Do Women's Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality? (by Shawn Achor, Harvard Business Review, February 2018)
Recently, I was flying home from the Conference for Women, where I had been invited to speak. I was carefully holding a copy of the conference program on my lap — my mom likes to save them, and I wanted to be a good son and bring her back an unwrinkled copy. The guy sitting next to me on the airplane noticed it and asked me about the conference. I told him it’s a series of nonprofits across the country that run conferences for women from all industries to talk about leadership, fairness, and success. He then surprised me by saying, “I’m all for equality, but I’m not sure what good a conference will do.” Done with the conversation, he put on his headphones, content in his cynicism as I stewed, trying to come up with the best, albeit incredibly delayed, response.
By the time I landed, I realized the best response to such a cynical attitude would be data. It won’t change anyone’s mindset to just claim that connecting women is “important” and will “have an impact at work and in society.” We need to show that it actually does. That’s why Michelle Gielan, best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness, and I partnered with the Conference for Women to see if we could test the long-term effects of uniting women. Spoiler alert: The results astounded even us.
In our initial study of 2,600 working women across functions and industries attending Conferences for Women in several U.S. states, we examined several outcomes that occurred in the year after the women attended the conference. Since women who attend a conference might be different demographically and psychographically from women who elect not to, we used a control group that was made up of women who signed up for a conference but had not yet attended.
As part of the study, we were looking for two types of positive outcomes in women attending a conference: financial outcomes (pay raises and promotions) and intellectual outcomes (increased optimism, lower stress levels, and a feeling of connection). Since we were looking at financial outcomes, we made sure the time period we studied was the same for the research group and the control group, to account for any changes in the larger economic landscape.
For the women who’d signed up for the conference but had yet to attend, 18% received a promotion during the time period we studied, compared with 42% of women who had already attended the conference. In other words, in the year after connecting with peers at the Conference for Women, the likelihood of receiving a promotion doubled. (I wish I could find that guy on the plane to share this stat with him.)
In addition, 5% of the women in the control group received a pay increase of more than 10%, compared with the 15% of women who had attended the conference. That means that in one year, attendees had triple the likelihood of a 10%+ pay increase. (Remember, this isn’t selection bias — women in the control group were also signed up to attend a future conference.)
We also polled the women who’d attended the conference about how it affected their overall outlook. 78% percent of them reported feeling “more optimistic about the future” after attending. While we did not compare this with the control group’s outlook, this still seemed like a significant finding to us in part because of what we know about how a positive mindset can affect other aspects of life. In my HBR article “Positive Intelligence,” I describe how optimism can create a “happiness advantage,” where nearly every business and educational outcome improves as a result.
Perhaps most tellingly, 71% of the attendees said that they “feel more connected to others” after attending. This is important. In my book Big Potential, I outline why the greatest predictor of success and happiness is social connection. Research has shown that social connection can be as predictive of how long you will live as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking. There is power in connection. I start Big Potential with the story of a study of synchronous lightning bugs from Indonesia, in which researchers at MIT found that if lightning bugs light up alone, their success rate for reproduction is 3%. If they light up simultaneously with thousands of other lightning bugs, their success rate rises to 86%. By lighting together, they could space themselves out to maximize resources, and the increase in their collective brightness would help them be seen for up to five miles! I wrote Big Potential because I have found that if people feel like they are trying to get out of depression alone, or fighting inequality alone, or striving for success alone, they burn out and the world feels like a huge burden. But there is a powerful, viable alternative to individually pursuing success and happiness: doing it together.
I’m not sure every conference would have such a long-term positive impact. I have been to quite a few where either the conference is unengaging or the attendees are disengaged and on their phones. I think it’s safe to say there is an inverse relationship between the benefits you’ll get from a conference and the time you spend on your laptop or phone.
But the key to a beneficial conference, based on my experience speaking at more than 900 conferences over the past 12 years, are (1) a sense of social connection felt by the attendees, (2) engaging sessions, (3) leaders who role model and exemplify the qualities that the conference is attempting to instill, (4) a memorable moment, and (5) a realistic assessment of the present with an optimistic look to the future. Based on the responses of the women in this sample group, we see elevated optimism and social connection, as well as superstar role models (for example, Michelle Obama and Brené Brown also spoke at the event I went to). Moreover, many of the sessions offered practical applications for moving forward at work, such as how to ask for a raise, or stories from other women to let you know that your experiences at work are not unusual or isolated.
Laurie Dalton White, founder of the Conferences for Women, adds, “Something special happens when you see that you are not alone. Making connections and building relationships with other attendees and speakers helps women form an understanding of their worth, and then they learn strategies to ask for promotions, seek fair pay, and even become mentors to others. We invite women like Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg to speak at our conferences not just because of their own personal success stories, but because they are role models who inspire women in both big and small ways.”
There is power in connecting, and it’s not just about gender. Men and women alike can benefit from the power of connection. If you are a manager, encourage your employees to go to events where they can connect with others to remind them that they are not pursuing success and happiness alone. If you are a CEO, invest in conferences that help build up all members of your organization, regardless of where they sit in the organizational hierarchy.
