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Ep 38: How do Women get in VC and Board Positions: Julie Castro Abrams-CEO & Chair of How Women Lead

Updated: May 28, 2023



  • The importance of women in positions of power and influence

  • The benefits of women-owned businesses and the impact of women on boards

In this interview with Julie Castro Abrams, I discuss,

The Upside of VC Investing in Women-Owned Businesses:

  • Discussing the benefits of investing in women-owned businesses

  • Highlighting the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs

Women Becoming Venture Capital Investors:

  • The importance of women becoming VC investors

  • Strategies for breaking into the VC industry

Accessing and Pitching for Board Positions:

  • Tips for accessing and pitching for board positions

  • Highlighting the importance of networking and building relationships

Types of Boards to Get a Seat:

  • Discussing the different types of boards and their unique requirements

  • Highlighting the importance of choosing the right board for one's skills and interests

The Role of a Board Member:

  • Discussing the responsibilities of a board member

  • Highlighting the importance of active participation and strategic thinking

Dealing with Microaggressions:

  • Addressing the challenges faced by women in positions of power

  • Discussing strategies for dealing with microaggressions and biases in the workplace


  • Recap of the key takeaways and actionable strategies for women seeking to grow their power, wealth, and influence through VC and board positions

  • Encouragement to continue to push for gender diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

Julie Castro Abrams is the CEO and Chair of How Women Lead and Managing Partner of How Women Invest. She is an expert on building boards that add a strategic advantage including proactive searches for women on corporate boards. Julie is a philanthropist who launched How Women Give and serves as the Governance Chair for the Women's Funding Network.

She has won many awards including the Jobs Genius Award, Morgan Stanley Innovation Award, Cisco Innovation in Technology, Stevie Award for Best Non-Profit Executive, Human Rights Award from the Commission on the Status of Women, the Women of Color Action Network, and the Marin Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Podcast Recommendation: Rabiah Coon "More Than Work" Podcast:

Drop me a note: I would love to hear from you about your stories and your journey. You can reach me on Instagram @womencareerandlife or via email at

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Guest: Julie Castro Abrams

  • LI:

  • Podcast: How Women Inspire



[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[01:57] Meet Julie...Why is she passionate about more women in board positions [Jump to section]

[09:00] The upside of Venture Capitalists (VCs) investing in Women-owned businesses[Jump to section]

[10:36] Women becoming Venture Capital Investors- That means "You"[Jump to section]

[14:24] How can you invest in a Venture Fund [Jump to section]

[17:39] How do Women access Board positions...How do you pitch to be a Board member [Jump to section]

[20:29] What are the different types of Boards to get a seat[Jump to section]

[24:15] How do you ask someone about a board seat [Jump to section]

[28:08] Role of a Board Member[Jump to section]

[29:51] More Women on Boards [Jump to section]

[31:07] Expertise required on a Board, Company Culture is important [Jump to section]

[33:19] Note to 21-year-old self [Jump to section]

[34:30] Dealing with microaggression...Leveraging your culture, background and diversity [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO

Sirisha: Hello everyone. This Issa and I host the Women Carrier and Life Podcast just like you. I have Travis, very parts stumbled a little, picked myself up and learned a great deal on my journey. Many of us face similar questions, but we don't always get to have a conversation with our friends. In this podcast, you will hear real stories that you can connect with on the challenges of navigating a career in life. You must be wondering who I am in my everyday life. I'm a career woman, a mom, and an ever-reader. I'm also a road tripper, amateur Gardner, and even a Fashionist on some days join me and my guests as we have an open and honest discussion on carrier change trade-offs and working across boundaries. You get the idea. It's a perspective you simply may not hear anywhere else.

Julie: Hello, I'm Robbie a Koon, the host of More Than Work podcast. I'm also the marketing manager for an IT development company, a standup comedian, a nonprofit volunteer, and sometimes an activist. But enough about me. Let's talk about More Than Work. It's an interview-style show that brings listeners stories of people who have found a way to pursue their passions outside of work or as part of what they do. Having faced burnout a few times, myself. And realized my self-worth had become intertwined with my work. I decided to expand what I did outside of my job. I observed burnout and loss of confidence with my friends and always tried to help. If you're facing or have ever faced the same or just like hearing other stories more than work is for you. My chest with guests uncovers how they're living lives that allow their self-worth to be. Then just their job titles. You can listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, overcast, or wherever you get podcasts. It's not a series, so just pick a guest that sounds interesting and enjoys. Again, I'm Rava. Thanks for giving me the time to tell you about more than work.

[01:57] Meet Julie...Why is she passionate about more women in board positions?

Sirisha: Hello everyone and welcome to the Women Career and Live podcast I have with me today, Julie Castro. A. I heard her speak at the Executive Women's Luncheon at the Society of Women Engineers National Conference in Houston a few months ago, and her topic was so on point, and I think it's something we don't tend to talk about as much. She talks about women owning their power, their influence, and their wealth, and stepping into board positions and venture capital funding to support other organizations, but also to increase their influence. Julie is the co-founder and c e O of women who lead. She's also the managing director of Women who invests and sits on many boards and works with CEOs and entrepreneurs and is a very accomplished speaker who's invited to many forums. She's won the Stevie Award for the best nonprofit exec. She's won the innovation award from both JP Morgan, as well as Cisco, and so many more that I cannot list right now. I would suggest you check out Julie on LinkedIn and anyway, she'll give you her contact information at the end of the podcast, and we are going to spend time talking about how women can increase their board presence, how organizations can enable and increase that diversity in their board and encourage their employees to get there and also how we can think of stepping into venture capital funding. I think that the word venture capital envisions a certain idea for all of us, but there are so many other ways we can step into this space for us to have an impact, not only on other people and technology and innovation but on our life and our wealth investment as well. Julie, thanks for being here so much. I'm looking forward to today's chat.

Julie: Thank you for creating this platform for women to make sure that we're getting the most up-to-date support and resources because we need all of you leading. We need you guys to be running the world or we're gonna be in trouble.

Sirisha: Yeah. I think it's a community effort. I agree with you. And that's where I saw, I will start with your journey, but I then the reason also that your topic struck me on so much on point is when you gave your talk at the suite conference and you started to ask, you asked this question many times throughout the conversation is how many of you, and this was all executive women, right? They were mostly directors, VP and above, and you kept asking them, how many of you want to be part of a board? How many of you're looking for a board? I think there might have been two hands in the beginning and maybe there were like a hundred, 150 women, and then maybe at the end, it got to 80%. But it took many iterations to do that then. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's what surprised me in so many ways because these are, these women have had to already put in a ton of effort to get where they are and for us to not think of how. Of a bigger impact we can have, and to even think of those, I think highlights a gap that we need to bridge.

Julie: Hence the need for this podcast. Women need to know. that there is a path for them to go on corporate boards. There's a path for them to invest in venture there's a path and it's not hard and I wanna demystify it. Everybody needs to start to think about how am I gonna step into this power. Cuz otherwise we all sit around and kvetch about how we don't like corporate cultures, et cetera. We can change it, but we're gonna have to. So totally agree with you.

Sirisha: I think it's a two-fold problem, right? One, we have to do our part and then we have to change the culture intrinsically and have the organization step and do their part as well yeah. Yeah, exactly. It's a joint effort. So as we, before we deep then, can you gimme some history on how you got to do this work? How did you get into this space?

Julie: Honestly, I'm just always been about women's equity and justice equality for women, from the time I was young. I was in that generation of women that were the first people that got benefit from Title ix. That's what, that's the world I was moving into when I was like in high school. And so I swam as a Division One swimmer in college. To me, that sense of it felt back then like we were breaking down all these barriers and women were gonna have equal access and that there had been a big surge of opportunity. But the truth is it was a surge and then it honestly, like the pendulum seemed to go swing more conservatively and we have not made the progress that I thought that we would make at this point. But so that's, honestly, I just am a true believer that, we can move things forward. Cuz in part because I think of the era that I was living in when I came of age. And my whole thing is come on, at this point, Yes, I'm happy to change structures that exist, but I think that the time it takes to move the culture's behaviour or belief systems around women is gonna be taking so long that I would rather us build it ourselves. I think we need to collectively come together. We've never had a generation of women with 30 years of work experience with some power wealth and privilege like we do today. Like we have access that we've never had before. We have a, you can no longer say there, there's not a pipeline of women who are ready to lead or go on board. It's bologna. We've proven it right. But we all together, we have to work together if we're gonna change it.

Sirisha: That's so true. Just one clarification. What is Title ix, because a lot of the audience sits outside the US as well.

Julie: Title IX was a law in the United States that said you had to spend the same amount of money on women and girls sports in, colleges and in high schools. Back then, all the money went to the football and the basketball team for boys and the girls got nothing and so this changed it. And think about today in the world globally, women's soccer is hot. More people are attending women's soccer games than men's soccer games in many cases, but it took a lifetime of work to get us to this point. And Title IX was probably, one of the beginnings of that.

Sirisha: And finally, what, this year the women's soccer team got paid equally to the men's soccer team. And that's probably the only sport in the US that is on parity.

And, there's paid transparency and this whole conversation. And I completely agree with you, organizations will do that thing, the influence and amount of work it takes is so hard that we can I like the way you put it. There are women now with 30 years of experience, influence, and everything that can move the needle themselves by coming together.

