Dee Poku

What Makes Working Mothers Want To Leave The Workforce?

On three separate occasions this week,  high powered, career-minded female friends of mine told me somewhat bashfully how much they wouldn't mind just giving up the rat race and becoming stay at home moms. The bashfulness was interesting because I guess they expected me, their feminist freedom fighter friend, to be a little disapproving.  But of course I feel quite the opposite.  The whole point of feminism is to give women the right to choose. Work outside the home, stay at home, all options are great if you make them from a position of strength.

But the reason for this particular post is to share what these women had in common and it's that they all hated their jobs. They were sick of the politics of corporate culture and the daily grind. So the question is, if you do what you love does that make the daily wrench away from your children every morning a little easier?  I think it might. I'm so passionate about my work and of course, as an entrepreneur I get to be my own boss and make my own hours. I can't imagine leaving it behind to focus solely on motherhood much as I idolize my son. I wonder if this rings true for others?

How We Build Networks

200 people showed up last night for our WIE Network hosted Women In Tech talk for an event originally meant for 75! Only fitting for a panel focused on how we build community. I was so impressed and gratified by the practicality of the answers from our four incredible speakers, Reshma Saujani founder of Girls Who Code, Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels, Rachel Jarrett President of Zola and Kristen Titus, Chief Innovation Officer for New York State. A couple of my pieces of advice include:

" Women are good at building networks but not at leveraging them. Have an ask, have a share. Make it easy for people to help you." Angela Lee

"We need to be creating these male ally group. We need men to be comfortable at calling one another out." Reshma Saujani

Lets continue to build the networks that allow us to succeed in our careers.

Why Motherhood Drives Ambition

Women in the workplace often hit a stumbling block when they get pregnant. There's an assumption they can no longer handle the work or somehow have less drive. And I believe that's why these two inspiring images of women at the top of their game looking powerfully pregnant, struck such a chord this week. Serena Williams who won the Australian Open while 7 weeks pregnant is featured on the cover of Vanity Fair while Alysia Montano is photographed running the 800m in the US Track and Field Championships also 5 months pregnant. Both look invincible. That's not to say every mother can do this or feels like this way during pregnancy. I suffered from terrible morning sickness and could barely walk fast let alone run when I was pregnant, but my drive and ambition remained unchanged and if anything, increased once I had the baby. I hope these images serve as a reminder to all that having children isn't an impediment to career success.

Wonder Woman Breaks Records

If we want to see more female directors kicking ass behind the camera, we have to support them at the box office. The more that female driven films succeed, the more it opens the door to other female talent. This weekend, women came out in droves to support Wonder Woman, the first superhero film ever to be directed by a female filmmaker. With a historic $100.5 million at the domestic box office and counting, the opening was bigger than Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Thor and is also the highest ever opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. Congratulations to director Patty Jenkins, directing her first film in 13 years after the award winning Monster.  I hope this is just the beginning. 

Wonder Woman Dee Poku

Get On Board

Where are the real seats of power held? Where are the decisions being made that affect us, the consumers in our everyday lives? Who's deciding what we get paid, who gets hired and fired, our benefits, how companies get run? One key place to look is on corporate boards.

Currently only 19% of S&P 500 companies have a woman on their board. And it's an issue I feel very strongly about. Last night we gathered together a group of seriously smart, successful, board qualified women to hear insights and ideas on how they could get recruited for corporate boards. Our speakers were former Goldman Sachs partner Lisa Shalett and Nexus Management founder, Ceci Kurzman. Both are heavy hitters and on some serious boards.

Getting on boards takes work. You have to lobby, you have to position yourself correctly in the public eye, you have to network at the right events, you have to know the recruiters and be on the right lists, and you have to have right skills e.g. tech, finance, marketing. But it can be an incredibly enriching experience for you and your career and is a sure fire way to affect real change from the top.

Dee Poku, Lisa Shalett, Ceci Kurzman

Dee Poku, Lisa Shalett, Ceci Kurzman

The Value Of Self Care

Last night I hosted a talk entitled 'Women, Work and Wellness' with three incredible founders at the forefront of that industry. The health and wellness movement is a $3.7 trillion global market and has served as a route to empowerment for so many people, either as wellness entrepreneurs or just women looking build both inner and outer strength. Our speakers Norma Kamali, Melisse Gelula, co-founder of Well and Good and Jennifer Maanavi founder of Physique 57, gave some powerful advice as they described their routes to personal and business success and the deep and intrinsic value of the brands they'd built.

To quote Melisse, "we're in a powerful time in the wellness movement right now, which is adding depth to so many women's lives and serving as a path to embodiment. It's allowed subjects that were once paralyzing or shame inducing, like menstruation, breast feeding, orgasm, sexual pleasure and sexual identity to be out in the open."

