Ellevate Network CEO Kristy Wallace believes it’s important to invest in women — whether it’s financially or getting behind their careers and overall success.
“I’m incredibly passionate about the broader spectrum of business, business innovation, entrepreneurship and creating pipelines to leadership,” Wallace said.
Not only is she offering women support through her role at Ellevate Network, but also through her other endeavors such as angel investor at Pipeline Angels where she invests for women and non-binary femme social enterprises. Wallace also is an advisor at Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Institute and sits on a number of boards, including the Girl Scouts of New York.
Before she was CEO at Ellevate, Wallace first was a member who turned to the community for connections, support, business development and a sense of kinship with other professional women.
“I joined [Ellevate] back in my late 20s when I was a first-time manager and just felt really out of sorts in that role. It was something I worked hard to get to and then I didn’t know what to do with it once I was there,” Wallace said. “I was really looking for a community of others, particularly women, who could give me that advice and support.”
Wallace eventually transitioned from a community member to a team member of Ellevate. “Ellevate hadn’t made much progress in the digital space and I was able to help accelerate our path in that direction,” Wallace said. Her background working with tech startups was appealing to the Ellevate team, as well as her extensive background in community building from two previous positions.
“Vault centered around community reviews of companies so that job seekers could make more informed decisions. Zeel was centered around creating a community of customers and wellness providers,” Wallace explained. “Community is at the core of who I am, I’ve seen how powerful it is to have others you can turn to for advice, support, opportunities and more.”
Founded in 1997 under the name 85 Broads, a reference to the old headquarters of Goldman Sach at 85 Broad St. in New York City, Ellevate’s chair, Sallie Krawcheck, rebranded it as the latter in 2014.
“At Ellevate, our aim is to be the largest community of women at work, that feels really small,” Wallace said. “We are cross-industry, cross-function, cross-geography, and women at all career stages. We know that that’s important.”
Ellevate has more than 150,000 global members including women in London, Dubai and Madrid. The organization also hosts over 1,000 in-person events each year — from workshops and mentoring meetups. Wallace said these in-person events are about organically building local connections and community.
“It’s hard being in the workplace to begin with. I think often times we’re expected to leave our identities and values at the door. We still many times may be the only person that looks like us, or shares similar characteristics to us in the room. It’s still a time when discrimination or harassment exists, and pay inequity is a thing. Across all of that systemic issues that exist it’s also just that we are humans,” Wallace said, discussing the importance of having a community like Ellevate in today’s workplace environments. “Humans thrive on community and support. So when you think about how you tap into those communities and connections, that are also practically looking to remove the barriers for women and marginalized people in the workplace, it’s a phenomenal place to be. To be able to tap into that, and to be able to feel like you’re not only helping yourself but you’re helping others as well.”
Ellevate uses its power of community and resources to get their members beyond the hurdles they face. Eighty percent of the women using Squad, their online peer mentoring service (more than 6,000 women have used it to date), have reported increased confidence in their career as a direct result of the service. Ellevate has also created additional resources for women like their podcast, “Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business” and their daily algorithm-driven newsletter that’s customized to each recipient.
Wallace said women entrepreneurs can also find a home within their network as well. “If it’s access to funding, access to advisors, or access to customers and support, you need that community — that ready made community. So, investing in it, think of it as a long-term game is such a critical piece to then always having that support you need, when you need it.”
Ellevate Network in 2020
“Things are changing at such a rapid speed, and it’s my personal mission to ensure that you always are able to find a community that goes deeper than just a like or a share. I think that’s really important for many reasons, but particularly, to know you have that support to do whatever you need to do in your life,” Wallace said.
Ellevate will be hosting the Mobilize Women Summit, for the fourth consecutive year, on June 26 in New York. Previous speakers have included Fortune 50 CEOs such as Ajaypal Singh Banga, CEO of Mastercard, and celebrities such as Debra Messing.
“Our speakers this past year were over 80% diverse. The spectrum of everything from people of different gender identities to people of differing abilities, different backgrounds and experiences,” Wallace noted.
For Ellevate, these summits offer another platform for vital discussions that are currently happening on a national scale. She said it’s not just because it aligned with Ellevate’s values, “but if you look at the bigger conversations happening on the Davos stage and in Congress, and beyond. It’s around how businesses are evolving to really adhere to multiple state cultures. Moving away from shareholder primacy, and looking at the way businesses can not only create better businesses and grow, but also be really good for their employees, and the environment, and for underrepresented populations.”
Ellevate is also looking to make their communities more inclusive. “Every day is a new day, and it’s faced with new challenges. We want you to know you’re never alone, and there’s always people here to help you grow, to help you succeed, and to help you meet your dreams,” Wallace added.