The Inequality Equalizer

Want It, Claim It, Own It — And Maximize Your Career Success

The mentoring guide that most of us wish we had read a long time ago, much earlier in our careers.

Let’s be honest. Many of today’s up-and-coming, eager professionals are articulate, talented, well educated and technologically savvy, but many of them are also unaware of the nuances to manage their career and may become labeled as obtuse. They simply lack the political perception and professional skills to get ahead—and stay ahead.

Worse, they feel that unless they start out with an “in” or a family pedigree, the odds are stacked against them and they’ll never reach the C-suite.

Now, executive search expert and former executive Jena Abernathy is showing women and men how to equalize inequality, level the playing field, and get real about getting ahead. She’s helping the scrappy, streetsmart, tenacious workers—the “junkyard dogs”— become the pedigreed, poised pros who have the opportunity to maximize their potential and achieve success at the highest level.

In this book, Jena shares her practical, proven real-world techniques to strategize your career, and gain the confidence, know-how, and respect to get results, make winning impressions, and build long-lasting success.

Packed with true-life anecdotes, lessons learned, and case studies, The Inequality Equalizer illustrates how everyday experiences can propel—or thwart—the career objectives of young professionals entering business and those mid-career seeking to move ahead and upward. Jena explains why it’s important to:

  • Know what you want, claim your goals, and own your work
  • Balance your inner junkyard dog with your pedigree skills to work connections and leapfrog up the corporate ladder
  • Brand yourself and protect your reputation
  • Manage your career; don’t get mired in dead-end roles for more than 18 months, and go for title
  • Know when and how to say “no”
  • Make the most of opportunities—and risks; they can mean the difference between advancing to the next level or being stuck in the status quo, and much more.


“Get ready for some tough love. In The Inequality Equalizer, Jena Abernathy brings to the page the no-holds-barred mentoring that she’s delivered to young professionals whose careers she rescued and got on track. This is a must-read for every young professional—as well as those in need of a restart or reinvention.” —Patricia Crisafulli, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Dimon

“In a time when women are still trying to crack through a ceiling that has the invisible inscription of ‘no,’ Jena Abernathy, in The Inequality Equalizer, shares with us how to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes,’ through mentoring and supporting each other as women. The content is rich with practical, everyday, common-sense stories, laced with humor, which allow for each of us to see ourselves and to imagine what we could have and will do differently in the future.” —Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD President and Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine

“For the past twenty-five years, I have had the privilege of observing Jena Abernathy grow from being a talented manager to a highly respected executive and now a world-class thought leader in career development.  The Inequality Equalizer represents a practical blueprint for all who are serious about maximizing their career opportunities while truly enjoying the journey.  Her transition from being a successful ‘junkyard dog’ to a graceful  pedigree is indeed inspiring!” — Steve Nielsen, Senior Advisor, Flexpoint Ford

“Jena is the real deal.  Her guidance in The Inequality Equalizer will be valuable to anyone who wants to accelerate their career opportunities while on the journey to finding their true passion. Her no nonsense insights come from real world experience and get to the point. I have witnessed the ‘junkyard dog’ first hand and would bet on it (with an experience based veneer) over ‘pedigree’ all day long.” — Daniel A. Eckert, Healthcare Services Executive and Entrepreneur


Making the Most of Your Inner Junkyard Dog and Your Inner Pedigree

During the course of my career, I’ve noticed that two types of people get to the top: pedigrees and junkyard dogs. Pedigrees often reach the top because they have “the goods” from prestigious universities—and because they have important family connections. But, it’s highly unlikely that any board of directors or any C-suite executive or even any mid-level manager will put up with a poor performer for long, regardless of pedigree.

That means you have to tap into both your inner junkyard dog and your pedigree when confronted with any new challenge, any new opportunity. So, when you come to the table to solve a problem, to work on a project, use your inner junkyard dog—that scrappy, tenacious fighter full of common sense—to figure out how to get it done. Focus on solving the issue, finding the answer, and leveling the playing field.

Make the most of your inner junkyard dog, because having an MBA from an Ivy League school matters not if you can’t apply yourself. Know your facts, understand your biases, realize that you are not always right, and pace your delivery. Learn to work through others by creating strong followership. Listen to your intuition; it will be your best guide in life, and especially in your career. Know your strengths, and work to improve your weaknesses. Resolve to execute and deliver results, on point and on time.

But you also have to tap into your inner pedigree—even if you’ve never set foot on an Ivy League campus.

That means you have to learn how to present yourself, your information, and your ideas in a manner that is both authoritative and ardent without being aggressive. You have to know how to work both the conference room and the back channels, building support among colleagues, clients, and C-suite executives. You need to understand the social norms that manifest in business settings. This is because the higher you climb, the more exposed you become to the expectations of representing the organization and socializing within a business construct.

Junkyard dogs like me can easily develop tendencies to come on too strong, too loud, and too fast. We often find ourselves relying on gut instinct rather than real information. Pedigrees, on the other hand, can find themselves refraining from constructive dialogue because they fear rocking the boat. Often they become risk-averse and can get mired in the status quo or caught up in analysis paralysis. For those of us who are apt to bulldoze our way through work, we need to keep our inner junkyard dogs in check.

For those who are pedigreed, you need to find your junkyard dog.

But you need to balance both in order to be successful.


Be yourself at work—so long as you’re being your best self. Balance your inner junkyard dog and your inner pedigree so that you can be both scrappy and savvy as well as poised and polished. Level the playing field by playing up the best parts of you.

© 2016-2018 Jena E. Abernathy. All rights reserved.