The impact of women in leadership roles stretches far and wide, showcasing elements of achievement, compassion, and resiliency. Females actively involved in the workplace provide a source of inspiration to others who may feel underrepresented in professional positions.
Shaped by the leadership of her own mother and the inspiring leaders she has met through her profession, Stephanie Perez, creator of the bilingual digital platform Faalta, strives to highlight the personal stories of women in the workforce. Stephanie has been thriving in the dynamic city of New York ever since she graduated from UCLA. Her work attempts to dismantle the expectation of “traditional leadership” by promoting diverse leaders who respond to cultural differences, sharing their most-valued advice for success, and getting honest about challenges they’ve faced.
Stephanie reveals in a recent interview with IVY Magazine, “The best advice that I’ve received has come via an old adage: ‘Take the bull by the horns.’ The reality is that you’re going to experience frustration or disappointment in life. Sometimes, the way to see yourself through it may be to do something difficult in a determined and even brave way. Ultimately, it’s about resilience and pulling from your treasure chest of strengths and lessons learned.”
Stephanie sat down with IVY Magazine to pull from that treasure chest and share the lessons she has learned, expand on Faalta’s mission, and discuss the importance of her global platform for women.
Stephanie is an IVY Member (NY). Connect and collaborate with her here!
Stephanie Perez, Founder, Faalta
Can you tell us a bit about path to founding Faalta?
I was born and bred in California. I’m a native Angeleno. I was raised by a strong and resilient mother – my first example of leadership. I was lucky enough to grow up in a part of Los Angeles that was culturally diverse. My surroundings really contributed to my ability to be culturally agile, and to seek to connect with so many different types of people especially as it relates to individual journeys of resilience and determination.
My move to New York City was slightly unintentional. I submitted my resume to an executive search firm on a whim and at the behest of my friend. I knew nothing about the executive search industry nor had it ever occurred to me what channels might exist for someone to obtain a senior-level position. I got hired and drove a 10-foot uHaul on my own from Washington D.C. – where I had been living – to the East Village (New York) and never looked back.
As a young professional, I had the opportunity to glean so many insights from senior leaders (C-Suite and Board level) at well-known corporations. All of the lessons and insights I gathered were equally impressive, but it was the stories from female leaders and pioneers that resonated most. Over the last twelve months, I often thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be great to leverage this network and give these women a platform to share their stories?”. So, I started testing out the “market” and get a feel for what the appetite was for this type of story-telling, hired a designer and built a digital platform that would eventually become Faalta.
What’s been your process for taking your vision and making it into an actual digital platform
Faalta is part blog, part online magazine focused on the topic of women in leadership and women in the workforce. Before setting out to interview any leaders, I decided to survey my target audience in order to gather insights on the type of content people would be interested in reading about. I then started reaching out to my existing network of leaders to test whether or not they’d be open to sharing their own journeys so openly. I was positively overwhelmed by the response. Finally, I started to slowly seek out partners whose mission and vision might be aligned to Faalta’s. This is how I came to learn about and eventually partner with BeVisible, a career platform for Latinx.
Your mission is to inspire and empower women to take risks and redefine traditional leadership. How would you define “traditional leadership”?
My view and definition of “traditional leadership” is a blend of what I have observed, what research has unearthed and what thoughtful leaders at some companies that I have worked for, have identified as being an impediment to the rise of female leaders. Traditional leadership has existed in one single form. In the words of a female leader that I featured recently, Cinthia Flores, she says “Leadership has [historically] manifested itself in a singular form – white, heterosexual male. Women have had to emulate this type of leadership for so long that it has undercut different styles of leadership… our [societal] challenge is to embrace and reward different types of leaders.” (You can read her feature here). I couldn’t have articulated this better myself.
Why do you think it’s important to share stories of success of women in leadership?
We live in a digital age where people are generally more open to sharing more about themselves through any or all social platforms available. Nevertheless, when you sit down and reveal a personal story, this can be frightening for many people. I believe that the next generation of women leaders will be better equipped and rise by gleaning insights from women “who have been there”. If these stories aren’t shared, particularly those of failure, we are missing out on an opportunity to build leaders who are more better informed than the previous generation. These insights are invaluable, especially for someone just starting out in their career. Ultimately, it’s about raising awareness. It’s about providing access to information about other women in the workplace. It’s about coming to the realization and believing “If she was able to do it, so can I.”
An estimated 13% of U.S. residents ages 5 and older speak Spanish at home, according to the 2012 U.S. Census. As Spanish use continues to grow in the U.S., what do you think is the importance of providing access to bilingual content?
Not only has the U.S. consistently experienced an increase in native and bilingual Spanish speakers, but it is also currently the world’s second largest Spanish speaking country after Mexico! Content about women in leadership is minimal – there are relatively few women in leadership roles to begin with – so it’s important to reach a broader audience and share stories about these women who come from all types of cultural, geographical and religious backgrounds. My way of reaching a broader audience is to make the content available in multiple languages beginning with English and Spanish. Again, it’s about providing access to information about other women in the workplace.
If you could interview anyone to feature on Faalta, who would it be?
I’d love to interview any living former or current female Head of State – Angela Merkel, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Dilma Rousseff, Simonetta Sommaruga, the Queen! There have been so few. Getting the chance to hear their life story first hand would be amazing.
What’s the best way for someone who would like to share their story get in contact with you
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome every and all stories and would be excited about exploring the opportunity to collaborate!
How can the IVY community best support you?
You can help in a few different ways, including:
1) Spreading the content – Share the link to Faalta with whoever you think the stories will resonate with (male or female!).
2) Submitting names of women you think should be featured.
3) Volunteering to be interviewed if you’re a senior male leader, about what diversity at your organization has meant and what you’ve done to show commitment to this issue, and finally;
4) Recommending any noteworthy organizations or other digital platforms that Faalta could potentially partner with!
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