Purpose, Passion, Progress with Karen Mulhauser

Read this post or download the pdf of the Born Leader Podcast: Episode 2 transcript.
 

 

[MUSIC INTERLUDE]

Welcome to the Born Leader podcast, where we believe everyone is born to lead. The show explores leadership in its many forms through interviews with, and profiles of, leaders in our communities—people who demonstrate that we are all born leaders and there are many paths to discovering that potential. I’m your host Gaea Honeycutt, Founder and CEO of the Hypatian Institute, Inc., a leadership development organization that creates innovative vehicles to cultivate competitive advantage for emerging and established leaders. 

In this second episode, we welcome my friend and mentor Karen Mulhauser, CEO of consulting firm Mulhauser and Associates.  She has an incredible history at the intersections of science, education, politics and advocacy.  From her early days as a science teacher striving to guide teenagers sorely in need of responsible reproductive health advice to advocating to prevent nuclear war to building collaborative women’s’ networks – Karen’s life has been a study in the evolution of an unexpectedly perfect trajectory.  And she has some great stories that illustrate it all.

Her firm combines the lessons of that unique history, delivering management and public affairs consulting services to progressive clients.  Also, Karen currently serves as Chair of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, where she has helped establish programs to inspire and recruit young professionals, mobilized support and membership, and advocated for policies that strengthen and reform the UN.  In addition, Karen founded two organizations that support emerging and established professional women. And when she’s not doing all of these things, Karen employs the principles of servant leadership, volunteering at local organizations and for campaigns.

We began our conversation focused on her early days of teaching science, addressing sexual health and preventing intimate violence.

I’ll warn you in advance that there’s a bit of background noise in this episode.  Born Leader is recorded onsite, in people’s homes and offices, so sometimes we can’t avoid it.

 

Gaea:  Karen, thank you for joining us on Born Leader.

Karen:  It’s … It’s my pleasure.

Gaea:  You have such a dynamic background, such a different background than I think a lot of women who look up to you as sort of having been that wave in the 60s during the women’s movement. Your early career is that of a scientist, a trailblazer—how many women scientists were there, right? And you studied biochemistry, and worked as a medical researcher, and a science teacher. But, you’ve since worked in such areas as nuclear education and arms control, and reproductive rights and women’s rights, as well as working on elections. What was the transformational experience that led you to policy and politics and public affairs?

Karen:  Actually, it wasn’t an easy or at all thought out transition. I did plan to be a scientist and do medical research. That’s what I studied in college and partway through graduate school. But, also partway through graduate school I wondered if I would maybe rather work with people than with rats and rabbits.

Gaea:  Uh, huh. Okay.

Karen:  But what do you do if you’ve been trained as a scientist? So, I taught high school chemistry and physics for a couple years, and that was really part of the transition. One of the courses that I offered was The Social Responsibility of Scientists. And, this was a private school—Cambridge School of Weston outside of Boston and Cambridge.  So, we were close by to many of the world-famous scientists, and I arranged for the students to meet with them. So, I think that was part of where I got my own sense of self-responsibility. Plus, of course, having gone to Antioch College—that’ll do it to you—where the whole theme of the college was the phrase that the founder Horace Mann said at the first graduation, which was “To be ashamed to die until you’ve won some victory for humanity.” So, that’s a burden that we all carry with us.

As a science teacher, a young woman, I found that many of the students were coming to me with . . . this is in the late 60s . . . with their questions about sexuality, all the way from “Where do I get an abortion?” to “How do I say no to my boyfriend, because I’m not really ready?”  Or, for boys, “How do I know she really means no when she says no?” And so, I tried to get the school to let me give a sex education course, this shy girl who was transitioning from science to social responsibility, and they said, “Well, no, you’re not married, and what kind of message would that be for the parents?” The next year, I came back married, and they still really wouldn’t let me do it. But, um, that really helped shape the next several years of my life.

