Organization offers support for female professionals

Photo: While promoting her newest venture, Women’s Leadership LIVE, Linda McMahon takes time to speak with guests individually. /Photo by Lorri Kennedy

In an attempt to fill the leadership vacuum of women in the business and public service sectors, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) co-founder, Linda McMahon, has joined with Debbie Saviano and Stacey Schieffelin, to form Women’s Leadership LIVE (WLL).

Through live events, WLL will serve as a leadership catalyst by presenting workshops, panel discussions, mentorship opportunities, and keynote speakers. The first live event is slated for May 19-22 in Irving. Women who participate in the program will learn the best ways to launch and grow businesses, and ascend to leadership roles, as well as to seek out and pursue public service leadership opportunities.

The founders said unlike many similar organizations that seek to promote women’s leadership, WLL’s competitive advantage utilizes three distinct sets of metrics to measure success.

“We are here to serve women. Women in corporate. Women in small businesses. Women in nonprofits,” said Debbie Saviano, a former school principal who is now a social media strategist. “If we have women come to our live events, when they go back into whatever their leadership journey is, we succeed when they succeed.”

Women who participate in WLL also will have an opportunity to be part of the first three, six or 12-month female accredited mentorship programs obtainable through the organization’s live event platform.

“They have the ability to stay on a mentorship program and work with people at the level that you’re at with experts in the field you want to be in or the field you’re already in,” said Stacey Schieffellin, a former FORD model, and founder and president of her own cosmetics company, YBF Beauty. Schieffellin’s products are sold throughout the world on home shopping channels.

Women who participate in WLL also have an opportunity to demonstrate their products or services on television through HSN (Home Shopping Network).

“We’ve put together a program, a process where we will vet women through WLL and their products, and put them on our new tv show called “American Dreams.”

McMahon, who co-founded WWE with her husband, Vince McMahon, WWE chairman, said there was much to learn in the early years of the WWE company. The business started with 13 people and grew into a publicly traded, global empire with worldwide offices and more than 800 employees. While her husband ran the creative side of WWE, she was in charge of the business side of the company as its CEO. As CEO, she oversaw finance, human resource functions, and administration. In 2009, McMahon stepped down from her CEO position to run as a Republican from Connecticut in the U.S. Senate campaign in 2010 and 2012.

During a Feb. 10 appearance at the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, McMahon told the audience that nurturing a business is a never-ending endeavor.

“Growing and building a business, as many of you have, is 24/7 when you are the chief,” McMahon said. “When it’s your money on the line, you feel a responsibility to the people who work with you, because you have to take care of them and their families too.”

Even more challenging at the start of their venture, was running the business as husband and wife. She and her husband, whom she married at age 17, were high school sweethearts who grew up in North Carolina. In August, the couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

“We’d go to work in separate cars, come home at different times,” McMahon said, adding that it was not unusual for them to go without seeing each other for a day or two. “When we took the company public in 1999, my whole role was so differently changed as the CEO, because I was the liaison to Wall Street. I did investor relations – very different roles.”

She also said that it was frequently, a “delicate balance” fulfilling the roles and responsibilities of business partners and spouses.

One area of WLL’s focus is women pursuing leadership opportunities who want to have families. According to Saviano, today’s workforce is populated by majority millennials who eventually will begin to have children. For many millennial women intent on starting families and pursing leadership roles, establishing a family presents a two-fold dilemma.

“It truly is a reality,” Saviano said. “When they choose to leave to go on maternity leave, they have to worry about being left out, not being valued, not being respected. Being left out and looked over.”

She said because of this fear, women need to know and understand their company’s policies and learn to ask critical questions about the policies such as ‘are they conducive to retaining women who are young and having families?’ Saviano also added that having women in C-Suite positions of authority is key as women in leadership roles understand that balance.

As to preparing women for leadership, Schieffelin said WLL events will also serve as an ever-present resource for women seeking advice and direction.

“This is not a monologue, but a dialogue,” Schieffelin said. “This will be what they want, what they needed, when they need it, and for as long as they want it.”

For more information or to sign up for membership, visit www.womensleadershiplive.com.