I have not done this for a long time. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I’ve done this, but right now is the right time to do it again. The done this part is when I just write about what I am feeling and thinking. In other words, just letting it rip. My own personal version of Jacki: Unplugged. For years now I have been sharing more polished pieces on this blog that have been first published on another platform, most often LinkedIn, and kept the more personal stuff for my journals. (However a huge thank you LinkedIn, I value that platform so much) It’s funny, but I just spent a few hours trying to write something that I could post there, and it probably would have been titled something like “Tips on Transitioning” or “How to Prepare to Leave a Role You Love”. However, it took less than two pages into each abandoned draft to realize that that was not the writing I needed to do right now. This is.
“It’s been the best of times, and the worst of times” was my response on Sunday when asked by the outgoing Board Chair of Women Moving Millions (WMM), Ann Lovell, how was I feeling about the past few days. Days that were spent at our WMM Member Day at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at the 6th Annual WMM Summit titled the Power of Courage, as well at as my last board meeting as a Trustee. It would have been easier to look at all of my fellow board members and just say, “I am feeling great,” but it would not have been the truth. Having just spent two days with them and almost 200 other speakers and attendees, many of whom spoke with such openness, vulnerability, and COURAGE about their most personal and profound feelings and experiences, I owed them honesty. And more importantly, I owed it to myself. “It’s been the best of times, and the worst of times.”
I feel both so incredibly happy and so incredibly sad. I feel both a profound sense of wonder and possibility, and an equally profound sense of fear and loss. I feel one, and the other, and everything in between. The older I get the more I realize that I live in the space of both/and much more than the space of either/or. It has already been so interesting for me to witness how people have responded to me when I show up with my full emotional self. Or should I say conflicted self? Some people were just there with me. Awesome. And a couple of others immediately leapt into what they thought I was feeling and why, and in some ways shaming me. Although I am sure it was not intentional, it still sucked. Remind me to never do that to anyone else.
While I knew, of course, that this would be my last year at our member day, the summit, and the board meeting in my current role as a board member of the organization, what I did not know was how I was going to feel while being there. And that is what this blog entry is all about. I want to write about what I felt, what showed up for me in the moment and during the 24 hours post-event, and what I learned along the way. This might be mostly for me, but I hope it may be for someone reading this as well. Yes, I am still, and will always be (I hope) one of the co-founders of Women Moving Millions Inc alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt-Hendrix, but what I no longer am is an active leader and decision maker for the organization. This is something I have been for almost a decade now, and for me, it is a very big deal to no longer be in this role. This transition is bigger than the one I experienced leaving Goldman Sachs so many years ago, and it is bigger than the reset on my life that I hit eight years ago when I moved across the country, and I am only just beginning to unpack why it feels this way. That is why I am letting it rip. I don’t want to let another major life transition pass me by before trying to write about what it feels like and why it matters first and foremost to me. But maybe there are lessons to be learned for others as well. But to be clear, this is a love story at its core.
I promise, this is from my heart. And pretty much unedited, by me, or by my editor Laura (although thanks Laura for doing the initial read through). Excuse the ramblings, the typos, the grammatical errors, and likely the improper use of “”s. If it gets boring to you, I get it, and skip to the end, I promise there is some good stuff there.
Where to begin?
I am going to try to make the leading up part of this story short and sweet, but I am not sure I am going to be able to. The reason I am going about it this way is because of what showed up for me, over the weekend, but especially since 3pm Sunday. It is what appeared on the page when I sat down to write. I am seeing it all as connected, and it is the opportunity for me to not only connect the dots for someone reading this, but for me as well for later reflection. You never know, maybe it’s an outline for a book. Maybe not.
(warning: turned out I had about 14 pages to write…)
Major life events in bullet points:
- Growing up in Canada – 1964 to 1988. Amazing parents, sister, and extended family, middle-class upbringing, both my parents worked, horses, bodybuilding, did well in school, great friends, pretty much all good. I went to the University of British Columbia and studied finance (because someone at a party talked me in to it), became part of an incredible money management program that changed my life, the story of which I happened to tell while at the summit when asked what was one of the greatest gifts I ever received as an exercise on member day. I know for sure, now, that I did not see it as the most extraordinary act of philanthropy that it really was, because not only did is utterly shift the possible future for me, but for so many others as well. I graduated in 1988 and went to work at Goldman Sachs in NYC. Generally speaking, “the best of times”.
