I decided it’s time. I’m at a point in my life where I need to do something deeply personal to me. I have determined Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging (IDB) work is where I want to focus. I’m thrilled to announce I will be joining my dear friend Katee Van Horn at her firm, VH Included. I will be Head of Brand, Partnerships and Product. I have been wanting to work with Katee for a while and am so grateful she invited me to help her build her business.
After I sold Brand Amper, the branding technology I cofounded, to The Muse in 2017, I wanted to work there to keep an eye on how our technology (now BrandBuilder) evolved. I loved working at The Muse but there comes a time when a founder needs to exit and get out of the way. I am forever grateful to The Muse founders Katheryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos for believing in our tech and mission to make it safe for employees to reveal their stories to create a truly data-driven employer brand.
I also needed to spend concentrated time at home with my three boys after years of being on the road and building something. Reconnecting with them was crucial to my mental and emotional health. My needs in life were shifting and it was time to evaluate my options.
As I pondered what was next, I knew it had to be mission-based work that leveraged my brand and communications background and involved technology in some way. But it also had to be a learning and personal growth opportunity, something related to my expertise that also pushed me beyond what I had already accomplished.
For months I had conversations with people in my beloved HR Tech and Employer Brand network, a group I have cultivated over the last 5 years (thank you for sharing them with me, Jason Seiden). As I talked through my interests, my pull towards IDB work kept surfacing. Life was also calling me to do this work that is so important to me and the world my kids will live in, the future of work. It was time to listen to that calling.
When I started working on Brand Amper, the idea of building an Employer Brand not from the top down, but from the bottom up, rooting it in what was true about individual employees, was something new and radical. So when I put together The Muse’s first-ever Product Advisory two years ago, I felt strongly we should include an IDB expert to keep that idea central in our minds. Katee generously joined and our client members were so excited, validating my assumption that IDB is a key part of any Employer Branding strategy. I also firmly believe fostering an environment that supports IDB leads to better product development and a healthier bottom line. According to McKinsey’s 2018 “Delivering Through Diversity” report “companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.”
The first time I was exposed to this work in a meaningful way was through a product pilot we did with Lever. My cofounder, Jason Seiden, and I worked with our friend Leela Srinivasan (now CMO at Survey Monkey), to pilot Brand Amper at Lever. It was a real joy to see our tech help Lever employees tell their stories, assets that Lever truly believed would make all the difference in attracting the right talent. Their CEO, Sarah Nahm, was personally invested in the project and was so proud to encourage her employees to tell their stories, talking about who they are and why they love their work in their own words, in a way that was authentic to them.
Over and over again in my work with Brand Amper, I saw women in particular struggle—both in real life and also on places like LinkedIn—where standing out without drawing the wrong kind of attention can be difficult. These struggles are very real and need to be taken seriously. My own experiences offer no exception. For example, not even the privilege of graduating from one of the world’s most prestigious graduate schools was able to protect me from gender bias when, years after I graduated, I was asked to present to a room of current graduate students. Despite having worked with the professor to organize the event, and despite being the primary invitee, after we finished, my old professor nonetheless approached my male cofounder—who I had invited to join me—handed him his card, and said “please come stop by my office some time!” (Stunned does not even begin to cover how I felt!)
Knowing that my experience that day continues to be the norm for so many people has kept me up many nights. I am excited to learn as much as I can about Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging so I can be an ally to all people who need it, not just women. I have so many friends and family members who are a part of the LGBTQ community; I’d love to make the workplace safer and better for them, and really, for anyone who feels different or unsafe being their authentic self. I have had situations in my life, much more traumatic than the one I shared above, that have made me feel I was being judged or stigmatized. I will share more about these experiences in future blog posts. The older I get, the more I insist fostering an environment of physical and psychological safety is absolutely fundamental to an organization’s success. Feeling included matters.