I did problem pregnancy counseling at a nonprofit in Boston. And then when we moved to Seattle, Washington, I worked for Planned Parenthood and trained family planning professionals who worked in federally funded programs throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. And, this was a time I planned another transition, which didn’t really work out. I was, at this time about 30 years old, and I found if I was doing training with a group—whether it was physicians or nurses or social workers—if they didn’t know that I didn’t have their degree they could hear. But if they knew that all I had was a bachelors degree, then I had to spend the first half-hour convincing them that I knew enough to train them in something they didn’t know. So, I thought I’d go and get the big degree and applied to medical schools. And, I was pretty much hearing, at age 30, that I was too old. Or, as a woman that I might have another child and why would we . . . this is not direct quotes from them, but it’s the message . . . why would we waste an education on you?

But by then, we were here in Washington, DC, and I applied for and got a job working at NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Actually, when I applied for the job in ‘73, it was still called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.

Gaea:  Oh, okay.

Karen:  They wanted to change their name after the Roe v. Wade decision earlier in the year, and so it became the National Abortion Rights Action League. After a year of opening their Washington office, they asked me to be the executive director. So, that was an incredibly steep learning curve . . . as I . . . rather than telling them “You can hire someone who knows how to do this…”

[LAUGHTER]

Gaea:  Which so many of us do nowadays.

[LAUGHTER]

Karen:  I . . . I decided that I would figure out how to do it, and part of the Antioch education is experiential learning, that you can learn on the job. And, I approached women because my age cohort, we were not most of us educated or trained to be leaders . . . or run things. So, I found women who were running nonprofits and I approached them—whether or not I knew them—and said “I’m going to be asked to run NARAL and I’ve never had a management course. Can I come to you from time to time?” And, they all said, “Well, I’ve never had a management course.” And we created a support group that lasted for years. And . . . uh . . .  It’s a model that I’ve used subsequently in bringing together people to support each other.  We helped write each other’s bylaws and personnel policies, and figure out how to work with difficult staff or board members. And all of those things, that, if you’re the CEO, it’s a lonely position and we helped each other not be so lonely.

Gaea:  So, you were talking . . . I want to take you back a minute, actually, about sex ed. And, one of the questions that you said you were getting from young men was like, “How do I know she’s saying no?” And, that’s so interesting, because . . .

Karen:  It’s so current!

Gaea:  It’s so current! Today, the whole discussion . . . and you hear all these reports on NPR and in the news about this ongoing education on college campuses because sexual assault has really come to the forefront of teaching young men about getting . . . um . . .

Karen:  Consent.

Gaea:  Consent. So, that from so many years ago, when you were teaching high school students, this is still an issue that we haven’t really addressed.

Karen:  It’s still an issue that we haven’t addressed as a society. Some clusters, some groups of the society have addressed it. And actually, going back to Antioch… Years later in the 90s, I was on the board of trustees.  And, in the early 90s, the students—the women students, W-O-M-Y-N students

Gaea:  Okay!

Karen:  Insisted that the college have a policy about consent, and an overarching education program. And, um, back in ’91 when this was passed, everyone made fun of it. It was called the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy to prevent sexual abuse, and it required that . . . that they be consenting partners. They were not saying don’t have sex, they were just saying have only consensual sex. And so, there was even a Saturday Night Live skit about asking permission for each advancing stage of sexual activity.

Gaea:  I think I remember that, yes.

[LAUGHTER]

Karen:  People did make fun of it at the time. Antioch is still using it, and does require all students and faculty and administrators to participate twice a year in the orientation about what the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy includes, guests on campus have to be aware of it, and in many respects, it’s being replicated by colleges that are looking at this seriously in an effort to prevent sexual offenses. Here in Washington, DC a year ago in March of . . . I think it was March of 2014, the DC Council passed legislation called SAVRAA it’s the Sexual Assault Victims Prevention Act [Sexual Assault Victims Rights Amendment Act]. For the last year, there’s been a task force meeting to figure out how DC law can essentially do the same kinds of things that are working on the campuses, but also how to work within all of the different agencies where uh . . . including the Metropolitan Police and so forth . . . where offenses can be treated more reasonably and women who claim an offense—or men—be taken seriously.  And get over this “Well your skirt was so short, what did you expect?” approach to treating victims of sexual assault. And helping the victims become survivors, because they’re only going to be survivors if people believe them and if the assailants are addressed in ways that are appropriate.

 

Narration:   Building on our social justice discussion, Karen and I shifted gears slightly to her historic introduction to civil rights and her perspective through the lens of a student and alumna of Antioch College.

