Stacy Francis

Stacy Francis is the Founder and CEO of Francis Financial, a firm that specializes in helping successful individuals find and maintain financial footing while navigating life transitions. She is also the Founder of Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers women to take control of their finances. In addition to being a leader in the financial planning and investment management industries, she has created a movement in which women no longer rely on their partners to manage their money and therefore are able to gain more independence and autonomy in their lives. 

Stacy Francis Headshot

How did you end up founding Savvy Ladies and Francis Financial?

My grandmother stayed in an abusive marriage because she did not have the skills to effectively deal with money. That experience changed my life and drove me into the finance field. In 2002, I started my own firm educating women about money.

Why would someone come to Savvy Ladies as opposed to Francis Financial?

Most women who come to Savvy Ladies have nowhere else to go. They can benefit from one-on-one counseling. We also have a TED talk-like series. Savvy Ladies is a place where women can educate themselves about finance without any bias. No one is pushing specific products or financial services.

Francis Financial tends to work with high net worth women. These women have portfolios of at least $1 million. The women who come to Savvy Ladies don’t have those types of assets.

The common theme is that all of these women come to us feeling embarrassed and then they realize it’s not rocket science. They simply weren’t educated.

CBS Press Interview

The majority of your clients are women. Why do you think that is?

70% of our clients are women who are on their own because their spouses have passed away or they’re going through a divorce. These women relied on their partners to deal with all of their finances and now they are left to deal with it alone. 

What are the financial challenges your clients most commonly struggle with? What advice do you have for women to avoid the financial pitfalls you see everyday?

Women sit in the backseat when it comes to their finances. If you let your husband manage your money, you’re never going to learn how to do it yourself. It’s very dangerous to bury your head in the sand.

You have a holistic approach with your clients since many of them are going through a difficult time emotionally when they seek your help. What services do you provide beyond financial assistance?

We will pay for two sessions with a coach. These coaches may be divorce coaches or grief counselors – we put a team in place to support them emotionally. We also make sure they have all of the people necessary to support them financially whether it may be an estate planner, a CPA or a lawyer. We become their quarterbacks.

CNN Press Interview

What was your biggest career mistake?

There are so many. If you’re not making mistakes, it means you’re not trying hard enough. I’ve been snowboarding for 30 years and I know that if I go the entire day without falling, it wasn’t a successful day because I wasn’t pushing myself.

I didn’t have enough confidence in myself when I started Savvy Ladies and Francis Financial. I was 27 and so intimidated by others. I felt people were judging me because I was young. Probably some people were, but I made it into a bigger deal than it was.

Who inspires you?

My mom. She is my guiding light. She lived her life truly in service of others. She was very successful in her career and on top of that she was so giving and caring. I learned from her the importance of supporting others and that’s what drives me.

Naomi Wolf said that one of the ways to make the biggest impact on the world is to become unbelievably successful so you can use those dollars to do good. I have volunteered but I know that the power of a dollar is even more important. I want to become as fabulously wealthy as I can because then it’s with that wealth that I can donate to important causes that need money. Charities don’t work without dollars.

Women to Watch 2016

Alli Kasirer

Alli Kasirer is the founder and CEO of FertileGirl. After struggling with infertility and undergoing three cycles of IVF, she researched the best foods to eat during this time. She then went on to create a granola bar that has many superfoods to nourish your body pre-pregnancy. Kasirer is now a mother to twin boys and has expanded her brand to become the go-to resource for the millennial mom-to-be.

Allison Kasirer High Res

What led you to found FertileGirl?

My educational background is in science and engineering. I started my career at J.P. Morgan where I worked for almost eight years covering large cap Consumer & Retail companies. My “life plan” shifted dramatically when my husband and I struggled to get pregnant and start a family. I ended up leaving the world of finance and taking time to focus on “mothering myself.” With a combination of Western and Eastern medicine as well as my own healthy lifestyle changes, I became pregnant and we went on to have beautiful, healthy twin boys. During that personal journey, I decided to create a consumer brand that empowered other women to make healthy choices.

What is FertileGirl?

FertileGirl is a nutrition company and community empowering women to make healthy choices in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and postpartum. We brought our first product to market in Spring 2017 (FertileGirl Superfood Nutrition Bars) and hope to go live with other functional food products for this community later this year. The community we’ve built is mostly through social media (Instagram and Facebook) as well as our blog, Real Talk. Like any startup, it continues to evolve and grow based on what we’ve learned day by day, week by week, and month by month.


