This post is part of our Social Enterprise Initiative 25th anniversary blog series, which highlights some of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have been a part of SEI throughout the years. In this post, Gayle Lemmon (MBA 2006) shares her insights on pursuing a social enterprise career. Gayle is a best-selling author and Partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Shield AI.
What motivated you to pursue a career path in the social sector? The private sector and the social sector are intertwined and I don’t think drawing a line between the two serves either one. I work now in tech in a private sector role alongside telling stories that will impact the social sector. One strengthens the other. And the question I always ask myself is, does the work you are doing make a difference? And where?
How would you describe the social impact you seek to have in the world? My work seeks to move people to pay attention to individuals, issues, organizations and companies that matter to making the world better. The stories I tell seek to change the way people see the role half the population plays in global security and stability. And expands the way we see our war stories and the power entrepreneurs possess to strengthen their communities. Women are the stars of their own stories. And suffocated opportunity is the enemy of global stability. Whether it is girls facing marriage at the age of 14 in South Asia or South Bronx. Young women battling ISIS as snipers and field commanders to shape their own future. Teenage young women who start businesses under the Taliban and provide lifelines to families across their neighborhood. Or American young women seeking to serve their nation to the utmost in war. All these stories focus on shifting the way we see talent and who we view as contributors to our shared security and prosperity. The way we see our narratives matters to what we judge as ‘serious’ and how we prioritize to what, where and whom we will dedicate our scarce attention and resources. Shaping that prioritization and helping people to see ALL the change makers and contributors around them is the focus of this work.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for social enterprise at HBS? The greatest opportunity social enterprise at HBS possesses is the ability to blur the line between social enterprise and enterprise. The private sector is at its best when it does more than maximize shareholder value, and instead focuses on maximizing global prosperity, security and stability. Otherwise we will experience uneven gains which lead to shrinking shared prosperity and this, eventually, will place at risk collective security and stability. Uncapping opportunity is the work of everyone who cares about the world in which their children and grandchildren will live.
What is one "aha" moment you've had related to SE? An entrepreneur in Detroit who creates organic cleaning solutions wrote to tell me that my book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, showed her that if those young women featured in the book could get through the Taliban, she could get through the global recession. To see people take this story and make it so deeply personal to their own lives showed me how important the work could be. Stories make the personal universal. And the private sector’s opportunity creates generational change. Fusing the two is about creating opportunity that leaves us all more secure.