We have so much more to learn about the value of connection in a hyper-competitive world. To the guy sitting on my plane: This research shows that cynicism regarding women’s conferences and initiatives is unfounded, unconstructive, and uninformed. To the rest of us seeking a positive path forward at work and in society, regardless of gender: We must pursue happiness and success together. Like the lightning bugs, rather than trying to light up the darkness alone and in isolation, there is power when we add our light to something bigger. In doing so, we shine brighter.
Shawn Achor is the New York Times bestselling author of Big Potential, The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. He serves as the Chief Experience Officer for BetterUp. His TED talk is one of the most popular, with over 11 million views. He has lectured or researched at over a third of the Fortune 100 and in 50 countries, as well as for the NFL, Pentagon and White House. Shawn is leading a series of courses on “21 Days to Inspire Positive Change” with the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“SPORT AS AN ENABLER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”: THIS IS THE TITLE OF THE RESOLUTION ADOPTED TODAY BY THE UNITED NATIONS (UN) GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW YORK. IT ENCOURAGES MEMBER STATES AND RELEVANT STAKEHOLDERS TO EMPHASISE AND ADVANCE THE USE OF SPORT AS A VEHICLE TO FOSTER SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, ACKNOWLEDGING THE ROLE PLAYED BY SPORT AND THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT.
The Resolution was adopted on the occasion of the presentation of the biennial report of the UN Secretary General on sport for development and peace. The report calls upon Member States to further the work on sport for development and peace at all levels, promote policy coherence, and foster existing national policies and government-supported programmes that leverage sport as a tool for social or economic development, and it recognises the important role played by the IOC and sports organisations in this field.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, explicitly stressed the role of sport in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now, with this Resolution, the UN is reiterating its call to Member States to leverage sport to achieve the SDGs, working in collaboration with all the interested stakeholders, including the sports community, civil society, international organisations and business companies.
The Resolution points out the “invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development, in particular through the ideal of the Olympic Truce, acknowledging the opportunities provided by past Olympic and Paralympic Games”.
It affirms the contribution of sport in promoting tolerance and respect and empowering women and young people, individuals and communities. The document also places a spotlight on the impact sport has on health, education, social inclusion and the fight against corruption, encouraging governments’ efforts to focus on these topics.
Just as importantly, the Resolution again supports “the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic Movement and of the International Paralympic Committee in leading the Paralympic Movement” in an effort to guarantee its universality.
Read the full Resolution here.
“We welcome the Resolution approved today by the United Nations, as it reaffirms the universality of sport and its unifying power to foster peace, education, gender equality and sustainable development at large,” IOC President Thomas Bach commented. “With its global reach, and its impact on communities and in particular on young people, sport can bring inclusion and empower people all over the world. Thanks to the UN, we now have a strong tool that encourages states and sports organisations to work together and develop concrete best practices. We want the Olympic Movement to be a driving force for a sustainable future for everyone.”
The universality of sport means that the IOC and the Olympic Movement have a special responsibility to promote a sustainable future for our world. This is why sustainability is one of the three pillars of Olympic Agenda 2020, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. The IOC has recently published its first Sustainability Report, which reports the progress made on the 18 objectives to be achieved by 2020 across all of the IOC’s spheres of responsibility: as the leader of the Olympic Movement, as the owner of the Olympic Games and as an organisation.
NEW YORK – Beyond giving a brand an image boost, achieving greater gender parity among employees and leadership can have an impact on a company’s bottom line.
At Haven Hill’s Symposium on Equality on Oct. 31, speakers conferred about the data behind the need for more gender parity, as well as the ways in which companies can take equality initiatives beyond hollow campaigns. While many organizations recognize the business benefits of gaining more gender diversity in their workforce, truly achieving change revolves around tackling tough topics and shifting culture.
"Millennials want companies that have values, and values are also about diversity," said Yann Borgstedt, founder and president of The Womanity Foundation. "If you want to keep your employees motivated or in your companies, you need to find ways to have more equality and diversity.
"You want to do what is right, but also we want to do what is good for the economy, and if it’s good for the economy, it’s good for kids and it’s good for everyone," he said. "So I just don’t understand why in so many places men feel threatened by giving the same rights and opportunities to women."
Mr. Borgstedt pointed out that while women represent about half of the population, they only hold 21 percent of senior roles and only 3 percent of CEOs are women. Women at the head of startups are also far less apt to get funding than men, despite the fact that female-led ventures tend to see better returns.
The data also shows that having more gender diversity at a company will help employers attract value-based millennials, while also boosting retention.
According to media organization Politico’s CEO Patrick Steel, his biggest challenge is recruitment, particularly because most Washington residents are already employed. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions at the publication has allowed the company to attract more female staff on both the editorial and sales sides.
Women who work for a female manager are 30 percent more apt to feel as though there is someone who is helping them advance. Politico also offers three months of maternity and paternity leave, opening the door to women to feel comfortable and secure about starting families.