What advice do you have for women who are struggling with infertility?

Mother yourself. Self-care is not just important during pregnancy – it’s crucial before and after as well. When you’re trying to conceive, so much is out of your control. Taking control of little things can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with an uncertain future. For me, that meant taking control of my nutrition, going to acupuncture, slowing down, becoming informed, and ultimately finding balance.

How do you want to see the industry change?

Our mission has always been to change the fertility and pregnancy conversation to be more hopeful and empowering. I’d like to see the industry embrace this in a way that truly destigmatizes these topics. No one should go through this alone. I’d also like to see the price of fertility treatments come down in conjunction with better fertility benefits/insurance to a point where it is accessible to all couples that need it. FertileGirl is soon announcing the recipient of our first grant that we did in conjunction with Baby Quest Foundation and CCRM NY.

What was your biggest career mistake?

Not finding a co-founder early on. It’s hard going at it alone.


What are you most proud of?

Almost weekly, we get beautiful messages from women who feel empowered by our voice and community. When I hit a low point on the entrepreneurial roller coaster, I sometimes pull up these messages. It helps me remember that what we’re doing is unique, special, impactful, and very much needed. If even one woman feels comfortable sharing her journey or supporting others because of what we’ve built, I can be proud of that. From a personal development standpoint, I am proud that I was able to take a very challenging and sad life experience, shift the perspective, and turn it into something that inspires others.

What are you struggling with these days? What keeps you up at night?

My biggest struggle from a business perspective is bandwidth. Because I don’t have a co-founder (yet) and am still building out my team, a lot (read: everything) falls on me. I’m looking forward to surrounding myself with exceptional people who can do some of those tasks better than I can.


Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu is devoting her life to advancing women and girls. She was a launch team member to Lean In and is Chief Leadership Officer to Levo, one of the fastest growing millennial professional networks. Prior to that, Dufu served as President of The White House Project, as a Major Gifts Officer at Simmons College in Boston, and as Associate Director of Development at Seattle Girls’ School. Over the years women have always approached Dufu and asked her how she balances a high profile career with two young children. She was inspired to write an honest answer to this question in “Dropping the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less.” Her book includes a foreword by Gloria Steinem and was reviewed by The New York Times. She sat down with Forward Females to discuss it in more detail.

New York Photos ©02-15-2016 by Elizabeth Lippman Portraits of author and thought leader Tiffany Dufu. New York Photos ©04-15-2016 by Elizabeth Lippman for Chantel Febus Portraits of Chantel Febus

Your book focuses on how working women can balance all of their responsibilities by prioritizing what’s important and delegating – or dropping – the rest. What advice do you have for women who choose to leave the workforce and stay home with their children? 

All women work full-time. All moms are working moms. I don’t like to use the phrase “stay at-home moms,” instead, I say, “non-paid working moms.” It’s a shame our society doesn’t value domestic labor. But I wrote this book with an agenda. My agenda is to bring more women into the highest levels of leadership. When I encourage women to pursue leadership positions, I get the biggest pushback from women who say they have too many responsibilities. They don’t see who will pick up the balls. I want them to understand that they’re not in it alone. Leadership is a team sport and they need to build an ecosystem of support. All of us need scaffolding. We need to lean in and lean on other people.

How should household chores be divided if one partner is working and one partner is not working? Should the at-home partner take on more household tasks?

The division of labor doesn’t have to be equal, but it should be equitable. Partners should co-manage the home based on their respective gifts, talents, skills, abilities and availabilities. Studies have shown that women’s share of domestic labor and household responsibilities is irrelevant based on hours worked outside of the home. We are socially conditioned to gender stereotype roles. We need to disrupt the assumptions we all make and become more intentional about living our own stories instead of living what was handed to us by default.

Drop the Ball Cover

Some parts of your book may be interpreted as putting more pressure on women rather than dropping the ball. For example, the anecdote of you waking up at 5 AM to pump breast milk and then go for a run so that you still have time to come home and go to work gave me anxiety.

Each one of us has to write our own job description. This isn’t a how-to book. This is a memoir. I run because it brings me joy. It helps me be creative. For someone else, it can be something else – and it definitely doesn’t have to be at 5 AM. That just happened to be a convenient time for me. That example was about creating a mechanism for taking time for yourself.

What are you most proud of?

At every academic institution that I’ve ever attended, there’s a plaque with my name on it. I believe that you’re not in a community to take – you’re there to make a positive impact. I’m proud that I’ve contributed to every community that I’ve been apart of.

What are you excited about?

