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Staying Creative During Challenging Times

Elaine Del Valle is a true renaissance woman. The award-winning writer, actor, director, casting director, producer and philanthropist has done a little bit of everything and spoke to us about staying creative during challenging times and what it took to get where she is.

Elaine realized early in the game that if she wanted to see real Latino stories out there, ones she could connect with, she would have to tell them herself. This realization has since led her down a prolific path where, it seems, she’s determined to create as much as she can.

Her one-woman-show “Brownsville Bred” received several awards even before an incredibly successful off-Broadway run in the summer of 2011. The stage play was later on adapted into a young adult novel called “Brownsville Bred: Dreaming Out Loud,” released in early 2020 and available most places where books are sold.

Del Valle’s work can be found all over the place, though. You can watch her movie “Me 3.769” on HBO, and some of her earlier work, like “Final Decision” and “Reasons Y I’m Single” are available through Amazon Prime. Elaine has allowed her personal beliefs to inspire and inform projects the world can connect with and has found  her voice in a simple but powerful concept: Stay True to Yourself.

We had a chat with the multitalented Latina and talked about her creative journey, the things she’s been reading, watching and listening to these days, and some tips and thoughts on staying creative during these challenging times.

Elaine del Valle Director in action

Elaine del Valle Director in action

 

From Actress to Renaissance Woman

Aline Cerdán – It seems like you’ve done a little bit of everything, can you tell us about how you got started on your creative journey?

Elaine Del Valle – I began my career as an actress. I studied acting for many years but found myself pigeon-holed as a commercial actress. While I was having some great success in the commercial and voice over markets, I felt like my craft was not being fully exercised outside of my professional scene study classes. I began writing material to present to class and ended up writing what would soon become an awarded, off-Broadway stage play.

“Brownsville Bred” was my true coming of age story and depicted my life as a Latina growing up in the crime capital of NY, Brownsville, Brooklyn. The play really changed my life and made me realize that if I want to see real Latino stories reflected in art, then I really had to be a part of creating them. The play also increased my visibility and allowed people to understand the real me – it also got me job offers in front of and behind the camera.

AC – Do you feel at home dabbling with it all professionally, or is there something that feels closer to your heart?

EDV – I love every aspect of creation, whether that be creating a character or weaving a cast of characters together for a project. That said, the most fulfilling role I have taken on is as a director. I love informing the story by way of camera angles and working with actors to achieve their best performances. I am able to speak to them in actor lingo and really get the performances I want.

Rosemary Rodriguez is another one of the few female directors in Hollywood!
Brownsville Bread by Elaine Del Valle

Brownsville Bread by Elaine Del Valle

To-Do Lists and Turning Hardship into Art

AC – What do you feel have been some of the hardest aspects of staying creative during challenging times?

EDV – When the quarantine first came, it didn’t really pose a big change in my life… for the most part. I am always at my computer writing, casting or producing. Knowing that the quarantine would be long I decided to make a very long “to do” list of things that I’d been putting off. I have long been using a “list” method to accomplish tasks. There’s something about crossing things off that list that makes me feel like I have achieved something.

My father died when I was a teenager and so I have never taken time for granted. I always want to make the most of my time…and that doesn’t have to mean being creative. Sometimes I work on just the business side of things. I work best when I am multi-tasking and plowing through a tough workload. I am a “by the seat of my pants” creative and so when I get creative, I dive deep and don’t come up for air until I am done. I wrote my play in three months, and I adapted my book in about the same time. I finished my first procedural drama in three days and wrote my first film in an airplane ride.

I don’t put pressure on myself to stay creative because I find inspiration everywhere. Also, I pride myself on having put in the work to develop my various crafts, which  allows me to turn to craft when I am feeling outside of my creative zone.

Want to unleash your creativity? Say yes to change!
Elaine del Valle Director teaches us about staying creative in challenging times

Elaine del Valle Director teaches us about staying creative in challenging times

Staying Creative During Challenging Times

AC – You’ve turned a tough childhood into a novel and a play, can you tell us about the creative process when the material you are using is autobiographical?

