We've heard it many times. Investing in women is good business.
I've worked and developed economic development programs for women for more than ten years and I've witnessed how capital, resources and mentoring are significant drivers of growth. These ingredients can boost growth to any business, but if taken seriously by the government and private sector, investing in women's economic development has the power to transform family units, communities, towns and countries.
Last year, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund talked about this in a speech in Los Angeles.
“We know—based on a wealth of research and experience—that empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country. For instance, if women were to participate in the labor force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by 5 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Japan, and 27 percent in India. Equal pay and better economic opportunities for women boost economic growth—creating a bigger pie for everyone to share, women and men alike. Better opportunities for women also promote diversity and reduce economic inequality around the world. It is an economic no-brainer."
We've read the studies and seen the data. Companies with women as part of the leadership team, perform better. As a business case, it should be a no brainer.
As business leaders, aren't we leaving money on the table by not including 50 percent of the population in key decisions that impact our bottom lines?
As citizens, aren't we shutting down opportunities by not involving 50 percent of the population in matters that impact our daily life, health and education? Let's work together—men and women—to advance the 50 percent and bring them to the table. Betting on women's economic development is a key solution to our economic transformation. Which brings me to my beloved Puerto Rico, where I was born and live today.
I bet you've heard about Puerto Rico and seen how nature's wrath has taken away so much.
These voices vary. Some hopeful, some in dismay, and some distraught. But the reality is even before the hit of two hurricanes, we were entering the 11th year of a deep recession.
In Puerto Rico, 60 percent of women in the labor force heads of households and live below poverty levels. At the same time, women are also opening up businesses at a fast rate and there are double the number of college-educated women as there are men.
As it is, Latina-owned businesses created 550,400 jobs and contributed over $97 B in revenues to the U.S. economy in 2015 – and they are projected to be nearly a third of the total U.S. population by 2060. Minorities and women represent the fastest growing segment of consumers and entrepreneurs in the United States. Latina-owned firms comprise 46 percent of all Latino-owned firms, according to The 2016 State Of Women-Owned Business Report.
That is why we founded Animus Summit: A Women's Innovation Platform. Animus opens doors, connects and provides the opportunity to listen to great stories — of both failure and success — to guide people of all ages and career stages to their next stage of growth.
Animus is the largest female innovation summit of the Americas designed to inspire women to take action to reach their highest level of personal and professional development. It's an innovation platform designed to maximize women's economic and personal development around business, mindfulness, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. It offers introductions to capital opportunities, a marketplace for local brands to showcase their products and workshops for personal development in San Juan. We also offer a pitch competition where women-owned companies can get access and FaceTime to investors.
Hailing over 1,000 women in attendance, up from 600 women in 2015, we've seen tremendous growth in such little time. Animus will provide insights, ideas, perspective and strategies to develop or hone an entrepreneurial mindset.
Women are paving their own way to success. But we need 100 percent of the population, to realize, act upon and understand that our success translates into growth for all.
"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."