Blonde, Brainy & Beautiful At Stanford GSB

Stanford MBA Anna Frances Wood has launched Brains Over Blonde

You could easily imagine Anna Frances Wood on the cover of Vogue or W. After all, she’s tall and slender, with long, flowing blonde hair and a pearly white smile that can light up a room.

But Wood says her looks also comes with a drawback: People either assume she had been successful at Google and as an MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business because she’s attractive, or they assume she can’t possibly be as smart as she is beautiful.

“I got my dream job but I lost myself along the way because I frequently felt I had to choose between success and respect and power and my own feminity,” she says. “I saw first hand how my feminist characteristics were seen as weaknesses.

‘EMOTIONS ARE SEEN AS FRAGILITY. FEMINISM IS SEEN AS AGGRESSIVE. BULLSHIT’

Brains Over Blonde Founder Anna Frances Wood

“I wasn’t going to give up my femininity. For far too long, female power has been misunderstood and misrepresented. Emotions are seen as fragility. Feminism is seen as overly aggressive, and beauty and style are seen as vanity. That is bullshit. I am on a mission to prove that as women our femininity is part of what makes us powerful.”

Enter Brains Over Blonde, a community-based platform on the Internet, with written and video content and a platform for private 1:1 coaching for other women. Wood, 27, now based in Santa Monica, CA, hopes her venture will offer inspiration and tools to, in her words, “inspire women to do it all – to achieve their dreams with their feminine power not in spite of it.”

Or, as Wood proclaims in an accompanying video for her launch (see below), the new website was created “to celebrate every part of a woman, from her boobs to her bliss because every part of a woman is what makes her powerful.” The upshot: She dispenses as much advice about style, fashion and beauty, including how to master wearing high-waist clothes, to female ambition and careers, including how to say no without being an asshole. And she isn’t afraid to get upfront and personal, even candidly discussing why she had breast reduction surgery when she turned 18.

‘FEMALE BEAUTY IS A STIGMA THAT HAS TO CHANGE’

The idea for her venture really began to click in the MBA program at Stanford. Wood got into the most selective MBA program in the world after a four-year stint at Google where she grew and managed $450 million in business as a strategic account manager. She landed her job at the tech giant straight from her undergraduate years at UC-Berkeley where Wood picked up a degree in organizations and leadership in 2011. It was a custom designed major, combining Business, Sociology, and Peace and Conflict Studies. Among other things, Wood penned a 70-page Honors thesis on “making diversity in the workplace a strategic advantage.”

But her desire to do a startup was always there. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she tells Poets&Quants. “I grew up in Palo Alto and my dad is a VC (and now a lecturer at the GSB).. I did a lot of reflecting my second year and took every entrepreneurship class I could take. Originally I thought it would be something I pursued on the side, but I got so much positive feedback that I almost couldn’t do it.”

Wood, who interned at The League, the upscale dating service founded by Stanford MBA alum Amanda Bradford, says that many of her professors and classmates liked the idea and viewed it as a way to empower women. “My fiancée has been immensely supportive,” says Wood, who is engaged to a first-year MBA at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. “I have had amazing support from my professors and friends. My male friends think this is amazing and that I should change the audience to target men.”

TAKING A GSB CLASS CO-TAUGHT BY SUPERMODEL TYRA BANKS WAS INSPIRING

But ultimately it’s young women not unlike herself who she is hoping to reach with Brains Over Blonde. “Attractiveness is a double-edged sword,” Wood believes. “Either you are beautiful or not beautiful enough. I was judged a lot. My capabilities were underestimated or credited to other things like my looks and I thought that was very unfair. That has become a societal norm.

“Even in business school we touched on the characteristics that make up a good leader. A lot of them are stereotypically male. I tried on these characteristics and they didn’t always fit. I learned that I am a much better leader when I am myself. I don’t think women should have to adapt to societal definitions of leadership or success.”