EDV – It’s wonderful to lean into the facts and honest examination of the people you know and love. It has been my ultimate joy to represent my loved ones in a way that makes others come to love them, regardless of their flaws. I began my writing by depicting my milestones. Every individual has milestones and those are the things that truly shape us. I have found that people from all backgrounds can somehow all relate to milestones universally.

My process for writing the play came easily because at the time that I wrote it, I was immersed in professional scene study classes at Carnegie Hall under the tutelage of the legendary Wynn Handman. I understood scenes and what made them powerful. I had fertile ground at Wynn Handman Studios and a safety net of trusted and respected actors that made me feel safe. I owe lots to my class and my teacher.

The book was something I had to learn to write. I immersed myself in YA (Young Adult) novels and would circle moments that made me laugh and cry and wonder. I devoured books and it got me into a mode that I was also able to dive into. I adapt easily and pivot to use all of my talents and crafts in whatever I am working on. I also studied through Sundance Collab where I practiced ways of free writing to bring the material beyond where I’d first imagined, and to trust my instincts.

AC – Do you think that the challenging times we’re currently going through could actually become a source of creativity?

EDV – Necessity is the mother of invention and I think we are currently witnessing many creatives working together, and apart, outside of their comfort zones to continue to deliver entertainment. Artists must create. It is a deep need inside of them. An art teacher once asked, “Why do we paint?” the answer was “to prove we exist!” That is a deep need behind the work, and nothing can stifle that desire.

My advice to anyone who is not feeling creative is to go out and learn something new. Read a book. Read many books, take on-line classes. Participate in the webinars and creative livestreams that are keeping raw art and learning still available to anyone who wants it.

AC – What do you think is the role of the arts and the importance of staying creative during challenging times?

EDV – Art always reflects life and the role of art will emerge from the artists creating it and the audiences taking it in. It always has and it always will. We reflect and we create, then we reflect on what we have created, and we evolve. People ask me how I choose what I work on next. Is there a foolproof recipe to getting a film sold or hot on the festival circuit? I always answer that the only person who has to really and truly like it is the artists themselves, because it is surely their passion that will bring it to the finish line and nothing else should matter than being true to yourself. The more specific a story, the more universal its reach.

I always create based on my core beliefs. In “Brownsville Bred”, both the play and the novel, my belief was that if you knew them, then you too would have loved my father and mother and even found value in living in a place like Brownsville. That hope and how you can’t judge a person’s worth based on economics exists everywhere.

“Final Decision” (Amazon Prime) is based on my belief that when our loved ones die, they are still with us, guiding us. “Me 3.769” (HBO) on my belief that females will and are overcoming their fears for the sake of helping the future generation and that there is deep power in “telling secrets” that you never wanted to. In “Princess Cut”, my latest project, my belief is that we all can find common ground. And how many can and do get away with their indiscretions because of money.

Work from your core belief and the work will hit home to many, even those you never imagined you’d have things in common with.

Passion by Ian Schneider- Unsplash

Passion- Photo Credit: Ian Schneider- Unsplash

Immerse yourself completely— One great way of staying creative in challenging times

AC – Do you have any tips for people who would like to express themselves creatively to get started during isolation?

EDV – A tip is to find a random photo and write a story about that photo as it relates to your childhood. Everyone can do it and every story will be interesting and different and yet they will all derive from the same source of inspiration.

Another thing I practice is to not put a deadline on the quarantine. Know that you will endure it, no matter how long it takes, and be ready to face the truth of it. A deadline is a sure way to lose hope.

I also recommend that whatever you want to create, you should immerse yourself in. If you want to write a memoir then you should read memoirs. If you want to write a screenplay then read books on writing screenplays and then read screenplays. If you want to write poetry, then immerse yourself in poetry. If you immerse yourself in art, then you will become it. My teacher, Wynn Handman, used to say, “Marinate in it”. If you marinate long enough then the you can’t help but be flavored and juiced by it.

