Takeaways from a S.H.E Summit

June 18, 2013

I said in the last newsletter that I'd write a little more about takeaways from Claudia Chan's S.H.E Summit, which I attended on Friday and Saturday of last week. My double level of cynicism (1. raised British and 2. a journalist) means I am almost allergic to things like group hugs, 'you go girl' sentiments, over-use of the word 'empowerment', or indeed gooeyness of any kind (that said, I did recently tweet a video of a baby elephant having a dip in the sea, so there are exceptions.)

'S.H.E' stands for 'she helps empower'. But my native cynicism was forced into retreat: there was plenty of meat at the conference. Here are a few points at which I nodded vigorously and/or got a kick out of:

  • Entrepreneur and investor Joanne Wilson (who blogs as Gotham Gal) said, "Women need to say, 'I'm going to my kid's sporting game. End of story.'" This point has come up a few times with my interviewees - that women think we need permission for things, particularly when it comes to work and our children colliding, while men will simply state their intentions and get on with it.
  • Anita Sands of UBS (a no-nonsense Irishwoman) was part of a panel on women in leadership. As part of that discussion the topic arose of how to get what you want from your boss. She made an excellent point about the importance of framing your request: "There's what you want to say, how you say it, what he wants you to say, and how he wants to hear it." That's four different things to mull over before going into the discussion. But considering each one of them should take you that bit further toward getting what you actually want. 
  • When it comes to mentorship, "lead by giving" said one of the panelists. "Think about what you can give other people – make someone want to invest in you by giving to them first." I need to get on that.
  • The final panel on Saturday focused on working mothers. One of the points made was how important it is for women to say no to things. Otherwise, you get eaten up by other people and have absolutely no time for yourself - and panelist Latham Thomas made clear that you don't need to add excuses to your 'no'. "No is a complete sentence," she said. Something I particularly enjoyed hearing came from Cortney Novogratz, who owns an achingly cool design firm with her husband and is also mother to seven children. Yes, seven. 'It takes a village' is a bit of a cliché , but in her case, it really does. She said their last family holiday card had a photo not just of the immediate family but of grandparents, godparents, nannies and others who help her family stay on track (and keep her sane). I love the fact that she honored all these people who help her bring up her brood in such a public way.