When you’re a female networking your way up that corporate ladder with your hammer in hand, prepared to tackle the inevitable (and ahem, unfair) glass ceiling, you’re bound to come across a few disappointing events. There are so many opportunities to slap on a name badge, sip a few cocktails and bump elbows with fellow ladies who run companies or have impressive careers, but sometimes, the actual meat of the event is lost amongst the traditional ‘pink-a-fied’ conversation. As if paying more taxes for feminine products isn’t enough, why should a conversation with vibrant, impactful women be anything less than super-inspiring? That’s why we have to tip our hat to a recent panel hosted by Xeomin, and organized by Evolve MKD, featuring a panel of impressive and refreshingly-honest female entrepreneurs from the tech to the furniture industry.
Held at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, here are some of the highlights of this empowering event where female CEOs (which ahem, make up a mere 4.6 percent of the Fortune 500 companies) went on the record to be real, offer insight and get truly vulnerable with the stories behind their success. Take some notes from their impressive - and honest - playbooks:
Women rise together.
Though it’d be inaccurate and stereotypical to say women aren’t as competitive as men, it is well-documented that women are more keen to help one another grow than men. Another truth? Women have stronger softer skills - a.k.a. we’re better communicators - which help us not only speak to our co-workers or employees, but to customers, too. Kristi Faulkner, the president of a female-centric advertising agency, Womenkind, shared that when it comes to seeking advice and guidance, most women don’t have to search too far. Why? Women support one another - and strive for excellent by having each other’s backs.
“I found that I often haven’t had to look for that high in the sky mentor, the same way a lot of guys have to because as women our best mentors are right around us all the time," says Faulkner. "I feel like I’ve been so lucky to have a peer group where we started out when we were all starting in tech and we rose professionally together. Those women, I’ve been able to ask them anything, we make time for one another, we lean on one another."
We fight against an unfair advantage
Randi Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and the editor-in-chief of DotComplicated shared a story that might make your jaw drop, like it did ours.
"I give about 50 or 60 speeches a year around the world. I was recently in Kuwait speaking at the first Women in Business conference ever in the whole country," says the rockstar media mogul and sister of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. "When I started off doing public speaking, I remember a big tech executive at a very hot company that we would all know, he literally looked like he had dragged himself out of a dumpster and walked onstage. I got up on stage and killed it but I had done my own makeup and hair,” she said. “A client called me the next day and said, ‘We liked your presentation but wish you cared about your appearance a little more.’ Literally the guy looked like he lived in a box in Union Square. I went home to my husband, shed a lot of tears and he’s like ‘you can whine about it or accept that this is what it’s like for women in business. If that means building time to get your hair and makeup done, you do that.’ That was one of the biggest wake-up calls as a woman in business. Looks really do matter.”
Is it fair that Zuckerberg was held to a different standard of beauty? Nope. Is it sexist? Yep. But even though we have different boxes to check before doing the same exact thing a man does, we not only do it in stride, but we do more than our male counterparts ever consider.
We can find the market opportunity - even with great risk.
For Niki Cheng, the founder of the BoConcept franchise in NYC, the journey to becoming an entrepreneur was one stepping stone after another riddled with risk. When she immigrated to the U.S., she had a degree that didn't translate into a robust job market, and after many failed jobs (including getting fired as a coat check), her husband suggested she work at a local furniture store. Though annoyed - considering she already had a degree - she decided to give it a chance. She quickly found a calling in sales, especially since she was able to empathize with the customer. During the panel, she said she would come home super-excited to share how well she did and soon, her husband made another suggestion: why not start your own thing? Noticing a need for lower-cost modern furniture, she launched BoConcept and franchised it, now with eight locations in Manhattan.
“I realized that there’s a problem in the city,” says Cheng. “There is no mid-priced range of modern furniture in New York City. That was in 2003. And I founded BoConcept and I knew that this brand will work."
We are women - and women are the consumer.
Dr. Anne Chapas, the founder and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology shared that one of the greatest advantages of being a woman in business is that the majority of consumers are, in fact, female. Knowing firsthand the experiences that are inherently specific to a single sex can help you relate to your potential customer in a more impactful, personal way.
“I think for me the most beneficial thing I find is 85% of my patients are women," says Chapas. "So as soon as they walk in the door, I’ve either been in the situation that they’re in or I’ve seen my mother go through it, so right away there’s an instant connection,” she says. “I know if they’re a little bit anxious, I need to put them at ease or if it’s for a cosmetic reason, it’s going to be natural and we’re going to help them feel better about how they look so they can get ready in the morning faster and get their kids to school and get to the office.”
We can see the privilege - and the flexibility - in being a woman.
Though the battle for equal pay in the United States continues to fight on, even in 2016, Ireland-based founder and CEO of Vita Liberata, Alyson Hogg says instead of looking at being a female as a setback, consider it a privilege. Why? We are born to be flexible.
“I think it’s a huge privilege that only 50 percent of the population get. I think we’re very lucky. Part of that is because we have children: People say to me, ‘we’re seriously considering a crash and going back in our business because so many women are having babies at the moment.’ Or they say Ashley’s pregnant. Or Louise is pregnant. And I say that’s fantastic because these girls are going to come back just different people with a whole set of skills that they never even knew that they had,” says the vivacious beauty CEO. “Also I think that because you have to prepare, even if it’s subconscious, that something life-changing is likely to happen to you in your future, you have to be much more flexible. That flexibility is what business is, girls. That is it. Is there any single thing that you have to be it’s flexible. You have to be able to move with the wind. You have to be able to look at a problem and realize you’re not thinking about it right and go from there.
We can have it all - just not all in the same day.
Zuckerberg is the proud mom to two boys - Simcha and Asher - and also a pioneer in the tech industry. But does she really have it all, or can she? For her, it’s about choosing your top battles each and every single day.
"I have a mantra that I say in the morning — ‘Work, sleep, family, friends, fitness — pick three.’ You can pick a different three tomorrow. In a 24-hour period, you can only pick three,” says Zuckerberg. “You can’t do all of those 5 and do them well. For me, I like to give myself permission to be a little more lopsided instead of feeling like I have to be perfectly balanced and do all of those things in one day. And you hope it just balances out in the long term.”
The evening, which was filled with insights and laughter was a refreshingly honest meeting of the minds. If this was any indication of what is to come, the future is more than female, it's also fabulous.
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.