I love that young people are leading the charge on determining what kind of world they want to live in now and in the future.
Linda Calhoun is an entrepreneur, activist, and community leader based in San Francisco, California. A graduate of Boston University with a B.S. in Mass Communication, Linda’s career path led her to work in international policy coordination, media, technology, and data management. Her work has met the unique and increasingly important intersections of STEM and Social Justice. Linda is the Founder and Executive Producer of Career Girls, a nonprofit that was created as a response to the inequality of opportunity that Linda encountered in her story. Linda is the President of the Career Girls board and additionally sits on the board for various other organizations such as Alliance for Girls and Friends of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea for Career Girls came to me in 1996 as I was sitting in a room with several USAID contractors working on privatization issues for the Newly Independent States of former Soviet Republics. As I looked around, I noticed I was one of very few women and the only person of color in the room. I knew at that moment, the ONLY reason why I was in that room was because of what I knew. My level of educational attainment, combined with my passion for helping local and global communities thrive and life experience propelled me into that room. I was the first in my family to go to college. My parents were the first in their families to graduate from high school and my maternal grandmother’s family was so poor, she was buried in an unmarked grave. Yet, there I was. That is the power of education.
Career Girls is a nonprofit dedicated to helping every girl around the world reach her full potential and discover her own path to empowerment. We provide access to real, inspiring women who are successful in their careers (our “role models”) and a supportive, girl-centric curriculum (with an emphasis on STEM) that girls can learn from. I created Career Girls because I want to make sure every girl, despite her ethnic or socio-economic background, has access to role models and tools that empower them to be whatever they want to be when they grow up.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day varies, of course. On a day that we are not filming “role model” interviews for Careergirls.org, it begins with coffee at 7:00 a.m. and checking emails and scanning social media for the news of the day. I usually arrive in the office around 9:30 a.m., go through and more emails and prepare for more phone calls to develop collaborations and look for partnerships to expand the audience of girls watching and using our content. We create a girl-centric curriculum that goes with the 10,000+ “role model” videos and want it to be a part of every educator and mentor’s toolkit.
In addition to calls, I may have individual and group meetings on themes surrounding girls education and empowerment around San Francisco where we’re based. What helps me to be more productive? Music and moving. On the days when I stick to my mile or exercise on the bike, I get more done than the days when I don’t. When we are filming, those are incredibly busy days leading up to, during and after. We typically have 2-3 video shoots per year.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Teamwork. I work with my husband, Ed Calhoun, who runs special projects for Career Girls and shoots all of our 10,000+ videos. We have an extremely gifted team running video production and keeping things running smoothly as we grow. We are also very fortunate to have several outstanding work-study students from two local universities who bring their creativity and energy to our efforts.
In addition to capturing advice and insights from our women career role models, our team attends many conferences, schools and industry events during the year, conducting “Career Girls Days” and workshops to put our ready-to-use tools in the hands and homes of more girls. It’s a 24-hour job, and I can’t dream of doing anything else!
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love that young people are leading the charge on determining what kind of world they want to live in now and in the future. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than spending time with our target audience members of girls ages 10 -13 and see how smart and self-aware they are in knowing who they are and what they want.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Networking. I enjoy meeting people and learning about what they do and how our content and work can help them do their jobs and society in general better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Spend more time understanding math and financial literacy. The more I understood the importance of being financially literate, the more agency and power I gained over my life and being able to pursue my projects.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Stereotypes about who can be successful, smart and ambitious are ridiculous. Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. That’s the whole point of Career Girls – to empower all girls, everywhere to seize opportunities to peruse their dreams.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey and spend as much of your time as possible on things that are under your control.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We have seen our audience grow by directly targeting “gatekeepers” of our intended audience of girls ages 10 -13. We want to make it as easy as possible for educators, family members and mentors to engage a child with our content. For example, in June we re-launched Careergirls.org to make it easier to access and navigate and are excited about launching the Career Girls app next year!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We just spent that amount on Career Girls stickers. Girls love them!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We just introduced Slack into the office. There’s so much happening and changing every day, it really helps with keeping us informed and on track. We love it!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen R. Covey. Reading that book helped me learn what being a leader is all about – developing and supporting your team.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is from the movie producer and former Motown Records executive, Suzanne De Passe, “I take no as a vitamin.”
- Knowledge is power and something that no one can take away from you
- If I can make my dreams come true given my background and having had very few examples of successful people who looked like me in my field, so can you!
- Never, ever, ever give up. Always believe that you can be and do whatever you want to be
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.