Happy International Women's Month!
For this special episode, we chatted with Carolyn Childers, who is all about championing women. Carolyn is the founder and CEO of Chief, whose mission is to build a strong community of connection and support for executive women.
Carolyn didn't always know that her passion was to help women in the workforce, she says that she was on a completely different path at the beginning of her career. Her family owned a business and growing up, she had a front-row seat to the challenges that come with owning your own business. She said it felt way too hard for her and decided to go the corporate route. She found herself in a corporate job, and soon left and got into the startup world in New York City, she knew instantly she would never go back to traditional corporate. She loved the pace, energy, and ability to truly make a difference in the startup culture. The more she spent time in that space the more she realized that she could do it herself. She wanted to be an entrepreneur and not just the Senior Executive at other people's companies. She says, "I saw it, and I can be it."That is what ultimately led her on this journey to be the entrepreneur she is today.
As for how her career put her on the path to specifically empower women in the workplace, Carolyn says that she was working in finance and banking, both very male-dominated industries. During this time, she was only at a junior level and it was very telling for her to see just a few women executives in her company. As she became more senior and was included in the rooms where decisions were made, she saw how men were getting more opportunities than women. That is what fueled her to start her mission.
We all know that women are still overcoming challenges in the workplace and still trying to change the mindset of holding your cards tight because you might only have one shot to truly be heard before you get written off. However, Carolyn has an optimistic mindset about this. She says that in her experience, women have moved past this and are now in a mindset of abundance. Over the last ten years, there has been a shift in that mindset and that is partly why Chef is so successful. Chief is all about the collective, women coming together and supporting each other at a personal level with individual challenges but also as a whole to drive change.
Carolyn's inspiration for the mission of Chief came from a very personal place when she was trying to reach the Senior level in her career. She was tackling challenges, and was expected to know all the answers. She said the ugly truth in leadership is that sometimes, you don't know all the answers. She asked herself, how do I continue to invest in myself as a leader and find the resources in her community to overcome these challenges.? That is when she had the idea for Chief. Chief is a professional network focused on senior executive women, VP level and above. She says the number one thing that Chief provides is, the core groups. These are groups of ten women that come together monthly with an executive coach in the room. She says it has been phenomenal to see the impact that it has had on so many of their members. Chief started in New York and as of January 2022, they are officially international. With ten thousand members across the US and a waiting list of close to fifty thousand to join the community, they are constantly growing. This time has been the most challenging for women so seeing the community coming together is remarkable and rewarding.
Melinda asks Carolyn, how do people work their way up in a company without those connections? She says that one of the things that is important in the way that she created Chief was that it is truly meant to be a confidential place where women can come and open up about their challenges. She says even if you are building a community within your organization, you are still talking to coworkers. It is difficult to get that same authenticity and confidentiality with a co-worker rather than people outside your work. This helps her members drive advancement and to become invested in themselves as leaders.
Carolyn adds that in this new hybrid world of remote working, the biggest challenge is loneliness. She says working from home is efficient, but you are still missing the social aspect. You miss out on building relationships and connections. Chief helps in this way because it not only opens up doors, but it allows women to fill that very human void of loneliness that occurred during the pandemic, and continues to occur today with everyone now working from home.
So, where is Chief going to be in 5-10 years? Carolyn says, with being only three years old she is just so proud of where they are now. They have some of the most powerful women in the country as a part of this network. She is just always focusing on building the best experience possible for their members.
If you want to learn more about Chief’s memberships, or even apply for membership check out their website at https://chief.com.
Listen to Chief's new podcast here!