 

Gaea:  There’s this interesting excerpt that was published on the Capital Hill History Project website. And in it, you talk about coming to DC back in August of 1963 with some friends. You’d seen a bus pull away and people going to something . . .

Karen:  Oh, yes, this is . . . this is . . .

Gaea:  . . . and you said “Why am I not there?”  And then, you ended up coming. And, what was it that you were coming to?

Karen:  That was the famous I Have a Dream March on Washington. And, I was in college at that time and sitting at a table with some of my friends. And, we were bidding goodbye to some of our classmates that were in the two or three buses that were gonna to drive to Washington, DC. And I . . . back in my science student days . . . I had lab tests coming up and I had a lot of work to do, and we all had our reasons for being at the table instead of on the bus. But, as we waved goodbye, we kind of looked at each other and said, “We really need to be there.” And so, we climbed into our friend, Prexy Nesbitt’s car and we drove—we got to Washington before the buses did—and we greeted our friends.

The whole experience was incredibly profound. I remember thinking that . . . we were told that with all these people coming and a lot of them African Americans, there would clearly be a lot of violence. And, I think one of the stories the next day was “There was no violence.” And that should not have had to have been the story. It should not have had to have been set up that way.

Gaea:  Right.

Karen:  But, what was so stunning was the . . . the diversity of people—people from all over the country—the numbers of people, the peacefulness of the people, the respect for the speakers. Before all of the speaking started, and I was still kind of stunned that I was there, somebody with a bunch of cameras around his neck walked right up to me and said, “Why are you here?” And I gave my silly, “I don’t know. I have tests tomorrow, I should be back studying . . .” And he said, “No, I’m serious. I’m with The Washington Post.” And my picture was in the paper the next day as one of the demonstrators. I had a better answer than . . . than “I don’t know.”

           [LAUGHTER]

And, that again, helped . . . things, experiences like that—especially when you’re young—do help shape who you are and what you’re going to do later on. And . . . and um . . . I had very strong memories of the feelings of that day, and the solidarity and the working together with others. And, I also remember 20 years later being at the big 20th anniversary of that march, and the diversity and emerging broader description of what social justice means to include more communities. Which is certainly what we have now when we talk about civil rights and social justice. And, if I can go back to Antioch for a while?

Gaea:  Sure.

Karen:  This last June was my 50th anniversary reunion.

Gaea:  Oh, wow! Okay, that’s a milestone

Karen:  And Martin Luther King had been my graduation speaker.

Gaea:  No! [LAUGHTER]

Karen:  Some of us met with the graduating class of 2015, and we together defined a theme for our combined graduation reunion as “From Civil Rights to Social Justice”. John Lewis was to be our graduation speaker, but there was a death in his family, so he couldn’t come. But it was amazing to reflect on 50 years ago and on how the country is dealing with social justice issues now. Or not.

Gaea:  Or not. Or sort of reliving a lot of those same . . . re-discussing them.

Karen:  And, how it’s redefined with Ferguson and Charleston, and so many very current issues.

 

We’ll be back after this break to learn more about Karen’s lessons of building collaborative networks, leaning in, and taking risks on the path less traveled.

[MUSIC INTERLUDE]

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 [MUSIC INTERLUDE]

Welcome back. You’re listening to Born Leader from the Hypatian Institute.  I’m your host Gaea Honeycutt and joining us today is Karen Mulhauser, CEO of Mulhauser and Associates. Thus far, we’ve heard about her start in the women’s movement, advocacy for reproductive rights, and how she learned to lean in on the fly.

In the second part of this episode, we learn more about the organizations Karen founded as a result of collaborations – Consulting Women for established professionals and entrepreneurs, and the Women’s Information Network for young and emerging professionals.  Together these groups represent thousands of women in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area and beyond.

 

Gaea:  There are two organizations that I’ve personally benefited from that you were instrumental in starting—the, you know, Women’s Information Network that you supported, and Consulting Women, which you founded. You know, what prompted you to support WIN and then also to launch Consulting Women?

