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3 Major Myths on Confidence Working Women Should Avoid

This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC

For women in the workplace, building, maintaining or even regaining confidence in our professional lives can be a major challenge. Many influential women from Beyoncé Knowles to PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, have struggled with feelings of self-doubt.

Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that working women, including female business leaders, often face bias when it comes to how others view their confidence. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why women hold fewer leadership positions than men and only a quarter of women ask for a raise compared to their male counterparts. But working women shouldn’t have to conform to the societal expectation that they must acquire more traditionally masculine qualities to appear more self-confident.

While there are deeply ingrained systems that keep women from gaining influence and power at work, female business leaders can uplift themselves and each other by dispelling myths about confidence and learning how to better cope with any insecurities and preconceived notions they may face in the workplace.

Myth #1: I Must Feel Perfect Before I Am Confident

In their book “The Confidence Code,” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman show how a lot of women harbor this mentality. It holds us back from answering questions, asking for a raise or applying for jobs. For instance, women at Hewlett-Packard applied for promotions at their workplace only when they felt they were 100 percent qualified for the job, whereas men applied when they met 60 percent of the job description.

Similarly, when asked about giving young women extra responsibilities and leadership opportunities in her campaign, Hillary Clinton says that women often ask, “Do you think I’m ready?’ But when I ask a man, he goes, ‘How high, how fast, when do I start?!’” Clinton’s response was that women are too hard on themselves and, as a result, sell themselves short.

One thing professional women in particular need to remember is that perfection is impossible. You can strive for mastery, but mistakes will always be made — and the most you can do is learn from those mistakes. Plus, it’s important to remember that confidence and even mastery are developing processes with no realistic end goal of perfection. Instead, let mastery guide you on your way to confidence. As Kay and Shipman say, “The confidence you get from mastery is contagious. It spreads…mastering one thing gives you the confidence to try something else.” Knowing you have mastered certain skills gives you a feeling of emotional security that is kin to confidence.”

Myth #2: Confidence Means Being Loud and Pushy

We typically think of confident leaders as loud, ruthless and extroverted; dominant types with stereotypically masculine qualities. But confidence can be observant and stoic as well. According to counseling expert Meg Selig, while “extrovert confidence” is a reality, so is “introvert confidence.” While it’s not showy, this confidence style prevails by a person who demonstrates strong values and sticks to them. As such, respect for their skills, communication and modesty help them succeed.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or an introvert (or both!), you can always learn to be a caring and effective leader. Author Carolyn Webb offered her own definition of confidence as being “how you feel when you’re being your best self.”

Myth #3: You Either Have Confidence or You Don’t

Often the perfectionist aspect of confidence gets the best of us. Recent research indicates that self-criticism is one barrier to women’s success in the workforce. Because women are often socialized to be modest and polite, it’s no surprise that we underestimate our own skills.

Some people are naturally confident when they lead their teams, brainstorm strategies or pitch ideas, but confidence is a learned skill that anyone can gain. No one expects you to jump onto a tennis court and play like a pro. Confidence works the same way: it’s a learnable skill and practice helps you excel.

Despite facing bias at work, women have some power when it comes to improving their inner confidence. One is to increase your “confidence quotient” by taking risks, learning new skills and setting small and large goals. To reflect an inner sense of confidence, you could even write out positive affirmations and scripts so you know how to better handle mistakes.

Sheryl Sandberg said, “Confidence and leadership are muscles. You must learn to use them or you don’t.”

As we research and gain more awareness of our own confidence (or sometimes lack thereof), working women can more efficiently address not only the inner, but the systematic issues which keep women unempowered in the workforce. As we recognize that it’s totally normal to doubt ourselves, feel nervous or imperfect, we can be aware of the issue and focus on our positive attributes instead.

Vulnerability Builds Better Businesses (and Makes You a Better Person)

Acknowledging your vulnerabilities and using them to your advantage can improve business, build a better work culture and help you grow…

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

Vulnerability is often associated with weakness, high stakes emotions and a lack of confidence.

It’s the opposite of what we typically expect business leaders to show in a brainstorming session, on the public speaking stage or in the boardroom.

Often, entrepreneurs actively seek to hide their vulnerable traits, but being vulnerable has its strengths. Not only does it help us foster better relationships, but it also, surprisingly, acts as a beneficial strategy in growing stronger businesses.

An article from the World Economic Forum shows our trust in CEOs has floundered as many business leaders seek to remake the image of the self-serving business leader. Customers, investors, employees and the general public now expect them to share their vulnerabilities — and their company’s vulnerabilities — with the world.