Women. Every organization that has been working for years to fill the leadership pipeline has suddenly seen a surge in women jumping in. I love this quote from Andrea Dew Steele, president of Emerge America: “Women used to say that they couldn’t run for office because they had young children. Now they are saying I have to run because I have young children.”


Elizabeth Sutton

Elizabeth Sutton is an artist turned entrepreneur. While continuing to produce her original artwork, she is also coming out with a home product line and a lifestyle platform called Hustle Chic. She envisions a community in which women support one another’s endeavors in a creative and collaborative environment. Two pop-up stores are featuring her work – one in New York City (236 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014, now open) and one at Art Basel in Miami (151 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127, December 6-10).  

ESC smile

What is Hustle Chic?

“The hustle” represents ambition and hard work while ”the chic” is about the love for one’s self and the desire to constantly improve. Hustle Chic is a networking group and a lifestyle platform for women in the design and creative fields. It’s an online space where contributors can share knowledge, promote projects, seek advice, and find support across a wide range of topics such as fashion, art, cooking and parenting.

There is also an ‘incentivization program’ designed to award generosity and contribution with unique benefits, access, and privileges through its partnership with commercial brands, individual influencers, and exclusive communities.

We’ve developed a system in which users can acquire both ‘hustle points’ and ‘chic points.’ As users add content, offer solutions to presented problems, and participate in the community, they accumulate two distinct categories of redeemable points. Hustle Chic will solidify its group spirit and promote user activity through these rewards.

Rewards include gift packages; access to networking events; tickets to educational seminars; discount codes for retail outlets, cultural events, health classes and fitness memberships.

How do you achieve balance between your home life and your professional life?

My two kids are the most important aspect of my life. Then my work. Then my family and friends. For two hours a day my assistant takes my cell phone away from me and I log off. I spend time with my kids. Sometimes I invite a friend to come over during this time.

What are you most proud of?

The relationships I’ve built. My network.

ESC working

What life experience has had the greatest impact on you?

My divorce. I grew up financially dependent on my parents and then I got married and was financially dependent on my husband. My divorce forced me to be completely financially independent. It has motivated me to work extremely hard so I can provide for my children.

What advice do you have for other women and moms who are going through a divorce?

Work hard, build a support system and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Take care of yourself too.

What are you struggling with these days? 

When I use social media, I struggle with what to share with the public and what to keep private. I want my work to speak for itself but people want to know the details of my personal life. I’m sharing my personal life on social media in order to build my brand but in the next 5-10 years I hope to take myself out of my work and let my work stand on its own.

Katie Orenstein

Katie Orenstein is the Founder and CEO of The OpEd Project. Working with universities, think tanks, foundations, nonprofits, corporations and organizations across the nation, The OpEd Project scouts and trains under-represented experts (especially women) to take thought leadership positions in their fields (through op-eds and much more); connects them with an international network of high-level media mentors; and vets and channels the best new ideas and experts directly to media gatekeepers across all platforms. Orenstein envisions a world in which the best ideas—regardless of where or whom they come from—will have a chance to be heard and shape society.  

Photo Oct 30, 10 48 35 AM (1)

Why did you found the OpEd Project?

The range of voices we hear from in the world is incredibly narrow – and comes from a tiny sliver of the world’s population: mostly western, white, older, privileged and overwhelmingly male. Which means we’re hearing from only a small fraction of the world’s brains. That’s a big problem for women and for all of us who aren’t being represented – our ideas and perspectives are not being told.

Why isn’t everyone equally represented in the media?

We live in a culture that treats people differently. It’s a complex matrix of deterrence and incentive that’s unevenly distributed. For example, if you’re a woman that wants to be taken seriously, you have to present yourself as an expert and it negatively correlates with likeability. There’s high risk and low rewards. Women are also pulled in a lot of directions – they don’t have the time, the support and the resources that others have.

What advice do you have for women who want to get published?

The OpEd Project offers workshops and resources to help alter the way stories are told in the media. You can learn more here:


What do you say to people who want to get their voices out but don’t know what to say?

Everyone has a topic. The idea of expertise is very hierarchical. If you’re white, male, western, and went to Harvard you get more credit from our culture. There is a small group of thinkers who run things that others can’t touch. Everyone has knowledge and a right and responsibility to use it.

What is the long-term goal of The OpEd Project?

We want to change the culture of knowledge from a hierarchical culture to a democratic one. We’re all active participants.

What life experience has had the greatest impact on you?