Also, if you feel stuck then stop the creative and move to the other necessary parts of how you will get your creation out once it is complete. You can learn so much about anything by just going online. If you want to perform a play, then you will also have to sell tickets to that play or submit it into festivals. That’s how one can stay active in the growth of your vision rather than allowing it to wilt during creative dry spells.

AC – What are some of the books, movies, albums and TV shows that have inspired you to stay creative in times of isolation?

EDV – Features: I love to watch documentaries on any subject. Anything on HBO is usually phenomenal. As for movies I really love to examine story and cinematography when I am watching films,  so I use them as a learning tool every time.

TV shows: I love “Ozark” and “This Is Us”, which always makes me cry. There are few shows that I can get lost in but those two always make me forget about my craft and just involve me in the story.

Music: My Pandora stations go from Marc Anthony to Garth Brooks to Adele, passing through Ed Sheeran, Elton John and 70’s & 80’s stations. I also love 80’s and 90s rap.

I listen to music when I am writing; music makes me feel and I think those feelings end up in my writing. I practically wrote the entire “Brownsville Bred” play while listening to salsa music.

Books: I have to say I enjoy YA more than any other genre. I love Gayle Forman and Gary Soto.

You can connect with Elaine Del Valle via LinkedIn

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Mónica Peraza’s Passion

Self-made Mexican businesswoman Mónica Peraza O’Quigley believes women are stronger together. Her great passion? Empowering female entrepreneurs and helping them thrive. Her creativity, commitment and discipline helped her achieve success at home and abroad. Success she now uses to propel other women and their businesses forward.

A firm believer of transformation and its ripple effect, she is dedicated to help eradicate extreme poverty among women by providing access to markets. With this mission in mind, Mónica co-founded The Etho with Sydney Sherman. The online marketplace built by and for women with the goal of empowering female entrepreneurs around the world to manage their businesses and scale them successfully.

The Etho holds the women on this virtual marketplace to a high standard, making sure all products are sustainable and respect mother nature. Mónica – who learned confidence from a grandfather that served as her very first mentor and encouraged her to work hard – holds herself to that same high standard both personally and professionally.

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplashThe Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho and its Mission of Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

Red Shoe Movement – Can you tell us about The Etho and its mission to change the lives of women around the world? How was it founded and how did you come to the conclusion that together we are stronger?

Mónica Peraza O’Quigley – Sydney (Sherman) and I met in January 2019 through an advisor and in a matter of 15 minutes we began to consider the possibility of joining forces and creating a company together. She brought the ethical verification process to the table and I brought the curation system for female-owned businesses. That’s how The Etho was born. We are Co-CEOs and we love it since each one focuses on what we like the most and when we have to make any decision it is much easier to make it together. We have absolute respect for each other and from the very beginning we made the pact that our relationship would always be the most important thing.

We are both committed to empowering female entrepreneurs around the world and eliminating extreme poverty, and the best vehicle to accomplish this is by offering access to markets that will pay fair prices for their products.

Monica Peraza O'Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

Monica Peraza O’Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

How does this platform empower women?

RSM – How does The Etho work? What is the process for an entrepreneur to sell their products on the platform?

MPO – We have an ethical verification process and once an artisan, designer or businesswoman passes the verification, they have access to our platform where they can sell their products and ship them directly when they receive an order.

RSM – You have done a great job raising funds for The Etho. Can you share the most important tips for investors to understand the value of your proposal?

MPO – The Etho is a company with great impact that is perfectly aligned with two global movements that are highly relevant at the moment. On the one hand, the empowerment of women through access to markets and on the other, sustainability through products that not only care for the environment, but that are made by companies that offer fair wages and safe conditions for the women who work there.

In addition, we have a team of women who have extensive experience helping to grow global companies and that gives investors confidence.

Finally, our pitch deck and executive summary are very complete and cover all the issues that investors need to make a decision. Fundraising is largely directly proportional to your network as the decision to invest depends on the trust they have in the entrepreneur to execute. Something only people who know you directly or through someone else know.

