Ellevate Network’s Mobilize Women Summit: Part Two

Check out my Part One blog post of the Ellevate Mobilize Women Summit 2019, or continue below!

Starting A Revolution 

This panel featured Susan Chira, Editor-in-Chief, The Marshall Project; Bev Gooden, Activist Creator of #WhyIStayed; Emily Ladau, Editor in Chief, Rooted in Rights; Disability Rights Activist; and DeRay McKesson, Civil Rights Activist.

Emily, born with a genetic disability, says she is a proud disable woman and wants to turn the word disabled on its head. 

Beverly calls herself an accidental activist. When Ray Rice’s video of punching his wife and dragging her out of the elevator went viral, Beverly had been quietly donating to domestic violence abuse charities after her ex-husband abused her. She felt guilt and shame about being someone who stayed in that abusive relationship because her pastor said divorce was not accepted. Since then Beverly’s been speaking about domestic violence, and she sends emergency escape bags to victims of domestic abuse within 24 hours of the request. She says this is removing roadblocks to stopping the abuse, on a smaller scale. 

DeRay was a sixth-grade math teacher, and now he is a full-time activist against police violence and mass incarceration. His brother was killed by the police, so he thought the least he could do was stand in the street in protest. He spent 400 days in the street and had no clue the world was watching. “People love the idea of resistance, but not the work of resistance,” he said. 

How can you get others involved?

Emily said storytelling. “In my time as a professional disabled person – trademark – [I’ve learned] it’s an insular community. We think we’re creating change, but it’s with people who’ve already heard our message,” she said. How can we get through to people outside that bubble? Leading people where they are at, she said. “If we want the world to be accessible to the disability community, then it’s up to us to make the experience of disability more accessible to all,” she said. “It’s hard to be a living, breathing, rolling teachable moment all the time…there is a big emotional burden from that,” she said.

Beverly was asked how she revealed her true identity of a domestic violence activist to her coworkers.  She said it was hard, it took balance, and being careful about who she could trust. She lives in Texas, and said Texas for women is different. She had to know who to trust and when to trust. She has to be careful not to become drained by doing too much activism work, she gives herself permission to disengage without guilt. “ The work does need you but I believe it needs the healthy you,” she said.

DeRay said there is a Black Lives Matter burnout happening, it’s hard to keep people paying attention. “I believe we can win. If Republicans can rewrite the tax code in 5 days on scrap paper, then we can do this. It’s not a win if the outcomes don’t change,” he said. He explained that part of the work is creating entrances and onramps… because not everyone enters the movement or conversation how we enter. Some people think the movement is about fairness, not race or injustice, for example. Data is important, and the power of storytelling is important. “If you imagine the place you feel the most safe, the police are probably not in the room. Less than 50% of arrests are for violent crimes, so it is not a public safety issue. Find out what is fact and what is fiction,” he said.

“Ask yourself who’s not at the table and are you making that table accessible. Take an assessment of the people you surround yourself with,” Emily said. ‘Nothing about us without us’ is a saying in the disability community, she said. Disability is the largest minority in the world and the only minority that anyone can join at any time.

Bev said one thing she’s stopped doing is arguing with men. “I don’t recommend it. It is not effective or healthy for me. What is effective is pointing out inconsistencies, such as people who say they don’t know anyone who’ve experienced domestic violence, but I have data that 1 in 4 women have experienced it and 1 in 6 men, so it is statistically impossible not to know someone,” she said. Shocking photos don’t help either, she said.

DeRay said for white or affluent communities, one occurrence of something wrong is enough for the community and media to ask questions and pass laws, but one occurrence is not enough for poor communities.

The panel talked about survivor’s guilt, how they have learned to stop apologizing for surviving and not talking about surviving, just living. 

“Anything that has ever changed the world has started in someone’s living room or porch,” DeRay said.

As far as resources, Emily advised everyone to find their community, and it doesn’t need to be a gigantic group. She found hers on Twitter. 

Bev said speak truth to power, become the power. “Become as powerful as you can and lift others up with you,” she said. Bev said domestic violence is a community issue and it requires a community response.

DeRay said follow the question to the end, when people say they want to do something, ask them what part of it? Part of the way to tell the truth is to ask the question in any situation: is that the best way to do it. He was in a meeting with Obama and other civil rights leaders who thanked Obama even though he hadn’t done anything for civil rights, which was different from what the leaders were saying in their public personas. “People get to a certain point of their career where comfort is more important than truth,” he said.

DeRay said we have to fight for what we think we deserve, not what we think we can win. “Fight for the biggest vision possible,” he said. 

 

Courage to Lead 

The panel featured Shareen Luze, Senior Director, Human Resources, RBC Wealth Management – U.S.

Shareen asked what would you do when you’re presented a leadership opportunity at the same time as being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness?

Before discussing what led her to that point and question in her life, she talked about her background. Her dad was in discrimination employment work, so she had a childhood without Barbies, beauty pageants, or other stereotypes. Team sports helped her self esteem. When she entered law school, she didn’t know how competitive it would be. For example, her classmates tore pages out of books so others couldn’t read them to score well on the tests and homework.

Her number one rule is: Never compromise on principles.

The school pickup schedule for her children, and family in general, is a key principle for her. She said she owned her schedule and the CEO said OK. “Nothing happens after 4pm, anyway,” he said.

Her number two rule is: Never limit yourself based on what you think you don’t know or can’t do

She worked for seven years as an employment law litigator because she’s passionate about the subject, then moved to RBC as associate general counsel because she didn’t think she had enough experience to apply for the senior role.

Circling back to the question posed at the beginning of the talk, she said she was given a breast cancer diagnosis one week after accepting the head of HR role. She said her heart hurt to tell people that were counting on her, that she couldn’t take the role.

“Let go of the notion that she could do it all at the same time. We can’t be it all to everyone all of the time. Stop perpetuating that notion,” she said

Priority #1, she said, was getting ready to go to work so she could take care of self, surgery, and 6 weeks off before taking the new role.

“I prioritized me and was unapologetic about it – I let people do things for me. The work was waiting for me,” she said,

“I said yes to leadership and I said yes to taking care of me and I hope you do, too,” she said,

 

Finding My Voice 

Panel discussion between Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor, Obama Foundation and ATTN, and Sallie Krawcheck, Chair, Ellevate Network and CEO & Co-Founder, Ellevest.

In the panel introduction, Valerie was described as transforming from a self-described introvert to the Beyonce for thinking women.

Valerie was born in Shiraz, Iran. She said she never felt like she belonged at American school. She was teased, and as an only child, she was self-centered and painfully shy, which she describes as being “a slow work in progress.”

She said she slept through the GMATs, so she went to law school, got married, had a baby… so she began her book while working at a corporate law firm and married the boy next door she loved. Then her

marriage wasn’t working, and she had a new baby but she felt she was leaving her baby to go to jobs she didn’t like, then someone suggested public service as a new career path she might like. Once she got out of the fear of following her own arbitrary plan, she though public service seemed like a good next move.

Valerie wrote her book partially because she thinks a lot about transformation though uncomfortable, hard work.

Sallie said, “You might also be the Beyonce of spotting young talent. Such as Michelle Robinson (Obama).”

Valerie said that instead of talking about her resume, Michelle shared about who she was, what she was like growing up, her values, etc. Then Michelle started interviewing Valerie, so Valerie started getting uncomfortable and offered Michelle the job in order to end the conversation. Michelle called later and said her fiance had an issue with her having a political job, will Valerie have dinner with them both and talk about it? “I thought of how he didn’t make a decision about his career without consulting her (so it was a similar situation of consulting their partner as equals on big decisions like job changes, not a situation of a man controlling a woman and telling her she couldn’t have a certain type of job).

About leadership, Valerie said, “Remember, it is not about you, it’s about service, local organizations and government. Public service is 24/7, it is not easy, it is not supposed to be. I realize it is our job to help people do what they dream of doing, and the government should do what the private sector can’t.”

