Nancy during a visit to Nicaragua, where she visited WFP operations supporting poor families recovering from severe flooding.
(Copyright: WFP Photolibrary)
Nancy Roman worked in journalism, in business, on Wall Street and in the non-profit sector before joining WFP in 2007. She is convinced that her multifaceted career before WFP prepared her well for the role of director of Communications, Public Policy and Private Sector Partnerships. In particular it has helped her develop WFP's work with the private sector.
What perspective do you bring to WFP given the various roles you’ve had during your 25-year career?
When you first come [to WFP] and you see all these dedicated humanitarians who’ve been doing this for decades, you wonder: “Wow, what do I bring?” As I’ve been here these 4 years, what I realized is the external training -- knowing how business thinks... appreciating the financial markets ... understanding the policy world -- it really does help me pull WFP into those arenas and help the organisation navigate them.
Wall Street and global hunger seem two worlds apart - is there any connection?
The most successful people I know are motivated by passion. On Wall Street, the passion is really to make money. Here the passion is to save lives, and to develop lives. Learning and understanding passion, and how to tap it, and how to channel it, it’s a parallel skill.
And very directly, we’ve developed a program working with Wall Street companies, and it’s something that I really hope to develop further where we want to engage financial institutions that have a passion for money, and make lot of it, in really doing some good for the hungry too, with a very small percentage of what they do.
Are companies really interested in helping the hungry?
For so long, this organization and others like it, who’ve been addressing hunger, had really been doing it out of a mission of humanitarianism and out of compassion - and those are wonderful things. But companies are now coming into it out of their own self-interest because they understand that they need their customers and supply chains to be well-nourished human beings and that might sound a little bit self-interested. But this is a positive thing because now addressing hunger is getting embedded in the way Fortune 500 companies do business, and the World Food Programme is at the leading edge of that.
How do you balance your highly demanding job, with international travel and your active family life?
Well, that’s the hardest question so far. When you are a working woman with a demanding job -- and any family is demanding -- I liken it to a pendulum. I feel like I’m out of balance most of the time - in one direction or another - but as you get older, you get more adept at managing both. I always say the goal is for the pendulum to swing less widely over time.
What has life been like for you living in Rome these last four years?
It’s been a fantastic experience for me personally and for the family. My children had never lived abroad. And I think it fundamentally turned them into citizens of the world. I told my daughter when we moved here, “Honey, I don’t think you will really understand what it is to be an American until you live abroad,” and it was just a couple of weeks ago, after she had been remarking on it, that I said to her, “Do you remember when I first told you that ?” She said she did, and I said, “Well, now you won’t really know what is like to be a citizen of the world until you move home.”
What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?
My passions are family, music, cooking (especially the three together!), reading and swimming. I read both fiction and non-fiction and on overseas flights, I cherish having time to polish off a couple of books! I often swim just before bed. I love going to the Italian market on Saturday mornings and picking out the freshest of the seasonal fruits and vegetables and then turning them into something beautiful and delicious for dinner. I play the piano when I can squeeze it in - I find it to be a huge source of relaxation as it concentrates the mind entirely.
What do you think people would be most surprised to know about you?
• That at every family gathering, I get in the street with all the guys – my brother Scott, brother-in-law Steve, nephew Mitchell, now-18 year old son Daniel and any other relatives who drop in -- and we play very rough street football. I’ve absorbed a few rib-bruising tackles – all worth it for the touchdown!
• That I ride a Vespa
• That I’ve sky-dived
Nancy Roman’s 25-year international career spans journalism, business, U.S. government, Wall Street and most recently, the United Nations in Rome, from where she directs WFP’s Communications, Public Policy and Private Sector Partnerships Division.
Under her leadership, WFP has more than quintupled funds raised from the private sector and the general public over two years, including innovative partnerships with Fortune 500 food companies to tackle hunger and malnutrition. Nancy also oversees media relations, video/photo and publications, celebrities and goodwill ambassadors and has been spearheading efforts to integrate the social media into communications and fundraising.
Prior to joining WFP, Nancy served as Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., where she established the Council’s congressional program. She also served as President of the G7 Group, a strategic consulting firm that advises Wall Street on how political, legislative, central banking and regulatory developments will affect institutional investments. That role was preceded by 10 years as a journalist, covering politics, congress, foreign policy and economics.
Nancy is married, and has two children, Daniel, 17 and Taylor Beth, 15.