Get inspired by a successful shoe entrepreneur!
Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Building Future Female Entrepreneurs

RSM – Talking about empowering female entrepreneurs, you are a serial entrepreneur yourself. Could you tell us what this means?

MPO – A serial entrepreneur is a woman who has founded several companies, usually one after the other.

RSM – What are some of the qualities that young businesswomen must cultivate to become great leaders?

MPO – Working on your self-esteem is essential. Recognize ego, don’t let it blind you and learn to see things objectively. Being a leader is a position of great responsibility and personal work is a catalyst to become a better leader.

RSM – How can you introduce the importance of giving back to the community in the minds of future female entrepreneurs?

MPO – It is very important to give back to the community since the more we have the more responsibility we have to share. I especially feel like as a Latina woman in the US it is our obligation to open the road to other women who come after us.

RSM – Why do you think it is so important to have committed mentors? Can you tell us a bit about yours?

MPO – A mentor has the power to change your life. I have been fortunate to have several mentors in my life, but Teresa Lozano Long has been the person who has most influenced my life in the last decade. She has been very generous in sharing her immense wisdom with me and has taught me so much that her impact on my life and my business is impossible to measure.

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash

Closing the Gender Gap at Sea: The Celebrity Cruises Team

Celebrity Cruises has been making history for years, creating opportunities for women in an industry that has been dominated by their male counterparts for far too long. Lisa Luttof-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, has focused on closing the gender gap at sea since she took office.

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

She believes that having women at the table is key to any organization. She has been a part of Celebrity since 2006, and “paying it forward” by helping other women find their place is something she’s passionate about.

Her commitment to making this happen can be seen across the fleet. Since she became President and CEO, Lisa has increased the percentage of women on the bridge from 3 to 23%. Only a 2% of mariners in the world are women, which makes these ladies and their efforts to carve a place for a more diverse and inclusive workforce even more admirable. These are remarkable women changing the maritime industry and creating opportunities to close the enormous gender gap that exists.

Captain Kate McCue, the first female American Captain of a cruise ship, shares her life as a Captain on Instagram, hoping to get other women interested in life at sea. Nathaly Alban, the first woman to serve as Captain in the Galapagos Islands, has loved sailing since she was a kid and feels that life on land is too simple in contrast. For Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, the first female cadet to emerge from a partnership between Celebrity Cruises and the Regional Maritime University in Ghana, sailing is a dream come true. One she has worked for tirelessly.

For relentlessly working towards closing the gender gap, making history and encouraging other women to join the maritime industry and help reshape it, we honor the women of Celebrity Cruises with the first-ever Hall of Fame Women Ensemble Award.

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

Closing the gender gap at sea starts with the CEO

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Red Shoe Movement – Why do women make great leaders? 

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo – I really don’t like to generalize about anyone, including women. What I will say about the women who are the right and great leaders is that they do the same things any other great leader does: They accomplish great things. They have a vision. They get results. They transform their business. But they do it differently because they bring the attributes to the position that are unique to being a woman.  Empathy, emotional intelligence, a higher level of holistic thinking to the problem, diverse voices and thoughts at the table. And leading with their hearts, not just their heads, which encourages discretionary effort from those who work under their leadership – and that’s priceless.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

LLP – My first male champion was the SVP of Sales & Marketing at Royal Caribbean International, Dan Hanrahan. He came into the company and identified me as a person (who happens to be a woman) with great potential. He challenged me to utilize my talents more broadly and moved me into marketing. While I didn’t believe so at the time, it was the best thing that happened in my career and was the beginning of a long and winding journey and experience that all contributed to my ability to become the President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

Dan was also my champion by promoting me to my first Corporate Officer role as VP of Onboard Revenue for Celebrity and two years later to SVP of Hotel Operations for Celebrity. He not only gave me different opportunities within Royal Caribbean, but he also continued to champion me after he moved into the President & CEO of Celebrity role. He actually held the same position I hold now before he left the company in 2012. I will forever be grateful to him and he is still a friend and mentor.

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

LLP – My first experience with being the first woman to hold a position in the company was in 2005 when I was appointed as VP, Onboard Revenue. I was also the first woman to lead Hotel Operations for Celebrity, the first woman to lead the Marine and Hotel Operations for Royal Caribbean, the first woman President & CEO in our company and C-Suite and the first and only woman to run a Global Marine Organization in our industry (I lead this organization as well as Celebrity Cruises). While I have been with the company for 35 years, it wasn’t until 2005 and the first operational role that I realized that gender inequality was an issue. A big issue. Ever since that day I have felt it is my obligation, responsibility and opportunity to help women advance in areas of our industry and operation that have been historically held by men.

The best example I have of that is that since I have held this position (5 years) we have raised the number of women on our bridges across the fleet from 3% to 23%. Only 2% of mariners in the world are women, so this is a huge accomplishment and my team deserves all the credit for it. We hired the first American woman to ever be the Captain of a cruise ship (she still is) and the first African woman (Ghana) to work on the bridge of a cruise ship. Our efforts in finding great women for our bridges is being celebrated on International Women’s Day (March 8th), when we will offer a barrier-breaking and history-making cruise with an all-female bridge team on Celebrity Edge. No one has ever done this before, and no one else is currently able to do this. We have led the way and the industry. What better day to celebrate this as we celebrate women around the world and all they have accomplished?

Don't miss Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's crown-jewel accomplishment: designing a new ship class: Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Cruises

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

KMC – It is important to highlight and celebrate the “wins,” whether it be small, like conducting their first briefing, or substantial, like performing their first ship departure maneuver.  It builds confidence in the individual and solidarity in the team.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

KMC – Our Senior Vice President of Global Marine Operations, Captain Patrik Dahlgren, and our Associate Vice President Celebrity Marine Operations, Captain Manolis Alevropoulos, who are both fathers to daughters are also leaders and peers who I look up to because of the incredible impact they are making in the Maritime industry by actively recruiting women for positions that were not accessible to them in the past.  As fellow captains, they are pillars of support, career sounding bars and by introducing more women on the bridge, they are bringing diversity and creativity to our teams. This makes my job more productive and enjoyable.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

KMC – The most eye-opening lesson was to be myself, but in order to be myself I had to discover who I was in the first place. That took time and as we evolve as individuals. I’m finding that I’m learning “me” every day.

Nathaly Alban, Captain, XPloration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

RSM – How have women helped you along your career? 

NA – My mother was the first woman who has helped me throughout my career, she is the one who trusted me when I decided to be a merchant sailor and supported me in each of the decisions I made. After her, I have met very few women who belong to my operational area, but the few that I have known have taught me that perseverance is the mother of success.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

NA – My champion is my father, who with his constant unconditional support and great patience taught me that a person’s wealth is in his humility. He could never fulfil all his dreams, but he has something that I have not seen in any other person, an ability to forgive and forget easily. He doesn’t know much about ships, but he listens to me carefully every time I tell him something. He has art in his hands, he is a carpenter by profession, and he likes what he does. That is what he has always instilled in me, to love what you do. He is my champion and the advice he gives me has improved over the years.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that organizations can take to accelerate the representation of women at the top, what would it be?

NA – Allowing them to develop their leadership talents within each workgroup, encouraging them to take the leadership of workgroups and, above all, recognizing their achievements.

Closing the gender gap at sea in Africa

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Cruises

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing towards closing the gender gap at sea and level the playing field for women?

NTA – I am acting as an ambassador for Celebrity Cruises to Regional Maritime University (RMU), Accra, Ghana. So, I mentor young girls at my university in seafaring careers. I raise awareness of the maritime industry by organizing campaigns to reach out to girls in secondary schools. I’m doing this with the vision of closing the huge gender gap that exists in the seafaring programs at RMU. I help Female Graduates from the RMU to gain employment onboard ships; so far, three girls from RMU have been employed by Celebrity Cruises. All thanks to Celebrity Cruises.

