What makes this woman an influential leader? Since joining Pacific Community Ventures as President & CEO in fall of 2015, Mary Jo Cook has blended “head and heart” behind an expansive mission to invest in small businesses, create good jobs for working people, and make markets work for social good for hardworking people all across America.
Amidst widening income and wealth inequality, the decline of jobs that afford working people and their families dignity, financial security, and economic mobility is one of the biggest societal challenges of our time. Under Mary Jo’s leadership, PCV launched a national initiative to engage a wide range of stakeholders – including foundations, policymakers, community advocates, government, business and workers – around the idea that as a society we simply must do better at creating jobs that are good for workers, good for businesses, and good for communities.
PCV has conducted field-leading research (Moving Beyond Job Creation, 2016; Public Policy and Investments in Quality Jobs, 2017) and recently launched Good Jobs, Good Business: A Practical Toolkit to Help Small Business Owners Create Jobs that Boost the Bottom Line. PCV also serves almost 1,000 small businesses annually — over two-thirds owned by women or people of color – providing them with fairly priced loans and pro-bono mentors to help them grow and create good jobs.
Throughout her career, Mary Jo has demonstrated that business can be used as a force for good. Mary Jo was selected to represent PCV as a Job Quality Fellow by Aspen Institute and as an Opportunity Fellow by Opportunity Finance Network to promote racial equity and social justice in community lending. Mary Jo’s leadership in making business work for society goes beyond PCV. At Fair Trade USA, she led the organization in persuading businesses and consumers to increase their purchases of ethically-sourced products, improving the livelihoods of farmers and workers around the world. At the Clorox Company, she was the first head of sustainability, encouraging the organization to incorporate environmental sustainability into their products and messaging. Most recently, she was asked to be the Board Chair of Ganaz, a for-profit social enterprise that connects workers who need good jobs with growers who have responsible labor practices.
Her passion for social justice extends to her volunteer service. She served for seven years on the board of LeaderSpring, a non-profit providing leadership training to diverse cohorts of Bay Area executive directors, enabling them to be more effective in the low-income communities they serve. She has served for five years on the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board, working with companies to embed environmental and social sustainability into their business practices.
While we work with small businesses and community organizations to create good-quality jobs, we’re also ramping up our work to re-shape investment markets and policies to better serve working families, our environment, and our local communities. Our work over the next five years will unlock the potential social impact of tens of trillions of dollars in capital. That means working with mission investors and foundations, pension funds, investment managers, and faith-based investors to deploy more impact capital, more effectively, in economically distressed communities, with selective field building research that ultimately drives more impact measurement and management.
There’s no one cause behind rising inequality and the expanding number of working poor. Stagnant wages, rising housing costs, expensive and segregated education, policies that favor globalized corporations over local economies, neglected transportation infrastructure — it all adds up. At PCV we’re investing in a new quality jobs economy as a way to help turn the tide. We hope that you will join us in this journey.
You can see the SF Business Times’ award here.