For Meredith Wallace, MissMafia is more than a networking group – it’s a passion. The Googler co-founded MissMafia little over a year ago, with a mission: “to connect and inspire more women through a common community.” In just a year, MissMafia has grown to include workshops, social events, and content. We spoke to Meredith about what motivated her to start MissMafia and why she continues to strive to grow their community.
Why did you start MissMafia?
I truly believe that our networks make us stronger, and not just in terms of support, but in terms of opportunities and learning. While at a previous role, I was surrounded by a mostly female leadership team, who were amazing and talented, yet when I went to digital events, there were mostly men and few women to be found attending the event, let alone women speaking at the events. We wanted to create a space both to recognize the women working in tech and digital, to support them, empower them, and also ultimately, to encourage more to join us. Likewise, while it is true, there is still a numbers gap in terms of women working in tech or digital (vs. men), we also find that these women are often not recognized in the first place – especially in traditionally ‘feminine’ spaces, such as fashion and beauty.
Have you found any difficulties with working with a female-only group?
I get asked this alot, and the answer is and will always be ‘no.’ Like all founders, we have our issues, and yet rarely do we ask men if they find it difficult working in an all-male environment. If anything, my co-founders have been a source of inspiration, my rock in difficult times, and my challengers – both in pushing me to think differently, and bigger, than I do on my own.
Is there a place for men in MissMafia?
Absolutely! In fact, we have had many men attend our past events. Men too can be mentors and allies, and there are many ways we (both men and women) can collectively support each other better.
Have you learnt anything from starting the group?
How empowering female collectivity can be. Every event leaves me beaming! I’m constantly inspired by the women who speak at our events and attend our events. I’m even more thrilled by the connections made and the incredible women we meet. This is what drives me to continually work to build our community.
Is there a woman who has greatly inspired you?
Yes, my mom. My mom graduated as the only female in her graduating class while in medical school in the U.S. She worked incredibly hard to get to where she is, and yet, in public, people still turn to my dad when someone says “Dr. Wallace.” There are many female doctors today. It should not be an assumption that the “doctor in the house” is a man. And while this may seem like a petty observation – it is so meaningful.
You started out with a degree in literature. How did you end up in digital?
I started working “in digital” when I was hired to do SEO and content marketing at a start-up in London. In true start-up form, I started my role having no idea what SEO was and was told to Google it and start a team. At the time, I think the assumption was digital is not really a space for someone with a writing background. The reality is that there are so many opportunities for those with writing backgrounds, whether it’s content writing, on-site SEO, social media, strategy, or even business development. In fact, I’d argue that storytelling is a skill that can take you anywhere, whether it’s PR or marketing, or even sales. As far as “getting in” to digital, it really was luck and opportunity – both of which I am very grateful for!
What brought you to Malaysia?
Opportunity sometimes takes the form of a very dubious “knock” via LinkedIn. A recruiter reached out to me to join Lion & Lion, a newly formed digital agency (at the time) based in KL. I was excited and accepted the role. Malaysia seemed like an exciting place to live, and on top of it, the start-up scene was growing, with Lazada, Zalora, and others launching in the same time period. KL seemed to be ‘the place’ to be in a growing region, and was a great base for travel in Asia.
As I understand, your past roles involved quite a bit of traveling. Any tips for our traveling readers?
Prioritize your comfort and take care of yourself. Traveling is hard on your body, even if just a trip to Singapore. No one likes waking up at 4am to catch an early morning flight! Make sure you really devote time for yourself to unwind. Don’t make your work your life – take weekend opportunities to explore the places you travel (they are more than boardrooms!) And lastly, don’t forget to do your expenses! Those ‘coffee chats’ add up!
Do you have any advice for other women hoping to break into the industry?
The reality is work can be tiring and terribly isolating. It is important for everyone, regardless of gender, to find mentors and networks of support that can support in times of difficulty and open doors in times of opportunity. This is especially true in fast-paced industries such as start-ups or digital.
What are some patterns you’ve noticed over the years about women at work, and things they could be doing better to advance their careers?
#1 – undervaluing themselves, especially in salary negotiations. I’ve noticed far too often women downplay their success or don’t give themselves enough credit. It’s okay to brag! Be your self and brag about it. It’s okay to be successful.
Bonus question: Malaysia is such a diverse melting pot of cultures, and we all love our food! If you had to describe yourself as a food dish, in Malaysia, what would it be?
Laksa. It’s different in every state, and every recipe is unique.