Director Spotlight: Marissa Mar

Marissa Mar LinkedIn

The BASIC Fund: Who have been the most influential women or female communities in your life? How did they guide you in your professional choices?

Marissa Mar: The first person is my mom, who instilled in me the value of hard work and the idea that confidence comes from real achievement, so it’s important to set high standards for yourself.

When I went to Stanford, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after school. My dad is a doctor so I didn’t grow up with significant exposure to careers outside of medicine. But while I was in college, I was incredibly fortunate to have been surrounded by strong, high-performing women, from my coaches to academic advisors to supporters of our varsity golf program.  Through that network of high-performing women, I had the opportunity to intern for a female partner at a venture capital firm while I was in school and that experience transformed my life and has shaped every step of my career so far.

When you’re looking for a mentor, I think it’s important to find the kinds of people who have the qualities you aspire to develop in yourself one day and gravitate towards them. One of the best pieces of advice I received was about approaching mentorship and personal development through the lens of building personal relationships first. Start by demonstrating a genuine interest in what someone does, and you’ll find that more opportunities open up when you approach it from a relational perspective instead of a transactional one.

TBF: How do you find community with other women in your current position?

MM: While most industries are still “male dominated”, I’m lucky to be a part of a generation that gets to benefit from the foundation that was built by women who came before me and enables greater opportunities to achieve upward mobility in the workforce.  So, not only do we get to see more women in high-ranking / executive leadership roles, but there are also a number of “Women in [name any industry]” groups that have been created to provide the network, mentorship, and support to set up women for success as we reach new heights.

But I’m also very aware that much of my success to-date has been thanks to the support of incredible men.  So while it has been very important for me to have a network of women to seek guidance and support from, I’ve made a conscious effort to create a community of individuals around me that embody characteristics and qualities that I admire and hope I can gain over time, regardless of gender.

TBF: What do you feel is the next step in investing in women in the workforce?

MM: First, an important piece of investment for the long-term is not just elevating women to higher roles but setting them up for success by giving them the support system to navigate these new positions. So, continuing to build groups at every level – inclusive of both women and men – to structure mentorship and provide a safe space for feedback and guidance is important.

Second, the earlier we can expose girls to all the possibilities of where life and careers can take them, the better.  One of the things I’ve love about The BASIC Fund is the fact that it serves grades PreK-8 because kids are highly impressionable at those earlier ages. So, showing them what different opportunities look like at a young age can inspire girls to dream bigger. I think that inspiration bit is so critical - you can achieve so much more when you have the opportunity to think outside the world you live in.

TBF: Do you have any advice for young women entering higher education and the workforce? What do you wish someone had told you?

MM: Keep an open mind to what the possibilities are—that has served me really well. Just because something is outside the box of what you envisioned or hoped for, don’t close yourself off to it, because that’s where the most critical growth can happen.

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The BASIC Fund is a privately funded 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to advance education equity for low-income families by helping offset the cost of tuition at private schools in the Bay Area.

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