Just ten days to go until Boston GLOW's biggest fundraising event of the year - IGNITE the NITE. We are thrilled to introduce to you, our supporters, some of the dynamic, driven, downright FUN women who have been working tirelessly since July to make this event a reality. Each of the women we will spotlight over the next week brings a unique perspective and skill set to our fundraising endeavors.
Meghan joined Boston GLOW last year as a newcomer to the organization and fearlessly took on the massive responsibility of leading our Silent Auction team for IGNITE the NITE 2013. Luckily for us, the experience was so positive she wanted to become more involved with Boston GLOW as a whole and Meghan joined the leadership team this summer as Director of Finance and Administration. Additionally, Meghan agreed to co-chair this year's IGNITE the NITE event, overseeing the Silent Auction, Food & Beverage and Volunteer Management teams.
Meghan Hargraves, Co-Chair of IGNITE the NITE 2014 and Director, Finance & Operations for Boston GLOW
Q: What was your career goal as a young girl and how did that evolve as you progressed through your education and professional life?
When I was really young, I am not sure I had a specific career in mind. I know I wanted to do something that required me to wear suits and stockings and heels and be in charge of things. That appeared to be what kick-ass women did. This eventually translated into law school. Lawyers seemed very glamorous and important. When I went to law school I discovered that while that may be the case for some lawyers, I had absolutely no interest in pursuing the law as a career. That year was a very pricy “learning experience.” At that point I just needed a job and I got my first out of school job as an entry level HR rep. I was there for a year, and then circumstances other than work pulled me to Virginia, where I got my first Operations job. It’s been pretty much Operations and Finance ever since. My current job is the first that is strictly a Finance job. I have proceeded somewhat organically to where I am now, I guess, as I think about it, though it certainly didn’t feel that way as I was doing it.
Q: What experiences led you to where you are now?
I was a bit all over the place when I was younger. I made decisions about my career based on things other than furthering my career. I would find a job, do it until I got bored or needed a change, and then I would find a new job. Somehow or another I ended up working in a finance role in most of my jobs, though I wouldn’t have imagined in a million years that’s where I would end up. Now, as it turns out, finance is my primary role in my day job, and it is something I am building other parts of my life around, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone, I suspect.
Q: What is your role currently and what does an average day in your work life look like?
My day job is currently an Analyst at a real estate investment banking firm. We do asset management and advisory work for others, and we invest in two real estate funds of our own. The work is becoming more project based, so tasks change, sometimes day to day, but it involves a lot of Excel.
My “second job” is as Director of Finance & Operations for GLOW. This is a new role, and evolving. I am working through the historical financials and creating a budget that is a working document to help grow the organization in the future. I am formalizing policies and procedures for expenses and spending and trying to nail down how we measure success from a financial standpoint. It also involves a lot of Excel.
And lastly, my hobby/part time job is a personal chef/food blogger. I do some cooking and catering on the side, and blog when I have “free time.” Cooking is a passion, and eventually I would like it to be my full time paying-the-bills job, but that is likely a ways off at this point.
So an average day involves waking up early and working on GLOW stuff for a couple of hours, heading to the office and spending 10 or 11 hours there, and then heading either to GLOW meetings, or heading home to cook/eat/blog or some combination of all three!
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman trying to pursue a career in your field?
Hmm, be prepared to be a trailblazer. This field needs them.
Q: Is yours a male-dominated organization or industry? What challenges have you faced as a female trying to succeed in your field?
Oh yes, for sure. I would say Commercial Real Estate is at least 70% men? Maybe 80%? I don’t know numbers, but there are a lot of them and not very many of us, but it’s changing.
I am often the only woman in a meeting or seminar. There are four women out of 18 at my current firm, and all the partners are men, which is pretty standard. My firm actually tries to be good about that and hire women, but there are still not many women in the field to be hired.
I am not sure I have faced any field-related challenges because I am a woman yet, though I have worked with a lot of older men in the South and it was very clear that they are not used to having a woman tell them how things are going to be work-wise. This is of course a broad generalization about the South and does not apply across the board at all, but has been my experience. I think I have surprised some of the men I have worked with outside my company.
I can see what the challenges will be, though. It is not a super flexible job. There is travel, and long hours, and things happening all the time. That will be hard when a family and kids comes into play. My firm has never really had to deal with the Mom issue before, but I see it coming.
Q: Where would you like to see your business in 5 years?
I am going to switch gears at this point and talk about my other love, Bread & Ginger, which is my blog and part time personal chef/catering business. I would love it if it was my primary job in five years, either as a blog and recipe site that makes money, a small catering/personal chef company or as a brick & mortar storefront, or a combination of all three! The goal is ultimately a place where you can get good ingredients, prepared foods and light catering. And maybe a food truck, because that would be fun.
Q: What advice would you give to a woman of any age looking to run with a business idea?
If you are in the position to go for it, because you are financially able, or have the support, or can get loans, just do it! If, like a lot of people, you are not in the position to take that risk right now, stick with it anyway. Make sure you still involve yourself in whatever it is in some way. Find a way to do what you love, even if it isn’t exactly how you envisioned doing it, because you will be happier, and you will be in the game, which will be helpful when it’s time to dive in! Write a blog that only your grandmother will read, help your friends out when they need expertise in your field, find a volunteer organization that needs your services, do anything that will help you build a community around your passion and idea, because those people and that community will be able to help when it does come time to take the plunge. At the very least they might be willing customers!
Q: Who are your female role models?
Julia Child is one, and Barbara Lynch. Hillary Clinton is pretty badass. But mostly there are a lot of women fighting the good fight and doing what needs to be done to get by for them and their families and communities without the support and privilege that I have enjoyed. They are more driven than I’ll ever be. Cheers to them.
Q: What would you like to see change for the role of women in our world? For the future?
The systemic patriarchy has got to go, and with it the ingrained racism and classicism and homophobia. They are holding humanity back. I think the power of the people and civilization is totally unknowable until we are all working from a level playing field and everyone has the same chances. And that’s just not the case right now. Plenty of people would like to think otherwise, but it is just not the case.