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Female Founders: Magalie René of Workplace Catalyst On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

No one is doing you a favor: I thought people were doing me a favor by supporting me and they weren’t. As a business owner, it’s important to understand that you’re providing a service and others are partnering with you as a person of value. People don’t partner with you as a favor — they want to create a win/win and your talent and skill are integral to that. You are worthy.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Magalie René.

Magalie René is a Compassion & Confidence Expert, CEO of Workplace Catalyst, and a Transformational Coach. She supports leaders in finding the confidence to shift their habits to create impactful solutions for compassionate leadership, workplace wellness, diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

As a compassion and confidence expert, I use radical compassion to conquer imposter syndrome. My dedication to Workplace Catalyst along with my other business ventures stemmed from my own personal and professional journey. Working hard and doing meaningful work has been instilled in me by my Haitian immigrant parents (i.e. failure wasn’t an option). They wanted me to become a lawyer, however, I ended up spending about 15 years in Public Relations and Marketing before becoming a founder.

Throughout my career, as a Haitian woman working in corporate America, I faced imposter syndrome, microaggressions, and plenty of adversity. Those experiences created a deep understanding of the connection between compassion and confidence. I created frameworks to transform discomfort (like the discomfort that I experienced) into engaging, positive, and meaningful experiences.

With a degree in communications, I have dedicated my life’s work to teaching people how to become confident and compassionate in both their workplace and in their personal lives. Because that helps us get beyond our unconscious bias and our limiting beliefs so we can create safety and empowerment.

Our Workplace Catalyst team facilitates interactive, thought-provoking workshops, and curriculums that bridge compassionate leadership, well-being, and belonging so that the ‘Magalie’s’ of today don’t allow false narratives — external or internal — to handicap them from unleashing their full potential.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I use radical compassion to normalize tough conversations and I use my own experiences to relate to my clients.

Once in a client setting, I shared a term I learned from my previous relationship with my Irish ex-husband, describing someone’s departure as an “Irish Exit,” and it offended an audience member.

Hypersensitivity was a topic I covered in this particular workshop and I leveraged this real-time example to demonstrate compassionate leadership. More specifically, I used our step-by-step “Responsibility” framework to demonstrate ownership of intention and outcome. I also personally was reminded of the delicate nature of race and ethnicity in storytelling, workshops, and the workplace at large. This particular moment in my career was significant because teaching in the ‘hot seat’ was one of my most effective programs thus far.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Looking back, the funniest mistake that I’ve ever made was attempting to be perfect — which is a joke because there’s no such thing! As humans, we are always evolving and changing and I now view perfectionism as a limiting belief. I’ve learned that the idea and chase of perfection will undoubtedly damage your wellbeing.

While eliminating perfection as a goal I got clear on four key learnings that support my clients. Perfectionism is a thief of: opportunities, accomplishments, time, and impact.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Agreed! I truly believe that you can learn something from everyone at all levels. I sometimes find myself feeling as inspired by a waitress as a C-suite executive and must note that I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the support of many, my mother in particular. As my first teacher she has always believed in and had high expectations for me. Her mantra is “yes, you can.”

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I am truly proud to be a woman and love the increase in female founders over the years. And, yes, we definitely have a lot of work to do to increase the number of women-owned businesses.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several Fortune 500 companies, however, the majority of them are male-led. I’ve found that the following tends to hold women back: the internalization of external messaging that says we’re not as good as our male counterparts… which breeds self-doubt, Imposter Syndrome, fear of taking risks to name a few. This is why I’ve dedicated my life’s work to compassionate leadership and confidence. When women hone those two important areas it acts as rocket fuel and propels them forward.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Self mastery, society, and the government all play a part in the success of women-owned companies. As mentioned, self-work is the most important work that a female CEO will ever do. If you don’t believe in yourself you won’t truly believe in the vision of your company. And, if you don’t believe, who will?

As a society if we are really committed to supporting the next generation of female founders we each get to move out of judgment and negative culture and shift to a more uplifting and inspirational civilization. We get to create a culture of encouragers instead of naysayers.