- Goldman Years – 1988 to 2002. I went from analyst, to associate, to VP, to Partner in the mortgage-backed bonds department over a period of eight years. “It was the best of times, and the worst of times.” Why the best? Living in New York City. The work, which was incredibly interesting and extremely challenging. I loved and deeply respected most of the people I was working for and with, and I had benchmarks for success that were measurable, which was very motivating. The financial rewards for doing well were significant. I learned how to manage people, and I was in an environment where I could make mistakes. And I did. Most of the time I was out of my comfort zone, and while that was so stressful, it was also very confidence building. I was there at a time when “women’s leadership” was just becoming a thing, and I was on the forefront, with many others, to help shape policy and practice at Goldman Sachs. In 1996, when I made partner, I was the first woman trader and youngest female to do so. That meant a lot to me then and it still does now. I met my husband, Greg, at Goldman, and for that, my gosh, I will be forever grateful. We hid our engagement for a few months before sharing it with our boss, Michael Mortara, and he really did go out of his way to make accommodations for us. We married in 1995. I had some truly great managers and champions. Some of the colleagues I had at Goldman are still my closest friends to this day. Others I thought I would stay friends with forever, but I have not. As my brilliant friend Kathy Lemay recently said to my daughter, Allie, about saying good-bye to a friendship, “friends can be there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and you never know upfront which of these any person will be”. What I know for sure is that many people from my time at Goldman have already been, and will always be, in that lifetime category. (You know who you are #loveyou) Another big positive is the huge credibility associated with having been a partner at Goldman Sachs. If there was such a thing as a ‘finance professional Olympics’, becoming a partner at Goldman, especially as a young woman, would represent a gold medal. Of course, I know that there may be someone who reads this and posts in the comments section something along the lines of “die you wall street whore” as they have in the past when I blog freely about Goldman, but so be it. To that potential person I say in advance, “I hope that has helped you feel better about yourself.” I have never really talked about how much online harassment I have faced, especially in the early days of my blog, but holy moly. That is another story. So why the worst of times? Because I was sexually harassed and faced issues of pay inequity that have only become clearer to me as time has passed and as I have read the stories of so many other women who have been so brave to share them. I realize now that because I was successful despite of some of the horrible things I endured, I felt I was not entitled to share my stories in the same way that other women, women that did not as much career success as me, could. I was also just scared as well, and still am. Of course, I now see that is utter horse shit, but that is how I felt, and feel. It was at a time when things like harassment were really not talked about and I had to mostly figure it out myself. The good news is I survived, I stayed, and I learned from it, and I have done my best to help others around these two issues in the ways I knew how to at the time. I am now seeing lots of other ways. There were a few people who did really terrible, abusive things to other people, including me. And generally speaking I put up with it. That pisses me off. Even worse, there were a small number of truly horrible people who could not give a rats ass about anyone but themselves, and in this moment I am mad that I did not stand up to them earlier and more often. If you are reading this looking for a dash of career advice here is that dash. You likely have a lot more power than you think you have, so use it if you need to. On the positive side of having to be around bad behavior, and even bad people, it helped me to see what that looked and felt like, and I really did try to not be that person. That said, I surely made mistakes. Many. It is interesting to me, and maybe to you if you are reading this, that I do spend time dancing with my memories, both wondering who I may have been unkind to and acknowledging who I really was unkind to, and wondering not only why I was behaving that way at the time, but also making sure that I am taking those insights forward into my life now. While I hope that my moments of being unkind to people in my present are few and far between, they still happen, and what I think I know now is that it usually happens when I am feeling overwhelmed, unsafe, fearful, or somewhat conversely, incredibly over-confident and jacked up on my own power. Or all of that mixed together. In other words, it is usually about me, not about them. One more thing. I know for sure that I did as much as I could, or knew how to do at the time, to advance women in leadership positions at Goldman Sachs. When I look back on my time at Goldman, that is what I am most proud of. In my future I really would like to spend more time speaking with, and to, women professionals, especially in the area I know well, finance. One last thing. As I finished typing that last line I remembered that in 1995, while planning our wedding, I was so stressed out I passed out on the street in NYC into the arms of my parents who were visiting to help plan the wedding. I woke up in the hospital with the whole right side of my body paralyzed. They thought I had had a stroke. Turns out I hadn’t. I had a hemiplegic migraine, and the feeling came back after a while, but it scared the living shit out of me let me tell you. Just felt I had to include that story as it showed up for me in the moment.