I lived in Haiti in the 1990’s and it changed my worldview. [While in Haiti, Orenstein worked for the United Nations human rights mission, and with a team of lawyers helping Haitian victims of military crimes bring cases against the alleged perpetrators.] I witnessed that the majority of the population were not the ones telling their own stories – instead; others were reporting what was happening and it wasn’t always representative or accurate.


Jennifer Gefsky

Jennifer Gefsky is the Founder and CEO of Après, a company geared toward women who left their professions to be home with their families and are now looking to go back to their careers. Gefksy, herself, was a high-powered lawyer at Proskauer Rose LLP and then at Major League Baseball before choosing to become a full-time mom. She wants employers to recognize the value that these women bring to the table – they are reenergized, loyal and hardworking. Après curates job postings featuring companies that have made a pledge to hire women returning to the workforce. Après also has career coaches to help women navigate this transition. Après now has 35,000 members from around the U.S.


What advice would you give to a mom who chooses to leave the workforce? What should she be doing?

Strategically think about volunteer work – Volunteer at a nonprofit where you can network and meet people as well as expand your skill set.

Keep up with your connections – Put in the effort to grab coffee with old colleagues, write emails periodically and don’t let your networks fall by the wayside.

Keep your toes in the water if you can – Find consulting projects, stay current on what’s going on in the world and in your industry.


You’re working within the current system and helping women make these transitions but how can we change the system?

Changing the system is going to take a lot of time to accomplish. The workplace doesn’t value the fact that women have children. In fact, it’s considered a negative. In addition to dealing with guilt, women are dealing with disengagement from their employers (they’re given less important projects, etc.). There’s also a bias that exists – men like to work with men. People think men make better leaders. It’s hard to change the culture. It’s going to take a lot of effort. And women need to stand up for themselves. They need to vocalize what they need from their employers instead of just jumping ship.

Part-time work is known to offer more flexible hours but ultimately ends up being the same overall time commitment as full-time work – with half the pay. How do we ensure that a part-time job stays part-time? 

Because we’re living in the digital age, when you leave work you never really leave work. Lines have to be drawn very clearly. Be available when you’re on the clock. If you are being paid to work two days a week, only answer emails and phone calls those two days a week.


Is there a company that represents the model for what should be done?

PricewaterhouseCoopers is very smart about retaining women and maintaining a connection with those who leave. If a woman leaves the company, for up to five years, PwC continues to pay for professional training and each woman is assigned a partner at the office who keeps her up to speed on what’s happening internally. This is a brilliant play. PwC demonstrates that they want you and these women want to come back.

What was your biggest career mistake?

Taking a career break without researching and talking to women who did that. I didn’t take a break with my eyes wide open. Not that I would have made a different decision, but I would have made it with more clarity. I also didn’t investigate alternative opportunities for myself (i.e. part-time or flexible positions). I just left without exploring.


The Case for an Imbalanced Life


Samantha Ettus, author of “The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction” has caused a lot of controversy among working and stay-at-home moms.

Ettus found that the happiest moms are the ones who have seven main areas of focus — or “slices” — in their life: career, health, relationship, children, community, friends and hobbies. She advocates that women need to give themselves permission to participate in all of these slices. While it doesn’t matter how much time is spent in each slice, some time must be devoted to each of the seven in order to feel fulfilled.

After hearing Ettus speak at the S.H.E. Summit and listening to her espouse the virtues of a balanced life, I couldn’t help but shake my head in disagreement.

First, balance doesn’t exist. An artificially created pie structure is laughable to a new mom, an ER doctor, or an entrepreneur. At different phases of life, various priorities emerge. It’s appropriate to focus on one or two areas at a time, especially during a stressful or sleepless period.

Second, seven slices are not the key to happiness. I personally know many professionals who find the greatest meaning in throwing themselves completely into their work. They consider carving out time for friends or going to the gym a nuisance and a dilution of their purpose on earth.

Similarly, there are individuals who are not career-oriented and find happiness in their interpersonal relationships. Ettus has reportedly received hate mail and criticism from stay-at-home moms who say they have found fulfilling lives without investing time in a career. However, in multiple interviews, Ettus rejects this claim.

She told the New York Post, “I have yet to meet a woman who is completely fulfilled without keeping up her career. There are plenty of women who claim to be happy without a career, but two glasses of chardonnay in, you will find a well of dissatisfaction. Where you see a woman who is not in an independent pursuit of her own life goals, you’ll likely find an anxious child, an over-perfected home, a marriage out of balance and a school administrator who wishes this woman would get a job.”

