Windsor Hanger Western spearheaded social change for young women at the start of the Great Recession, bringing to life a media and marketing empire called Her Campus. As a result of her effort to empower women, Western got invited to visit the White House — the former stomping grounds of one of her greatest role models, a civil rights activist who rose to prominence during the Great Depression.
Western says First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom helps guide her every day. That’s why Western, who was eight months pregnant with her now 14-month-old daughter when she shared the stage with Michelle Obama during the first lady’s “Let Girls Learn” event, named her daughter Eleanor.
The co-founder, president and publisher of Her Campus Media is conscious that she’s now a role model, with more than just Eleanor’s eyes on her.
Since 2009, when she co-founded Her Campus Media with two of her Harvard University classmates, Western’s helped guide the business from being “an online magazine serving a single college, Harvard College, to the largest community of college women — with chapters at over 300 colleges worldwide, 7,000-plus college women writers and managers, and over 6 million unique monthly visitors to [the] flagship site,” says Bill Kaplan, who nominated Western for 2016 Target Marketer of the Year.
Kaplan, CEO and co-founder of Newton, Mass.-based email marketing software and services vendor FreshAddress, is a member of the Her Campus advisory board. He calls the brand, “the go-to place for college [women] and now Millennials to stay connected with each other through the sharing of original content (over 1 million articles written and published to-date), as well as millions of posts, photos, video clips and the like on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and other social media networks. Her Campus has leveraged this foundation to become the largest online platform and media organization targeting the coveted college marketplace, which represents hundreds of billions in sales.”
To pick Western for the award, Target Marketing’s editors reviewed dozens of nominations before choosing the marketer who “embodies the best marketing has to offer — professional accomplishment, integrity, innovation and service to the marketing community.” While this usually involves marketers with decades-long careers, Western seems as though she’s already lived a lifetime.
Target Marketing’s youngest honoree, Western is a publishing, media, event and e-commerce leader. The married mother says she wants to show young women that they can “have it all,” as long as their employers embrace a work-family balance — with family as the priority.
“I like to joke that I mentor every one of the 7,000-plus women in the Her Campus network,” Western says of staffers. “I call it mentoring, at-scale. My best advice for up-and-coming marketers is to look for opportunities to get experience as early as possible. It’s not enough any more to major in marketing or communications and get good grades. In addition to good grades and relevant coursework, employers expect relevant work experience before you graduate from college. Take every opportunity that is presented to you and make sure that whatever experience you have, that you are learning from it and growing as a result of it!”
Her Campus, the Early Years
Western lives by four main quotes from Roosevelt, and they seem to coincide with phases in her media and marketing career.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” falls in line with the events of 2007.
Then a pre-med major who’d dreamed of being a pediatric surgeon since childhood, she discovered a new passion during her sophomore year at Harvard College. The college, which is the undergraduate section of Harvard University, had a women’s lifestyle and fashion magazine.
When Western and her classmates, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis and Annie Wang, took over leadership of Freeze College Magazine, Western saw the need for the publication to move online — an adventurous proposition at the time. Once there, Freeze quickly became the most popular publication on campus, and word of it even spread beyond Harvard.
That’s when Western saw the opportunity.