It’s not a #MeToo group and doesn’t take sides in presidential elections. Neither is it right- or left-leaning in its politics.
Rather, co-founders and Co-Chief Executives Beth Hilbing and Dianne Gubin describe it as a networking organization designed to help women executives in the C-suite understand the path up the corporate ladder and help women outside the C-suite learn how to advance in.
The C-suite — from which C-Sweet coined the title of its trademarked name that it fought legally to use — includes an alphabet soup of crème de la crème titles in corporate America: CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs and CTOs.
The Malibu-headquartered group hosts podcasts and events and is now expanding its offerings in other U.S. cities with aspirations of going global.
At the beginning of the summer, C-Sweet began charging $395 a year in dues for membership. The group has 200 members and a mailing list of 3,500, and it held a chapter launch in Chicago in early October. It also has plans to launch other chapters in 2022 in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Phoenix. And that’s just the beginning. They have feelers out to establish international chapters, starting with London and Sydney down the road.
Members include C-level executive women, executives from major tech companies, founders, emerging leaders, board-level executives, and women who write checks in venture capital, private equity, family wealth offices, investment banking, institutional finance and angel investing.
C-Sweet produces weekly podcasts, called “C-Sweet Talks” featuring stories from high-level executives, such as insiders with RealReal Inc., the San Francisco-based marketplace for luxury consignment; Southern California Edison, the Rosemead-based power utility of Edison International; and California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointments secretary, who evaluates political jobs people want inside state government.
It just started a new podcast series, called “C-Sweet After Dark,” in which guests discuss sensitive topics such as bad bosses and sexual harassment.
Some of C-Sweet’s upcoming events include a business roundtable scheduled for Nov. 4 with Alison Burnham, chief data and analytics officer with El Segundo-based RepairSmith Inc., a mobile car repair and maintenance service, and a Women on Boards roundtable on Nov. 16 to discuss ways to land a corporate board position and what’s required to serve on a corporate board. The events have been known to attract up to a 100 attendees for panel discussions.
Gubin and Hilbing have dissimilar backgrounds — one has an aerospace background while the other has a financial pedigree — but they use it to their advantage and stick together. In addition to sharing titles, they do interviews together and collaborate on C-Sweet’s strategy.
They first met during a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in the mid-2000s at Amgen Inc., a Thousand Oaks-based biopharmaceutical company, and kept in contact over the next decade until founding C-Sweet in 2017.
Gubin and Hilbing sat down with the Business Journal to discuss their plans for C-Sweet, expansion and the importance of their group in helping other women network for C-suite jobs.
How did C-Sweet come about?
Where did you both meet?
As we’ve made career changes and so forth, we kept in touch. And then I was like, ‘You’re in a career change and had time for C-Sweet.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’
What did you see happening with women in the executive ranks in the mid-2000s?
Hilbing: There was not a networking organization for senior-level, C-suite, women. We felt there was a need to help bring these women together and start working together, start hiring each other, start promoting each other. We have seen that happen in our current environment.
Why did you move to a membership model this past summer?
Tell me about some of your live events?
Gubin: So, why did we do this? It’s our answer to the MeToo movement (which has emerged in recent years to focus on sexual harassment and sexual assault), or to any of the social movements that we see today. We truly believe that if women are working together at the most senior executive levels, we will pull each other up, will hire each other, will help our communities and help our businesses. We truly want to do business in a different way, and we see C-Sweet as a national movement. This is a movement we started.
Given Covid restrictions, how many people are attending your events?
Hilbing: Zoom has handled our calls very well. Obviously, there was a huge focus, given all that went down with Covid and the (U.S. presidential) election, on diversity, equity and inclusion. Some of our panelists have included Renee Brown, chief of basketball operations and player relations for the WNBA (from 2005-2016), and Heide Gardner, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for advertising and marketing firm InterPublic Group.
Gubin: Companies need to do a better job teaching and living diversity, equity and inclusion, and not just making it lip service. That was the takeaway (of the Zoom call last summer). We have to make sure you feel like you belong, that you feel like you’re meant to be where you are.
Why are there two directors running C-Sweet?
Gubin: Beth is really a Fortune 500 type of gal, right? I’m more of a middle-market, fast-growth company type of person. Between the two of us, our networks are just different. Beth has been in IT, and I’m now in tech and finance.