Julie: And to that end, like I brought women together. I was like, all right. Among other things, we've done a lot of stuff together, including changing laws and stuff, but I was like, They're only 2% of all venture capital dollars that go to women. That makes no sense. When 40% of all companies are started by women. All these engineers at that SW conference, every one of them could start a great company tomorrow, but if only 2% of venture funding goes to them, they're not gonna get the fuel to grow a high-growth, impactful, big, company. And so we have to change that and we women have enough. All we have to do is come together and build our own. So we built a venture fund and have two funds now that are investing in women founders. Only companies founded by women with no male co-founders, but we did that together.

Sirisha: That's good because the two-person statistic is incredibly shocking.

Julie: Take your breath away and you're kinda like, wait, would that be right? That doesn't make sense, does it?

Sirisha: No, it doesn't and I've read books, I've read articles. So when you asked that question there, I wasn't completely surprised because I've already gone through that shock phase before.

[09:00] The upside of Venture Capitalists (VCs) investing in Women-owned businesses

Sirisha: I read this book called Alpha Girls.

Julie: Oh yeah. I love that book...

Sirisha: And it talks about these women pioneers and, being venture capitalists, breaking the barrier in so many ways. When you think about it, it's all about access, right? Yeah. Even in corporate organizations, we VC, funding board CEO, everything is about access. You have to get some people on the ladder, on the pipeline for the next person to be able to it's not that nobody has the capability. That's not a thing to discuss even. It's just you need to give them access, then if you give them funding, they can do it.

Julie: Lemme give you a couple of data points. Women make 26% more for their investors. So it makes no financial sense, to not be investing in companies founded by women. It is biased, which, means you're a bad investor because you are leaning on biased information that is not accurate actually. So, investors who are not investing in companies founded by women, they're not gonna be the highest performers and we have a huge financial upside. Morgan Stanley did a research effort and found that we were leaving 4.4 trillion on the table that investors could make. But this is the thing. Venture capital is a private kind of thing, a private market, if you will and people use their gut. Everyone believes, it's, oh, who picks the right, the big winners, that is based on cultural bias and which is what gut really, it's like what are all those things that you, the belief system that you've built and women are not included in that. And when you do have women venture capitalists, this is a big opportunity. On average, they're investing 40% in women, so the women can see the potential of women better than the men can and so we need more women who are venture capitalists.

[10:36] Women becoming Venture Capital Investors- That means "You"

Julie: One and that means everybody who's listening here consider. Venture capital is just another type of investing. You're investing in the stock market this year. The stock, if it's 2022, so this year the stock market was down in the United States and globally we've had a lot of issues, right? You need diversification in your portfolio in moments like this and we had two companies sell at three and a half times what those, company the investment amount. I say all that to say, this is it's a critical part of your diversification you can use your retirement, you can use a donor vice fund, or you could use cash. You gotta start thinking about getting in the game. And you don't have to know how to pick great companies. You just need to, and it's a venture fund is like a. Mutual fund of stocks, it's somebody else picks the winners, right? You just, pick the firm and you invest in the firm and the leadership and their values. So I think it's just really important to demystify the whole game of venture for people. But let's go back to this. If what happens when only 2% of all venture funds go to companies founded by women? When you get venture funding you start to grow a company that hires a lot of people. Women hire six times more women in their companies, and women are more likely to be in the C-suite. So we're not funding women. Women aren't getting the jobs, they're not getting, those early C-suite jobs and they're not having the exits. We've only had 20 women who've founded a company that was sold on the New York Stock Exchange in the history of the. Now, maybe when you hear this podcast will be 22, that would be great. However, whatever it is on that day, it's not enough. So if we aren't fueling women, we're losing out jobs. We have wealth creation, power, and these positions of power. The next, the c e o that sells its company on the New York Stock Exchange, gets tapped to be the next CEO, of Google, she gets tapped to go on public company boards. All these ripple effects of power and influence happen. So if you go back, it's the 2% that's the problem. And the first board members in every company are the venture capitalists. You have the operators, the founder, and then you have a couple of people that have invested in them that go on the board in the early days, cultures set with the first 30 people. If you don't have women around the table, when that culture's being set, I promise you, you're not gonna have cultures that are good for women.

Sirisha: You bring up so many things. don't even know where to start to unwrap this. Let's start with diversification. It's very on the point that you say it's like any other fund investment we are doing. So we should not get bogged with the thing of venture capital and we see these people investing millions into which are one, Airbnb, all those things. That's an exception. What you're talking about is I just take a percentage of my portfolio and maybe you can share which funds they are and we would just invest it like a mutual fund and trust the organization to do all the vetting and everything. Exactly. We could monitor it just like any other fund. Exactly. And to your point, it gives us access in so many ways. The C-suite is women. They're hiring women, which means these, the second layer, right under the C-suite, the SVPs, all of these founders are getting access, so they get on boards, for the next round who becomes C-Suite execs somewhere else, to be on board of directors. And then you build a pipeline because the whole thing comes back to getting experience. For you to try all these different things and a startup. As you pointed out very emphatically, it provides monetary value. So for anyone looking at risk reward and, oh, do I make money out of it?