Wood began formulating the idea for what she wanted to do in January and February and then started building the site toward the end of April and early May. It helped that she got to take a novel spring elective course co-taught at Stanford by supermodel Tyra Banks and GSB professor Allison Kluger. Entitled “Project You: Building & Extending Your Personal Brand,” the course was both inspirational and reaffirming.

  • Urko U.S. Deplorable ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I don’t usually post on these things, but as Anna’s classmate I want to clarify that her dad lectures, but isn’t a professor as you say.

    >> WHO said?

    He’s also newer so you can’t claim that’s why she got in. Anna’s one of the best.

    >> WHO claimed?

    Sorry, you’ll have to find another excuse for why you weren’t admitted.

    >> WHO found?

    Sorry for the reality. Could not be helped. Good luck.

  • Gsb17

    I don’t usually post on these things, but as Anna’s classmate I want to clarify that her dad lectures, but isn’t a professor as you say. He’s also newer so you can’t claim that’s why she got in. Anna’s one of the best. Sorry, you’ll have to find another excuse for why you weren’t admitted.

  • Zorost_Risen

    Article implies that somehow its men who hate her for being beautiful. But come on, we all know its other women that were doing the hating.

  • Rando

    haha you just added that into the article–that was definitely not there when the article was posted and when I commented. Isn’t it best practice to make an editor’s note whenever an edit is made to a published article?

  • Urko U.S. Deplorable ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    It was a pleasure, providing your readers, with the URL.

  • JohnAByrne

    The story does note that her father is a lecturer at the GSB.

  • Urko U.S. Deplorable ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Her father’s name is Donald Wood. P&Q holds Web links for “approval.”

  • Concerned

    What more is there to “mastering wearing high-waist clothes” than fastening your pants?

  • halo

    Loud mouths are the way they are because they lack any true power to do anything, so they scream and yell nonsense at anyone who’s willing to listen.
    I’m only worried about the ones who stay behind the scenes, look at problems as opportunities, see opportunities everywhere they look, and have the audacity to capitalize on those said opportunities. They’re never loud mouths. And they sure as shit don’t pretend to be victims.

  • FeedingTheTroll

    You’re right. We don’t have “a right” to be heard. You can ignore the “loud mouths” but just be prepared to lose some market share and i don’t know, maybe even your job as CEO.

  • Anna

    Hi John,

    I’d like to start by acknowledging there is a problem facing a lot of women in power in male-dominated industries. A lot of the men can’t see the woman as the boss. I imagine someone like Mary barra who leads an auto giant can give us her very valuable insights into this as well.

    However, your article in unsettling because this person does have a lot of privilege which got her to where she is. Has she faced condescension as a woman? Probably. But saying it’s because she is “beautiful” which is a very subjective thing makes it seem like only people who look like her face that problem. It’s almost marginalizing other women who face similar challenges who aren’t blonde.

    Secondly, her being female may not be the only reason she’s getting a lot of hate. A young white male whose father teaches at GSB and is a VC will probably be thought of to have had everything “handed” to him as well. By not acknowledging that and just glossing over it, you’re ignoring that dynamic.

    Does this mean it’s ok she’s been treated the way she has been? No. But the article doesn’t do a great job of highlighting the greater issue either.

  • WTF

    The first woman I showed this to started making vomiting noises and said it was the worst things she’s ever seen.

  • WTF

    John, why doesn’t the article say something substantive?

  • Truth

    So many have already said so much. I most agree with RUKidding?. Not much else needed to be added to his/her comments.

  • OG

    Yeah, no.

  • RUkidding?

    No, she’s not. And neither are you. This entire article is based on a logical fallacy. That somehow a person who was born intelligent, attractive, white, and grew up in one of the nicest parts of the country, plus into a family with substantial top-1% wealth, and goes to one of the top business schools in the world–*where her VC father is also a professor, no less*–is somehow a “victim.” Just an incredibly asinine, illogical, ignorant, and faux-elitist assertion that doesn’t stand up to one ounce of critical thinking or pragmatism.

