It was an honor to represent Forward Females at this year’s S.H.E. Summit. I wanted to post highlights from the conference and inspirational insights that the speakers shared throughout the event.
Gala Darling, an author and self-help guru, spoke about the need to practice “radical self-love.” She described a “self-loathing industry” that capitalizes on our need to constantly improve. There is a mantra of “we’re not enough” that women must fight against. She urged the audience to let our “judgment muscle” atrophy.
Darling also mocked our need to constantly look for purpose. She said seeking your purpose is an “obsession with perfection masked in procrastination.” She continued, “The meaning of life is whatever stops you from killing yourself.” Darling explained that the meaning of life is what you bring to it and there’s not necessarily one secret answer that you need to discover.
This panel featured Wade Davis, former NFL player and #HeForShe UN Advocate; Simon Isaacs, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer of Fatherly; Connor Beaton, Founder of ManTalks and Adam Parker, Chief U.S. Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley.
Wade Davis shed light on the mentality of athletes and their locker room banter. Mainly, the widespread notion that women are gold diggers who are only interested in their money. He also said that it’s important to widen the definition of masculinity. Davis grew up thinking that he couldn’t be a black athlete and also be gay because homosexuality is associated with weakness and being like a woman. While women are socialized to share their emotions and be vulnerable, it is critical to also educate the next generation of boys that vulnerability is a strength.
Simon Isaacs founded Fatherly because he felt that men’s media shouldn’t just be about swimsuits and BBQ sauce. He wanted to create an online space with content about family specifically geared toward men.
Adam Parker expelled the myth that the quality of a maternity policy indicates whether there is gender diversity in that given place. For example, he said that Japan has an excellent maternity policy, but it’s not representative of the reality there. So what is representative? 1) the percentage of women in the C-Suite 2) pay parity and 3) representation of women across all ranks
Parker conducted a study and ranked 600 publicly traded companies on gender diversity. He found that those stocks that had greater gender diversity were less volatile.
Connor Beaton of ManTalks urged women to assume that men have positive intent. He said that no man loves to fail – in fact, men have a deep desire to succeed in everything they do: being a father, a husband, a professional, etc.
Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, was the most phenomenal speaker of the entire conference.
She said that information doesn’t give you a competitive advantage anymore. Today, information is a commodity. Instead, your distinction and your authenticity is your competitive advantage. Harris went on to explain that she is a gospel singer but didn’t want to reveal that side of herself to clients. She wanted to be taken seriously and not be thought of as someone who “sang and danced for the boys.” But she soon realized that the more she shared her whole self with clients, the stronger her relationships grew with them. They enjoyed learning about her interests and passions and even found a common bond when they too expressed a love for singing. The current trend is that the boundaries between personal and professional spheres are crumbling. By bringing your whole self to work, you become a more interesting, multi-dimensional individual.
Esther Perel, sex therapist and author, said that women are so focused on their daily mundane tasks that they don’t make time to embrace their sexuality. “Women think that they don’t deserve to focus on their own pleasure until the list is completely checked off – which is never.”
Perel said that often where we work becomes an erotically charged place. Work is where you’re charming, where people laugh at your jokes, where you’re energized, where people respect you. Home is where you bring whatever energy is left over. Perel said if you treated your partner the same way you treated your customer, your marriage would be thriving. A couple’s relationship also deeply affects the family. Therefore, the connection between parents needs to be paramount. If the couple isn’t doing well, the whole family falls apart.
This panel featured Chloe Coscarelli, the vegan chef and founder of By Chloe restaurants; Kelly Clarkson, three-time Grammy winner; and Ellen Seckler, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Citizen Watch Company.
Kelly Clarkson spoke about the difficulty of juggling everything in her life: a book tour, an album, four children, a husband, etc. She believes in the “trickle down” effect where the mother needs to take care of herself before she can take care of everyone else in her family. Clarkson was raised by a single mom who taught her the value of being independent. But today, she is learning to ask for help.
Author Samantha Ettus found that the happiest moms are the ones who have seven main areas of focus — or “slices” — in their life: career, health, relationship, children, community, friends and hobbies. She said that women need to give themselves permission to participate in all of these slices and while it doesn’t matter what the ratio is of how much time is spent in each slice, some time must be devoted to each of the seven in order to feel fulfilled.
Ettus has reportedly received hate mail and criticism from stay-at-home moms who say they have found fulfilling lives without investing time in a career. However, in multiple interviews, Ettus rejects this claim.
She told the New York Post, “I have yet to meet a woman who is completely fulfilled without keeping up her career. There are plenty of women who claim to be happy without a career, but two glasses of chardonnay in, you will find a well of dissatisfaction. Where you see a woman who is not in an independent pursuit of her own life goals, you’ll likely find an anxious child, an over-perfected home, a marriage out of balance and a school administrator who wishes this woman would get a job.”
She continued, “Would you ever say someone who spends every moment at the office has a good and satisfying life? A woman who spends every moment doting on her family has an equally unbalanced life.”
In an interview with Us Weekly, Ettus said, “Nobody raises a daughter and says, ‘I hope she will grow up to be financially dependent with no career of her own.’ Model what you want your kids to be.”
Although I dug up these controversial interviews after the conference, Ettus was less provocative in her speech at the S.H.E. Summit, focusing on women dividing their time more effectively.
The 2016 S.H.E. Summit was extremely inspiring and engaging. The speakers energized the audience and gave us a lot to think about and work towards. I look forward to attending this annual event in the future. Thank you Claudia Chan for putting together a wonderful conference!