Morra Aarons-Mele, We Are Women Online, Woman Entrepreneur

Images-1Morra reached out to me as a fan from Boston. I want to turn the tables, I am a fan of Morra from NYC.  Morras career has been a total dot connector.  She really has always an entrepreneur at heart.  Someone with this much energy has to be.  She wanted to own her own destiny, she wanted to be a mentor and voice to other women who were also looking to own their own destiny. It didn't happen over night but the idea of We Are Women Online evolved over time just like all good businesses do.  Morra is also the founder of the Mission List

Morra grew up in South Orange, NJ.  Her father was self-employed as a labor arbitator and art dealer.  As her father used to say…a direct quote from her father "the best boss in the world is an asshole".  So he was always around and would say "I'm self-employed".  Her mother was a learning disability teacher consultant so also self-employed working mainly in Catholic and parochial schools around NJ. Both of her parents have always been enamored with England.  The took the family on almost every vacation to England.  Both of Morra's sisters live in London now.  No doubt that Morras parents played a huge role in the path that Morra chose.

After graduating high school Morra went to Brown University.  No surprises she spent her junior year abroad going to the London School of Economics.  When she was there she also interned for Warner Brothers.  She came back and finished her senior year graduating with a real job in 1998.  Her parents instilled that in her…get a real job that pays you a salary.  She landed a job at October Films on Bleeker Street working in publicity.  At that time it was one of the last remaining independent film houses.  It was a great job working on films that were shown at Sundance.  At the time, everyone she knew was working in internet start-ups and she thought…I need to get there too.

She had been reading Variety every day and began to pay attention to iVillage.  She read about Betty Hudson who was the head of corporate communications and PR at iVillage.  She composed a letter and faxed a letter over to Betty asking her if she needed an assistant.  Morra got a phone call the next day and was offered her the job of Bettys assistant.  Eventually, Morra became the head of publicity.  It was an incredible time.  She did the first live chat with HIllary Clinton while she was there.  It was 2000.

A job for iVillage became available in London as the senior marketing manager.  Morra grabbed at the opportunity.  She was 24 and thrilled to be back living in London.  She was involved in the marketing department.  Her co-working in marketing ran on-line ad sales and syndication while Morra ran PR off the print and visual stuff and managed advertising with Tesco who was a joint investor in iVillage UK.

It was an insane learning curve and she looks back it with horror.  She was going to meeting after meeting and feeling she had no time to prepare.  Although there were not many people there with her skillset at the time, it was Morras fundamental understanding of the internet that set her apart in London.  She was at a hot start-up which gave her instant credibility by speaking a certain language.  She stayed for two years a iVillage before moving on to eBookers where they offered her the job of Head of Marketing. 

It was a really hard job.  Morra told me she literally cried in the bathroom every single day.  She felt lonely.  She has no mentor, no network, nothing.  iVillage was American company and now she was in a totally British company and she felt out of sorts.  It was a dog eat dog world that was thoroughly quantative and she was responsible for everything in marketing.  There was not another woman there to give her guidance or direction.  She did a great job but then home called.  Her mother got sick and she needed a breather.  With her Mom's nod, she took off for Africa for six months to get her mojo back and then returned to the states. 

When she got home, she worked on Kerrys campaign.  It was 2003.  Then what happened is she got thrown into another intensely stressful situation.  She became the Internet Marketing Director for Kerry and then the DNC.  She has always been passionate about politics.  She then ended up going to work for Edelman where she she built their DC public relations department from scratch.  It was an insane job.  She stayed for 16 months.  Today that department is now quite large and thriving.  She learned that she is really good at at hiring a good team.  She also realized that she was a start-up person.  It was not the first marketing department she has started and she was great at prioritization, delegating and finding talent.  At one point, not exactly sure when, Morra became the founding Political Director for BlogHer.

Morra decided to go to get a degree in social work.  She wanted to build something where she could create mentorship and voices for others women when that was missing in her life for the past ten years.  She wanted to be a womans workplace counselor.  She had these big jobs where she felt unsupported and lost and of course in the tech industry it was at the point mainly male oriented.  She began going to Catholic University at night getting a master in social work while freelancing for marketing departments on the side.  At the same time she had applied to the Kennedy School at Harvard.  She got in, put social on hold, moved to Boston, got married and went to Harvard.

Morra got her degree in masters of public administration at Harvard.  During that time she was also consulting, blogging and helping on TV around the election.  She was making good money doing social media consulting.  She was incredibly passionate about a field called work/life.  It is a discipline where you help companies and organizations implement families and work/life.  She had access to amazing resources at Harvard.  She started doing tons of research on women and work life.   She started doing a lot of blogging around the subject.  Morra wrote about how you don't have to feel unsupported when you show up every day. 

Morra got admitted into Boston College to finish the degree that she started at Catholic University.  She wanted to help companies to make better environments for women.  She was truly an expert in this field.  Then 2008 came and the world fell apart.  She was pregnant and her family had lost a lot of money.  She had the baby and started to focus on making cash.  She wanted to focus only on women, a topic she was passionate about and knew best.  So Morra began to create a practice to take her understanding of work/life and her desire to create mentorships and be a voice for women,  She started to take on big companies as her clients.  It is something she has always been passionate about so this made complete sense. She has taught and spoken at the Yale Womens Campaign School, the Harvard Kennedy School , the World Economic Forum for Young Global Leaders at Harvard and John Hopkins Graduate School of Communication on many of these subjects.  She is also the author of Women and Leadership in the Digital Age. 

She had been at this in many ways since 1999.  So in 2010, Morra incorporate her company, We Are Women Online, and she began to help change the workplace for women from the outside.  She has worked with the American Cancer Society including the Obama campaign and the United Nations creating social media campaigns that mobilize women.  Social media where it meets social good is the exact place where Morra wants to be.  She takes all of this to heart even working with each of her clients on a sliding scale basis for pay. 

Like her father, Morra hated to going to the office but she had to.  She did not want to be working on someone elses terms.  She is an expert on womens issues and that feels great.  Morra is changing the workplace for women from the outside not the inside and getting companies to hire her to do it.  I am a big believer in change from the outside and that is one of the many reasons I am Morra fan from NYC. 



Comments (Archived):

  1. c

    Morra came to Brown University last week to speak to a group of women. She was an inspiration to my friends and I who plan on graduating next year and are pessimistic of opportunities in the future and have overwhelming anxieties about the definition of success. Her honesty and humbleness was refreshing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Perfect description. She is beyond humble about her successes