#PrivilegeTax Story: Stephanie J. Hull - EleVen by Venus Williams

#PrivilegeTax Story: Stephanie J. Hull

 Stephanie Hull

Stephanie J. Hull
President of Girls Inc.

Q. I believe you must constantly be in pursuit of your best self. How have you prioritized doing so over the past year with the world being in a state of constant chaos?

For me, it’s really important to find some time each day when I don’t allow the chaos to come in. Little things feed my soul, like playing the New York Times Spelling Bee, Pilates and Spinning, designing clothes, studying Chinese, and baking for my neighbors. Learning and creating keep me strong, and they help me maintain a sense of humor and a healthy perspective.

Q. Where did you first discover that women were paid less than men?

I’m not sure if everyone today realizes that the gap in pay between men and women was rooted in the assumption that women didn’t work outside the home and men were earning for a whole household. My first encounter with unequal pay was one of my earliest “real” jobs, when a group of us started at the same time and soon learned we had really different salaries. We asked about it and were told that those of us who weren’t the head of a household shouldn’t expect to earn what a man with a family would earn. As I recall the conversation, it was very straightforward—it didn’t even strike them as a controversial thing to say.

Q. Tell me about one woman in your life whose impact you admire most?

Everyone will say the same thing, but my mom really is the woman I admire most. I’ve always said she wasn’t a “cookie mom”—she bakes a lot more now than she did when I lived there, in fact. But she made sure I was pretty fearless as a girl: she always said I could do anything, and she has always been an incredibly determined person in her own right. She worked throughout her career to make education accessible and equitable for students in a city that was struggling with segregation and racial violence. She was no-nonsense and held all her students to the highest standards, believing in their potential but all too aware of the headwinds they were facing and the consequences for them if they lost their drive and focus. All the kids were terrified of her, and they admired me for being brave enough to be her daughter. 

Q. What one piece of advice would you give your 13 year old self?

From fifth to eighth grade I grew about three inches taller every year. My thirteen-year-old self also had braces with headgear and then when I got them off, I simultaneously wore two retainers. I was taller than everyone, including many teachers. I couldn’t pronounce my own name because of the metal in my mouth. And in those days, no one said anything to girls about being perfect just as they were, or being “enough.” So I’d go back and tell that girl—who was kind of a mess, if we’re honest—that she was perfect, and that she was enough.

Q. What’s your go-to resource recommendation for learning about business and/ or leadership?

I love podcasts and TED Talks that explore a new way of thinking, analyzing information, or making decisions. “People I (Mostly) Admire” is one of my newer favorite podcasts, because the interviewees aren’t monolithic—the people are intentionally chosen because they have ups and downs, strengths and challenges, and the complexity is interesting.

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