Elisa Basnight


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Topics Discussed:

  • Careers & Career Exploration
  • Education
  • Facilitator / Chairperson / MC
  • Future Trends / Global Economy
  • Motivation

Elisa Basnight Layne is the founder of Girls Action Network, Inc. (GAN). In 2013, she was appointed by the serve as the Director, Center for Women Veterans and the primary advisor to the Secretary Veterans Affairs on issues related to the Nation’s 2.2 million women veterans. Prior to her government public service, she served as corporate commercial counsel with the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Philadelphia, PA where she was s a member of the firm’s Diversity Committee and Strategic Planning Committee after having worked at the international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, NY. Before earning her law degree, Elisa worked at Prudential Financial where she managed and led enterprise-level strategic initiatives within the Human Resources and Corporate Technology sectors. Prior to her work with Prudential Financial, she served as a director of the North Tennessee Private Industry Council Resource Center where she developed and led a highly lauded innovative career development center for downsized U.S. military personnel, veterans and their families. Elisa began her career as a commissioned intelligence officer in the United States Army, where she served both overseas and in the United States, to include a Joint Chiefs of Staff appointment.

After mentoring girls in middle and high schools for over 15 years, Elisa was troubled by a disturbing trend affecting young women. Research showed her that greater steps were needed to increase workforce-ready graduates for the 21st century labor market, particularly in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Moreover, as the ethnic demographics continually shift in the U.S., she felt young women, particularly from underserved communities, were not being developed at the rate necessary to create a human capital talent pool reflecting a diversity of aptitudes and cultural perspectives to maintain America’s competitiveness in a global economy. Therefore, Elisa founded in 2002 and continues to oversee efforts of the grass roots 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Girls Action Network, Inc. (GAN) (www.girlsactionnetwork.org).

A ballet dancer for thirteen years, by age 16, she was faced with the decision between a professional dance career and college. Elisa decided to pursue her interests in public service and international relations. When she applied to West Point, she recalls that when she went to visit for the first time; “I fell in love with its history, the commitment of the cadets and the opportunity to make a difference for my country.” Elisa is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy–West Point, Boston University-Brussels and Rutgers Law School–Newark. She also holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was selected to be a Zuckerman Fellow 2006-2007. Elisa is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and member of The Links, Inc. (Prince George’s County (MD)). Elisa and her family reside in Maryland.

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Girls Action Network® is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping middle school and high school girls - with special emphasis on those from underserved communities — become the best they can be.