- Thinking About Leaving Goldman Sachs, Leaving Goldman, CFG, and Finding WMM – 2000 to 2009. I left Goldman Sachs in 2002, and frankly, to this day I don’t think I have gone where I need to go to understand why I decided to leave. What I know for sure is that I was very conflicted about it and it was a very hard decision. Super hard. Leading up to my departure there were a lot of “best of times, and worst of times” events, professionally and more personally. Best of times: making partner, having my son, being involved with women’s leadership and inclusion at work, the firm going public, having my daughter, taking on a big role in the executive office. Worst of times: finding out that I was very underpaid relative to my peers because it turned out that someone I thought was my champion did not stand up for me behind closed doors, almost quitting, not quitting because Goldman made it right, having the man who had been my greatest champion for promotion die very suddenly of a brain aneurism, watching my husband go through so much stress at work while managing the emerging market trading desk while trying to be the best father and husband he could be. I am shaking as all of these memories are pouring into my head, my heart, and out through my fingers. The best of times was the feeling of community I had with so many of my fellow women partners and other women colleagues. We were in it together, and we had a shared purpose: to make Goldman Sachs more welcoming and supportive of women professionals. And there were so many amazing men that not only mentored and supported me, but took their roles as managers seriously, and were good at it! It was around 2000, after all of the above and more, that I began to think about leaving. At the time I had just given birth to my second child, Allie, and my beautiful boy Matthew was about as adorable as a 3 year old could be. My husband decided that he wanted to leave, as one of us should, to have a parent at home with our kids. And work for him was just brutal. We quite literally were moving into our new home in Connecticut, 60 miles north of our apartment on the upper west side, just days after I gave birth. Of course, I was still working until almost the last day, and I had gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy for the second time. We were three adults and one child living in a 900 square foot apartment because we were cheap and could not fathom paying what we needed to pay to have a bigger apartment in NYC. So I had the baby, a second C-section after hours of labor, had a wonderful maternity leave, and then went back to work in a whole new context. While I was returning to work, my husband left to be a stay-at-home dad. So I was a mother of two, had an at home partner for the first time, had a new job in the Executive Office for which there was no road map so I had to create one (thank you Kevin Kennedy), and was commuting over an hour each way, each day. I can’t remember what time I usually got on the train, but usually around 6am, to get home around 7 – 8 pm. And even doing that, I felt like I had given up on my career. I was also one of a relatively small percentage of women living in my town who had a professional career. Every morning, and every evening, I was reminded of that as females were few and far between on the train. I remember how hard it was to leave my children in the morning to go into a space, the train, where the words BAD MOM seemed to be flashing all around me. After all, if it was a good thing to be going off to work wouldn’t more women be doing it? As the days wore on I knew it was not sustainable. Of course, in our situation Greg was home with the kids, which was awesome, but our culture does not treat it the same way, for him or for me. It was hard for him as well. He went from being a Goldman Partner to taking our kids to playgroups where he was the only dad. Then there was 9/11. I had taken the day off because a new nanny was starting with us that day, so magically I was not downtown during the attacks. Yes I survived and I mourned those who did not, and yes I received the message that it could have been me. I was scared from that day forward every time I trained into New York City. A few days after the attack when we were all returning to work, I took a walk to the epicenter. I remember walking up up from 85 Broad Street, and turning left on Wall Street when the destruction came in to full view. Just no words. Of course the remembrance of that day was just before the summit this year, and I took those memories into the space with me. What is also super weird is that while I was at the summit the papers were being plastered with stories about the leadership transition at Goldman Sachs. Not only did Lloyd Blankfein step down as CEO after 12 years, but a lot of other changes were announced. That was what triggered all my GS memories. Back to the past. During my time in the Executive Office, there was one day when I woke up in the middle of the night and I could not move my body. My back had seized up. It just so happened that a friend had stayed over that night who was a massage therapist, and I somehow dropped out of bed onto the floor, crawled into her room, and begged her to help me because I had to get into the city for a meeting. I could not miss it. She massaged my back, got me a Tylenol, quite literally held me in the shower to have hot water pour over my body to loosen it up, and off to work I went. And then there was the day when I came home late, so exhausted, and realized I had forgot to bake cookies for the kids’ class the next day. Yes another failed to bake the fucking cookies story. While pondering what to do in my kitchen, wondering if there was a store open somewhere to go buy ‘looked like homemade’ cookies, I saw a mouse run across the the floor, and I really hate mice. I jumped up on the counter and just cried and cried and cried. I also wrote a poem about it in the moment, as writing has always been my way of getting my feelings out. Kind of like the physical need to vomit. I knew, at some point, that the writing was on the wall. As I type this, the 2018 Jacki knows all of this is stinking of #whiteprivilige, but I am being honest about my world at the time, and believe me, I am well aware how small it was. All that said, I generally speaking loved what I was doing at work. It was my job to help manage the careers of the firm’s managing directors, and only now can I see, do I see, such a direct connection to my work at Women Moving Millions so many years later. My job then, and up until Sunday now, was to help women more fully activate their power and potential. In the first context it was as a female professional in the area of finance, and of course the second being a female in the world of philanthropy. I saw it all so clearly, at the summit. One of my best friends today in Park City has a 5 year old, and sometimes I catch myself watching her and her daughter and picturing myself as a mom to my kids at that age. I try to remember locations, details, and even more challenging to find, how I felt. “It was the best of times, and the worst of times.” There were so many bests, and most of them were when I was just present, with both of them and my husband, and we were just having fun. On the trampoline, playing indoor soccer, watching a Disney movie for the 12thtime because it was their favorite. Wow. I’m having a freak out right now. I just realized that a second big transition for me, the one this post was really supposed to be about, yet again is connected to a life event around Allie and her graduating and deciding to take a gap year, but more on that later. I have journals and journals full of my thoughts and feelings at this time, and one of the things I want to do, need to do, is make time to whip them all out and read them. In some ways it was a very creative time for me, as I had this magical time on the train each day, and these were the days before smart phones so I just read, and thought, and wrote. It was then that my idea for a Wonder Woman screenplay just appeared to me, but again, that is a longer story. I don’t really remember what I told people at the time about why I left Goldman Sachs. Because I had two small children it was convenient and socially acceptable to say “to spend more time with my kids”. And that was true. I did want and craved to spend more time with my kids. Just not all my time with my kids. I learned that too. Moving on.
