The Women's Convention Gave Me Life

The movement created by the Women's March organizers continues to go from strength to strength. Last weekend I spoke at their first convention in Detroit, which brought together 4000 women from across the country to discuss everything from running for office to immigration reform. I personally spoke on three panels - exploring the role of cultural influencers which featured Ibtihaj Muhammed, Piper Perabo, Yandy Smith and Jackie Cruz;  the status of women in film with Alia Shawkat, Piper Perabo, Sarah Sophie Flicker and Amber Tamblyn and and the importance of entrepreneurship with Piera Gelardi, Jennifer DaSilva, Tracy Reese and Arian Simone

Being at the convention was like being with family.  I was so inspired and moved by all the women I met and their powerful stories. From the mothers who travelled in from Flint to learn how to best to use their voices as activists, to the budding young filmmaker being sexually harassed by a supposed mentor, everyone was there to share, support and learn. A huge thank you to all the amazing speakers and participants who shared such great wisdom.

Yandy Smith, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Piper Perabo, Dee Poku, Jackie Cruz

Yandy Smith, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Piper Perabo, Dee Poku, Jackie Cruz

Piper Perabo, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Dee Poku, Amber Tamblyn, Alia Shawkat

Piper Perabo, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Dee Poku, Amber Tamblyn, Alia Shawkat

No Such Thing As A Mommy Goddess

I didn't feel like the greatest of mothers this morning. Sebastian was digging his heels in because we didn't have his favorite cereal and he wanted me to play lego. He's barely seen me over the last month so he's acting up. Meanwhile I had to ensure he was at school on time and get to a breakfast meeting so I had to half pull/carry him out the door. You need endless patience to be a good parent, and this morning I just didn't have the energy to sit and reason and explain. To find that patience you have to make time for self care. You have to be rested and nourished. And right now I'm neither. So yes, let's break the myth of the mommy goddess. Thank you Time Magazine for this story.



Battle Of The Sexes Is A Must See

I felt so energized after leaving the screening of Battle of the Sexes. The film, which stars Emma Stone and Steve Carrell tells the story of the now historic tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. King blazed a trail in the early 1970s as an outspoken activist for equal pay.  Hearing the blatantly sexist remarks being casually bandied about and the shocking disparity in salaries reminded me of how far we've come and how much still needs to be done. Congratulations to my great friends Simon Beaufoy and Christian Colson for writing and producing Battle of the Sexes. And of course, so good to watch the movie with a great group of female change makers. 


Can Our Schools Raise Good Citizens

My son started kindergarten today. Why is the first day of school such an emotional experience? It really was for me. So much more than I was expecting. I also wonder whether in these fraught times, there's a heightened sense of anxiety about how we raise good citizens and also, the world we're sending our kids out into.  

Can we entrust our schools to teach our kids civic responsibility and the need to respect their fellow humans no matter what creed, race or sexual orientation? This requirement has risen from midway on my list of school criteria to the top 3. Our kids spend around 70% of their time at school, absorbing lessons from teachers and fellow pupils alike. If we're to change the world for the better, we have to look to how we're raising the next generation and the values we're instilling in them.


Real Is Whatever Makes You Feel Good.

I have friends who love makeup and have fun with it - they are empowered by using it. Others, like me are ambivalent. I like the way it makes me look but it just feels like work. At a recent talk, Zadie Smith shared her frustration at the amount of time her daughter spent in front of the mirror and attracted both praise and criticism for imposing limits on her grooming time. I see her point, particularly when it comes to buying into society's beauty standards. Alicia Keys has eschewed makeup because for her, it felt like she was hiding behind a mask.

For me, there's no wrong answer. Here's one area where women should be left to choose their own path. To do whatever makes them feel good. But I always catch my breath when a woman in the public eye allows us past the facade. Keys looks incredible here on the cover of Elle Brasil.


