Fran Hauser says this underrated trait is the secret to success in business
The week before Fran Hauser’s book, “The Myth of the Nice Girl”, came out in April 2018, the Mt. Kisco native was at the ‘women in business’ table at a bookstore, and surveyed the selections. “I almost had a heart attack,” she says, noting titles like Girl Boss and You Are a Badass. “I was looking at that table [thinking] ‘that’s where my book is going to go.’ It was such a different take, that for a second I got really worried.”
Hauser had noticed that the women she mentored throughout her corporate career didn’t always feel comfortable showing up as themselves. A desire to shift the narrative that women had to take on a tough persona to be successful in business had led her to write her book. “You don't have to choose between being nice and being strong,” she says, “these things can live side by side.” Hauser felt she was a stronger negotiator because she was so empathetic. “I was always asking the other person; what's important to you? What do you want to get out of this partnership?”
Hauser feared that her perspective on advancing in the workplace through empathy and compassion wouldn’t land among women, but land it did; her debut became a bestseller. “I think women were ready for this message,” Hauser said. Awarded Audible’s top business book of the year (2018), “The Myth of the Nice Girl” has been translated into six languages. Perhaps the most profound impact of publishing the book, however, has been the feedback Hauser has received from women all across the globe. “I hear from women all the time that it’s helping them,” she says. “When you're vulnerable with someone, that allows you to go deep and it's the same thing with your writing. It's the most vulnerable, the most rewarding, and the scariest. [Women] don't want to hear that everything's perfect.”
Hauser always longed to write a book and spent many of her early professional years in media, where she climbed the corporate ladder with an equally blended cocktail of compassion and strength. When her sons were three-years-old and eighteen months, Hauser felt the pull to make a change, desiring more flexibility in her work-to-home-life balance. “I decided that I wanted to create a professional life for myself where I had more say in terms of which projects I worked on, which people I worked with, and where I could really set my own hours,” Hauser recalls. At the time, Hauser was running digital at Time Inc, (overseeing digital business for PEOPLE, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and more), and frequently meeting with start-ups. Through her constant communication with founders, she learned that only 2% of venture capital funding goes to women. Stunned by this reality, she asked herself, ‘what can we do to change this?’
Investing in and advising female startups began as a side hustle and eventually led Hauser to leave the world’s largest magazine publisher when she was at the top of her game. Sharing the fear and vulnerability of making this change she says; “how scary is that? I could pick up the phone to call anybody and get a call back. And I was so worried that I was leaving that behind.” Hauser has since invested in over thirty women-founded companies, proving that a nice girl mentality can form long-term connections and that she could be the one to make a change by investing in women’s business ventures. This decision would ultimately allow Hauser the time to invest herself and satisfy a lifelong desire to write. Leaving the corporate world was “the best decision I made because I would never have had the bandwidth, capacity or the time to write my books," Hauser says.
Reading and writing played a consistent major role in Hauser’s life. “You could always find me with a book,” she says. “I was always sitting in my bedroom on the floor, back up against my bed, engrossed in a book.” Hauser’s latest publication, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career, was written in just six weeks during the pandemic. It is a guided workbook to “help you become unstuck so that you can thrive in your career and ultimately live the life you want and deserve,” Hauser says. She encourages women to complete the workbook in peer groups for accountability and support. Hauser herself has joined Zoom meetings with women who have completed the workbook. “You don’t need to go through your career journey alone,” she says.
Community building is critical to Hauser, and while she has made a global impact, she is most invested in local projects and communities. Hauser is currently an administrator for the Pound Ridge Working Moms Group, a Google group founded by Marla Dans. She joined in 2013 when Dans was seeking women to help run the rapidly growing community. Nearly 1,000 women from areas including Cross River and Stamford reach out to one another for support and amplification in their respective fields. On March 30, Hauser will facilitate a Pound Ridge Working Mom’s Group Happy Hour at Yellow Studio in Cross River, where fifty of the members will meet for the first time since before the pandemic.
In addition to investing and writing, Hauser is a regular speaker at women’s conferences and organizations. Public speaking, she shares, is an aspect of her career that required a great deal of coaching and practice. When she was in school, “I would make up excuses to get out of speaking in front of the class. I was so afraid, not just as a child, but also through the early part of my career if I had to get up and speak in front of people. As I grew in my career it was something that I had to figure out a way to make it work because I was a leader.” Hauser received coaching from actress and voice coach Casey Clark to support her in speaking on her book tour. “I’ve done over 200 talks in the last five years, it’s something I’ve become so much more comfortable with.”
Hauser’s most current local project is a collaboration with Mount Kisco-based special needs educator Judy Chinitz. Chinitz, the director of Mouth to Hand Therapy Center, was inspired to help her nonspeaking autistic son to communicate. After twenty-five years of being told that such communication was impossible, she discovered a method whereby nonspeakers point to letters on a laminated card or type on a keyboard to spell out words. Chinitz’s son and many other nonspeakers she taught to use this method began writing songs, poetry, and short stories, opening the floodgates to creativity among these young men who had limited means of communication before her support. Hauser is working with Chinitz to compile their works into a book.
“So much of what I do is connecting people to resources that can be helpful to them, whether it’s someone who is launching a career, a business, or a book,” Hauser says. “It’s getting them access to funding, to the right people.” For Chinitz, Hauser tapped into her network of illustrators, cover designers, and a copy editor to bring Chinitz’s book to life. “Spellbound: The Voices of the Silent,” will be out this April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, and 100% of the profits will fund scholarships, tutors, and communication equipment for nonspeaking autistic students in need.
Hauser has built her entire business around kindness, compassion, and vulnerability. Mentoring and advising women with years of corporate media expertise, connecting women through speaking engagements, and writing her books are just the highlights of a career that continues to amplify women’s voices both globally and locally. “I feel like I'm so happy about what I’ve been able to achieve in so many different parts of my career,” Hauser reflects. “I made it to the C-suite, I was running a big division, and I've invested in 30 female founders. I have this really nice portfolio, and I'm so proud of that work. But my books are my heart. My heart is in these books.”