Welcome To Your Athena Journey!

Getting Started

This portal is a comprehensive resource for board service preparation and includes opportunities for connecting with the Athena community and applying for board opportunities.

When you dismiss this message, you will see your "Journey Dashboard." This dashboard is your roadmap for growth and has been specially designed to prepare you for board service.

You'll start with "Goal Setting and Journey Planning" with your mentor and then move into phase work. Please note that, although all phase resources are available to you at any time, we strongly suggest completing your current phase before moving on to the next.

If ever you get lost, simply click the "My Journey" button in the upper right-hand corner of the site to return to your Journey Dashboard. It is of the utmost importance to us that this portal provide you with all resources you need to reach your board goals. Please don't hesitate to reach out to coco@athenaalliance.org with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Thank you for being a member of The Athena Alliance. We look forward to the journey ahead!


The Athena Program

The Athena Alliance – Year 1

By | The Athena Program | No Comments

Athena Alliance - Year 1

Just under 18 months ago, a group of dedicated, powerhouse executive women made the decision to upgrade their regular meetings to a mission-driven non-profit organization — dedicated to furthering gender parity on corporate boards. Since then, the Athena Alliance has made incredible strides in seeing this objective through to fulfillment. Our vision is of a world where everyone benefits from the indisputable value of women contributing at the highest levels of leadership, alongside men and in parity – 50/50. Our first mission in achieving this vision is to bring more women to the boardroom by supporting women in the last mile efforts to get them in the right place at the right time and ready to share their unique and relevant value. Further we support our mission by enhancing the intimate network of boards and making introductions to the right women for the vacant seats they need to fill.

Our first 18 months have been spent mostly as an unknown entity relying on critical early believers like Autodesk, Intuit, Microsoft, OpenView Venture Partners, Deloitte and PwC and a few key connections within our small team to drive opportunity and awareness. We all worked hard to contribute far more than we might ever see come back to us to build relationships, deliver value and spread the word. We are now beginning to see ourselves on a national stage, with VCs calling Athena, with F500 companies reaching out and women and boards spreading the word of the great value they are getting.

Board Matches

In just 18 months, we have supported more than 30 boards and women from all over the US in the consideration of women directors. Within this, we have more than 20 actively considering Athena women today (a combination of both private and public companies). Six have brought Athena women to their boards. Beyond these end results, the meaningful expansion of networks for women and boards is almost immeasurable. We’ve put forward more than 150 women, ensuring “eyeballs” to their profiles, and we’ve secured more than 60 first interviews, many resulting in multiple interviews with board directors and CEOs.

Member Growth

While we have well over 700 C-level women in our close network, by the end of the year we expect more than 100 will be Athena members (we have 94 now). These women are Pioneers (already on a public company board), or Aspiring Directors (breadth and level of leadership clearly qualified to serve on a private — generally series B or later — or public board). Our members get white-glove, high-touch, 1:1 and intimate group coaching around board selection readiness. We also work actively to enhance their networks in the right ways, connecting them to CEOs, VCs, seated directors and board recruiters. And, we help raise their visibility through PR, speaking opportunities and awards.

Amazing Feedback

We have received incredible feedback from the CEOs and board members of those companies we have worked with so far.

“Sourcing world class board members is a tough challenge for a startup. Typically, our options are limited to going through our existing board, or personal networks. Athena opened up a new channel for us, and allowed us to meet incredibly talented and driven women execs who were board ready. I could not recommend Athena more strongly if sourcing world class women leaders for your board is important to you.” – Lawrence Coburn, CEO – DoubleDutch

“The Athena Alliance connected us with a broad array of incredibly talented women from a variety of disciplines, all with deep knowledge and experience in various technology sectors. Importantly, the process could not have been easier and more enjoyable.” – Rick Smith, CEO – Axon

“… The Athena Alliance has given me an incredibly high quality peer group to network with and learn from. The connections I’ve made through Athena are with people who truly care about supporting each other and have the wisdom and experience to add Value.”  – Amy Bunszel, VP of Digital Products – Autodesk, Athena member

“Athena has a unique approach to not just help women prepare for board service, butbuilding an active network that connects boards directly with candidates. Within monthsof joining Athena I was in conversation with a Fortune 500 company.” – Obi Felten, Head of Moonshots – X (Formerly Google X), Athena member

Acquired Funding

Athena closed 2016 with total contributions slightly over $300,000, in large part due to a few key believers – Autodesk, Intuit, DLA Piper, and those 35 women I mentioned earlier. 2017 could be a $1,000,000 year, enabling us to accelerate impact on a much bigger scale. We have $800,000 in our sights now and are preparing to launch in two new regions. I want to encourage you to put our December 7th fundraiser on your calendar (more info coming to our site) and do what you can to help us raise the last $200,000 to reach, not only a goal, but significantly enhanced momentum and power for a very worthy vision.

We are honored to report such wonderful success in such a short time. It takes a village, and we are blessed with an amazing one. Athena is devoted to making even more progress in the rest of 2017 and in years to come. Join us, and let’s move this needle at an acceptable rate together! Please visit us at www.athenaalliance.org to learn more.

Good Companies Doing Good Things

By | Board Gender Diversity, The Athena Program | No Comments

Good Companies Doing Good Things

The Athena Alliance is on a mission to improve gender parity in the boardroom – and to create a movement that inspires companies to think about inclusion and diversity at the top levels of their organizations. The movement is gaining momentum. Though we still have a long way to go to see equal female representation in leadership roles and board positions, we are seeing the tide begin to change – and we couldn’t be happier.

We want to acknowledge a few good companies doing good things in 2017 – namely, giving deserving women a seat at the table.

Fortune 500 Companies:

Disney brought their board composition to 33% female with the addition of General Motors Chairman and CEO, Mary Barra.

Wells Fargo selected Elizabeth Duke, former governor of Federal Reserve, as the first female chairman in the board’s 165-year history.

3M elected Amy Hood, EVP and CFO at Microsoft Corp, to the board.

Boeing increased female representation with the addition of Caroline Kennedy, ambassador, attorney, author, editor and STEM supporter to the board.

Cracker Barrel Country Store elected Meg Crofton, Walt Disney veteran, to the board.


Private Companies:

The news is positive for startups as well!

Lyft selected Obama advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to join the board. Girls Who Code added Chief Brand Officer of Uber, Bozama St. John, to its board. Redfin, DFJ, Greylock Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Pioneer Square Labs, & Boardspan all pledged to diversify startup boards through their #DiverseFromtheStart campaign.

The Athena Effect

Athena’s aim is to effectively position qualified, top-level executive females for positions on public and private boards. Over the past 18 months, we have supported more than 30 companies in finding women for open board seats. We would also like to acknowledge a few good companies who have brought Athena women onto their boards:

DoubleDutch – Alison Watson, Introduced by Athena

Jitterbit – Kara Wilson, Introduced by Athena

Axon – Julie Cullivan, Introduced by Athena

Banner Bank – Merline Saintil

Forrester – Yvonne Wassenaar, Introduced by Athena

MobileIron – Jessica Denecour

Morningstar – Caroline Tsay

We love to hear about and share news on steps toward improving board diversity, and this is just a short list. Please share accomplishments you know of, and we’ll pass on the recognition!

If you are interested in increasing the diversity of your board – or you are a senior-level executive female looking for a board seat – please visit athenaalliance.org to learn more about our organization. Let’s all do our part to keep up the good work!

Athena Alliance Hosts Joann Lublin

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Athena Alliance Hosts Joann Lublin

The Athena Alliance is honored and excited to share that next Friday, September 8, we will come together with DLA Piper and Deloitte to host Joann S. Lublin, Wall Street Journal editor and Pulitzer Prize winning author of Earning It. Joann will engage in a Fireside Chat with Athena Alliance CEO, Coco Brown, then participate in an intimate panel discussion with an incredible group of Athena CEOs:

Joann’s book, Earning It, chronicles many of the obstacles successful women in the business world, including herself, have faced as they climbed the ladder to find a top spot. The topic for the evening will focus on inspirational stories of finding mentors, overcoming challenges, and the ways in which positive male leadership and a strong peer network have supported their career growth to the top. We are looking forward to hearing from Joann and our fellow pioneering woman for a night of encouragement, motivation and camaraderie.

If you are an executive woman interested in joining Athena, a CEO or a Board Influencer and would like to join us for similar events in the future, please visit athenaalliance.org to learn more about our mission, membership and upcoming events.

How Athena Helped The Leader In Law Force Technology Bring a Woman to The Board: Julie Cullivan Joins the Board of Axon

By | Announcements, Board Gender Diversity, Board Matching, The Athena Program | One Comment

As of Wednesday, July 19, law enforcement technology giant, AXON has welcomed Athena Alliance member, Julie Cullivan to its Board of Directors. We are incredibly honored to have assisted in the placement of such a talented woman and excited to see the positive impact Julie can make in this role.

Axon CEO, Rick Smith, was introduced to Athena by the Head of Talent for a prominent Bay Area VC firm. With just one coffee and a follow-up phone call, Athena was able to suggest a number of terrific woman to consider. Rick Smith talked about this process and his experience in a video interview shared on the Athena YouTube channel. Rick touched on the importance of boards evolving with the company and shared how having diverse members, who are readily available through programs like the Athena Alliance, can help expand the impact of such an important decision.

