Women at KIPP: How KIPP Supports Female Leaders

Susan Schaeffler, Executive Director, and Allison Fansler, President and Chief Operating Officer, KIPP DC

By Zoe Fenson, KIPP Foundation Writer

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re featuring the women who are leading the way throughout KIPP. In Part 3 of our Women at KIPP blog series (read Part 1 and Part 2), KIPP’s female executives discuss what KIPP is doing to support women in leadership roles.


What is KIPP doing that makes it a great place for female leaders?

KIPP is chock-full of talented female leaders. It is hard not to find the energy and inspiration that you need when you look at what is being accomplished by the incredible women around you. You tend to step up your own game when you feel like you’re working with the best of the best.
Allison Fansler, President and Chief Operating Officer, KIPP DC (pictured on the right above with Susan Schaeffler, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KIPP DC)


Most women want challenging, meaningful work – and what could be a more perfect blend of challenge and meaning than having any part in the work of KIPP?  Like every destination job in the country, the hard part of this formula is finding the flexibility that all women want as well.
Katherine Bradley, President, CityBridge Foundation and Board Member, KIPP Foundation


I think we can and should do more, but we’re doing a lot right. We work to find ways to highlight, connect, and celebrate women in leadership, whether it’s through things like Women in Leadership Breakfasts at retreats, the KIPP Six Awards, professional development sessions, or training regional and school leaders to attract and retain strong people. I think anything that makes KIPP a great place for female leaders actually makes us a great place for all leaders.
Lauren Vance, Chief Academic Officer, KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth Public Charter Schools


KIPP is, I think, among the best when it comes to training, developing, and retaining leaders. It does a great job of fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity—not just racial and ethnic diversity, but diversity of thought. Speaking from the KIPP LA point of view, we’re largely a female-led organization, and I think that sets a great example that women can lead, women can be successful, and women can rise to the challenge if given the opportunity.
Jelena Dobic, Chief Advancement Officer, KIPP LA


I see female leadership and am motivated by the leaders who have been with KIPP for so long. I receive coaching from another executive director and my relationship manager, who both serve as my lifelines. I feel like KIPP has increased the number of female leaders in the last couple of years, and is showing that it is possible to have a career path while having a family.
Kinnari Patel-Smyth, Executive Director, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools


KIPP values diversity—in race and gender. In a world dominated by primarily male leaders, it is exciting and empowering to work for an organization that places such a high value on diversity. While males still account for the majority of our leaders, there are still a great number of fantastic female leaders across the nation. They prove that you can be an amazing leader—and a woman.
Carissa Godwin, Chief Development Officer, KIPP Delta Public Schools


I think one of the things that makes KIPP a great place for women leaders is the Power to Lead pillar. As a woman in leadership, since I have the power to lead, I am empowered to create an organization that is welcoming for female leaders and a great place for everyone to work.
Tiffany Flowers, Executive Director, KIPP Charlotte


KIPP’s collaborative, results-oriented culture fosters and honors the engagement, profile, success and impact of women—recruiting, nurturing, supporting, and celebrating capable women, and creating meaningful opportunities for collaboration among them and with other aspiring leaders. When an organization both “talks the talk” and “walks the walk” for talented women—as does KIPP—it becomes both model and fertile ground for female leadership development.
Martha Karsh, Founder, Karsh Family Foundation and Board Member, KIPP Foundation


KIPP does a great job of connecting female leaders with female leaders in similar roles and situations. Many of us are in regions where we are the only women in our role. It is amazing to come together in our KIPP Team and Family and be surrounded by other women facing the same challenges. I also love the opportunity to hear and share in the regular successes of these women.
Kimberlee Sia, Executive Director, KIPP Colorado Public Charter Schools


KIPP creates a safe, loving place where women are given opportunities to lead, and our voices are heard. At a recent School Leader retreat, I was applauded publicly by KIPP’s co-founder, Dave Levin, for bringing my 6-year old daughter, who was off from school for the day, to the retreat sessions with me. She sat right next to me all morning!
Sehba Ali, Superintendent, KIPP Houston Public School


KIPP hires great female leaders that you want to be around, work with and learn from. – Judy Lin, Chief Operating Officer, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools


Next time: How to find and keep female leaders.


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