Many resources are out there but people with less access may not learn about them. It’s essential that the government not only create grants to financially support the vision of women-led companies, but also make resources and capital accessible and visible to all women in every neighborhood. Free or affordable classes to help women learn the necessary skills to run a successful businesses move the needle in big ways when taken advantage of.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

There are a lot of reasons why people want to become founders and women should become founders if they sincerely want to be entrepreneurs. However, it is important to understand that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. Many consider stepping into the entrepreneurial space because they’re looking for financial independence, work-life-balance and control of their own destiny and schedule. We definitely need more women founders for little girls to look up to, but I must note that founders are never truly “off-duty.”

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

There’s this untrue narrative that there’s only one way to be successful when in reality there are a million paths to achieve what you define as success.

Many believe “you have to overwork to be successful” when in reality balance is what will help you achieve sustainably successful life and business. “Grinding for 24-hours a day,” isn’t it.

Another big Myth (read: lie) is that women can’t be successful founders and have families and women must instead choose one of the two options — family or success. But, women can in fact have it all without having to sacrifice their family or business. Having a supportive spouse and/or community who believes in true partnership will help you create the fulfilling life you want.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Founders must be risk takers, committed, and have a passion, love, or deep interest for their business/brand. It’s important to have a growth/learner mindset. If future founders possess these traits, I believe they can do it. If you’re someone who needs a weekly paycheck to feel “safe,” or you’re not easily motivated, and lack deep interest — the founder-life is probably not for you.

Our Workplace Catalyst programs start with “mindset.” If a business owner has a fixed mindset and is not open to failing forward, they won’t succeed. To be honest, they probably won’t even be successful in a traditional 9–5 role.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I wish someone had told me the following 5 things:

No one is doing you a favor: I thought people were doing me a favor by supporting me and they weren’t. As a business owner, it’s important to understand that you’re providing a service and others are partnering with you as a person of value. People don’t partner with you as a favor — they want to create a win/win and your talent and skill are integral to that. You are worthy.

Show up as your real self: As a woman I used to believe I needed to act in ways that mirrored men (masculine energy) or were inauthentic to me. People see through that and most importantly YOU know you’re not being real. It is important to show up 100% as yourself when stepping into leadership. You’ll connect more powerfully and inspire trust and influence.

There’s power in being a minority: Understand that in comparison to men, the world has just a few female founders (even fewer women of color in leadership). While that comes with a great deal of pressure and adversity you conquering and succeeding will have enormous impact. You’re among the few and because of that you’ll be a significant example for those who come after you.

What you bring to the table is valuable and needed: Imposter syndrome comes up a lot in my work. Understanding that your service is valuable and others can benefit from you — believing in yourself will take female founders far.

Get comfortable with the unknown: Embrace the unknown as adventure and turn discomfort into discovery.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Through Workplace Catalyst, I’ve been able to impact over 400 corporate teams and more than 300,000 workers and step into several rooms with thousands of people. I believe fundamental transformation begins when my team and I address the people’s side of change. Conducting one DEI training doesn’t change corporations; working with people and helping them to hone their Compassionate Leadership skills and address their biases is what creates change.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

This might sound cliche, but I would love to inspire a world peace movement. We’ve heard it before, but the statement is true that “hurt people, hurt people.” Our world is in so much pain and there are so many people with fixed mindsets who can’t or won’t grow. I truly believe if everyone on this planet approached life with an open mind and took the time to truly heal themselves we could achieve world peace. Self-reflection and self-work are world-changing.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

My favorite pastime is laughing uncontrollably over a delicious meal. Whoopi Goldberg and Ali Wong are two female comedians who would be incredible to meet. Comedians have an important place in society and these two are truth-tellers. It’s so healing to find the humor in the painful parts of the human experience. That’s why I find it so easy to relate to comics. Whoopi and Ali have broken down unimaginable barriers and perfected their craft despite the adversity they’ve faced as female comics. I’d love to share a laugh with them!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Female Founders: Magalie René of Workplace Catalyst On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.