Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
Hi! I'm Kristy Wallace, the CEO of Ellevate Network. I'm passionate about creating communities, connecting others to opportunities and inspiration, and creating new and better ways to achieve equality in the workplace and beyond.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I honestly have so many great memories. I was a member of Ellevate Network prior to working at the company full time and I always think about the dynamic nature of the network. As a new manager, I tapped into the Jam Sessions for insights and support. As an entrepreneur, I loved finding a community that was eager to support me through the ups and downs of building a company. But my favorite memories are my first event as an Ellevate team member and our first Mobilize Women Summit.
On my first day at Ellevate we had an event with Alison Levine. Alison is a history-making polar explorer and mountaineer. She served as team captain of the first American Women's Everest Expedition. I was in tears during the event as she shared stories of failure, resilience, and accomplishment. It felt so personal to me as I was embarking on my own new challenge where I'd need to tap into the same traits in order to climb my own personal mountain.
My other favorite memory is Ellevate's first Mobilize Women Summit in 2017 (truth be told, I love all of our Summits!). We had a vision for what we wanted to accomplish -- an honest conversation around equality with clear actions we could all take to be drivers of change. This took a lot of effort to ensure we were talking about the right things, including all voices -- especially those often unheard, and convening a passionate diverse community of professionals, politicians, advocates, and change-makers to take the actions heard on stage into their everyday lives and workplaces. I recall that at the end of that day, I was full of hope and inspiration for our future. And to tie it all together, one of our speakers at the Summit was Alison Levine!
How would you define your professional mission?
For women and girls to succeed, community is crucial. In our world today, women and girls succeed most when they have a community to lean on and learn from. The research supports this — women do better when they support one another. The University of Notre Dame and Northwestern released a report showing that women with concentrated networks of other women are likely to have a job placement level that is 2.5 times higher. In other words, women who rely on other women are more likely to land leadership roles. And I can personally attest to this, every job opportunity I’ve ever received has come through my network of other women. In fact, networking has had such an impact on my life that I’ve turned it into my career!
My own story and the stories of so many women I know, within Ellevate and beyond, show that having a community to lean on can make that pivotal difference in your career, and that knowing how to build and cultivate a network of women rooted in compassion and understanding can help propel you along the path to leadership.
The earlier we learn these community-building skills, the more powerful the impact. And that's wny I've made Ellevate my professional mission.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
While Ellevate is creating places for ever-growing, dynamic, and impactful communities to happen, we know that these networking skills are not innate for most. I often hear Ellevate’s members say, “I don’t know how to network.” So many women enter the business world without having been taught how to build these strong professional relationships — relationships that research tells us to result in more opportunities and a steeper career trajectory.
I’ve thought about this a lot in my role at Ellevate and it has become clear that the idea of regularity is essential in not only establishing but maintaining meaningful relationships. We see this with our mentorship program called Squads. When women dedicate just half an hour per week to connect with their peers, to talk about their careers, and to support one another — it is transformational. 80% of women who go through the program emerge more confident than they were at the start, and 78% report being exposed to innovations and ideas they never would have imagined possible. Women have started to see the boundless depth of relationships available to them in this digital age, and these opportunities will only grow as more women get on board.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The Ellevate team inspires me every day. Working alongside others who share your passion and vision is an unbelievable experience and one that I'm honored to have.
Who are your role models?
I look for role models every day. It doesn't have to be someone who has changed the world or broken a barrier -- although I certainly admire that. To me, role models are the people standing up for others, raising their hand to help someone finish a project, picking up the trash that everyone else is walking past, dedicating their time to volunteer, or mentoring someone else. Role models are people that think about how they can help others and then take action to do so.
What is your morning ritual?
My morning ritual often reminds me of my time as a waitress. I have a running list in my head of what needs to happen and then I'm constantly rearranging them to create the most efficient order. I'm pouring milk into cereal while filling water bottles while asking kids to get their shoes on while watching the clock and helping someone with homework. Essentially it is chaos. But I love it. Mornings are my favorite time. I always wake the kids up with silly songs and we cuddle in bed for a few minutes before getting dressed. It is the start of a new day and my husband, the kids and I are all together getting ready and walking to school. The few mornings when I'm not home for this ritual I really miss it.
What is your favorite social media site? Why?
I like LinkedIn. To me, it has become a directory of people I went to school with, people that I've worked alongside for the past 20 years, people that I've spoken on panels with, people that I admire, women that I've met through Ellevate, and others met along the way. Sometimes I'll look through my contacts and it is a walk down memory lane. It is a great way to remember to reconnect with others.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I have three small children and I've learned a few tricks along the way. My husband and I have breakfast together at least once a week. It is time that we've set aside to discuss what's happening that week and to identify which of us is booking the doctor appointment, or researching summer camp, or taking our son to baseball practice. I've found that this process not only creates transparency around the work that needs to be done but also engages both my partner and me fully in assigning tasks and supporting each other.
I also work hard to not be on my phone at night. There isn't much time between getting home from work and putting the kids to bed so I want to be fully present with the kids and enjoy every moment of our time together.
What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?
Fake it until you make it. I find that, regardless of my career stage, I have moments where I question my abilities. Whether it is solving that big problem, stepping on stage in front of a crowd of people, or mentoring another professional -- I wonder if I'm able to do it well and if my insights are valuable. I've learned that having confidence in yourself and your abilities are so important -- you are your biggest critic but also your biggest advocate. So believe in yourself and, if you are feeling doubt, fake it and keep cheering yourself on because you know you'll always exceed your own expectations!
What is the best career advice you ever received?
A boss once told me that I needed a thicker skin. This really bothered me because it felt inauthentic to who I was and how I was leading. But I've come to understand that it's not so much having a thick skin but rather not getting bogged down by the little things. A nasty email, some constructive feedback, a bombed presentation -- these are all par for the course as a professional and getting caught up in these experiences keeps us from focusing on the bigger picture of what we're trying to accomplish.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
I love this question because I so often hear from women who are thinking about starting families but are already stressed about the challenges of being a working parent. I have more that one piece of advice!
My advice would be to - Find an employer that supports working parents. Look at the paid leave policies and ask others at the company about their experiences. - Be an advocate. Engage in the conversations on the city, state, national levels around paid family leave, subsidized childcare, and family policies. - Know what's important to you. As a new parent I was overwhelmed with trying to be perfect in the ways defined by society (clean house, expertly dressed baby, etc) and I quickly realized that I needed to define what was important to me and then let everything else go. - Use technology. I'm a big fan of a shared google calendar for tracking practices and birthday parties and school events. I use online grocery shopping so I can order groceries while I'm commuting to work. There are many great tools out there. - Lean on your community. It truly does take a village and I credit my friends, other moms, and family members for helping to raise my family alongside my husband and me.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network, and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing professional women with a global community to lean on and learn from. She directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely with Ellevate's Chapter Leaders, Business Partners, and Champions to further Ellevate's impact. Kristy is host of the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Changing... Continue Reading
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