Karen:  After running NARAL for several years, Reagan was elected to the White House, and scared me at least as much as he scared the Soviets. So, I took what I had learned in terms of organizing and advocacy and political action. I took what I had learned from abortion rights work to start a couple of anti-nuclear organizations, nuclear disarmament groups. And, I had free office space in the National Education Association building and had a wonderful eight years working on that. In 1988 I was kicked out of the NEA building ‘cause they were renovating and they kicked themselves out. So, I turned over all of the resources to another peace group and started my own business. That’s when I started Mulhauser and Associations. And, one of the first calls I got in early 1988 was from the Dukakis Campaign. They said—this is leading up to WIN . . .

Gaea:  No, no.  I believe you.

Karen:  They said that they had a bunch of 20 year-olds working in Iowa and they needed a few grown-ups, and could I go out and be a grown up? So, I spent a couple of weeks before the Iowa Caucuses in 1988, and met some amazing young people. Their first job out of college they were working on a presidential campaign. They all moved to Washington in 1989, even though Dukakis didn’t. And, I got to know these young women very well as they looked for work and find their way around this . . . this unusual town.

Partway through the year, they approached me and said, “We really expected those of you women in the second wave of the women’s movement to be more helpful than you have been. You had a strong women’s movement, but wherever we’re working—whether it’s on Capitol Hill or a law firm or in a consulting firm—the women who are at the top are not helping. And we, find that surprising.” And I said, “Well, that doesn’t sound like my friends.” So, I invited seven or eight of them and seven or eight of my friends to sit around my dining room table to talk about this phenomenon. As we reflected on it, those of us who were former young women—in our 40s, 50s and 60s—said that when we were just getting started as young professionals, there were no women at the top. And, so there was no one we could model ourselves after. So, we could change that dynamic here in Washington, DC—by being the kind of mentors that we wished we had. And, so that’s how the Women’s Information Network started in the fall of 1989—as a plan to create a network that would help young pro-choice Democratic women coming to DC find their way around and make it easier for them to get involved in the kind of work that they chose to do. So, it . . . it just absolutely stuns those of us who started it that it’s still going. And it’s going . . .

Gaea:  It’s strong.

Karen:  So, strong . . .

Gaea:  It’s 25-years-old now?

Karen:  Twenty-six this October. 

Gaea:  Twenty-six?

Karen:  Um-hum.  So, it’s a strong network and the women who reflect on where they are now, at the top of wherever they are, how they got an important start as a young WIN member.  I hope it continues to provide that kind of support for young women.

And the Consulting Women Network—as I said, I started my consulting business in 1988. And I frankly, at the beginning of that year thought I would do this for just one year, and then, when a Democrat got in the White House, I’d get a real job again.

[LAUGHTER]

But a Democrat didn’t get in the White House, and that year was an amazing year. I had a chance to work on more than one thing at a time and different kinds of work. I . . . I helped raise money nationally for a senate campaign, and I helped YWCA put together a voter engagement project nationally, and I helped the Carnegie Corporation of New York do an evaluation of their grant making for development education, which is . . . I didn’t even know what the phrase was when I took the job, but it’s . . .

Gaea:  But, you learned. [LAUGHTER]

Karen:  But, I learned. It’s educating Americans about the developing world. So, that has helped shape a lot of . . . I’ve done a lot since then, because I’ve done a lot with international development work. And so, I decided to continue consulting. And another year or so went by and people came to me and said, “You’re not just doing this between jobs like everyone else I know.”

[LAUGHTER]

“This is what your life is.” And I said, “Yes, I can’t imagine having just one job again.”  And they asked, “How do you start? How do you know what to charge? How do you market?” And I said, “I’m just making it up as I go along. But we can make it up together.” And, what’s resulted all of these years later, is a . . . a very active and supportive network, a listserv, of 830 . . .

Gaea:  Eight hundred, thirty?! Okay.

Karen:  Eight hundred, thirty. You’re one of the many now, Gaea. Not one of a few . . .

Gaea:  Uh-huh, I know. Not one of a few! Okay!

Karen:  Self-employed DC area women. And the listserv—you’re on it, you use it, and you benefit from it. People put out a request for help and dozens of people might respond. People write each other into contracts and . . . ah, it’s . . . it’s a wonderful network. I think that the time back in ’73 . . . ’75, when I learned I was going to be the Executive Director of NARAL and I found other people who knew more than I did, I keep doing that and totally enjoy. To the extent that I’m a leader of anything, it’s a collaborative leadership with others.

 

You’re listening to Born Leader from the Hypatian Institute.  I’m your host Gaea Honeycutt and today we’re talking to Karen Mulhauser, CEO of Mulhauser and Associates.  In the third and final part of this episode, Karen reflects on the changes she’s seen in the women’s movement, and gives us a peek under her consulting hat as we discuss building effective boards of directors— especially for small, resource-strapped nonprofits.  And, she regales us with a story you might think only happens in the movies, but could really happen to any of us. Given a little moxie and strategic thinking, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when opportunity comes knocking.

 

Gaea:  So Karen, you were present during the women’s movement at least during the 60s. And so, you’ve seen a lot of changes between then and now. What would you say is very different and what would you say remains the same when it comes to women’s rights and society?

Karen:  Well, in the 60s, I was still a “girl scientist”. So, I was aware of the women’s movement, but I wasn’t as active until the late 60s when I started doing the problem pregnancy counseling and referrals. And, this was in Massachusetts, where it was even illegal for women to have contraception unless they were married.

Gaea:  Oh, wow.

Karen:  The women who could afford it, we put them on chartered flights to London where abortion was legal. And for those who couldn’t afford it, we referred them to Clergy Counseling Service, which was this wonderful, awesome underground network of ministers, rabbis and priests, who would talk with women who were . . . who had unplanned pregnancies and help them arrive at a decision they were comfortable with. And if it included abortion—if that’s the decision—then they made illegal referrals . . .

Gaea:  Oh, wow.

Karen:  . . . to safe places—places that they had visited. So, they had a list of places they could make referrals where they knew the women would get good medical care. And so, that was my entry into the women’s movement was . . . Just from the beginning of my work in the women’s movement, a very clear understanding that, unless women could decide whether or not they going to be pregnant or have children, they couldn’t really avail themselves to all the other aspects of the women’s movement in terms of education and employment, and the other opportunities that the rest of the women’s movement was talking about. I didn’t do too much of the consciousness raising. I was aware of those sessions, but when we moved to . . . to Seattle and I started working with Planned Parenthood doing training in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, I saw again—from the perspective of reproductive rights and justice and health—the aspects of the women’s movement. And . . . so . . . it was when we moved here and . . . I went Washington, DC in ‘73 again working with NARAL . . . so, my entry and work in the women’s movement throughout has been initially around the core issues of reproductive health and rights.

I remember after I had transitioned from working on abortion rights with NARAL to doing disarmament in ’83, I was sitting on an airplane next to Congressman Ed Markey.

Gaea:  Okay. [LAUGHTER]

Karen:  And, I struck up a conversation with him thanking him for all of his good work on . . . on disarmament. . . .  And “We need more champions like you.” . . . And “Thank you, thank you.” And then I said, because I had lobbied him and he knew who I was, “You maybe don’t know this about me, but I used to run NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. And, I . . . I happen to know that, except for abortion rights, you have an excellent voting record on women’s issues and issues that are important to women.” And then, I gave my line of “Don’t you know that unless women can chose when or if they have children that they can’t avail themselves of all those other things you support?” And I was on the aisle. He was in the center seat. I had a captive audience.

[LAUGHTER]

Gaea:  He couldn’t move anywhere. Okay.

[LAUGHTER]

By the end of the flight—you know, an hour and twenty minutes or so—he said, “You know, you’re right, Karen.” And from then on, he’s been voting for abortion rights. The woman sitting in front of me said, “Well, I can never vote for you again.”

Gaea:  Oh, no.

Karen:  And the woman sitting next to her said, “Now, I can.” I guess one of the lessons from all of this is to take some risks. You know, to talk to somebody like that and be an advocate because one person can make a difference.

Gaea:  That one personal contact and conversation…

Karen:  Yes, and he said, “Don’t you know what you’re asking of me? I went to college . . . a Catholic college. I went to Catholic high school and you either become a priest or a congressman.” And I said, “I know what I’m asking you to do and you can keep all of those views. And, what Senator Kennedy says is, ‘I’m against abortion, but I can’t impose my view on others.’ ” So, that’s what he started saying.

