Welcome back for another FQuestionnaire, where women in our community share perspectives on their life, career, and how they advance equality in their industries. Today, we spotlight founder and social impact entrepreneur Caitlyn Kumi. A little over two years ago, during her junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kumi founded a women’s empowerment organization called Miss EmpowHer. Inspired by a passion to help college-age women of all shades and shapes feel more confident, Kumi launched Miss EmpowHer with a mission to provide young women with workplace opportunities and skills.
Here’s what Kumi had to say about the importance of lifting up the next generation, the value of mentorship and networking in career advancement, and how women are driving the creator economy.
The Female Quotient: What’s one example of how you and/or your organization is moving the equality needle — at work or in life?
Caitlyn Kumi: Miss EmpowHer is moving the equality needle by providing personal and professional development to college women. I applied for 100+ internships and only heard back from one during my sophomore year of college. I did not want young women experiencing these same struggles and doubting themselves because they don’t have access to opportunities that position them for success.
I developed Miss EmpowHer partnership solutions to address this concern and help brands connect with the Miss EmpowHer community. One of our partnership solutions is internship/entry-level job recruitment. In the spring of 2022, Miss EmpowHer partnered with TechStyleOS to put on the TechStyle x Miss EmpowHer 2022 Summer Internship Event to help college women find internships. The program gave college students the opportunity to intern for brands like Savage X Fenty: Lingerie by Rihanna and Fabletics.
FQ: What are the three most important character traits in modern leadership?
CK: Self-awareness, influence, and delegation.
FQ: What do you think is the single biggest obstacle limiting women’s career growth today?
CK: The biggest obstacle limiting women’s career growth is the idea of trying to do it all and not outsourcing as you progress throughout your career. From personal experience and conversations with successful women, I believe the key to women’s career growth is taking care of yourself so you can thrive professionally. It is tough to show up at work, be present, and bring the best version of yourself when you are exhausted. Some of the most successful women I know have a housekeeper or meet with a therapist regularly.
FQ: What is the worst advice you received from someone in your career, and how would you reframe it to someone today?
CK: Just work hard and the rest will follow. From personal experience, this is not the best advice, especially if you want to accelerate your career growth. A better piece of advice would be: have a track record of success and be known for your impactful and transformational results. Additionally, make sure you have mentors and coaches to advise you throughout your journey. Make sure you have sponsors to advocate for you and give you the necessary visibility to accelerate your career growth.
FQ: If you could rewrite one rule of the workplace, what would it be?
CK: I would rewrite the rule that work has to be done between 9 and 5. I believe that flexible working hours and banning remote work are holding a lot of organizations back and preventing them from retaining successful women.
FQ: What’s one career-related question you wish people would stop asking women? (AKA, is there a question that we’d never ask a man?)
CK: How has your career growth impacted your marriage? — or — How has your career growth impacted your relationship with your children?
FQ: What is one career-related question you wish people would start asking women and aren’t?
CK: How can being more self-aware help you accelerate your career growth?
FQ: Describe a moment in your career where you realized your potential. What sparked this eureka moment?
CK: I realized that my career had potential when I went viral on TikTok. I realized that so many women connected with my women empowerment content. I realized that the advice and tips I shared with young women on social media were helping them grow personally and professionally. I have leveraged my passion for marketing and empowering women to build my brand and accelerate my own career growth.
FQ: What’s one strategy you have for boosting self-confidence during moments of doubt?
CK: I started tracking and celebrating my wins on a monthly basis. When I experience moments of doubt, I look at my monthly wins and am reminded that my goals are possible because of all that I have achieved. Additionally, when I doubt myself, I ask myself “Who told you that?” to distinguish between fact and self-doubt.
FQ: Name a woman whose mentorship has had a positive impact on your career and life. What made their approach unique and memorable?
CK: My mentor and Miss EmpowHer Board Advisor, Natalie Guzman, has positively impacted my career and life. Natalie Guzman is the Co-President, CMO, and Board Member at Savage X Fenty. Our relationship is special because I can be my most authentic self with Natalie. I can be honest about the personal and professional challenges I am experiencing and get actionable advice. One thing that makes Natalie an exceptional mentor is that she listens and then asks, “How can I help?” She knows that it is often hard to ask for help or make a clear ask so she takes the pressure off by asking herself.
FQ: Name a woman who has inspired you in your line of work recently. What did she do and how did she do it?
CK: Rihanna. The success of Rihanna’s brands, Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, showed me that there would be opportunities for women who looked like me. Rihanna inspired me to launch my women empowerment brand, Miss EmpowHer. Rihanna succeeded by building a strong personal brand and finding great partners to accelerate the growth of her brands. Additionally, she successfully built her brands by prioritizing inclusivity and representation, listening to the needs of her target customers, and providing solutions to customers that other major corporations traditionally ignored.
FQ: What’s giving you optimism about equality and the future of work?
CK: I am optimistic about the increasing number of women in senior leadership roles and women starting their own businesses. Additionally, Gen Z is extremely passionate about social impact. Gen Z is demanding that products cater to the needs of women and are more inclusive. Gen Z is pushing for pay transparency and flexible work environments, and I firmly believe women are driving that change. Social media and the growing creator economy have sparked these discussions and have led to changes on a larger scale. The creator economy is a woman-dominated industry shaping our society and giving me optimism about the equality and future of work.
FQ: What is the one piece of advice you wish other women would have shared with you when you started your career?
CK: Support and invest in your network. Your network is your net worth. From personal experience and conversations with successful women, many job and business opportunities have come from individuals in their network supporting them. Be consistent and produce amazing work. Keep people in your network up-to-date and share your accomplishments. When asking your network for support, be clear in the request to make it easy for others to support you.