This week SWAAY brought its digital female-celebrating pages to life with its first offline event, "The Future is Now." The invite-only dinner, held at Manhattan’s view-filled Glasshouses in partnership with EvolveMKD, celebrated the inaugural Wall Street Journal “Future of Everything” Festival and brought together female changemakers like Dow Jones’s Johanna Mayer-Jones, former Miss America Nina Davuluri, bestselling author Lauren Maillian, Thomson Reuters SVP of Innovation, Katherine Manuel; former CTO of Estee Lauder President of nThrive, Rhonda Vetere; media mogul (and SWAAY’s unofficial fairy godmother), Fran Hauser, and celebrated entrepreneurs Coco and Breezy Dotson.
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and Swaay founder Iman OUbou are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for EvolveMKD)
"Now more than ever, women need to support each other and this sort of opportunity is invaluable. The women that attended were so accomplished, elegant and open to meeting and collaborating."
-Karen Giberson, President, Accessories Council
As the sun went down over the West Side of the island, the glass room was filled with a golden light that echoed the uplifting, almost magical feeling of girl power within the walls. Guests snacked on canapés like tuna tartare and steak frites and sipped champagne while chatting, sharing experiences and advice with each other for navigating a world where women are emerging as the leaders of tomorrow.
“Ever since I had the idea for SWAAY I knew I wanted it to include offline events,” says SWAAY Founder, Iman Oubou. “I’m not normally a conference or convention person, but I love connecting with our tribe in the real world. When we come together, and compare notes about our business pursuits, there's so much richness there. In my own career, which included navigating male-dominated fields, I have often wished I had more of a connection to powerful female mentors who could share their experiences, including the difficulties rising through the ranks in industries where many deals are often made by men behind closed doors.”
The intimate dinner, which included about three dozen female entrepreneurs, activists and executives was purposefully left with no official run of show, no name tags and no panel discussions. The goal, according to Oubou, was to foster support and real connection amongst women on the cutting edge of their fields. Rather than focusing on the traditional female “themes” utilized in many events today, "The Future of Now" dinner was meant to look at professional women holistically, as their full self, and give these hard working leaders a much needed reprieve from the work day.
“Many women are constantly being asked how they ‘balance it all,’ motherhood and careers, being a wife and a businesswoman, and the list just goes on,” continues Oubou. “We see women as the whole of themselves, and rather than giving them lip service, we aim to create and foster true connections and friendships among them. SWAAY’s digital platform is part one of our vision, but there’s so much more to be done; from bringing together younger women entering the workforce with women who’ve been there, done that, and thrived in the face of challenges and adversity, to empowering like-minded activists to enact social change.”
“It was an evening filled with grace and beauty. I was honored to be in a room with so many intelligent and extraordinary women.”
-Evy Pompouras, former secret service agent
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Amy Corcoran, SWAAY Head of Content, Katherine Manuel, SVP of Innovation at Thomson Reuters, and Belisa Silva, SWAAY Editor-in-Chief are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses
According to Oubou, the event marks the evolution of the SWAAY platform, which will begin to include more in-person programming to bring to life various issues that affect women in their everyday lives. Because of alarming real-life facts (like that dastardly statistic that only 2 percent of female founders received any VC funding in 2017), an integral part of the SWAAY world is providing authentic mentors and fostering honest dialogue amongst women. Oubou is passionate about the belief that without a strong female community that is authentically engaged in your success, female entrepreneurs will face many more challenges than their male counterparts.
“The SWAAY dinner was an incredible way to bring together women of power and influence to discuss the future of business and opportunities!”
- Lauren Maillian, author
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Rhonda Vetere, Swaay founder Iman Oubou, and Kaitlin Kapur are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for EvolveMKD)
"Having worked in a situation where I had a woman trying to hold me down, you can’t imagine how amazing it was for me to be surrounded by women trying to lift me up,” says entrepreneur and author, Heather Monahan. “SWAAY’s event truly connected me to the most generous, supportive women and I am now a part of something so welcoming and real. Within 24 hours of the dinner, I have had three different people help me to promote my book and come through for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. SWAAY is not only changing the narrative but they’re creating an unbreakable community.”
Women supporting women was clearly the theme of the night, as much chatter revolved around the fact that it’s so important to be genuine when it comes to female mentorship. Much like hiring a “Chief Diversity Officer” is not enough to increase representation within a particular firm, it’s not enough to create programming that touches on the issues women face in their careers. Instead businesses must begin to take accountability, giving women the opportunities to raise their voices and talk frankly about the issues that plague them. If this event was any indication, it’s clear that women are just getting started.
"It was a wonderful night of entertainment with women supporting women, all in one room!"
-Rhonda Vetere, President, nThrive
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."