Alicia Keys. Elle Brasil  

Festivals Should Move Culture Forward

I’ve attended a number of festivals in the last year in preparation for my own upcoming female focused gathering The Other Festival. Festivals present an incredible opportunity to bring diverse groups of people together, move culture forward and facilitate dialogue. To educate and inspire. Not everyone uses that opportunity. It’s why we need Afropunk.  This weekend I saw female headliners (a rarity) such as Solange and SZA , imagery designed to provoke conversation, political fashion, and numerous social justice organizations such as Planned Parenthood and The Gathering For Justice. More of this please.


On Camera, Start By Being Your Most Authentic Self

"There's no time that I go on TV and I'm not somehow nervous. It's adrenaline. Embrace the anxiety. It's energy you can use to make your performance stronger." Media Trainer and Political Strategist, Jehmu Greene.

It was so enlightening to hear the words of wisdom from this morning's masterclass host, TV correspondent Jehmu Greene.  A black woman defending progressive values on the likes of Fox News, Greene knows better than most, the value of being on top of your game. From understanding your body language, to knowing your audience and interviewing the producer in advance, our WIE Network members learned the importance of leaving nothing to chance. The smallest detail left unchecked, can lay all your best laid plans to waste.



Let's Keep Telling Our Own Stories

It was an honor to interview filmmaker Vance Ford last night for the British Academy of Film & Television (BAFTA). In 1992, 22 days prior to the acquittal in the Rodney King case, Ford's brother William, an unarmed young schoolteacher was shot in cold blood. His attacker was then acquitted by an all white Grand Jury. It's sad to see how little has changed. Ford's documentary about the case and its aftermath, Strong Island, won the Special Jury Documentary prize at Sundance and is released by Netflix next month. We have to keep telling these stories.


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?

Increasing Diversity In The Luxury Market

Misty Copeland is the new face of Estee Lauder. Zoe Kravitz was just announced as the global ambassador for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté. Naomie Harris and Adwoa Aboah feature in Miu Miu's fall campaign. Janelle Monae and Zoe Kravitz (again) have Tiffany's campaigns. It's always good to see the beauty/luxury industries, who command such influence, embracing diversity.

Black Women Deserve Equal Pay

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. I struggled with this issue my whole career. Knowing I was sometimes being paid less for equal work. And it is so hard to prove and navigate. There’s no transparency around salaries and even when you have the facts, I’m telling you, it’s really hard to walk into a room and ask your boss or HR why your counterparts are earning more than you. Black women make on average, 63 cents for every dollar a man makes and 17% less than their while female counterparts. Awareness and acknowledgement are the first step. Then we need to implement policy and put in safeguards that protect people of color in the workplace.

Assistant, Caregiver, Event Promoter, Housekeeper - My Many Jobs As A Female Entrepreneur

Women need to learn to delegate more and I know I'm as guilty as any. Why spend time finding someone to complete a task when I can just as easily do it myself?  So I run myself ragged dealing with the minutiae of being a mother and a founder, while rarely finding enough time for the most important tasks. I read a great article from a female founder recently whose advice to female entrepreneurs was to outsource, outsource, outsource. For startups in particular, the instinct is to be frugal and save precious resources. The less spent, the more saved, the better. Right? Wrong!

All the time we expend on housework, filing, commuting, scheduling, bookkeeping etc takes us away from the valuable big picture tasks, strategizing, fundraising and generally growing our companies. Of course this isn't always financially possible but if we consider the opportunity cost of delegation, we'll realize that the long term benefits are more than worth the short term expenditure. So learn to outsource your life and you'll reap the benefits. 



Issa Rae Is All Of Us

I know I'm woefully late to the party on this one and everything I have to say has probably been said a 100 times already but I binge watched the entire season of Insecure this weekend and it was like a come to Jesus moment. That girl up on that screen was me and every other black girl I know. For the first time that I can remember, I got to see a black woman portrayed on screen who wasn't hyper sexualized or a dominating badass nor was she a slave or a maid. She was just a girl trying to make her way in a complicaworld the way we all do. Experiencing the ups and downs and insecurities of navigating love, life, career, friendship, the way we all do. And don't get me started on her boyfriend, a would be entrepreneur who is both sensitive and vulnerable, just like we've all had. Thank you Issa Rae for dispensing with stereotypes and doing us all a massive favor. We can all walk into our jobs a little easier tomorrow, knowing that a few more people might dispense with the labels and see us for who we really are.


