Great ALLIES are Intentional


I want to introduce you to some of my confidants and colleagues – women who I have gotten to know over the last 30 years whose career progression has been nothing short of inspirational.  These are women who have had incredible careers and are very successful.  They are remarkable, smart, and motivated women.  They have also had the support of some very special ALLIES who have supported them through various moments of their lives. 

Each have rich stories, I am sure like many of you, of allyship.  In my upcoming series on ALLIES over the next several months, we will share these stories both from their perspective and the perspective of the male allies in their lives that have enabled them.  They align to each element of my framework, but more importantly their stories demonstrate the importance and power that allies have played on their own careers.  You can do this too!  You can #BeCOME and ally and build your ALLIES!

Having the support of ALLIES does not guarantee that your own career trajectory will accelerate at the same pace as these women, but it will empower you to find the courage and confidence within yourself to unlock your full potential.  You may be surprised at how far you will go when you believe in yourself and give yourself permission to go bigger and lead.

Here is quick view into the stories from the perspective of the women that were supported.  Tune in to get the 360 on these stories from the men who are their ALLIES.

Melissa Mulholland

Melissa Mulholland CEO, Crayon



“Having an ally has been instrumental in expediting my career over the last 10 years. When I changed roles to help CEOs develop their Cloud strategy, I struggled with “imposter syndrome.” I didn’t believe I deserved the opportunity to offer strategic guidance on improving their profitability in transitioning to cloud-based services. During this time, one of the CEOs I was advising pulled me aside and asked for me to stop putting myself down and instead accept that I wouldn’t be in the position I was if I hadn’t earned it. He supported me in meetings, amplified my ideas and even sponsored me for the role I am in today.  He pushed me to believe that I was talented and smart. Essentially this ally paved a path for me to simply believe in myself.”

Mitra Best

Mitra Best
Partner, PwC


“A male senior leader who listened to what I had to say and “saw” me and the value I could bring as a software engineer, advocated for me with our Board and sponsored me to become the first-ever partner at PwC in a purely technology role. This set a precedent in the firm’s partner admission process and helped me crack a glass ceiling at the same time.”

Dawn Marie Elder

Dawn-Marie Elder
GM, Sippio


“When I was considering switching careers – leaving roles in large organizations to join a start-up – a long-term, male mentor of mine helped me to see beyond specific roles I had held and reminded me of the fundamental assets and capabilities I had gained from my collective experiences. He influenced the decision I made to invest in myself as a leader in a start-up by reminding me of my core, aggregate skills vs. how others might limit their view of me to a very specific role or function. These days, I wear a lot of hats and I love what I do more than any role I had in the past because I’m able to apply past to present every day with intention, this ally lifted my confidence and spirits in that crucial moment helping me to soar.”

Glynis Bryan

Glynis Bryan
CFO, Insight


“For the last 12+ years I’ve worked with a leader who has ensured that I “owned” my seat at the table.  He included me in critial scenarios and has given me the opportunities to grow and expand my horizons. He has been a strong supporter both internally and externally and exhibited a high level of trust and confidence in me that I truly value.   We can accomplish so much on our own, and with a great ally in our corner, we can accomplish and  conquer even greater challenges and have some fun while doing it!.”

Lori Borg

Lori Borg
VP, Cognizant


“When I was started my business in 2007, I was the CEO of Northwest Cadence. It was assumed that my husband, who also worked in the business ran the business. Yet I was the CEO. Year after year, meeting after meeting, he elevated me through every interaction. His allyship gave me the confidence and courage to embrace what I knew in my heart – that I was, indeed, the right woman for the job.”

Sarah Haggard

Sarah Haggard
CEO, Tribute


“Most of Tribute’s investors are men. It wasn’t until a few notable men started advocating for me in rooms without me there, that we began to gain traction on our fundraising. I’m grateful for those men, but also encouraged to see more women entering the startup ecosystem, as founders and investors.”

These stories demonstrate that when you are an ally, your simple actions can change lives. When you believe in yourself, when you know you are not alone, you can move mountains. Stay tuned to hear the complete story from each of these inspirational women and their male allies, starting with Melissa Mulholland and Rune Syverson’s story next month.  Let’s start changing more lives.


