We are excited to have connected with Katyln Grasso of GenHERation, a network where young women and companies connect through a digital platform and national events, on the blog today. They are the go-to source for inspiration and access for high school and college women—if you don’t know about them and their programming, check them out!
Name: Katlyn Grasso
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Education: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
How did you determine what to study in college?
I graduated from Wharton in 2015 with a B.S. in Economics with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization. I concentrated in Finance because I knew doing so would provide me with a tangible set of skills that I could apply to any entrepreneurial venture that I started. Strategic Globalization was a concentration that I created on my own because I wanted to examine business through a macroscopic and innovative lense. I would tell any college student that she should pursue a major that allows her to nurture her passion and to couple that with experiential learning; the best way to learn is by doing.
What is GenHERation, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
As a social entrepreneur, I have always been passionate about empowering girls and wanted to create a business that provided an experiential learning platform for leadership. During the summer after my sophomore year of college, I received research grants from the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Wharton Innovation Fund to study leadership development in high school girls to gain a better understanding of my target audience. I interviewed more than 700 high school girls, 40 female executives, and 30 educators in all 50 states, 9 countries, and 4 continents to analyze the factors that influence girls’ perception of leadership. Using this knowledge, I founded GenHERation, which is a network where young women and companies connect. We provide aspirational young women with access to the most innovative companies in America through our online platform and national events. We have empowered more than 250,000 young women and hosted 300 events across North America.
What hurdles or barriers did you face along the way, and what lessons did you learn as you navigated them?
As an entrepreneur, you always face challenges. You become familiar with failure and rejection, so the most important lesson I have learned is the power of persistence. You can never give up. If something does not go your way, you have to keep going and believing in your vision.
GenHERation just turned 5 years old. What is your most memorable experience as CEO to date, and what are you most looking forward to in years 6-10?
The best part of my job has been meeting the amazing GenHERation members across the country. It is always rewarding to meet a young woman who found her job, met a mentor, or won a scholarship through the GenHERation network. I always tell my team that we are building an empire! As we embrace this “think big” mentality, I am looking forward to empowering millions of young women, working with new partners, developing new products, and planning for international expansion.
Your work demonstrates your commitment to women’s advocacy and empowerment—why is work in this space important to you?
It is 2019 and women comprise only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 20% of Congress. These statistics are not reflective of the incredible advancements women have made in the past decade, so it is imperative that we all work together to amplify women’s voices. I believe by creating a network in which young women are encouraged to be ambitious and empowered at a young age, they will be more likely to pursue positions of power later in their lives to close the gender leadership gap.
GenHERation is not your only venture. Tell me about how you balanced your role with GenHERation while also pursuing two other ventures.
As with any career, it’s all about prioritization. At the beginning of each day, I determine what is most important for me to accomplish and I go from there. I also surround myself with team members who have different strengths, so I can be as efficient and productive as possible.
What advice do you have for young women who want to become entrepreneurs?
Whenever a young woman tells me she has an idea and wants to start a business, I tell her to just do it. Take one simple step to get your business off the ground. This could be starting a blog or creating a basic website. From there, you just have to believe in yourself, your idea, and your business because if you don’t, no one else will.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
My dad has been my mentor my entire life. He is the most persistent, resilient, and passionate person I know and every day he inspires me to be the best version of myself. He is the person who encouraged me to become an entrepreneur and has been the biggest fan of all of my ventures.
You’ve interviewed tons of women to inform your work with GenHERation. If you could go back in time and interview any woman in history, who would it be and why?
Lucille Ball because she revolutionized the entertainment industry by encouraging women to unapologetically be themselves.
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education, career, and wellness goals?
The world is a big place and you have to get out there to see what you can do! I grew up in a small town and when I was younger, I thought I would always live there and pursue a more traditional job. The decision to leave my hometown to attend Wharton was one of the most transformative experiences of my life because I learned how people with big goals make them a reality. In the last year, I have taken more than 100 flights, visited 50 cities, and traveled to 3 continents, so I would encourage the young women out there to prepare for the amazing adventure ahead.
Thank you, Katyln!!!
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