I have also organized various “WoMentoring” programs (women mentoring women) where I have connected about 40 girls in my community with women leaders and seasoned professionals with the experience necessary to influence and inspire the younger generations. I have assisted in organizing various women empowering conferences within my community, where I also distributed 1000 copies of the motivational book, ‘Power of the Mind’ by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to young girls.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

NTA – I have learnt to be patient, determined and never to give up. Perseverance is the key lesson here because it makes me stay focused on the goal my eyes are fixed upon and not to worry about the temporal struggle and pain that will eventually pass over time.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that women could take to accelerate their career growth, what would it be?

NTA – Women need to work hard, persistently and with self-confidence.

 

Greta Thunberg and the rise of powerful young female voices

A teenage environmentalist becoming TIME’s Person of the Year is one of the things I loved most about a year that was often difficult to deal with. It’s symptomatic of the rise of powerful young female voices that is defining our times.

I’ll be honest, it puts my own inconsiderate teenage years into a harsh perspective, but while the adult part of me is deeply ashamed of needing young girls like Greta Thunberg to take matters into their hands, it provides vital hope in a time of crisis. Hope that these new strong young female voices that are fighting for the world have inherited not just the chaos previous generations have created, but also the courage to bring the necessary change around.

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

One of the most powerful young female voices today

She may only be a teenager, but Thunberg knows what she wants and won’t stop until she’s made sure people are listening. She has managed to get attention where others have failed to do so; she’s achieved commitment where there was none before, inspired young and not-so young to act and shamed those who continue to fail to do what’s right, no matter who they are or how they may retaliate.

She speaks frankly; she doesn’t do sugarcoating. Greta knows that we’re running out of time to right some of our wrongs before it’s too late. She offers facts and expects them to be enough to scare world leaders into action. To scare people into demanding a change from the politicians in charge.

Unless something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature will continue to rise. According to scientists this will “expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030”.

With a future that’s increasingly bleak and world leaders who don’t seem very interested in doing something about it, it’s no wonder that she’s gone from a muted depression to anger that’s gone viral. Anger that represents thousands.

The face of a youth-led climate movement first heard about climate change at school and tumbled deep into depression triggered by hopelessness and disbelief. How could global warming be a reality if politicians and world leaders were doing nothing about it? How  could adults be so unconcerned by the dreary future being handed down to children? How could they not listen to warnings scientists have given us for years?

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

At first, she went quiet and stopped eating, inspiring her family to make changes in lifestyle like giving up meat, growing their own food and installing solar panels to appease her anxiety. Gradually, she began to find her voice once again. An uncompromising, no-bullshit voice that she’s been using to wake the world up to the urgency of the planet’s current situation.

Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis may have explained why she took her findings on the condition of the planet so hard, but as her father pointed out to TIME, she’s not wrong. While she has been mocked and bullied, her uncompromising passion and straightforward approach has also reached millions.

Her outrage at being forced to begin a climate strike instead of enjoying her childhood made an impression, especially on other young people who share her anger and disappointment. As they should. The demonstrations that have happened worldwide have brought about the kind of pressure that’s hard for leaders to ignore.

Emmanuel Macron told TIME that these weekly demonstrations by young people helped him change, “You cannot remain neutral”.

So, it’s probably a good thing that youths seem so involved. That Greta is not alone in wanting to make things happen where “grown-ups” have failed to succeed, or to even try. According to Al Gore, a Nobel Prize Winner for decades in climate advocacy, “many great morally based movements have gained traction at the very moment when young people decided to make that movement their cause”.

This could be a good sign considering young people, young women, seem to be at the forefront of change. Different, real, flawed, diverse, eloquent, young women who are making big things happen. It’s pretty inspiring.

I often wonder about the kind of woman my niece will grow into as a product of the world she’s been inherited. Of a world that’s fought for great new freedoms and has bred unlikely social champions unwilling to watch it burn. A world that’s at a breaking point that has forced kids out of classrooms to stand up and do what adults can no longer be trusted to do.

