Sarah Acer founded Align Communication & Creative as an experiment to see if she could work on projects that created social change with women who shared her values to do the same. Ten working moms, many of them young mothers, left their big brand careers to work on projects that aligned with their personal values while also allowing them to control their time, and balance their life and careers. Four years later, the women-owned collective has built a new kind of agency — one that includes the perks, projects and people they always daydreamed about—and where they can challenge the status quo, solve complex problems and drive social change.
At 14, Sarah began her first initiative to create social change when she joined the Truth Campaign, the nationwide tobacco education and cessation program to stop the epidemic of teenage smoking. Watching her grandmother progress from macular degeneration, breast cancer to lung cancer and still be unable to stop smoking enlightened her to the power of a harmful habit. 20 years later, Sarah is still involved with the campaign, but has broadened her scope to include big business that is also good business with an emphasis on those serving under-served communities.
Solve for XX
In 2018 Sarah co-founded Solve for XX , an organization set up to solve issues that impact people with XX chromosomes (women). With a grant from The State Department, through the Nelson Mandela Exchange Program, a young African leader is matched with American entrepreneurs. Sarah and her partner, Kristen Romaine were matched with – an equally amazing woman from Uganda who runs Women in Tech Uganda. They collaborated originally to help Women in Tech run more efficiently. But the pilot program they developed went much further..
Solve for XX became a 24-hour hackathon, during which participants were trained in business skills, like writing resumes, applying for jobs, and creating a business plan, and then matched with mentors to guide them. During the final 12 hours, participants were divided into teams to identify and develop solutions for the problems women face in their communities. In Kampala, Uganda, where this hackathon took place, early marriage and pregnancy tie women to a way of life that keeps them stuck in poverty. Business plans emerged from the participants, which were rewarded with microfinancing for businesses that can transform lives. Sarah said the microfinance part of the program was unintentional, but when they were presented with pitches that only required $100 to run a business for six months, they provided the funding to proceed. This leg up helps women help their families and ultimately their entire community, country, and even the world. More Solve for XX hackathons are planned for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Detroit, Michigan and Catania, Italy. If you’d like to volunteer, mentors are needed via Skype.
Millennials Moving into Leadership in 2020
The future is here, and the first group to outnumber baby boomers is becoming half of the workforce. As one of them, Sarah’s own passion for pursuing a life of service places her in the majority. Sarah said that most millennials care less about the monetary rewards of salaries and more about workplace culture, family leave and other benefits that support healthy and happy lifestyles. Because they have entered the workforce in such numbers they are also moving into leadership. That means they will command large budgets and make decisions to support their values as they become middle and upper level managers.
Healthier cultures in the workplace is one part of Sarah’s thesis for her doctoral dissertation. She is also exploring how implicit bias holds women back from achieving full parity. We all have biases and she said the first step is to recognize them so we can work on correcting the way we perceive ourselves and others. The key to getting women in top management is getting a woman in top management. She likens it to the chicken and egg syndrome. Bias, from both men and women, keeps them from getting in the door. Nancy added one of her favorite sayings, “When you get through the door, take three women with you.”
Listen to this conversation for more of Sarah’s personal story and her ideas on how we can help women achieve parity and full equality. Check out her website to learn more about Align Communication and Creative. And be sure to check out Solve for XX to see how you can help women help themselves and their families transform their lives.
Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store
Sarah’s viewpoint about millennials in the workplace and research about eliminating bias also appear in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends.