Athena In Action September 17, 2018

Catalyzing Ecosystems: A Peek Inside Athena Alliance’s City Launch Guide

By Coco Brown Founder and CEO

Dear Athena Members, Partners, and Supporters:

Athena Alliance began as small, quarterly gathering of women executives in quiet and interesting restaurants, for which the attendees would trade off footing the bill. The early goals of Athena were simple: to create an intimate environment through which a curated group of top female executives could learn from and support each other. At first these were gatherings of technology executives, simply because it matched to Coco’s background running a technology company herself.

The technology-centric theme quickly faded away as women invited others to the table. Chief marketing officers. Heads of human resources. Chief financial officers. Venture capitalists. It was all the things relationship-driven networking should be: organic, warm, authentic. These women weren’t gathering to collect business cards; they were gathering to learn from each other and to give each other strength. In doing so, they created stepping stones and career ladders for one another. Athena Alliance was born.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the heart of the organization, grew fast. Members popped up at a steady rate. Intuit and Autodesk came to the table as early corporate partners, setting the tone for long-term success. Seattle quickly followed as a thriving market, thanks to a significant investment from Microsoft, with many members, brands, and Athena ambassadors coming to the table with offerings of support. Then Boston joined with significant collaborative partnership with two investment leaders, OpenView Venture Partners, and TA Associates.

These are the roots of Athena’s ecosystem of connections and partnerships, built to empower women to lead at their highest level of impact, to help companies develop their top-tier female leadership, and to create sustainable, healthy businesses and communities.

But that was just the beginning. Now, Athena is on the precipice of expansion. Read on to see how we’ll continue to build our ecosystem across the U.S. and beyond.

Key cities. Strategic events.

Athena builds a stronghold in key cities in two ways. The first is an organic sprouting of members in a location. As a member base grows in any single city, it makes sense that we find a more formal home there. The second is a strategic targeting of key markets throughout the U.S. where we have a natural, simmering hub of opportunity—the right blend of progressive companies and corporations, potential CEO champions, investment firms, and our backbone: extraordinary female leadership.

We envision our first year in a new city to be guided by series of four events:

  • Event One: Stewarding long-term corporate value. We’ll pull together a wide net of stakeholders in a new market. We’ll bring them together for an intimate, fireside-chat style conversation on what it means to be a healthy, sustainable, socially-responsible business for that particular market. What does that demand, and what (or who?) is needed to achieve it? We’ll cover topics such as executive development, board-savviness, network leverage, and shareholder value.
  • Event Two: The Modern Boardroom. What does an ideal boardroom look like, and what does the construct look like for a business ready to succeed in a highly competitive environment? Through a panel discussion, various Athena leaders and partners will discuss topics such as how to build your board with intention, what’s required of boards at various company stages, and how to think through what an organization needs in a board director.
  • Event Three: Crafting your story. Here, we’ll speak to Athena members and aspiring members, walking them through strategies for branding their relevance and gaining executive buy-in. We’ll host an exclusive private workshop on storytelling and branding. Additionally, we’ll have a networking event where women can connect with one another and learn branding wisdom from an experienced speaker.
  • Event Four: Celebration and reflection. This final event culminates a year of growth. It’s a celebration through which we can look at where we started and where we’re heading.

Once we’ve hosted these four events, we’ll no longer be looking to enter a region; we’ll have claimed a regional presence. This means we have a critical mass of members, including Pioneers (women on public or large private boards) and Aspiring Directors (women who today are ready to be recognized at the board level whether to join an outside board or be more relevant and elevated in stature with respect to their own board) across a region. Along with these members, we envision three to five investor partners and three to five corporate partners to help solidify our presence. Additionally, we’ll identify a noteworthy female leader in the region to be our regional ambassador.

By then, Athena will have developed an ecosystem where female leaders, at the top ranks of leadership, will be nurtured through white glove, one-on-one executive coaching and monthly salon events—intimate evenings hosted by existing members who have achieved a board seat.

Simultaneously, we will introduce these women to board influencers and decision makers in all locations, well in advance of opportunity. Our goal will be to enable women to be in the right place at the right time, or be a known thought leader within the right circles where she can shape opportunity for herself.

We hope you’ll join us.

You don’t have to wait until we’re launching in a new city to join us at an event. Following is a list of upcoming Athena events. Are we coming to a city near you? We’d welcome an opportunity to meet you in person.

  • Seattle: Salon | Board Effectiveness – How to Develop a High-Functioning Board | Tuesday, September 18
  • Silicon Valley: Salon | What I Wish I’d Know About the Board Selection Process – Hindsights of a New Director | Wednesday, September 19
  • Houston | Stewarding Longterm Corporate Value with Director’s Academy and Baker McKenzie | Friday, September 28
  • Silicon Valley: Salon | Making it Work – Board Service and an Executive Role | Monday, October 1
  • San Francisco | The Modern Boardroom and the Diverse Roles It Requires, co-hosted with Okta | Wednesday, October 3
  • Chicago | Stewarding Longterm Corporate Value, co-hosted by Morningstar | Wednesday October 3
  • San Francisco: Workshop | Board Bio Workshop, hosted by Deloitte | Thursday, October 11

This is what momentum looks like.

Any time there’s growth, there’s an opportunity to leap forward, to look behind—and even to stumble. As we develop and implement this framework for cultivating new regions, our goal is to maintain the intimacy and warmth of the culture we were founded upon. A place where existing female directors can lend a hand (and solid advice) to aspiring members; where members know they can call upon each other—and us—when they need some encouragement, or even just a friendly voice at the end of a chaotic week; where corporations and investors become intimately intertwined with the communities they serve.

As we grow, community and connection will continue to be at the center of our operations. Stick with us. The only way to go is up.

Now, onward.