She continued, “Would you ever say someone who spends every moment at the office has a good and satisfying life? A woman who spends every moment doting on her family has an equally unbalanced life.”

I would agree that both a professional who devotes all of her time to work and a stay-at-home-mom lead an imbalanced life. But an imbalanced life does not necessarily translate into an unhappy life. Many people find joy and fulfillment in the lopsidedness of spending more time on things that matter to them. Ettus’ seven slices – career, health, relationship, children, community, friends and hobbies – sound like a laundry list that needs to get checked off and not a list that leads to pleasure. A career is not for everyone. A romantic relationship is not for everyone. Children? Certainly not for everyone.

Disproportion is what leads to satisfaction. Throwing yourself into one or two areas of focus at a time leads to greater impact. When you get a promotion, when you make a difference in your community, when you develop a skill or a hobby – that’s what yields happiness. By spreading yourself too thin, you risk feeling subpar at everything.

Ettus has created a model that is easily digestible by the masses. However, it is an unrealistic portrayal of life for the modern woman. Having an evenly balanced scale is a nice image, but isn’t practical or even ideal for many people. As we navigate the different stages in our personal lives and our careers, it is up to us to determine what areas deserve more attention and what can be put on the back burner.

S.H.E. Summit 2016

It was an honor to represent Forward Females at this year’s S.H.E. Summit. I wanted to post highlights from the conference and inspirational insights that the speakers shared throughout the event.


How to Amplify Your Leadership through Radical Self-Love

Gala Darling, an author and self-help guru, spoke about the need to practice “radical self-love.” She described a “self-loathing industry” that capitalizes on our need to constantly improve. There is a mantra of “we’re not enough” that women must fight against. She urged the audience to let our “judgment muscle” atrophy.


Darling also mocked our need to constantly look for purpose. She said seeking your purpose is an “obsession with perfection masked in procrastination.” She continued, “The meaning of life is whatever stops you from killing yourself.” Darling explained that the meaning of life is what you bring to it and there’s not necessarily one secret answer that you need to discover.

From Partners, Co-Workers, Bosses, Fathers to Friends: How We Can Engage Men on All Levels

This panel featured Wade Davis, former NFL player and #HeForShe UN Advocate; Simon Isaacs, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer of Fatherly; Connor Beaton, Founder of ManTalks and Adam Parker, Chief U.S. Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley.

Simon Isaacs     Wade Davis    Claudia Chan

Wade Davis shed light on the mentality of athletes and their locker room banter. Mainly, the widespread notion that women are gold diggers who are only interested in their money. He also said that it’s important to widen the definition of masculinity. Davis grew up thinking that he couldn’t be a black athlete and also be gay because homosexuality is associated with weakness and being like a woman. While women are socialized to share their emotions and be vulnerable, it is critical to also educate the next generation of boys that vulnerability is a strength.

Simon Isaacs founded Fatherly because he felt that men’s media shouldn’t just be about swimsuits and BBQ sauce. He wanted to create an online space with content about family specifically geared toward men.

Adam Parker     Connor Beaton

Adam Parker expelled the myth that the quality of a maternity policy indicates whether there is gender diversity in that given place. For example, he said that Japan has an excellent maternity policy, but it’s not representative of the reality there. So what is representative? 1) the percentage of women in the C-Suite 2) pay parity and 3) representation of women across all ranks

Parker conducted a study and ranked 600 publicly traded companies on gender diversity. He found that those stocks that had greater gender diversity were less volatile.

Connor Beaton of ManTalks urged women to assume that men have positive intent. He said that no man loves to fail – in fact, men have a deep desire to succeed in everything they do: being a father, a husband, a professional, etc.

How to Maximize Your Career Success as Your Whole Self


Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, was the most phenomenal speaker of the entire conference.

She said that information doesn’t give you a competitive advantage anymore. Today, information is a commodity. Instead, your distinction and your authenticity is your competitive advantage. Harris went on to explain that she is a gospel singer but didn’t want to reveal that side of herself to clients. She wanted to be taken seriously and not be thought of as someone who “sang and danced for the boys.” But she soon realized that the more she shared her whole self with clients, the stronger her relationships grew with them. They enjoyed learning about her interests and passions and even found a common bond when they too expressed a love for singing. The current trend is that the boundaries between personal and professional spheres are crumbling. By bringing your whole self to work, you become a more interesting, multi-dimensional individual.