There is a discrepancy between genders on beliefs regarding equality in the fashion workplace, with 100 percent of women thinking this to be an issue, while less than half of men do.
Attributed to the fact that there are many women designers in the fashion and accessories world, many men believe that there is no issue with inequality in fashion. According to a report from McKinsey, Glamour and the CFDA, women start careers in fashion with higher expectations than men (see story).
While there is a lack of gender diversity in everything from politics to corporations, one business that has seen little progress in parity is financial services. Today about 3 percent of women work in wealth management.
Alli McCartney, managing director with UBS Private Wealth Management, said that part of the reason her field is still male-dominated is because it is commission-based, making the potential for losing out while on maternity leave a challenge.
Despite this lack of women in the workforce in financial services, it is becoming increasingly more important for banks and institutions to cater to female clientele. About two-thirds of women say they lead their household, and one-third earn more than their spouse.
Additionally, women are set to inherit money through wealth transfer, and many who have been in the workforce are establishing their own assets. Divorces and deaths of spouses are also requiring women to be more independent about their finances.
Yet with this growing need for advice, women often do not seek out financial services. Three-quarters of women under the age of 40 have no wealth advisor.
Part of this lack of financial assistance may be tied to women’s dissatisfaction with services offered by banks. Whereas men desire results such as power, opportunity and returns from their wealth management, women report wanting aspects such as community and creating an impact and legacy.
Therefore, Ms. McCartney says soft skills will be imperative for wealth advisors of both genders. Managers can also win female clients’ business by offering flexible hours and building trust.
While recognizing the need for more gender equality is one thing, putting it into practice is another.
Progress in gender diversity has stalled in the last few years, according to Jeanne Zaino, senior advisor at AppliedTechonomics. Additionally, 20 percent of employees say that their company’s efforts around gender diversity are merely lip service to the issue.
Citing examples throughout history, Ms. Zaino said that those at the top need to make a commitment to change, but diversity initiatives need buy-ins from stakeholders to have a lasting effect.
Getting executive leadership on-board often boils down to speaking their language and showing the risks and rewards of making a change.
In addressing gender diversity, companies also have to look at issues on the local level, as challenges often differ depending on location.
Angela Lee, chief innovation officer and associate dean at Columbia Business School, spoke about overcoming biases and being unafraid to tackle tough conversations.
One thing companies can do is try to remove triggers for bias from their hiring process. For instance, orchestras began doing blind auditions, which resulted in more female musicians being hired.
In the corporate world, third-party services will take demographic indicators out of resumes to do merit-based matching for a position.
Companies may also want to think about how they are wording their job postings, removing language that appeals to certain types of individuals.
Ms. Lee also suggested opening up the door for healthy conflict by having meeting attendees fill out anonymous ideas of pros and cons to a particular plan. Companies can also spur innovation by pushing employees from different areas of the organization together, allowing them to gain new perspective and connections.
For women looking to move up the corporate ladder, Robert Reiss, founder and CEO of The CEO Forum Group, suggests taking on C-level language. Addressing plans as they relate to the organization’s mission and values can help an employee get on the top brass’ radar.
Owning a P&L is another path to leadership, as is identifying a personal brand and strengths and finding a way to show them off.
Lastly, establishing and training a successor opens the door for women to take on new opportunities, ensuring there is someone to take their place.
With only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, Mr. Reiss sees reaching 50 as a goal. At this point, women will reach a critical mass where they can mentor each other and help others rise to the top position.
For women in luxury, the world can sometimes be a hostile place, which is why it is important for them to learn to work together and support each other, according to two entrepreneurs who have done so for 20 years.
At the Women in Luxury 2018 conference, Carrie Ellen Phillips and Vanessa Weiner von Bismarck, two women who have been working together for decades, spoke at length about their experiences as women and entrepreneurs as well as how to build a lasting partnership. One of the things they said elevated them to their current position was their joint work ethic (see story).
“You’ve got to make the investment if you’re going to make these changes,” Ms. Zaino said. “You cannot make a one-time change and then walk away from it.
“You have to continue to assess and reassess what has been the outcome of that reform,” she said. “Because reforms have unintended consequences, no matter if they’re positive or negative.”
ASHLEY BERNHARD: FOUNDER @ HAVEN HILL
I stay motivated by… the responsibility to make the world a better place.
Three adjectives that describe me are… organized, loyal, positive
If I could have dinner with one person it would be… Ruth Bader Ginsbergbecause she looks at women’s equality with a broad perspective and knows and promotes that in order to move the needle, men have to be part of the solution.
The most exciting innovation to me is… FaceTime! I love connecting with people, and this has been a game-changer for me.
I am a social impact consultant focused on women's leadership, equality and empowerment initiatives. I consider myself to be an “equalist” specializing in working with both men and women to promote gender equality inspiring the next generation of leaders.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
I served as the Deputy Chairman of the Professional Squash Association, and while I was in that position, I devoted a lot of time and energy to advocate for and support the women’s division. In 4 short years we were able to roll out equal prize money at our top level tournaments. One thing led to another, and I moved on to start consulting in the equality/leadership/empowerment space.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before launching Haven Hill, I was on a long break from the working world to raise our three children. If you ever need a course in being an entrepreneur, raising kids is the way to go ~ every day is different and no one is sitting you down for a review or giving you a regular paycheck!
