Chiara is an entrepreneur, women’s empowerment advocate expert, and speaker. After completing her bachelor in Romance Languages and History at Harvard University, she pursued a master’s in International Political Economy in The London School of Economics.
She is the president and the founder of Led by Her. Led by Her is an initiative that challenges gender-based violence from an innovative angle and encourages women’s entrepreneurship through the values of collaboration, mutual support, and community.
Chiara recently started a podcast “The Other Half: Conversations with Men on Gender Equality” and she is interviewing influential men of our world (CEOs, athletes, actors, etc.) who are making a the difference in their everyday lives at home and in the workplace to create a more equal world we can all be proud of. With every initiative that she starts, Chiara strives to improve women’s place in society.
How did you start Led by Her? What motivated you to start it?
Upon my graduation from LSE, I worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for two years, specifically on the implementation of its Gender Action Plan. During my experience at EBRD, I learned how behind we were in terms of gender equality and realized the importance of advancing women in the workplace. It became very important to me, and it motivated me to do something very proactive to narrow this huge gap.
I wanted to create an initiative that recognized the power of women and helped them transform. Statistically, one-third of women are affected by violence, and this culture of violence negatively affects gender equality. If we empower women without fixing the culture around them, it will not work. This is why I started Led by Her to transform women from vulnerabilities to leadership. Led by Her recognizes the power of women and strives to change the environment around them.
Did you attend any entrepreneurial training?
No, I didn’t have any entrepreneurial training. I think it is more about the mindset, perseverance, and motivation than anything you learn. It is, of course, good to have a structure at the beginning and specific things to work on, and in that sense, training might help to guide you. But it is okay not to know about marketing or finance because you learn all the necessary skills you need on the job.
In your opinion, what does success mean?
I think the most important thing about success is that it is very personal. In my opinion, it is being your best self. People can think that you are successful and you might not feel successful unless you feel that you are doing your best. If you think that you are doing your best, then you don’t even need that external validation.
In my personal definition of success, the most important thing is how I feel. Nobody can tell you “you are good enough” except yourself. You have to feel “good enough” and capable regardless of how much you accomplished. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t start their projects because they don’t feel “good enough,” “accomplished enough,” or they need this or that. But no, we have to think that “we are ready,” “we are good,” “we have what we have, and it is enough,” regardless of how much we have done or have not done.
What was your biggest struggle so far in your entrepreneurial journey?
In the beginning, fundraising was much harder than I thought it was. It was hard to build without exhausting myself because I did not have enough resources. As Led by Her is a Non-Profit organization, I had to find private donors, corporations, and foundations to raise money.
In your opinion, what is the most challenging thing about being a woman entrepreneur?
The environment is more difficult because, as a woman, you have to prove your credibility much more. We have both self-imposed limitations that we are led to believe and social constraints that prevent us from succeeding. So, there is a bigger obstacle to being a woman entrepreneur. I think as we start having more women succeeding, it will change our perception towards our own limitations.
Is there anything you would do differently, knowing what you know now?
I would have focused more on myself. I would have more strategy and think more about what do I want to get out of a project before I start it, instead of just throwing myself into something and figuring it out.
I would think more about my motivations, my vision, where I want to be in 5 years, how much of myself do I want to invest in this project, for how long. It is essential to think about these questions ahead of time so that the project doesn’t overwhelm your life.
What habits helped you succeed so far?
Being perseverant, I mean putting in time and energy to my projects and keep doing things. Not stopping.
Is there a woman who inspires you?
Prime Minister of New Zealand inspires me because I think she embodies a really authentic leadership. She is very compassionate, empathetic, and also strong, these are things that we don’t necessarily associate with leaders. She is not afraid of showing her vulnerable side.
Can you recommend a resource, book/podcast/movie, for our readers?
Well, my podcast, the Other Half!:) I interview male leaders about gender equality, but there is also a lot of useful information about being a good leader and leading a successful company.
Imagine at this moment, you can send a message to all the women entrepreneurs who are trying to build their companies, what would you tell them?
You already have the power in you! You just need to transform that power and externalize it.