See the full video on the WIE Facebook page

Dee Poku, wellness panel

How Do We Provide Mothers With Real And Tangible Support Systems

This Mother's Day as I enjoyed the customary day off household chores and a brunch I didn't have to cook myself, I reflected on the millions of women around the world experiencing much greater challenges trying to balance the demands of career, home and children. The struggle is very real. Juggling motherhood and working outside the home is hard, like having two full time jobs. Some mornings I feel like I've already lived a full day by 9.30am. And I'm lucky. I work for myself and get to choose my own hours. Let's support mothers every day, not just one day of the year, with real and tangible support systems such as affordable childcare, paid leave, flexible working hours and equal pay. 

Photo: Sophie Elgort

Photo: Sophie Elgort

The Power of Femvertising

Advertising and clothing featuring ‘empowering’ messaging for women, are all the rage.  And for us as consumers, it feels just as good to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with a powerful mantra as it is to watch a commercial that champions equality. I even participated in a positive example of femvertizing myself recently for the brand Lingua Franca. But is any of this moving the needle for women or is it just surface noise, a balm that keeps us away from the real issues? 

For me, what's more important is not the feel good marketing but that these companies walk the talk. Lingua Franca is run by a woman, employs mostly women, and a percentage of all sales go to charity. I'm not saying any brand has to fit that criteria but I do expect fair female representation among its ranks. 

So the next time you're tempted to share that viral 'girl power' ad or buy the 'girl boss' t-shirt, take a closer look at the company doing the selling. What's the percentage of women in their workforce? How many are in senior management? How diverse is their board? Do they have good parental leave policies? Women drive 80% of all consumer purchasing and we have tremendous power to effect change by using our social influence and spending power wisely. 

Lingua Franca makes a statement

Fashion and retail companies are increasingly using their platforms as a way of expressing their feelings about key social issues. I'm really proud to be a part of this project from Rachelle Hruska's sweater line, Lingua Franca. The company's popular message sweaters feature phrases such as 'We are all immigrants' and 'I miss Barack'. Lingua Franca employs 45 women, many of whom are immigrants, to embroider its sweaters and proceeds go to the charity of your choice.

The company assembled a fierce and fantastic group of women, from Women's March co-chair Blob Bland to CNN commentator Sally Kohn for a campaign to highlight the work of women in leadership and activism. The accompanying photographs and video were shot by renowned photographer Pamela Hanson.  To purchase the sweaters, email 

The full list of women featured in the campaign are Janna Pea, Geena Rocero, Christina Chang, Bob Bland, Sehreen Noor Ali, Claire Stapleton, Dee Poku, Sally Kohn, Marcella Tillet, Zoe Buckman, Ginny Suss, Tanya Selvaratnam, Jenna Arnold, Rachel Fleit, Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Rachel SklarSarah Sophie Flicker, Ting Ting Cheng, Stacy De-Lin, Ann Dexter Jones, Paola Mendoza, Shi Shi Rose and Latham Thomas .

Kirsten Gillibrand - Champion For Women

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is the champion women need right now. With initiatives like Off The Sidelines and her paid leave bill she's focused on giving women who don't have a seat at the table, a real voice. A must read New York Magazine piece written by the ever brilliant Rebecca Traister profiles the Senator who has been a staunch and steadfast opposition leader. Senator Gillibrand spoke at our WIE Symposium in 2011 and I had the pleasure of seeing her again at a recent gathering of women leaders. Let's come together and support her campaign for universal paid family leave. Working mothers need our support. 

Why we all need to learn to drop the ball

I've always been a terrible delegator and inordinately proud of my ability to multitask. By the time I've explained what needs to be done, my reasoning goes, I may as well have done it myself. And at least I'll know it was performed exactly to my specifications. And I'm not alone. Women take on more than their fair share of household chores, childcare and what I call 'office housework' (the labour intensive minutiae). Our ability to juggle a multitude of tasks, coupled with our conscientious approach to work, can result in us becoming so overloaded that we get stretched to breaking point. This tendency also affects our ability to find the time and space to think broadly and strategically about our long term goals. 

And that's where Tiffany Dufu's widely praised new book Drop The Ball, Achieving More By Doing Less, comes in. It asks women to learn how to cultivate the single skill they need in order to thrive, the ability to let go. This poignant, funny and very practical title draws from Tiffany's own experiences as an overworked multitasker, and will help you rethink the way you approach your life and work.

Nobody knows better than you

This week I interviewed Elizabeth Cutler, the founder of SoulCycle for my monthly speaker series and it was a bittersweet experience. She and her co-founder Julie Rice had announced their resignations from SoulCycle the day before. That aside, she was a funny, honest, straight talker about everything from the importance of trusting your instincts, to actually generating revenues to sustain growth (not just raising more money!), and the value of grassroots marketing over paid advertising. Amazing entrepreneur.