- From 2002 to 2010. Oh gosh. As I am trying to find a few lines to write about this time, I
am having yet another ‘holy shit’ moment about how complicated this time in my life was for me, and how it connects to what I am feeling right now. (Breathe) Let me just provide the facts. We had moved to New Canaan, CT. I was working hard to find my place in the world post my Goldman Partner thing. I took my kids to school, I hosted play-dates, I coached soccer, I got to know women and families in my beautiful community. I did all of that and loved it. #bestoftimes Greg went back to school in 2003 and got his Masters of Divinity and became very active at GRACE Church. I also regularly, very regularly, trained into New York City for ‘work’. My work became Circle Financial Group (CFG), a peer-to-peer wealth management group set up by one of my dearest friends to this day, Ann Kaplan (who just sat beside me at the Summit while I was crying my little heart out by the way), along with another founder I did not really know at the time but know now, and who is also a trusted forever friend, Maria Chrin. I will be forever, forever, forever be grateful to Ann, to Maria, and to the other women who were part of CFG for providing for me what I so needed at that time; a professional context and a professional identity embraced by a giant hug of community. Again, holy shit. I have not processed all of this either. So much to unpack. What I spent a lot of time doing in this context was working to understand the landscape of financial advisory and wealth management so that we could manage our own financial resources. In addition, I began to really focus on my philanthropy, which at that time meant writing checks and serving on boards of non-profits. So much here too, but moving on.
- Finding Women Moving Millions – 2002 to 2009. As the years from 2002 onward moved forward, I was spending more and more time with philanthropic groups focused on girls and women, and in particular women’s funds. My interest in supporting women’s leadership poured into my work with various non-profits, and is one of the main reasons I loved women’s funds so much. I had joined the board of the Women’s Funding Network, and it was there that I got to the know the incredible Chris Grumm. She became, and still is, a role model for me for courageous leadership. She is the one who invited me to consider joining the Women Moving Millions Campaign, as she was a co-founder of it. WMM at the time was a campaign to encourage women to make million dollar commitments to women’s funds. Again, holy shit, I could go on and on and on right here, but I won’t. The need to know piece for the rest of this story is that this moment was transformational for me. Why? Because the act of making that commitment, the moment of stepping onto a stage at the Brooklyn Museum to have a group photo taken by Annie Leibowitz to mark that moment in history where for the first time women of means came together to fund women at the million dollar level, helped me to see clearly what the next stage of my life would be about: helping to unlock the resources of high-net worth women to support other women, and more broadly, gender equality. It also was a very important moment for me in terms of beginning to come to terms with the financial resources I now had available to me. I grew up in a middle class family where both my parents worked outside the home, and although we always had enough, we were certainly not ‘rich’. It also gave me the vision of what my future new community might look like. First it was Goldman women partners, then CFG, and now possibly the women that I met in Brooklyn, women who shared a set of values around what they wanted the world to look like and were putting their money where their values were. Again, Chris Grumm, thank you. Helen LaKelly Hunt, thank you. Swanee Hunt, thank you.