The reason comes down to how vulnerability helps us build better businesses, excel as business leaders and ultimately, become better people.

Vulnerability Fosters Creativity

“Perfectionists perish. There’s nothing worse for a team than someone afraid to make a mistake,” tells sports psychologist Graham Betchart to CNBC.

Betchart knows this better than most. He has studied vulnerability and has helped train NBA athletes on how to develop mental fortitude and how to handle pressure.

What Betchart has found is that when we work to intentionally avoid mistakes, we limit our creativity. Being willing to accept that things may not go according to our plans or expectations — in other words, being vulnerable — gives us a greater chance of finding creative solutions.

University of Houston professor and leading researcher on vulnerability, Brené Brown, mirrors this idea. Brown argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity. She says, “I would challenge anyone to point to any act of innovation that was not born of vulnerability, that was not born of putting an idea on a table that half the people in the room thought was stupid. That the other half questioned. If the idea makes sense to everyone right away, there’s nothing innovative about it, right?”

Vulnerability Improves Trust

Brené Brown’s research also delves into how vulnerability can create a trusting workplace. In her famous “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk, she says that vulnerability lies at the very foundation of authentic connection with others. In her research, Brown determined that “a sense of worthiness” is what defines people who have a strong sense of belonging from those who feel alone. Those who have “the courage to be imperfect” and embrace their vulnerabilities are more likely to build meaningful and trusting connections.

“We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability,” Brown says. Unfortunately, that habit of hiding our emotions and imperfections ultimately leads to disconnection and distrust.

When leading a business, that focus on building better connections can really pay off. According to the Harvard Business Review, transparent communication builds better levels of hope and trust which improves employee performance. It also builds a culture of forgiveness where we don’t punish mistakes, and instead learn from them — a mindset that has proven to benefit productivity.

Betchart told CNBC Make It, “We’ve found that when a leader, a person in charge, is able to be vulnerable and say, ‘I’m human just like you and I make mistakes,’ it empowers the group. People really resonate when they can connect.”

Build Better Character But Safeguard Your Boundaries

While it’s important to be open, there’s a fine line when it comes to being too vulnerable at work. For instance, oversharing and expressing self-doubt excessively makes others start to question your ability or credibility.

You also don’t want to fake vulnerabilities to build relationships. Quartz reports that when vulnerability veers away from authenticity, it can start to feel scripted and even hurt you professionally. Instead, It’s important to ask yourself if what you’re sharing is helpful to others, including yourself. Gradually, it’s reasonable to include vulnerable aspects of yourself while inspiring others in the process.

Vulnerability for business leaders isn’t just about showing your emotions or pain points to connect with others. It’s about being more self-aware and actively collaborating with others to examine important problems and solve them creatively. Yes, vulnerability makes us more real, more communicative and more trusting, but it also helps us build stronger teams, bigger businesses and better communities. It’s time to start using our vulnerabilities to our advantage rather than thinking of them as weaknesses to be overcome.

Real Estate Veteran Debrah Lee Charatan Offers Advice to Young Entrepreneurs

Real Estate Veteran Debrah Lee Charatan Offers Advice to Young Entrepreneurs

This article, by Krystal Perkins, was published on Prague Post

Real estate veteran Debrah Lee Charatan has long been hailed for her entrepreneurial insight, decades of industry experience, and passion for supporting communities throughout the New York metropolitan area. Charatan is the President and Cofounder of BCB Property Management, a leading multi-family real estate investment firm dedicated to the acquisition, renovation, and management of buildings in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Since 2008, she has led BCB to acquire over 1.6 million square feet of New York and New Jersey real estate, and a portfolio of over 120 buildings and 1,800 apartments.

Debrah Lee Charatan’s impact today is vast, but she never forgets her humble beginnings. Starting as a secretary while completing her BS at Baruch College, she sought out an opportunity as a property manager at a local real estate firm where she began to make her deals in the 1970s.

From there, Chartan leveraged her resources and real estate expertise to create her own company, Bach Realty, which she grew into one of the most prominent names in New York’s commercial real estate space during the 1980s. Bach Realty is recognized as New York City’s first all-female real estate brokerage, and Charatan’s entrepreneurial success saw her profiled in USA Today, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Inc., the New York Daily News along with dozens of other media outlets.

