Celebrating 10 Years of Women Moving Millions

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 8th, 2017.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” H.Zinn

Today marks the start of the annual Women Moving Millions (WMM) Summit in New York City, and this year we are celebrating 10 years since the founding of WMM. 10 years since two sisters decided to spark a philanthropic movement dedicated to giving big and bold. 10 years during which unprecedented resources have been catalyzed for the advancement of women and girls. 10 years since an incredible community of donors came together to put the words women, giving, and millions together.

Women Moving Millions began in 2007 as a campaign to raise the bar on giving to women and girls. Founders and sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and Ambassador Swanee Hunt sought to inspire donors to make financial commitments of $1 million or more to women’s funds around this country and the world. Phase I of the WMM campaign began in April 2007, and was launched in partnership with the Women’s Funding Network. During the initial campaign, over $182 million was pledged from 102 donors to 41 WFN funds, and a global movement of committed, purposeful women donors (and a few good men!) was born. I was honored to be one of the 102, and although I knew the initiative was a game-changer for women and philanthropy, I did not know how much of a game-changer it would be for THIS woman and HER philanthropy. That woman being me.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” H. Keller

Soon after the campaign ended I began to take on a more active role within WMM, together with so many other women who knew that this effort to encourage women to give big and bold to women and girls could not end. With every passing year I became more and more passionate about the cause, and in 2011 I was invited by Helen LaKelly Hunt to become the founding President and CEO (Chief Engagement Officer) of Women Moving Millions Inc. when WMM transitioned from a program and campaign within Helen’s private foundation into an independent 501C3. This transition was possible in large part because of a signficant seed grant from the JP Morgan Foundation, which came to us through the incredible support of Kim Davis, Laura Davis, Mary Erdoes, and Diane Whitty. Earlier this week I had an amazing call with Kim, who is no longer with the foundation, and we laughed about the sheer number of meetings we had over the years, and I have the evidence! I saved every single deck and every single note from every single meeting. Kim, along with those other amazing women, believed in us and our mission at WMM, and tonight I will be celebrating them at the Brooklyn Museum.

In the years since I became CEO, I have put my heart and soul into this organization, because I truly believe in the work we are doing to support our members’ individual, as well as our collective engagement and leadership, to bring about a more just and equitable world. Yesterday we welcomed 28 new members, bringing our total to 282. 282 individuals who have given or pledged at least $1 million or more to organizations of their choice that primarily serve women and girls. Documented total giving exceeds $600 million, but total giving from our community members stretches well over a billion. Money does not go to WMM or through us, but directly to the organizations of the member’s choosing. What an honor and privilege it is to see where the money goes, and the vast number of organizations and initiatives that our members support. Money matters, but so does passion and leveraging one’s personal platform in every way possible.

This was brought to life so powerfully last night when one of our newest members, Mariska Hargitay, spoke about her passion around the issue of untested rape kits and her soon to be released HBO film I Am Evidence. Mariska has portrayed Lieutenant Olivia Benson on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU since 1999, and in 2004, in response to the thousands of letters she has received over the years from rape and sexual assault survivors, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. The mission of this foundation is to help survivors of this abuse through the positive transformation of society’s response to sexual assault, but in particular, this foundation aims to end the national backlog of untested rape kits, which is the primary issue examined in the film. Thank you Pat Mitchell for doing such a beautiful job interviewing Mariska and others involved with the film including Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor and Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Missing was the amazing Regina Scully, Producer of the film and Founder of the Artemis Rising Foundation. Key messages from the film were captured by the incredibly talented visual artist @PeterDurand.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

Every year we pick a theme for the Women Moving Millions Summit, and it is no coincidence that the theme of this year’s Summit is The Power of Community, because the power of this community is truly remarkable, and we are just getting started. Yesterday, Gloria Steinem joined us, as she has many times before, and invited us, no commanded us, to do what other groups may not be able to do. To take big risks, to be bold, and to support and champion each other and the countless women who do not have the resources we do.

Tonight, I will be named a cofounder of Women Moving Millions Inc., alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt and Catalyst Ambassador Swanee Hunt, and this honour means the world to me. I will continue to be ALL IN to build a movement of people, men and women, who believe that gender equality is important, is just, is right, and is about time.

Please join the conversation online at @WomenMovMillions, #wmmsummit, and #powerofcommunity

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” M. Mead

Here’s to the next 10 years of community at Women Moving Millions.

Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 6th, 2017.

