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People are no longer shocked by women in the C-Suite. As female empowerment in the workforce has steadily climbed over the 20th and 21st centuries, women continue to knock down barriers. The path blazed by female fighter pilots, doctors, and politicians over the last hundred years is now courageously followed by women as they rise through corporations, law and the highest levels of government.
Chief, a women-led company, is doing its level best to keep that torch ablaze. Started in 2019, this private network offered women in the C-Suite a much-needed breath of fresh air – and the breath became a wind that blows ever more strongly today.
The basic idea? Women in executive positions often find themselves overwhelmed and under-resourced, at least on a personal level. While they’re busy mentoring others and overseeing thriving companies, too many of them don’t know where to turn for their own questions.
Enter Chief founders, Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan. Both had extensive experience with executive leadership. The former worked as a senior VP for cleaning company Handy and then Soap.com; the latter a VP at the mattress giant Casper. They knew personally how draining it is to take on leadership roles without the right support.
“The idea of Chief came from a pretty personal place for Lindsay and I,” Childers told CNBC. “We were getting more and more senior in our careers and … realizing that there was no community or resources for us anymore as we were now the resource for other people.”
Thus was the idea born: a small, private network of women in the most powerful leadership roles, who could turn to one another for advice, resources, and connection. Before their launch in 2019, they hoped to get 100 women on board. They quickly realized Chief was going to go much farther than that. By the time they made the company official, they already had 200 powerful women representing the gamut of startups to Fortune 50 companies.
Likely the company would have seen a meteoric rise either way, but the pandemic gave them a serious boost. With a world in turmoil and the workplace even more stressful than usual, women needed professional resources even more.
"There was this moment in time when nobody had a playbook," Kaplan told Inc.com. "We're all leaders trying to navigate our teams through a pandemic and social unrest … and it was a community that leaders really needed to turn to."
Over time, Chief built that playbook: coaching sessions, workshops, networking events, mentorship matches. It was a hole that needed filling, and Chief has done so with aplomb.
Today, the company has numerous feathers in its cap. It boasts clubhouses in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. It has secured more than $20 million in Series A funding, the company’s first foray into venture capital financing. And it has more than 2,000 members … with another 8,000 on the waitlist. Membership hails from Disney, Chanel, Pfizer, and The New York Times. Together, women have created a resource that represents their experience and bolsters their options – and showcases what is possible for a younger generation.
"We never set out to be a billion-dollar company," said Childers to Inc.com, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s a meaningful statement about the power women can bring to bear, as well as what can happen when we believe in what was for so long regarded as “the weaker sex.” As Childers sums it up, “we're excited about hitting this milestone, because it shows that investment in women is a good investment."
A very good investment indeed.