I am asked time and again why I decided to start the Women in Leadership Nexus, a professional leadership association that empowers women to reach an amplified level of leadership, fueled to be the agents of change and co-creators of a different leadership paradigm.
I wish I could say the idea sprung from some cinematic moment, ala Sara Blakely deciding to cut the feet out of her pantyhose because she needed an undergarment suitable to wear under white pants. Enter Spanx.
But how I got here is much simpler than that.
A Move to Rhode Island
In the fall of 2015, my husband and I moved to Rhode Island for a new career opportunity. I was knee-deep into the job as Director of Marketing for an IT services firm—building a demand generation and content marketing strategy by day and by night exploring the Ocean State and trying to build a sense of community.
It was very much my dream job. I was challenged every day to elevate my skill sets, while operating in an environment in which failure was OK. I was in an environment that bred innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. And I met some pretty amazing people right away.
By March of 2016, it became evident that while I was meeting some of the brightest, most creative professionals, they were mostly men. Though I was lucky to have formed an inner circle of supportive men, it did make me wonder: could I also find some awe-inspiring women in Rhode Island to round out my community?
Coffee and Blogs
As a writer, and someone who is naturally curious, I sought out local women who held various leadership roles—from IT Directors to CEOs—to profile their unique stories through a Q&A blog series. We would meet for coffee, trade tales and uncover commonality, no matter our line of work or years of experience. A few sentiments quickly rose to the surface:
- There still seems to be too many women who don’t advocate for other women. Or, as the wonderful Madeleine Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
- A number of women impose self-limitations simply because of where they sit in the corporate hierarchy—uncomfortable with seizing leadership moments until they get that promotion. We wondered what we could do to change that. Could we help them recognize that title has no bearing on one's ability to lead?
- We explored the principles of strong leadership, with phrases like "empowerment," "vulnerability," "authenticity" and "collaboration" always making the conversation. We dreamed of a better business world that advocates for a different type of leadership paradigm.
I met with everyone from CEOs to Directors to mid-level Managers, and what united all of these women was a fierce conviction to be the X-factor leader. To be the women others referenced at conferences. To be the women giving tomorrow's awe-inspiring TED talks. To be the women who are forever changing the business world.
That was probably the closest thing to an “aha moment” I had with the Nexus. With this realization reached, I knew I wanted to do more than just blog. I wanted to formally connect women who were unequivocally committed to becoming the X-factor leader, or what we at Nexus like the call the next-gen leader. The women who dare to play it big, set extraordinary vision and rethink the imaginable.
Leadership is a Choice
In October of 2016, the Women in Leadership Nexus was formed. The Nexus empowers women to recognize that they don't have to wait to meet, see or hear from the X-factor leader. Rather, they can make the decision to reach an amplified level of leadership immediately.
What my interviews with more than 30 women have taught me is that we are not born as either leaders or followers. Rather, we have a choice when it comes to the path we will embrace.
We also have a choice when it comes to how we support others, particularly women. We can nourish each other’s talents, rather than suppress. We can be allies rather than competitors. In fact, we have a responsibility to do so.
Today, the Nexus exists to bring together like minded women who are looking to share space, to transfer energy, to leave one another feeling inspired to take action. We meet at Nexus events; we schedule regular coffee dates; we share our sentiments via the Nexus blog; and, most importantly, we talk.
My favorite quote has always been from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I don’t know about you but I am ready to see change. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
There are so many ways to become part of the Women in leadership Nexus—from joining our chapter to blogging for our website. To become a part of the organization, click here.
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as Marketing Principal for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.