Julie Cullivan has recently acquired a new role as SVP, Business Operations and CIO of ForeScout Technologies, following four and a half years as EVP, Business Operations and CIO at FireEye. At FireEye, Julie helped create and implement the company strategy, leading Business Operations and Information Technology through an IPO that increased the company’s overall revenue from $80 million to over $700 million and establishing their worth as a billion dollar corporation.

In her new role at ForeScout Technologies, Julie will build and maintain information security strategies for the Internet of Things company and lead actions across the company to move forward, namely through implementation of innovative technology solutions.

Julie brings an impressive skillset and portfolio to the Axon board, having secured her place as a thought leader in numerous aspects of technology, including cyber security, business digitization and more, and adding her experience in sales, channel and marketing operations, women in security and developing powerful, effective teams.

The Athena Alliance was pleased to work with Axon in taking steps toward a more diverse, representative board. In combination with Axon’s effort for diversity, Julie Cullivan’s expertise in technology and passion for gender diversity on boards is a promising move for the company, for Julie and for The Athena Alliance. Congratulations, Julie!

“I’m extremely happy to welcome Ms. Cullivan to Axon’s Board of Directors. Her combined extensive business, sales operations, IT and cyber security expertise brings huge value to the Axon Board of Directors. The value of such expertise can hardly be overstated at a time when our Company continues to grow, expand and evolve.”  

–  Axon CEO and founder, Rick Smith

If you want to introduce us to a board that could benefit from the support Axon received through Athena, email me coco@athenaalliance.org. I’m very bullish about our ability to make great introductions quickly and frictionlessly.

Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

By | Board Bio, The Athena Program | One Comment

Gary Purece is one of several executive advisors for Athena members.  He is a communications advisor who assists executives in clearly articulating their corporate and personal brand message.  Athena Alliance members receive two hours of coaching with Gary to start the process of writing their own board bio for future placement.

Gary penned this advice on how to identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)a term which is interchangeable with “value proposition” or “brand statement.”

Think advertising… 

Advertising works only when the words differentiate the product from similar products. BMW differentiates itself with “the Ultimate Driving Machine” (the word car is not even mentioned); GE states “We make things that very few in the world can, but that everyone needs.” These slogans depict a unique selling proposition to help these two companies stand out for those in the market for similar goods and services.

The Unique Selling Proposition contains words that, when clearly stated, explain how you solve problems or help make the company relevant, meet specific needs, and explain to the listener why they should choose you. The USP establishes the unique differentiation between you and the competition.

As an example, I chose the following USP; “Coaching that helps executives communicate with confidence and authority.” In one sentence, I describe my audience (executives), what I do (verbal communication coaching), and the impact (communicate with confidence and authority).

Today, the differentiator statement is not just a necessity, it is a requirement.

As you continue to review your brand statement (it is a work-in-process statement) the following questions will help you refine and update your USP.

  • What is unique about the way I think?
  • What makes me distinctive as a leader?
  • What impact do others expect from me?
  • What impact do others receive from me?
  • What types of solutions do I consistently deliver?
  • What is my legacy/what do I want my legacy to be?

Competition for board seats can be fierce. In order to earn a spot, you must present your unique value to the reader and listener. This is your USP.

Thanks to Gary’s 1:1 coaching on this process, Athena members can clearly define their value in their bios, their LinkedIn profiles and their elevator pitches so that board members seeking directors can more easily see the reasons to consider them.


Having Your Voice at the Table

By | The Athena Program | No Comments

In making my decision to join the Leadership Team of The Athena Alliance, I looked at various parts of the program that distinguish it from other board preparation programs. The voice coach is one benefit that jumped out at me.

Voice is one of the most powerful ways by which we convey intent, emphasis, and lasting impression. Yet, very few of us understand how to use the power of voice effectively. Worse, most of us are unconscious of current speaking habits that undermine our authority, negatively impact the way we are perceived and ultimately keep us from having the impact and success we want in the world.

As your journey towards the boardroom progresses, you will be evaluated on what you say and how you say it. Are you conveying your intent, conveying both strength around your conviction and confidence, while at the same time communicating the warmth and openness you want to express to invite discussion and collaboration? If you aren’t perceived as someone the board wants to spend time with for the next 6-10 years, your chances of being selected drop significantly, no matter what your skills.