Couples Therapy with Esther Perel: How Marriages and Relationships Thrive as Women Rise

Esther Perel, sex therapist and author, said that women are so focused on their daily mundane tasks that they don’t make time to embrace their sexuality. “Women think that they don’t deserve to focus on their own pleasure until the list is completely checked off – which is never.”

Perel said that often where we work becomes an erotically charged place. Work is where you’re charming, where people laugh at your jokes, where you’re energized, where people respect you. Home is where you bring whatever energy is left over. Perel said if you treated your partner the same way you treated your customer, your marriage would be thriving. A couple’s relationship also deeply affects the family. Therefore, the connection between parents needs to be paramount. If the couple isn’t doing well, the whole family falls apart.

Invest Your Time in “What Matters” Over “Having It All”


This panel featured Chloe Coscarelli, the vegan chef and founder of By Chloe restaurants; Kelly Clarkson, three-time Grammy winner; and Ellen Seckler, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Citizen Watch Company.

Kelly Clarkson spoke about the difficulty of juggling everything in her life: a book tour, an album, four children, a husband, etc. She believes in the “trickle down” effect where the mother needs to take care of herself before she can take care of everyone else in her family. Clarkson was raised by a single mom who taught her the value of being independent. But today, she is learning to ask for help.

The Pie: A New Guilt-free Paradigm Shift for Thinking About Work-Life Balance


Author Samantha Ettus found that the happiest moms are the ones who have seven main areas of focus — or “slices” — in their life: career, health, relationship, children, community, friends and hobbies. She said that women need to give themselves permission to participate in all of these slices and while it doesn’t matter what the ratio is of how much time is spent in each slice, some time must be devoted to each of the seven in order to feel fulfilled.

Ettus has reportedly received hate mail and criticism from stay-at-home moms who say they have found fulfilling lives without investing time in a career. However, in multiple interviews, Ettus rejects this claim.

She told the New York Post, “I have yet to meet a woman who is completely fulfilled without keeping up her career. There are plenty of women who claim to be happy without a career, but two glasses of chardonnay in, you will find a well of dissatisfaction. Where you see a woman who is not in an independent pursuit of her own life goals, you’ll likely find an anxious child, an over-perfected home, a marriage out of balance and a school administrator who wishes this woman would get a job.”

She continued, “Would you ever say someone who spends every moment at the office has a good and satisfying life? A woman who spends every moment doting on her family has an equally unbalanced life.”

In an interview with Us Weekly, Ettus said, “Nobody raises a daughter and says, ‘I hope she will grow up to be financially dependent with no career of her own.’ Model what you want your kids to be.”

Although I dug up these controversial interviews after the conference, Ettus was less provocative in her speech at the S.H.E. Summit, focusing on women dividing their time more effectively. 

The 2016 S.H.E. Summit was extremely inspiring and engaging. The speakers energized the audience and gave us a lot to think about and work towards. I look forward to attending this annual event in the future. Thank you Claudia Chan for putting together a wonderful conference!


Claudia Chan

Claudia Chan is the founder of S.H.E. Global Media, a women’s media and education company and the force behind the S.H.E. Summit, an annual conference devoted to supporting women’s movement champions around the world. Chan sat down with Forward Females to discuss her career path, her daily inspiration and the importance of involving men in the fight for gender equality. 


Describe your professional journey and how you ended up where you are today.

I went to an all women’s high school and college. I also had a strong, entrepreneurial mother. I come from a Chinese first generation family. My parents came to America from Taiwan and opened Chinese restaurants. They had fierce entrepreneurial spirits and taught me that in order to be completely independent I’d have to open my own business one day.

Out of Smith College, I started out doing dotcom networking parties. Then, with a friend, we met the founders of Shecky’s, an event promoter company. We rolled out a Girls’ Night Out platform with Shecky’s. This was during the Sex and the City era. There was so much emphasis on going out, wearing certain brands, shopping, etc. That was the culture. We were the largest, premium women events platform. We were in 15+ cities and 150,000 women attended our events each year. I helped form a lot of corporate partnerships for the company.

How did you go from organizing Girls’ Night Out events to working on women’s empowerment?

After ten years at Shecky’s, my partner and I didn’t have the same vision anymore. There weren’t a lot of successful women business owners. At leadership conferences, women were part of the work/life balance conversation. But in the forums on leadership, only men would serve on those panels. At that time I also read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and it had a huge impact on me. It documents the greatest atrocities affecting women around the world. I started reading more about inequality and how women are underrepresented and undervalued in so many segments of society. We’re 118 years away from gender equality according to the World Economic Forum.

