Two weeks ago, I attended my 10th Network of Executive Women Executive Forum. Reframe was the aptly-selected theme of this year’s Forum. With women’s leadership issues in the news almost daily, the conference was an opportunity to harness personal and professional insights about gender equality, industry trends, courage, and male advocacy; and to focus on continuing the acceleration of women.
Personally, this is one of my favorite women’s conferences. I attend with the dual objectives of networking and gathering nuggets of information. I know that at Forum I’ll meet people who are working to create change in their organizations and industries, and I’ll leave with insights, ideas and connections. I met so many amazing women, and an ever-growing number of men. In fact, I believe there may have been a record number of men in attendance this year!
Here are my top 10 #NEWExecForum takeaways:
Suzanne Kereere, Global Head, Merchant Sales and Acquiring for Visa, noted, “When the world gets crazy, you have to stand for something. Find your anchor and your truth, and you’ll be able to remain stable through change.” Suzanne emphasized focusing on people and building a culture that puts people at the center.
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, stated that bravery is doing the unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable thing to lead change. I admired her bravery and bluntness when she said that women work too hard to be perfect. “If I could give each of you the confidence of a white, mediocre man, I could change the world.” (My personal favorite quote of the event!)
As the father of a daughter, I took Reshma’s words to heart as she discussed how the pressure to be perfect is hurting girls. We are raising girls to be perfect and boys to be brave. Her call to action was to encourage us to tell every young woman in our spheres of influence to become comfortable with imperfection and to start by practicing imperfection.
"It is in our self-interest and, frankly, a business imperative to level the playing field. Diversity is actually a strength,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor of the Obama Foundation.
"A deal-breaker is a great salary with no flexibility,” declared Dr. Pamela Cohen, President of The Mom Project Labs, as she discussed how parenthood changes retention in the workplace.
Deloitte Principal Tiffany Mawhinney and Business Analyst Danielle Robinson noted that Generation Z is "the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the world has ever seen.” Their worldview is framed by the September 11th attacks, the 2008 recession, the rise of tech and social media, the growing wealth gap and increased expenses.
Love these nuggets from Andy Dunn, SVP of Direct-to-Consumer Brands for Walmart: "Men need to be aware, activated and outraged. To the women in the room: You have to invite men into the movement. We're scared."
If you haven’t read Andy’s “Calling All Male Allies” post yet, I encourage you to read it for his thoughts on why we need to fix the problem, not the women involved.
Thomas Page McBee described “The Man Code” as the “The Man Box” to reframe the constraints that socialize boys to act a certain way and uphold power structures. An inclusive society makes room for others as a path to equality.
"It takes real courage to transform a workplace for everyone." Daisy Auger-Dominguez shared that "feeling Hispanic felt marginalizing," and talked about how to achieve the full inclusion and success of Latinx employees in the workplace. It was a powerful conversation about gender equality for ALL women.
10. Take Action
My final nugget for you is to take action. Many leaders think about gender equity, but too few know what actions to take. If you would like to move more men (and women) to action, take the Gender Advocacy Quiz for your reframe.
A huge round of thanks and kudos to the NEW staff and volunteers for another outstanding program and event. As you head back to your respective organizations refreshed, energized and ready to reframe gender equity and action, consider where you are today as a gender advocate and what else you can do to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.