Money, a lot more money and I think it even shows just organizations outside of VC and board when they have women sitting in board and women leaders that they do make more revenue because of the diversity that they bring to the table. So even if you were to look at just the dollar or whatever currency people are looking at, that itself is a significant impact, other than just driving culture as a change and driving sustainability or whatever the norms that the companies are driving.

[14:24] How can you invest in a Venture Fund

Julie: If you wanna start investing in venture, there's a huge range. You have venture funds that are focused on getting first-time investors in the door, and their minimum investment amount just needs to be $10,000. Mine is $25,000 and it's spread over four years. So it's 62-50 a year. You need to go look and see what's right for you and the majority of traditional venture funds that you talk to are gonna have a 250,000 or even a million dollar minimum. But that's not every, keep looking if that's what you see when you first start looking into the venture, cuz there are lots of opportunities.

Sirisha: How do people find this kind of venture fund to see if they want to diversify? Say they're starting at 10,000 or 25,000. I think some of the people who are listening can have access to that or in a few years will potentially have access to that.

Julie: Yeah. You probably have it in your retirement. Think about it, it's one thing to think about what kind of cash do I have? I still, I'm paying off my student loans, whatever it is, right? But you do have it in your retirement and, you have to be an accredited investor and all these other things, and this is not at all, I'm not trying to convince people or tell, give tell people. it's the right thing for them, financially. The little disclaimer here but it's really important to look into it. So where can you find people? I would say you can I like to think if you start with your values or what's important to you. So women look for women-run venture firms. If you're interested in climate-focused venture firms and you could find women and climate. So what, how do women lead our nonprofit? Is putting together a little tool, a website tool where you can go in and you can say, here are the things I'm most interested in. And it'll give you a list of venture funds with relatively low investment amounts that you could look into. So that campaign's gonna be called the new Table campaign to get 10,000 women too. in a venture firm for the first time? Not with mine. I certainly can't pick 10,000 investors. The point is to get people started on the journey. So I want everybody I am afraid that if you're looking at listening to this podcast in early 2023, go on how women and hopefully that new table campaign will be up and live and ready for you to interact with. But that is one way too. To find out, we'll have, 30 plus venture funds that you can play with and check out what their focus is.

Sirisha: Excellent. That's a good way for people to find out and I think Julie did give this disclaimer, so I'm also gonna give this disclaimer, I'm not a financial advisor or anything, but just the opportunity it provides. It's something for you to do your due diligence, talk to your tax and financial advisors, and make the right decision for you. But we just wanted to give you the opportunity to access and the knowledge to make the decision. So you know what to do.

Julie: this is about. I do wanna say, get in the game somehow. Even if you're doing some crowdfunding or just if you wanna just start going to pitch competitions and see what kind of companies are out there. There's a pitch competition every day. You can just Google it... Yeah, that's something I've been looking you just Google it and you can find it? There are, there's an organization called Black VC that is supporting all of these black venture capitalists. there's a place for everybody. In this ecosystem?

Sirisha: Yes. And what you're trying to say is there's nothing ever so small or so big that we can all start where we are and then make a bigger impact. Indeed, you start in your community, you start with what you care about, what speaks to you, and then find where to invest so you can diversify and have that impact. Indeed.

[17:39] How do Women access Board positions...How do you pitch to be a Board member?

Sirisha: So the other part of it we were discussing is how do people get on board? some of the women have all the hit parity, like they're in director, VP SVP roles, like they're looking for their next place of influence and next impact. How do they get on the boards? How do they craft that pitch and know where to look? And then my second part of the question I'm gonna ask you. A lot of these women, all these sit-in corporations. So what should organizations be doing to give their own women leaders access to these opportunities? Because they get to nominate, right? They get to even pitch for them. So how do they get to do that?

Julie: What's interesting is, first and foremost, a lot of you need to ask your company, do you have any rules or guidelines around serving on corporate boards and all of them have something because, you can't be on the board of a direct competitor if you're working inside a company, right?But depending on what kind of company you work. Work in, they may have a conflict of interest over boundaries for you. But they also may have a philosophy inside the company, this is important. Listen to this. They may believe that by you being on the board of another company, it is going to distract you. It's gonna take away your time. The truth is, and the research says that it makes you a better employee if you will, a better leader in your own company. Because now you're seeing things from as much as, the full picture. Like you may be the chief marketing officer and you're, your marketing is your domain, but you go on a board and all of a sudden you're, you have to be the, really on top of the finances and all the different things that intersect, that make you better at your job. I think it's important to first figure out, do you need to do change management within your. And maybe get a couple of senior women to look into the policy and make some recommendations. So I would start with that. In terms of what companies can do sometimes this goes back to you raising your hand. figure out a way that you know, if at all reasonable, if you're in the top executive in the company, make sure that you're getting in front of the board at different times that you're presenting to them or that you're having something to do with a board meeting, I think is important. I think the other thing is asking the board members within the, your own, seeing if your CEO would. Your current corporate directors sponsor or mentor a couple of the senior women in the company to be able to get those opportunities. 85% of all board seats come through word of mouth. So it's networks, it's who, it doesn't happen through search firms necessarily. Like sometimes it does, but for the most part, and anybody who's ever been, any search firm that's ever contacted you for a job, you can always call them and say, Hey, I'd love to talk to whoever does your board practice and start to find out from them. But I would tell you those are few and far between. You will get more runaround from most search practitioners than if you start to build your networks and do it on, do it that way.

