Justine Lassoff and Melinda Moore speak at one of the TuesdayNights events. Photo Credit: Next Exit Photography.
When tech industry trailblazers Justine Lassoff and Melinda Moore met 20 years ago, they noticed that the networking events they attended were crowded with men.
“It was especially true of nice dinners, or expensive parties that were sponsored," Moore said. “And these were the networks that really had an impact on who would connect in business."
The two women pushed their way forward despite their male-dominated surroundings, joining the same non-profit board and eventually launching and selling an e-commerce business together. Individually, they worked on marketing campaigns for brands like MGM Interactive and Netflix.
But by 2013, they realized they had climbed the industry ranks. They felt the need to support more women on similar journeys in tech and beyond. They combined their shared networks to launch TuesdayNights, a membership-based community of entrepreneurial women seeking support as they advance their business goals.
“It's still true that meetings out of the office, like on the golf course, close deals. Men have understood for a long time that these are the types of settings that are needed to succeed," Moore said. “But these opportunities don't typically include women. So the intimate gatherings of TuesdayNights enable women to connect in a space that's more comfortable for us."
While it's been two decades since Lassoff and Moore first noticed how most high-powered business settings predominantly feature men, current statistics show that there's still plenty of room for improvement. As of May 2019, 33 companies on the Fortune 500 are led by women, only about 7 percent.
Last year, a report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that women make about 49 cents for every dollar a man makes when accounting for family care, which women are more likely to take on. There are also long-term compensation downsides to taking maternity leave and tending to the tasks of motherhood, among other challenges.
Those persistent gender inequalities have made Moore and Lassoff more determined to use their influence to make changes. They consider their organization a place where women can empathize but also strategize ways to make improvements.
“I think women can be more vulnerable when in a supportive environment with other women," Moore notes. “We've had several women who were in their second round of funding and several months pregnant asking, 'Should I try to hide my pregnancy?' These are real issues, and sometimes it's best to get advice from other women."
When Lassoff and Moore held their first meeting at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica seven years ago, about 50 women from their blended networks showed up. Now, TuesdayNights has about 1,000 members in San Francisco and Los Angeles ranging from C-suite executives to entrepreneurs and investors. Events, which often sell out, have featured guests from companies like Goop, Netflix and ABC. The first TuesdayNights conference was held in September 2019.
“All gatherings are different by design, but they mostly focus on women sharing what they're working on, or what their business ideas are. How to raise money successfully, how to hire the right team, and so on," Lassoff said. “The goal is to get women to connect so that they can go to each other and say, 'I can help you do that.'"
Diane M. Reichenberger, vice president of global consumer products at Mattel, has been on the TuesdayNights advisory board since it was founded. She said that her involvement has been nothing but positive.
“I love learning about new nonprofits, and I have been able to connect members with potential donors or other organizations that can support their missions," she noted. “I have met so many women who have become part of my network, and we reach out to support one another in many ways."
The notion that a female-only network is highly beneficial to women was at the basis of a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, researchers found that women who had a close community of connected peers were privy to a support system that helped them successfully navigate the workforce and land high-ranking positions.
“Almost 85 percent of all home purchases are made by women, and on the business side, women have been shown to have more capital efficiency and build more diverse teams," Moore said. “But still, men are more likely to be in positions of power, writing the checks. So until women have more of that power, and money is following from woman to woman, this type of network is necessary."
Both women agree that the interest in TuesdayNights has grown over the years because it has coincided with a wider discussion on gender equality. They're hoping to expand the organization into other cities, including Detroit, Seattle and Pittsburgh, and looking to form partnerships with large corporations and nonprofits.
“There's a need that's not going to go away," Lassoff added. “Women are looking for support on an educational, aspirational and financial level, and the market is accommodating that."
Lassoff and Moore seem humbled by the response they've received from members. They're both surprised by the strong friendships that have grown between former strangers, and the casual gatherings that are held between meetings. They said that the best networkers have a clear idea of what they want to achieve through these interactions.
“We've been able to grow through the power of community—because we figured out what we were passionate about, and then created a platform where women would want to share what they're passionate about," Lassoff said. “Our lasting legacy has been this collaboration, which has changed the course of companies, including ones that didn't exist before our events."
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