CEO and founder, SheHeroes
“Mommy, where are the girls?” This question, asked by Sue Nagle’s then four-year-old daughter, was the genesis for SheHeroes, a non-profit organization that educates and empowers youth by sharing the stories of extraordinary female role models in diverse careers.
Shocked that her daughter was noticing gender issues at such a young age, Nagle shared pictures of successful women in male-dominated roles such as chefs, CEOs and police officers. The mother-daughter conversations that followed revealed to Nagle the need for young girls and boys to engage with women role models, particularly those who have overcome challenges and faced adversity in their lives. Nagle points to research that shows that such positive intergenerational relationships are critical in encouraging children to dream big and to achieve those dreams.
Nagle’s work as Executive-in-Residence at Colorado University’s Leeds School of Business shaped her idea further. “I bring together panels of high-level executives so the students can learn from them,” she says. “People believe in education and I wondered: If these executives are willing to speak with college students, what would they be willing to do for young kids?”
In September 2008, Nagle began exploring the concept of SheHeroes with Sloan classmate Cynthia Closkey, MBA ’97, and Dr. Sophia Yen, B.S. ’93 also of MIT. In October 2009, SheHeroes became an official 501(c) non-profit organization. In addition to a website—www.SheHeroes.org—featuring video interviews with successful women, SheHeroes hosts children’s events and other programs providing parents, mentors and educators with tools to help them engage and connect with children.
Despite the challenging economic environment in which SheHeroes began, the organization has been successful in raising start-up funds. It has received financial support from businesses leaders, educators, and parents, as well as support from high-profile women, such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chef Alice Waters. Interviews with Albright and Waters will be featured on the SheHeroes website in coming months.
Despite the work she is doing at SheHeroes, Nagle doesn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur. “I’m not one of those people coming up with an idea a week,” she says. “I just had the skills and the connections to make SheHeroes happen.” Still, running a non-profit has not been the easiest transition from the business environment where Nagle has had so much experience. “But, thankfully, MIT Sloan taught me how to solve complex problems and how to work in and lead teams. Those are some of the skills that are helping me face this challenge successfully.”