VT: Tell me about yourself & your role at Ellevate Network.
MH: After completing my MBA I started working for the then cheekily named 85 Broads, which turned into Ellevate, and I’ve been here ever since. In my role, I help with a lot of the customer acquisition for our business, particularly when it comes to regional expansion and chapter strategy. I work closely with the team to determine how to better position Ellevate for growth and how to deliver on the promises to our members. I also work on some special projects like our annual Impact Survey and our Ellevate Podcast, which I co-host.
VT: Ellevate used to be 85 Broads. Tell us about the need to start this organization.
MH: Believe it or not, Ellevate was started 20 years ago! The founder, Janet Hanson, someone who I admire and respect enormously, started it as a way to keep in touch with other women who worked or had worked at Goldman Sachs. Men have always had the “good ol’ boys club” as it were, but women had never really had such a thing. We’re more focused on putting our heads down and working, and less so on making connections. The reality is, we need a safe environment to network. That’s where Ellevate comes in.
VT: Ellevate is hosting the #MobilizeWomen Summit on 6/21 in NYC. Tell me about how this came to be.
MH: People were constantly telling us we needed to do a big conference, but with all of the women’s conferences that already exist, and, the fact that we already host 500 events a year through our chapters, adding such a big undertaking was not something we were going to take lightly. Mobilize the Power of Women is really all about taking action (one of our core values). We are not going to spend the day talking about everything that’s wrong. We know there’s a pay gap, we know we need more women in senior leadership, more women on boards, more women to get funding… this day is about solutions and what each of us can do, today, to create change.
VT: The Vermilion Talent community is made up of women in transition - either re-entering the workforce after a career break or looking to make a change in their current employment path - how can the #Mobilize Women Summit benefit them?
MH: At Mobilizing the Power of Women they’ll have the chance to network with top business leaders who can open doors, and decision makers in companies. Anecdotally I can tell you that we’ve seen people who have gotten job offers at large, big-name corporations from people they met at Ellevate events. This is no different. At the same time, you’ll be hearing from amazing inspirational speakers on action steps that you can take in your own life. We have someone from Catalyst who will share information on Finding the Right People, we have a host of women-focused networks and organizations talking about collaboration, and many other useful topics.
VT: Who are you most excited to hear speak?
MH: I’m very excited for Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. I think he’s exceptional, and is doing a lot of work to help women advance in tech. He’ll be talking about Leading with Your Values which is a topic I find extremely important.
VT: Who are some of the most inspiring people you’ve met through your work with Ellevate?
MH: I don’t even know where to begin. Alison Levine, one of our speakers and a long-time member of the network, is an extremely inspiring person. She’s a mountain climber, explorer, leadership expert and NYT best-selling author, and hearing her speak about her treks is amazing. I had the chance to meet Venus Williams, another Ellevate member, and that was great. She’s so down to earth and genuine. Wade Davis is at the top of the list too, he’ll also be at the Summit and he’s one outspoken feminist. I love that he’s so supportive of our work. And all the people I’ve gotten to meet through our events and our Podcast, there are really just too many. And of course my team – we are a group of passionate individuals who are really trying to make a change in the world.
VT: What has been your greatest career challenge to date?
MH: Getting uncomfortable with the unknown has been my greatest challenge. I thought my career would follow a very linear path – I started in finance right after college and thought that’s where I was going to stay. Years later I figured I wanted to do something different, that I was made for a more start-up environment and that I really cared about working for a company with a mission. I changed careers and came to Ellevate, but getting used to not knowing what was next, not having control over everything, was a big challenge for me. It still is.
VT: What do you think is the most important thing to remember in following your career path?
MH: Careers are no longer linear, they’re full of twists and turns. You’ll change, what matters to you will change, and the landscape of business is constantly changing. Embrace it, but stay true to yourself and your values and you’ll eventually find the right fit.
VT: Do you have a #FemaleRoleModel? Why are they important?
MH: So many! Zainab Salbi, who will be speaking at #MobilizeWomen is a great #FemaleRoleModel. She really personifies the essence of dedicating your life to help others and fight for those who have been silenced. Jessica Bennett is such a #FemaleRoleModel. I love her use of humor and very actionable, simple advice that is effective. She’s not afraid of having the tough conversations and she’s all about women helping other women – something we really believe in at Ellevate. And as to why they’re important, it’s simple really – you can’t be what you can’t see. #FemaleRoleModels inspire us to be the best version of ourselves, and to know that anything is possible.
VT: What makes the work you do fulfilling?
MH: Knowing that my job is completely aligned with my values. I believe in what the company stands for and I feel like I’m doing something that has purpose. We’re working to create a change I believe in deeply and it’s always a challenge, but a rewarding one when things moving forward.
VT: What is the call to action for women related to this event?
MH: We want women to mobilize: to take action in their own lives, use their sphere of influence, their voice, to advocate for themselves and for other women. We want to make sure everyone leaves the room with clear steps of what to do in their own lives to create change.
VT: Why now? Why is it relevant for women to take action now?
MH: Women control 86% of consumer spending, and we’re building companies at a faster rate than men. We have power, but sometimes we don’t recognize it. It’s time we start taking things into our own hands. The last year has shown how far we still have to go to reach gender equality, from locker room talk to the pay gap that still exists — we can’t just stand there and think there is no problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away, so it’s time to act and use our power.
VT: What is the best advice you have received/favorite quote?
MH: My mentor used to always tell me to “help him get to ‘yes’” when we were facing a blocker or a problem. It was his way of reminding me to always bring solutions to the table, not just problems. If we’re getting a “no” always try to find the way to turn that no into a yes.
VT: How can people participate if they can't join in person?
MH: We’ll be livestreaming the Summit through our website! You can register here and get access to all of the sessions online. You can also follow the conversation via Twitter with #MobilizeWomen and by following @EllevateNtwk.
Click here for more information on the 2017 Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit.