Category Archives: Woman Women

The Winners! 12 Women to Watch in 2012

When we asked for nominations for our Women to Watch in 2012 awards, we expected some pretty awesome women—but you blew us away. We couldn’t have imagined the number of incredible profiles we would receive.

In just a week, we were flooded by nominations for women who are changing the world—challenging the norms in media, business, and education, creating the products that will define tomorrow, and saving lives in the developing world.

It was tough, but we narrowed it down to a fabulous dozen who have big stuff planned for 2012. We can’t wait to watch this year to see what they have in store—for themselves, and for the world.

Leslie Bradshaw

Named one of the top five female executives in the tech industry and a Top Woman in Tech Under 30 , Leslie Bradshaw is the operational force behindJESS3 , an internationally known creative interactive agency that she describes as being “as much BBDO as we are Facebook and Pixar.”

Her impressive client list already includes Nike, Google (check out the latest: Google Politics ), and Intel—including a several major initiatives set to launch within the next few weeks. The Wall Street Journal calls Bradshaw the “brains” driving the company forward—and we can’t wait to see where she takes it next. Follow her @LeslieBradshaw or @JESS3 .

Shaherose Charania

Not a day goes by when someone isn’t asking “where are the women in tech?,” but Shaherose Charania (named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2010) is trying to change that. As the co-founder of Women 2.0 , an emerging media company aimed at increasing the number of female founders launching scalable technology ventures, she helps entrepreneurs find a network, resources, and knowledge to take their companies from from idea to launch.

Charania is also currently leading Founder Labs , an early stage incubator focused on new mobile ideas. Follow her @shaherose .

Keya Dannenbaum

2012 is a huge year for politics, which likely means it will also be a huge one for ElectNext , the brainchild of Keya Dannenbaum. The site works like an eHarmony for elections, matching you with your candidates based on what matters most to you, and helping you vote all the way down your ballot.

Dannenbaum got the idea working on political campaigns (Hillary Clinton in 2008 followed by two years at the city level), where she saw a vast drop in levels of political interest, knowledge, and participation from the national to the local level. Then, when she found herself “too busy” with the demands of her Wharton MBA program and neglected to vote in the 2010 midterm elections, she became determined to find a solution. We think it will be a solution for everyone else, too. Follow her @electnext.

Danielle Fong

Some call it greentech’s holy grail : finding an economical way to store energy from sources like wind and solar energy. Accomplish that, and renewable energy could finally compete on a level playing field with dirty fossil fuels.

And the person who’s leading the charge is 24-year-old Danielle Fong, who’s company, LightSail Energy , is working on a “ potentially game-changing ” energy storage solution. Fong tells Forbes (where she was named one of the 30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Energy) that she hopes to make “renewables the choice for almost everywhere on our planet” within just 10 years. Check her out at DanielleFong.com .

Dr. Elizabeth Iorns

Elizabeth Iorns , an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, isn’t just conducting breast cancer research—she’s changing the way research is done as a whole. In May 2011, she co-foundedScience Exchange , an online marketplace for crowd-sourcing science experiments (or “an eBay of science”) that could “ drastically change the way in which scientists do research .”

As CEO, Elizabeth has already helped the company secure major partnerships with UCSF, Eagle-i, Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs, and the Neuroscience Information Framework (plus landed a spot at Y Combinator). Follow her @elizabethiorns .

Finding Your Path: Making it on Your Own

We spend the first 20 years of our lives being asked what we want to be when we grow up. Then we spend the next 20 finding out for ourselves.

And though that can be exciting, it’s not easy. The first part of our lives is, with few exceptions, a step-by-step, guided path: Elementary school. High school. College. But after that, the roadmap stops. While you might have dreams and ideas of what you want to achieve in your career, the path getting there isn’t easily paved. And it’s different for everyone.

That’s why we’re bringing you this series: Over the next few months,40:20 Vision will feature successful 40-something women sharing their stories on how they found their career path, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. While everyone’s career path is ultimately different, we also know there’s a lot we can learn from the journeys of those who’ve been there.

Michelle Madhok, CEO and Founder, SheFinds Media

What did you want to be when you were a kid? Barbie. She had all the cool stuff.

Education: University of California at Berkeley, BS Communications; Northwestern University, MS, Marketing

First job: Promotion Marketing Manager for CBS Broadcasting

Secret hiring tip: If they aren’t smiling in their Facebook photo, don’t hire them.

Three closet staples every 20-something should have: I believe in designer shoes, statement jewelry , and at least one designer handbag.

Background: Michelle Madhok’s first job was in many ways her dream job­—no boss, lots of freedom, meeting tons of interesting people. But as she climbed the corporate ladder—leading New Media at CBS and running Women’s Content at AOL, she increasingly felt stifled by the large company environment. She longed to be able to call the shots without the red tape or hierarchy.

She had to wait 10 years to get her dream back—but she did. When she was laid off at AOL, her severance package (combined with her desire to never again have a boss) provided the window of opportunity she needed to startSheFinds in 2004. The first site to give women everywhere instant access to the latest trends and fashionable deals, SheFinds has been explosively successful, now incorporating two new brands (MomFinds and BrideFinds) and grossing in the seven figures.

With a fun nature, refreshing honesty, and street smarts (whether that street is Park Avenue or Main Street), Madhok is an inspiration to anyone who’s ever thought about starting her own company . Read on to find out how she re-captured her dream.

Shortly after getting your Master’s degree, you ended up at the forefront of new media. How did that happen?

I interviewed at CBS and they asked me, “do you do internet?” I replied, “I have an AOL account,” and with that, they put me in charge of cbs.com. It was 1995. No one liked “new media.” It wasn’t sexy. It was all about big media.

Then the internet took off and I grew the department to 70 people and worked with everyone from the soap operas to Letterman.

So you should never underestimate the power of the unsexy job! What made you leave?

I was restless . So I applied and was accepted to a top program for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. I think we all have that vision of writing the great American novel. Then I freaked out. AOL was trying to recruit me to run women’s content and I thought, “I can’t miss out on business history by locking myself in a room and writing a novel.”

What did you learn in the corporate world that helps you today?

The connections and knowing how things work gave me a head start. At AOL, I had 12 bosses in four years. So when one of the companies I deal with now goes through organizational change, I know how to finesse the relationship so we can continue to do business. You have to get back in there.

Lessons to My Younger Self: A Series by Inspiring Women

At The Daily Muse, we aim to bring you, the ambitious Gen Y woman, smart, practical, and inspirational advice for your career and your life.

In our experience, the best advice of all comes from those who have been there. Women who had big, crazy dreams—and achieved them. Who saw the glass ceiling—and crushed it. Who dealt with the same issues we deal with today—and learned from them, gathering wisdom, experience, and success along the way.

So, we’ve recruited a lineup of our role models—intelligent, influential, and inspiring women who’ve had insanely successful careers—to share with us what they wish they could tell their younger selves. We invite you to peek into the past (photos included!) of some of the most successful women around us, and glean some amazing advice from the lessons they’ve learned.

Because, let’s face it, figuring things out the hard way really kind of sucks.

Arianna Huffington, Founder of The Huffington Post

Now that we’ve got your attention, don’t worry: she’s not advocating anything inappropriate. We’re kicking off our series with the indomitable Arianna Huffington telling her younger self—and us—to get enough sleep. Sounds tough, but if the 31st Most Powerful Woman in the World can swing it, I guess we can, too. (For the record, we’d also tell her younger self that she’s a total knockout).

Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor

When Hilda Solis was in high school, her career counselor told her she wasn’t “college material” and that she should become a secretary. Turns out, she did: The U.S. Secretary of Labor. And here’s what she’d go back and tell her ambitious younger self.

Liza Donnelly, Staff Cartoonist for The New Yorker

When Liza Donnelly began selling her work to The New Yorker in 1979, she was the youngest cartoonist there and one of only three women. Things have changed, thankfully, but one thing has lingered: the failure of women to speak our minds. You must speak up, Liza tells her younger self. (She’s now making up for lost time at TED, the United Nations, and on TV interviews worldwide.)

Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO of If We Ran the World

From the moment we’re born, the world conspires to make us feel insecure, says Cindy Gallop. And she wants to change that: she seeks to redefine the way society thinks an older woman should act and look, and she would remind her younger self that she’s beautiful—exactly the way she is (we agree).

Sandy Jen, Founder of Meebo

You’d think that, as an executive of one of the country’s fastest growing Internet companies, Sandy Jen probably stresses quite a bit. But that’s exactly what she tells her younger self not to do. Because, while there are lots of things to worry about, there are many more you’ll miss if that stress consumes you.

What it’s Like Working at a Major Art Museum

Whether you’ve wandered through the soaring rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum and wondered what it takes to get art on the (rounded) walls or you’re considering a career in the arts , look no further.

We caught up with Nancy Spector, deputy director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator at the Guggenheim Museum to hear from a leader in the field and to get a glimpse at the balancing act required to be at the helm of one of the world’s most prestigious modern art museums. Spector generously shared her insights on art in the digital age, starting out in the industry as an intern (writer’s note: I did, too) and the first work of art that had an impact on her.

Can you describe what being the deputy director and chief curator of a world-class art museum entails?

In a few words, I would say that it is an intense balancing act. As a deputy director working closely with director Richard Armstrong, I am responsible for content development at the Guggenheim in New York but also at our affiliates in Bilbao, Venice, and Abu Dhabi (which is currently in development). I think about the institution in a global context and what that means for our programming, our collection, and our engagement in cultures around the world.

Then there is the more granular management of our exhibition calendar, working with the individual curators to best realize their programs, ensuring we stay on mission, produce new scholarship, and foreground innovation. We are all fundraisers at the museum, so a lot of my time is also dedicated to cultivating patrons, helping to identify individual donors and sponsors, and formulating initiatives that might attract support. As a curator, I also have my own exhibition projects to research and produce, which has always been the core of my practice.

What does a typical day in your office look like?

I don’t think I ever have a “typical” day to cite. I can be in back-to-back meetings with the other curators, departmental managers, board members, or guests. Topics range from programming discussions, calendar andbudget reviews , strategic planning, acquisition preparation, collection management policy, and installation reviews, to name a few. But I can also be in the library or writing for much of the day. Then there are gallery and studio visits, for which I try to reserve time.

How do you balance the research and exhibitions portion of being a curator with the administrative duties of running a cultural institution; how do you wear both hats?

I try to block out time for research, reading, and writing in advance on my calendar so that I have days without meetings. But, to be honest, much of the creative work gets done “after hours,” if there is such a thing anymore.

Fight Like a Girl: The Role of Women in Muay Thai Boxing

Anne Lieberman has always been interested in how gender and culture intersect—she studied African American Studies and Women’s Studies in college, and now works for a human rights organization on issues of gender and sexuality in Thailand. She’s also always been interested in martial arts, which she has studied since she was 7.

And in 2010, she got the opportunity to combine those interests, after being awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research the role of women in Muay Thai boxing , Thailand’s national sport (and train in it, too!).

I first met Anne at a reception at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was fascinated by her work. Her practice of Muay Thai and her research on how women practice it challenged so many traditional notions of gender in Thailand and around the world, and I had to learn more. I recently caught up with Anne to discuss what she’s learned from the sport and her research—and what you can learn, too.

How did you get started in Muay Thai fighting? What made you stick with it over the years?

I grew up doing martial arts. My mom tried to get me to do ballet starting from age 5, but she realized very quickly I only made it through class because I wanted the candy we were given at the end.

I started doing Tang So Doo —a Korean martial art similar to Tae Kwon Do and Karate—when I was 7 or so. I only started doing Muay Thai when I was awarded the Fulbright, but I continue to practice because I fell in love with it. It’s beautiful and expressive. The community is fantastic. And it’s so much fun.

Can you give us some Muay Thai basics? How is a winner determined, and what techniques are used? What makes this martial art unique?

Muay Thai is traditionally called “The Science of Eight Limbs” because you use eight limbs to strike—both hands, elbows, feet, and knees. Muay Thai is, of course, from Thailand, and there’s a lot of folklore linking Muay Thai to Thai autonomy (Thailand was the only nation in Southeast Asia never to be formally colonized by a foreign power the way Burma or Vietnam were, for example).

Since the 70s, Muay Thai has become increasingly global, and international participation in the sport has grown exponentially each year. One of my favorite moments was when I went to watch the World Muay Thai Championships in Thailand and saw teams from everywhere—Iran, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Belarus, Sweden, the United States, South Africa—the list goes on and on. I hadn’t realized just how global Muay Thai was until that moment.

The breakdown of scoring is too complicated to get into here, but my friend and fighter Syvlie Von-Duuglus-Ittu wrote a great piece on her blog about scoring Muay Thai fights, illuminating some of the differences between the way fights can be scored in the U.S. vs. Thailand.

What was it like to train as a farang [a Thai word for someone of European ancestry] woman? What was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience?

Training as a farang woman (and I’m glad you added that extra “farang” layer in this question because it is very different than training as a Thai woman or a Japanese woman or a woman of color period in Thailand) is drastically different depending on the gym and where you’re training in the country. To be taken seriously, I trained really hard every day and came ready to learn. When people saw how dedicated I was, they were more open to helping me—giving me extra rounds on the pads, walking me through different bag work exercises one-on-one. Also, because I speak some Thai, we were able to develop a different kind of relationship. I became more of like a little sister to them.

But there’s another layer to training as a woman in Thailand—one that is more controversial—and that’s about the sexual politics at play, especially between male trainers and female fighters. Few farang female fighters come and live in Thailand for extended periods of time. I had the opportunity to interview several of them, as I felt that their experience was integral to how female fighters are viewed in Thailand and how they constantly negotiate their place in a male-dominated sport.

Many of them expressed that they felt some kind of sexual pressure from their trainers. The intensity varied: One woman I interviewed was almost raped, another was verbally harassed and made uncomfortable by a trainer’s advances; several ended up dating their trainers. In some cases, if a woman wouldn’t sleep with her trainer, this affected the kind of training she received.

This is not unique to Thailand, though—these kinds of sexual dynamics take place everywhere. (The story of the woman raped by her Jiu-Jitsu instructors in Maryland is a prime example of this.) But what was unique to Thailand is that there seemed to be this perception that farang women were promiscuous partiers and that white women would (and wanted to) sleep with almost anyone. This is one of the many ways the fraught relationship between tourism and sex and sexuality in Thailand bubbles over into the Muay Thai world.

Emily-Anne Rigal: The 19-Year-Old Who’s Banishing Bullying

Emily-Anne Rigal was recently ranked as one of Newsweek ’s 150 Most Fearless Women in the World. She’s received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President Obama. And Lady Gaga has called the 19-year old her hero.

So, what is the college student doing that’s making such a splash?

Rigal is the founder of We Stop Hate, nonprofit dedicated to ending bullying by raising teens’ self-esteem. Through posts on YouTube and other social media channels, the site gives bullying victims from all corners of the world a chance to open up about their experiences in a judgment-free zone.

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month , we spoke with Rigal about her efforts fighting back against bullying and starting an organization at age 16.

What was your motivation to found We Stop Hate?

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied so badly that I had to switch schools. At my new school, I developed a new group of friends who became an amazing source of encouragement. The happier and more supported I felt, the more I wanted to help others feel that same way. So I started posting videos on YouTube to stand up for other kids who were bullied to give all of us a voice and provide a source of support.

You started the organization when you were just in high school—which couldn’t have been easy! What were the greatest obstacles you faced?

The biggest challenge that I faced was not having a road map of what to do next and having to figure it all out along the way. The two things I knew when I started We Stop Hate was that I loved YouTube as a medium and that I had a real passion for spreading this message, since it was so personal to me.

I remember thinking, “Can I start this organization? I’m only 16!” Now, seeing what has happened and what the organization has grown into has been amazing.

Power PR Women to Follow on Twitter

In the PR world, it’s all about connections. And what better place to make those connections than the Twitterverse?

So, on this #FF, we’re bringing you the public relations gurus you should be hanging out with online. If you’re in PR (or you want to be), follow these women to learn, be inspired, and keep your ear to the ground of what’s happening in the PR world.

1. @westlevyPR

The founder of West Levy PR (and a PR maven with serious Klout), New Yorker Heather West knows the fashion and entertainment PR world as well as she does the non-profit sphere. Follow for a great curation of industry articles from around the web.

2. @prsarahevans

The PR and Social Media guru and founder of Twitter industry chats#journchat and #commentz , Sarah Evans is definitely among of the big names you should know.

Cool Client: Macy’s “Path to Peace”

3. @dbreakenridge

A must-follow if you’re still in school, Deidre Breakenridge is a professor who lets you ask all of your questions at #PRStudChat . She’s also the author of several great PR books, including PR 2.0 and Putting the Public Back in Public Relations .

4. @ValerieSimon

Valerie’s the other mind behind #PRStudChat, but you should also check her out at #HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out), her movement to connect PR job seekers and employers. Follow for a great ongoing conversation of all things PR and social media.

Follow @valeriesimon

5. @brooke

Meet Brooke Hammerling, the founder of @BrewPR , a firm for “amazingly cool companies in the tech space.” Her tweets are a mix of personal and professional, but her amazing client roster shows that she’s definitely someone to know.

Cool clients: Manilla, One Kings Lane

6. @lizziegrubman

Yeah, she ran her car into a group of people in the Hamptons, but that’s old news. Lizzie has been and always will be a fixture on the NY PR scene.

Cool Clients: Britney Spears, Jay-Z

7. @prtini

The founder of @GebenComm , Heather Whaling works with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to startups to nonprofits. Join her for#pr20chat for convos about the intersection of PR and social media.

What We’ve Learned: A Q&A with Rent the Runway’s Founders

If the startup world had fairy tales, Jennifer (Jenny) Fleiss and Jennifer (Jenn) Hyman would be the main characters. Once upon a time, the Harvard Business School classmates—Fleiss from the finance world and Hyman from sales and marketing—met casually for lunch every week to brainstorm entrepreneurial ventures.

The idea that stuck came over Thanksgiving break, when Hyman’s sister, Becky, wanted something gorgeous to wear to an upcoming wedding, but didn’t want to drop an obscene amount of money on a dress she’d only wear once. From that moment on, Fleiss and Hyman had their concept: Rent the Runway, a “Netflix for dresses” that allowed women to rent designer gowns for a fraction of the retail price.

Now, just over three years later, Fleiss and Hyman oversee the rapidly growing, 125-person, multi-million dollar enterprise with a cultish following of customers who get their own Cinderella experience—a new, gorgeous dress for every special occasion.

We got to chat with the incredible duo to hear more about how they turned an “I have nothing to wear” dilemma into an opportunity that looks like it’s headed for happily ever after. Read on for the story of how they got started, and the advice they’d give to every aspiring entrepreneur .

Why was Rent the Runway the right idea—and what made you move forward with it?

JH: Actually, I never said, “oh this is a brilliant idea, this is going to be a billion dollar company, we have to do this.” My reaction was: I had an idea, I thought it was interesting, Jenny thought it was interesting, we thought it was fun, and we thought, let’s figure out if this is a great idea.

