It has been almost one year since I learned for the first time about an incredible initiative that pretty much changed my life. I was always on the lookout for great causes to align myself with, and one day while flipping through one of my online newsletter subscriptions I came across a request for mentors. What intrigued me about this particular request was the “how” of the involvement. They were looking for dynamic women to author their own case study – it would be housed on an online library and used by educators, women and girls around the world.
I was on it.
Almost a year later, this initiative – The Hot Mommas® Project– has grown like wildfire. It is officially the world’s largest online library of professional role models for women and girls. In this three-part series, we will share the wonderous impact of The Hot Mommas® Project, meet the brains (and heart) behind this masterpiece, and decalre our call to action to Canadian women across the country.
PART 1 – The Hot Mommas® Project – changing women’s lives, an interview with Kathy Korman Frey
What was your inspiration for the The Hot Mommas® Project?
The idea of “Hot Mommas” percolated in my head since 1998 when I was in business school. However, the project as it stands today is a collection of women’s stories designed to help one another and the next generation. This is a pretty good article about how it came about, but, the bottom line is:
- How – Girls and women don’t just want to know that women can be successful, they want to know HOW. Saying how to price a product is not really showing them “how.” What happens when they leave the office? That is what women really need to know in addition to the textbook lessons. That’s why we take the professional AND personal stories of women and help make them teachable.
- Scale – Dual income households are on the rise. Volunteerism among women is down. It’s not too tough of an equation: We are too busy multitasking to be there for each other. So, I thought, “If someone told their story online, maybe that could be like a virtual role model or mentor to a young woman.” It takes the little bit of time we have and makes it as valuable and scalable as possible.
- Real women, and the changing definition of success – What about the woman who is running a profitable business out of her basement? What about the woman who works 20 hours and is the happiest and she’s been in years? What about the stay at home mom who is just waiting for the right time to press “go” on her venture. Don’t these women count? I think we as a society are not really sure. Putting the stories of new and different versions of success helps us try these on for size. We help showcase women’s stories and the idea that EVERYONE has something to teach.
What does the research tell us about the importance of role models for women’s success?
Role models are tied to success, especially for girls and women who have documented lower self confidence in certain career situations.
- Studies show women are less likely to network and promote themselves than their male counterparts and that girls and women are more likely to limit their career aspirations due to lack of confidence in their abilities (Bandura, 1992, Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G., & Pastorelli, C., 2001).
- Access to role models in the form of case studies is a known successful intervention or solution to this issue (Cox, Mueller, & Moss, 2002). The Hot Mommas® Project provides curricula focused on role modeling and personal leadership – as well as key business and professional skills – housed within a credible, proven, award-winning case study framework.
Here is a good women’s business fact sheet.
How has The Hot Mommas® Project changed the lives of women and girls thus far?
The winners from last year were published in one of Prentice Hall’s top entrepreneurship textbooks, so, that will have a tremendous reach as will PINK Magazine’s feature of the winners.
On a one-to-one level there are some great stories.
Michelle Scheumann, who is a stay at home mom was not even going to WRITE her case. She thought, “I’m a stay at home mom, I have nothing to offer.” But she did. We all do. So, I coached her through how to write her case (video) and she wrote it (here it is). And she inspired Marla Isackson, a former American Express big wig and founder of Hearts of Gold, to write HER case. Here it is. They met at the first annual Hot Mommas Project case awards last year. It was great.
Lydia, who is probably too humble to mention this, really made it very very clear to me how much writing her case impacted her life. She DROVE from Canada for The Hot Mommas® Project awards ceremony last year in DC. How cool is that? I wrote about Lydia’s fabulous perspectives in a recent piece for Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference site. Here is Lydia’s case.
So, this is what has been the surprising part of the project to me – that in telling our stories, we’re helping ourselves. It’s actually prompted me to recruit a prominent female leader in the Native American business community to be a judge for us this year. That tradition of oral history can’t be beat. We also have another judge who is literally one of the best storytellers in America.
Then, there is the student perspective. Here is a slideshow and podcast series highlighting student reactions to cases. Bottom line: Young women find these stories real, and inspiring. There is no b.s.ing Generation Y in case you haven’t noticed.
Some women may want to write their case study but feel the writing process may be too daunting. What type of support do you have in place?
We have a lot of tutorials on the site, and have weekly conference calls every Friday in January. We recommend this for people who are ready to share, write, or have thought about writing. Many women say, “I’m too busy” – but, this is actually perfect for busy women because you can tell your story once, and it will be told over and over again.
Full list of case writer resources
My hope is to get more Canadian women to become Hot Mommas! Why do you think it is important to have a global voice and presence in the Project? What would you like to say to Canadian women who may be thinking about writing their case study?
The perspectives from diverse women are critical. Some young woman, somewhere, is going to read your story and say “Yes, that’s it for me – I identify with her.” You could be in Canada, or Egypt, or France, or the U.S. But, if you don’t tell your story, that opportunity goes away for that young woman. We all need to start thinking of ourselves as part of the answer. There is no secret “other person” that is going to come riding in on a white horse. It’s us, ladies. Nominate someone, yourself included, and start writing your story today.
More Hot Mommas® Project buzz:
- Teachable moments – We are all teachers, and The Hot Mommas® Project allows you to share your teachable moments no matter how big or small by writing your story on our site using our “case wizard.” (P.s. Case study is an academic term for story with specific teaching points.)
- Mentors/Role models – The Hot Mommas® Project is currently the world’s largest library of virtual mentors/role models for women and girls. This is important because, research on women and girls show lower self confidence than males. We need to help one another and make it a priority. As Marie Wilson has said, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
- Helping others, helping yourself – Many women who have written their stories have been forced (through our “case wizard”) to really explore what they have learned in life and at work and share it. I originally started the project to help the next generation. I did not anticipate that women would be helping themselves. The reactions we’ve gotten from women who have written their stories continue to astound me. I’ve heard things like, “It changed my life” and “I felt like I mattered.” There are pretty much no words to describe how I feel when I hear that. I am just so proud of these women.
- The surprising wildfire – The Hot Mommas® Project is the winner of a Coleman Foundation Case award. The first Hot Mommas Project stories or case studies were a true experiment. I remember sitting at my desk doing a proposal for the case award at USASBE which is the largest organization of small business and entrepreneurship professors. I thought, “I’m calling this ‘Hot Mommas’, and it talks about this woman’s personal life in addition to the traditional teaching points. Boy, am I going to get rejected. HARD!” But, instead, we won an award and were basically celebrated by this organization, and later published by Prentice Hall. I continue to be amazed by the supporters of this project.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 in this series…