5, 4, 3, 2, 1…A List of FAVS for 2016

hallaAs published on LinkedIn Influencers on December 22nd, 2016.

There’s been so many new and amazing things to discover this past year, I thought I’d share some of my favorites before we all disappear into turkey comas once more. Feel free to share your own in each of these categories.

5 – Books of 2016

Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (For A Sexist Workplace) by Jessica Bennett – What began as a monthly gathering for women to vent about the sexism they were encountering at work eventually gave birth to the Feminist Fight Club, a no holds barred survival guide/manifesto for working women everywhere. Filled with personal stories, research, statistics, and hard hitting advice, Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club is a sassy and fun-read.

Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Returns, and Impact by Joseph Quinlan and Jackie VanderBrug – Women today are an unparalleled force in the global economy—as successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives and family breadwinners. Yet gender-based violence, the absence of women’s legal rights, and the persistent wage gap stubbornly remain. This paradox creates an unprecedented and underexplored opportunity for investors. This is the first book of its kind to examine, in-depth, the advantages of integrating gender into investment analysis. I have been advocating for years for gender lens investing, and I was thrilled when I heard about this book’s development and publication. I have also known Jackie VanderBrug for years and I am a huge fan. The practical insights included in it can be used to support any issue and/or cause, so please pick up a copy today and move forward in aligning your investment dollars with your values and the causes you hold most dear.

The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin – For the first time in history, the majority of American parents don’t believe that their children will be better off than they were. But what exactly does “better off” mean in an age when people are rejecting the traditional model of “the good life” in ever greater numbers and finding an alternative American dream? Martin has coined this movement the New Better Off, and this book is an incredible compilation of her knowledge, research, and advice on how to navigate this new world.

We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino – Make no mistake, this is a heavy read. But it is essential reading in understanding rape culture, the issue of consent, and how these relate to the epidemic of campus sexual assault currently happening in the United States. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy, but especially parents. Let us learn from these stories so we can help teach our young girls and boys about consent and healthy sexual relationships, and let’s move the dial on sexual assault. These amazing women also founded the non-profit End Rape on Campus which I am a proud supporter of, and if you have not yet seen the documentary film The Hunting Ground, it is now on Netflix.

Where Fairy Tales Go by Annette Ross – 16 years ago, Annette Ross and her husband Bill found their whole life changed forever when a medical error during the delivery of their second child left Annette without the ability to walk. Where Fairy Tales Go is a personal and intimate memoir of the years that followed, and their struggles to rebuild their lives, raise their family of five young girls, and reclaim a fairy tale that was lost. Annette is a personal friend of mine, and her story is as inspiring as it is moving.

4 – Films of 2016

Audrie & Daisy – This hard-hitting documentary film is an urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools, and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera. Audrie & Daisy, which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, takes a hard look at American’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control. Audrie & Daisy is available to stream on Netflix, but please consider hosting a screening in your local community. Post-screening discussion guides are available online.

Captain Fantastic – If you missed this film in theatres this past summer, and the box office numbers suggest that you probably did, I highly recommend checking out this compelling family drama starring Viggo Mortensen as a father raising his six children off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. Captain Fantastic premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January, and more than lives up to its name. Truth be told I am a huge Viggo fan.

Step – Set to premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, keep a look out for Step, a documentary film that chronicles a year in the life of the Senior class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Baltimore is a city that is fighting to save its youth, and this school is attempting to rectify the struggle that young girls endure to be successful in school despite their home life and the influence of their Baltimore community. This documentary chronicles the trials and triumphs of the Senior girls on the high school’s Step Team as they prepare to be the first in their families to go to college – and the first graduating class of The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Step is more than just a hobby for these girls, is is the outlet that keeps them united and fighting for their goals.

Unrest – Also set to premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Unrest is the first film from Jennifer Brea, an acclaimed journalist who has spent years chronicling her struggle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), formerly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At the age of 28, Jenn became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair, and when doctors told her it was “all in her head,” she picked up her camera to document the world of millions of patients medicine forgot. Unrest tells the stories of Jen and Omar, newlyweds facing the unexpected, and four other families and their wildly different journeys with ME. Together, they fight to live in spite of the world’s most prevalent orphan disease. I know that this will be an incredibly important film, so please keep a look out for it in the coming year.

3 – Must Watch TED Talks

Suzanne Barakat: Islamophobia Killed My Brother. Let’s End the Hate – I saw this talk in person at TedxWomen this year, and it brought me to tears. Please watch, reflect, and learn from this horrific crime.

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action – This is an oldie but a goodie. For anyone interested in how great leadership can inspire great things, please watch this classic TED Talk.

Halla Tómasdóttir: It’s Time For Women to Run for Office – Another highlight of TEDxWomen 2016, this talk by Halla Tómasdóttir recounted how she overcame media bias, changed the tone of the political debate, and surprised her entire nation when she ran for president of Iceland — inspiring the next generation of leaders along the way. A must see!

2 – Newsletters to follow

The Broadsheet – A daily newsletter by Kristen Bellstrom with all the news on the world’s most powerful women. One of my daily reads.

Women and Hollywood – A weekly newsletter from the Women and Hollywood blog, founded by Melissa Silverstein, which focuses on gender diversity in the entertainment industry.

1 – Podcast

On Being by Krista Tippet – On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast that opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? A friend told me about this amazing platform, and now I can’t wait for my walks with my dogs or for a few found moments in the car so I can listen to yet another recording. The very first one I listened to remains by favorite; an interview Ms. Tippet did with Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin (yes, the author mentioned above) on the subject of rebellion. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

Happy Holidays everyone!

How a young girl from Canada with no connections to Wall Street grew up to be a partner at Goldman Sachs

goldmanAs published on LinkedIn on December 7th.

I was the first female trader to be named partner at Goldman Sachs. I was also, in 1996, the youngest woman, but I hope that someone has since surpassed me in that regard. I was at the time 32 years old, recently married, and a year away from giving birth to my first child. In total, I worked at Goldman Sachs for 14 years, and even though I left in 2002, in many ways it feels like yesterday. It was there that my passion for women’s inclusion and leadership was ignited, and it led me to my second first; the first President of Women Moving Millions Inc., the only community in the world of women funding women at the million plus level. However, the focus of this article will be my Goldman experience, as without that, the following would likely not have been possible.

So how did I get there? How did I come to accomplish that first? How did a young girl from small town Canada with no connections to Wall Street grow up to be a partner at Goldman Sachs? This is my story.

I grew up in Kelowna, BC, Canada, at the time a small town located a 5-6 hour drive from Vancouver. My dad ran a grocery store and I worked concession at the local hockey rink as good Canadian kids are wont to do. I didn’t know that my life would eventually lead me to New York City and Goldman Sachs, but I did what I could to open as many doors for my future as I could. I worked hard in school, graduating at the top of my class academically, and I honed my work ethic through my training as a bodybuilder, eventually becoming Miss Junior Canada at the age of 16. This was in part thanks to my boyfriend at the time, Mario, who introduced me to Mr. C’s Fitness Centre. Never underestimate the power of who you choose to date as a factor that may affect your future!

After two years of local college, I was accepted to the University of British Columbia, and worked as hard as I could to become one of the top students in my program. This in turn led me to be one of the first students to be accepted into a grounding breaking portfolio management program where students were given the opportunity to gain first hand experience in money management by managing endowment funds. I graduated with a degree in finance, and I was the first undergraduate student from UBC to be recruited by Goldman Sachs in 1988. I am convinced that being a champion body-builder had a lot to do with it. I guess the powers that be thought that if I could hold my own with all the power lifters in the gym, I could hold my own on the trading floor.

Looking back, it’s clear to me now that my path to Wall Street was paved with many firsts in my quest to open as many doors as possible. I am fully aware that a lot of my success had to do with timing and good luck. I was fortunate to be attending UBC right when they decided to start the portfolio management program, and I was fortunate to have incredible mentors, sponsors, and support throughout my career, but I do attribute most of my success to the choices I made along the way. I made the decision (on the advice of a family member) to go into finance. I made the decision to apply for the portfolio management program and was rigorous in my pursuit of acceptance. I made the decision to apply to Goldman Sachs, and when faced with the prospect of a permanent position at a firm in Canada with a much better starting pay package and a better title verses a two year one at Goldman, I still chose Goldman. This was once again thanks to the great advice of a mentor who told me, “Better to take a lower job at a better firm, then a higher job at a worse one.” Oh, and of course, I made the decision to date Mario. So in 1988, I packed my bags and headed to New York City.

Now, I think a lot about privilege and how that plays out in a person’s success, but back then, I did not see myself as a person with a particular privilege. Did I have a wonderfully supportive family? Yes I did. But neither one of my parents attended University, nor did they guide me forward in the way I am doing for my children. Money wise we were middle class, and both my parents always worked full time to provide for our family. There are many forms of privilege besides economic and social of course, and include race and gender, and we simply must acknowledge the role that all of these types of privilege play if our goal is to equalize opportunity.

What I did learn to do very early on was work very hard. I also learned that you have to do your best to create opportunities for yourself, and when they are presented to you, you have to make the most of them. For whatever reason, I have always been a YES person, and that has made a big difference on my journey to being a first.

But there are also the decisions that influence your life that have everything to do with the decisions that people make about you. Goldman could have easily hired someone else. My application to the portfolio management program could have been rejected. So could have my application to UBC for that matter. Unfortunately, our careers are often dependent on the decisions others make about you, and those can often be the hardest to overcome. This came to a head for me in 1994.

I started working at Goldman Sachs in 1988 and I made partner in 1996; a remarkable career trajectory for someone from small town Canada, but it wasn’t an uneventful journey. In 1993(ish), I almost left Goldman for another firm because I felt like my talent and skills were not being recognized or appreciated, nor was I being fairly compensated relative to my peers. That said, I was not actively doing anything about it. Maybe it was pride, or stupidity, but rather than proactively having a conversation with my direct manager, I went out and got an offer from another firm. When I went in to resign to my most senior manager at the time, an amazing man named Mike Mortara, he refused to accept it. Instead, he took me too lunch. There, finally, I said all the things I should have said months earlier. I shared my plans for building my business, my desire to take on more responsibility, my ambition to become partner one day and more. We agreed that I would stay, but I looked him in the eye and made him promise me he would be my sponsor. He even signed a napkin. Sure I had to do my part, but he was now accountable for doing his.

The few lessons embedded in that experience were the following: one, don’t expect your manager to read your mind. By doing great work you earn the right to have your aspirations heard and supported. Do your part to communicate them. Two, don’t assume people will sponsor you, ask for them to sponsor you. And three, sometimes it does take a bid away or another job offer for the company you are at to pay you what you are worth.

Being the first at anything is a huge responsibility, and it’s something that I take very seriously. You become a role model whether you like it or not, and my hope was always that many more talented people, and especially more talented women, would follow in my footsteps. While still at Goldman, I was a champion of junior talent, took on many roles within the firm’s diversity initiatives, and actively recruited and mentored female talent, particularly in trading. It was my job, as a first, and with a platform, to not only make the challenges I faced visible to management, but to shine a light on the experiences of others. Once that door gets opened, it not only has to stay open, but become a much bigger door. Can I look back and say that I did all I could at the time to help create a culture of meritocracy and inclusion, and in doing so help other women? Yes. And I challenge all firsts to ask themselves the same question. Are you doing what you can to support others that are following a similar path?

For myself, I chose to leave the field of finance in 2002, and it is not without occasional regret. I often wonder what if I stayed, perhaps not at Goldman, but somewhere else, what other firsts might I have achieved? (My most read post on the subject) There has never been a woman CEO of one of the big, US based, financial services firms. Nor has there been a female Treasury Secretary. But there have been two former Goldman partners that have served in that role, and now with the consideration of Steven Mnuchin, a potential third. Steven was in fact my direct manager for many years in his role as head of the mortgage department. But I did go on to be another first, and it was a first I could have in no way dreamed of back at the time I left Goldman Sachs. The gift that Goldman gave me turned out to not be the titles or promotions, but rather the fact that my time there helped me zero in on the issues I care most about in the world, and the financial resources to do something about them.

In 2012, I became the first President and CEO of Women Moving Millions Inc.(WMM), a global philanthropy network dedicated to moving unprecedented resources to the advancement of women and girls. To date, WMM members have collectively donated over a billion dollars towards causes that benefit women and girls; another first. WMM was founded by two incredible visionaries, Swanee and Helen LaKelly Hunt, and my work was to carry us from campaign to community. Now, we are about to undertake another first by creating a holistic philanthropic leadership curriculum, the first of its kind. Not only will this be an offering to our members, but we hope more broadly, as we believe that more fully supporting women to be their most powerful and engaged selves is a powerful strategy for making the world a better place.

So while this is an article, and a series, about firsts, I hope the main take-away from all the stories shared is the inspiration, and perhaps a few tips, that will serve you on your journey to reach your own potential. It is certainly true that neither success nor happiness is or should be measured by this criteria, but by many other factors. That said, without firsts, we may never know what is possible, and what it took to achieve something very special.

I invite you to check out the platform MAKERS, which is filled with the stories of amazing women who have achieved many different types of firsts. Just a few months ago my story was added to the collection and can be viewed here.

Finally, I would be remise if I didn’t acknowledge that being the first at something wouldn’t be possible for me personally if it wasn’t for the incredible network of support that I have in my life. I am unbelievably fortunate and grateful to have so many truly amazing people in my life helping me along this journey, and I couldn’t do the work I do without them. In your quest to be the first, I hope you find the support you need and the courage to surround yourself with positive influences. Whatever your goals in life, I encourage you to pursue your dreams, know that the path won’t be easy, but do it anyway. Go out into the world and be the first. We need trailblazers now more than ever.

Photos in order of appearance. With colleagues while at Goldman Sachs in the 1990s, my mom and dad 1970s, Women Moving Millions team, and lastly, three generations of Hoffman women.

 

 

The Most Underused Tool For Social Change?

SHOPPING! No seriously, I mean it. Or put a different way, our daily purchasing power. In the United States alone our GDP is around $17 trillion, and somewhere between 65% and 72% of that is consumer spending. When it comes to discretionary spending focused on wants versus needs, the role of the holiday season is particularly huge. For 2015 it was estimated that retail sales reached $630 billion USD, and if that number holds true for 2016, that’s a lot of spending power that can be used for good.

It’s often the case that in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and oftentimes the rush to find a gift, any gift, it can be easy to forget that every time you spend a dollar, that exchange is an exchange of power. Financial power. Companies understand this well, and they spend billions of dollars every year trying to convince you to give them your purchasing power. When I give talks about how to use all the financial resources you have in alignment with your vision and values, purchasing power is where the most lightbulbs go off. We are trained to think of our charitable dollars as what we do for good, but that is so limited. Total philanthropic giving annually in the US is around $360 billion, and as per above, that number is only half of the spending during the holiday season alone. Of course, we should all give more to charitable causes, and the argument here is not to shop more, but to shop with much greater intention of what your dollars are supporting. I see it as a huge untapped capacity for good!

Trillions of dollars will be spent this year in support of varying sets of values; the values of the company from whom you buy that product, explicitly or implicitly. The trend is for more companies to be explicit about their values, or otherwise put, what they stand for. And this is a good thing in my view! The advertising industry is based on the assumption that we want to emotionally connect with a brand, and often see what we drive, where we eat, what we wear as an expression of our identity. This should of course come as no surprise. But studies are also showing that most consumers, and in particular moms and millennials, are more likely to buy products that have, for example, a percentage of profits that go to charities, or are environmentally friendly. This is not only a good thing, but a very, very, very good thing, as charitable dollars alone will never, ever be sufficient to solve the problems that need to be solved.

So if, in fact, our collective dollars can make or break a company, brand, or consumer item, isn’t that an incredible amount of potentially unused power we have to do good? And what if we all committed to more fully using this power as a way of supporting our core values? What if we used our spending dollars to hold companies accountable, and as a means of enacting social change? This is what shopping your values means, and the possibilities are endless.

For me personally, shopping my values, especially around the holiday season, means buying gifts from organizations that have a very direct, positive impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. When facing a mile long Christmas gift list, this may seem like a daunting challenge to throw into the mix, but in reality, it’s actually very easy to purchase great gifts, while at the same time knowing you are directly supporting families in places that lack robust economic opportunities.

When looking for gifts, look no further than Rising InternationalIndego Africa, the Akola ProjectMade by SurvivorsMercado GlobalProsperity Candle, the Nomi NetworkSokoSame Sky, or Shopping for a Change. Each one of these organizations sells incredible handcrafted gifts such as jewellery, clothing, baskets, crafts, tote bags, and silks, all of which have been made by women in impoverished areas all around the world. Many of these organizations also offer the skills training needed for these women to turn their handmade items into artisan businesses, which in turn helps to lift their families out of poverty. My organization, Women Moving Millions, put all of this information together in a guide that you can download here. Best of all, you can do all of your shopping online without having to brave the horror of a mall around the holidays.

That being said, if you do want to head to the mall this Christmas, I can help you there as well. If you read my bio, or blog, you know that my passion is gender equality, so if you want to turn your shopping in to an act of supporting gender equality in the workspace, check out the Buy Up Index. Large companies of all types are rated on their employee policies, women’s leadership, corporate citizenship, and marketing, and these ratings are combined to create a grade the company receives on gender equality. Brands and companies that have so far earned an “A” grade include Amazon, Coach, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Gap, and L’Oreal, and in the future, these “A” brands will be invited to offer users of the app exclusive offers, discounts, and products. So if you want your dollars to have impact, simply pull up the app, compare two brands’ scores, and reward the company that has more inclusive policies with your spending dollars. You can also sign up online for Buy Up’s exclusive shopping list that lets you shop for equality everyday, and then tweet out your online purchases to #shopyourvalues and #BuyUpIndex. It’s that easy.

Obviously shopping your values will mean a lot of different things for different people, as everyone has different values and causes that they want to support. This holiday season, I hope you all take a moment to decide what it is that you want to support in this world, and then use your purchasing power to advance that mission. I will be using my dollars to make a difference in the lives of women and girls across this great country and the world at large, and I invite you all to join me.

Please feel free to share your values and how that aligns with your favorite company or product. Happy Holidays!