- Women Moving Millions the Gestation Years – 2009 to 2012. After that moment at the Brooklyn Museum, I knew for sure I wanted to get involved with WMM. I had gotten to know Helen LaKelly Hunt, who together with her sister Swanee Hunt, had created WMM in partnership with WFN and Chris Grumm. Again, holy shit, so much more here. So many people, so many meetings, so many calls, and the history of it all is packed away in boxes in my closet, as well as in my head and in my heart. What I know I felt were feelings similar to all those positive ones while working at Goldman Sachs and while being at Circle Financial Group. I was challenged both intellectually and emotionally, and increasingly I came to see that this work, the work to catalyze unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls, would somehow be my next big thing in terms of how I was going to spend my time, treasure, and talent. I went ALL IN. Being part of moving the WMM Campaign out of the arms of WFN and Helen’s private foundation, and into its own place as an independent 501c3 was not an easy one, nor, perhaps, should it have been. We use the term from campaign to community a lot, and let me tell you it is hard building a community. Again, I have not taken the time to think about how I, we, could have done that better, because I have been working so hard just moving WMM forward, but I want to. Much of it was about how to do transitions well, and that is why this showed up for me at the summit. That said, we did so much right and good! Then there was this past Thursday when I saw Chris Grumm at the WMM/WFN reception at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Our paths have barely crossed for years, but Jessica Houssain, our WMM special advisor and a dear friend, had the brilliance to see that this was the summit to ask Chris to give a talk, and two days later did she ever. She knocked it out of the park with her invitaion to connect courage with justice, and how the two really must go hand in hand to effect positive social change. Do you ever think about writing someone from your past a letter, a long letter, a tell you everything letter, a will you forgive me for not always being my best letter, and a will you be a part of my future letter? Well I do. And Chris Grumm would get one of them. She will get one of them. I should add that in 2010 my family made the decision to move to Park City, Utah from Connecticut. A move that was once again, “the best of times, and the worst of times”. The best of times was that it was good for my family, and it forced me to hit a reset on what I was giving my time to. The not so good was leaving Circle Financial Group, which I loved and had felt such a sense of community. Then there was leaving my dear friends and my network. We had an amazing community in New Canaan, a place we had lived for a decade, and that too was brutal. Oh and of course church, Grace Church. Never in my life had I really been part of a faith community, let alone one so incredible and that had been with me on my journey to find my faith. Wow. As an extreme extrovert and someone who needs people so much, the thought of starting over, let alone the act of actually doing it was devastating. I see now how much I hid that at the time, and yet I did my best to show up with enthusiasm around it all being a new adventure. And spoiler alert, it was. It was the reset I needed to take on what I was going to do next, and it made space for WMM. I am quite sure I would not have gotten there had we not made this fantastic move. Thank you Greg for seeing it, for pushing for it, and for holding me through it. A piece of wisdom that I would share with my younger self. DO NOT BE SO AFRAID OF CHANGE. CHANGE IS GOOD, AND IF IT’S NOT, CHANGE BACK.
- Building Women Moving Millions from 2012 to 2018. I will be forever grateful to Helen LaKelly Hunt for asking me to lead, and trusting me to lead WMM as it became its own independent 501c3 in 2012. A special thanks to JP Morgan for giving WMM a $1.5 million dollar grant to allow it to happen. (Diane, Laura, Kim #loveyou) Having now spent years doing corporate fundraising and engaging with around 80 different organizations in some capacity I have thoughts on that whole thing too. That will be a LinkedIn piece. In the early days of WMM, oh my gosh was I challenged, and elated, and terrified, and joyful, and, and, and, depending on the moment and the day. Again, so much to write about, so many journals full of thoughts and notes and milestones. So many things I did, WE did (AMAZING staff team, board, consultants), that were so friggin right! And so many things that I did, we did, that, let’s just say were…. learning opportunitities. What I knew for sure was that we were doing something really important, something that had never been done before. Something that had the potential to truly matter, not only for individual women, but also for the women for women funding movement, and for philanthropy more generally. I cannot count the number of trips I did back and forth to New York during those years, but it was a lot. And to other places. I was raising money, giving money, working with the team and the board creating plans, executing those plans, planning summits, talking to potential members, collecting ‘making the case’ research, funding research, talking to leaders of NGOs, supporting NGOs through our foundation, giving speeches, countless speeches, and, and, and, being a wife, a mother, and making new friends here in Park City. Oh, and getting very involved with the Sundance Institute (I love you Pat Mitchell!) and investing in social issue documentaries. Oh, and doing a lot of angel investing with women entrepreneurs. That said, my home base, my true north, the what I carried with me wherever I went and whomever I spoke to was the mission of WMM: to catalyze unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. I anchored almost all of my choices on how to spend my time, treasure, and talent around the question of “would this serve the mission of WMM?” This was true for years and years and years until two days ago. This mission became in so many ways my identity, and what I am just now processing is that my identify is and still can be wrapped around the mission, I am just losing the organizational piece. As I am seeing it, the sense of fear, the sense of loss is disappearing. In fact, what is showing up is gratitude, as I am