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them? Can you share their quote/ideology that inspires you the most?
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi. She leads with strength and grace and did not sacrifice her femininity when in the #1 seat.
"At the end of the day, don't forget that you're a person, don't forget you're a mother, don't forget you're a wife, don't forget you're a daughter.”
"To be a CEO is a calling," she said in 2007. "You should not do it because it is a job. It is a calling and you have got to be involved in it with your head, heart and hands. Your heart has got to be in the job, you have got to love what you do, it consumes you.” In this quote you could easily interchange CEO with Entrepreneur!
What is your biggest dream? Why?
Describe your biggest vision for your business. My biggest dream is to help move the needle on equality. The World Economic Forum’s research predicts that the world will not see equality for women (education, healthcare, pay etc) for 100 years. That shocks me and is the first thing I think of when I wake up each morning. I want to help the corporate world see that investing in women is not just the right thing to do but the SMART thing to do. The data all points in the same direction - when businesses invest in women, everything goes up: revenue, customer satisfaction, employee retention creativity etc. On a very basic data-driven level, it is a no-brainer to invest in, support and retain women in your group/division/company.
Women are on track to gain a record number of board seats by year's end, the Wall Street Journal reports.
From January to May, women made up 31 percent of new board directors at 3,000 of the largest publicly traded U.S. companies, according to a data analysis by corporate governance firm Institutional Shareholder Services. That's the highest percentage of female board seats in at least a decade.
Some notable 2018 board selections include those made by collaboration platform Slack, which appointed Edith Cooper to its board in February, and beauty company Estée Lauder, which added two female board members in April for a total of eight women on its 17-person board.
This increase in female board representation shouldn't be all too surprising, given a growing body of research showing that diverse boards improve business performance, as well as the gender inequality issues that have plagued companies over the last year.
In August, a 10-page manifesto by a former Google employee sparked national outrage and brought the opposition women face in the male-dominated tech industry into the spotlight once again.
Months later, women galvanized to share their experiences dealing with workplace sexual harassment. The ensuing #MeToo movement led to the toppling of prominent businessmen like Steve Wynn, the founder of Wynn Resorts. In April, the hotel chain added three women to it's board in an effort to refresh the brand after Wynn resigned as CEO and chairman.
Companies are also feeling pressure to diversify their boards from large investment firms, who see a positive correlation between diverse board selection and greater financial returns.
BlackRock, which has taken an increasingly activist approach to how the company does business, recently urged its portfolio companies to up the number of women on their boards.
"We would normally expect to see at least two women directors on every board," the financial behemoth said in a set of proxy voting guidelines published to its website in February.
The effectiveness of these investor demands can be seen with Amazon, whose leadership has historically lacked female representation. In April, the retail giant pledged to include women and minority candidates in their board candidacy pool, following shareholder complaint.
But it's not all good news. The ISS data found that companies have not promoted women at the same rate into leadership board positions, even though they come in with greater qualifications than their male counterparts.
"OUR PROGRESS ON GETTING MORE WOMEN ON BOARDS HAS BEEN SLUGGISH AT BEST."-Sallie Krawcheck, Ellevest CEO and co-founder
Even more troubling, about a dozen of the largest U.S. companies have yet to add even a single female director to their board, according to a previously reported analysis by Equilar and CNBC.
To combat statistics like these, some are pushing for quota systems that would require equal gender representation on boards. A number of European countries have already adopted this strategy for company boards, including Germany, Norway and France.
But these mandatory targets have yet to catch on in the U.S. Some states have adopted nonbinding resolutions, pushing companies to diversify their leadership teams. The California state legislature is considering a bill which requires that publicly-held corporations add at least one woman to their board.
In a CB Insights panel on Thursday, Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck said that while she has opposed gender-related quotas, she might one day change her mind, and feels they're "underrated."
"Our progress on getting more women on boards has been sluggish at best, despite all the research that shows it can drive superior performance," she tells CNBC Make It. "So at some point, it may make sense to acknowledge that what we're doing now simply isn't working."
How can women’s sports become mainstream?
While it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, and participation in sport from women of all ages is on the rise, the one key area where we’re seriously lacking in is corporate investment. The most recent estimate of global corporate investment currently stands at 0.4% for women’s sports, with the majority of the rest of that figure going to the men.
This needs to change, and to achieve this we - that includes government, the media, people in business and you, dear reader - have to be pulling in the right direction. We have to educate potential investors and tell the story of the benefits of women sport better. Here’s my topline take on how.
1. We need to identify and empower female athletes - for the right reasons
The #WhatIf campaign by Women in Football, which launched last month, is a great start when it comes to empowering women’s sports for the right reasons. In a nutshell, businesses such as Betfair, Sky Sports and Barclays have pledged to invest in boosting the profile of women, working in the football industry.
