Name: Ilene Fischer
Business: WomenLEAD, an online advisory board platform for aspiring female leaders
Industry: Coaching & Consulting
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Reason for starting: In 1980 I started my carer as a Chemical Engineer. I was the first women engineer hired at Raytheon in Andover, MA. While working there I encountered no role models, no mentors, an unclear career path and an unsupportive work environment. I left my engineering career 5 years later and after 22 years of consulting I left that career to run a non- profit to advance women in STEM careers. As the Harvard Business Review Athena Factor Report states, 53% of all women leave mid career not to take care of families but for the same reasons I left my STEM career; no role models, no mentors, unclear career paths, and unsupportive work environments. I realized that after 30 years something needed to change for women to succeed in their career.
It was then in 2012 that I founded WomenLEAD; an innovative online leadership development platform out to disrupt mentorship with a one on one personal advisory board tool that supports women in fulfilling their personal and professional goals and advances women as leaders. We also have a rich library of leadership development content on the platform. WomenLEAD is business to business software and will hopefully increase the retention of women in the workplace and support them to rise to the top of their organizations.
How do you define success? Success is having your career be an expression of your soul’s work. I am out to make a profound difference for women in the world. A Goldman Sachs research report stated that if women fully participated in the workplace we would increase the US GDP by 9%, 13% in Europe and 16% in Japan. WomenLEAD is out to make a global economic impact, we are out to have our platform engage women globally so that they are fully engaged in their career.
Biggest Success: We have had a few major successes: we were the 2013 Mass Challenge Finalist and the 2013 Verizon Powerful Answer Awards Winners. As winners we received a $285K grant and Verizon produced this amazing documentary about us. We also have 8 F500 companies Beta testing with us as and they have all agreed to become customers with us if they are satisfied with the beta test of the product. We have an awesome team of people who are committed to our success.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge has been developing the product with a group of volunteers, part time workers and full time workers. Not having a full time team has slowed down the development of the product. We have limited financial resources which makes it difficult to hire the team we need to get the product built, so we are using contractors, a few full time employees and volunteers.We have to have a minimum viable product with at least 20 people that have beta tested the product with positive results before investors will invest in us. We may run out of money before we complete the milestones required for funding. Although we expect our first customers to sign up for our product in June/ July we may be short on financial resources to get through this timeframe.
Who is your most important role model? Dianne Hessan, who just stepped down as the CEO of Communispace, is my most important role model. I have know Dianne for 25 years and she built her business from nothing. She is a fearless and compassionate leader. What motivated her in her success was to be able to share the wealth of the company with her employees. After she sold the company, what gave her the most joy was to hand out checks to every employee. She has always been an inspiration because of her authenticity and her transparency publicly, with her team and her company.
Edited by The Story Exchange