What are you working on?
I recently launched CEOX, a mission-based organization to elevate women into CEO roles. We seek nominations from successful CEOs and senior leaders of women in their network who are CEO-ready and then connect them to CEO roles.
How did you get into your current field?
The idea of CEOX came from working in and investing in venture capital over the last 5 years. Sometimes the founding CEO of a startup is not always the best person to grow and scale it, which is necessary for VCs to make money. So it is not uncommon for the CEO to be replaced as the company grows. Unfortunately, over and over again, I was seeing these CEOs replaced with men. It especially hit home when a women's healthcare platform for tracking your period and fertility had the founding husband and wife team replaced by a male CEO. That's when I started to look into what was going on and discovered a few things that were causing this to happen. First, the investors surrounding the companies were going into their networks to find the next CEO. Most VCs are men and their networks are not gender-balanced, and it is not surprising when they find men to take these roles. Second, numerous studies reveal that men are hired based on their potential while women are hired on what they have accomplished. What ensues is a Catch-22 for women leaders who need and deserve increasingly significant roles, but are not championed into them. This issue is particularly important to understand and overcome for VC firms because women-led companies are shown to grow faster and generate more revenue than companies led by men, and those are the two ingredients needed for the VCs to make money.
What are your goals?
I am turning CEOX into a movement. Not only can we supply top talent for high-level roles, but we are a network of VP-level and higher women who can support and help each other. CEOX is a place for these female leaders to access training and resources to advance their careers. It's a place to find board members and speakers for events. The ultimate goal is that CEOX accelerates gender-parity at the highest levels so that when we see 50% or more CEOs in the Fortune 500 are women, no one gives it a second thought.
What is your mission at CEOX?
CEOX's mission is to elevate women into CEO roles for the benefit of businesses, the prosperity of the economy, and the betterment of society.
What challenges has CEOX faced?
We received our first paid search contract about a week before the full gravity of the COVID situation hit. The company we were helping search for paused their hiring and laid off a significant percentage of their workforce. Although this was disheartening, it just means we are doubling down on identifying CEO-ready women for when we are through the worst of this crisis. I expect towards the end of 2020 and into early 2021, there will be a lot of leadership change at companies. It will be clear who led their companies through these difficult days well and who failed. CEOX will be here to help these companies find effective and transformational leaders.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes! I meet with her every two weeks to discuss both business strategies for CEOX and personal issues. I value her ideas, advice and friendship immensely.
Do you mentor anyone?
My most recent mentee just finished her first year of college studying to be an astrophysicist. I love how smart and driven she is and she keeps me current on all things that are happening in her generation, which I find valuable.
What could the tech industry do to better foster female talent?
They need to question everything they are doing and be open to getting honest feedback. There is a lot that we all do that we don't even realize is biased because we have seen it done our entire lives and it is engrained in how we think. The simple act of questioning can make us aware of our biases (we all have them!) so we can overcome them.
What advice would you give to future female leaders?
We have to accept the reality that we live in a world that was designed by and for men. I say this not in an accusatory way, but simply factual. Because of that, we as women have to balance pushing for the change that is needed in our world while still living authentically and successfully in the world we have today. This is a burdensome task for sure, and a balance that is different for each woman. So while we are doing that, I would love for more women to think about the things that men do that they could be doing that will make them more visible and successful. Things like celebrating publicly their accomplishments, raising their hand to be included even if they don't think they are qualified. Men do that all the time and women need to project confidence (even if they don't feel it) and make themselves visible as experts in their field.
Whats the best and worst advice you have received?
My husband taught me early on that it never hurts to ask because the worst someone can say is no, and then you are simply no worse off than you were before. But if they say yes, you have gotten what you wanted or needed. I still sometimes struggle to ask, but I do it a lot more now and I find most people want to help and say yes.
The worst advice I have ever gotten is the old adage that people always tell new moms: Savor every moment because it goes by so fast. I call bullshit on that! For me having infants and toddlers was the hardest time of my life. Going to work massively sleep-deprived, and needing to constantly care for my little ones when not working was not fun. I love watching my kids grow up and I definitely don't long for the days when they were babies! I tell moms they should not feel bad for not enjoying every moment because a lot of those moments are miserable. I think it takes away one additional expectation of ourselves that we will beat ourselves up about.
Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?
Harvard Business Review always has exceptional articles and studies on women's issues. NYTimes "In Her Words" also gives deep insight into the personal lives of women. I follow inspiring CEOs such as Beth Ford, Sally Krawcheck, Paula Gold-Williams and Lisa Su, among many others. The most impactful read for me has been "Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men" by Caroline Criado-Perez. I reference her book weekly and it is what gave me the final push to start CEOX when I was on the fence about taking action.
What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?
You can signup for our newsletter at our website projectceox.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. CEO-ready women, CEOs and senior leaders can download the CEOX app and request to join our private social network.