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At Levo we…

Arm millennials with the tools they need to create a life they’re passionate about.

My advice for millennials starting their careers or businesses…

Learn how to solicit the feedback you need to hear, not just the feedback you want to hear. And cultivate an ecosystem of support because your journey to leadership is a team sport.

Becoming Chief Leadership Officer was…

The best career decision I ever made. As a Gen-Xer, working in a company founded and run by millennials has changed my life.

What I am learning as Chief Leadership Officer…

What you do is less important than the difference you make.

Drop the Ball is…

Long overdue for women who feel enormous pressure to do it all.

The idea for Drop the Ball began when…

It hit me that women frequently asked me, “How do you manage it all?”, because they were struggling to figure it out themselves. Their inability to do so was stifling their ambition.

What I learned writing the book…

I’m not an extrovert. I’m an introvert with very good social skills.

How companies should be addressing the talent pipeline for women…

  1. Acknowledge their organizations aren’t meritocracies and they need to deliberately shift culture.
  2. Encourage senior level men to take advantage of family friendly policies.
  3. Invest in organizations like Girls Who Code and Girl Scouts that cultivate talent early on.

The perception of women in leadership roles is…

Evolving at a turtle’s pace. It’s still difficult for women to be both respected and liked in leadership roles. And astonishingly, our cultural perception is still that a woman’s primary roles are wife and mother. That’s why women get asked work/life balance questions and men don’t. Women are expected to either “do it all” or stay at home.

Leading The White House Project was…

The most inspiring job I’ve had because we were inviting women to lead across the country and they were answering the call. I’m disappointed we don’t have a woman President. But because of The White House Project, I know there’s a strong civic leadership pipeline. Organizations like Vote Run Lead, She Should Run and Running Start are increasing that pipeline even more.

Marie Wilson inspires me to…

Keep perspective and be resilient. She grew up in Georgia in the early fifties. She understands the cycle of progress and set-backs that are a part of every civil rights struggle.

How can the government continue to empower women…

We need policies that support women and strengthen families and communities such as: adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment, affordable childcare, paid family leave, and equal pay for equal work.

What can we do to hold our government accountable, and drive women’s issues forward…

Get off the sidelines. The most powerful tool is our vote. We must communicate with our legislators who are elected to represent all of their constituents – even the ones who didn’t vote for them. Write, call, and show up at their offices. Our democracy is only as strong as our engagement in it.

Steps we can take to change perceptions around gender in the United States…

Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” At the macro level, we need to support media – especially books, films and TV – that show positive and powerful portrayals of women and girls. At the micro level, we need to expose our children to our public lives. Women who work outside the home assume they are being career role models for their children, but our children don’t go to work with us. We might be a dynamic attorney in the courtroom, but if our children largely experience us at home preparing their food and doing laundry, they still are learning that caregiving is primarily a woman’s job.

How did your upbringing in a military family influence you today…

My mom found out she was pregnant with me when she was 19 and encouraged my dad to join the army to escape a tough environment in Watts, Los Angeles. The army allowed my parents to disrupt a vicious cycle of poverty, addiction and violence in one generation. My dad went to college on the GI bill and eventually earned a PhD in theology. I’ve benefitted tremendously from their courage and from the opportunity that military service afforded my family to live the American dream. I’m extremely patriotic as a result.

My mother has…

Been the most pivotal influence in my life. When I was a girl, she told me every day that I was smart, loved, and beautiful. To this day, whenever I’m nervous because I’m about to get on stage, or I’m sitting in a room with powerful people and I doubt myself, I can hear my mother’s voice. I’ve made it my mission to be that voice for other women and to whisper into their ears: you are smart, loved and beautiful.

When did you realize empowering women was your passion…

When I was 16, my parents divorced. My mom really struggled. She spun back into those cycles she had escaped in Watts – of poverty, addiction and violence. I spent years trying to save her before I realized you can’t save other people. Each of us has to know that we’re the most powerful change agent in our own journey. By my twenties, I decided I would do everything I could to ensure as many women as possible understood this. It’s impossible to be successful without a sense of your own agency.

Advice for entrepreneurs trying to create a positive impact in the world…

Hone in on the thing you do extraordinarily well with very little effort. It’s likely your gift to the world. And surround yourself with people you trust who are very good at what they do.

Ways motherhood has shifted my perception and approach to empowering women…

Motherhood was a serious reality check for me. I was able to be perfect at everything until I had kids. But after my first child was born and I went back to work, I couldn’t keep up the perfection. I started doing the one thing I had always been terrified of doing – dropping the ball – and I discovered that the world didn’t fall apart. Now, I drop the ball on purpose, because I’ve discovered that the less I do, the more I can achieve. I spend more time coaching women to embrace imperfection and encouraging their leadership aspirations. I now know the two go hand in hand.

3 ways entrepreneurs can empower women in their own companies…

  1. Model the behavior you preach. When I first started at Levo, I thought it was wonderful that we offered weekly yoga. I encouraged my team to participate, but I never did it. I felt that I was too busy. Finally, my CEO had to point out to me that no one on my team ever did yoga. She said it was because I never did it. The next week, I put on yoga pants, and soon after my team started participating. I learned that my behavior is what gives people permission, not my words.
  2. Give women a window into your life and how you’re making it all work. I was once talking to a young woman who was remarking that she didn’t want to be like a particular senior executive because that woman was a workaholic and didn’t have kids. I was shocked because I knew the executive personally and she had three children. It hit me that when we don’t tell our stories, other women can’t learn from them.
  3. Don’t assume – ask. I’ve been in too many executive meetings where a woman wasn’t considered for a role because people assumed her familial obligations would prevent her from wanting it. Their intentions were good but the impact of that type of benevolence can be disastrous for a woman’s advancement.

How can we expand our notion of what mentors are…

Mentors are simply people who help you to achieve clarity through guidance and encouragement. They don’t need to be in your industry or even more senior than you. They mostly need to be wise.

Mentors are valuable because…

They know your patterns and can ask you the right questions to enhance your decision-making. Women often get stressed over whether they are doing the “right” thing. Mentors can help you to feel confident you’re headed in the right direction.

My background in fundraising taught me…

That the best way to sell something is to listen carefully to people first.

Embrace ambition means…

That you’re totally comfortable with the fact that you strive for excellence and that you want public credit. Gold star please.

My motto is…

If you want something you’ve never had, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done in order to get it.

3 books every entrepreneur should read…

  1. Cooking With Grease” by Donna Brazile
  2. “Feminist Fight Club” by Jessica Bennett
  3. Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg

This year I hope to…

Make an even bigger difference for women and girls.