"Shifting Power" with Eileen Carey
Our speakers often hold up a big mirror, sometimes revealing traits within us that need to be developed or amplified. Eileen Carey is a super feminist who offers that experience as an outspoken, unapologetic woman with a thirst for power. An overachiever who doesn’t always follow the rules, Eileen is CEO of Glassbreakers, which provides solutions for companies that want to keep their employees diverse and engaged by tackling diversity at the corporate level.
Eileen comes from a long line of strong, opinionated women, and she continues in their. In her interview she shares her thoughts on the fluidity of gender, drops some tough-love for women who feel like they can’t completely be themselves at work, and talks about the difference between career and corporate feminism in a way that is refreshingly direct and authentic.
Eileen: I don’t think gender is binary. I don’t think men do things one way and women do things another way. I think that we are all people, and gender is fluid. There are some traits that may lean towards the masculine and some that lean towards the feminine. I am the one who’s trying to work super late, I am the one who likes to say, “I’m gonna go kill it.” That is my personality. I think everyone should just be their most authentic selves and put themselves in working situations where they can be.
And I believe it’s really important to choose your boss wisely. I have only ever worked for women, women who are very very strong and who remind me of the future self I want to be. So because I’ve chosen to work for people who allow me to be who I am, I haven’t really had to make concessions.
Majo: I’m gonna push on this topic for a second– So there definitely could be some women who feel comfortable expressing whoever they are at work, but if they naturally lean more towards the masculine, that may be allowing them to more easily succeed, whereas a woman leaning more towards the feminine might be at a disadvantage in certain cultures.
Eileen: Sure, but then I would say don’t go work in that culture. There are plenty of jobs and plenty of teams. You don’t have to go somewhere where you don’t feel like you can be yourself every day.
Majo: But that’s currently the state here in Silicon Valley, wouldn’t you say?
Eileen: No…. because there tons of amazing companies that are run by women, there are tons of cultures that are different across businesses. As a job seeker, it is up to you to put yourself in a place where you will be successful because you’re being who you are. Find cultures that support that. They are out there.
Majo: Okay, so you’re saying plenty of cultures exist, you just have to look for them.
At this point in your journey, are we getting closer to Glassbreakers?
Eileen: Yeah! So, one of the catalysts for starting Glassbreakers was coming from a company that had really great employee resource groups, really great mentorship programs for women, and just really cared about the value of diverse employees in leadership positions. And then I came out here [to Silicon Valley]… I’d come from having women of color on my team, men on my team, gay people on my team, like, I was on a really diverse team on the Global Public Affairs team. So when I came out here it was like, Woah this is not New York, this isn’t even Wall Street. How is Wall Street better?
Majo: You mean Wall Street was more diverse?
Eileen: Oh yeah. So it was like a shock to the system, right? That part was missing for me.
But I was really inspired by meeting a lot of women here who were just really strong and supportive, this was around the time Lean In came out. There were a lot of these mentorship communities that had started to pop up and I saw a big market opportunity to take the value of diversity and inclusion as a core business function and to expand upon it. It was a problem that was so in-your-face here that there had to be a solution.
- Eileen’s powerful upbringing: Coming from a long line of strong and rebellious women. [4:02]
- On her independent and strong-willed personality, speaking up despite labels of being bossy or bitchy, and being comfortable with being controversial. [9:27]
- College years and discovering her true passions, plus the elite job she found on Craigslist that opened the doors of power to her in Manhattan. [14:53]
- Eileen shares about her thirst for power and how that guided her when the recession hit and her career became uncertain. [19:39]
- On being the “token millennial” during Occupy Wall Street, plus stories of Eileen’s mom the “corporate feminist”. [24:53]
- A lively discussion on masculine vs feminine in work cultures, and Eileen’s critical advice to jobseekers. [28:49]
- The value of diversity — One of the main catalysts for starting Glassbreakers. [34:20]
- The rock-bottom years: Eileen shares how moments of darkness in her life led her to make (good) drastic decisions. [39:13]
- Eileen’s lifelong passion for feminist causes and her thoughts on Hillary being the most overqualified candidate. [44:55]
- Some tough-love advice on work-life balance, what it takes to scale a huge company, and the importance of building amazing teams. [49:07]
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by Lucia Lilikoi