Ilene Fischer

Ilene Fischer

CEO & Founder

Boston, Massachusetts

WomenLEAD

One of the most critical skill sets today is working collaboratively in networks and communities, being innovative and a being an agent of change.

I am passionate about advancing women. I established one of the first battered women’s shelters in the U.S.; served as a chapter president of N.O.W; and was one of the first engineers in the defense industry. One day I asked, “Why is it that women are so underrepresented in the C-suite, with 14% of all executives in the U.S., and five percent across Europe?” After working on women’s issues for four decades, I got annoyed that there still is such a huge gap, so I decided to do something about it.

First I dug into research. Studies show that when companies have three women board members or executives, they have 85% greater ROE than those companies without women in senior roles. That reaffirmed what I already knew: We are stalled in closing the gender gap.

Next I dug into my own most powerful experiences. On a trip to Italy as part of Hillary Clinton’s “Women in the Economy” initiative, I saw that women were hungry for networks. In most U.S. cities women can attend several networking meetings a night. In Europe, however, they don’t exist. I created an event for six women in Rome and eight in Florence. Everyone loved it and they continue to meet.

After these experiences, I imagined an online global network of women supporting and learning from each other, exponentially growing in their careers.

When I returned, I shared my vision with the board of the non-profit I led because I saw the enormous impact that could be made for women online globally. The board was not aligned with my vision. I realized I needed to lean in to create a disruptive movement for women today and leave.

Why? I learned to lean in as a child; my mom said, “You can do anything in your life.” So, I listened to my mom when I stood at the edge of the cliff and founded WomenLEAD, a new online platform for women to support women.

WomenLEAD is designed for women to accelerate their development as leaders by creating and engaging with their “Personal Advisory Board,” learning from the rich resources of other women, bolstering their online personal brand and participating in different social mentoring and learning communities for women.

WomenLEAD reinvents mentoring for today’s world, which is moving too fast to accommodate the old face-to-face model. One of the most critical skill sets today is working collaboratively in networks and communities, being innovative and a being an agent of change.

Our network provides this competence. It builds skills in: networking; organizing communities; creating visibility; learning to acknowledge others and make others visible; opening themselves (heart and mind) to others; and supporting each other as leaders.

When women operate in community and networks first hand, they experience the exponential power of growth and can easily disable limits to growth. I believe that WomenLEAD will shift the current context of not only how we work today, but of the future of work itself.

Read more stories

Before you go, sign up for our emails to get helpful articles, inspiring stories, and more.