I wanted to create a cool, mainstream women’s empowerment company to get women involved in the cause.

What is the S.H.E. Summit?

I’ve spent the last 5 years, together with an army of women, driving awareness of women’s empowerment. The conference is affordable. We’re engaging the masses. We have a holistic leadership agenda covering wellness, motherhood, and financial wellbeing – not just entrepreneurship and business leadership. We encourage 360 degree empowerment – embracing everything that makes up our lives. We can’t be successful if we’re not taking care of ourselves fully.


What does S.H.E Media do besides for the Summit?

That’s our big event for the year. But we’re also focused on the corporate market. Women today associate passion and purpose with leaving corporate America. We consult with corporations and help them gain clarity on how they are empowering women both internally and externally.

How do we get more men involved in the women’s movement?

Women’s forums have to be a lot more inclusive of men and boys. Women aren’t going to thrive unless they’re co-existing with men in their reality. It’s a partnership of genders to make something work. We need to ask men what they’re thinking about, what they’re struggling with, and include them. There’s a new masculinity movement. We have to be concerned about our next generation of men and boys and how they’re fitting into the women’s empowerment movement. It can’t be a woman’s-only approach anymore. We need a partnership approach.

We are bringing the S.H.E Summit to Bacardi, the global spirits company based in Miami. Bacardi is a corporation that has an internal women’s network. A lot of the male, senior managers are participating in the event. Content creates consciousness and consciousness creates change. Individuals create change. We need to ignite individuals.

How would you respond to women who say, “We’re already equal, we’re already empowered”?

Women create society. We bring life to the world. That’s a pretty big responsibility and a lot of work. A huge percentage of women drop out of the workforce to take care of their families. Childcare is expensive. Parental leave isn’t mandatory. The political is personal and the personal is political. But these issues still affect everyone. For example, women aren’t taught financial literacy and how to manage their money. Money affects the choices we make and the families we raise.


What are your short-term and long-term goals?

My short-term goal is that the S.H.E. Summit is successful. I want to activate people to take steps to actualize their potential and decide how to contribute and empower others. I want to further the leadership and impact of those who attend.

My long-term goal is to cultivate a network of corporate leaders who are truly devoted to empower women in their specific areas and close the gender gap by 2030.

What are you most proud of?

My ability to continually grow. I constantly change in my leadership, in my character and in my integrity. I devour books on leadership development. I go to Church. I’m a student of life and I’m really proud of that quality.

And my son. He is just the greatest miracle and force of light in my life.

Who inspires you?

My dad inspires me. He taught me how to be a good person. He told me to marry for love, to do the right thing, and not to sweat the small stuff. He taught me character. He came to America, started a business, sent us to school and gave us a wonderful life.


What life experience has had the greatest impact on you?

Losing my father has really put everything in perspective. His passing reminds me that we’re all here on earth for a limited period of time. However much time I have left, where I invest my time and energy matters. It makes me intentional about the character I want to be, the quality of experience I want to have, and what contribution I want to make to this world.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be that I encouraged people, primarily women, to serve and contribute to society in areas that are authentic to them. And if it’s specifically within the gender equality movement that’s even better! 

Jovian Zayne Irvin

Jovian Zayne Irvin is the founder of the OnPurpose Movement, a consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations and individuals “Live on Purpose” through curated web content and in person training and facilitation experiences. Previously, she was a Managing Director of Talent Recruitment at Teach for America and a marketing professional at Black and Decker Corporation.


What werthe key experiences in your life that influenced where you are today?

A key experience was growing up with two incredible parents who coached and supported me. There’s a saying, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” And I owe my parents everything. I learned from my parents to be the voice for others who don’t have a voice. They encouraged me to go down a path that others may be afraid to go down.

When I was younger I was told stories about the extraordinary choice my parents made to integrate schools. When my father was only fourteen-years-old he chose to integrate his school in South Carolina. My mother was part of a trailblazing group of women who helped to integrate Winthrop College. Their experiences taught me how to lead a life that’s legacy-leading and to provide a better life for other people. They ignited a passion in me to do things that were bigger than myself.

A huge moment for me was when I was the first black woman to be elected as Senior Class President at UNC Chapel Hill, and I’m still the only black woman who has held that position to this day. That was a pivotal moment when I recognized the power of my voice, and that I could be a uniting force across lines of difference. My peers wanted me to represent them and make things better for my class.

Another important experience was when I decided to move out of my marketing career into doing work that was more social justice based and people focused. I left Black & Decker and went to Teach for America. There I learned that I love to coach and help people be their best. This led me to create the business I run today.