#WhatIf also highlights how we need initiatives like this across the whole gamut of women’s sports, and for reasons that go beyond mere tokenism. These businesses have invested in the Women in Football initiative based on individual achievements and performance, not just their gender.
We need to start championing more sportswomen from a host of different sports because they excel at their game - like kickboxer Ruqsana Bequm and footballers like Sydney Leroux. Female sport stars can generate loyal and avid fanbases, so if we can boost their exposure, we can create a compelling desirable option for businesses to spend sponsorship money with them based on both the quality of their performance and their ability to generate engaged fans, beyond a token gesture.
2. We need to look beyond reach to attract more corporate investment
Sponsorship plays a big part in funding grassroots engagement in sports, and without it, most sports will struggle.
That 0.4% statistic is shocking to say the least, and it highlights the disparity between the growing interest surrounding sportswomen, and the lack of investment in championing them.
The key issue is that businesses look at men’s and women’s sports in the same way. It’s about how many eyeballs - in stadia and on TV’s - they can reach with their sponsorship money. This is disingenuous - while the popularity of women’s sports is on the increase, it’s never going to match the same number of viewers as its male counterparts.
This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but it shouldn’t matter that women’s sports attract fewer viewers. The point is that backing female sports goes beyond how many people see your logo on TV; it’s much more about who’s watching and engaging with the game and how they subsequently feel about the backing a particular business gives to that sport. Brands such as SSE, Vitality and Kia, who are already engaged with women’s games, have spoken about how they’re viewed in a positive light from audiences at games, which has turned into increased brand-love and affinity.
3. We need to sell women’s sport on the basis of engagement and participation
One of the main reasons for the groundswell of interest around women’s sports lies in the fact that they’re viewed as being more inclusive. Men’s football and rugby games are a pleasure to watch. But fans can be too loud and/or rude for families, who don’t appreciate their kids learning a lexicon of swear words to tell the ref he’s made a bad decision.
That’s partly why we’re seeing more families attend female sporting events. They’re slowly becoming the natural home for family audiences, and they may even succeed in bringing on board people who wouldn’t naturally watch sport.
But not only do these games attract a different audience, and therefore, different brands backing them, female athletes have also been shown to appeal to fans in different ways. They’re seen as more likeable and appealing - for example, during this year’s Winter Olympics, a study found that Team USA’s sportswomen drove more social media engagements per athlete than the sportsmen.
So while it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, the commercial future can be much brighter. Women’s sports deserves to be in the mainstream. But it’s only through continued investment - which we can achieve if we market female sports in the right way, by focusing on the above three points - that we’ll keep growing the female game, and continue to raise the bar.
Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings is the first in a series of reports that aim to measure the global economic costs of gender inequality. This first report measures these losses in lifetime earnings.
In many countries, girls’ average educational attainment remains lower than boys and adult women are less literate than men. Apart from these gender gaps in educational attainment, discrimination and social norms shape the terms of female labor force participation. Women are less likely than men to join the labor force and to work for pay. When they do, they are more likely to work part-time, in the informal sector, or in occupations that have lower pay. These disadvantages translate into substantial gender gaps in earnings, which in turn decrease women’s bargaining power and voice.
In addition, many girls are married or have children before the age of 18, before they may be physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Women and girls also face higher risks of gender-based violence in their homes, at work, and in public spaces. Their voice and agency is often lower than that of males, whether this is within the household, at work, or in national institutions. This also affects their children. For example, children of young and poorly educated mothers often face higher risks of dying by age five, being malnourished, and doing poorly in school. Fundamentally, gender inequality disempowers women and girls in ways that deprive them of their basic human rights.
This lack of opportunities for girls and women entails large economic costs not only for them, but also for their households and countries. Achieving gender equality would have dramatic benefits for women and girls’ welfare and agency. This, in turn, would greatly benefit their households and communities, and help countries reach their full development potential. It would reduce fertility in countries with high population growth, as well as reduce under-five mortality and stunting, thereby contributing to ushering the demographic transition and the associated benefits from the demographic dividend.
Some key findings:
Greetings to President Beilock, Barnard faculty, trustees, and honorees: Katherine Johnson, Anna Quindlen, and Rhea Suh.
And to each of the 619 bad-ass women of the Barnard graduating class of 2018: Congratulations!
Doesn’t it feel like the second you figure anything out in life, it ends and you’re forced to start all over again?
Experts call these times of life “transitions.” I call them terrifying.
I went through a terrifying transition recently when I retired from soccer.
The world tries to distract us from our fear during these transitions by creating fancy ceremonies for us. This graduation is your fancy ceremony. Mine was the ESPYs, a nationally televised sports award show. I had to get dressed up for that just like you got dressed up for this, but they sent me a really expensive fancy stylist. It doesn’t look like you all got one. Sorry about that.
So it went like this: ESPN called and told me they were going to honor me with their inaugural icon award. I was humbled, of course, to be regarded as an icon. Did I mention that I’m an icon?
