Nell Merlino is the Driving Force behind many programs that help women and should be on any power list of the Top 10 Women who use their Power to help other Women. Through the organization Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence, which she founded, Nell has helped 70,000 women whose companies employ over 200,000 people. Count Me In has created over 20,000 jobs and raised $20 million from donors like Amercian Express and others which has led to over $200 million in revenues at companies run by women. Count Me In also runs the Urban Rebound initiative for women business owners in the greater Los Angeles, Detroit, Brooklyn and North Carolina regions funded by a grant from the Sam’s Club Giving Program.
Nell is the driving force behind other programs that help as well. Who can forget the impact of Take your Daughters to Work day, another one of Nell's ideas? Since that program began 20 years ago, over 14 million girls have participated. It is still going strong even today as takeourdaughtersandsonstowork.org.
And now Nell has a new mission - to help women veterans and spouses of veterans build businesses. The Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps is a new initiative at Count Me In. Capital One has already committed $800,000 to the program.
Watch Nell explain why she spends her time and energy helping women. Nell believes we need to "bring what we are" to everything we do!
Leadership is essential in expanding opportunities for women. Suzanne Fallender, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Intel and Director of their Global Girls and Women Initiative, is one of those leaders. She believes you need to integrate the idea of developing women leaders (as well as other corporate responsibility objectives) into company business units to make progress. Proving the value proposition in all that is key. Susan explains how corporate responsibility and developing women leaders can help manage risk, improve the bottom line by controlling costs, and help brands find new applications for company products. Listen to her talk at the 85 Broads Phoenix luncheon.
Another leader, social entrepreneur Jerrie Ueberle, also works hard to expand opportunities for women with the World Academy for the Future of Women. Patricia Caso of TheWomen'sEye interviewed Jerrie about what her programs are accomplishing. Read more about how Jerrie aims to help women discover their voice, their purpose and their passion!
The "Top 10 Women who use their Power to help other Women" list would have to include Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Her book, Lean In, has turned into a movement, leanin.org, to help women get the mentoring, promotions and pay grades they deserve. Everyone does not agree with all that is discussed in the book, but we all can agree it has put the question of women's equality in the workforce on the front pages of many newspapers. Listen to what Sheryl recently had to say about it.
Patricia Caso of The Women's Eye interviewed Holly Gordon, Executive Director and Executive Producer of "Girl Rising", a grass roots movement to educate girls around the world. Holly answers Patricia's questions about the difficulties girls face in the developing countries, and explains what she hopes to accomplish through "Girl Rising". Read the article on TheWomensEye. Prior to launching the "Girl Rising" campaign, Holly Gordon was Director of Content for the Tribeca Film Festival, and is a former Producer for ABC News.
Watch Holly's great talk about how "everything gets better in a country when you educate girls", and how all women need to lead their own revolution and go out and "live their dream".
Another suggestion for our "Top 10 Women who use their Power to help other Women List" is Kay Koplovitz. Kay is the Founder of USA Network and a pioneer in cable television, and is one of the Co-Founders of Springboard Enterprises, the organization dedicated to accelerating women entrepreneurs’ access to the equity markets. Since it began in 2000, Springboard has raised nearly "$6 billion in financing, created thousands of new jobs, and generated billions of dollars in annual revenues". That's what I call HELPING OTHER WOMEN. Over 500 women entrepreneurs have participated in the Springboard Accelerators. Kay speaks regularly about how women need to stand up and be heard, and her company is there with the advice on how to do just that. Learn more:
Today’s news is filled with “Power Lists”. American Banker came out with its “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” list for 2013 which was headed by Key Corp CEO, Beth Mooney. American Banker also issued a “25 Most Powerful Women in Finance” list for 2013 which was led by Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of JPMorgan Chase Asset Management. Also in the news was the Fortune list of the “10 Top Women Entrepreneurs” for 2013, led by Sarah Collins, Founder of Natural Balance. This follows Forbes’ famous list of the “Top 100 Women in Power” led by Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, which was published in May, 2013.
What is the end game for all these lists? Do they help women get ahead? While the lists are great to garner attention for the women listed which is well deserved, who are the top women that have the most impact helping other women in business? Maybe a list should not be who you think is powerful, but who uses their power to help women get ahead. And there are many who do. Leading a list of “Women who use their Power to help other Women” in my mind would be Drew Faust, President of Harvard University. Her ground breaking efforts with her faculty to help women succeed at Harvard Business School (HBS) gets to the root of the problems women face in the business world and tries to solve them. And what’s even better is that they shared their results!
What was discovered in this amazing effort? One of the important discoveries is that “the issue is complicated”! Leaning in or working harder as some executives have suggested just doesn’t get at how complicated the environment is that surrounds women who want to make it in the business world. Jodi Kantor of the New York Times describes the problems found at HBS in four areas – there was an unexplainable grade gap that goes beyond guys being better at math; there was a wealth gap, with women not getting access to the best paying jobs; there was a social gap where women weren’t sure of the best way to proceed in various situations because they saw no role models; and then there was plain old unrecognized stereotyping, but in ways I didn’t expect, professor to student, student to student , student to professor, and professor to professor.
Drew Faust and her team did what no one has done before. They attacked all problems at once and from more than one direction. The grade gap is a good example of this. There were problems like professors not calling on women, professors forgetting women answered, women afraid to raise their hands, and guys with a lot of experience
taking over the class. Harvard took on each one of these issues in a variety of ways and the grade gap did start to disappear. Harvard demonstrated that while it isn’t easy, these problems can be solved.