Last year I wrote a post about a book that shifted the way I work with others. The book is called Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking With People Who Think Differently by Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur of Professional Thinking Partners. It’s a book about thinking; how you think, how others may think, and how you can learn to recognize these differences and think together in a positive and efficient way. Everyone should read this book, and I really mean that, because everyone can benefit from learning to think well with others. Collaborative Intelligence focuses mainly on the workplace and how to think efficiently with your colleagues and co-workers, but I’ve often found myself applying its lessons and advice to my relationships outside of work. If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that in today’s deeply divided times, we all need to find a way to think together, even if we don’t necessarily agree with one another. Dawna and Angie’s follow up book, Reconcilable Differences, hit the shelves yesterday, and it deals with exactly this issue.

Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World, focuses on how to interact with the people who matter most to you in your life. Today, conversations with friends, family, lovers, and/or co-workers can often be a fraught minefield of potential arguments and verbal battles, especially when talking about politics or social issues. How many times have you disengaged from a conversation in order to avoid an argument instead of having a meaningful discussion with someone you love and/or care about? I know I’ve been guilty of this, but as Dawna and Angie point out, taking a step back from these interactions only serves to deepen the divides between us instead of bridging them. We are all missing out on these vitally important opportunities to connect, engage, and come to a shared understanding of each other, right when this communication is needed most. In order to strengthen our relationships, we need to not only strengthen our communication skills, but also learn to recognize, embrace, and work efficiently with other people and their differing communication styles. This is what Dawna and Angie describe as Relational Intelligence: the ability to relate and connect with other people through communication, understanding, learning, and trust. According to Dawna and Angie, these four areas are both the source of our biases and the key to opening our minds to new perspectives.

Communication: Each of us has a unique approach to communication. Recognizing and identifying your own patterns will help you reconcile another person’s.

Understanding: What kind of thinking talents do you have to understand someone else? What do you need to feel understood?

Learning: What do you know about the way you learn, and the conditions that maximize or minimize your learning?

Trust: What stories do you tell yourself and how do they impact your ability to grow apart from or closer to another person? How do you transform those stories to grow beyond mistrust?

Furthermore, Reconcilable Differences offers readers three cardinal rules that help create a new foundation for a discussion with someone who thinks differently: Relate, Respect, and Value Differences.

These rules help us recognize that each one of us has within our brains the hidden capacity to repair the ruptures between us. You can learn to access your Relational Intelligence and reconcile the differences between you and someone you care about.

Finally, once you understand these rules, Dawna and Angie give you one landmark question you can use to dig in and connect. It’s a great and simple question that can open your mind to discover how it could be possible for both parties to learn how to connect and move forward together. It’s really very simple. Just ask in a truly curious tone of voice: “What really matters to me right now?” What often comes to mind are things like: “I speak truthfully,” or “I remember they are family,” or “I don’t just turn away.”

Knowing what matters to you helps redirect your attention from the other person, or the issue you are tackling back to yourself. After this is clear to you, ask the other person the same question, in the same tone of voice: “What really matters to you about this right now?” Lean in, breathe, and just consider what they are saying. You don’t need to agree. Just accept it as true for them in the moment. The possibilities for where you can both go from there are endless.

While reading this book, I kept thinking about one sentence in particular. We as humans are as hardwired to connect as we are to divide. If this is true, why does it feel like the only option we are choosing today is to divide? If we are just as capable of connecting with each other, wouldn’t that option be exponentially better for us, our country, and the world at large? Again, we don’t all necessarily have to agree with each other, but at the very least we need to find a way to communicate with respect and understanding. That’s the only way we’ll all move foreword together, and no matter what side of the divide you’re on, that’s a win for us all.

“I Will Not Be a Bystander to Suffering” – One last post on Wonder Woman

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on August 22nd, 2017.

This summer has been a tough one for the domestic box office. The final tally for the summer is estimated to end up trailing 2016 by 12%, or half a billion dollars, and overall, 2017 has racked up about 4% less in ticket sales than last year. There were several big budget bombs, including King Arthur, Baywatch, and The Mummy, and under-performing franchise instalments such as Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Alien: Covenant. And then there was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which is shaping up to make just over half its budget back, even after accounting for the ever more lucrative foreign box office. This is not to say that the summer didn’t have its bright spots. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 got the summer off to a rousing start (loved it), and Spiderman: Homecoming managed to score both critical acclaim and box office success despite the fact that this was the character’s third reboot and sixth film in 16 years. However, the brightest spot on the summer calendar was easily the release of my favorite film, one that I’ve seen four times now and love it more every time: Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman roared onto the big screen on June 2nd, and began breaking records on its opening weekend when it became the highest grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. Since raking in over $100 million that first weekend, Wonder Woman has gone on to gross over $404 million domestically and over $800 million worldwide. It’s the highest grossing film by a female director ever, and its total domestic gross is not only the highest grossing DC Extended Universe film, it’s also the top grossing superhero origin story film in history. That’s right. Wonder Woman has outgrossed the debut films of Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and every single X-Men film released to date. Just for good measure, she’s also outgrossed the domestic take of every single Harry Potter film and Frozen. That’s right. Wonder Woman outgrossed FROZEN.

