As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we’re excited to share a Q&A with a handful of female leaders in our network. We had the pleasure of connecting with Alyssa Jaffee, a Partner at 7Wire, Kim Hill, CFO at Array, and Carla Dunham, CMO at Foxtrot. Read their thoughts on who and what inspires them, challenges they’ve faced, and their hope for the future of gender equality in the workplace and the world.
When you were a young girl, what or who inspired you? Has that changed, and if so, how?
Alyssa Jaffee: My mother. She had 5 kids in 9 years and was always there for us, no matter what we needed. She had four daughters and taught us to be strong women and to speak our minds. I’m grateful for how she empowered us to follow our dreams and never take no for an answer.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how does that compare to who you grew up to be?
Alyssa Jaffee: I wanted to be the President until I was 14. Obviously, my life took a different course and the Presidential role models changed quite significantly(!) but I’m proud of where I am today.
Kim Hill: I wanted to be a Veterinarian but one day spent with my local Vet showed me science is not my gift! I attended a business camp as a high school Junior and decided that was my path.
What has been the most challenging part of being a woman in the business world?
Kim Hill: Working in emerging growth companies at the C Suite level is definitely filled with a majority of men. I’ve had to be tough and work really hard to make it to the top.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a woman in the business world?
Alyssa Jaffee: Women can accomplish so much with so little. It’s amazing to watch talented women thrive. The most rewarding feeling is accomplishing strategic goals despite challenges put in the way.
Kim Hill: Helping other bright women and men succeed and grow in their own careers has been the most rewarding.
What strengths do you believe female leaders bring to the table?
Alyssa Jaffee: Women are amazing listeners and are quite empathetic. In my world, supporting founders completely is critical and these skills are major assets when working side-by-side with CEOs.
Did you have any mentors along your journey? If so, what kind of impact did that have on you and your path?
Carla Dunham: One of my core beliefs is that it takes a village to grow a leader and to be really successful, you can’t do it alone. You need people further down the path who believe in you and pull you forward. I’ve been fortunate to have had a few leaders who connected with me in that way – whose success not only aligned with my ambitions but whose personal values were also admirable. They showed me that it was possible to lead and to do so in a way that felt fully authentic to me. Knowing how essential those relationships were to my own growth, I try to play the same role today by encouraging and nurturing others to push themselves and develop their talent.
Are there any assumptions about women in business or female leaders you would like to change? If so, why?
Alyssa Jaffee: There is a stigma that women are emotional. So many women feel they need to over-correct and hide their warm/empathetic side. The interesting thing is that in my experience, men can sometimes be the more emotional leaders!
What do you think are the biggest challenges for generations of women coming up behind you?
Alyssa Jaffee: It starts with little girls and how we educate and empower them. We should focus on helping them “dream big” and guide them toward executing their goals vs. deterring them with feedback that those goals seem too lofty. It also starts with little boys, teaching them that women are their equals and making sure they lift up women instead of putting them down.
What are you imagining and manifesting for women in 2021 and beyond?
Carla Dunham: I’m really hopeful that conversations around workplace equality – and the support systems that have to be in place to enable that – continue. I think 2020 laid bare how much women shoulder and how, in the absence of meaningful support networks, how challenging it is for many women to excel. I’m excited about the energy that so many young women have brought to this conversation – full of confident determination to redefine the table stakes. It feels like a new definition of work / life balance is upon us.
Alyssa Jaffee: More C-Suite and Board-level female representation!
Kim Hill: I’m manifesting strength for the women in the workplace out there. Stick to your guns and remain confident and good things will happen. If you are not being respected and given opportunities to grow then find another home.
What advice do you have for young women starting their careers?
Carla Dunham: Honor your talent through hard work and sheer focus. If you want to lead, you need to have something to offer – commit to finding out what that is and dig in on it. Stack up as many experiences and challenges as you can – as the best strategy when you are just starting out is to learn a lot and learn it fast. And when in doubt, assume you can do it.
Alyssa Jaffee: There is no such thing as strangers! Life is long and the people you meet will help you along the way. We have to work together to achieve greatness.
Kim Hill: Obtain exposure to as many functional areas of your company as possible. The more you understand the overall operations the more places you will be able to add value to the business.