Influential Leader

Paula Bennett

Retired President & CEO, J.Jill
Recognition Year(s): 2019
School: Max M. Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Location: United States

Paula Bennett has proven to be a visionary and leader as a marketing professional, advocate for women, and supporter of business education at her alma mater.

As a marketing professional with proven leadership experience, Paula Bennett has shaped the retail landscape as a visionary at some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Tiffany & Co., Calvin Klein, Eileen Fisher, and, most recently, J.Jill. At J.Jill, where she served as president and CEO, Bennett helped lead the company through a number of transformational changes, including two sales to private equity firms and an initial public offering in 2017.

The decision to take J.Jill public in the midst of a competitive retail environment exemplies Bennett’s strong leadership in the face of dynamic uncertainty and change. As a leader, Bennett fostered a culture that placed tremendous value in understanding, building, and cultivating the company’s loyal customer base. Her foresight helped J.Jill create a database that strengthened the company’s brand loyalty among consumers in the women’s fashion marketplace.

Bennett has also contributed to charitable works. She helped lead the J.Jill Compassion Fund, which was established to help and to empower poor and homeless women to change their lives. The fund has generated millions of dollars to fight homelessness and help disadvantaged women regain their self-sufficiency.

Outside of J.Jill, one of Bennett’s contributions is to Women In Need (WIN), the largest provider of shelter and supportive housing for homeless families in New York City. She serves as a board member for WIN and is on the organization’s human capital committee. In 2017, WIN served nearly 10,000 homeless people, including nearly 6,000 children, and helped more than 800 families transition into their own homes.

Bennett has long been an advocate and supporter of business education at The Ohio State University. As an undergraduate student, she was one of only seven women in a class of 234 undergraduate business students. That disparity, however, did little to dampen her enthusiasm and passion for marketing. Years later, Bennett established an endowed scholarship fund that, since 2015, has supported 20 students studying retail and multi-channel marketing.

At The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business (Fisher), Bennett is a trusted member of the Dean’s Advisory Council, which provides the college and its leadership with valuable insights and strategic direction to help Fisher deliver on its purpose of creating ideas, encouraging scholars, and developing leaders who positively impact their community and our world.

Additionally, Bennett is a fixture in classrooms and at events throughout Fisher. Drawing on her experiences and the leadership lessons she gained as a female CEO, she delivered the keynote address at the college’s 2017 Women’s Leadership Forum. For her professional accomplishments, dedication to the next generation of business leaders at The Ohio State University, contributions to advancing business, and positively representing Fisher and Ohio State, she has received Fisher’s Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award and the Pace Setters Executive Award.