I received my award along with two other incredible athletes: basketball’s Kobe Bryant and football’s Peyton Manning. We all stood on stage together and watched highlights of our careers with the cameras rolling and the fans cheering—and I looked around and had a moment of awe. I felt so grateful to be there—included in the company of Kobe and Peyton. I had a momentary feeling of having arrived: like we women had finally made it.
Then the applause ended and it was time for the three of us to exit stage left. And as I watched those men walk off the stage, it dawned on me that the three of us were stepping away into very different futures.
Each of us, Kobe, Peyton and I—we made the same sacrifices, we shed the same amount of blood sweat and tears, we’d left it all on the field for decades with the same ferocity, talent and commitment—but our retirements wouldn’t be the same at all. Because Kobe and Peyton walked away from their careers with something I didn’t have: enormous bank accounts. Because of that they had something else I didn’t have: freedom. Their hustling days were over; mine were just beginning.
Later that night, back in my hotel room, I laid in bed and thought: this isn’t just about me, and this isn’t just about soccer.
We talk a lot about the pay gap. We talk about how we U.S. women overall still earn only 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, and black women make only 63 cents, while Latinas make 54 cents. What we need to talk about more is the aggregate and compounding effects of the pay gap on women’s lives. Over time, the pay gap means women are able to invest less and save less so they have to work longer. When we talk about what the pay gap costs us, let's be clear. It costs us our very lives.
And it hit me that I’d spent most of my time during my career the same way I'd spent my time on that ESPYs stage. Just feeling grateful. Grateful to be one of the only women to have a seat at the table. I was so grateful to receive any respect at all for myself that I often missed opportunities to demand equality for all of us.
But as you know, women of Barnard—CHANGE. IS. HERE.
Women have learned that we can be grateful for what we have while also demanding what we deserve.
Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done. I was freaking Little Red Riding Hood.
You know the fairy tale: It’s just one iteration of the warning stories girls are told the world over. Little Red Riding Hood heads off through the woods and is given strict instructions: Stay on the path. Don’t talk to anybody. Keep your head down hidden underneath your Handmaid’s Tale cape.
And she does… at first. But then she dares to get a little curious and she ventures off the path. That’s of course when she encounters the Big Bad Wolf and all hell breaks loose. The message is clear: Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much or BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.
I stayed on the path out of fear, not of being eaten by a wolf, but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck.
If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this:
“Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf.”
So when I was entrusted with the honor of speaking here today, I decided that the most important thing for me to say to you is this:
BARNARD WOMEN—CLASS OF 2018—WE. ARE. THE. WOLVES.
In 1995, around the year of your birth, wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park after being absent for seventy years.
In those years, the number of deer had skyrocketed because they were unchallenged, alone at the top of the food chain. They grazed away and reduced the vegetation, so much that the river banks were eroding.
Once the wolves arrived, they thinned out the deer through hunting. But more significantly, their presence changed the behavior of the deer. Wisely, the deer started avoiding the valleys, and the vegetation in those places regenerated. Trees quintupled in just six years. Birds and beavers started moving in. The river dams the beavers built provided habitats for otters and ducks and fish. The animal ecosystem regenerated. But that wasn’t all. The rivers actually changed as well. The plant regeneration stabilized the river banks so they stopped collapsing. The rivers steadied—all because of the wolves’ presence.
See what happened here?
The wolves, who were feared as a threat to the system, turned out to be its salvation.
Barnard women, are you picking up what I’m laying down here?
Women are feared as a threat to our system—and we will also be our society’s salvation.
Our landscape is overrun with archaic ways of thinking about women, about people of color, about the “other,” about the rich and the poor, about the the powerful and the powerless—and these ways of thinking are destroying us.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We will not Little Red Riding Hood our way through life. We will unite our pack, storm the valley together and change the whole bloody system.
Throughout my life, my pack has been my team.
Teams need a unifying structure, and the best way to create one collective heartbeat is to establish rules for your team to live by. It doesn’t matter what specific page you’re all on, just as long as you’re all on the same one.
Here are four rules I’ve used to unite my pack and lead them to gold.
Rule One: MAKE FAILURE YOUR FUEL
Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a hard concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright—and they end up wasting it.
Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be POWERED by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.
When I was on the Youth National Team, only dreaming of playing alongside Mia Hamm. You know her? Good. I had the opportunity to visit the National Team’s locker room. The thing that struck me most wasn’t my heroes' grass-stained cleats or their names and numbers hanging above their lockers—it was a picture. It was a picture that someone had taped next to the door so that It would be the last thing every player saw before she headed out to the training pitch.
You might guess it was a picture of their last big win, of them standing on a podium accepting gold medals—but it wasn’t. It was a picture of their longtime rival—the Norwegian national team—celebrating after having just beaten the USA in the 1995 World Cup.
In that locker room, I learned that in order to become my very best—on the pitch and off—I’d need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power. Failure is fuel. Fuel is power.
Women, listen to me. We must embrace failure as our fuel instead of accepting it as our destruction.
As Michelle Obama recently said: "I wish that girls could fail as well as men do and be okay. Because let me tell you watching men fail up—it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to see men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards."
Wolf Pack: Fail up. Blow it, and win.
Rule Two: LEAD FROM THE BENCH
Imagine this: You’ve scored more goals than any human being on the planet—female or male. You’ve co-captained and led Team USA in almost every category for the past decade. And you and your coach sit down and decide together that you won’t be a starter in your last World Cup for Team USA.
So… that sucked.
You’ll feel benched sometimes, too. You’ll be passed over for the promotion, taken off the project—you might even find yourself holding a baby instead of a briefcase—watching your colleagues “get ahead.”
Here’s what’s important. You are allowed to be disappointed when it feels like life’s benched you. What you aren’t allowed to do is miss your opportunity to lead from the bench.
During that last World Cup, my teammates told me that my presence, my support, my vocal and relentless belief in them from the bench is what gave them the confidence they needed to win us that championship.
If you’re not a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere.
And by the way: the fiercest leading I’ve ever seen has been done between mother and child. Parenting is no bench. It just might be the big game.
Wolf Pack: Wherever you’re put, lead from there.
Rule Three: CHAMPION EACH OTHER
During every 90-minute soccer match there are a few magical moments when the ball actually hits the back of the net and a goal is scored. When this happens, it means that everything has come together perfectly—the perfect pass, the perfectly timed run, every player in the right place at exactly the right time: all of this culminating in a moment in which one player scores that goal.
What happens next on the field is what transforms a bunch of individual women into a team. Teammates from all over the field rush toward the goal scorer. It appears that we’re celebrating her: but what we’re REALLY celebrating is every player, every coach, every practice, every sprint, every doubt, and every failure that this one single goal represents.
You will not always be the goal scorer. And when you are not—you better be rushing toward her.
Women must champion each other. This can be difficult for us. Women have been pitted against each other since the beginning of time for that one seat at the table. Scarcity has been planted inside of us and among us. This scarcity is not our fault. But it is our problem. And it is within our power to create abundance for women where scarcity used to live.
As you go out into the world: Amplify each others’ voices. Demand seats for women, people of color and all marginalized people at every table where decisions are made. Call out each other’s wins and just like we do on the field: claim the success of one woman, as a collective success for all women.
Joy. Success. Power. These are not pies where a bigger slice for her means a smaller slice for you. These are infinite. In any revolution, the way to make something true starts with believing it is. Let’s claim infinite joy, success, and power—together.
Wolf Pack: Her Victory is your Victory. Celebrate it.
Rule Four: DEMAND THE BALL
When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to play with one of my heroes, Michelle Akers. She needed a place to train since there was not yet a women’s professional league. Michelle was tall like I am, built like I’d be built, and the most courageous soccer player I’d ever seen play. She personified every one of my dreams.
We were playing a small sided scrimmage—5 against 5. We were eighteen-year-olds and she was—Michelle Akers—a chiseled, thirty-year-old powerhouse. For the first three quarters of the game, she was taking it easy on us, coaching us, teaching us about spacing, timing and the tactics of the game.
By the fourth quarter, she realized that because of all of this coaching, her team was losing by three goals. In that moment, a light switched on inside of her.
She ran back to her own goalkeeper, stood one yard away from her, and screamed:
GIVE. ME. THE. EFFING. BALL.
And the goalkeeper gave her the effing ball.
And she took that ball and she dribbled through our entire effing team and she scored.
Now this game was winner’s keepers, so if you scored you got the ball back. So, as soon as Michelle scored, she ran back to her goalie, stood a yard away from her and screamed:
GIVE ME THE BALL.
The keeper did. And again she dribbled though us and scored. And then she did it again. And she took her team to victory.
Michelle Akers knew what her team needed from her at every moment of that game.
Don't forget that until the fourth quarter, leadership had required Michelle to help, support, and teach, but eventually leadership called her to demand the ball.
Women. At this moment in history leadership is calling us to say:
GIVE ME THE EFFING BALL.
GIVE ME THE EFFING JOB.
GIVE ME THE SAME PAY THAT THE GUY NEXT TO ME GETS.
GIVE ME THE PROMOTION.
GIVE ME THE MICROPHONE.
GIVE ME THE OVAL OFFICE.
GIVE ME THE RESPECT I’VE EARNED AND GIVE IT TO MY WOLF PACK TOO.
In closing, I want to leave you with the most important thing I’ve learned since leaving soccer.
When I retired, my sponsor Gatorade surprised me at a meeting with the plan for my send-off commercial. The message was this: Forget Me.
They’d nailed it. They knew I wanted my legacy to be ensuring the future success of the sport I’d dedicated my life to. If my name were forgotten, that would mean that the women who came behind me were breaking records, winning championships and pushing the game to new heights. When I shot that commercial I cried.
A year later, I found myself coaching my ten-year old daughter’s soccer team. I’d coached them all the way to the championship. (#Humblebrag.) One day I was warming the team up, doing a little shooting drill. I was telling them a story about when I retired. And one of those little girls looked up at me and said: “So what did you retire from?” And I looked down at her and I said, “SOCCER.” And she said, “Oh. Who did you play for?” And I said, “THE. UNITED. STATES. OF. AMERICA.” And she said, “Oh. Does that mean you know Alex Morgan?”
