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’
“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.