Three Industry-Changing Founders on Building Your Own Empire

"You give power to the things you spend time worrying about," said Julia Hartz at Marie Claire's Power Trip.

Makeover, Neck, Smile, Art,
(Image credit: Marie Claire)

"The Power of Genius" panel at Marie Claire's Power Trip conference—an annual event designed to empower and connect influential women—was populated by women often considered businesses geniuses. Speaking on the panel were Julia Hartz, the cofounder and CEO of Eventbrite; Katrina Lake, the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix; and Reshma Shetty, the cofounder and COO of Ginkgo Bioworks. Serving as moderator was Sally Shin, the San Francisco bureau chief of CNBC.

An overarching theme of the discussion? How the women on the panel try to redefine what it means to be a mother and an executive. Lake mentioned that she’s made it a point to announce in meetings whenever she needs to leave in order to pump. This, she explained, helps to normalize breastfeeding in the workplace, while also prioritizing her needs as a mother. “I want to emphasize that you can have a family and prioritize that while also being invested in your career,” Lake added.

Shetty, meanwhile, recalled a time when she attended an event and brought her baby with her. While she was there, she said, both male and female founders came up to her and whispered, “I have kids, too"—as if it was something to be ashamed of. Clearly, normalizing parenthood among founders is a long road, Shetty noted.

In order to combat this very issue, Hartz shared one of her strategies: Recruiting women who are on maternity leave and who may be facing pushback from the companies they work for. Finding talent in this “critical and life transitional moment” is a way to hire more women and to bridge the gap, she explains—and it shows; the employee ratio between men and women is 50/50 at her company, Eventbrite.

Another important aspect of hiring more women, Lake noted, is to invest in diverse founding teams. “If your team isn’t diverse to start with, it’s so hard to get there,” she said. “The founding team is who earns most of the money, and women should be included in that if you’re serious about diversity.” Shetty, who works in the biotechnology field—a predominantly male industry—says that her one regret is not focusing enough on diversity earlier.

Being a woman in the C-suite can be a space rife with misogyny. But Hartz has a coping strategy: She explained that she doesn’t give the thought much space in her life. Hartz prefers to concern herself with business fundamentals and the hiring process: “You give power to the things you spend time worrying about.”

Follow along with us at Marie Claire's Power Trip here, and via @marieclairemag on Instagram.

Juliana Ukiomogbe

Juliana Ukiomogbe is a freelance writer who covers culture, wellness, books, and movies. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or attempting to knit.