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How She Got There: Katlyn Grasso, CEO & Founder of GenHERation

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Name: Katlyn Grasso
Age: 22
Job Title and Description: CEO and Founder of GenHERation
College Name/Major: The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania/Economics
Website:www.genheration.com
Twitter Handle:@KatlynGrasso
Instagram Handle: @genheration

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Katlyn Grasso: As the CEO of GenHERation, I am responsible for leading the strategic growth of the company. I divide my time between different tasks based on my priorities for the week, which can include meeting with potential clients, developing content with my team of contributors, filming interviews with female executives for our webisode series, and visiting schools to talk with GenHERation members. I travel weekly for my work and have taken 80 trips across the country since I graduated last May. I do not have a typical day, which has taught me how to be flexible and embrace uncertainty.

What inspired you to create GenHERation?

KG: I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship and empowering girls, which led me to create a business that combines these interests. While I was at Wharton and started exploring careers in business, I realized that there are very few women who hold CEO positions and even fewer who start their own companies. This scarcity of women in the highest position of power can also be observed in government, academia and the entertainment industry. I believe that the best way to address the gender leadership gap is by cultivating the skills of the next GenHERation of leaders. During the summer after my sophomore year, I received a research grant that allowed me to conduct international research about leadership development in high school girls. I interviewed more than 700 high school girls, 40 female executives and 30 educators across all 50 states, nine countries and four continents to analyze girls’ perception of their leadership abilities. This experience provided crucial insight into the development of GenHERation because it inspired me to develop a business model that provides girls with access to female executives at the nation’s leading companies. GenHERation launched the following March and since then we have empowered more than 50,000 girls.

What is the best part of your job?

KG: The best part of my job is meeting the amazing GenHERation members across North America. It is rewarding to see how they utilize GenHERation’s resources to ignite change in their communities.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?  

KG: It takes a village to raise an entrepreneur. When you are starting out in a more structured job, it is easy to ask a senior professional for advice about specific situations you face. As an entrepreneur, no one will follow the same path as you, so I have learned that you have to proactively form a team of advisors from different industries that you can turn to when you need help.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

KG: When I first started GenHERation, I wanted to do everything myself because I am a perfectionist. I soon realized that the only way the company would grow was if I surrounded myself with a team of people with complimentary skills. During the past two years, the GenHERation team has grown to more than 20 young women and men on the East and West Coasts.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

KG: The most surreal moment of my career was when the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Amy Gutmann, called me on my cell phone to tell me that I won the inaugural $150,000 President’s Engagement Prize. I started crying from the shock of excitement! My life has not been the same since that call, and I will be eternally grateful for the university’s support.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

KG: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This Walt Disney quote sits on a decorative plaque on my desk because I believe it embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship. Every problem has a solution that is waiting to be found if you are persistent and unwilling to accept no for an answer.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

KG: Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. There will always be people who share differing opinions, but you are the only person who can make your dreams a reality.

 

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