In 1993, Charatan kicked off another career landmark by launching Debrah Lee Charatan Realty, where she continued her dedication to her entrepreneurial team and New York’s communities at large. Since then, Charatan has become a prolific thought leader on female entrepreneurship, and has been published in the likes of EntrepreneurThe Huffington Post, VentureBeat, Thrive Global and SCORE NYC.

Charatan’s focuses much of her community engagement and charitable ventures through the Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, including the support of numerous arts organizations and cultural and civic causes including New York’s Central Park Conservancy and the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation. Also, Charatan sits on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Real Estate Council.

As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Debrah Lee Charatan actively supports the preservation of Jewish historical and cultural institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Park East Synagogue, Chai Lifeline, Southampton Chabad and the Jewish Musem. Currently, Charatan serves as the Vice President on the Board of Trustees for Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, an organization that seeks to support elderly and other vulnerable New York residents, including Holocaust survivors, through independent living that offer community-based services.

How can new entrepreneurs learn to maximize their productivity?

Staying productive requires a steady routine. Like most entrepreneurs, I wake up early to get a head-start on the day. I’m up at 5 am on weekdays to work out for an hour and get to the office early so I can make the most of each day. Choose something that raises your energy and sets a positive pace for the rest of your day.

On the job, the real trick is to set goals and write those goals down. I make “to do” lists — the night before, or first thing in the morning — that detail what I’m going to do that day to achieve those goals. That way, when I get to work, I know what meetings, calls, tasks, and other big-picture items I have on my plate, and more importantly, why they are on my plate.

If you diligently keep track of everything you need to accomplish, you’ll make sure the essentials are crossed off.

What do you think are the best resources for young entrepreneurs to utilize?

Your best resources are time, your budget, your skill set, and your network.

Manage your time and your budget wisely. When you have spare time, use it to develop your skills or learn more about what it takes to survive and thrive in your industry. Create a budget in advance and track your revenue and spending, so you identify where you need to put your efforts that support a growing business.

Relationships are also key. Building genuine trust amongst your peers, colleagues, and competitors offer you one-of-a-kind advantages and opportunities that you won’t have access to anywhere else.

How can young entrepreneurs take advantage of the disruption in their industries?

As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of writing things down: my goals, my tasks, and my ideas.

One benefit of writing down your goals is that you start to recognize opportunities that come your way that can impact the future of your business in a significant way. It also helps you think more open-mindedly about how to adapt and take your ideas in a new direction as you develop your business.

Also, remember not to take “no” for an answer when a hurdle presents itself, either deal with it head-on or look for ways to redirect your energy and work around it.

What are some of the most effective growth strategies that have helped BCB Property Management succeed?

If you want to grow your business, you need to invest in its success. And in any business, an entrepreneur is only as good as the team that supports their work.

When I founded Bach Realty in the 1980s, and I started to make money, I immediately reinvested those funds back into the business. I hired new talent, updated our equipment, and made practical office renovations. This habit of reinvesting capital into my business is one that helped me thrive at Bach Realty and Debrah Lee Charatan Realty and helps me to this day at BCB Property Management.

Be patient and invest for the long-term. I’ve spent many years reinvesting my money and resources into my companies, and it’s afforded me opportunities for growth that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

How did you become so involved with philanthropy?

I believe every entrepreneur ought to invest in their local community, big or small. When I first started Bach Realty, I made a point to encourage female entrepreneurship by supporting the city’s first all-female real estate team because I knew I could make an impact and help better women’s lives. Today, I maintain relationships with professional female business communities and sit on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund in New York City.

When you align yourself with local communities, you more clearly understand their needs, and it allows you to create a strong foundation of mutual support and professional development. I continue to foster community ties, especially through The Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, which focuses on arts, cultural, medical and other humanitarian causes in the greater New York area and beyond.

Do mentorship opportunities help new entrepreneurs succeed?

Absolutely. Mentorship gives both the mentor and mentee new perspectives and a broader network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an entrepreneur who inspires you. With consistent effort, a two-way mentoring relationship allows any business leader to expand their network, their industry knowledge, and even their company’s bottom line.

You’ve been particularly influential in supporting women in business. What advice can you give female executives?

Many women still let bias or negative self-talk hinder their progress and confidence. My advice: don’t doubt yourself. If you do doubt yourself, learn how to push those negative thoughts to the back of your mind while you work because those doubts will clutter your vision.

One of my biggest regrets as an entrepreneur was that I didn’t realize my leadership potential at a younger age. It’s essential to get ahead of the game and go for it, developing your knowledge and skills in your younger years.

On another note, remember to support other women! While female leaders are growing in number, it’s still essential to create a space that allows us to succeed in a heavily male-dominated world.

As a veteran entrepreneur, what is one essential piece of advice you’d give to emerging entrepreneurs?

As I’ve said, I believe in setting goals. Make daily, weekly and yearly targets. Even better: write them down. Advise your employees and business partners to do the same and offer any support you can to help them reach those goals. Holding yourself and others accountable for progress is the best way to make dreams a reality.

Is Feminine Psychology the Key to a Healthier Workplace?

Is Feminine Psychology the Key to a Healthier Workplace?

Nurturing and encouraging stereotypically feminine traits can create healthier and more productive work environments…

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

The era of Mad Men gender politics may have improved, but professional women still face toxic work cultures. A 2017 PwC survey shows that women employed within majority-male workplaces are more likely to report that men in the office are making it difficult for them to excel.

Gender bias, harassment and pay inequality greatly highlight the discrimination working women face on a daily basis. Compounding these issues, women are traditionally socialized with stereotypical feminine characteristics like empathy, intuition and caregiving — traits which are often derided in the workplace. Meanwhile, stereotypically masculine qualities like assertion, directness and competition are praised, leaving many women to feel they need these traits to succeed in business.

Of course, both women and men hold a nuance of traditionally masculine and feminine qualities, so it’s essential to infuse a balance of both perspective into corporate cultures.

In the era of the #MeToo movement, especially, businesses ought to create a more supportive and productive work environment for all of a business’ employees. Nurturing and encouraging stereotypically feminine traits like empathy, caring and intuition is one way to profoundly do that.

Empathy Improves Engagement and Productivity

Being emotionally open and empathetic in the workplace does not always come naturally, but empathy is the cornerstone of a healthy work cultureIt’s needed to effectively understand and share the feelings of coworkers and is especially important during the decision-making process.

In 2018’s Businessolver’s Empathy in the Workplace Index, 96 percent of employees consider empathy an important trait for their CEOs to show, but 92 percent of workers still believe that empathy is undervalued.

Joe Shanahan, the CEO of Businessolver, says the current lack of empathy in the office comes from the discrepancy between two groups who view the behavior of practicing empathy in the office differently.

Speaking to Forbes, Shanahan says, “It’s time to change perceptions and increase our standards for empathy and it’s clear that increased workplace diversity makes organizations more empathetic.”

Shanahan continues, “CEOs are no longer free to sit on the sidelines and delegate workforce culture to their HR team…they need to be part of the change in conversation if they want to stay ahead of their competitors and equally important, engaged with all employees — both the senior executives and the interns.”

Empathy is perhaps more important to corporate cultures than many realize — when people are treated like people, their productivity skyrockets. Forbes reports that up to $600 billion in worker productivity is lost each year due to lack of engagement, and incorporating empathy is one of the best ways to combat that trend. This results in benefits like higher employee satisfaction and productivity, lower turnover, improved profitability and higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Behind every happy workforce lies empathy.

In an article for The Huffington Post, Claudia Chan, CEO of S.H.E Global Media Inc. believes corporate cultures should offer a diverse option of interest-based network and support groups. Organizing groups that have the same interests or need the same support — think: parenting groups — can help everyone feel understood and supported, while also creating bonds amongst workers.

Cultures of Care Influence Safety & Respect

Caregiving is traditionally associated with women and mothering. But in the workplace, a caregiver is simply someone who nurtures his/her team’s growth and demonstrates a positive work ethic through values, purpose and passion.

In fact, creating cultures of care help to shape safer, more respectful environments. A PwC study reports, “companies that do not promote safe, equitable and bias-free environments for all employees do so at tremendous risk to their organizations.”

Safety is key to allowing workers to freely focus on their work and develop professionally; women who face sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting abuse at work are keenly aware of how these trauma can sideline their careers.

While many Americans believe women are better than men at creating safe and respectful workplaces, both male and female leaders can provide better safety and respect by promoting strong moral codes in a company culture that cares about their team members, allowing each team member to be their best self.

Creating a caring culture influences safety and respect for everyone in the office, especially when there are written harassment policies, transparent practices and strong support networks surrounding these cultures. When both women and men feel safe and respected, it’s easier for them to have a voice and feel more productive.

Intuition Informs Collaboration & Innovation

Although intuition was long labeled “women’s intuition” because of the stereotype that women are more “instinctively emotional,” research showsthat the skill is available to anyone. And the ability to observe the intangible and pick up on nonverbal cues is absolutely critical to working effectively with colleagues and making better decisions.

