Phyllis Newhouse knows how difficult becoming a leader can be.
After 22 years in the Army, specializing in national security and establishing the Cyber Espionage Task Force, Newhouse struck out on her own to found IT and cybersecurity firm Xtreme Solutions. Upon entering the tech world, she found few other women in leadership positions. "I was hearing women in the tech industry talk about [how] they were not getting the opportunity, leading projects, getting on board seats," Newhouse says on a recent episode of Mansueto Ventures CEO Eric Schurenberg's video show "The Human Factor."
Newhouse understood from her experience in the army and running a successful tech company that in order for women to rise in the ranks, they needed to believe that they could--and they needed strong advocates. So in 2019 she co-founded the nonprofit Shoulderup, alongside Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, to connect and support women on their entrepreneurial journeys
The next year, when it came time to take Xtreme Solutions public, Newhouse was introduced to the world of SPACs. There, found many of the same issues that she faced in the tech industry. "Only 12 percent of VC funds have women decision-makers, and they're deciding who's going to get funded and who's not," says Newhouse.
In response she co-founded her own SPAC, Athena Technology Acquisition Corp., where she continues to carry out her mission by placing powerful women in decision-making roles and investing in companies that share her and her team's values: "We have women that came out of private equity, venture capitalists. We have investment bankers, we have technologists, we have women that have CFO experience," says Newhouse. "Our SPAC is very diverse, but it also has a high level of expertise and the management team has a lot of experience."
Newhouse has shown that there is more than one way to lead, laying the groundwork for women, veterans, and anyone else to become the leaders they believe the world needs. "I think if you really show a leader their potential and you give them opportunities and you give them resources and you can make those connection points, you're breeding great leaders," she says.