    Likewise, your only “proof,” with which you go on in your comment here, is the numerous people calling out your nonsense. In other words, 1) You make statement with zero evidence. 2) People call you out for your manufactured “victim” allegations that have no basis in reality. 3) You “proved” said allegations simply because people dismantled your completely illogical non sequitur. Sweet argument, bud!

  • hmm

    So all of a sudden too much privilege (beauty, rich, daughter of a well-networked GSB professor and Venture Capitalist) is bad? Uhm, I’ll take her “problems” any day.

  • Ryan

    “The second coming of Rosa Parks” LOL! Good one. I honestly find this article a bit disturbing as an African American women. Struggles of being attractive? Umm ok?!?! Try being a black women in this country, then maybe you can talk! Nice try

  • You are adding nothing to this conversation. Why not try to say something substantive?

  • Truth

    This article was ridiculous. What a joke. This site is struggling, and it deletes comments. Got to censor the truth.

  • WTF

    This article is terrible. This site is becoming a huge joke. Multiple articles on spoiled advantaged people who get into GSB being victims. Insane.

  • Rando

    lmao i thought you were kidding… but you’re right. I love how Anna/John mentions that her father is a VC but conveniently leaves out that he’s also a professor at the GSB, probably because it goes against the narrative being painted that Anna earned her way through and overcame so much adversity due to her gender and appearance. The self-aggrandizement in this article is suffocating and, oddly, amusing.

  • Stephen

    The author wrote an attention grabbing headline, but this website has nothing to do with beauty. Men discredit and downplay women’s accomplishments, and take away their power. These comments only underscore her point.

  • Name

    But your dad is a professor at GSB 🤔

  • BSG

    She’s not even attractive though.

    Being attractive is not a problem for her. She got it completely wrong.

  • Alex

    Ohhhhh, you’re one of THOSE internet trolls? Okay, little man, have fun playing 5-on-1 and hiding behind your computer screen!

  • halo

    I’d rather chop my balls off than attend one of those pity parties. I wonder why all feminists are so damn angry?

  • Steve

    haha this is what happens when identity politics run amok: everyone, including extremely privileged people like Anna, scream victim status. What an absurd article. If I interviewed someone like this at my unicorn, I would 100% reject them based on their entitlement and victim mentality; this has nothing to do with gender or appearance, just simple entitlement. I will be matriculating to H/S, and this is exactly the type of person I feared would be in my class.

    “Female beauty is a stigma that has to change.” haha, sorry, what? Can she provide hard data to substantiate this claim? Citing her own personal experience is not sufficient as personal experience is inherently biased. She claims “I was judged a lot. My capabilities were underestimated or credited to other things like my looks and I thought that was very unfair.” How do we know people were actually judging her and it wasn’t in her head? And if they were, how does she know she was being judging based on her looks and not on some other variable, like poor performance or poor attitude? How do we know her capabilities were actually underestimated and it wasn’t that she was entitled/held inflated expectations? Honestly, I am totally judging Anna Frances Wood, and it has nothing to do with her gender or appearance; I just don’t think she’s very bright, frankly. If she’s going to make such an outlandish claim, presumably based on her insecurities, she needs to back it up with facts. Feelings are not facts.

  • Alex

    Have you ever attended one those conferences? Women share a lot of the same struggles in the workplace and it means the problems are real and widespread. Women at those conferences ARE there to better themselves and empower one another. Do something more constructive with your time than attempting to mansplain on the internet. Constructive criticism is one thing, but blatant negativity is another. BYE!

  • halo

    Except your premise for all the other articles wasn’t: “she is a hot blonde, whose father runs a VC, she lives in the most desired place on planet, got into the best business school in the world but hey, she’s at disadvantage”.