[20:29] What are the different type of Boards to get a seat

Julie: But I kind of wanna step back and say there are different kinds of boards. There's a board of a public company, like Google or Apple, or a major corporation, right? We, there are also and those are, that's a certain path and those you have to have worked in the c-suite of a public company generally to even be considered for those roles. So that might be right for you, but it might not. I've never been in the C-suite of a public company. I run my shop and I've run small things my whole life. So I am a great startup director. So gotta know what stage is right for you and also. What industry might be the right industry for you to step into, and what are the specific skills that you bring? That is related to the board. The board. What a board focuses on, this is a pivot that I can't possibly solve for everybody on this one podcast, but figuring out how to set go from being an operator. I had this job and I produced 60,000 of that, and then I did this job and I oversaw. that's a different thing than what you're gonna say. If you wanna go on a corporate board, which is much more about I play in strategy and governance, and I have all this access and perspective that is gonna add a lot of value at the board level. You have to position yourself differently and I think that a lot of people get a little hung up by how you do that. And I would say don't let positioning yourself as a board director stop you from moving forward up. CV sometimes does the trick if you're fancy enough, but generally, you gotta be ready to be able to tell someone you understand the role of a board and that and what you're gonna contribute to that board and in my venture fund for example, we place women who are investors in our fund. In those board seats on our behalf. So I think that's an important opportunity. My first investment made an angel investment, in which I invested my capital into a company directly. And I said, listen, if I make this investment, will you put me on your board? And the founder was like You're not investing that much. She's if you're okay with the fact that I'll kick you off as soon as the other, big VCs come in I was like, fine. And I'm still on the board. It's one of those things where you never know. Ask, raise your hand. Use your cap. There's nothing wrong with saying, I use $25,000 to get my board first board seat. What's wrong with that? Nothing. That's what the guys do. So networking with venture capitalists in general, they're often looking for an advisory board member who's got great expertise or they're looking for somebody to take that first independent board seat, which I would say is more like a series C or D company. So that's another thing to think about is, early stage you can pay to. Then you make sure you've networked with the people who are already on the board and are replacing people on boards as an independent board seat. And then the public boards are another story. And again, it's all networking. For all these, it's all networking. You just have to know who's the lever for opening the door, right?

Sirisha: So you're almost talking about a pipeline for yourself. You create the opportunity either through VC or stepping into an early startup capital and sitting on the board. and then getting that experience, building the network and stepping up into further roles. And of course what you're talking about is like the fang, the Googles and stuff. It requires different expertise, but you can slowly build depending on what access you get through your corporate. Expertise, you position yourself into those boards. Yeah and I like what you said, it's also about building community within your organization. So as a collective, you can go talk to your corporate execs or hr, wherever the organization sits and see how you can get access and what value you bring back to the company. Because in the end, they also want to know what impact you're gonna have on them. It's not about taking away time as much. You bring a whole different perspective and always the perspective is what drives differentiation and change. Yeah.

[24:15] How do you ask someone about a board seat

Sirisha: When you're talking about diversity, that's what it is, right? What are perspective and differentiation? Yeah. What else do you bring that you haven't thought of from the norm?

Julie: This is what I would say. Come up with a list of 25 key people that you can get to or in your network. So this is how you should and you write them when you say, Hey, I'm interested in going on and let's make it as narrow as possible. I'm interested in going on the audit committee of a medical technology company that's a series D or above. Okay, good. That's narrow enough. Somebody could actually. help you find a board seat. If you say, I wanna go on a corporate board, can you help me? No one knows what to do with that. It's too broad. It's like saying, Hey, can you introduce me to a woman engineer? It's what kind in what industry? How, what level? That's, you gotta make it more narrow. All right... Once you're able to define what value you gonna bring or what you're looking for, you come up with a list of 25 people and these are the people, someone you worked with or worked for you who's on a board or in the C-suite, a service provider like a lawyer or an accountant that you've hired before that knows how you work. Cuz they're getting recommend, they, people are saying, asking those service providers for board recommendations when they need to get, especially companies that are pre I p o, they'll look for two board, two women to go on those boards. So especially those folks. Want you to be thinking about, who in your network that you already have, that you have a relationship with, can vouch for you when you're not in the room and make sure they know that you'd be surprised. A lot of them be like, oh yeah, I see board opportunities all the time. I never thought, I hadn't thought that this was of interest to you. And you're like you should have thought. It's all on us to tell 'em what they, what, where we want them to focus their energy. And then here's a final thing for you. Identify five companies where you think you would be great, and add a lot of value on the board, not just because they're aspirational for you cuz it'd be fun or fancy, but like where could you add value. Look up who's on their board, and find out who you either have a connection to or somebody who you know that knows. You can find that on LinkedIn pretty easily. And that's how I would say you start networking. And they say in like fundraising, in sales, if you ask for money, you'll get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. So my recommendation to you is to ask those people. Can, can I have a quick call with you to find out how you positioned yourself for this board seat and any of the challenges you're finding on the current board that I should keep in mind as I'm thinking about my board journey? Boom. There. Be happy to tell you about, what they're learning or what their challenges have been.

