This Movie Changed Me – More on Wonder Woman

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 30th, 2018.

Yes, I know. I know I said that I had written my last post about Wonder Woman. And then I said it again. I’ll probably say it again at the end of this post as well, but at this point I don’t think anyone will believe me, because I’m pretty sure I will always have another Wonder Woman post to write. Cool stuff just keeps happening! For instance, recently I was invited to record a podcast for This Movie Changed Me with Lily Percy and the On Being Studiosabout last year’s Wonder Woman film.They reached out to me due to my many, MANYposts and articles over the years about not just the movie, but the character as well, and I readily accepted their invitation. The episode was released a couple of days ago, and I’m beside myself with joy for many reasons. Here’s my top five!

You can find the link to the episode HERE.

1) Podcasts are cool. Over the last several years we have seen this medium explode in popularity, and for good reason. It has become much easier for people to produce a quality podcast, and more importantly, it’s become much easier for audiences to connect with it, meaning it’s easier than ever to access stories from an incredibly diverse set of voices. I have often thought about starting my own podcast where I interview incredible people who share my passion for advancing gender equity, and that still may happen. In the meantime, I invested in a startup company called Wait, What? that produces and creates podcasts because I thought the founders were fantastic, and so far this company is doing really well. Their first property was Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, a podcast that focuses on how companies can grow from fledgling startups to successful enterprises, and it was the first American media program to commit upfront to a 50-50 gender balance for guests. Needless to say, I am on board with that!

2) I will talk about Wonder Woman with anyone who will listen, so to be invited to do so by a studio that I respect so much was a dream come true. On Being Studios is the production company founded by Krista Tippett in 2013 to produce and distribute Tippett’s growing network of podcasts. It began in 2001 with a monthly radio show called Speaking of Faith, but has since grown into the weekly On Being podcast that now reaches over 1.5 million listeners monthly. I discovered this podcast a couple of years ago and quickly devoured every episode. I’ve since been fortunate to get to know Krista and I feel privileged to call her a friend. To get to participate on one of her shows, talking about something that means so much to me, was truly an incredible experience.

3) This recording felt like the culmination of a journey many years in the making. In 2011, I asked my writing partner, Laura Moore, to work with me to prepare a report on the character of Wonder Woman, and specifically to look into why we still didn’t have a Wonder Woman movie, but characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider Man were already on their second incarnations. For the record, that was 2011. All three of those characters are now on their third iterations. Just saying. What began as a simple question eventually became a two year project and a 70 page report, and while I won’t go into all the details, the gist of the findings was that there was no good reason to not have a Wonder Woman movie on the big screen. We called out Hollywood on this lack of representation and demanded that Wonder Woman finally get her due. We released this report in April of 2013, and by the end of the year Gal Gadot had been cast in the role of Wonder Woman for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film, with plans for her solo film to be released shortly after. Now, far be it for me to take all the credit for getting the ball rolling on this, but I have to say that the timing is an awfully big coincidence.

4) I have written extensively about Wonder Woman both on LinkedIn and on my personal website, with some posts going back over 10 years. With the help of Laura, I have decried over and over again the lack of female superheroes to be role models for young girls, and specifically the outrageousness of the notion that we got three Spider Mans across six films before we got to see Wonder Woman. For me, it wasn’t just that I love this character and wanted to see her on the big screen. It was about how the media views women in general, and how it is possible to tell the story of a woman who is powerful, courageous, and brave, and at the same time unapologetically feminine. To tell a story where leading with love is seen as a strength and not a weakness. Where women lead by example, and where they are fully formed characters who are allowed to be both strong and vulnerable, conflicted and compassionate. It’s a narrative that has been sorely lacking in Hollywood, and it’s time for this narrative to take center stage, because if the box office and critical reception to Wonder Woman are any indication, audiences are just as hungry as I am for these types of stories. After 10 years of writing about this, I was thrilled to get to share my knowledge and passion around this subject, and to bring it to the wider On Being audience.