this minute seeing that by leaving I am creating the space to activate around that mission in new and exciting ways. All of this, at the time, was more than a full time job, and yet it was not a salaried job, and I always struggled with that. On the one hand I knew, I still know, that “to those much is given much is expected”, but I also felt that choosing to spend time away from my family when I did not “have to” for money but was “choosing to” was somehow a different thing. Having a big mission, an altruistic mission helped. While I struggled with my inner voice around this, I heard loud and clear many voices that stood on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. I had a family member basically tell me that I was a selfish wife and mother for ‘choosing’ to be away from my family so much, and because her opinion mattered so much to me, it fed so deeply into my own fears and insecurities around “trying to do it all” that it created a wound that has yet to fully heal. Because maybe I was taking too much time? Maybe I was being selfish? I am finding the older I get that when someone says something to me that really does hurt, it is usually because it is hitting at a spot where I am the most insecure. This is another reason why I need time off, to think, to heal, and to dig at what was it, is it, in me, in our culture that made that hurt so hard to begin with. Of course, this was counterweighted by so much support, including from my family and friends, and most importantly my immediate family. And there were awards, and being included in lists of top philanthropists, all of which I was very ambivalent about. Philanthropy awards? Really? Of course, it helped bring attention to WMM, to our mission, which was a good thing, and I cannot deny it served me too. My work has been, and will continue to be, striking the right balance between “visibility and humility”, as so beautifully spoken about by Jessica Houssain at this year’s summit. What was so amazing was the day to day work of birthing a new organization and energy into the world, as well as getting to witness that the world itself was changing and I could see it, feel it, touch it. Sometimes I feel like I am in the The Matrix watching the walls of patriarchy disappearing before my eyes. Other times, of course, not so much. And nothing, ever, made me feel more the former than being at our summit this past weekend. Over the past few years I have begun to connect the dots between my passion for women’s leadership and inclusion while at Goldman Sachs, and what we were doing at WMM by investing in women’s philanthropic leadership. Every year when we did our annual summit, I witnessed our growth in members, and I heard story after story of women who found each other at WMM and were now not only dear friends, but also working on projects together. Women told me and wrote to me, and said that they were giving more boldly and with a gender lens because of WMM. Women stepped into their voice and influence in ever greater numbers. I myself learned of organizations like Tostan, with leaders like Molly Melching, though there really is no one like Molly Melching. When I first heard her talk about Tostan’s theory of change it quite literally gave me goosebumps. So much so that a few months later I was in Senegal, with my then 14 year old daughter Allie, spending a week with Molly to learn more about her and her work, not only so I would write a bigger check, but also so I could potentially invite others to support her work as well. Knowing Molly Melching has fundamentally shifted the way I think about philanthropy, and in the best way possible, I know it. That is the power of WMM. Jumping forward, not only was Molly at this year’s summit as my guest, telling me stories of how the connections made through WMM has had such a wonderful impact, but I know she just met a whole bunch of new people whose lives and philanthropy will be forever changed because of being in the same place at the same time. And of course seeing Allie (who attended the summit because she is on a #gapyear) and Molly together, almost five years later, and seeing what a profound impact that visit and knowing Molly has had on my daughter. My heart almost exploded on the spot. And that is just one story. There are hundreds of such stories. I want the time and the space to listen to the stories that are because of WMM. Not for my ego, although that is nice, but because we all have to believe in the power of community, the power of being together, the power of convening, and more. Collecting and sharing stories will show the impact. For the purpose of this blog entry, what is perhaps most relevant is that in 2016 I was named a co-founder of Women Moving Millions Inc., alongside Helen, for all that I did to move the organization forward. Just, gratitude, to you Helen and Swannee, and to the women at WMM Inc that championed for it, especially Jess and Ann. There is so much to say about all the people who made our growth and success possible, but again, not this blog entry. What is true is that WMM has grown to welcome over 300 members, has built programs, executed the most amazing events, has a long list of sponsors, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Energy Foundation, many corporate partners who we have spent hundreds of hours with and gotten to know on a deeply personal level, and we are about to launch our own holistic philanthropic leadership curriculum under the incredible leadership of Jessica Houssain, who truly is one of the most brilliant and amazing women on the planet. It is also pretty darn cool that at the summit, together with her amazing partners, they announced a new fund for gender equality in partnership with the Canadian Government. Yeah that happened! This is a woman who I have worked with consistently since the beginning and there are no words, no words, for how proud I am of her and her incredible leadership. NO WORDS. That said, what I know for sure is that for the past almost 10 years I have felt the full load of responsibility for the well being and reputation of the organization up until last Sunday at 3pm when I stepped out of our annual post summit board meeting. Was it really my load to carry? Was I really carrying it alone? Of course not, but that was how it had felt most of the time. Not the work of it, but the reputation of it, its overall financial well-being, and the responsibility