Be careful what you wish for, Barnard. They forgot me.
But that’s okay. Being forgotten in my retirement didn’t scare me. What scared me was losing the identity the game gave me. I defined myself as Abby Wambach, soccer player—the one who showed up and gave 100 percent to my team and fought alongside my wolf pack to make a better future for the next generation.
Without soccer who would I be?
A few months after retirement, I began creating my new life. I met Glennon and our three children and I became a wife, a mother, a business owner and an activist.
And you know who I am now? I’m still the same Abby. I still show up and give 100 percent—now to my new pack—and I still fight every day to make a better future for the next generation.
You see, soccer didn’t make me who I was. I brought who I was to soccer, and I get to bring who I am wherever I go. And guess what? So do you.
As you leave here today and everyday going forward: Don’t just ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” Ask yourself: “WHO do I want to be?” Because the most important thing I've learned is that what you do will never define you. Who you are always will.
And who you are—Barnard women—are the wolves.
Surrounding you today is your wolf pack. Look around.
Don’t lose each other.
Leave these sacred grounds united, storm the valleys together, and be our salvation.
Time's' 2018 Most Influential People list has record number of women, people under 40 (April 2018, USA Today)
Time magazine unveiled its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world Thursday, including record numbers of 45 women and 45 people under the age of 40.
"The TIME 100, always a reflection of its moment, looks quite different than in the past," Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in a letter explaining how the magazine chose the 100 people on the list. "Influence increasingly knows no single zip code and no minimum age."
The magazine paired guest contributors to write about each of the 100 people on the list. Former president Barack Obama says he draws inspiration from the Parkland, Fla., shooting survivors turned activists who organized the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence.
“They have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom,” Obama wrote about Jaclyn Corin, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind. "The power to insist that America can be better."
Among the 45 women chosen were activist Tarana Burke, who founded Me Too and human rights activist Nice Nailantei Leng’ete, who has worked to end female genital mutilation in Kenya.
"While we remain much too far from gender parity in global leadership, there are more women than ever on this year’s TIME 100—proof that there are ways of changing the world beyond traditional power structures," Felsenthal wrote.
Six of the top 100 will be featured on covers of the magazine’s special issue, and include: Burke; tennis champion Roger Federer; comedian and actor Tiffany Haddish; actor Nicole Kidman; singer Jennifer Lopez; and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
The list is not a measure of power or a collection of milestones but is instead, according to Felsenthal, "a designation of individuals whose time, in our estimation, is now."
Or, in other words: “Was this their year?”
WASHINGTON — Tuesday is “Equal Pay Day.”
It’s not a day of celebration, but more like a finish line for women. In 2018 women had to work, on average, until April 10 in order to earn as much money as men did by the last day of 2017.
Each year, women hope that the distance to our finish line will be shorter and that the gap between what men and women are paid will close a bit more.
Equal Pay Day reminds us of how far we’ve come, how far we have to go and the actions still needed to increase the earning power of our nation’s working women.
When looking at median annual salaries for each group, U.S. women are paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the pay gap is even worse for women of color.
For significant change to occur, we believe more women need to assume leadership roles, especially by serving on corporate boards.
There’s proof that having more women in board positions yields benefits for an organization’s performance, and for society as a whole.
Statistics show there is plenty of potential for women to step into more board seats:
Boards of directors make decisions that can impact you, your community and the country.
These boards choose CEOs who then make decisions about compensation and other ways to spend profits, including how to support various social causes. That’s why we think there should be more female voices representing our viewpoints and interests.
In addition to societal advantages, research has shown that organizations themselves benefit from increasing diversity on their boards.
First, gender diversity in a company’s leadership tends to attract and motivate talented employees who want leadership that reflects the diversity of today’s talent pool.
Women are increasingly influencing spending decisions for their family’s wealth, so having women on a board provides more insight into the opinions and priorities of all consumers, not just males.
Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger, suggested to his board that having a more diverse group of leaders “helps you avoid blind spots” when making important corporate decisions.
For suggestions on how to improve your long-term financial security in the face of a pay gap, listen to Dawn’s WTOP 2017 Equal Pay Day interview.
What are strategies women can use to achieve a corporate board seat?
One of the reasons given for lower female representation in the boardroom is lack of sufficiently educated and qualified female talent. But statistics show women continue to earn advanced degrees at equal or higher rates than men.
The real issue is not education, but lack of relevant experience.
How then can women obtain the right qualifications to land a board position?
Our hope is that advocating for more representation for women on corporate boards will lead to stronger financial performance and higher pay for all employees, including women. Encouraging public companies to have a board that reflects the same diversity as their buying population is just one way everyone can make progress towards greater pay equality for all.
Dawn Doebler, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a senior wealth adviser at The Colony Group. She is also a co-founder of Her Wealth®.