And as CEO, it's not just about having the answers — she's learned to hold her own by being more intentional in terms of what she wants to get out of every meeting.
"Be really clear about what you want to get out of the conversation that you're having, and make sure that you own that narrative," she said.
"Have your information, have your facts, have your numbers, have your point of view, so that if you get derailed in the conversation — if there's a dynamic that maybe isn't working to your advantage — you come back to, 'What is my intention and what do I need out of this group?'"
She added: "No matter whether it's a gender bias or some other unconscious bias in the room, it's your responsibility as a leader to try to guide that conversation as much as possible."
I also asked Whelan for the best career advice that she often finds herself repeating to the women she has mentored. Her message: Put yourself in a position in your company where you are responsible for driving a P&L.
"Having the accountability of driving profitability for a business really enabled me to think critically, to build a team," she said. "My experience of getting closer to the P&L really pivoted my career, and I try to give women that counsel."
"I'm a big believer," Whelan added, "in impact."
Adam Bryant is a CNBC contributor and managing director of Merryck & Co., a senior leadership development and executive mentoring firm. A veteran journalist, Bryant interviewed more than 500 leaders for the "Corner Office" feature he created at the New York Times. Be on the lookout for new "Two Questions" videos each month, and check out CNBC's ongoing coverage of women in business, "Closing The Gap."
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