Yvonne Orji, Issa Rae, Amanda Seales (Photo: Justina Pintz/HBO) 

Why Brands Need To Adopt Feminist Principles

At the first edition of The Other Festival last year, two female owned brands I truly admire Studio 189 and VOZ, hosted pop ups in our Other Shops marketplace. They met, they bonded and the result was a wonderful collaboration, a joint  bricks and mortar store in Nolita. Last night we invited people to see the store and to hear a conversation on the topic of social engagement for brands. Both companies have seamlessly integrated social engagement into the very fabric of their operations, providing infrastructure not charity to the communities they work in. Both collaborate with local artisans and manufacture locally, and Studio 189 even built a factory in Ghana that trains local seamstresses. 

At last night's event, Studio 189 founders Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson and VOZ founder Jasmine Aarons shared more about their ethos and approach. Our guest speaker  De'Ara Balenger, Hillary Clinton's former director of engagement, summed things up perfectly when she said: "For true social engagement, brands need to operate from feminist principles, and ensure women have an equal place in the decision making." I couldn't agree more.

De'Aranger Balenger, Dee Poku

Jasmine Aarons,Dee Poku, Rosario Dawson, Abrima Erwiah

Jasmine Aarons,Dee Poku, Rosario Dawson, Abrima Erwiah

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.

7 Things Men Can Do To Combat Sexism In Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has imploded over the last couple of weeks, after several women came forward to publicly share their stories of being sexually harassed by senior figures in the industry.  I'm awed by the strength and bravery of these women and hope the ensuing outrage and various resignations, signal a sea change in the way the tech industry treats women. Various solutions have been put forward to try and combat the rampant sexism that exists in tech, but the most practical of these and the most likely to produce lasting change can be found in this blog post by Claudia Iannazzo, founder of AlphaPrime Ventures who suggests the following steps: 

1. Hire more women to create a more balanced and realistic workforce

2. Set diversity goals 

3. Amplify women's voices

4. Facilitate the introduction of founders to potential funders 

5. Make the panel pledge and refuse to speak on panels unless women are represented 

6. Make the column pledge which as above, ensures women are represented and quoted in articles concerning the tech industry 

7. Support the professional development of women, through training and sponsorship 

Read and share and lets make this mistreatment of women a thing of the past.

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.

Combatting Gender Stereotypes In Advertising

Recent research from Unilever showed that just 3% of ads portrayed women as leaders or in managerial roles and that 40% of women don't recognize themselves in the commercials they see. 

The majority of ads I see generally feature apron clad women working away in the kitchen while dad heads off to work, or hot busty babes doing crazee things! I don't recognize myself in either so a new initiative and collective entitled Unstereotype led by some of the worlds biggest brands and advertising agencies and which aims to feature both sexes in more realistic roles is such a welcome step in the right direction. 

What Does It Mean To Be A Wo(Man)

What does society mean when it attaches the labels masculine or feminine to men and women, and why have both words come to represent something negative and unappealing.  I moderated a very enlightening and thoughtful conversation on gender stereotypes with Sarah Sophie Flicker (activist, filmmaker and National Organizer of the Women's March), Aminatou Sow (host Call Your Girlfriend podcast and founder Tech LadyMafia) and Jimmie Briggs (founder Man Up) all of whom shared some powerful ideas. 

"We're paying a lot of attention to empowering girls but we also need to focus more on how we raise our boys, their role models and the media they're presented with. There's nothing out there for boys."

"Masculinity has come to mean hurt, anger and suppressed emotions."

"Historically black women haven't been allowed to be dainty and 'feminine'. We don't fall neatly into those boxes." 

It's only when we are able to share our stories that we can step away from our preconceived ideas and truly listen. Thank you to every who participated.