What is the objective of your consulting business?

I, along with my partners, coach managers, deliver speeches, and develop curriculum and design work around professional development, management, branding, and diversity and inclusion. Some of our clients include Harvard University, The Clinton Foundation, The Aspen Institute, Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Records, and The Robin Hood Foundation. We love to help individuals and organizations live and work on purpose.


How can companies incorporate more meaning into the workday?

Organizations need to be clear on their intrinsic value and purpose. Why do they exist? What purpose are they serving? Why is their customer important? How does that drive how they want to serve that customer better? They need to understand the context in which they work.

Organizations need to clearly communicate this and more during their recruitment process. They should develop more nuanced and yet, direct job descriptions that mirror the impact they hope people will achieve in those roles. Too many job descriptions we see now are stale and fairly nondescript. They don’t necessarily communicate how the company wants employees to embody the values of the organization and bring their full selves to work. A person who is ready to work and live on purpose doesn’t want to have a disconnect between who they are outside of their 9-5 and during their 9-5. Organizations get the most out of their employees when they adapt jobs to let them shine.

What is the International Day of Purpose?

My organization founded the International Day of Purpose earlier this year out of a growing desire to shift the culture and the conversation around the power of purpose. As we work with clients to help employees and managers become more purposeful, and help organizations build core values and engage in one-on-one coaching, we realized that people are often floating through their lives without a clear sense of their “why.” People are living by accident. We asked, “What would happen if everyone in the world lived – not by accident – but on purpose?” We want people to be challenged by that question.

On the Day of Purpose we worked with multiple partners to give people opportunities to reflect on purpose, engage on purpose, and share on purpose. On our website there was a guide to help people participate in all three of these efforts. There were also events around the world where people could attend and participate in person.

There was a powerful social media component where people used the hashtag #dayofpurpose. People posted how they were living intentionally that day. We had 10 million people engaging in on-purpose behavior either online or attending events around the world from D.C., L.A., New York, Brazil, and Johannesburg.

Some of our partners included the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, KIND snacks, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York, The Clark Fox Family Foundation, Teach for America and Wondaland Records among others.


What are you short-term and long-term goals?

A short-term goal is building out more content to be delivered by the OnPurpose movement. For example, we’re hoping to get a recurring column in Forbes or another publication.

Our ultimate goal is for the International Day of Purpose to be recognized by the United Nations as an official day to be celebrated around the world. I’m also writing a book, The OnPurpose Manifesto that describes the stories of people who have been living on purpose, and also provides tools for others to do the same.

What is a meaningful life to you?

When you’re living on purpose, you’re constantly exploring your inherent purpose over time. An on-purpose lifestyle is activated with daily decision-making driven by a motivation to serve your purpose: who your friends are, where you eat, where you go, etc. The last piece is intention. You live intentionally and serve the world with your unique gifts and perspective.

What was your biggest career mistake?

There are two things I’d caution people against:

1) Do not let frustration in a job or frustrations with a manager stop you from showing up each day and being your best at work. Sometimes you’re frustrated and you check out. Don’t check out. It’s a decision you need to make for yourself – to be proud of your behavior and always be your best. I didn’t always do that and later I wish I would have.

2) Don’t stay in a position for too long when you know you’re not serving your purpose and serving the world. It’s hard to rebound after you’ve been in a job that sucks you dry. You know intrinsically it’s time to move on. Don’t wait for the fifteenth sign when you’ve already gotten four. Just go. Every day that you stay, you’re chipping away at your confidence.

What trends have you seen over time in the quest to have more meaning?

People don’t want to be bystanders. Millennials are also not driven by money or even comfort. They care more about doing work that matters; they care about recognition and professional development. The millennial generation makes up 25% of the workforce and by 2020 they will make up 50% of the workforce. That sheer fact demands that organizations adapt to allow people to be fulfilled through their work. They don’t just want to be fulfilled in their extracurriculars.


Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by Oprah. I’ve watched how she’s evolved, stood up in the face of challenges, and how she’s let’s herself be redefined by her own standard and not by someone else.

Miki Agrawal [fellow Forward Female], the founder of Thinx, is an inspiration. I admire her boldness. I’m attracted to people who are unashamed of being authentically themselves. As Miki becomes more famous she remains true to who she is. She is genuine.  

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want to be known as someone who lives her life boldly and on purpose. I want to light the path for others. I want to be known as an encourager who has helped others to be their best.