Stacy Conrad Named President of Women in the Channel, Hopes to Leverage Her Long Channel Career
Stacy Conrad’s first tenure at at her current company, Fusion, was 13 years ago, when she started its hosted channel program. After five years at Fusion, she moved to the master agency Microcorp. But three years into her time at Microcorp, Conrad got an offer from Fusion she couldn’t refuse that sent her back to the company. She’s been back leading Fusion’s channel group for the last five years–and the difference between her first and second time around says a lot about the evolution of the channel over the last decade.
Channel Futures sat down with Conrad to talk about how she hopes to use that experience to inform her efforts with Women in the Channel during her two-year tenure as president.
How did Women in the Channel come to your attention? What have you been doing since you joined?
I was in the bar the night that the concept of WiC got started. [There were] four of us having that conversation at a channel partners conference in Vegas, and it seemed like we were the only women in the room…The moment the organization started and they had their first event, I was in. I want to see what I can do.
For the first year or so I just went to a couple of events, sort of getting a little bit engaged. And then I was asked to help chair the education committee. I did that for a year or two, and that led me to the board. In my time on the board, I saw so many women we could touch and so much more we could do and so many people who don’t know what we’re about. When the option came up and they were looking for a new president, my name was thrown in the hat. I would love to take the next two years and really see what we can do for our members, and what we can give back.
I tell everybody that there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get something in return. The idea is to give to those who are coming after us, but there is so much that comes from it. I’ve met amazing people, amazing women who will be lifelong friends. I’ve done a significant amount of business because most of us are in a revenue-generating position, and we don’t hide it. So it’s been very profitable for me at my last two jobs. And after my two years, I’ll step back and let somebody have that role and that fun as well.
How has your experience in the channel changed over the last decade?
I remember when the 16 boys went golfing in Cancun and I was the only woman not with them. At the time, I was young, and I’m not sure I really acknowledged what was going on. Instead, it was “Well, I don’t golf.” I thought maybe we should pick an activity we’d all like to do, but I put the onus on me: I should learn to golf if I want to be part of this experience. Now I know we don’t have to golf, I don’t need to do that in order to talk with my executive and my peers..People are starting to realize that you can’t keep segmenting if you’re trying to get a big group of people in order to have a great time–or to run a business.
I will tell you, and this is a personal story, a recruiter recently called me out of the blue (I wasn’t looking for a job, so be careful how you word that!) and said specifically they were looking for diversity. For a company actually to get a recruiter to specifically look for gender diversity, I thought that was fantastic. We’re actually starting to see that companies are realizing there’s a benefit to having a mix. I don’t think we’re seeing a parity in pay yet, but I do think we’re seeing a consciousness, where companies are looking at their boards. When I look at a group, I’m just researching a company. You look at the board executors or their C-suite. Is it all men? Are there different races, different genders, different age groups? We’re definitely seeing changes there, and it’s a good thing. I think it’s okay that we get some extra advantages for a little bit of time to make up for the disadvantages we’ve had for so long. We can play the women card right now, and that’s okay.
What are we seeing in terms of men’s reactions to this conversation, especially when you take into account the myriad organizations, initiatives, and associations devoted to diversity?
When I came back to Fusion, Russell, my president, had a lot more women in leadership [than my previous tenure]. He works well with women, and he appreciates what we bring to the table. I don’t feel he looks at ‘man’ or ‘woman’ when he makes a hire; he hires people he thinks would be a good fit.
But I’ve also had the boss where I couldn’t have a personal conversation because I wasn’t part of the boys’ club…Do we still see a lot of corporate ‘traditional’ men in the channel? Absolutely. Even in Women in the Channel, I get asked the question, “What do you guys do?” It’s not in a positive way, where they want to hear about your experience or your group. It’s more, “That doesn’t sound like a real thing to me.” I definitely still hear that from a lot of men.
But then we have [male executives] who have been supportive of us forever, and always have been acknowledging the progress that women are accomplishing. It’s almost like 50/50. I could name off a lot of men who’ve been supportive personally and professionally and monetarily, which helps as well. But there are still some who just don’t have the slightest idea why there are initiatives like Women in the Channel, or why women feel the need to work together, to explore new opportunities and develop personally.
What specific programs and goals do you really want to focus on in the next year?
There are two things that are big goals. It’s “what’s your why?” Why did you get involved? [We want to] understand the true reason as to why they want to become a member. Not just to put something on your resume, but really understand what each member gets from it. It’s not the same for everybody.
The other one of our big initiatives…is our local chapters initiative. To date, WiC does two big events per year at Channel Partners. It’s wonderful, but not everybody gets to go to Channel Partners. The idea behind Local Chapters is to have small, intimate gatherings across the country, so I can talk to people in Orlando, or Denver, or New Jersey. They’ll hopefully all have the opportunity to still have the conversations we have at the larger meetings. It might not be so formal or have some of the education, but the benefit of meeting women, helping to mentor or be mentored, making connections that can help you in business, all of that can happen in your backyard, and it doesn’t have to be a twice a year event. We’ve had our first couple of local chapter events, so it’s still very new. Really, we’re looking to go wild with that.