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

In recent years, names like Jamie Margolin (climate change), Emma González (gun control), Marley Diaz (diversity representation), Malala Yousafzai (education for women and girls), Mari Copeny (access to drinkable water) and Zoey Luna (trans youth rights) have proved that Greta is not only not alone in her fight to create awareness – she’s in good company. With more young female voices rising above the static as we stumble into the next decade.

I found the women I looked up to making music, or movies or writing stories. It worked for me – their messages were empowering and helped me define who and how I wanted to be in a lot of ways. It felt a little more self-involved on my side though, more limited. More about changing myself than changing the world. It feels like these kids are changing the world.

At sixteen, Greta is the youngest person to take the title given by the magazine every year. She joins Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis in the long list of names who have claimed the cover, which has pleased some and, unsurprisingly, annoyed a few others. The unconventional young hero makes me feel ashamed of myself, but also excited about what she means to girls watching.

The women my niece will look up to are fighting for others. They tear through social convention. They are everywhere. They do everything. And, in a lot of ways, they’re just like her.

Read about the Women’s March that took place in the US

Lisa Wang Levels Playing Field in Investment Capital

Lisa Wang has an unusual background. A former USA National Champion gymnast, she used her ten-years of experience as an elite athlete to build a unique platform to help female entrepreneurs. Enter SheWorx.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Lisa Wang does nothing half-heartedly. The former USA National Champion gymnast, has not only founded SheWorx (a global collective that connects female entrepreneurs to capital, networks, mentors and knowledge) but has also become the host of the Enoughness Podcast and a high-performance leadership coach. She’s on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List of 2018, on the 20 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 and 2018 by CIO Magazine, a Red Bull Hero of The Year, and has been featured in top publications including the Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, USA Today, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and others.  She is a national writer for Forbes and Fortune.

For her leadership in driving gender parity in the entrepreneurial space, we honor Lisa Wang with the 2019 Hall of Fame.

Red Shoe Movement— How does a world-class gymnast end up leveling the playing field in fundraising for women?

Lisa Wang, CEO, SheWorx

Lisa Wang, CEO, SheWorx

Lisa Wang—Gymnastics is a very competitive environment. It’s a zero sum game: There’s only one medal – If I win, you lose. When I was a gymnast, my teammates and best friends were also my competitors. It’s a very toxic competitive environment. As I progressed and retired from gymnastics, I continued to notice these competitive patterns in the workplace there was a sense of scarcity among women who fought to outperform each other rather than collaborating.

When I became an entrepreneur, my fundraising experiences made me realize the unique challenges women face when raising money. I wanted to be around like-minded, ambitious women who could support each other to achieve our goals. But it was very difficult. SheWorx was born as a result of my personal struggle. I wanted to create something for women who needed to raise capital, to have access to the skills and to investors and build meaningful relationships in a collaborative way. Behind every successful woman there is a group of other successful women who have their back. Our motto is: Closing the funding gap by collaborating not competing. Our duty is to support this generation of female leaders and teach people to think from a mindset of abundance. ‘My success is other woman’s success.’

Lisa Wang shares key traits to succeed as an entrepreneur

RSM— What are some key traits you need to succeed as an entrepreneur?

Lisa Wang—The most successful people are the ones who fail and always get back up, over and over again. I had to have a clear North Star as a gymnast. Every time I fell down I had to remember that North Star and get up again. What people see on the outside is the five minutes of the performance on the mat the day of the competition. But there are millions of hours of practice and tears behind those five minutes.

As an entrepreneur, you are inspiring people on stage but they don’t see the hours of pain, tears, and sweat that get you to that point. That’s a lesson everyone needs to learn. Understanding that any kind of journey that leads to success comes with millions of hours of hard work and failure. Only if you’re willing to slog through that and if you have a true North star will you be able to attain the level of impact you want to make.

Also, people don’t ask nearly enough: “What do I want? And Why do I want that?” A lot of people go into entrepreneurship because they want the external glory or the money. But that’s when they burn out. You need to find something you’re really passionate and curious about that will pull you through even the lowest lows.

