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 info@linguafranca.com. 

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.

Ladies Who Lunch (And Do)

Honored to be included in Elle Magazine Editor in Chief Robbie Myers' lunch event, part of Elle Agenda, an initiative to bring together successful women over a productive conversation about the biggest issues they face today.

Patricia Herrera Lansing, a former Vanity Fair fashion editor and daughter of Carolina Herrera; Dee Poku, founder and CEO of women's empowerment network WIE; Susan Mercandetti, editor-at-large of Random House Publishing Group; Meryl Poster, founder and president of Superb Entertainment; Robbie Myers; Tavi Gevinson, journalist, actor, and entrepreneur; Alexis Maybank, cofounder of Gilt Groupe and Project September; author Emma Cline; Samira Nasr, fashion director at Elle; and Mickey Rapkin, a journalist and former senior editor at GQ.

Announcing The Other Festival

We live in the age of the maker. There is an entrepreneurial spirit infusing this generation like never before, and New York (Brooklyn in particular) is at the epicenter of the female founder movement. That's why I'm so thrilled to announce my newest event, The Other Festival.

The Other Festival is a one day event that celebrates female makers and creators. It showcases the emerging pioneers of this generation, the women who are redefining how to do business, setting their own rules, pushing boundaries.  Next wave inventors, storytellers, founders, artists.

The event is being produced by Live Nation and we're honored to count the City of New York (WE NYC), Ogilvy, Univision, The Skimm and Galore among our many partners. The festival takes place on Saturday June 11th in Brooklyn and here's what you'll experience:

The coolest space EVER - indoor/outdoor stages, mini gardens, viewing platform
Fascinating and informative discussions
Workshops on everything from blogging to design to raising money
Ample opportunities to connect with fellow makers
Art, photography, dance, demos
Shopping in our SMART SHOP village
And we cap it all off with a night of kick ass live music!

Do sign up to our dedicated festival newsletter and follow us on Instagram at @otherfestival for regular updates and access to special offers.

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.


Equal pay for equal work

I recently had to negotiate my fee for a new consulting gig. I wasn't really happy with their proposed rate so I countered. And the other party offered me more money, but still less than the amount I’d requested. Despite this, I immediately accepted.  Because in my mind, it was still a pretty good offer.

I’d fallen into a classic trap and was instantly annoyed with myself.  Why did I give up so easily? Because I was afraid the offer might go away? Or didn't want to seem too pushy or greedy? Though at least I negotiated. Did you know that 70% of women don't negotiate their salaries at all? 

Today is National Equal Pay Day. A host of initiatives aim to bring awareness and action to the problem, and celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Patricia Arquette and Sheryl Sandberg have or are speaking out on the issue. Women are paid 78 cents for every dollar a man makes and it’s a practice that needs to stop. Women need to know their value and be unafraid to hold out for what they want. And it's worth being prepared before you go to the negotiating table.  If you're unsure, it always helps to ask advice from successful peers and mentors about negotiating style.