Jennifer McClanahan

Founder & CEO

Until 2010, my job was in law firm management. I managed HR, recruitment, finance, and building a profitable client portfolio. Along the way, I supported female attorneys and colleagues who became lifelong friends.

As I advanced in my positions, I noticed a few things. First, that every year I watched more women leave the practice, and leave law altogether. Second, that none of the business development conversations I sat in on included women. I noticed that men had mentors who cultivated their business savvy and helped them understand what it meant to not just practice law, but to build a practice. I noticed that women went without the same kind of guidance, opportunity, support, or encouragement, believing that working harder for longer hours might somehow change these disparities.

I knew then that my career would be in helping working women. I started my company, Food On Our Table, to help women manage their busy careers and families.

In 2013, three years into building Food On Our Table, I was hit by an enormous and difficult truth. Because I believed in my core that you can be a great mom and have a great career, I had been helping clients meal plan and manage their time in order to live out that belief. But my clients kept saying the same thing: they were stuck with few choices, little freedom, and zero control over when or how they showed up at work.

Their problem wasn’t balance. These were highly skilled professionals who already knew how to manage their time. They didn’t need tighter meal plans or schedules. What they needed was agency over their careers. Everything shifted with that realization.

In the midst of all this, my daughter was starting at a private, nearly all-white girls’ school in San Francisco. This was new territory for me. I was a Black mom of a Black girl who would be one of the only kids of color at her school.

More than ever, I felt responsible for showing up fully and authentically, with all of my difference and without apology. I resolved to be a presence on her campus, to build relationships, build community, and eventually impact the school from my seat on the school board. Not just for my daughter, but for myself too.

2013 was also the year after Trayvon Martin was murdered, the year before Michael Brown would be murdered, and the year that Black Lives Matter was founded. It was the year I attended the White Privilege Conference and decided that I needed to support Black people, to focus my work on women of color, to educate myself on race, white supremacy, culture, bias, and history. In 2014, I founded Leverage to Lead.

Using my experience in management, law administration, and HR, I began executive career coaching, working one-on-one with women to build careers with audacity instead of apprehension. In time, organizations began approaching me to help manage their “diversity crisis,” usually involving a Black woman. I knew that the work of transforming women’s careers would also require transforming entire workplace cultures.

Today, Leverage to Lead is a team of exceptional women coaches, educators, recruiters, HR specialists, and fierce advocates.

We help organizations build DEI statements, values, and commitments.

We design and facilitate group training, programs, and workshops to help people live those values and commitments.

We coach clients through career transitions, whether to new positions, new firms, or into their new role as CEO.

Helping women build agency, find freedom, create ambitious business plans, then launch their own companies is endlessly gratifying.

Really, ours is human work. We revitalize organizational ecosystems by digging into cultures, holding up a mirror to their values, reframing diversity and difference, and helping everyone manage and leverage difference.

We know that when you meet the needs of your most marginalized people, you meet the needs of all your people–their growth, creativity, productivity, health, and humanity. And we know that opportunity lies in people, not positions. In our corporate recruiting work, we serve as a center of connection and ongoing support for diverse talent and DEI-committed organizations.

Looking back, I see the beginnings of Leverage to Lead on Channing Court, the street in Fairfield, CA, where my parents raised me and my siblings. The story of my career began long before my first job. It began with neighbors from England, Pakistan, Japan, Mexico, and Guam. We roamed each others’ houses and mingled with the neighborhood’s immense diversity of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. This was where I learned to swim, savor international foods, distinguish multiple languages, and navigate all these differences with confidence, appreciation, humility, and awe.

After living in many cities across the U.S. as the daughter of an Air Force Master Sergeant, student, and professional, I’m currently based in Marin County, California, where I live with my husband, my daughter, and our dog.