International Women’s Day 2017
I had the opportunity to attend an International Women’s Day Panel this year at Soho House Toronto, surrounded by an incredibly strong group of women and (a few!) supportive men. The panel featured top female leaders and entrepreneurs who shared how their bold ambitions led to their success. And bold they were.
The panelists included Kate Taylor Martin, founder of Nutbar (Toronto’s first superfood snack cafe); Janet Kennedy, President of Microsoft Canada; Amber Mac: Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur; Kirstine Stewart, Author and Chief Strategy Officer of Diply; and Lexi Miles, founder of WAXON Wax Bar. The panel was hosted by Nicole Campbell, a wine importer and founder of her own agency. These professionals made me feel strong, inspired, encouraged, and most importantly: not alone.
I was enthralled with conversation being had and found myself eagerly shifting forward in my seat to catch every word they said. I attended with a friend, and we didn’t speak the entire time; we were too caught up in the inspiring – and sometimes shocking- conversation that was happening between the panelists. I was, however, able to make some notes. Below are some of the quotes I was able to hurriedly jot down from the memorable evening:
Nicole asked: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Kirstine Stewart: It’s a day for celebration, a day for reflection.
Lexi Miles: It’s a time to sit back and reflect on the people in our lives that mean so much.
“The more diverse voices, and wealth of experience and perspective of people from difficult backgrounds… it is only better for business. Companies who tap into this are at an advantage.” – KS
“We should have access to choice. We have to take the pressure off ourselves and stop thinking about checking off boxes. Success is what you define for yourself. You should feel powerful in the role you’re in, because you’re contributing in a way that no one else can.” – KS
“Seek being ahead of the curb: I don’t often say no, I don’t work for free. I have no fear asking what I think a project is worth. Your time is worth something. Don’t shy away from asking for money and asking for those raises.” – Amber Mac
“Don’t shy away when you are the only women in the room. I was getting hate mail when I worked in broadcasting for years and years and years telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about and I didn’t deserve to be there. Those assholes are now asking to take selfies with me.” -AM
“I made the commitment early on to support people’s careers. A career not just a job.” -LM
“Culture comes first. And if you have that in a business, everything else falls into place.” -LM
“I had an unrelenting restlessness. I was asked what I do at parties and I just felt this unease that what my job was wasn’t my passion and it didn’t sit well with me because it wasn’t me. I started taking night classes on holistic nutrition. It sounds cliché to say “just do it”. Don’t drop everything and leave your salary and job, but take it step by step. And before you know it, it’s too late to not do it. It’s too late to step back.” -Kate Taylor Martin
“We should listen to our intuition. As women, we shouldn’t dismiss our intuition. It can be a powerful guide for us.” -KTM
“You have to go for what you want. It’s not just about your job, it’s about your life. Your family has to be with you if it’s really something you want. Then you go back to work and ask for exactly what you want.” – Janet Kennedy
“You have to tell people what you want. Again and again and again.” -JK
“Every single corp talks about it <needing to hire more women>, but a lot of them don’t know what to do about it.” -JK
“The biggest thing is getting women early on, so they can be ready for the careers.” – JK, specifically referencing getting more women involved in the tech industry but educating young girls about jobs in tech.
NC: How do you help women feel empowered as they age? How do we foster women of all ages?
“There is such a movement of girls who code. It’s important we educate girls and boys what coding is at an early age.” -JK
“Mentors speak to you. Sponsors do that, coach AND talk about you. It’s important that men are involved in this conversation.” -KS #Gosponsorher
“Understanding the discourse. We are different. Men are ‘solution’ based, women are the ‘why’ based. (Why did this happen? How do we fix it?) We have to appreciate that we are different and together we are better, valuing that we each have such a unique perspective.” -KTM
“Don’t devalue those who support you and believe in what you are doing. Don’t listen to the one asshole who speaks negatively with a megaphone.” – KS
“There is a difference between risk and fear. Don’t be fearful.” -AM
As older women in the audience raised their hands and told horrific stories of situations they have experienced in the corporate world in the past, a tear fell down my cheek. And then, as Amber and Kirstine told discriminating stories they have both experienced in their careers, a tear fell down my other cheek. Women before us have paved the way for us, and have made it possible to do what we do now. I am so thankful for them. But discrimination still happens. We still have a long way to go to be treated as equal, and we still have a long way to go to have an equal head count at the executive table. But we are getting there. We just need to support one another, teach one another and push forward. We have to #beboldforchange.