Gaea:  Wow, that’s quite a story. That’s quite a story. I wonder if he remembers that.

Karen:  Oh! Let me tell you. What he . . . when he was running to fill Senator Kennedy’s seat, I get a message on my cell phone and it’s his voice. And he says, “Karen, Ed Markey here. Do you remember that conversation we had 20 years ago on the plane? If you do, can you call me back?” And so, I called him back and I said, “Of course, I remember. It was . . . it’s one of my favorite stories.” And, he asked me to repeat it as I remembered it, which is the way I just told it to you. And he said, “The reason I’m asking is The Boston Globe is going to do a story about how I changed my position on abortion for very political reasons.” And I said, “If you need someone to vouch for you, I know it was a wrenching personal decision and I’ll vouch for you.” So yes, he did remember it. And, so does his wife, who thanked me once.

[LAUGHTER]

Gaea:  Well, there you have it. There you have it. One person can make a difference. All those lessons from Antioch College and . . . and all the work that you have done, and just having that one small conversation—no matter how big everything else seems— might be that tipping point.

You know, one of the things I really find amazing is how much you volunteer. You’re on a lot of boards and I . . . I would even . . . venture so much as to say that you are the Board Queen . . . You might be the Board Service Queen.

[LAUGHTER]

Karen:  A poster child for boards.

[LAUGHTER]

Gaea:  A poster child for boards. So, what do you find rewarding about doing all those activities?

Karen:  Actually, its both board service and volunteering, ‘cause I still volunteer with WIN and Consulting Women, and I am on . . . the Vice President of my alumni association at Antioch. And I chair, now,  the United Nations Association nationally. The . . . I don’t know when and how it started, but part of it is that it’s just very rewarding in ways other than financial. I think all of my board service started when I . . . after having worked with NARAL in the women’s movement and then with the peace movements. I saw a lot of dysfunctional boards. And, even though I never had one of those management courses, I did figure out how to run organizations and I did know where the line was between board work and staff work. So, as I was starting my consulting business, I thought that was the primary kind of work I was going to do—was to work with board-staff relations and board training and so forth—and I’ve done a lot of that. And I’ve also . . . that’s when I started being on boards. I’ve been on more than 35 boards . . . I kind of lost . . . lost count . . . and often in a position—either chairing a committee or a leadership position. Sort of one organization at a time and helping them be better boards.

But, I also . . . reflecting back on my decades of being involved in . . . in social justice issues and so forth, is when I moved to Seattle, I started volunteering. When I quit teaching, I volunteered at this problem pregnancy counseling service. And, it was that volunteer work at that pregnancy counseling service and my volunteer work initially at Planned Parenthood in Seattle, that led me to getting an amazing job as a trainer in Seattle. And then when we moved to DC, I didn’t know a soul, but I had this letter from the director of Planned Parenthood in Seattle, and I went to Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and offered to just volunteer and with this letter. And that led to me getting good endorsements for the job at NARAL. And so, I think—and I often tell this to young people who are looking for a job—is it’s . . and I’ve even done this at 40Plus, the organization that you’ve spoken to—and I’ve talked about volunteering. That it’s better than staying at home looking for a job—to find the place where you would love to work and volunteer. And, just let the people know that you will do this until you find a job. And, it might lead to a job either at that organization or with a good job reference to something else that you hear about. And, you work with people who have common interests and shared concerns, and that’s rewarding in ways that are not financial but in other ways.

Gaea:  What would be . . . because you talked about making boards better . . . what would be the top three things that you would recommend to boards? And I ask this . . . you know, I should say one of the things I do is I help small businesses build boards of advisors, right. But also having started some nonprofits, one of the challenges—particularly with new upstart nonprofit—is you have a board that is also managing the organization.

Karen:  It’s very, very tricky—especially with these small nonprofits, and I am familiar with a lot of them—that they come together because of a shared passion, a commitment to an issue or to a particular problem that they want to solve, and that doesn’t mean they know how to be a board member. That means they’ve come together around an issue that they care about. And, when they hire somebody they don’t know how to give up that work part of what they’ve been doing.

A nonprofit board has a couple of jobs. One job is to hire and review the work of the Chief Executive Officer and then let that person hire the rest of the staff. The other job is to set policy. And, that policy includes the budget because where an organization commits money is a reflection of its policy. And then they should let the staff do the work. But, if they were . . . if they were essentially the volunteer staff before hiring someone, it’s for them to give it up. And then also, in situations where it’s an understaffed organization with a big agenda and they need to find volunteers, some of the best volunteers are going to be their board members. But, it’s a conflictual . . . potentially conflictual situation when the board member is being a board member, he or she hires and fires the staff, the CEO. But when he or she comes in and helps stuff envelopes or answer the phone or does some other volunteer work, he or she is working for the executive director and it’s hard to change that role. They cannot be setting the program. They are supposed to be setting the policy. So it’s . . . and I’ve done some of that consulting with organizations to help them sort it out and develop some tools on how to do that. And it’s hard because the people are all good. They’ve all come together for the same good common cause, but they don’t understand, always, the different role the board member has different from a staff person.

Gaea:  And, they’re well meaning.

Karen:  Yes. Yeah.

Gaea:   Boards are filled with well-meaning people.

Karen:  Yeah.

Gaea:   The last question I have for you is there are all these young women today still who are ambitious and they’re passionate and they’re talented and they want to go out into the world and conquer it and do good . . . and so, what is your advice to them?

Karen:   Well, I guess I would start with really do know what you’re passionate about. Because when you find a job that you’re passionate about you’re going to enjoy it and it’s going to feed you in many ways. So, really understand what you’re interested in. And, you know, there was a time in my life as a young woman I was interested in being a scientist, and then, maybe in being a doctor. And it was not until I started working on nonprofit issues and making a difference by making policy change, or influencing policy, that I learned my passion. I’d still be stuck with test tubes if I hadn’t done that transition. So . . . so, knowing who you are and what you’re passionate about.

And also, to take some risks. To not just take the easy course and do just things you already know you know how to do, but step out of what you’re familiar with. Otherwise, you’re not going to learn. And I’m still stepping out beyond what I’ve done before and love the learning process. And for me, I’m not a person who likes . . . a unilateralist. I don’t feel comfortable making decisions just by myself. That’s not a lesson that will work for everyone. ‘Cause some people are very good at that. I . . . when I have an idea I like to try it out on others. And I like to involve others in helping me implement it, rather than to do it alone. But, I don’t know that that really can be advice to others. That falls under “know who you are” and know what kind of leader you want to be—or follower, collaborator.

Gaea:  Well, that’s really great advice to anyone at any stage in life. It’s a great reminder for those of us who might have a few years

[LAUGHTER]

And, it’s a great reminder of those of us just starting out. And, this has been a fantastic conversation, I’ve learned so much about you. I did, you know, I did go and I did my research, but I’ve learned so much about you and how things are connected in your life. It’s such an inspiration to anyone to just go out and do it. You know, you didn’t wait around for anyone to just, you know, tell you it was okay. You figured out how you wanted to do it.

Karen:  Over and over again.

Gaea:   Over and over again, continuously. So, thank you so much, Karen, for joining us.

Karen:  Thank you, Gaea. So, maybe I should interview you for one of these.

Gaea:  You could! I’d . . . I’d be more than willing . . . I’d be more than willing to do it. I’d be happy to.

Karen:  Thank you for this opportunity.

I’m afraid it’s time to wrap up Born Leader today.  I want to thank Karen Mulhauser of Mulhauser and Associates for joining us and talking about women’s reproductive rights, servant leadership and finding your path.

In the next episode, we’ll speak with corporate executive turned banker turned small business advocate Tara Palacios, and learn how she brings her diverse business background and insight to bear on Arlington, Virginia’s thriving business community.

And, thank you, for listening.  If you want to learn more about Karen Mulhauser or other guests on the Born Leader podcast, visit HypatianInstitute.com. That’s H-Y-P-A-T-I-A-N Institute dot com. Or follow us on Twitter at Hypatian I-N-S-T [@].  Talk to you next time on Born Leader from the Hypatian Institute.

Produced by the Hypatian Institute, Inc., Born Leader is a podcast founded on the belief that everyone is a born leader and there are many paths to discovering your own potential. We explore leadership through interviews with and profiles about everyday people who demonstrate we’re all born leaders.