Sirisha: Thank you that helps with clarity, right? Because when people say networking, that itself, people are trying to figure out what that means, but yours is very clear. So everyone likes to do their research, understand all the different series fundings, and figure out where their niches, and their expertise. Which should not be hard because most of us know already what that is. Do some research, find those 25 people like you said, and then reach out to them. And the other thing is LinkedIn is the place, right? It's like any information interview, people are willing to share what they learn, and what they know, and they wanna help and disseminate that. Everyone wants to disseminate but the thing is, they don't know who to disseminate. So it comes to where you're saying, go and ask. And that's true of any role you're working, Yes. For a promotion, for funding, for any opportunity you need to ask. Even in this case, I'm asking you if you can come on the podcast to be a guest, so it's, most of the time people do say yes to a lot of the requests, unless it's not possible for them to fulfil that request, you don't lose anything by asking for access, and then when they feel comfortable, I'll get to know you. to your point, if you ask the 25 people who you've had some interaction, yes. They already know what your work ethic and what you bring to the table so they're willing to vouch for you. Rather than a cold touch from a recruiting firm and saying, I think this person looks good on paper, but I don't know how they're gonna perform. Yeah. Why Says I know how exactly how they work?

[28:08] Role of a Board Member

Julie: Yeah. Yeah. I think in general what we're looking for is, people who can be our advocates and say this is, think about it. If you're building a board, these people could fire you from your own company, right? You want to bring people on who are trusted, thoughtful executives, and know how to manage their own emotions and stuff. You also want somebody who knows the role of a board and isn't gonna start trying to tell you what to do. As a board member, their job is to ask you great questions. It's to give you perspective. It's to bring resources to the table. yes, they're your boss, but it is not appropriate for a board to be micromanaging you or looking over your shoulder and I think a lot of people don't understand that distinction. And I'll tell you the first board I was on, I was, I was, I did not do a great job as a board member cuz I'm a great operator and I wanted to like, I just wanted to say, just do it like I'm telling you, that's terrible behaviour for a board.

Sirisha: Yes. You are not running the company. I think that's what you're trying to say. You are not running the company. You're there to be an advisor to them. Exactly. That's really what your job is. And it's a different perspective for someone who's been in the thick of things working to step into that role is to share your expertise and knowledge and not get in, get your fingers to wet to go figure out what their job is that is for them to do it. That's fair. And I think it's You are right. That the board is the one that does, supersedes the C-suite. Exact. So being able to understand what value proposition is and a question of trust between the two organizations Yeah. To have that organization move forward. So to roll this all up together, I think it's what we are saying is the reason for this conversation in the first place, and it's different from the ones I normally do because I'm talking about advocacy and D N I and how to self.

[29:51] More Women on Boards

Sirisha: I thought this was very important because it's not something we talk about, and I know I'm coming back to the same thing again. Women need to get on boards and there's very many ways to get access to boards, and one of the ways is venture capital funding it. It helps diversify your portfolio.

It helps you invest in women's businesses. Maybe tomorrow you want to start your own business and now you know how to get there, how to get access to funding, how to find a board. and women enable more women to get into the C-Suite that way. So you don't always have to be in the C-suite. Through the normal chains of command, we still need to make an impact. You need more women in the C-Suite in the Fortune 500, no doubt about it. But there are other ways to still have a huge financial impact because all these companies will grow into these big companies. 10 years ago, there was no Google. There was no, 10, 15 years, no Facebook, no. None of the dollar companies even existed, right? No one knew what that is. So technology changes so rapidly nowadays. There's a huge push towards a sustainable climate, and that's where the future is going to be.

Julie: You just named something I think is important to underscore here. 10 years ago, almost all public and private company board directors were either venture capitalists or previous CFOs or CEOs.

