Lois Lindauer founded her first company, Diet Workshop, in 1965, only one year after Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sex. As a business with a majority female audience, Diet Workshop occupied the intersection of two simultaneous cultural forces: women as consumers and women as a rising labor resource.
Just two years later, Lois became one of the first woman entrepreneurs in the United States to franchise her business. She employed hundreds of women, many of whom had never worked outside their homes. Others took this opportunity to open up their own franchises of the business. To share what she’d learned from her success, Lois volunteered as one of the first mentors in a Small Business Association program designed to support new entrepreneurs and successfully sold the business in 1991.
Realizing the extraordinary benefits that come with matching talent with opportunity, sharing expertise, and building a robust talent pipeline, Lois founded Lois L. Lindauer Searches to perform executive searches to serve the nonprofit sector, which had a growing female employment base. Her first area of focus was fundraising and development, where women comprise 75% of the workforce but have not yet achieved equity at the highest levels. Since that day, the firm has served some of the world’s most well-known institutions of higher education, academic medicine and healthcare, advocacy, and the arts.
As a successful entrepreneur, Lois made herself a resource to others by joining the boards of the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping women in business to achieve greater success; Women in Development, a nonprofit professional association whose mission is to empower, connect, and engage women in a community that fosters professional growth and advancement; and the Diversity Committee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an association that strives to stimulate social good through fundraising. Noticing that Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous women in particular dealt with both barriers to advancement in the workforce and lack of support when rising through the ranks, in 2000, Lois founded “Sisters in Development.” Aiming to attract women of color into nonprofit development as well as to provide a supportive network for those already in the field, the organization was one of the first and only professional networks of its kind.
Continuing Lindauer’s position as a women-led firm, Chief Executive Officer Deb Taft, Senior Executive Vice President Jill Lasman, and Senior Vice President Libby Roberts became Lindauer co-owners in 2017. These three respected industry professionals continue to uphold the firm’s founding principle of advancing nonprofit equity and inclusion and the belief that connecting great talent with great missions creates lasting generational impact.
Known to Lois since the earliest days of the firm’s founding and the first senior executive placed by the firm in 2004, CEO Deb Taft brought her own professional expertise and life’s work to shape Lindauer’s next era. Recognizing Lindauer’s leadership role in the talent landscape, Lois and Deb effected a careful and ambitious leadership transition designed to build on and enhance Lindauer’s impact and reach. With more than 30 years in executive and board leadership at some of the world’s leading organizations in education, healthcare, youth advocacy, and civil rights, Deb today continues to shape the nonprofit arena, its talent needs and ambitions, and its leadership equity.