She's a Leader in the Country's Movement to Build & Fund Start Ups. An Exclusive Interview with CEO Julie Castro Abrams

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Julie Castro Abrams is an Experienced CEO & Consultant-Coach for Leaders & Organizations Seeking to Grow & Scale. She is an Expert in How Social Sector Organizations Grow & Thrive & has Long-Term Transformative Relationships with Her Clients.

Q: After you graduated from college, where did you feel your career path would take you? 
JCA:
I thought I was going to be a clinical social worker and was on my way to graduate school.  Once there I realized that I am better at the administration side and focused on health policy and hospital administration. I only worked for 2 years in that arena.

Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
JCA:
I worked at the Chicago Foundation for Women and that helped me see how I could use my skills and passion to work aligned with my values. I saw powerful women using their wealth and influence to change the world. They were big thinkers with a discipline around racial and gender justice that shaped my life.

Q: You are Founder & CEO of How Women Lead.  For those in our audience not familiar with your organization, can you tell us how it started and where it’s at now?
JCA:
How Women Lead is a network of 13,000 women leaders who come together to disrupt antiquated unequal systems to ensure women leaders are in the room where the most critical decisions are made. We champion the voices of all women and propel their leadership forward through designing and training on leadership and pathways to take action together. Women influencers find a platform for thought leadership, collaboration, resource sharing and to make an impact.

We started because I wanted to get together with other senior women leaders. They found such relief and inspiration by coming together, they asked for more and I invited them to architect programs and ultimately an organization. This is truly an organization and effort built out of the collective. As a result, we can pivot quickly, be responsive to the environment and take bold action.

Today our areas of focus are on supporting women leaders in a variety of short and long term programming, to train and place women on corporate boards and to encourage and support women to invest in women founded companies including our venture capital arm we are just now launching.

Q: Where do you see How Women Lead five years from now?
JCA:
We have had a lot of requests to expand into other regions of the world. I would love to share the “toolbox” and support others to build something like what we have here. That said, now that the world is virtual, perhaps we will have robust virtual networks around the globe.

Q: If you could make one change to help women at work, what would it be?
JCA:
  Remove bias in the promotion systems

Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
JCA:
Define your values and your leadership traits based on a measuring stick that is feminine and let others know what they will see in you and how they can best utilize your gifts.

Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
JCA:
Those people who look like they have it all figured out, don’t. So, move forward even if you don’t have all of the answers and let others know they can support you in filling in the blanks.

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Q: Which woman inspires you and why? 
JCA:
Stacey Abrams. No relation. She is unapologetically standing in her values and sense of herself. She is smart, prepared, disciplined, and deeply rooted in justice and integrity.

Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments in your career?
JCA:
 I was hired for my first CEO role and I moved my family across the country. When I arrived, the entire board said they were resigning now that I was there, and I could handle the challenging board chair. I told them no, they hired me, and they had to stick it out until we could restructure the board.

Q: What are the best practices you have employed to build a successful career? 
JCA:
 

  • 80/20. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of getting it done. 
  • Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them. Own the narrative.
  • Be responsive
  • Be authentic
  • Be clear 
  • Ask what success looks like
  • Drive decision making as close to the client as possible
  • Be loving and clear about how someone can do a good job, whether it is a board member, a client, or a staff person. 

Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women who want to reach your level of success?
JCA: Get rid of the itty bitty shitty committee in your head. You have to keep working at it because it crops back up. 

Identify the stories that no longer serve you, acknowledge that what might have been true when you were 12 served you but it is time to move forward with a new story about your value and qualities and strengths and define yourself.

Five Things About Julie Castro Abrams

1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
Alexandra Ocasio Cortez. I can’t wait to see her impact into the future. She is the revolution I have been waiting for. Her strength, intellect and compassion are an inspiration. 

2. Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
Hiking, reading, or cooking for my family

3. Where is your ideal vacation?
Argentina 

4. What app can’t you live without?
WhatsApp allows me to talk to people all around the world 

5. Favorite Entertainer?
Tracy Chapman, Talking about a revolution!! And America Ferrera 



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