Hilbing: We talk multiple times throughout the day, constantly texting. It really does take all of our skill sets because we manage three to four sessions that we run a month for our women, for our members, plus we do a newsletter, plus we do a biweekly podcast, plus we do in-person events across the country.
Gubin: We back each other up. So, between the two of us, we make sure everything is covered.
How big do you see this getting?
Gubin: We just don’t see a cap on C-Sweet because we’re going to go international at some point. We have someone in London, somebody expressed interest in Australia, but we’re just not ready for that yet. We need to do what we’re doing here first.
Where do you see growth areas within your group?
What do you hear from your members?
What are the main issues that your members are facing?
Hilbing: Our executive women have told us time and time again that they have to have a trust factor if they are going to move forward. This intimate networking with C-Sweet helps create that for them.
C-Sweet Co-Founder Dianne Gubin Merges Background in Staffing and Finance
University of Connecticut
Industries of Focus: Talent acquisition, finance
Off the Clock: For relaxation, she reads the New York Times and Forbes.
She traveled Europe for a year after graduating but never really put her yearning for journalism to use.
“My college roommate was a journalism major. ‘That looks like fun,’” she said of picking her major on a whim. “Obviously, when you spend all of that time working for the school paper, your grades go down because you’re always working at night,” she recalled.
Instead of penning for a newspaper, she pursued a career in selling staffing services.
Her specialty has always been in technical recruiting for professional and executive roles.
In the mid-1990s, the 59-year-old Gubin formed Dianne Gubin & Associates to provide staffing and recruiting services for information technology firms.
In 2012, she became president of Malibu-based Amplify Professional Services Inc. where she helped hire and provide contract staffing services in Los Angeles and New York for universities and Fortune 500 companies.
In addition to her work with Amplify, she also became a principal with Capital InVentures in 2014, which has offices on both coasts of the United States.
With investment banking firm Capital InVentures, she has helped emerging and middle-market companies raise equity and debt financing, pursue merger and acquisition deals, complete bond raises, and provide financial analysis and due diligence in takeovers.
Since 2015, Gubin also has been the global co-chairwoman of the Los Angeles Venture Association, which provides forums on the financing of companies from start to exit.
Gubin met Beth Hilbing, her C-Sweet partner, in the early 2000s while running a networking event for Women in Technology International in L.A., an organization that promotes the achievements of women in technology and extends support, opportunities and inspiration. They co-founded Malibu-based C-Sweet in 2017.
C-Sweet Co-CEO Beth Hilbing Navigates Aerospace WorldEducation: BA, Webster University; MA, Cal State
Industries of Focus: Aerospace, information technology
Off the Clock: Hilbing admits she is a workaholic, ending her workdays between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., then falling asleep in front of the TV.
Beth Hilbing has climbed the corporate ranks of major aerospace companies over her multidecade career.
Doing so was not an easy task in a male-dominated industry where retired military officers have historically been welcomed into second careers with aerospace and defense contractors.
Hilbing has worked for two of the largest powerhouse military contractors in the United States: Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co.
For the past three years, she’s held the post of senior information technology business partner with Chicago-based Boeing, which designs, manufactures and sells commercial airplanes and military jets, missiles, rockets and satellites.
Before Boeing, Hilbing, 57, ascended the ranks of Northrop Grumman, once headquartered in Century City, but which bolted to the Washington, D.C., suburb of Falls Church, Va., a decade ago.
When she left Northrop Grumman in 2017, Hilbing was vice president of information technology, managing a $90 million budget and running a large program with control over an engineering and operations organization.
Previously, she was responsible for all areas of information technology at a credit union connected with the military contractor.
She also was at Time Warner in January 2000 as part of one of the biggest corporate mergers, when AOL agreed to buy Time Warner for $164 billion.
Hilbing worked in the Burbank office of the combined company’s Warner Music Group Corp., the third-largest in the global music industry, after Universal Music Group Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment Inc. At Warner Music, she managed an $11 million budget and 50 employees, overseeing network systems, a help desk, corporate standards, and procurement and vendor management.
Hilbing received a bachelor’s degree in business from Webster University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in business from Cal State Long Beach. She also has an associate degree in computer science.
It was during her time between her jobs at Northrop Grumman and Boeing in 2017 that she and Co-Chief Executive Dianne Gubin reconnected to co-found C-Sweet.
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