[31:07] Expertise required on a Board, Company Culture is important

Julie: Today it's a hundred per cent different. One of the things we're realizing is, let's say somebody, my board is all people who have been CEOs before but are retired, how are they possibly gonna know, what the hot next, things that are happening in technology are half of 'em can't even use their iPhone without their kids helping 'em or somebody, so think about the critical need to have cybersecurity expertise. That's somebody who's actively in it today. We now have demanded from the largest asset manager investors in the world saying, we wanna see that you have cybersecurity expertise on your board. Culture is one of the most important corporate values. And that is one of the biggest ways that you can define corporate value is by looking at the culture of a company as opposed to physical assets, right? You're just watching what's happening with Twitter today. There's a massive crisis and culture and that company is about to lose all of its footing because of a cultural problem. There's a problem with the culture now of the leader, a leader coming in like a cowboy. Whatever you believe, what you can certainly learn from this is culture matters. So if you don't have somebody on the board that's got culture expertise or cybersecurity expertise or digital transformation expertise, you're at a loss. And so we have new demands for talent and you don't have to necessarily, especially in a pre I p O company to be able to be in one of those roles that sort of require experience in public companies, but not necessarily. Once you're a public company, the requirements. And there are so many things that are needed for pre-IPO companies.

Sirisha: Right, the point that you're saying is, when you're looking at having cybersecurity tomorrow, it would be sustainability. Different aspects are coming on board, as people are looking at ESGs and all of this ESG stuff, and that board requires that expertise as well. So it's not something that's the norm now, but it's changing if you're already at the cusp of it or the cutting edge, maybe you wanna, differentiate yourself get some kind of training for it and get on one of those boards because that's where everyone is heading. The world is changing and 10 years from now, no one knows which are those gonna be those top companies. Exactly. And would've thought that we would be doing what we are today and how companies have the ebb and flow so quickly to Exactly. Peaks and valleys as things go on.

[33:19] Note to 21-year-old self

Sirisha: Julie, this is a question I ask every one of my guests. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Julie: Oh, I just think, don't worry so much. I spend a lot of time, thinking I, women I think are culturally, we feel like imposters because we are, the work environment wasn't designed for women and so we're always trying to figure out how to. Be like a man, but still be a woman. Like work, that fine line. And you can never win. You can stand on that line for a minute, but you're all, and when I say the line I'm talking about there's a great article that just came out about confidence in women. Women who are too confident get dinged. Whatever they're called, narcissists, they're called all kinds of things. If you don't have enough confidence, they say they're not gonna promote you cuz you don't show enough confidence. it's an impossible line. So anyone listening to this knows that, do the very best you can. Because you can't stand on that line and win for the long haul. It's, humanly impossible. We need to change corporate culture, but in the meantime, be kind to yourself and worry less. Just do the best you can and then go have fun walking in the trees.

[34:30] Dealing with microaggression...Leveraging your culture, background and diversity

Sirisha: I think of it as a double-edged sword when I talk to my friends. Kind of what you said in a way, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. no wind situation. Essentially. You're stuck in this draw between a rock and a hard place. , you can't be to this, you can't be too less this. Yeah. So, it depends on how the other person perceives you and it's a perception thing. It's nothing about ability and what you bring. Many of us whip sawed. So you get the whip. So you start to think, oh, I need to be more like this, or I need to do more like that. And okay, we all grow and evolve by learning from our environment, from other people but there comes a point where it's and you need to just move forward because it's not, it's almost a no-win situation I remember reading this article, I don't know, it might even have been yours, where it said that senior women leaders, especially if they're from various cultures, think that they can establish and be their, more of their authentic self as they get higher up in the ladder. Close to the C-Suite. But then they also realize that since they've been walking a certain path it's much harder for them to be their more authentic self. They're even more boxed in than they thought they were. So it's really hard. I think the culture's changing It's better to start exhibiting that and expressing yourself much more early on so that you've established that runway rather than try to then figure out, okay, I'm going to walk this path. So much of it is okay, you should have, or you should, it's, that should, could have, culture and it's you know what? The culture's not designed for women, certainly not designed for women of color. In corporations or immigrant women, right? And so y you are who you are and I think we need to change the culture going forward and so in the meantime, be kind to yourself...

Julie: A friend of mine did a research study and wrote a book on the cost to women of color, of trying to fit in and survive in these cultures. In these corporate environments, just like what you were talking about and the physical cost, the health costs are enormous. It's making women sick, especially women of color, and so be kind to yourself, care for yourself, because this is a long, it's game in the long run. It's not what's happening tomorrow or next week.

Sirisha: true. I'm an immigrant woman of color, so I see where you're coming from and it's hard.

At first, coming to a different country, you have to figure out the culture of the place, and then you're trying to find yourself. And I was having this conversation recently with somebody. and it takes a few years for you to figure out who you are and what you wanna say, and then to have the confidence to start saying it with some risk added risk,? No, you're trying to see how much risk you want to take while you're advocating for this work and trying to figure that part out. I have a daughter who's a violinist. She's very much like a moderate, lovely and she's half Mexican and some 60-year-old white guy came up to her at work and said, oh, you're a hotheaded Latina.