We must build on the efforts of Drew Faust and the Harvard Business School faculty to tackle the issues surrounding women in business. Every institution should become familiar with what was done at Harvard. Major companies as well as other schools can benefit from and implement some of these changes which would quickly improve work environments and level the playing field. Drew Faust speaks up for women and uses her power to help them. Who would you put on a list of the “Top 10 Women who use their Power to help other Women”?
Listen to Drew Faust speak about educating women.
Women's health issues are in the news in a big way these days. New research has shown encouraging results for women with ovarian cancer with a new screening process for early detection. There is also new hope for diabetes and better treatments with the recent identification of protein pathways. But there was also a study that shows women being underserved and underesearched and consequently getting fewer appropriate treatments for health issues. Dr. Nancy Lynch writes about the the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health initiative focused on "improving women’s access to and outcomes from treatments using medical devices". This is an amazing article which everyone should read as it points out how often women are using treatments and devices designed for men!
As new research leads to better treatments, a positive attitude can go a long way in improving results as well. Watch Stacey Gualandi's interview of Ann Murray Paige, whose award-winning documentary, "The Breast Cancer Diaries," and book, "Pink Tips: Breast Cancer Advice From Someone Who's Been There," reflect her courage and optimistic approach to life. We can all learn from this!
You can see more of Stacey's interviews on The Women's Eye, the online magazine and radio show filled with news and interviews you shouldn't miss.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the research-based organization working to educate others on the need for gender balance.
A new study of 1,000 Millennial women commissioned by the global public relations firm Zeno Group (whose CEO is Barby Siegel), found that Millennial women realize how valuable a mentor can be, but less than 60% of these Millennials have mentors. Women who have a mentor are more likely to believe they are on track to achieve their professional goal than women who don’t have a mentor (82% vs. 60%). The lack of mentors is a problem that needs to be solved. Virtual mentors can be part of that solution. Virtual mentors can help you see how others deal with failure and adversity, how others find ways to fit in with the old boys network, or how they manage to run a successful company. Read more about virtual mentors.
The Zeno Group study also shows that work life balance continues to be a problem even for this generation. 76% of the women surveyed are worried about their ability to achieve a balance between personal and professional goals. Millennial moms are three times more likely than millennial women without children to say that an inability to balance professional goals with being a parent is what is most likely to keep them from achieving their professional goals.
In this ever changing world where 21st century technology impacts everything, is it the 20th century tools of women's conferences and women's networks that keep women out of leadership positions? Women leaders talking to women is important, but that alone isn't going to change the ratio. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox talks about where conferences and women's network's go wrong. Avivah writes "Another women's conference finds another predominantly female group of HR Directors seeking to improve the gender balance in their firms. In reality, women are working far too hard at an issue actually beyond their power to solve. Corporate leaders must recognize that additional women-dominated efforts are not the way to get companies to take the gender issue seriously. Rather, the solution requires action by those in leadership positions..." Read more of Avivah's article.
The point is the responsibility of solving this problem rests with the people in charge, which is most often men. Therefore all the studies on what's wrong with women to explain why they aren't in enough leadership positions miss the point. It's not because women smile too much or because to be successful women have to be less likable. (I find it absurd to even type those excuses in this post!) So many articles are written about how women need to change to get ahead. But the real solution is for companies to clear the path to power for women (adequate training, succession planning, proper mentoring and flexibility), not to create separate networks for them or to pay for them to go to women's conferences or to ask them to change in some way. Companies need to be more assertive in their hiring. Maybe they should just try smiling less and appointing more women.
"OneThingNew" today features my thoughts on reaching out to other women for mentoring advice. Wouldn’t you just love to ask a CEO how she got to the corner office, or a startup expert about how she made her ideas a reality? Mentors who can answer these questions are a source of inspiration for us, and give us direction for our careers. A few of my favorite mentoring videos are highlighted on onethingnew.com. In addition to the women featured on OneThingNew, I have found another source of advice these days. Commencement Day speeches! Even if you're not a graduate, it's so great to listen to the speeches of these amazing executives and hear their vision of the future. Oprah's speech at Harvard, where she tells us that one secret ingredient that helped her get to the top and stay there, is one to watch. Steve Case of AOL fame, spoke at UNC recently. He reminds us that "if you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far, go together". His recommendation - surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you achieve more than you could on your own. Melinda Gates spoke at Duke University and talked about what it means to "be connected". Melinda clarifies the difference between having a lot of friends on facebook, and being a friend to one another.
It's apparent from watching these videos how much the American Dream has changed since the speakers were young. The American Dream is no longer only a rags to riches story - being poor, starting in the mailroom, climbing the corporate ladder and ending up CEO after 20 years of work. Now all kinds of kids form startups and end up billionaires before they are 30. The American Dream is also no longer just about improving your own economic status. It includes your lifting up others as well. New technologies have given us a new dream, allowing us to change the world from our cellphones while checking our health and our heart rate, be educated online, and find mentors in unusual places. Oprah, Steve and Melinda all agree, the American Dream is no longer about accumulating wealth. It's about the people you meet and how much you can help them. Find a mentor in these videos, be a mentor in person.
(photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer)