If you’re reading this, you probably already know that 2017 is going to be a great year for women.
We truly believe that by connecting women to each other, and giving them opportunities to share their voices and come together to help one another recognize their power, they will become an even larger force in the business world. We know this because we’ve seen it happen.
Women do not need to be “empowered.”
See: empower əmˈpou(ə)r/: give (someone) the authority or power to do something.
They need to recognize the power they already have and harness it in order to make the business world better. And our Chair Sallie Krawcheck wrote a book about it.
[Related: Female Role Model Series]
To celebrate the release of “Own It: The Power of Women at Work” and talk about what it means to “own it,” we got together in New York City with the following inspiring women (who are leading companies, innovating truly one of a kind products, and starting movements, no big deal):
- Deepa Purushothoman, Principal and National Managing Director, WIN at Deloitte
- Miki Agrawal, CEO and Co-Founder, THINX
- Natalia Oberti Noguera, Founder and CEO, Pipeline Angels
- Laura Gentile, Senior Vice President, espnW and Women’s Initiatives
- Sallie Krawcheck, Chair, Ellevate Network, and CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest
- The panel was moderated by Ellevate Network President and fierce advocate for women at work, Kristy Wallace.
Below is a summary of the event:
How do you Own It?
Natalia: "When I moved to NYC, I kept having the same conversation. People would share their change-making ideas. Every time they shared their ideas about being women-led, for-profit social businesses, people backed away and told them to call when they were ready to start a non-profit.
That's when I realized society's gendered perception on how we change the world. When society hears that a woman wants to change the world, they assume they want to start a nonprofit. When a guy wants to change the world? For profit.
These were phenomenal businesses with great business models, and I knew of fabulous high-value women making positive impacts via philanthropy. So [at Pipeline Angels] we talked about making impact via angel investing, instead. Shouldn't doing good be the only way to make a profit?"
Laura: "It wasn't until I moved into this role that I started to use my whole brain, to see things I hadn't seen before, and to start thinking more about the future of our company.
I was a tomboy - not the typical Girl Scout. I've sort of always fit in [with guys], and not noticed the language I used or the culture of sports. It was what I was used to.
When I started having the notion of thinking of women as a target audience, all sorts of lightbulbs went off for me. I realized that there were more audiences to serve and a greater way of looking at what a sports fan looked like. Preconceived notions literally keep women on the sidelines.
As [espn]W started taking shape and I was pitching in and driving it, it was the first time my career aspirations fit the mission. I was making the difference in the industry. When your aspirations and your mission are aligned, you bring your best self to work every day. Take the long view of your job and your mission, get through those early stages, and pursue great opportunity."
What advice do you have about money?
Sallie: "This is my favorite topic. Of course, you must invest. Women are underinvested vs men. It is the one area in which we as women accept the 'Ozzie and Harriet' view of the world: men are better investors than women. Not true. There's something about having a uterus that makes it hard to invest: not true.
The conversation stopper is that we need more financial education. We do. So do men, but they invest anyway. We don't have a good view of the numbers and the money we're missing out on.
My advice: Invest a bit of every paycheck in a low cost, managed ETF portfolio. If you're putting something in there every paycheck, paycheck after paycheck, sometimes you'll buy low, and sometimes you'll buy high, but you'll be making a 6-7% diversified return over what you're making from a bank, which is 0%."
[Read more: The Best Career Advice Women Are Not Getting]
Deepa: "When I made partner, it was very exciting. The CEO was on stage talking about value creation and earning potential. It didn't really speak to me. I was in my early 30s, single, and needed to focus on making my life work before I prioritized that.
What I ended up doing was talking to ten other partners to ask for advice. Everyone did something completely different with their money. Find people you trust, and talk to them about what they did with their money. Get some advice and find what feels right for you."
Laura: "The real way to show your ability is to build a business that you know will be profitable. Change the landscape. Bring in revenue. We spent a lot of time evangelizing.
49% of all sports fans are women - 112 million people in the US alone. Women are not a niche audience. We've gotten more savvy about the language we use. Speaking the language of business, of size of audience, of opportunity, is important. You have to say it 16, 24, 30 times to be understood. Women love sports, embrace the brand, have major buying power, and we can serve them."
What philosophy has served you well?
Natalia: "If you want to be inclusive, be explicit. When the anti-trans bill happened in North Carolina, Pipeline Angels wanted to know what to do to support. Many people cancelled events to protest, but they wanted to be allies. Pipeline Angels decided to have trans women entrepreneurs speak at their launch in Charlotte, instead. With community feedback, they actually changed their funding guidelines to specifically include trans founders.
The next time you ask for an accountant, ask for a woman. The guys are referring each other. We should do the same."
Miki: "Come up with creative ways to get people to understand. I started bringing a sanitary pad to investor meetings, and respectfully asked men to put it on... then sit down and stand up. It was effective. They wrote me checks."
What do you say to those of us who want to speak out in times of injustice? How do you handle a Queen Bee?
Sallie: "I faced a Queen Bee. A woman told me she would help me, and her advice seemed wrong. She finally ended up on the other side of the table when I was being sent home from the company. I didn't hear from her for years until my book was coming out.
Research also shows that when women and people of color advocate for other women and people of color, their reputations suffer.
Have a courageous conversation. Talk to the person acting that way and explain the person's qualifications. There are more seats at the table now. Gender diversity improves performance. The more women that are successful, the more women that can be successful. It's a matter of pattern recognition, of 'Hmm, I've seen this before.'
My resolution for 2017 is to help more women, and not just women I like. We're forced by the patriarchy to perform in this narrow band of not-too-feminine, not-too-masculine. I want to help the obnoxious women. The more obnoxious women who are successful, the more of all of us who are also successful."
How do you suggest handling stereotypes?
Laura: "Part of it is calling people out on that. I mentioned being in a culture that was very masculine. You have to sensitize people to the power of language. You can do it with a laugh or a smile, but call people on it."
Sallie: "It's the courageous conversation. Don't do it in public, but call it out. Pull the guy aside and talk about it.
What conversations are you willing to have tomorrow that you weren't having in 2016? They'll be different for each of us.
We as women sometimes will perceive leaving a company as failure. We think that just having one more conversation will fix it. But not always. Quit. Go to a better company or start your own thing. If enough of us do that, and hollow out the companies that do not treat us well, and go to the ones that will, we will improve things for all of us. It's okay to quit after you have tried."
[Related: How To Find A Job You Love]
Miki: "Integrity means aligning what you're thinking, feeling, and saying. We have a company policy. No triangulation. If you have an issue, face the person. It builds courage for yourself. #adulting."
Deepa: "I ask people 'What would happen if this was your daughter? What if your daughter was here?' It helps. It changes the situation. Make them see themselves in your shoes."
Natalia: "One of my favorite tactics was from Shonda Rhimes: 'Not Appropriate.' If something racist is said, white people, especially in 2017, call it out. If something homophobic is said, call it out (especially straight people). It makes you a better ally."
We learned some seriously awesome lessons from women leading the way in business today at this event, and we’re energized to use our power as women to move forward. How about you?