She was involved in creating the White House Council for Women and Girls. “I came a long way once I figured out that service was what my mission was all about. The real change does happen on the ground.”

She said there is a liberation of fear that comes with waking up each day to do what she loves doing.

Sallie said since the conference we were at was called Mobilize Women – what should we be doing besides voting?

“Recognize the power of your voices,” Valerie said. The Affordable Care Act was not repealed, because of women speaking up about keeping it. Look at the power of change the #MeToo movement has started. 

Valerie also said, “Know what’s going on in your community and hold your elected officials responsible.”

“You can be in a minority and still be a huge voice. When one person stands up and say something, it can have a ripple effect. Be that person,” Valerie said.

Sallie asked how can we decide which orgs are the best fit for us. Valerie said, “Do your homework. Which organizations are led by people who share values with you? Then get in and try it, and switch if needed.”

Sallie asked how to analyze different opinions in our networks.

Valerie said to gather people with opposite views to get them to listen and understand each other, open up and be honest in a safe space, and give people explicit promises to be honest and they will be OK if they are honest.

When you are a lightning rod for criticism, how do you stay positive? Sallie asked. Valerie said to have a good family and learn how to absorb pain, without it debilitating your career or your soul. “It’s not about you or fragility of your feelings, it’s about helping others. Practice. The more people yell at you, the more you take it in stride, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt,” she said.

Removing the Silence 

Panel discussion between Adama Iwu, Vice President State Government & Community Relations, Visa Inc.; Melanie Strong, Former VP / GM Nike Skateboarding; and Elizabeth Rowe, Principal Flute, Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The first question asked if the panelists had experienced something uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do about it.

Adama was Time magazine’s person of the year known as the ‘silence breaker.’ She is a lobbyist who has been in politics for 20 years. “Women just talk to each other and give warnings about certain men. Young people [in politics] felt powerless,” she said. Young people complained about a certain man’s behavior, she thought she had stopped that man, but no, she had just “aged out” of his victim type. When she heard the Harvey Weinstein tapes, she said the situations were familiar to her. That same night she listened to them, she was harassed at a political event. She was at the boiling point and done with it. The LA Times printed her story and it went viral. She wanted us to takeaway that, “It’s none of your business what people online say about you,” and that sexual harassment is pervasive in all industries.

Elizabeth spent over 10 years working on pay equity at the Boston Symphony, so she filed a lawsuit and suddenly it was public. That was a different kind of spotlight than when she’s on stage at the Symphony.

When asked about fear, Adama said, “You’re always terrified before you do something big, but you have to do it anyways. 147 women signed that letter even though all of them were scared, a fear of being fired, but that number gave it power and weight.”

Elizabeth said she had a fear to have the story out in the public since she is a private person, and pay talk is uncomfortable. “I am paid well, but I am not paid fairly and I believe in value and merit.” The State of Massachusetts had enacted equal pay act before she did this. She said a colleague and his transparency about pay was the key to unlocking that fear. She is 1 of 13 principle players, only 2 were women, so she had to rely on male colleagues for pay info to speak about salaries. It gave her courage and credibility.

Adama said she contacted Kristy Pelosi, Nancy’s daughter or granddaughter, and put her on retainer as a lawyer for $1 so they didn’t get sued for the letter printed in the LA Times. 

“Know your rights, it’s so critical,” she said. For someone experiencing harassment, she said first get trauma counseling, then get an attorney (once you’re mentally stable) to find out the repercussions of telling your truth, when you make powerful men angry.

Elizabeth talked more about being a private person, with no social media, and she was surprised of how good it felt to own her truth.

Adama said she thought that letter would just shut down the bad behavior. She just wanted to stop giving women crappy advice like ‘don’t meet with men after 7pm.’ The whistleblower law was held up in legislature for years, until that letter was published, then it passed very quickly.

NY passed a bill right before this summit started, to put guidelines around the word “severe” and “pervasive” sexual harassment law definitions.

Another important point of the panel was that voting is not a one-time thing. Elizabeth said we have judges for life, so we need to ensure our courts are not structured wrong for 40-50 years.

Adama said to find your people, don’t feel isolated, start talking to people to talk through the issues, put it on paper and give it to people and compare. “You can’t change a culture if you never try,” she said.

“Be open with each other and talking about experiences, and paychecks. Be honest and have uncomfortable conversations with each other, because knowledge is power,” Elizabeth said.

 

Speaking Truth to Power

Segment by Luvvie Ajayi, NY Times best-selling Author, Digital Strategist, Podcast Host.

Luvvie is a digital strategist and “professional troublemaker.” She’s been blogging since 2003, starting a blog from peer pressure, then her peers stopped and she kept going at Luvvie.com

She has a psychology degree but loved marketing, especially marketing with nonprofit and teaching how to tell your story better.

“People started seeing their truth in my work, it gave them a voice,” she said. Her blog started getting attention, then she won her first award for blogging and she wondered why.

She described herself as a kid who felt she could never sit and be quiet, and was a terrible liar, so she learned it’s better for her to tell the truth. “Not enough people can tell the honest truth. I knew my core values were set from a young age. 1. Stay moisturized – I’d rather be late than ashy. And 2. Honesty,” she said.

“We are a society that is used to lying in small moments so in big moments we don’t know how to tell the truth.” Luvvie said. She described how we’re used to harmony over truth, such as if a friend gets a bad haircut, you tell them it’s fine, then they get mad when they find out it is not fine.

“In those small moments, your friend trusts your judgment less. I don’t want people to doubt me,” she said.

She talked about an ad campaign that was offensive, and asked who was in the room that didn’t tell the truth (about its problems)? One person in the room usually has sense, that person didn’t speak the truth.

Who are the people that always depend on the truth teller to be the person to speak up? What if that truth-telling  person is gone that day? What happens?

Relying on others to speak up is not good, Luvvie said we should do less piggybacking, and more of being the one who said it first.

“Be the truth teller. It’s a practice, a commitment, and intentional. It’s not just like I wake up every day and honesty comes out of me It’s a decision,” she said.

Luvvie said, “I want more of us to speak the truth because then it stops being extraordinary, it becomes expected.”

She spoke about the difference of being kind, which is thinking about those around you and speaking up for the issues that don’t affect you. “Not nice, nice means nothing, it means you are not a threat. You are saying nothing and doing nothing of note,” she said.

Speaking the truth will get you in trouble, she warned. But ask yourself, What is the worst that could happen? Do you die? Can you handle it?

Luvvie said she doesn’t ask anyone to do anything that she hasn’t done. She was asked to speak at a European conference “for exposure,” not money. “Clearly I’m already ‘exposed’ since you found me,” she said. But they pay white men for speaking and pay white women’s travel costs.

“I wanted to talk about this, my agent freaked out. If I can’t be the one to speak up, who can?

I’ve been speaking for 9 years. What’s the worst that could happen? I change my business model, use my savings… So I went on Twitter… I didn’t say the name of the conference, it got a big response, people were then having a conversation they were afraid to have previously.

It was my most profitable year speaking after that.,” she said.

“I have to be a truth teller in that moment, not just when it was easy, she said.

 

Resilience and Mental Strength 

Panel discussion with Sian Beilock, President, Barnard College at Columbia University; Janae Marie Kroc, World champion powerlifter; and Ericka Kelly, 17th Command Chief Master Sergeant for the Air Force Reserve. 

Ericka is an immigrant from Guatemala who was abandoned by her mom with her younger brothers when she was 5, and locked in a room for 7 days. At 12, she survived an earthquake. Then her mom came back,  Erika survived all kinds of abuse, and then was kicked out of the house at 16… all of this led to building her resilience.

Janae was a confident athlete in elementary school, then in Jr. High Janae did a 180 in terms of confidence. There was no money for clothes when clothes mattered, “all the kids I grew up with turned on me, made fun of me, and gender issues came to the forefront. It destroyed my confidence and self-esteem, so I underachieving. I stopped thinking about winning and just did good enough, just enough to not be embarrassed, I was trying to survive instead of trying to succeed.”

In the military, Janae was a powerlifting competitor, and originally the idea of winning was foreign. Janae had a disbelief of a shot at winning, then there was a light bulb moment. “I’d been limiting myself thinking this way, then each success built on each other.”

Ericka was embarrassed of losing, now she said she embraces it. “I embrace every fall, and I see what hand is out to help me,” she said. Her biggest obstacle was public speaking. She said she had an accent, was little, female, she accepted and believed every label, she was ashamed so though, ‘who would want me?’

She spent 32 years in the Airforce, had lots of scars, and said combat changed her after being in charge of operations so people were counting on her. One day, she was driving on the freeway with 2 army vehicles, then she blinked and she was 2 hours from her exit. “I realized I needed help. I was lying to myself for years. I put people in danger. The hardest things I had to do was work through mental health,” she said.

Ericka said resilience is a skill. Conditions will not dictate attitude or response to environment. She is 55 years old, looking at her life, and every single fall was for her to be in front of us today. Every decision in life made us be in here. “I am not going to give up. It didn’t matter how many times I fell I was going to get up because my dream is over there and I’m gonna get there,” she said.

Sian said when we focus on why we should succeed, it changes how the brain functions.

Janae talked about the video posted online that changed her life. Janae’s transgender and at one point was known as the ultimate alpha male. Janae’s known about being trans since being a 5 year old but terrified it would come out. Janae lived in a rural town, and that fear was realized when Janae told her parents, who are still working on accepting it.

Janae was terrified for consequences of coming out, especially for 3 teenage sons. “I didn’t want them to deal with the difficulty. I was slowly coming out, but not publically because of my sons, how it would affect them, they knew and wanted to wait until the youngest graduated high school,” she said.

Janae was outed by a Youtube blogger in 2015. Janae’s phone was blowing up, a greater response than was ever expected if the story came out. TMZ and Inside Edition had gotten Janae’s number and were calling in 30 minutes of the video being posted. “If my story’s going to be told I’m going to be the one to tell it. Interviews, etc gave me a platform to start activism, it was a silver lining thanks for adversity. I’m not thankful for the person who did it just for their Youtube views, but thankful it happened. It allowed me to pursue things I always wanted to pursue,” Janae said.

Ericka said for resilience she remembers to do two things. 1. Forgive people that hurt me and 2. Get up thinking about who am I going to help today, put myself second, life looks better when you think about someone other than yourself.

Janae said think about how other people did it so you can if you put in the work and believe in yourself.

Sian said that some people say changing mindset changes outcome, changing how you feel about body responses, so think about being excited you’re ready to go, not excited/nervous you’re ready to fail.

 

International Woman of Change Award

Presented to Hannah Beachler, Academy Award Winning Production Designer.

Kristy introduced Hannah by saying we need to recognize more role models, so many women are doing inspirational things, and we are all changemakers. Hannah used her social and political capital to make a more equitable world. She’s an Academy Award winner for the movie Black Panther, movies with strong, independent, smart, successful, driven, diverse roles. She brought Wakanda to life, though African life and culture research, allyship and empathy, of culture and perspectives. Giving it a voice.

“I just kept creating a place where people had a sense of agency,” Hannah said.

For Beyonce’s Lemonade, Hannah made history as the first black person in production design nominated, and first to win.

Hannah told a story about when her son was 3 years old, she was driving to her mom’s house, and she heard crying behind her. She pulled over and asked what’s up, she always talked to him like an adult, he says “How do I change anything, I’m just one person?” “That stuck with me. That was the day I started thinking about how does one person change anything? Social change was so big and overwhelming to me. It was something someone else did, not me. I was doing what I could to survive but then thought who am I, how do I identify myself? But I was asking the wrong question. It’s how do I define my action and my response,” she said.

“I am defined by my response to that struggle. My response to feeling powerless is to create art.

My actions are seeking out films to tell stories of people who don’t see themselves or their stories being celebrated. My response to race and bigotry is to take the route not traveled, with no fear of putting myself in a space where people don’t look like me,” Hannah said.

“I want to use my voice beyond the art I create. One person can change the world, just as easily as one person can destroy it. Let change happen. Let the next generation lead us into the future,” she said.

 

Closing Keynote 

Given by Sallie Krawcheck, Chair, Ellevate Network and CEO & Co-Founder, Ellevest

Her one message is about how even though there has been a lot of talk and energy and advancement of women over the years, we haven’t made nearly the progress that she expected.

“How do we break the wheel? Companies have more diversity groups and mentoring programs…they say ‘It’s the pipeline’… It hasn’t been the pipeline since the 1980’s. Middle management is where diversity goes to die. It’s time to admit that these efforts didn’t work.

It’s the CEOs who have broken the wheel [who have occasionally made it work, such as getting rid of the gender pay gap at their company],” Sallie said.

Sallie spoke about the lies we have been told as women, like money is a masculine concept.

Or just saying, you go girl, you got this, go for the raise. Her book is about how to get ahead, by looking at how a successful individual can do it, that is how she got ahead. She fell into it, worked really hard, and took risks. She thought that was the recipe, so it was comforting, so if you don’t get to CEO you didn’t read the book well enough…

“But that I happened to be successful was an exception. I didn’t have to work for Lez Moonves or the Matt Laurers of the world. I didn’t get caught by middle managers who weren’t going to promote me. I fell into the belief that we’re stronger and safer in a pack. When men’s friends are successful they are more likely to be successful. For women, this is not the case. We think it’s impolite to ask each other to do business, but the guys, we all know “that guy,” who is successful but not smart because of his successful guy friends. We bought into we can do it on our own, but we can increase our chance of success with a broad diverse network AND our small squad or group of women with us,” she said.

“Guys said go in screaming, I don’t think that will work for me. I called a similar woman in a similar job for advice. Once we do business with each other, advance each other, invest in each others’ businesses, tell each other about the board positions [we will achieve equality faster],” Sallie said.

It’s another way to change our companies, such as what women at Nike and Google and Uber did. Women come together to engage with the company, to make companies a better place for everyone to work. Here are some of the changes Sallie suggests for companies to make.

  1. There is no paternity leave in the richest country in the world. Research shows it pays for itself in less than a year. Also, offer secondary parental leave so no one is “mommy tracked,” you can’t mommy track the whole company. Engage with companies for paid parental leave.
  2. Report out gender and racial pay gaps. Men have been socialized to ask for raises, women were not. You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve.
  3. Getting rid of mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment.
  4. Sitting out of elections is not an option, there is no perfect person to vote for, find someone with a vision that aligns with your own. 

Sallie has two strong emotions are in conflict every day:

  1. “We’ve been socialized to not be angry, but I’m so mad about the lack of progress in our country, we’re moving backwards. So I come to work to do things I can do and create change. I’m marching any time and place.”
  2. “I’m so grateful, I step back and recognize how lucky we are. We found our way here to think about and work on the issues, we’re living better than 100 years ago. I remind myself that every day about it is a good day.”

“I’m mad, I’m grateful … so tomorrow, how are we going to come together with our companies and break the friggin’ wheel?”

 

—–

Here are a few other articles about the Ellevate Summit you may be interested in:

Lioness Magazine // Three Takeaways From The Mobilize Women 2019 Summit To Jumpstart Change In Your Life

Thrive Global // What Ellevate’s Newest Changemakers Want Girls To Know

Growth Warrior // How to Be The Change You Want To See

Grow Wire // The Best Women-in-Leadership Conferences of 2019

Linkedin // Saying yes to an opportunity when the voice in your head is screaming NO!

Ellevate // We Have to Break the Wheel

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