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“As we’re looking for more people to be changemakers who take action, supporting our children is key to supporting our future” with Kristy Wallace

When you spend time with your children, you are able to demonstrate your values. There’s a lot going on in the world today, with some tough conversations about equality, the environment, violence, and more. Not being there with your children to help them navigate the world, and provide context, clarity, and support, is detrimental. I […]


When you spend time with your children, you are able to demonstrate your values. There’s a lot going on in the world today, with some tough conversations about equality, the environment, violence, and more. Not being there with your children to help them navigate the world, and provide context, clarity, and support, is detrimental. I think about this when we watch the news together and they have questions. What would happen if I couldn’t be there? Even when we’re out on a Saturday morning at the park, we might see something that leads to a meaningful conversation on values and society. Not spending time with children means a lack of support as they develop their own values, and a lack of understanding of the world and the place we have in it. As we’re looking for more people to be changemakers who take action, supporting our children is key to supporting our future.

I had the pleasure to interview Kristy Wallace, the CEO of Ellevate Network, and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission of changing the culture of business from the inside out by providing professional women with a supportive community to lean on and learn from. Kristy is host of the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business and is also a regular speaker and thought leader on Leadership, Diversity, Social Entrepreneurship, Networking, and Entrepreneurialism.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a small town in Cape May County, NJ. I’m a twin and growing up, my parents would call my sister Mother Teresa, and call me Leona Helmsley. My sister was always so kind and great with kids. She is now a school teacher. I was hard-headed and knew what I wanted (and wasn’t afraid to work hard for it). Whatever I did, I did it 100%.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I’m very passionate about the power of community to help others. I’ve always benefited from the communities I belonged to, be it Girl Scouts, school, sorority, or clubs. I spent a great deal of time thinking about what impact I wanted to have on the world and it came down to using my business and innovation skills to support women. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and was supported along the way. I wanted to pay that forward to others. Now, in addition to being the CEO of Ellevate Network, I’m an angel investor in women-led social enterprises, an advisor to the U.N. Women Global Innovation Coalition, I sit on nonprofit boards including the Girl Scouts of New York, I’m an advisor to women entrepreneurs, and I spend a good bit of time making connections to help women move forward.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

Every day is different but I do try to structure things where I can. Mornings are with my family as my husband and I work to get the kids ready for school or camp. In the office I block one day for internal meetings, one day for external calls and meetings and one day to work on strategic projects and initiatives. It isn’t always this clean cut but I try to great a division which focuses my energies and mindset. I travel a lot for work to speak at conferences, visit Ellevate’s local chapters or meet with our corporate partners. I spend 1–2 nights a week at networking events but prefer to be home with the kids. I find that time spent with family helps me to recharge.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

When you spend time with your children, you are able to demonstrate your values. There’s a lot going on in the world today, with some tough conversations about equality, the environment, violence, and more. Not being there with your children to help them navigate the world, and provide context, clarity, and support, is detrimental. I think about this when we watch the news together and they have questions. What would happen if I couldn’t be there? Even when we’re out on a Saturday morning at the park, we might see something that leads to a meaningful conversation on values and society. Not spending time with children means a lack of support as they develop their own values, and a lack of understanding of the world and the place we have in it. As we’re looking for more people to be changemakers who take action, supporting our children is key to supporting our future.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I’m very present when I’m home with my kids. We do movie nights where no phones are allowed. We cuddle and spend focused one on one time together each night. We read books every night before bed. We go on a lot of “adventures” every weekend if it is to the Farmer’s market at the park, to one of the kids sporting events, to a Yankees game, to the beach, or somewhere else. There is always somethings planned and it gives us a chance to experience life away from phones, TV, and games.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

When I think about my life, there are set time periods in each day or week that are important for spending with my children.

In the mornings, I might be ready to rush into the office, with a lot to think about and a lot to do, but taking the time to wake them up, cuddle, talk to them about the day ahead and have breakfast with them is the best start to my day. It keeps me grounded, centered, and lets all of us set out on the right foot for the day ahead.

In the evenings when I get home from work, time with my family is so meaningful to me. I’m usually stressed and tired, as are they, so I’ve found it to be great to just sit down and talk and have natural conversations about how our days went, about what we’re thinking about. Sometimes we’ll have family movie nights with no technology other than the TV and we’ll get snacks and it is always something everyone looks forward to. I’ll try to make dinner that lasts a few days so we don’t have to worry about spending time on that, so we can spend time together as a family and share in each other’s lives and experiences.

Weekends are so important: they’re always very busy with sports, activities, and trying to do all of that as a family and make it fun. When we go to my son’s baseball games, my daughters are cheering him on. They bring their toys, then we go to a park, playground, or activity that we can all engage in. We spend lots of quality time together, cheering each other on and sharing our interests.

For holidays, birthdays, and special occasions, we try not to get our kids too many toys: for us, it’s more about games we can play together as a family or experiences we can have as a family. We look to museum memberships, tickets to a play or concert, and doing things that provide more opportunities for us to share experiences together, instead of adding more stuff to the house. It gives us ample opportunity to have fun as a family and enjoy each other.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t have a definition for this, in part because I really believe in diversity in parenting. It’s about finding a style that works for you. There’s enough shame and blame in parenting and who does things right or wrong. As long as you give your child a safe, supportive, loving environment, there are many ways to show up as a good parent. What matters most is trying every day to be the best parent you can be.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

We foster their dreams as much as they can. My son, since the age of three, has wanted to be a major league baseball player, so I’m convinced he’ll do it. He may or may not one day be on a major league field, but that’s where he thinks he’s going, so I believe in that. As a professional with 20+ years of experience, I know that your dreams and goals may change. His may too, but I want him to always know that whatever he wants to do, I’m here to support him in making that happen, and I believe he can do it. It’s so important to help your children try to make connections between the people they see every day, walking down the street, in the media, in the news, and how they can see themselves in that person. More importantly, many high profile people today tend to fit a specific mold in terms of their diversity and identity, so that’s even more important for us as parents to talk to children about how they can break that mold and support them in believing that they can be anything they want to be.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

To me, success is happiness. I’m going to fail. I’m going to bomb at a meeting or miss a school play or not always be the person that I strive to be, but I work hard to be intentional about what my priorities are, what success looks like for me, and to live everyday from a place of happiness and gratitude. When you recognize the privilege we have to have these families and these careers, a lot of the failures can be seen through a different len. Each failure ultimately makes us stronger and more successful.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I learn a lot from the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Shaping the Face of Business, but I have to admit that is my podcast as well. Many of the people on the podcast are parents, and we are often talking about that. As a parent, it’s an identity that I associate with, and so I’ll ask questions through that lens. I have bonded with a number of people over parenting styles and experiences. More than anything, I’ll lean on my community: friends, neighbors, parents at school. There’s such power in community to give you advice, support, and connect to the tools and resources you need to succeed. Ensure you are always being lifted up by others, and lifting others up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. — Toni Morrison

It’s easy to get weighed down with insecurities, failure, day-to-day challenges we all face. Being able to let that go and move on will help you get where you need to go.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe in equality for all people, and particularly gender equality. When we see women equally represented in the workforce, that will have positive impacts on everything from business innovation to economic stability to policies that support families.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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