    Your original premise in this article is sensationalist and full of logical fallacies. You knew exactly by crafting the piece the way you did it would cause a debate and create more clicks. Which is OK, you’re a businessman. But, let’s top pretending Anna Wood is a reincarnation of Rosa Parks.

  • halo

    Stop going to those conference, and get out of the echo chamber. Nobody ever got better by surrounding themselves with people who will tell them everything they want to hear.

  • Elizabeth

    I can absolutely relate to this. Her message echoes many discussions I’ve heard at various women centered conferences. There are so many challenges we face as we try to break the glass ceiling and many of us often feel as if we need to act tough and demonstrate more traditionally masculine qualities – abrasiveness even – to be heard or taken seriously.

  • Jordan

    Lol. Haters gonna hate

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks everyone for weighing in with your perspectives. I have to say, however, that Anna is proving all of us right: Being an attractive woman can be a disadvantage at times. Just look at the reaction some of you are having to this article, one of many we have done on MBAs launching their own businesses.

  • halo

    So? Who cares? Except for overbearing, loud mouths like yourself who see “patriarchy” at every corner? You don’t like it? Start your own company and “lead” as you wish. Her, you, or anyone else for that matter have as much right to tell someone else what to do with their private property (one’s business) as I do telling you who to date. You don’t have a “right” to be heard and accepted just because you have a “different” view of what business should be.

  • Steph

    It’s painfully obvious that the other comments written on this article are posted my men. If you look at the website she’s clearly focusing on the dichotomy between leadership and FEMININITY (not beauty). This article does overly emphasize the “beauty” piece… but it doesn’t look like that’s her focus.

    These comments literally prove the problem she’s highlighting… that society (ruled by the patriarchy) has certain views of what a business is, what a leader is, what success is. And they put down any woman that tries to break it.

  • Danny

    What’s fascinating about this article is it actually proves the opposite point it’s trying to make by writing it. attractive people are ADVANTAGED in society, not disadvantaged. EVERY scientific study out there shows this. If this girl wasn’t attractive and if she was ordinary looking, there never would have been an article here written about her. So by being attractive, she’s advantaged yet again by an article talking about her “disadvantage”. It’s sad actually, but someone like John should know better than to perpetuate society’s biases. It’s also one of the reasons why the advantages of people of privilege are generally perpetuated over time, many times unbeknownst to those who are perpetuating them.

  • RUKidding?

    What an absolutely ridiculous article. So we are supposed to treat this person as a “victim”?? Because she’s a woman and being beautiful is a “stigma”? According to who?? So ugly and dumb people are the “lucky” ones? What a joke. Not to mention the irony here as she is beyond privileged. And not just because she’s white. I mean she grew up in a privileged household in Silicon Valley and, as the story points out, her father is a VC. Translation: rich and spoiled AF growing up.

    Likewise, she interned at “The League,” which is an elitist dating app that filters people out if they are deemed “not good enough” based on looks, education, and income. The sheer elitist, holier than thou attitude is nauseating. But, um, yeah, “sorry” you had it so “rough” and are a “victim” because you’re a rich, white female who grew up in a privileged household and are in the most selective MBA program, for which you probably pay nothing. Must be soooooo tough!! How do you deal?!

    Most ironic, disgusting, elitist, idiotic, tone-deaf article I’ve ever read on this site.

  • Randy

    Not sure what I think about this article John, certainly impressive that this woman has taken advantage of all of her opportunities to get into GSB and start up her own company, but not sure the stigma of her good looks she had to live with is something worth highlighting given many of the life struggles other face. Know that you highlight others as well, but aside from her good looks what’s your main point here? that she’s starting a company like almost everyone else at GSB? And Tyra Banks is the inspiration? This is someone whose father is a VC (stated in article) and interned at DFJ (per linkedin) – doesn’t mean she’s not super bright and worked extremely hard, but she was likely given almost every life advantage known to mankind…by your marketing piece here you’re giving her even more advantages relative to others.