“You don’t need permission to do something that will help you to find your purpose": US entrepreneur
By JOHORA NAWREEN
Global Business Journalism reporter
At age 32, Genevieve Collins has already been an online education executive and a congressional candidate. After gaining experience in business and politics rare for people her age, the Texas entrepreneur readily shares advice with young women contemplating their professional futures.
“You don’t need permission to do something that you believe will help you to find your purpose,” Collins, the 2020 Republican nominee for a U.S. House seat in Dallas, told Global Business Journalism students and alumni on Nov. 24.
Collins, who was narrowly defeated in Texas’ 32nd Congressional District by Democratic incumbent Colin Allred, told students not to waver in their ambitions because of the challenges they face either because of gender or age.
"When you are younger than every single person in your office, it's very challenging for them to take you seriously, even if you earned your right to be at the table,” she said. “It's necessary to be taken seriously.”
A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Southern Methodist University, Collins worked as senior vice president and head of corporate strategy at iStation, an e-learning platform used by students and educators, where she served as executive director from 2009 to 2016. Collins serves on the board of directors of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center and the Navy Seal Legacy Foundation.
During the Global Business Journalism Lecture Series event, Collins discussed the fractured state of American society and offered the Tsinghua University audience tips on being a successful entrepreneur. Sheshared a lesson she taught to her at an early age by her businessman father Richard: “Patience and persistence produce profits.”
But patience and persistence could not bring Collins victory in her 2020 congressional race. Running as an independent-minded conservative, she was defeated by 6 percentage points in a district where Republican President Donald Trump trailed Democrat Joe Biden by 11 points.
“We expected Trump to lose in Dallas,” she said. “We forecast that he’d lose by 6 points but he ended up losing by 11 points. If he had lost by 6 points then I’d be talking to you as a congresswoman-elect and not the loser.”
By SEWON LEE
Global Business Journalism reporter
Last summer, when Genevieve Collins told her family that she was going to run for office for the first time, everybody around the table was shocked. Her mom’s response: “What? Genny, you only run around the track. You’ve never run for anything in your life!”
Collins, 32, who narrowly lost a race for Congress in Texas this year, said that although she had never run for office, she could be an inspiring and different kind of candidate who could bring change to the Republican Party.
“I have never put my hand up to run for student body or anything,” said Collins, who was executive vice president of iStation, an online education company based in Dallas before her candidacy. “So why not start at the top and go run for the U.S. Congress? You don’t need permission to run for office.”
But her lack of elective experience was just one of the challenges Collins faced as she tried to earn a spot at the leadership table for national policy conversations. Another was her gender. Historically, women candidates have fared poorly for high office in America. Unlike most developed nations, the U.S. has never elected a woman as president and just one woman has led the House or Senate. Only 23% of House members and 25% of senators are women.
Before the 2020 election, only 13 Republican women were serving in a House of 435 representatives – a number that increased significantly in November. The young candidate quickly realized that she faced a “delicate balance” campaigning for Congress.
“There is a double standard for women in politics,” said Collins. For example, she said she could not appear to be "too tough" on the campaign trail but at the same time she did not want to appear "too soft."
“As a woman, there is kind of a weird tap dance between how you use your own authentic voice and how you want people to perceive you,” said Collins.
Besides gender inequality, Collins also had to deal with racial tensions, the COVID-19 crisis and a life-threatening personal health emergency during a pandemic election. Regardless of the result, she explained the whole journey was positive and joyful, allowing her to bond with her community in deeper way.
“If you love people, stories and helping others solve problems, it’s an absolute joy,” said Collins.
Looking back on the election, Collins criticized the common perception that “one man can save our country.”
“The goal of politics should be to knit the fabric of our communities back together and find a way to co-exist. We missed that during this election cycle,” said Collins.
After 18 months of running, Collins is comfortable with ambiguity. She is casually meeting people, figuring out how to leverage her brand and maintain a media presence.
“I chose to believe that world is for me and that my next adventure is yet to come,” said Collins. “I’m just open to possibilities. I believe 2021 will be a much better year for all of us.”