Pay It forward

Our Mission

Our mission is to close the gender power, wealth and funding gap by advancing for-profit board careers for women, supporting women-led startups and funds, and providing women opportunities to invest in other women.

75k board careers for women by 2025

Pay It Forward Promise

For every board career advanced through a Paid Company Membership, we will gift a Free Annual Board Candidate Membership.

0 +
Board Candidate Memberships Gifted so far

Studies prove it,

Diversity Matters

The economic case for diversity is real!  Strengthen your organization and grow your bottom line by diversifying your boardroom and leadership team. 

DEveloped with a mission

Our Story

In 2018 Breen Sullivan, an in-house tech lawyer, noticed something: her male colleagues were angel investing and serving on advisory and governing boards of startups (and getting promoted!) and her female colleagues weren’t.  When she tried to find similar opportunities for herself, there was no obvious place to go. As a tech lawyer, Breen also knew many startups don’t take advantage of advisory boards or fill all of their open board seats, which meant fewer opportunities than there needed to be.

When Breen met Katrin de Haën, a serial entrepreneur, she realized women entrepreneurs could really benefit from well-connected and skilled advisors like Breen and her colleagues. Right away, Breen and Kat started helping women-led startups find advisors and funding which led them to aggregate women-led startup board opportunities into a board seat exchange accessible to qualified women. In 2021 Kat and Breen realized two things:  they had created a marketplace for under the radar board and investment opportunities and they were slowly but surely changing the demographics of the pipeline of ‘board-ready candidates’ by getting women on to the boards and cap tables of women-led startups. They were hacking the system when it came to launching a for-profit board career, and it was great, but they wanted to do more. Women need to be on boards, but they also need funding, and they need to be writing checks. So The Fourth Effect created a ‘Back Room’ for founders, women-led funds, angels and limited partners to encourage women to invest in each other and open up their boards and cap tables as a way to further level the playing field. Although the community was thriving and women were securing board and investment opportunities, Breen and Kat knew there was potential to drive systemic change on a much larger scale and make a dent in the gender wealth and funding gap if they could incentivize the entire business community- male-led companies included- to commit to tangible steps that would make diversity at the board level a reality and ensure a steady stream of board opportunities and qualified candidates. Recent moves by NASDAQ (diversify or delist), the Securities and Exchange Commission and players like Goldman Sachs, not to mention the legislation in California requiring board diversity, all suggest we need an efficient, transparent ‘Market Network’ for diverse board candidates sooner rather than later. The Fourth Effect believes that it can be a resource and help to accelerate the change that is already in the air.

Our Pay It Forward Initiative spearheads this transformation by enlisting thousands of companies between now and 2025 to take a pledge to close the gender wealth and funding gap by diversifying boardrooms and cap tables. The Initiative kicked off on March 29th, 2023: ‘Pay It Forward Day.’ The target goal is to advance for-profit board careers for 75k women by the end of 2025. Breen and Kat have figured out a way to incentivize companies to think differently about their boards and revolutionize how they measure DE&I: Pay It Forward Partners receive a seal (think Good Housekeeping) and credits for the number of opportunities they create (kind of like carbon off-sets). Pre-launch partners already include CCBJ, NYSERDA, PEWIN, The Innovation Space and Stella Labs, Trulieve and Open Grants with many more lining up.

Pay It Forward incentivizes all companies to ‘pull more chairs up to the table,’ bring diversity into their boardroom, and empower women executives to initiate or advance for-profit board careers all while saving money against the bottom line.

People are Talking

In the News

Who we are

Meet The Team

Breen Sullivan


Kat de Haën


Sarah Hounshell


Julia Baldwin

Product & Content


Thoughts from The Fourth Effect

We Use Cookies

By using this website, you automatically accept that we use cookies. 

Learn More