It’s Time for Women’s Networks To Do More

A photo of the Utah Women 2020 Mural in downtown Salt Lake City
Utah Women 2020 Mural – Unveiled August 26th 2020

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on August 28th, 2020.

Seven years ago, I was a relative newcomer to the state of Utah. I had moved to Park City three years prior to that, and I had spent most of my time in those early years with my two school age children. I was also traveling quite a lot on behalf of Women Moving Millions, championing for gender lens philanthropy, and all this left very little time for local networking. However, it wasn’t for lack of desire, and three years after moving to Utah, I was desperate to meet the women leaders in my new state. The hardest part about leaving my life in New York and Connecticut had been leaving my female friends who were attached to my heart. Of course, I had hoped that my relationships would transcend distance and time zones, and many did. However, inevitably, not being able to see each other face to face meant relationships were lost.

Our Utah Wonder Woman Screening of the film Wonder Woman in 2017. Photo with Jennifer Danielson, Amy Rees Anderson and Geralyn Dreyfous.

Thankfully, I met the incredible Geralyn Dreyfous early on in my my new life in Utah, and she quickly became a close friend. Geralyn is what you might call an uber-connector, and she has a heart as big as the great outdoors. Professionally, she is one of the most accomplished documentary film producers in the world. Check out her IMDB page if you think I’m exaggerating. Through Geralyn I met David Parkinson, founder of Method Communications and an all around great guy. As a public relations expert and business owner, he was constantly meeting amazing female professionals, and he saw an opportunity to create a network wherein these women could meet each other. He reached out to one such women, Jennifer Danielson, and together, the four of us founded Utah Wonder Women. Our mission was to bring together successful women to connect with each other, and to inspire the next generation of women leaders.

For seven years we held numerous events, including book launch parties for women such as Tiffany Dufu and Pat Mitchell. Our invite only mailing list grew to over 400 members and included some of the most influential women in the state. Looking to do more, in 2017, we hosted a full day women’s leadership conference alongside a full day conference for girls in partnership with SUREFIRE Girls that brought together nearly 200 young women from all over Utah for a full day of sessions that were designed by girls for girls. As with most women’s networks, the primary purpose of Utah Wonder Women was to offer connection, information, and inspiration, and our message was always women supporting women.

And then COVID-19 hit. The ability to meet in-person disappeared overnight. Our organization, like so many, was not built to live in a virtual world. While we may have been more of an informal organization than a formal one, the arrival of the coronavirus meant that we were effectively out of business. The irony is not lost on all of us that this happened precisely when we most needed to come together. So we evolved, and I offered to transition the community to more of an online one, via mighty networks, and renamed it TheShePlace-Utah. The network is now open for all women in Utah to join if they share in the community commitments and guidelines. As the lead host, I have been busy posting content, sharing events, and trying to create a place of value for others, and I have quickly seen how hard this really is. Frankly, I have questioned if it is worth the effort. After all, aren’t there a lot of spaces and so many other places that share similar missions? And to what ends? Is any of this women’s networking stuff making any difference at all?

Before I answer that question as it relates to my efforts in Utah, let me give you a few quick facts around the status of women in this state. Utah is one of the worst states in the United States to be a woman. According to the Status of Women in the StatesUtah ranks 37th in the country on reproductive rights, 44th in employment and earnings, and 50th (50th!!) in both political representation and work & family. Overall, Utah ranks 44th in the country. In a 2014 article titled “5 Places Women Shouldn’t Spend Their Travel Dollars”, Utah was listed alongside Turkey, Indonesia, El Salvador, and Saudi Arabia, in large part because of these statistics. And just earlier this week, a study by WalletHub ranked Utah as the worst state in the US for women’s equality. As a women in Utah who is passionate about women’s rights, this is simply unacceptable to me, and I find I am called to do something about it. Utah Wonder Women, now TheShePlace-Utah, is something I can do to make a difference. Are there other things I can do? Of course there are, and I will do those as well.

So on this 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, whereby women were given the right to vote in the United States and the right to have their voices heard, it is time to rethink and recommit to using the power we have as women to continue the unfinished business of equality. Women’s networks are an under-utilized and under-leveraged organizing tool to achieve positive social change. While I could easily make a list of reasons why I think this is the case and what are ‘best practices’ in terms of trying to make a given network an impactful one, instead, I am just going to try to do it. So if you are women in Utah and want to join me, please do. You can find more information here. And if you are not in Utah, but are a member of a community or two, think about what you can do to serve this greater purpose at both a micro and macro level. And if you need a little inspiration, just remember the words of one of my favorite quotes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

The photo above is of the “Utah Women 2020” Mural by artist Jann Haworth and her incredible team. It was unveiled on August 26th, 2020 at a special gathering hosted by the Mural sponsor, Zion’s Bank. It is over 5,000 square feet, and is located on the side of a historic building in downtown Salt Lake City. Over 250 women leaders in Utah, past, present and future are featured. I am honored to be included.

Below are links to the press coverage of this inspiring event.

https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/utah-women-leaders-honored-with-new-mural-but-point-out-existing-inequalities/

https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/8/26/21402835/mural-celebrating-influential-utah-women-womens-equality-day-downtown-salt-lake-city

https://www.deseret.com/opinion/2020/8/20/21376011/a-scott-anderson-new-salt-lake-city-mural-inspirational-utah-national-womens-suffrage-month

https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/new-mural-honoring-utah-women-unveiled-in-downtown-salt-lake-city

https://kslnewsradio.com/1920965/utah-women-sgt-pepper/

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 16th, 2018.

I’m not exactly what you would call an early adopter of technology. I love it, but I don’t always take to new technologies right away. That being said, once I figure it out, I usually become a ferocious consumer, which is a pretty accurate way to describe my initiation into the world of podcasts. I may have been late to the podcast party, but now that I’m here, I can’t get enough. Whether it’s in the car, on the elliptical, or taking my dogs for a walk, there’s never a bad time to catch up on my podcasts. While there are literally hundreds of thousands of podcasts to choose from, there’s one that is heads and tails above the rest as far as I’m concerned, and if you’re not listening to On Being, I’m not going to lie, I may be judging you right now. Just a bit.

Hosted by Krista Tippett, On Being is a weekly podcast that discusses some of the most basic, and most profound, questions in life. What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live our lives? You know, the easy questions. Except that they’re not easy at all, and in fact are incredibly complicated questions that require extraordinarily sensitive and respectful discussions in order to get anywhere close to an answer, and this is where Krista excels. Guests on the show range from scientists and religious leaders, to artists and teachers, and while you may have heard of some of her guests, such as Maya Angelou, Desmond Tutu, Sheryl Sandberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Martin Sheen, Eve Ensler, and the Dali Lama, I know I hadn’t heard of the majority of her guests before listening to their episodes. However, after hearing what they had to say, I’m happy that On Being provided the introduction, as their discussions with Krista are always thoughtful, insightful, illuminating, and just downright incredible. With episodes dating all the way back to 2001, there are hundreds to choose from, but if you’re looking for recommendations, please check out 5 of my favorite episodes below.

1) Brene Brown – Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

I just listened to this podcast yesterday and it is so, so, so good. If you do not know Brene’s work, I’m judging you again. Check out her many books and TED talks HERE. Together, Brene and Krista take on the issue of belonging. It’s a big one and it’s an important one, and it goes to the core of who we are as human beings. Such a great episode. Go. Listen.

2) Parker Palmer and Courtney E. Martin – The Inner Life of Rebellion

I am blessed to personally know these two amazing people, and I cannot get enough of either of them. You may know Courtney from her many books and TED talks, and Parker, well, he is a legend, and one of his many books, Let Your Life Speak, was a game-changer for me when I read it almost 20 years ago. I have listened to this episode over and over again.

3) Sheryl Sandburg and Adam Grant – Resilience After Unimaginable Loss

Sheryl suffered an unimaginable loss when her husband, Dave Goldberg, passed away suddenly in 2015. In this touching podcast she opens up about her loss together with her dear friend Adam Grant. I learned so much from listening, including how to support a friend who had recently also suffered an unimaginable loss.

4) Maria Popova – Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age

Before On Being I had not heard of Maria and Brain Pickings. Now I know and I am the better for it.

5) Lyndsey Stonebridge – Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now

There were so many great lines and incredible observations in this podcast that I found myself pausing it, hitting replay, and then pausing it again to process. Here is one of them. “Thinking,” she says, “is not the same as judgment, but it creates the right conditions for judgment.” Since last year was the year I was committed to thinking about my thinking, this podcast was a perfect fit.

Beyond her incredible podcasts, there are many other reasons to jump over to the On Beingwebsite. In 2013, Krista expanded her operations by starting her own production company, Krista Tippett Public Productions, in order to produce future episodes of On Being. Since then, this company has gone on to launch several additional podcasts, conversational and writing projects, and 2016’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, a book that once again tackles the ever simple question of how to live a life of wisdom, and where exactly that wisdom can be found. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite books and I can’t stop recommending it to everyone I meet.

This weekend, Krista is further expanding her enterprise once more by hosting the first ever On Being Gathering in California at the 1440 Multiversity, and I couldn’t be more excited to be one of the inaugural attendees along with my husband and daughter. Billed as three days of “conversation, poetry, and community with Krista Tippett, beloved teachers from the show and the blog, and the entire On Being team”, I can’t wait for the retreat to get started later today.

In today’s divided and fractured times, I look forward to my weekly appointment with On Being, because every time I finish an episode, I’m reminded that civil, respectful, and productive conversations are possible, even between those who couldn’t be farther apart in their opinions, and this is something that our world desperately needs right now. And in case you were wondering why I’ve been referring to Krista in the informal first name basis for this article, it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to get to know her over this past year and to call her a friend. I can assure you, she’s just as incredible in person as she is on the podcast, so go subscribe now. You’re welcome.

PLEASE share your favorite episodes in the comment section if you are already a listener to On Being, or if you have other favorite podcasts, please share those too. Have a great day.

The Golden Moment

As published in LinkedIn Influencers on January 8th, 2018.

Hollywood is a big business. Film, television, content creation, and distribution are all big business. We are talking hundreds of billions of dollars. The Golden Globes is the annual kick off to awards season, where Hollywood repeatedly celebrates the best of the year, and make no mistake, it is a big deal. I, like many others, was watching last night with curiosity and hope that it would be different this year. That the personal would turn political. And not in a little way, but in a big way. I was not disappointed.

Before going into some of the highlights of the evening, imagine this. Imagine the biggest event possible in YOUR industry. Imagine all of the CEOs of all the major companies are present, imagine the best performers in each of those companies are also present, and imagine a room that is full of people deemed to be the most powerful in the entire industry. I will do it for my old industry; finance.

Front row would be the CEOS of all the major financial institutions; men like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, and Michael Corbat of Citigroup. And of course the hedge fund managers would be there; Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, Emmanual Roman of Pimco, and Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group. And finally, we would have to imagine that women and people of color where there too. In large numbers. Let’s imagine all the categories; Woman bond trade of the year. Male bond trader of the year. Best overall hedge fund manager. Best overall firm. You get the picture. And imagine that on this night, presenter after presenter, award winner after award winner, took a moment, or in last night’s case, many moments, to speak about the desperate need for the industry to change. Imagine that time and time again the culture of exclusion and harassment was acknowledged, and then it was demanded that this was the moment for it all to change. That is how big last night was for the entertainment industry.

“Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen.”

The evening kicked off with Seth Meyers acknowledging the events of the past several months in his opening line. In a nearly note perfect opening monologue, he set the stage for what ultimately became a simultaneously powerful and entertaining evening, all while acknowledging the difficult balancing act the evening would, and rightly should be. But most importantly, he proved that the night would not be one where people would skirt around the problem, but rather that they were going to face it head on. People like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Woody Allen were all name checked, and it was made perfectly clear that they no longer had a place at the table.

This continued with the award winners. Nicole Kidman won the first award of the night for her role in HBO’s Big Little Lies, which she also produced, and she used to her time at the podium to herald her female co-stars, pay tribute to her mom, and give a nod to the power of women. And it went on from there. Laura DernElisabeth MossAllison Janney, and Frances McDormand all used their time at the microphone to denounce a culture and society that marginalizes groups of people, and history was made when Sterling K. Brown became the first black man to win the Best Actor in a TV Drama award. He acknowledged creator Dan Fogelman in his acceptance speech, thanking him for writing a role that could only be played by a black man, and for allowing him to be recognized and seen as he is. It was a powerful night all around.

This trend was continued in the non-acting categories, as time and time again, films and television shows that celebrate women, empowerment, and complex female characters were rewarded. From films like Lady BirdI, Tonya, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and series like The Handmaid’s TaleBig Little Lies, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won the major awards of the night, the theme of the evening was very much that women’s stories are important, profitable, and here to stay.

But it wasn’t just the winners. Presenters throughout the night used their time on stage to joke about, yes, but also to bring attention to the many issues of inequality that still plague the entertainment industry. From the wage gap (Jessica Chastain), to the lack of female directors (Natalie Portman with one of the best zingers of the night), the women of Hollywood made it very clear that the culture of discrimination no longer has any place in this industry. In particular, my heart did a little happy dance when Thelma and Louise themselves, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, took to the stage to present, and they did not disappoint.

There are so many things to talk about from last night, from the sea of all black as both women and men eschewed the usual rainbow explosion that is often Golden Globe fashion, and instead wore black in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment and abuse, to several of Hollywood’s biggest stars bringing well known activists as their guests, including Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement. More importantly, many speakers, presenters, and award winners took the time to acknowledge that this is not just a problem that plagues Hollywood. This is a problem that spans all industries and cultures, and it is time for this problem to end. Earlier this year, a new initiative that was inspired by #MeToo was announced called Times Up. This initiative is a call to action to end the culture of shame and silence across all industries, and is an advocacy group calling for the end of sexual harassment and abuse. Finally, The Times Up Legal Defense Fund will provide financial assistance to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse in the workplace. To visit their GoFundMe page, please click HERE.

But even with all of the above, last night truly belonged to one woman. Oprah. In receiving the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award, the first black woman to do so, Oprah delivered a fiery and impassioned speech that some have interpreted as her opening bid for the White House in 2020. It was a beautiful, big, and bold, and I simply cannot do it justice. Please take a moment and watch it below.

Wow. Can we all just agree that Oprah should be President of the World?

In my end of year post, I wrote about a power shift. I wrote about the crumbling of the patriarchal matrix that is the world we live in today, and last night on the Golden Globes, we witnessed that happening in front of our eyes. This shift is about power with, not power over. It is about the idea of the we being bigger than the me. It is about talent, about inclusion, about fairness, about justice, and it is about respect. And if you are not happy about all that happened last night, if you are not feeling joyful and hopeful and excited that change is finally happening, then perhaps this quote applies to you. “When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Well, to quote Oprah, “A new day is on the horizon”, and for once, it doesn’t feel like the dawning of this new day is an unattainable goal. It is within sight, and it is glorious to behold.

Big thanks to Laura Moore for partnering with me on this piece.