to serve the membership well. That is why the transition of founders leaving, really leaving, is so complicated and important. As well as deciding if it was time to go, when it was time to go, and how it was time to go. After great counsel from a handful of people, I knew that the time to go was after the summit (thank you Mona and Liz for allowing me the time to come to that decision myself). Also there was another big transition happening at the board chair level, from Ann Lovell who has also served in varying capacities from the beginning, to Mona Sinha, the incoming board chair. Because of this, I knew that I should not just sort of leave, but that I should really leave as a leader of the organization and then reshow up at some point in the future as a member, likely a very active and engaged member! I knew that if I continued to serve as a board member in any way during my gap year of sorts, I would still feel the load even if I truly was no longer carrying it. I also knew that because of my history, it was likely that my voice and opinions would carry more weight then they should. I have no idea if that makes sense to anyone but me. Maybe if you are reading this as a founder of something you made the choice to step away from, you are most likely to understand. What I know for sure is that I need to step away to let the new leaders of the organization lead without me getting in the way. I also know for sure that I will be there for them if they need me, now or in the future. Then there is the Co-Founder thing, which means that my DNA, and the DNA of WMM, are forever connected in some deep and life-changing way. Oh, and since I am including so much personal information in this blog as it relates to my emotional state going into this past weekend, let me just add that I have been in menopause hell for years. We don’t talk about how challenging this is, and we need to. Yes it it the unnerving hot flashes and the inability to sleep through the night, or really sleep … period. But it is also knowing that your brain is playing tricks on you constantly. Ok, enough. I am likely scaring the young women reading this, and likely all men.
IF YOU ARE SKIMMING THIS ARTICLE THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD PLACE TO READ A FEW LESSONS LEARNED
What is there left to say?
When I started to write this blog post I thought it was going to be about this section. I guess in setting the context for my goodbye post the whole thing became my goodbye post. All of the references to at the summit that appear in bold above were all things that were fighting for space in my head and my heart over the four days I was there, and in these two days since. As I relaxed into my time with my people, my tribe, I began to give space for the fighting to turn into dancing and it felt amazing, because after all, I really do love me some Zumba.
Just a few more thoughts in closing. Months ago, when we were planning the summit, I had myself on the agenda to give my “Courage to Leave” talk. The summit was peppered with COURAGE talks by members and guests and I thought perfect! I would say everything I needed to say to my fellow WMM members, the team members I worked with for so long, to our partners. I would cry, they would cry, and it would help me close this chapter. I would follow it up by sending that speech out to the community, the thank you notes would come pouring in, and I would feel pretty damn good about myself. Then one of the leaders of WMM asked me not to give the talk. I was friggin devastated. I asked her why, and she invited me to think about how that would serve our membership, the ones for which the summit is created. That is really all she said, and because I did not have a good answer, I said, ok. The answer in my head was “because it’s all about me and me leaving and me needing to say good-bye and me working so hard for years and years and years and me…”, which I quickly realized was not a good answer. For the months that followed, and as the summit agenda came together and I saw wonderful name after wonderful name of people who would take the stage I had that feeling again. “It was the best of times, and the worst of time”. While I was so excited, beyond excited, about the program, especially about the amazing young and emerging leaders that were coming, I was also thinking “and what about me?” My feelings of hurt came and went right up to the summit, and all the way through it to some degree. But what so overpowered any feeling of being left out, or left behind, was the incredible joy and pride I felt knowing I helped to build the space where so many brilliant and amazing women COULD be on stage, should be on stage, instead of me. It was not ‘my’ stage, I had no right to it. It was ‘their’ stage, the members, it was built for them. I had been a big and visible part of every single summit that preceded this one. If I had a taken on a bigger role, if I had given that kick ass talk, which it would have been by the way, I would not have seen what I absolutely did see being present in the audience: WMM would be 100% fine without my leadership. In fact, it would be more than fine, it would be friggin amazing. (Thank you Kathy) Isn’t that the biggest blessing any founder could hope to have? My dream was to help build a leaderFULL organization, and, mission accomplished. I also realized, fully, that my future will be less about being on the stage, though I really do friggin love it, and much more about being in the audience. It will be much less about me being the visible leader, to me more invisibly standing behind the leadership of others, and in particular young women leaders of color. You can hold me to that line. I am beginning to see that you will know when you have fully activated your power when you most generously and unconditionally give it to others. I used to think that the power we have, defined as how we use our voice, our influence, our financial and other resources to some (positive) ends, was finite. I know for sure it is not. If we see our power as something not to just accumulate ourselves, but as something that should flow to others, then holy moly. I saw it modeled over and over again at the summit. Power to, not power over. (Thank you Gloria Feldt for that quote, and for being at the summit!) As a quote lover I also dig this one. And what is even more cool is that it was said by a man, Matthew Arnold, in the 1800s.”
