Milk is proud to be partnered with Ellevate Network, Sallie Krawcheck’s global network for professional women. This week we were invited to attend Ellevate Network’s first annual Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit. We were blown away by the inspiring speakers, the energy, and, of course, the amazing women in attendance. These are some of the lessons we took with us from the speakers at this incredible event.
1. Harness the power of your girl squad
Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club, started getting together regularly with her female friends to strategize ways to confront the sexism they were encountering in the workplace as they tried to build their careers. The result? A feminist fight club. When a manterrupter tries to take credit for a woman’s idea in a meeting, draw attention back to her as the source of the idea. When women speak up for each other and amplify each other’s voices, we are all more likely to be heard.
2. Banish the queen bee
Praising other women, making them feel valuable, and lifting them up increases your own power rather than diminishing it. Conversely, the negativity that we put out comes back to us. Nellie Borrero, Chief Diversity Officer of Accenture, talked about eliminating queen bee behavior as not just the “nice” thing to do but a business imperative. Mentoring and advocating for other women build a network of success that lifts all of the women in it.
3. Don’t wait for men
Wade Davis, diversity and inclusion consultant, speaker, and educator spoke about the responsibility that men have to do the emotional labor necessary to promote equality. We can’t wait for men to get on board with feminism any more than we can afford to wait for them to recognize us professionally. Romy Newman, co-founder of Fairygodboss speaking on the importance of female mentorship said “this thing is going to happen because women are going to make it happen.” Seek alliances with women who can help you advance your career, your vision, and your passion.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail
The path to success is non-linear. The entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, and creators at the summit reiterated the importance of failure again and again. MMA fighter Michelle Waterson was in and out of the ring for ten years before she was able to turn her passion into a career. She spoke about perseverance as the key to maintaining the discipline she needs to be a warrior and about adversity as the key to building character.
When Alison Levine attempted to summit Mount Everest in 2002 as part of the 1st American Women’s Everest Expedition, she fell short of her goal by only 200 ft while CNN cameras broadcast the failed expedition to the world. She went on to summit Everest in 2010 at age 44, whereby she completed the Adventure Grand Slam. The experience, along with her polar expeditions, taught her that while she could not overcome some of her weaknesses, she could compensate for them in order to reach her goals.
For both women, adversity and failure were important parts of the process that helped them figure out the breadth of their skills and the depth of their passion.
5. Success is a tool--use it to make the world better and fairer
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said that when he was told in Sunday school to treat people like he wanted to be treated, he took it to heart. His success has given him the opportunity to promote causes he cares about and to translate his values into meaningful change. For him, that means helping others climb the ladder to success, including helping more women get into tech.
Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, started the organization when she was 23 years old. She grew up in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and felt compelled to help other women living through war when she immigrated to the United States. She began by helping 33 women in Bosnia in 1993. Two decades later, her organization was helping 400,000 women and raised 100 million dollars. She left the organization to focus on inspiring other women to own their voices, share their stories, and to inspire other women in turn.
Stephanie Lampkin built Blendoor to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process after facing those biases in the tech world. The hiring technology she created helps companies identify where bias happens to create accountability that will drive actual behavioral change. The Blendscore rating assigned to companies lets potential applicants see how employers stack up in their commitment to diversity.
When you get to the top, as Craig would say, "send the elevator back down."
6. Embrace your power
Transgender actress and model Erika Ervin, known also as Amazon Eve, spoke about embracing the power of communication and femininity as she discovered herself. Her journey to becoming a woman forced her to overcome fear and to own her power. After her transition, she felt an instinct to hide. Instead, she has increased visibility for transgender women through her work in TV shows like American Horror Story and through her advocacy of transgender rights.
7. Knowledge is power
Having the information we need to make informed decisions is key to engaging as professionals and as citizens. Lauren Leader-Chivee, co-founder and CEO of All in Together and author of Crossing the Thinnest Line, works to reduce the barriers that keep women from exercising their political power. Women are more likely to feel that they need more information before they act, so, for us, information is literally a tool for owning our power.
8. Pursue your passion
All of the speakers and leaders at Ellevate Network’s Mobilize the Power of Women Summit spoke to the importance of pursuing what you really care about rather than a particular career path--many explicitly, others by example. Their passion has been the driving force of their careers, success has been the byproduct. Find out what you care about, what drives you, what compels you, and what inspires you.