5) Finally, I loved doing this podcast because this movie truly did change me. I was extraordinarily lucky to get to go to the premiere in Hollywood last year, and I’m not going to lie, more than a few tears may have been shed at finally getting to see the movie I had been waiting for decades to see. Not just a Wonder Woman movie, but a truly great Wonder Woman movie that embodied so much of why this character is so special and important to me. While waiting for this film to to come to the big screen I had been working full time as a champion for gender lens investing and philanthropy, and the timing of the film marked a landmark in my own journey trying to be a super shero: being named Co-Founder of Women Moving Millions. Now, and forever more, these two events are connected and it feels like a before and an after.

This post would feel incomplete without mentioning my favorite scene in the whole movie, and one I had a chance to talk about on the podcast. The scene where Wonder Woman comes into her own as a superhero as she marched across No Man’s Land. Clearly my enthusiasm was shared by others – just listen to the cheers in this video to this truly amazing moment.

In closing, Wonder Woman proved once and for all that Hollywood is capable of producing fantastic stories about incredible women, and I will keep campaigning for more films like this until there are just as many female role models as there are male role models for all the little girls and boys out there. And if you are wondering if there will be a sequel, the answer is a big YES! It is already in the works.

And that folks, is my last post on Wonder Woman.

Until the next one…

And a big thank you to Laura for sharing my love for Wonder Woman and being with me every step of the way.

PS – if you have a favorite podcast, please feel free to share it in the comment section and why you love it!

What Are Your Top Five?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on June 21st, 2018.

A few months ago I began working with a life coach. I did this for many reasons, but the main reason was because this month marks a big transition point in my life. Personally, my youngest child just graduated from high school, which is a massive milestone for every parent. Professionally, the organization that I am a co-founder of, Women Moving Millions, is undergoing a change in board leadership, as well as soon to be choosing a new Executive Director who will be leading us through our next stage of growth. With these two things happening at once, it’s inspired me to think about hitting a giant re-set on my life. To do this, I knew I needed help.

One of the first things my coach encouraged me to do was to complete the StrengthsFinder profile. StrengthsFinder was first developed in the 1990s by educational psychologist Donald Clifton, and was first released to the public in 2001. Since then, millions of people have completed their online profiles, whether as an individual or as a team, and StrengthsFinder 2.0, released in 2007, is still consistently one of the top selling non-fiction books on Amazon. How it works is that when you fill out the online profile and assessment, StrengthsFinder identifies patterns in your (or your team’s) thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. From this, your top talents are discerned, and StrengthsFinder uses this information to help you turn your top talents into strengths and tools for success.

This was not the first self assessment I have done; in fact I have done many others in the past, and each time I do one I’m reminded of just how important these tools are to developing self awareness. The more we understand ourselves, the more we can really lean into our talents, and by doing this, we can align what we are more naturally good at with how we spend our time. When we do this, it is more likely that we will find success in our endeavours. Does this mean you can’t do things that are outside your comfort zone? Of course not. But in my experience, you can’t live in that space for too long or the stress of it will wear you down.

So as I move into the next phase of my life, what is front and center for me is to try to align my core strengths with the work that I am doing. I firmly believe that one of the main reasons I have loved my time with Women Moving Millions ( WMM) so much was that there was such an incredible alignment in that organization with my core strengths. It has been an incredible 8 years of being “ALL IN” for WMM and being named a co-founder of the organization alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt meant the world to be. So while I will remain on the board I will have a lot more time to do other things, and I am taking time off to figure it out. My own bridge year of sorts.

So, do yourself a favor: buy the book and do the assessment. When you buy the book you get an activation code to take the online questionnaire at no additional cost and it’s worth every penny. (I have no connection to the authors of this book as an fyi, just a fan!)

So what are my top 5 strengths ? Here they are below. If you have used this tool please share how it has helped you in your life and career.

Strength 1 – BELIEF

It was not surprising at all that this showed up. My life’s work is wrapped around my core values around social justice, including gender equity. Although I previously had a 14 year career on Wall Street, I have now found my purpose in my non-profit work. It would be impossible for me to ever again work for or with an organization where our values are not aligned.

Strength 2 – WOO

Yes. I am that person who starts conversations with people while waiting in line for the bathroom, while checking out groceries at the store, you name it. I love meeting new people.

Strength 3 – Communication

No surprise here. I started my personal blog almost 10 years ago because of a burning desire to write and share. Additionally, I truly love being parts of panels and giving talks.

Strength 4 – Activator

This is one that I more recently learned about myself, and it was only when it popped up as a core strength that I fully processed that this really is true about me. I love new ideas, and I love turning them into action. I have a feeling that the next thing I do might well be starting a company.

Strength 5 – Positivity

People have called me an “energy bunny” on more than a few occasions. Although I have never liked that title, I have come to think that what they are trying to suggest is that I am an endless supply of positive energy. This is true. I am one of those people who not only always seems to see the bright side, but who is the one to pull everyone else onto the open dance floor. I often joke that alternative career might have been as a “party starter”. Not sure it would have paid so well.

Are You Racially Literate?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 8th, 2018.

Last November I had the privilege of attending the TED Women Conference in New Orleans, and to say that I came away from that event inspired would be an understatement. Out of all the incredible speakers that I heard over those three days, there was one talk in particular that I could not stop thinking about. The one shared below, which was just released on the TED platform yesterday and has already been viewed nearly 300,000 times. When they gave their talk at TED Women, Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were in the midst of travelling to all 50 states to talk to people about race, and they were doing this during their gap year between high school and college. Their talk outlined how they were attempting to connect both the hundreds of personal stories they were hearing on their trip, as well as their own personal experiences on a cross-country road trip as two women of color, to the wealth of facts and statistics that have been gathered by researchers over the decades about racial inequality and the negative impact of systemic racism in America. In their talk they share their framework by identifying two big gaps in people’s racial literacy: the heart gap, a lack of understanding of our own personal experiences with regards to race, and the mind gap, a lack of understanding about the systemic epidemic of racism in this country. When I heard them speak, I realized I possessed both of these gaps, and it is likely you may have them as well.

Taking a step back, in 2016, Priya and Winona published The Classroom Index, a racial literacy textbook for educators to help them teach students on this often difficult and uncomfortable topic. They did this while sophomores in high school in New Jersey. Yes, you read that right, sophomores in HIGH SCHOOL. The success of, and interest in this book led them to embark on their journey across America to have these conversations with average, everyday people in all 50 states in order to truly understand the current state of racial literacy in this country. Their findings are set to be published in their forthcoming book, Race Across 50 States. At the time they spoke at TED Women in November, they still had 23 states to go.

When I heard that Utah was one of the states they had not yet interviewed in, I immediately invited them to come visit, which they did in February of this year. They set up multiple independent interviews, my daughter Allie hosted them at her high school, and I hosted a home based event with students, educators, and others. What they did more than anything else in each setting was listen; they really listened to each person’s experiences around race. It sounds simple, but it’s rarely simple in execution. As they said in their talk, “Today, so few of us understand each other”, and this lack of understanding is the root of so many social problems across all communities. That is why they set out to change the status quo by founding Choose in 2014 to try and raise the bar in racial literacy, which in turn led to their publication of The Classroom Index just two years later. I think it bears repeating that they did all of this while still students in high school. These two truly are Wonder Women.

Yesterday, their TED Talk was released on TED.com, and I encourage everyone to take the time to not only watch this brilliant and important talk, but to share it broadly. Whether at school, at home, in our places of worship, or in our community based organizations, these are conversations we need to be having. I hope their talk inspires everyone to take a closer look at their own experiences around race, ask and listen to others, and try to understand the many ways race and racial inequality impact our society. Priya and Winona are two of the most intelligent, compassionate, and articulate young women I have ever met, and I believe wholeheartedly that their work is going to help change the racial conversation in this country for the better.

Since TED Women, Priya and Winona have finished their tour of all 50 states, collecting over 500 interviews along the way, and they are hard at work finishing the content for their new book. As if you needed any more proof of their awesomeness, they are also currently in New York City as part of the TED Residency program, where they are the youngest TED residents in history. Despite all this, something tells me that Priya and Winona are just getting started, and I can’t wait to see where their journeys lead them next. If you would like to learn more about Choose, you can find more information HERE. You can also follow the conversation online at @princetonchoose on Twitter. Finally, their TED Talk can be found HERE, and I hope you will all watch and share it with your networks.

Their TED Talk is below, as well as an informal interview I conducted with Priya and Winona during their visit to Utah.