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Ellie Lachenauer

Ellie Lachenauer (II) talks with Michael Nicholson, COO of Ann Taylor

In less than a year, Ellie Lachenauer’s (II) passion for business and women’s rights led her from a day visit to the Fidelity Investments offices to launching her own initiative—G2-LEAD (Girls To Learn, Experience and Discover). In June 2016, Ellie will host a conference connecting 20 local, female high school students with women business leaders for mentorship opportunities.

“I went to Fidelity last January with Milton’s Invest in Girls student club,” says Ellie. “I met with several female employees and toured the facilities. This trip was eye opening for me; seeing the inside of a finance company helped me envision myself pursuing a career in business. However I noticed that, while there were female employees, most of the upper-level portfolio managers were male. As a girl hoping to go into business, this discouraged me.”

That spring, Ellie applied for an ANNPower Vital Voices Fellowship and was one of 50 high school girls selected nationwide to attend a three-day leadership conference in Washington, D.C. This initiative is a partnership between ANN INC. (parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT) and Vital Voices. The goal is to empower young women from across the U.S. with the leadership skills they need to affect global progress, invest in their communities, and begin their journeys as the next generation of leaders.

“The conference was a life-changing experience,” says Ellie. “We met and heard from many female business leaders. We got great advice from actress Jennifer Morrison about writing your own fairy tale, and then going out and getting it. We visited women executives who work in the White House and attended the Vital Voices awards night where Bill Clinton and Diane von Furstenberg spoke. It was so empowering. We were trained in skills like public speaking and giving an ‘elevator pitch.’ I grew so close to all the other fellows, and I keep in touch with them almost every day.”

Every ANNPower fellow can apply for a grant, post-conference, to fund a project relating to women and business leadership. Ellie submitted a proposal for G2-LEAD and won one of those grants.

“I think early exposure to ideas is so important,” says Ellie. “Just like the STEM program shows, early exposure can interest students in a field, inspire them to learn more, and open their eyes to what a career is really like. I wanted to address the lack of female leadership in the business world by first focusing on smaller issues that may translate to this larger problem: the lack of early business exposure and mentorship that high school-aged girls have access to. My idea with G2-LEAD was to bridge the gender gap in business through exposing high school-aged girls to top-notch businesses and female mentors in the Boston area.”

Ellie also spent three weeks this summer taking a social entrepreneurship course at Cornell University. This helped her further develop the ideas for G2-LEAD, and she is now planning the June conference, which will take place in Boston. The daylong event will connect 20 students with four female business executives for one-on-one sessions in the morning, followed by afternoon visits to local businesses.