Allies listen to learn.
Allies listen to learn.

As part of my series on ALLIES, today we are going to talk about the first L in ALLIES, Listening.  What does it really mean to listen as an ally?

I would like to introduce you to two people who will share their story with you about how listening made a huge difference in building that ALLYSHIP.  My esteemed colleague, Mitra Best, who is an entrepreneur, technologist, future-maker and innovation leader. As PwC’s Technology Impact Leader, Mitra leads the application of advanced technologies to address critical environmental and societal problems.  Mitra has held leadership positions in innovation and technology for the past two decades, responsible for creating new technology platforms and business models that deliver results to organizations, the ecosystem of stakeholders, and the workforce. She has successfully led large-scale initiatives in both private and public sectors focused on sustainable new growth and efficiency models through innovative applications of technology.    Today, Mitra will share her story of allyship and how it has made a difference in her experience at PwC.

I would also like to introduce you to her ally, Tim Ryan who is US Chairman and a Senior Partner at PwC. Previously he served as the Vice Chairman, having responsibility for the PwC’s strategy function and stakeholder relationships including investor relations, regulatory affairs, public policy, corporate responsibility, marketing and sales and human capital. Tim has over 25 years of diversified experience serving clients in the financial services industry in the U.S. and internationally.

Both of these individuals have led impressive businesses and hold executive roles at PwC.  But we are going to play Monday morning quarterback and take you back to a time in their history when they were just connecting and the road that was paved by Tim’s intention to become an ally for Mitra.

let’s first talk about Listening.  What does it mean to listen with intention and become an ally through that listening?  There are several elements that a great listener employs:

  1. They listen to learn. They don’t listen to respond or listen to solve, but they listen generously with honest intention and curiosity to hear what the other person has to say.
  2. They ask questions – not to challenge the credibility of what that other person has to say, but to better understand their perspective
  3. Genuine listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, a refusal to interrupt and a genuine value for the other person’s experience
  4. It means you quiet the other “chatter” in your head and become fully present for the other person
  5. It means you “check in” to ensure you have clarity and understanding of what they are saying
  6. It means you convey appreciation, interest and empathy for the other person’s perspective

Listening requires energy.  It is a valuable and intentional act.  When you genuinely listen to another person without trying to “solve” their problems but just to hear them, you build trust, respect and allyship.

In Mitra’s case, she says: “A male senior leader who “saw” me and the value I could bring as a software engineer to an accounting/business consulting firm, advocated for me with our Board and sponsored me to become the first-ever partner at PwC in a purely technology role, setting a precedent in the firm’s partner admission process and helping me crack a glass ceiling at the same time. “

When Mitra talks about “being seen”, she is talking about “being heard”.  To quote @Tarana Burke “we can’t see people if we don’t hear them”  –  when you don’t hear someone they become invisible.”


Gavriella Schuster Become Allies A framework for change
Gavriella Schuster Become Allies A framework for change

I am thrilled to share with you my new eBook – BeCOME ALLIES eBook: A framework for change.  It is hot off the digital press, and I would be honored if you would download and give it a read. This eBook guides readers through my framework for how to BeCOME an ally (a champion for women in the workplace) and the actions ALLIES take each day to make a difference.

I call on each person reading this eBook, regardless of gender, to BeCOME an agent of change—BeCOME an ally. I don’t expect you to do it without guidance. In my TEDx Talk, I outlined my framework for how to BeCOME an ally: Connect, Outreach, Mentor, and Empower. This framework addresses four fundamental methods to create a multiplier effect and get more women into tech. This eBook goes deeper into the framework and expands on the fourth method, Empower, with six additional actions you can take each day to help make our industry better, stronger, and more inclusive.

Actor Victor Webster said, “Everything we do, even the slightest thing we do, can have a ripple effect and repercussions that emanate. If you throw a pebble into the water on one side of the ocean, it can create a tidal wave on the other side.”

Consider the actions captured in this eBook your pebbles. Together, let’s throw them courageously and with purpose. Hopefully, on the other end, we’ll create a tidal wave of change.