JF: When Jenn came to me with this idea, we decided to do it as a course credit. But we also decided to spend the rest of the year figuring out if this was something we could do full time, instead of getting a job. We gave ourselves a fixed deadline—by the time we graduated, we’d see if this would actually work. And if it didn’t, we had other jobs that we were going to accept.

Books Sheryl Sandberg Thinks You Should Read

Previous posts have provided the recommended reading lists of Bill Gates ,Elon Musk , Steve Jobs , Warren Buffett , Jeff Bezos , and Mark Zuckerberg. Now I figure it’s time to expand our reading beyond the billionaire boys’ club.

This post consists of books that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recommended in a recent New York Times interview . While she didn’t identify these books as being specifically for women, they all fit well with Sandberg’s own book, Lean In .

1. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Five-Second Summary: A novelist explains her philosophy of life through a series of loosely connected personal observations.

Why You Should Read It: Quindlen’s fictional works center around women’s roles and how they see themselves, so women will find her encouragement and advice about thses topics particularly apt.

Fun Factoid: The core of this book was a commencement address that Quindlen didn’t deliver due to planned protests from anti-abortion activists.

Best Quote: “But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart.”

2. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Five-Second Summary: A talented comedian takes a wry look at life, the media, motherhood, and her career.

Why You Should Read It: Amid the humor, Fey takes on the big issues of women in the workplace, like the glass ceiling and the tendency of men to diss women in meetings.

Fun Factoid: In 2014, Sandberg launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy” to encourage young women to seek more leadership roles.

Best Quote: “My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”

3. Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman

Five-Second Summary: How success emerges naturally from holding to and acting on ethical values.

Why You Should Read It: Studies have shown that in the workplace men are more likely than women to act unethically. This book’s redefinition of the role of ethics thus plays to women’s strengths.

Fun Factoid: Sandberg regularly recommends this book to Facebook employees.

Best Quote: “Have you ever driven down the highway on cruise control, engaged in a conversation or daydreaming, only to realize you missed your exit? You didn’t literally lose consciousness, but you dimmed your awareness. Relevant details, such as your location and the actions needed to reach your goal, receded from the forefront of your mind. Your eyes were open, but you didn’t see. This is a poor way to drive—and an even poorer way to live.”

4. Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhoodby Michael Lewis

Five-Second Summary: An unsparing, funny look at fatherhood from a husband’s viewpoint.

Why You Should Read It: Working mothers face many difficulties in the workplace; it helps to know that working fathers struggle too.

Fun Factoid: Lewis is best known for his books about business and finance, such as The Big Short .

Best Quote: “Memory loss is the key to human reproduction. If you remembered what new parenthood was actually like you wouldn’t go around lying to people about how wonderful it is, and you certainly wouldn’t ever do it twice.”

This Entrepreneur Has a Career Lesson for All of us

Hard work. Determination. A willingness to take feedback. A desire to keep learning and improving.

These are career-boosting traits we talk about all the time at The Muse. And sometimes, we’re lucky enough to see them in action.

Last month, I visited Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, South Africa, and met women who had started businesses in their community. It’s one of the poorest parts of the country, with unemployment rates of more than 30%.

One of those women was Gape, the 28-year-old owner of a fast food stand. She wakes up at 2 AM, seven days a week, to bake 150 loaves of bread and prepare the day’s food for her regular customers, mainly men who work at a nearby steel plant during the week. “Their wives are at home, and I like feeding them so they don’t go out and find new wives,” she tells me with a smile.

Her recipe for success is continuing to learn and grow. In the spare time she does have, she’s taken business classes through Coca-Cola’s 5by20 programto improve her skills in inventory management, accounting, and marketing. They’ve helped her business so much that she’s hired three employees and is contemplating a second location.

She also makes a point to listen to her customers. She’s not afraid ofhearing their feedback —instead, she uses it to become a better cook and a smarter business owner. It’s a lesson for anyone who wants to grow: Be humble enough to seek advice from those around you. Even if you’re the woman with the best bread in town, there’s always more to learn.