The reality is, very few people achieve success completely on their own. I know I am the byproduct of mentors and sponsors who have supported me throughout my journey. Even Steven Spielberg benefitted from being part of a young filmmakers posse when he was starting out his career (it didn't hurt that other brilliant directors like Scorsese were in this group, too). So who is supporting you in your leadership journey?
I'm often asked, "Why don't women support women?" Instead of feeding this narrative, I say, let's flip the question. Instead ask, "Why don't more men support women?" If we want a different outcome, we need to pose a different question. #mentorher
Tomorrow is Equal Pay Day and through all my years at Levo one thing has stuck with me: Women need to ask for more. If you're a woman in business, I can pretty much guarantee someone has taken credit for your work. It didn't hit me how widespread this behavior was until my own son didn't acknowledge the help I gave him one morning. Here's what happened.
Nathalie Molina Niño is a badass businesswoman and investor who I have enormous respect for. So when she asked me to review her forthcoming book, Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs, I said yes right away. As someone who is starting my own venture I couldn't wait to dig into the fifty hacks she proposes—especially for women of color—to launch, fund, and grow our businesses.
Nathalie's core premise is that in order for women to be successful we must stop waiting in line and playing by the old rules, particularly since so many of them don't apply to us. Drop out of college? Raise a million dollar "friends and family" round? Ditch our blazer for a hoodie? She thinks not.
The book is filled with advice that I wasn't expecting—like running your business as if it already is or will eventually spawn a franchise. And her voice, which I believe must have been a channeling of her Ecuadorian grandmother, offers the right combination of tough love to keep the pages turning. But the best parts of the book are the moments when her words catapulted me out of my comfort zone, like when she writes that I need to get comfortable pissing people off. I finished the last page inspired enough to realize my bold vision and grounded enough to take the next baby step. Leapfrog is the new playbook for the modern entrepreneur who is redefining success on her own terms, and Nathalie is clearly rooting for all of us.
Meredith Fineman is a writer, an entrepreneur, and a media expert. She's also a staunch believer in women supporting women and has the track record to prove it.
She hosted an incredible #droptheball book event for me in DC last year, and it was clear that the room was packed because she's one of those powerhouses who everyone shows up for (Susan McPherson, who introduced us, is one of those, too!). Meredith runs FinePoint, a communications and leadership company that leverages public relations tactics to empower professionals. Her speciality? Teaching women how to brag and self-promote.
When I asked Meredith what she's had to #droptheball on in order to become a master at empowering other women to toot their own horns, I learned that she had to take a dose of her own medicine. She had to drop her nagging inner critic and become kinder to herself. "Now, I work very hard to counter any negative thoughts I have about myself when I'm being unnecessarily tough - from work to personal life. It's a total work in progress."
Clearly, the work is paying off. Last month she released her first book, Microtrends Squared: The New Small Forces Driving Today's Big Disruptions. I can't wait to see what Meredith does next to crush the status quo.
Recently I spoke to a group of college students about leadership. After the talk, I was disheartened that only the male students came up to me. It made me realize: You can't open doors without touching doorknobs. We have to engineer opportunity. The next time you're at a conference or event, and there is someone you want to meet, don't wait until you have the perfect question or the most brilliant thing to say. Here's what to do instead.
I love March 27th—and not just because I was born on that day. I also love it because last year a brilliant woman named Amani Al-Khatahtbeh launched the first Muslim Women's Day, and she chose March 27th. Amani is pretty badass. At 17 years old she started a blog in her bedroom, Muslim Girl, and eight years later she's poised to get two million visitors this year.
It's an incredible destination that sheds a fresh lens on the experiences and contributions of Muslim women from around the globe. I'm one of Amani's regular visitors. The reason why I feel the site is so necessary is because while other media outlets largely cover the negative plight of Muslim women, often marginalizing them to victimhood, at Muslim Girl they are fierce and powerful change agents. For example the homepage now features a profile of 8 Muslim Businesswomen. The average person wouldn't immediately associate a Muslim woman with the word "mogul," but Muslim Girl is changing that.
I was reading this profile of Amani and it hit me that the reason why she's been so successful is because she's not trying to represent Muslim women. She simply sees herself as a conduit for them to represent themselves, which is an important lesson for anyone trying to change culture. She says, "A lot of times Muslim Girl gets touted as being a voice for the voiceless. But our philosophy is that nobody is voiceless, they're just voices that are more systematically silenced than others." Thank you, Amani. We hear you loud and clear.
Many of us parent in hopes of controlling our children's future narratives; that when our kids look back, they have fond memories of family dinners or the moments we spent together. The reality is, our children will have their own memories of and perspective on our family history. They will tell their own stories based on what sticks with them. It's out of our control. The best thing we can do is simply do the best we can in every single moment.
Despite the nor'easter that hit some parts of the country, this was the first week of spring, a time for renewal and rebirth. I spent most of it in Miami at BET's Leading Women Defined, which capped with a celebration of Debra Lee, who recently stepped down as President after serving 32 years at the company. The annual summit was Ms. Lee's brainchild and she is leaving BET stronger than ever as the #1 network for African American audiences.
I was invited to speak at Leading Women Defined in 2015 and the experience accelerated my career. Not only have women in the sisterhood hired me to speak and amplified #droptheball, Ms. Lee has made introductions and supported me at every turn. In 2016 I was honored to be an inaugural contributor for BET's new show, The Round. What is remarkable about Ms. Lee is that she is both respected and liked—a rare combination for a powerful woman to pull off. She is an unapologetically strong and fierce leader yet she is simultaneously kind, nurturing, and generous. Like so many others I'm filled with enormous gratitude for the opportunities she has made possible and I wish her the best as she transitions into her new beginning.
A friend once said to me, "As hard as you work, you need to be working for yourself." The idea of being my own boss was terrifying, but I couldn't get her comment out of my head. I eventually took my first step toward financial independence. Here's how I did it.