An Interview with Dawn Lively, FullStack's COO and Co-Founder

In March, we are celebrating Women’s history month and want to take this time to reflect on how we can continue to increase gender equality in leadership. For this purpose, we sat down with FullStack’s COO and Co-Founder, Dawn Lively, to hear about her experience as a female leader in business throughout her career.

Dawn recently attended the Indy Chamber’s Women In Business retreat and said that it was wonderful to talk to other female leaders who are making strides in the business world. Doing this interview following this retreat has Dawn in the right mindset and a fresh perspective on what diversity and inclusion means to her.

Here are a few questions we asked Dawn about her experiences:

Q: What are some challenges you have faced as a female leader throughout your career?

A: When I was in my mid-twenties, I was working as an HR professional in an advisory capacity and when I would go into meet with clients, I was constantly judged for how young I was. Many managers believed that I had no experience and learned everything from the books because of my age. It felt like there was a constant microscope on my professionalism and I had to be very mindful about that professionalism. Another example is when I was working for a company and they would hire people from the outside and hire them without knowing how they perform, but if I was up for a position they would ‘try me out’ in that role before giving me that position. It felt like a safety for my own development, but I also wish that I had been given the chance to succeed from the beginning of each new role. As an owner now, my biggest challenge is doubting myself and my own capabilities and accepting that errors will occur.

Q: Why is diversity and inclusion personally important to you?

A: Studies have clearly shown that diverse organizations perform better so even if I did not have an emotional tie, it just makes business sense. For me, I learn so much from other people so it is really important for me to surround myself with diverse opinions and backgrounds because I don’t believe that I know everything. My newest passion as it relates to diversity and inclusion is people with disabilities. I just want to be aware of diversity and inclusion in all senses of the words and create a better working environment for loved ones and colleagues.

Q: What advice do you have for young women going into industries where leadership is male-dominated?

A: Try not to be intimidated in any way, shape or form, and that is really true of any male or female leader. Studies show that if women look at a job description and feel as if they do not meet all the criteria, they won’t apply for the job, while men are more likely to apply for something they are not 100% qualified for. So it’s important to not underestimate yourself and your abilities. It is also important to learn the difference between being assertive and aggressive. Traditionally women have been put into the category of aggression so there is a fine art of learning about yourself and your communication style.

We are grateful for Dawn’s leadership at FullStack and her passion for diversity and inclusion, which shapes the ethos of our company and our decisions on a daily basis.

Gracen Perdue
Interview with Gracen Perdue

In continuation of our theme of diversity and inclusion, we sat down with the newest member of the FullStack Team, Gracen Perdue, to talk about her experiences as a woman in a male-majority business major at a local university.  Her being a minority woman is not unique to her school, but a trend across business schools nationwide. Gracen strongly believes that advocating for gender equality in the workplace will allow more young women like her to feel comfortable pursuing male-majority majors, careers, and leadership roles.

Here are a few questions we asked Gracen about her experiences thus far:

Q: What is it like for you as a woman, in the present, to be in the more male-dominated business major?

A: At a scholarship event for business majors, I walked into the room and the first thing I noticed was the number of men that would be my peers. It can be extremely intimidating to walk into a room and recognize that you are the minority. I feel as if I must always work harder than my male counterparts to prove that I do have valuable skills to offer to any project.

Q: What barriers do you face currently as a woman, and what barriers do you expect in the future in business?

A: One barrier that I think is being talked a lot about right now is the language that is used to describe women. With the release of the new Nike Ad, this topic is being discussed more. I personally have experienced this fear of language in group work. In one group project, I was the CEO of my group and I feared to be assertive or ask my teammates to help out more in fear of being called crazy or controlling. Many times, women are called demeaning names for behaviors for which men are praised.

Q:  With what you know about gender inequality in leadership in business nationwide, how does this shape your approach to your future career?

A: As a woman with big goals, I think that I have become extremely focused on my academic career and accomplishing my goals due to gender inequality in leadership. I understand just how hard it is for a woman to move through the ranks of a company and I know that I must work just as hard or harder than my male counterparts. When I look at specific companies and see that a woman sits on an executive board, I have a little bit of hope that I too can someday reach that level of leadership.

We are thankful for Gracen, what she brings to our team, and hope that with greater awareness and efforts toward gender equality in business leadership, the landscape will be different for her when she graduates and enters fully into the workforce.  What is your company doing today to change the employee experience for the better for young women like Gracen? Please let us know in the comments.

Gracen Perdue
Why I'm Passionate about Diversity & Inclusion

We opened up our themes for 2019 with a big topic that cannot be covered in a month, so we’ve decided to extend diversity and inclusion for another month into March, which just so happens to be Women’s History Month!

We have some exciting stories upcoming of incredible people of color and amazing women who are doing great things in business in Indiana. Before we publish these, I (Daniel Fuller, VP Business Development) want to tell you the personal why behind my passion for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and all environments for that matter. As Julie Kratz mentioned in our last post, I have had to embrace a personal reason to get involved in the conversation, and mine has been watching the experience of my wife who is a gifted leader, as well as other women and minority leaders I have coached or worked alongside. For each of them, their experiences as leaders have been much more challenging than my experience as a white male leader. In my career, I have coached female leaders who were called divisive by their male superiors for speaking up for their teams, challenging their superiors, and not staying silent and submissive as was their company’s unspoken cultural expectation for women. I have also coached and supported African-American and Latino leaders who endured unconscious bias and overt racism from their white leaders and colleagues.

THIS IS NOT OKAY! I want to be a part of changing this reality. Until recently, I have focused my energies in more quiet and covert efforts against these oppressive forces of our culture and companies that keep people from leading in the way they are gifted and skilled to lead. Then in February, I received challenges from Julie Kratz from Pivot Point and Kristen Cooper from The Startup Ladies, to speak and write more boldly on this topic as an ally, and I accepted their challenges! Julie and Kristen’s work challenges me to listen to and learn from the amazing women and people of color who are leading in the Indiana business community, and tell their stories. As I lead FullStack on this forum, it is my intention to do this well and be open to ongoing feedback of how I can do it better for the sake of diversity, inclusion, and gender equality.

Daniel Fuller
A Diversity and Inclusion Conversation with Expert Julie Kratz

For our February theme of diversity and inclusion, we sat down with an expert, Julie Kratz, to learn why she started Pivot Point and why the gender equality in leadership conversation is significant for diversity and inclusion. Julie founded Pivot Point with the vision of changing the world in which her five year old daughter, Jane, will eventually be working.

Julie explains that while many organizations have been championing change in gender equality, unfortunately there are fewer female CEOs at the beginning of 2019 than at this time last year. The research still shows that gender equality will not happen until 2080 and there has been very little positive change since this issue first came into focus.

Julie’s company, Pivot Point, provides tangible strategies, tools, and ideas for women and men to partner together for gender equality and to build winning career game plans.  Julie is a sought after speaker, coach, and consultant to support and empower companies to build and grow cultures of gender equality.  

Here are a few questions we asked Julie about diversity and inclusion:

Q: Why is diversity and inclusion so important to companies?

A: There is so much data that positively correlates that with diversity, you have better behavior and better financial returns. In order for this to be important for companies or people to take action, they have to connect a personal reason of importance. In my work with male allies, they have a daughter, a wife, or mother who they care about. You have to have a personal reason behind it or behavior won’t change.

Q: What are specific barriers to diversity and inclusion you encounter?

A: The perception that is not a problem - which is why it is still being talked about. Many organizations are unwilling to admit that is a problem and there is a lot of blame shifting that happens. The second issue is that we are accepting slow change and the lack of willingness to change more quickly. There is complacency surrounding the issue and are unsure what to do to solve this issue.

Q: What are some practical tips for encouraging diversity and inclusion within the workplace?

A: It is as easy as getting to know someone different from you. Not just someone that visibly looks different, but it could be someone with a different background.  We learn a lot more from people think differently than us. Regardless of your role within an organization, challenge your organization to support diversity and inclusion. Many companies have the resources to support diversity, but do not have the goals or roadmap needed. Finally, speak up for those who are underrepresented in your organization. We all have different pockets of privilege and it is important to encourage and amplify the voices of people who are underrepresented.

For more information about Julie, Pivot Point, resources she’s created on the topic, and her book “One”  In the following video, Julie offers ideas for how you and your company can take the first steps toward engaging this conversation.

Gracen Perdue
February Theme: Diversity and Inclusion

Now that 2019 is underway, our team has decided to choose a monthly theme that relates to important topics within HR, especially for emerging technology companies. In honor of Black History Month, our first theme is diversity and inclusion. At FullStack, we support and empower our client companies to follow HR best practices regarding diversity, inclusion, and discrimination. That said, companies that are truly diverse in all senses of the word are definitely the minority in business, especially technology companies according to recent research (Winning 2018). On a positive note, McKinsey’s research (2015) shows that companies who have diversity, both in their leadership teams and employee population, have higher financial returns. We will be sharing some of this research and other thought leadership pieces through our social media channels in February, along with some stories of great people and companies in Indiana who are doing great work in this space.

We hope to not only shed light on this topic, introduce you to some great thought leaders and companies in this space, but also share practical tips for how you can take next steps toward growing diversity within your company. We believe that emerging companies who make this a priority are not only going to be more successful, but also have stronger, healthier, and more creative company cultures.


McKinsey & Co., 2015: “Why Diversity Matters.”

Winning, Lisa, 2018. “”

Daniel Fuller