Voice expert and Athena coach, Hillary Wicht, plays a key role in your membership journey. Through 1:1 coaching with Hillary, you’ll be able to: uncover unconHillary Wichtscious habits that are undermining your authority; learn tools you can begin implementing immediately to create the impact you want to have; understand the psychology behind what it means to earn trust and confidence with your communication.

And, having your seat at the table is not the same as having your voice at the table. If you cannot command a space with your voice, you will not be able to fully leverage your knowledge and authority. If you cannot get a word in—if you make a suggestion that seems to go unnoticed, then your colleague three chairs down makes the same suggestion and suddenly the room is buzzing with praise—you are not owning and extending the power of your voice.

This benefit of membership is one of many elements in Athena’s white-glove approach to presenting you as the best choice for a board position and in assisting you in showing up as a great board member once at the table.

by Nancy Sheppard, Member, Athena Leadership Team


Lights, Camera, Action at New Relic!

By | The Athena Program | No Comments

On Friday, July 22nd, The Athena Alliance joined Emmy Award-winning producer Patsy Northcutt, director Henry Hopkins of H2Video, and executive coach Nan Crawford for a day of filming at New Relic HQ. Together, Patsy, Henry, and Nan directed the development of 15 incredible short videos for The Athena Member Library. Here’s a sneak peek of what they shot:

Interview with Ann Winblad

Ann Winblad is one of the top female venture capitalists and founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. She shared incredible insights into board service, from understanding the what, when, and how of introducing the first independent director to a board, to how board dynamics and needs change depending on company type and size. Ann also touched on how a wide variety of executive backgrounds – from HR, to legal, to product – can apply to different boards. Our video interview with Ann will be available exclusively to Athena members to enhance their journey towards board seat attainment.

Interviews with The Athena Alliance Executive Partners

We held interviews with several of Athena’s Executive Partners – Nan Crawford, Hilary Wicht, Hillary Weber, Donna Hamlin, Gary Purece, and Murray Cook. These interviews will be available exclusively to our members in the Athena Member Portal to give members a clearer understanding of how each partner can support them in pursuing their goals around board service.

Training videos from Athena Executive Partners Nan Crawford, Hilary Wicht, and Gary Purece

Topics include:

  • How to Increase Your Impact Through Storytelling
  • Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition
  • Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Conquer Stage Fright Forever
  • Create an Authentic Connection with Your Audience
  • Eliminate Unconscious Habits that Undermine Your Authority
  • Expand the Expressive Power of Your Voice to Speak with Confidence and Conviction
  • Embody Your Message With Congruent and Compelling Physicality

We’ll be in video editing for a few weeks, but stay tuned for these new additions to our Member Resource Library!

Event Recap: July’s Elevator Pitch Night

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Elevator rides can be short, so if you need to describe your personal brand and experience in the time it takes to climb a few floors, you’re going to need an elevator pitch that is concise, comprehensive, and well-rehearsed. That’s the idea behind The Athena Alliance’s Elevator Pitch Nights, where Athena women try out their pitches on Athena’s board and executive experts. Our experts provided feedback not only on each pitch’s content but on each woman’s delivery and presence. Here are the unique perspectives each expert brought to the critique:

  • Dora Vell, Board Recruiter – Dora has placed many board directors over the years and homed in on how each woman’s differentiating value was represented in their pitch versus their LinkedIn profile. After comparing the two, she provided on the spot guidance for adjusting the essence and content of each woman’s pitch.
  • Gary Purece, Executive Advisor and Coach – Gary used his expertise in radio, advertising, and branding to enhance the storytelling aspect of each woman’s pitch. He helped strengthen each woman’s unique message of impact and value.
  • Hillary Wicht, Voice Coach – Hilary adjusted for tone, inflection, and physical presence to ensure that each woman’s words and actions were polished and effective. There were a handful of moments in which Hillary worked magic on the pitches of our women, transforming a relatively plain narrative into a powerful one.
  • Hilary Weber, Executive Coach and Innovation Expert – Hilary has consulted a variety of companies and executives around innovation and transformation. She helped our members articulate their true passions and ensure that the types of boards roles they were pursuing would enable them to drive scale and success.

After our experts were introduced, Athena women sat in groups of five with each expert, then rotated to the next table after each of their pitches had been reviewed. As Athena Founder Coco Brown noted, “‘holy cow!’ moments were a constant throughout the evening” and energy was high. Athena women were continually surprised and thrilled with the adjustments and guidance they received. “We genuinely could have gone on for hours,” says Coco, “in fact, we did run well over letting time just fly by! Most of the attendees expressed interest in joining us again for our August pitch night for more refinement and fun.”

Are you an Athena member interested in attending August’s Pitch Night? Click here to RSVP.