CEO of SheWorx helps level the playing field by providing access to venture capital to female entrepreneurs

Lisa Wang, founder and CEO of SheWorx helps level the playing field by providing access to venture capital to female entrepreneurs

RSM— You went from hardcore competition to hardcore collaboration. What were some of the hardest lessons you had to learn?

Lisa Wang—The hardest lessons always have to do with people. One of my mistakes is mixing friendship and business and not differentiating intentions. Specially as you become more successful you attract more people to you who come with many layers of intention. Sometimes it is hard to decipher what those intentions are or if they are true. I had to learn the hard way to keep a close group of friends and advisors around me and to be more skeptical. I believe you are the reflection of the people you surround yourself with, so that’s why I’m careful with who I let into my closest circle.

Lisa Wang is leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.

Lisa Wang is leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.

RSM— SheWorx focuses on helping female entrepreneurs secure funding in a field that’s mostly male. What are some advantages women have in a fundraising situation? Can you give us concrete examples of seeing them in action?

Lisa Wang—Women are natural leaders when it comes to being team-oriented. We are great operators… we are more realistic about financial projections and what we can do in a certain amount of time. Entrepreneurs tend to think they can do more than they really can. In fundraising, women often get asked different questions as a result of unconscious bias. But in some ways, the fact that we have to prove more means we get tougher, we come in knowing all the data and numbers. We are consistent when it comes to showing progress. One example is Court Buddy, founded by two African American founders (a woman and a man.) She became the 14thever African American female to raise $1M who met their lead investor through SheWorx. Now she just closed her $6 million series A round.

Key negotiation tactics you can't afford to ignore!
Lisa Wang during Tech Week

Lisa Wang during Tech Week

RSM— Your generation is changing the way we think about our current workplaces. What would you say are some of the big changes that it will put into place in the next twenty years?

Lisa Wang—The entire workplace composition and dynamic will be transformed, and is already transforming. We’ll see a change in leadership. More women, more minorities, more diverse sexual orientation. There will be a massive shift in the workplace. The structure we see today of people working 9-5 in big corporations will completely fragment or disappear. People won’t stand for corporations that don’t represent the true makeup of the actual population.

70% of Gen-Z wants to be an entrepreneur. For 1 in 3 their dream job is to be a “YouTube star.” This is the most entrepreneurial generation in history. They are skeptical of big corporations, red tape, and bureaucracy. They care about authenticity, people creating good products for themselves and the environment. They hate being sold to. They are the most socially conscious and connected generation in history. Also, women are changing. Women are the more ambitious and more educated than we’ve ever seen. They are delaying children; there are more women with kids in their 30s than 20s for the first time in history; women are 60% of college students.

Advice to women contemplating entrepreneurship by Lisa Wang

Lisa Wang of SheWorx is changing the face of entrepreneurship

Lisa Wang of SheWorx is changing the face of entrepreneurship

RSM—For a woman contemplating whether she should strike on her own or stay employed, what exercise would you have her do in order to help her make a wise decision?

Lisa Wang—I’m a high-performance leadership and mindset coach and I have people do this exercise. I’d ask you to close your eyes and imagine your ideal day 5 years from now. Imagine it in as much detail as possible. From what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, where you live, who’s on your team. All of those things will help you understand your North Star and what changes you should start to make today. When you start by envisioning your perfect day you can start working backwards. If you care about having an office close by or a flexible day, etc., it will help you create your roadmap to get there.

RSM— In terms of leadership lessons, is there a particular one you’d like to share?

Lisa Wang— Embrace your own unique style of leadership.I learned to embrace my own style of leadership, which is not the same as that of the dominant model of leadership that’s been created by men. The narrative says that the most successful CEOs are the ones who are overconfident, command the team, and are aggressive. And my style is caring, listening, collaborative, individualized, it’s quieter than the aggressive, dominant one, it’s wiser. Over time I realized there was nothing wrong with me but something wrong with the model we were worshipping. There’s something to learn from that model but it’s also important to realize there is not just one type of leader.

Take the leadership style quiz to discover yours!