Karen Hough: Always Include Women

February 16, 2017

Karen Hough

Karen Hough filled us in on the importance hiring women.

Karen Hough is the founder and CEO of ImprovEdge, a corporate training and consulting company that brings the skills of improvisation—ability to think on your feet, arrive at solutions through the side door, and communicate in ways that bring people together—to the challenges of business.

What would you say is the most daring move you've made in your career?

Two choices on this one: 

  • I quit a very successful acting career (improv, film, TV, stage, radio) and went into network engineering!
  • I launched a company combining improv and corporate training before anyone had ever done that.

What did you learn from that experience?

  • If you are willing to work hard, take classes at night, and improvise during the day, you can do anything.
  • If you can see a dream in your head, you can probably get there. Many times, people told me my idea would never work, including fellow improvisers. There were many dark days when I didn’t know if we’d make it, but the conviction that our work was meaningful never left me. Now, ImprovEdge is in the top two percent of women-owned businesses in the U.S.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve gotten along the way?

There is no such thing as balance. You get to be everything in your life, just not on the same day. One day, you’ll be a great CEO and leader of your company, but not a great mom or spouse. On another day, you’ll be a fabulous mother and wife, but the business may not get much of your attention. Some days, you’ll exercise and be a great friend. On others, you’ll eat potato chips and forget to text back. As long as you give what’s most needed on that day, you’re doing well and can give another aspect of your life the attention it needs on another day.

If you could change one way women support other women on their path to success, what would it be?

Always include women, even when it’s tough. When you are hiring, be sure there are at least two women candidates. Don’t believe the employment agency that says there are no qualified options. When you are staffing a project, give the stretch assignment to a woman with promise, and have the man who usually manages the project act as her mentor. When you are deciding on a caterer or lawn care company at home, search until you find a woman-owned business to give you a quote. When you have a chance to say something to a young girl, tell her first that she is clever, smart, tough, strong, great at math, great at science, a leader. Leave “pretty” for the end.

Fill in the blank. People would be surprised to know that _______

I used to be a competition-level water skier!

Diane von Furstenberg

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