s what took me into advertising and also I think I thought of it as a good way to get exposure to lots of other different industries. I worked on packaged goods, I worked on cereal across a channel of different targets, I worked on kid brands, adult brands, family brands, new products, I worked in retail, Sears when I came back to New York, Colgate Palmolive, KitchenAid. Each business that I worked on, I was able to bring something that I’d learned previously in my career, but I also got to learn a new industry and a new way of thinking and that’s what kept it interesting for me for a number of years, almost 15 years.
14:42 Young Mi Park
Now I understand, I also worked in advertising for a couple of years and everything that you’re saying resonates with me because when I moved over to the client-side, my agency partners were among my best friends, we had such close relationships, but then what happened when you left the agency?
15:08 Bernice Clark
Then I ended up moving, I was here in New York then I got engaged to be married and my fiancee got a position in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic working on their health systems as a project manager and I moved out there. There wasn’t really anything right for me to do in Rochester, Minnesota, but Minneapolis in midwest terms was relatively close, meaning miles away. Minneapolis really, I mean everything that’s going on is very hard to hear about. I enjoyed it as a city and there are a number of really great companies there obviously, so a number of agencies, but also Target was there, and Target owned Marshall Field’s department store at the time and from my experience of having worked on Sears when I was in advertising, I went into the marketing group running their marketing planning and working along with their merchants, so I went to the Marshall Fields Company. Now that actually leads to a really interesting period though, because six months after I came to Marshall Fields, then Target put Marshall Fields up for sale, and we went through a very long process with two suitors the May Company of stores bought Marshall Fields, but then a year later Macy’s corporation bought the May Company.
17:03 Young Mi Park
It’s been a tumultuous period, you know for a while.
17:08 Bernice Clark
That happened all in a space of 18 months.
17:12 Young Mi Park
Yeah, I think I remember that.
17:15 Bernice Clark
At that point, I was reporting straight into the CEO of Marshall Fields and had joined the executive committee and it really grew me as a leader and also grew my understanding of the underlying business of retail, but also I think I was still able to bring my sense of empathy and understanding of the teams and just how much change they were going through. So just always trying to bring those two things together as a leader, just that awareness of how change affects people and giving them confidence that they can make it through.