This Innovative Program for Women Could Help Them Rise Above Their Challenges
Ali Hogan Launched Rung for Women in St. Louis in 2021
Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Ali: I think my superpower is honestly that I’m a dreamer, and I just bring people into my dream world, and a lot of them stick.
Ali Hogan is the founder and board chair for an innovative nonprofit called Rung for Women that provides intensive training for women struggling with poverty, helping them to realize their full potential.
A granddaughter of the late Enterprise Holdings founder Jack Taylor, she bristles at the assumptions people make. “I struggle sometimes when people don’t know me and pass judgment based on where I came from,” Ali says.
She tries to emulate her grandfather, from whom she learned fundamental leadership principles. “He was the kind of guy that thought that good business was built on relationships. So you don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room, you don’t have to have the most money in the room if you’re trustworthy and friendly and people think you’re a nice guy.”
“We were raised with a man who was a dreamer and sort of leaped before he thought, which is exactly what I’m like,” she adds.
Ali received some more deliberate training from Jack as a teenager. She explains:
He started a foundation for us when I was 13. I'm the baby, and every year we would have to sit down with him at the dining room table and we would have to present him with an organization that we had chosen and. We would ask for a certain amount of money, but we had to do the research, we had to make the contact, we had to plead our case as to why we liked that organization. So starting at the age of 13, I was figuring out how to give back to the community, and that's where I honestly met some of the people that I still know who are in these organizations.
“We have that family motto. We see a need, and we fill it. That’s just what we do,” she says.
For eight years, Ali ran a nonprofit resale shop. “The whole idea behind it was to dress women for the job they wanted,” Ali says. During this time, she learned about the challenges women face and the resources available to them. She saw a need for a more comprehensive, collaborative program. Following the family motto, she decided to fill it.
The “members” of the program, a label used to signal inclusivity, face a range of challenges. “They are all experiencing some kind of stuckness,” she says. Elaborating, she adds:
When we did the research, we realized one of the biggest issues with women is all the barriers in their lives. And as women, we tend to fill up other people's cups before we fill up our own. So we're looking at a lot of single moms. We're looking at a lot of women that have just struggled their whole lives, working part-time jobs, fast food, jobs. They've never had benefits, they've never had promotions. Those just aren't the kind of jobs they're in.
Ali notes that the women need a range of services from therapy to financial training and counseling. Never having had a job with benefits, they need help understanding how to choose health insurance, why to contribute to a 401k, and so much more that many readers may take for granted.
The program’s core is a six-month coaching program that is personalized and helps each of the more than 100 women in the program to succeed. As part of the process, they help women define their optimal work situation, whether behind the desk, in a more social position or virtual. The program also includes access to a gym, a garden, a chef, a farmer and a health clinic to help members improve their diet and wellness.
“We realized that if you sort of put all these things together, you’re helping the mind, body and soul,” Ali says. “We’re just arming them with confidence.”
The first cohort of 120 women, selected from over 1,000 applicants, launched in March. Their six-month coaching session is complete, but they will remain in the program for up to 18 months. A second cohort of 110 women chosen from over 600 applicants started in the fall.
“Our employers tell us that people are most often hired for their qualifications, but they’re fired for their behavior,” Ali says. Therefore, a crucial part of the program is helping women with soft skills essential in any career. This training includes dressing properly, dealing with interoffice conflict and negotiating compensation.
Pulling all of this together, Ali has used her superpower. She dreams up a solution to a big problem and then invites others into her dream world to help her make it a reality. Let’s call it “dream sharing.”
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How You Can Develop Dream Sharing As a Superpower
Ali works from the heart. “I am probably not the most professional boss. I am very big on relationships. I like to keep things casual and comfortable, and I want to hear all of the good, bad and the ugly.”
Given her approach, sharing a dream or vision of the future requires collaboration. She admits that part of the model she learned from her grandfather is to hire people with the skills to execute the dream.
“I’m not going to be disingenuous, and I think because of that, I have found the most amazing people to work with me,” she says.
A relationship-focused management style, coupled with integrity, is key to her superpower.
She offers additional leadership advice. “You have to be able to listen to people.”
“You also have to ask questions, and you have to be curious because the greatest ideas come from those sort of silly moments in life,” she says. “I mean, the idea for the store came from a happy hour with my sister and my cousins over wine.”
“At any moment, a great idea can appear, and you just have to be open to it,” she continues. “And the only way you’re going to be open to it is to ask questions, talk about your experiences, find collaboration with people, see the similarities people have.”
In these five simple principles, I’ve summarized her approach.
Build relationships first.
Operate with integrity.
Be open to ideas.
Given the impact she’s having, these seem like a good place to start. If you do, you can make dream-sharing a superpower to enable you to do more good.