The Oxford dictionary defines confident as, “feeling or showing certainty about something." What it doesn't tell us, is that a confident mindset is one that takes years to develop, and is only as strong as the foundation that supports it.
In the midst of the #MeToo movement and long-fought war on pay gap, confidence emerges as a less distinct, yet just as significant, gap between women and men.
“As women, we tend to be more focused on competence than confidence. And it's holding us back," says Carrie Kerpen, CEO of social media agency and digital content studio, Likeable. Kerpen is one of the keynote speakers at this year's Million Dollar Women Summit, where she hopes to convey the importance of confidence as a tool of empowerment.
As a part of the Million Dollar Women movement, founded by Julia Pimsleur, this year's second annual Summit is a two-day event of coaching, interactive workshops and keynotes by successful female founders. The theme is Women Who Dare, “in honor of all the women who dared before us, not just entrepreneurs but inventors, activists and trailblazers of all kinds, who defied societal expectations and took risks in order to live their boldest lives," explains Pimsleur.
A two-time founder, author and influential speaker, Pimsleur understands confidence. This is why she set out to share her hard-earned wisdom as one of the few VC-backed, women-run businesses in the country. It all began as a controlled workshop to coach 75 women through their early rounds of funding.
Founder MDW, Julia Pimsleur
Three years later, and a collective $15 million in capital raised, Pimsleur decided to share the lessons in her book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, before ultimately establishing the company, Million Dollar Women.“Knowing that they [women] have a tribe of other high growth women should make it a bit easier to access the three things you need to 'go big:' the right mindset, skillset and network," shares Pimsleur. “The Summit helps with all three. We are demystifying what it takes to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar company and breaking it down for women so we can make that three percent a thing of the past."
The three percent that Pimsleur addresses is the sobering statistic she discovered six years ago while raising capital for her company, Little Pim. “Fewer than three percent of women entrepreneurs get to $1 million in revenues and just four percent of venture capital is invested in women-run businesses," she explains.
With a mission to help one million women reach $1M in revenues by 2020, Million Dollar Women channels Pimsleur's confidence into a community for women navigating one of the most isolating periods of entrepreneurship. “At the beginning of my business I had so much passion and enthusiasm and drive, but a few years into it, I was burnt out, and needed new skills and networks to get to the next level," admits Pimsleur on the self-motivated mission to learn from fellow entrepreneurs.
“We are helping women go beyond their comfort zones and build big, successful businesses. Now they can scale up faster, and in great company," she states.
Although the entire Million Dollar Women company is steeped in the underlying theme of confidence, as women gain a community of like-minded motivation, this year's conference is a distinct opportunity to recognize the significance of what happens when you “dare" to think bigger--whether that's leaving your comfort zone or fostering belief in yourself.
“I think that male founders are generally more assertive, while female founders are generally more modest, myself included," says Shan-Lyn Ma, founder of Zola.com. As the co-keynote speaker at the Million Dollar Women summit this year, Ma reflects on the early days of her entrepreneurial venture, where confidence was her most important aspect but one she hadn't quite grasped yet.
“Venture Capitalists are attracted to founders who are confident in their ability to build the next billion-dollar business, which men time and time again promise they'll do, regardless if they have a solid idea or not," she says. “Women have a tendency to come in with a conservative five-year plan, which while practical, isn't as inspiring to VCs."
It took years of realizing her visions and community support for Ma to exude the confidence that reflected the investment she made in herself, to attract an investment from others. For this reason, Ma looks forward to encouraging this level of confidence for women in their early seeds of funding alongside fellow keynote speaker, Carrie Kerpen, and of course, the summit's founder, Julia Pimsleur at the Summit.
“I hope my story helps light a fire in people's hearts to go after something they've always wanted to do, whether that's starting a company, taking on a project at work, trying a new skill, or something else entirely," says Ma.
As the confidence gap presents itself as a non quantitative fix, Pimsleur has undoubtedly created a platform where women can leverage their network to inspire the qualitative change--one which confidence's “feelings of certainty" are rooted in. “While #MeToo is fixing the egregious harassment issues, we are fixing the more subtle mindset, skillset and network issues," concludes Pimsleur.
In using these as key touch points, Million Dollar Women reflects how as confidence becomes more accessible and understood, women will no longer have to look at it as a daunting gap, but rather as another tool they can master along their entrepreneurial journey.
The Million Dollar Women Summit will take place April 5-6 at the Microsoft Conference Center in New York City. For more information on scheduling, coaches and registration, click here.
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."