Julie: Now. She was 24 years old at the time. There is nothing remotely hotheaded about my daughter at all. And what do you do when somebody plants their bologna on top of you? Their own bias, their own? What is a 24-year-old to do in that situation? She didn't have enough internalized messiness that she went into a swirl. But that could have been something that somebody had messages, in their life and that really could have made her wanna quit her job. There are all kinds of things that happen and so that has nothing to do with my daughter. Nothing even remotely to do with my daughter. I think it's important to understand that when it's about you and you can evolve and when it's something you can't control, and it doesn't matter what you do, you're not gonna be able to change Sirisha, that you're like a woman of color.

Sirisha: Actually, I love the fact, it's taken me time to figure out though people might have made statements similar to that, to say, I bring a different perspective that it's very hard for someone else to have, because each one of us brings a different perspective, from a culture, from your upbringing and stuff that enables certain conversations. And I can see that impact in different places when based on that diversity of experience. if someone's a peer of yours, you can discount them. But if it's someone who has power over you, that is where it starts to get scary and tough. Yeah, very true. And you have to think about how you can separate yourself. It's very easy for me to say this, but you have to separate yourself from it and you have to build a community of advocates, a friend circle, like a girl's group, a women's group somewhere where you can go talk and feel Yeah. That you can essentially vent and be open with those microaggressions.

Julie: It's awfully hard to know. What do you say at the moment? Who would ever think someone would say something like that to her? Yes. Two days later you'll figure out what the comeback is to be polite, but still, it's too late, right? You can't go back and have that conversation and but you need to have that friend group or, sometimes I call it a mastermind group, like a group of people that are all committed to supporting each other and sounding board for those kinds of things. So you have a place to process it. I guess it could be a therapist if you, that's what you need. But at least a group of people you can say, listen, this thing happened. What could I have said or done differently? Or, and maybe if you think it at least gives you a container so it's not swirling in your head and stressing you out.

Sirisha: And maybe it allows you in some future time to make a change to how people deal with it. Or maybe some kind of, Hey, this is an opportunity to train other cohorts and other coworkers if needed to figure something else. One last question. What would be the one word to describe yourself?

Julie: I honestly love is my cornerstone. I love and acceptance, radical acceptance and unconditional love.

Sirisha: Amazing. That's wonderful. and Julie, thank you so much. What I would like, and this is a call out for people who are listening. Julie unpacks so much stuff, and I think that's something we don't talk about.

So I'm gonna recap it again. Maybe I've said it a few times, but I think it's so important. If you are a woman sitting in an executive position, or even if you're growing in your career ladder or running your own business, think of ways to first invest in a venture capital fund, or where you think you can have the potential to diversify because you impact your portfolio enable minority-owned business and have a huger broader scope. Also, see how you can narrow down your niche and figure out how to get on a board and the right board and the right network to enable you. I think Julie said 85% of it happens through networking. So you have to be able to figure that aspect of it, and I think she's given directions on how we can do this. So spend some time in 2023. Write down points on how you wanna do this and put down dates, I would say, and start working on it. LinkedIn is an amazing resource. You can connect with everyone there to start. You could check out the Women Who Lead Organizations' page to find those VC funds in 2023, as she said, they'll list all the different ways to access it and go and do that. Because I think we will start to have a bigger, broader impact instead waiting for others to drive that change for us. We can drive it ourselves.

Julie: Beautiful. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast today.

Sirisha: Thank you. And did you wanna share how people can reach you and any information? I know you also host a podcast, I do our podcast called How Women Inspire which is just so much fun. So how women is the nonprofit container for all of the work. That's the starting point for all the work that we do.

Julie: And if you have a company that's seeking funding and it's venture backable how women Invest .com.

Sirisha: Wonderful. So she's already shared how you can access all of this if you're starting a business. I wish you all the best to get funding through you know how women invest in other fine fundings and some of us will look for ways to VC into our businesses. So please, I wish everyone the best as they venture out into sort of these unexplored territories so we can start to drive broader impact please leave any comments and thoughts and stories you might have if you have invested, got on a board so you can enable others to get there and provide some insight onto their perspective as well. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, June and every other Wednesday. To catch the next episode, if you think a friend may benefit from this, please share this podcast with them. Please subscribe, and leave us a review on your favourite podcast platform. I would love to hear from you about your stories and your journey. You can reach me on my blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Gmail at Women Carrier in Life. Until next time, this is Cerisha signing off. Remember, there are infinite possibilities to drive change in your career in life, which will you choose to make a reality today.

Guest : Julie Castro Abrams


Podcast: How Women Inspire :

Host: Sirisha

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