“If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.”
That is was WMM is all about. And that will be, I hope, my legacy for the years spent with WMM: bringing women of means together for the benefit of WOMAN and MANkind. My friend who asked me NOT to speak, not to give MY talk, was inviting me to learn a lesson and I am so grateful she did. She showed me that by me sharing my power, and giving away ‘my’ stage, giving back an opportunity I could have easily held onto because of my labor, my money, my privilege, I was in fact doing the exact opposite, and it is what helped me so profoundly to leave. So I lift up this lesson to all of you to do with what you will. Am I still hurt? HELL no. Was it really “the best of times AND the worst of times?” No. It was almost ALL the best of times. All I feel right this moment is endless, endless gratitude. Also, I did still speak for a minute or two, from the floor, alongside my fellow members when invited to pledge their support for Women Moving Millions. Old habits are hard to break.
You are likely thinking, as I am now reading this, “oh my gosh just end it already”, and I am almost there.
The 2018 WMM Summit could not have been more incredible from start to finish. My next long post will be about it all. I am in awe of how beautiful the program was (thank you JESS), how perfectly it was executed (the WMM and TES team), how open people were (thank you attendees), how much people shared (thank you speakers), and how everyone trusted that we, WMM, had created a safe place for everyone to be their most vulnerable and generous selves, and by definition, their most powerful. And of course, thank you to the funders that help make it all possible. But it was not just about the stories. When vulnerability gives way to powerful storytelling, what happens is you create trust. Through trust, and I love the quote “change happens at the speed of trust”, connections were being made. Friendships were being transformed from seasons and reasons to lifetimes right before my eyes. Before everyone’s eyes. Deals were being done, money was flowing, and lives were being impacted for good. I saw it, I felt it, I heard it, and so did many, if not all, in the room. I had so many people tell me afterward how proud I should be, and I am so proud. And the worries I had carried pretty much melted away. It is a funny thing about carrying something heavy. Even though it feels really good to have put it down, I know I will miss the work of it. What I hope is that I have built some pretty incredible muscles that I will now use in other places and spaces after some time off. There are so many people carrying WMM into the future, and more importantly, carrying the mission of WMM, because the mission is way bigger than any one person, or any one organization. Best to ALL OF YOU! And thanks to ALL OF YOU.
If you made it to the end, congratulations. If you are wondering why over 9,000 words poured out after the summit, sorry I can’t fully answer you. It just did. I do think, however, that one of the reasons is that for so long I felt very responsible for the brand of WMM, and thus me pouring out so personally might have some negative consequence for WMM. Leaders have to be careful, we know that too, right? But those days are over and Jacki 4.0 is under development. And I have a sneaky feeling there will be a lot more posts like this one. #justsaying
A special thanks to the outgoing WMM Board Chair Ann Lovell whom I served with for so long. I know how much work you did, and how much you cared. And a big welcome to our new Board Chair Mona Sinha. Rock it Mona, and know that in writing this it helped me to see what I needed to see about me, to be fully behind your leadership and the leadership of our soon to be hired new Executive Director! A huge thank you to Kathy LeMay who has been a friend, a mentor, and stepped in as our Interim Director for the past six months and has absolutely crushed it. And to you Kath for being always willing to speak your truth to me, especially when I have behaving super shitty. #weallneedakathyinourlives You are getting one of those letters to by the way. And a big thank you to all the WMM board members and incredible team – Kathy, Jess, Amanda and Kristin. It was a challenging year with so much transition for our small but mighty team. Thank you for hanging in there and giving it your all. Oh, and don’t forget, there should always be a dance party at the summit! #insidejoke And a big thank you to all of the women, and men, I have gotten to know and love BECAUSE of WMM. I know many of you will not only be friends for a reason or for a season, but for a lifetime.
Oh and gosh, so many people I did not mention, or mention enough, or fully acknowledge, or thank. Of course my family – Greg, Matt and Allie. My mom, dad, sister, friends, love you all so much. Robin, my Park City BFF, who has walked the hills of Park City with me inviting me to pour my heart out to her and always being there with no judgement, and sound advice. My dogs Sunnie and Canaan because every time I would come home from a trip, and really all the time every day, they are there for me with unconditional love. #lovedogssmuch No words. Oh gosh… I guess I will have to write that damn book …..
#enough #letitgo #peoplewhoinappropriatelyusehashtagsarereallyannoying
Photos – the closing photo from the WMM Board Meeting, that’s me in the feminist jacket. Photo of Matt and Allie as children. Photo of me with Allie at the Summit. Saved for last – me with the incredible Jessica Houssain and our Interim Director Kathy LeMay and founder of Raising Change. And a recent family photo.