Not only did Wonder Woman burn up the box office competition, but she arrived awash in critical acclaim and glowing reviews. Sporting a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and drumming up great word of mouth, Wonder Woman is slated to be the most successful film of the summer. The only film to outgross the Amazon princess in 2017 is the Emma Watson-led Beauty and the Beast that was the hit of the spring, meaning that the top two grossing films of the year so far are female driven hits. If this does not get Hollywood’s attention to initiate more female led content I don’t know what will.

I’ve made no secret over the years, the many, many years, about my unabashed love for Wonder Woman, and I couldn’t be happier that not only did she finally arrive on the big screen this summer, but she did so in a great movie that was worthy of the character I’ve loved since I was a child. Wonder Woman‘s release also gave me an excuse to let out the inner fangirl in me. As a collector of memorabilia for over 20 years, I finally pulled everything Wonder Woman together in one place, and holy moly. I had pieces here and there around my house, in my closet, packed away in bins, but I had never put it together in one place. When I did, even I was shocked! I ended up doing a local television spot around the collection and the film’s premiere here in Utah, which then got picked up on NBC National News. My collection, by the way, is set to increase tenfold, as this film’s success has led to a boom in Wonder Woman related products. Recent additions for me include a cool WW Bomber Jacket, salt and pepper shakers, and miniature iron clad characters.

Wonder Woman will soon wrap up her first big screen run, and it couldn’t have gone better for a film with so much pressure, anticipation, and stakes attached to it. My lifelong dream of seeing a Wonder Woman film, a great Wonder Woman film, has been achieved, and now all there is to do is sit back and wait for the sequel that’s coming in 2019. Not to mention her appearance in the Justice League film that is due to arrive in November. Can’t wait for that.

So you may be thinking to yourself, “So what? Why does any of this matter?” My answer is multifold.

1) This film made history. In a world where only 7% of the top 250 grossing films of 2016 were directed by a woman, this film’s success shatters the celluloid ceiling. Trust me, I wish I lived in a world where we had something close to gender parity in the film and content industries, but we don’t. The reasons for this are multifold and I invite you to dig into the research if you are interested. My best reports list has a robust section on arts, entertainment, film, and media. So the fact that this film was so successful matters to the industry as a whole.

2) The film showcased what can be accomplished through consumer power. Fans of this character waited decades to see this film, and we proved that not only will we show up, but so will broader audiences when the buzz is strong. What really helped this film perform so well was the momentum of passionate filmgoers, those who did theater buy-outs (I did, photo from the kick-off party above), posted on social media, wrote reviews, and so much more. This is all clear evidence of the power of the purse!

3) The message. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wake up most mornings anxious and sad about the state of the world. There is so much hate and so much anger out there, and what my favorite character gave us on the big screen was the complete opposite. Though we may not have HER superpowers, we all have superpowers ourselves. We make choices every single moment of every single day on how we show up. Do you lead with love, with compassion, and with the intention to make the world a better place? Or the opposite? What we see on screen, any screen, affects us, and we need more characters like Wonder Woman and more content that lifts up, not pulls down. She is inspirational and I believe that matters.

4) It’s personal. Today I am packing up my collection, leaving a few pieces around the house on display, but clearing off my downstairs table where the collection has been on display for the past few months. So many times I have gone down there and just sat and stared at all those items thinking about my journey to become a champion for women’s rights and inclusion. My origin story with the character can be read here, in my Wonder Woman report, but the reason why collecting has meant so much to me is because it has paralleled my life’s journey to activate my power – my financial resources, my voice, my influence – to make the world a better place. Wonder Woman has been with me every step of the way.

So this will likely be my last post on Wonder Woman for a while, as yes I am capable of writing about other things, but if you did see the film, take a second to reflect on your favorite scene. If it happened to be the No Man Land’s scene, that was mine too. I have the honor of knowing a very special man, Jim Greenbaum, and on the bottom of his emails he has this quote: “Being a bystander to suffering is not an option.” To me, this perfectly summarizes the character of Wonder Woman. If every one of us felt that way and did something, and then did something more, maybe our world would indeed become a better place.

For fun, here is a summary of the media/press I was featured in around the time of the film’s release.

Why Wonder Woman is an Equally Important Film for Boys as it is for Girls

Wonder No More: ‘Wonder Woman’ Shows Female Focused Action Flicks Can Be Hits

Wonder Woman’s Biggest Fan is a Real-Life Warrior for Equality

Wonder Woman Finally Gets Top Billing

Utah’s Own Wonder Woman