Erin Gallagher, CEO and Founder of Ella, Global Marketing, Business development, and corporate Branding professional, Inclusivity & Diversity activist, and intersectional feminist, least to say, is a powerhouse multi-faceted personality. One of the top 100 LinkedIn Creators, Fast company’s World’s most innovative recipient for 2022; Top Woman in PR, by PR News in 2019, she has a whole list of awards and achievements to her name.
SheSight is proud to present Ms. Erin Gallagher as the Cover Personality of the December edition. Read on about her perspectives on feminism, her works in enabling women’s generational wealth, and much more in this interview, conducted by SheSight’s Managing Editor Dr. Chandra Vadhana
Watch the Full Podcast Interview on our YouTube Channel
Interviewer: Dr. Chandra Vadhana
Research – Neha Srivasthava
Video Editor- Akshita Modi
Chandra: (I met Erin, founder of Ella, a few weeks ago in San Francisco and was fascinated by the kind of women’s network she’s building.) Let me start this conversation with a very basic question- Erin, how did it all begin?
Erin: Much of my professional life has been centered around showing up in places that had a very specific way of working, that I didn’t always agree with. I’ve always been someone that has asked questions about why we’re doing something in a certain way, and it was always with the intention of making wherever I was, more inclusive and diverse. My most recent endeavor Ella really came from 20 years of my work experience working inside of the system, trying to change them. I think, Ella just evolved from all that I understood and underwent!
Chandra: Yes, I get that. Most entrepreneurs have a reason why they startup! I will come to more on Ella later, but before that, tell us something about your formative years, your childhood and where did you grow up?
Erin: My mom was in the Coast Guard for 25 years. We moved every two to four years my entire life. I was constantly coming into situations where I was unknown. I had to navigate in an environment that I wasn’t used to. It helped me with being social and made me understand how to connect with people. This also made me hyper-vigilant, which is a blessing and a curse. I learned how to read a room, and how to read said and unsaid communication. I did that all the way up until going to college which was the last time that I was going into a new place that wasn’t my choice. From then on, I was now in the work world. I grew up knowing that people who looked different had different experiences and backgrounds and were a part of life. It drove me to my first job at the college when I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I worked at servicemembers legal defense network, a nonprofit. The entire Mission was to lift the ban on gays in the military. With Ella, I have again started out with mission-driven work, trying to give voice to those that couldn’t speak about what they deserved.
Chandra: What was your career ambition as a child and what did you end up becoming?
Erin: I wanted to be an astronaut or an architect, I was interested in being creative but also building. There’s always this creating aspect of what I wanted to do. We must be creative while building, otherwise, we will end up with the same solutions that we’ve always had which haven’t gotten us far enough. Creativity can exist in every single type of role in Industry.
Chandra: That’s interesting! I guess creativity is also the hallmark of entrepreneurs. So, When did that entrepreneur bug bite you?
Erin: Well, it’s been a while! We had someone take the Office of the President that never deserved that role here in the United States. We saw ‘Me too’ taking hold. We had the women marching. All these convening instances made me sit up and say what am I doing? I am only being a part of this system. That was the impetus for starting our own company in September 2019. We have been leading this as a mission at our PR agency to bring back women into the workforce who left due to discrimination and inability to have the flexibility and navigate different parts of their lives.
Chandra: You make it sound easy! But I know, starting a social business is never easy! Have you ever had a “why did I even enter this field” moment?
Erin: Entrepreneurship is not necessarily something that you are seeking out. Entrepreneurship finds you. There are times when there is a cause that you are so supremely passionate about that you must go and do it yourself. I faced lots of hindrances when I launched my company. But if there’s anyone that can navigate challenges it is mothers. There’s that phrase- necessity is the mother of invention, but I like to say- mothers are the necessity of invention. They find new ways and solutions to get things done. I reached a point where I didn’t want to devote any more of my time and energy to individuals and organizations that weren’t aligned with my mission.
Chandra: Alright, now let me get into your ideologies. I found that on your LinkedIn profile, you mentioned that you are an intersectional Feminist! Could you explain this concept to our readers?
Erin: Intersectional feminism is an acknowledgment that all categories of women should be at the center of all the decisions that are being made. If we are not solving the biggest challenges of our life for women, particularly women of color, and most specifically for black women who are the most historically excluded, then we are not solving it for the greater good. As a white woman, I am inherently aware of the privilege that I have in this world. Feminism, for so long, has been about white women. They have been separating us and pitting us against one another for centuries; they being the patriarchy. We spent so much time fighting generationally, racially, or politically as women instead of recognizing our commonalities and the power of us collectively coming together. Intersectional feminism is acknowledging and recognizing all the ways that women show up and that they are diverse. We can’t just say, oh we’re doing great in corporate, 20% of the c- suite is women. It’s mostly white women! It’s not a win and so we have to start to get more specific about the dimensions of diversity when we talk about feminism.
Chandra: Would you like to share five tips for organizations that are thinking of making their company more diverse?
Erin: OK Here you go!
1. Do you have someone whose job is specifically devoted to the acknowledgment of diversity in your organization? If you don’t, then you need to have that person that sits in the c- suite that reports to the CEO.
2. You also have the budget for it in the same way that you do for these other business-driving entities.
3. Everyone knows that if you have a diverse leadership team, you perform better. It is a direct line to revenue, performance, retaining, and recruiting.
4. You need to have to be able to track your work in this space. If you are a 20% diverse organization and everyone is in a junior role and there is no one in a position of power and influence, then it is truly not representative.
5. You should bring in external resources that help you see what’s happening inside your organization. You have blind spots that are inherent, you are filling in blanks that aren’t there. If you don’t have someone that’s external that can point out these things you’re not seeing, you’re not going to grow.
The easy answer is to put women and women of color in charge. They will turn it around.
Chandra: Now, let’s talk more about Ella. What is your vision for Ella?
Erin: My vision continues to be about helping women build generational wealth. I want women to have access to the resources that they haven’t always been able to get. Men have been doing business on the golf course for 300 years. Straight, white men! They have been talking about investments, giving each other backdoor access to job opportunities. They have been discussing money and have never had the stigma around that, that we have. With the Fairway, we are coming together to unlearn that and rewire ourselves to be wealth builders, give each other access to opportunities, to not see each other as threats. We bring together corporate women leaders, and aspiring entrepreneurs in one room and help them network and grow with each other. We have launched a membership platform through which they share opportunities and network with each other. In the future, I see Ella growing across the globe.
Chandra: The idea of starting a family has been thought to be a deterrent for women taking up entrepreneurial roles. What is your take on that?
Erin: I think the partnership piece of your home, whomever that partner is, is that of a caregiver. Whatever partnership is- to rear, raise the child and navigate everything, there must be an acknowledgment of the ambition of what you want to do and that you are going to change the ambitions, it’s going to fluctuate and change. You must continue to come to terms even if it is to yourself. For eg: I am not the same person as the person that my husband met when I was a 30-year-old single woman living in a high-rise in Chicago. I would have had more time to do things like blow dry my hair and get dressed up. My husband’s traveling right now and I have two kids that I am dropping off at school, I have a dog who has a leg injury. I am dealing with many different things on top of running my own company. What are the priorities now what do I care about, you have to continue to meet yourself and communicate those realities to whoever is supporting you in your life. I think, having an understanding spouse is critical for any entrepreneur.
Chandra: Yes, this caregiving aspect is actually a business opportunity by itself! More women becoming entrepreneurs also means more caregiving jobs. Isn’t it?
Erin: It will be another economy! Men need to be doing this caregiving as well. This cannot just be a gender thing. We need more men to see this as a profession that is valuable. Guess why men don’t do it? Because they’re not making money. If you’re always the one who is purchasing the household items, guess what, people start to pay attention when there’s no more toilet paper or paper towels. Stop showing up and have someone else step up. As women in the workplace, in society, in our homes, and in our communities, we have got to let things fall through the cracks if we want men to start paying attention. Because if we don’t, they are totally benefitting from the passion taxes that we pay. We must make the invisible visible and turn unpaid into paid.
Chandra: Would you like to give one last message to all women out there?
Erin: This Mantra has come to me in my 40th. Make a commitment to stop abandoning yourself in service to others in your personal, professional, or passion endeavors. If you are in relationships and have experiences that force you to abandon yourself, it doesn’t value you and you will begin to disappear. You’ve got to make a difference.
Chandra: We want every woman to be visible, not Invisible, and realize her potential. That’s precisely what SheSight magazine aims at. I am sure Ella will impact thousands and millions of women in the coming years. Wish you all the very best for all your future dreams because your dream is not just your personal dream, it is going to be the dream of millions of women.
Erin: Thank you for creating this platform and acknowledging how important it is for women to be visible in the world.
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