The first time I learned about Mim Senft was listening to her on a podcast. She was being interviewed by Dr. James Kelley, who hosts a show called The Brave Endurance, where he showcases a range of health and wellbeing experts. I was prepping for my interview with him, and Mim’s bio sounded interesting so I started listening.  At one point during her talk, I remember stopping in my tracks on a street in New York City and shouting, “Right on!”  What really caught my attention was Mim’s authority on the subject of health and her ability to tie employee wellbeing to a strong return on investment. She is a firm believer in the business case for employee health and knows companies pay attention when there is a compelling business need.  Probably a good lesson she learned when she was Wellness Director for Optum at Goldman Sachs.

I have to say that spending time with Mim Senft and other wellness experts has really helped shape my thinking about the importance of breaking down “industry barriers” when it comes to employee health and performance.  Physical space (my expertise) is an important factor in shaping our health, but it is only piece of the solution.

I was thrilled to learn recently that Mim Senft and several others in the wellness and research community were creating a new nonprofit organization, Global Women for Wellbeing, in order to break some of these boundaries and focus on the specific role that women can play in leading in the health and wellness field. But I’ll let her tell you about it.

LS:  OK Mim, when you are at a cocktail party, what you tell people you do?

MS:  I’m a health and wellbeing strategist, integrator and advocate.

LS:  So, what is the origin story of Global Women for Wellbeing?

MS:  After attending many health and wellbeing conferences over the past few years, there have been quite a few discussions by women about women not having equal voice.  Many of the health prevention/wellness organizations are run by men.  A lot of the people at the front of the room doing the talking are men.  And the vast majority of them are terrific people that are advocates for women in our profession.  However, most of the people that attend these events are women.  Most of the people on the front lines of a wide variety of health and wellbeing professions are women (i.e., wellness directors, wellness coaches, social workers, nurses, public school teachers, etc.)  Women want to have equal representation and more opportunity to take on leadership roles.

We also know that a lot of the research that has been done related to health and wellbeing has traditionally been done with male participants.  It wasn’t until fairly recently that we found out than women have different symptoms then men when having a heart attack.  We react to stress, shift work, medications differently than men.  There needs to be more research focused on women’s health and wellbeing issues.  Unfortunately there is very little funding available.

This got a group of us thinking.  What if we could do something about this?

LS:  So specifically, how, where and when did the idea of creating this new nonprofit come about?

MS: It really started as a conversation at Wellness Underground in January 2016. A dynamic, young wellness leader, Rachel Druckenmiller, was asking why more women weren’t leading the profession, why there wasn’t a women’s wellness conference.  I had some preliminary conversations with Nancy Board and Deb Smolensky in February and March of this year and then in June a group of us were at the Sustainable & Health Initiative for a NetPostitive Enterprise (SHINE) event at Harvard and went out to dinner.  I shared what Deb, Nancy and I had been discussing and from there it really started to be something we wanted to do.  A group of dynamic, smart, passionate women said they want to be involved.  We knew we had enough support to start to put the pieces together to launch GW4W.

LS: What is the unique problem that GW4W is trying to solve?

MS:  Create better health and wellbeing in the world by giving women equal voice.  Professor Beer from Harvard’s MBA program shared his research at the SHINE event in June regarding leaders that are head, heart and hands focused.  The research shows that these unique leaders create better work cultures and are better at addressing both human sustainability issues and environmental sustainability issues.  If we want a better world, we need more of these leaders.  His research shows that women, in general, are better at this.  Since less than 5% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

We want to provide funding for the research and help women help themselves, their business and communities by cross-disciplinary mentoring, sharing success stories from women doing great work in health and wellbeing, and provide a place for women to support women at all socioeconomic levels.

LS:  What types of research projects will the group be exploring?

MS:  Great question!  We are open to all aspects of women’s health and wellbeing.  The research could be focused on healthy aging, the impact of stress on reproduction, social barriers to women being financially stable, cultural differences that need to be addressed.  Once we ready to award the research grant, we will have a call for proposals.  The proposals will be vetted by our scientific research team for two things:  quality of the research and market need.  After a thorough review, the top three projects will be shared with all the GW4W members and they will vote on which project or projects get funded.  It’s about everyone that’s a part of GW4W having a voice.

LS:  Who is on the leadership team?

MS:  Nancy Board and Deb Smolensky have worked with me over the past few months to get us ready to launch. We make up the core team with assistance from my terrific intern, David Gumpel.  In addition, our oversight and advisory board has been very helpful and inspirational in getting us off the ground.  Our leaders include Desiree Watson, Dr. Tausha Robertson, Dr. Meg Jordan, Mari Ryan, MBA, Professor Eileen McNeely, Barbara Fulmer, Jessica Grossmeier PhD, Jennifer Pitts PhD, Marybeth Pappas Baun and, of course, you!  We also have a young leaders group that we are putting together.  As of now they are Rachel Druckenmiller, Maria Behrens, Liana Bran, and Logan Van Meter.

LS: Who are the types of people most likely to benefit from being members of this group and are men allowed?

MS:  Any woman that cares about creating a world that is healthier and more sustainable.  Women who want to support research that can benefit their mothers, sisters, daughter, nieces, granddaughters, and friends. Women leaders that want to help the next generation of young women will have a chance to share their experiences and wisdom.  It’s a chance for them to support to the next generation of women and help them step into leadership positions.  Younger women who want access to female leaders from a variety of backgrounds to get expert mentoring.  Women who value sharing inspirational stories about themselves and other women that are creating better health and wellbeing in their businesses and communities.  Men can certainly become members.  We know there are a lot of men that see the need and are already supporting GW4W.  We are happy to have them stand with us and support our mission.

Mim Senft

LS:  I can’t believe you scored real estate in NYC already!  This must set some sort of record.

MS:  Everyone at GW4W is so excited to have been accepted into the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in New York City!   We are now part of the larger CSI family of companies and organizations all dedicated to a better world.  As a women’s organization we were invited to be one of the founding 40 for the women’s lab.  It will be a great place for us to collaborate and advocate for each other.  It’s all about doing more good together.

LS:  How can people learn more about GW4W and get engaged?  Is there a cost to be a member?

MS:  If you are in the Washington DC area on October 27, you can come to our inaugural event, though space is limited.  We suggest you register as soon as possible.  It will be a great way to network with some inspiring and innovative leaders, learn about GW4W, and we are really excited to have you be there as our featured speaker!

We will be launching our membership site in the next 60 days. The cost of membership will be kept low so that women at all socioeconomic levels can join.  As a member, you’ll be able to have access to as well as share inspirational stories with members, be invited to webinars with female leaders from a variety of backgrounds that are uniquely leading health and wellbeing, you’ll be invited to vote on what research projects will be funded, you will have early access to the first conference in 2018, you will also be invited to your local events before the general public, you will be able to mentor or be mentored.  Your membership means giving women around the world more voice.

In the meantime, people can go to EventBrite site and register for the event, make a donation to support the research and/or become a founding member.  Companies and organizations can also get involved.  For more information, you can email info@gw4w.org.  I’m also happy to personally answer questions.  Share your story.  Connect with amazing women.  Be inspired and supported.  Join us!