Interviews, North America

Beate Chelette – Growth Architect and Founder of The Women’s Code

Personally, I love to immerse myself in data; I understand it is the ‘heroin’ for businesses and will drive most solutions moving forward. I’ve always been a bit of tech junkie—particularly around repeatable processes and productivity.

Beate Chelette is the Growth Architect® and founder of The Women’s Code®, a professional development company specialized in guiding companies to an ROI through Balanced Leadership. She has been named one of ‘50 Must-Follow Woman Entrepreneurs’ by HuffPost.

A first-generation immigrant who found herself $135,000 in debt as a single parent, she bootstrapped her passion for photography into a highly-successful global business and eventually sold it to Bill Gates in a multimillion-dollar deal.

Beate supports organizations by developing and providing training, tools, and expertise to create and maintain a balanced, equal and inclusive work environment that fosters creativity and employee engagement.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

In my job – as a leadership and business development coach and consultant— I show women how to build satisfying careers. They learn how to create an Unapologetic Value Proposition and then use that to talk effectively about themselves—ready to pitch their ideas and their worth to anyone, anytime. I persuade them that women really are different from men (surprise, surprise!) and that we should leverage this to find our own unique path forward, using specific women leadership attributes.

Many of my clients work in technology companies, where—as we all know too well – the number of women in leadership is dismal. This is why I focus on STEM. Personally, I love to immerse myself in data; I understand it is the ‘heroin’ for businesses and will drive most solutions moving forward. I’ve always been a bit of tech junkie—particularly around repeatable processes and productivity.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I was still in Germany when an aptitude test recommended that I become a roofer – because I liked to be outside! I learned, early on, that the one-size-fits-all solutions would not work for me and I had to determine my own path. I began as a photographer in Munich, then became a photo editor for Elle Magazine. I moved to the United States for adventure and a ‘year abroad’ that has lasted 25 years! As an artist representative and a still photography producer, I worked with clients like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Wrangler and Levi’s. Eventually, I built a stock photography syndication that turned images into digital assets available for license in 97 countries. We had to develop our own technology platform because there were no asset management solutions yet available!

It didn’t take long to understand just how bad it is for women in the corporate world and I quit to found The Women’s Code. This is no ‘Cinderella’ story – I fought long and hard – and there were many times it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. And yet, I went from being $135,000 in debt to becoming a millionaire in only 18 months.

I sold that business to Bill Gates for millions of dollars. After the acquisition, I accepted their offer to join as a senior director for Global Entertainment.  It didn’t take long to understand just how bad it is for women in the corporate world and I quit to found The Women’s Code. This is no ‘Cinderella’ story – I fought long and hard – and there were many times it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. And yet, I went from being $135,000 in debt to becoming a millionaire in only 18 months.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I have seen this incredible evolution from the beginning. In my first job, we had no computers, no fax – nothing. We had a Telex in the hallway; you had to get permission to send an important message over the “ticker”. I remember the first fax machine and my reaction. “Wow – now that is a game changer!” My first computer was a DOS system, with those ridiculous conventions for file naming (hint – complete insanity). It was nearly impossible to figure out what was in which file.

Fast forward to today—look at the productivity tools that allow us to automate repeatable tasks across business and life. Today a single worker does the jobs of three people; it’s insane.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

We all need to know that, in the beginning of tech, women were 40% of that workforce.  It was only when men decided tech was the ‘way of the future’ that the systemic disappearance of women began. I know how smart women are and that we are just as capable as men, but we are always told that we are not. The solution? Women in tech need to learn to work together and support each other. Working within The Women’s Code is the way we get to where we want to go.

We all need to know that, in the beginning of tech, women were 40% of that workforce.  It was only when men decided tech was the ‘way of the future’ that the systemic disappearance of women began.

My first book, Happy Woman – Happy World explains this in detail. Though women say they support other women, most really do not. Sure, at entry level it all looks pretty equal, but it doesn’t at the top. That is why women compete with each other – fiercely. Why? They believe there are not enough leadership positions for women at the top. And, right now, that’s true.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women focused groups in the tech community?

I am at work on my second book and a TEDX talk about the ROI of Balanced Leadership to address these issues. First, you have to recognize that there is a systematic and structural problem within organizations. This is the Men’s Code and it punishes women for not being men. Despite the fact that women ensure the survival of our race, making us ultimately responsible for the future of the entire workforce, we are still penalized for our ability to have children. This requires nothing less than a world revolution as it is so stupid that it, literally, makes my blood boil. If I hear about another woman being demoted or put on ice for being pregnant, I’ll have words with that manager myself!

First, you have to recognize that there is a systematic and structural problem within organizations. This is the Men’s Code and it punishes women for not being men.

The solution needed is women coming together to define women leadership. I find it so ironic when I hear men in awe of another man who mastered empathy. Empathy is a female-centric attribute. No one gives a darn when women display empathy. It’s soooo emotional. But when a man does it, it’s incredible. Likewise, when a woman demonstrates excellence in male-centric attributes, we are all ‘amazed’.

I like to define what is perceived as male and what is perceived as female, then combine both on a Sliding Scale of Balanced Leadership. Only then are we both complete and at our most effective. Using women-focused groups within tech, we can define and explore the benefits of women leadership. Following that, we all need to educate others until it is understood and accepted as a given.  

Who are your tech influencers and why?

Honestly, I don’t have any. I am interested in many different things but am most curious about the impact of tech on people. Karla Lowentheil, who runs a podcast Unf@ck Your Brain, has given me insights regarding mental mindsets and why women are often so limited in our thinking.

What has been the greatest piece of advice you have received in your career so far?

My guiding principle for my entire career was first instilled in me by my father. I just never believe that I can’t do something. If I see others do something, I know it must be possible. If it is possible, then I will find a way to do it. Simple. And that’s what I’ve done.    

The second part of this is perseverance. Most people give up when it gets tough but to get to that juicy side, you are going to have to go through a lot of tough spots. Your choice—but I don’t give up. EVER.

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and why?

I’d invite Bill Gates to thank him for purchasing my business and changing my life. Marc Benioff would be great – he is the only male leader who figured out how to cash in on equality. He made a $6 million dollar investment in equal pay and doubled his revenue from $5.4 to $10.2 billion in three years. I’d want to discuss how he did it. Finally, I’d invite Jeff Bezos because I am curious about what drives him and how he survived all those early years of massive losses. For the record, I do not want to meet Elon Musk. He may be one of our greatest visionaries, currently, but I don’t do bad manners!

Beate Chelette is the Growth Architect® and founder of The Women’s Code®, a professional development company specialized in guiding companies to an ROI through Balanced Leadership. She has been named one of ‘50 Must-Follow Woman Entrepreneurs’ by HuffPost.

A first-generation immigrant who found herself $135,000 in debt as a single parent, she bootstrapped her passion for photography into a highly-successful global business and eventually sold it to Bill Gates in a multimillion-dollar deal.

Beate supports organizations by developing and providing training, tools, and expertise to create and maintain a balanced, equal and inclusive work environment that fosters creativity and employee engagement.

Meet Our Other Gals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *