Women & Worth Virtual Summit Day 2: Reserving a Seat at the Table
On day two of the Women & Worth Virtual Summit, we began with a keynote from Wade Davis, VP of Inclusion for Production at Netflix, who gave a powerful talk on the importance of self-reflection. He discussed how self-reflection can be used to help others, especially in putting an end to systemic oppression. He stated two important things we needed to keep in mind when self-reflecting: to make agreements with ourselves to end systemic oppression and to be disinterested in needing to be right.
Davis opened up about his experience as an LGBTQ+ member of the NFL. He discussed how his identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and as a male has affected him. He learned throughout his childhood and when coming out to his mother that the world offered him a certain power. He had to overcome the fear and use his power to help those who are oppressed. He used his identity to become an advocate for women. Once you recognize the power that you hold within your identity, you can use it to help others. Men have been groomed in the sports and corporate world to believe that they belong in that industry. However, there are women and POC who are well-qualified who are oppressed because of the connotation that belief has made. In order to break this barrier, you must identify yourself and see how you can work together in order to overcome this systemic oppression.
Davis also emphasized the value of self-love and how you should overcome your fears and walk toward self-love. He discussed how when you’re self-interrogating, change doesn’t happen without great risk. “Those who are in the dominant group should acknowledge the power they have and use to their advantage and be accountable in the actions they take.” Davis concluded his talk by quoting from Lucille Clifton’s poem won’t you celebrate with me.
Next, CEO of Worth Juliet Scott-Croxford spoke with Anita Bhatia, deputy executive director for resource management, sustainability and partnerships for UN Women, on activating progress for women. Bhatia started by mentioning that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of women around the world and has deepened the already existing social, economic and political inequities that women face. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit three main areas—income, health and security. Because of the pandemic, many women have been out of the labor force to meet family needs. This has affected their earnings, and statistics show that most of them will not go back to the labor force. Furthermore, women’s issues, such as reproductive and gynecological problems, are being put on hold. There has also been an increase in violence against women amidst the pandemic, which has impacted their physical and mental health.
Upon receiving a question on what governments can do to better support women, Bhatia mentioned that inclusive fiscal policies would be best. For example, through a digital identification system, the government of India successfully sent 200 million women cash payments. Additionally, providing unemployment insurance and paid leave during the pandemic would benefit women immensely.
Bhatia ended by noting that bringing women to decision-making tables would be the best way to power forward in 2021.
After this session, Emily Cegielski, senior editor at Worth, moderated a panel discussion on advancing careers through self-advocating with panelists Alli Young, founder and CEO of The Forem, Jamie Sears, social impact and corporate responsibility leader at UBS, and Arsha Cazazian-Clement, director of global real estate at Shearman and Sterling LLP.
The panelists began by stating that self-advocating is harder for women, as they are expected to follow social norms by being humble, quiet and not boastful. Additionally, women face more “blowback” for mistakes and are often said to be “too ambitious,” as seen by the narrative surrounding Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris.
On the topic of moving up the corporate ladder without a sponsor, all panelists mentioned the importance of building meaningful relationships with peers and employers. Young mentioned that though this can be intimidating, building relationships and networking help women build confidence. Sears added that meritocracy alone can’t get a worker as far as they deserve; they must know how to build relationships.
When asked for tips and tricks for being the only woman in the room, Cazazian-Clement emphasized the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as how to build trust.
The conversation then shifted to how Black women can navigate race and gender in the workforce. In response, Cazazian-Clement highlighted observing if the company’s values align with yours and if the company sees your value and potential.
In closing remarks, Sears mentioned that one way women can power forward is through investing in their careers overall, and not just their current jobs. By identifying their own strengths, women can conquer their careers.
Then, Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, introduced Anna Catalano, board director, Claudia Pici-Morris, board practice consultant at Spencer Stuart, and Breen Sullivan, founder of The Fourth Floor, for a session on how to get on a board. Zalis discussed with the panelists what steps women should take in order to take the next step in their careers. They all talked about the importance of progress and to be continuous in learning from your mistakes. Any experience, whether it is from a public or a nonprofit board, is valuable because of the skill sets you will gain.
All of them mentioned the importance of networking in the industry. The number of women on a board has increased to a little bit over 20 percent. In a field which is predominantly male and has traditionally held women back, now is the time to power forward. When Zalis had asked the women for advice about how to get on boards, Pici-Morris said, “Don’t underestimate your own network and who you know.” Catalano said to “highlight what you know how to do and during the interview to ask what the voice around the table is that you’re missing that I can fill.” It is important to be a part of a board that truly recognizes what you can bring to the table—not just being a woman at the table.
Sullivan mentioned that, “It is a marathon, not a sprint.” She advises that you should not wait and start sooner. There are a wide range of opportunities that many women and POC did not have access to because of equity, but now it is a time to get started early. Zalis concluded the talk with the importance of having a good elevator pitch.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that women face to this day is not merely being impacted by gender inequity or underrepresentation. For those who are able to find their way in, the toughest challenge lies not only in surviving, but also thriving in male-dominated industries. The session moderated by the CEO and cofounder of The Justice Dept, Jennifer Justice, was a real eye-opener on how women can make their presence and value known, and how to use this to pave the way for other women to join in. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” said Justice, pointing out how women like Leona Qi, president of VistaJet, can be an inspiration to others. “We need to definitely show up, and we need to make sure to let them know that we’re here and demand respect.” Qi, who leads in an industry where over 90 percent of their clientele is male added. “The day that I’ll see that half of my clients are women, that’s the day that we know that women made it into the boardroom.”
Having a passion to deliver, staying focused on what you are good at and showing up for yourself and others were the key points that the panelists pointed out, not only for businesses and industries, but across the board. Kate Pratt, who is the head of sales for Liverpool Football Club, was excited about the prospect of bringing more female figures into a predominantly male-led industry. “Sports has evolved so much, and the great thing about it now is that it is so broad and there are so many entry points for women.” As a matter of fact, Pratt’s company offered a free digital classroom series to help foster interest about sports and the business of sports, especially among females.
“It’s a business imperative. Companies need to represent the customers they serve,” added Joy Falotico, president of the Lincoln Motor Company and CMO of Ford. “When you’re the only woman in the room, and it’s intimidating, that’s what you have to look at and say, ‘hey, I’m here not just for myself, but I’m representing all these other women.’” Falotico, who has worked for Ford for over 30 years, echoed Qi’s emphasis on having a passion and using that passion to drive yourself to be the best that you can be, and focusing on pipeline and mentorship to help other women get in the door. “You’re the wedge in the door, and you want to keep it open when you’re the only woman, so you can get more people to come through the door with you,” Falotico said.
To conclude the second day of the summit, Scott-Croxford wrapped up the discussions with reflections from Amy Wu, founder and chief content director of From Farms to Incubators, and Paige McCullough, who is a board member of girl-empowering initiative Être. Both Wu and McCullough agreed that self-encouraging, networking and an open mindset are vital to succeeding in modern times. Anita Bhatia neatly summarized the key ideas of day two, saying: “Women’s representation, leadership and economic progress are severely underrepresented. Women are carrying the world on their shoulders for all the work that they do. We should advocate for women to be at the tables where important decisions are made.”