However, the importance of intuition in the workplace has often been ignored in favor of hard data and facts. Yes, we need analysis to make crucial decisions, but intuition helps empower usand create more innovative and sustainable companies. According to research published in Psychological Science, intuition can help those who use it make faster, more confident decisions.

It also creates environments where workers are more collaborative and self-aware. Some new, “intuitive workplaces” — where employees share information and access more information about others — use technology to drive more intuitive practices when it comes to employee well-being and self-care in the workplace. HRZone reports that a growth of personal technologies like Smart Watches and Fitbits, along with digitized ways of working, lets employees quantify their health, well-being, work habits and mood at work. By 2030, it’s predicted that data collected through these digital technologies and employee monitoring devices can create agile work cultures that conserve energy, resources and create more efficient workers. Further, this data informs employees how to work best with one another.

When a workplace has a strong balance of data and intuition, it shows that they trust their employees and engage them in transparent communication as they innovate — true hallmarks of a healthy and productive workplace.

Plenty of CEOs indicate how important they think intuition is on the job and for burgeoning work cultures. Oprah Winfrey told O Magazine in 2011: “I’ve trusted the still small voice of intuition my entire life. And the only time I’ve made mistakes is when I didn’t listen.” Profound leaders like Apple’s Steve Jobs called intuition “more powerful than intellect.”

Mindfulness tactics like meditative breaks (used by Steve Jobs) and self check-ins help employees stay connected to their feelings. If employees don’t feel right about the direction of a project, it allows them to examine and communicate those gut feelings with collaborative leaders. Without intuition, innovation can’t exist and vice versa.

Redefining Feminine Psychology in the Workplace

Instead of suppressing feminine qualities because they may be deemed socially unacceptable at work, women and men need to feel empowered to embrace their soft skills. After all, it is only by incorporating these traditionally “female perspectives” that we can create healthier, better-rounded, and more innovative companies. Getting in touch with one’s own soft skills is, of course, a wonderful side effect.

Heroine-Led Films Win at the Box Office, But Actresses’ Paychecks Tell a Different Story

Heroine-Led Films Win at the Box Office, But Actresses’ Paychecks Tell a Different Story

Companies in Hollywood and beyond should use these three approaches to help close the gender pay gap…

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

Of the most memorable film scenes from the past couple years, one iconic moment comes to mind: Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, saving the world, using her power and determination — with the help of some super strength and armored bracelets. Not only are images like these symbolic of Hollywood’s post-#MeToo female empowerment, but it’s also metaphoric of the success of female-led victories at the box office.

Vanity Fair cites a new study that found female-led movies outperformed male-led movies for the past three years. But as in other industries across the country, the pay gap remains a significant barrier.

This story is not new. Emma Stone, 2017’s highest-paid actress, earned a whopping $26 million, a whole 2.5 times less than Mark Wahlberg’s $68 million, the highest paid actor of the same year. 2018’s highest pay discrepancy was even more astounding. Scarlett Johansson took home $40.5 million, while The Rock made over three times the amount: $124 million.

Public scrutiny of the entertainment industry coupled with the success of female-fronted films has empowered many actresses to ask for what they deserve. Yet each negotiation can’t be a one-woman show. Systemic gender inequalities within Hollywood need to change — and industry professionals and companies can support women through the simple approaches of data reporting, allyship, and improved equality policies and incentives.

Act I. Lights, Camera… Data Reporting

One of the most apparent ways to address and improve Hollywood’s gender pay disparity is through clear, fact-based evidence. In previous years, salary discrepancy has come to the forefront of the industry as seen in the aftermath of several Hollywood scandals that exposed salary data — think: Sony’s email hack or the Williams/Wahlberg reshoot fiasco — women were, and still are, kept ignorant about their male co-stars’ paychecks.

When organizations confront these issues, they’re forced to reckon with their own unconscious bias. Melissa Silverstein, the founder and publisher of the gender parity initiative, Women and Hollywood, explains how non-transparent salary offerings keep women down and only benefit the people in power.

Speaking to Forbes, Silverstein says, “What women are doing now is taking power into their own hands and saying, ‘We know what other people are being paid and you’re not going to get away with this anymore.’”

Indeed, reports show that making salaries public helps close the pay gap in many areas because reporting measures help identify “bad performers.” When companies are more aware of the reputational consequences of gender gap and data reporting, it prompts them to action. In the UK, “naming and shaming”mechanisms provide public gender pay gap data which has notably affected employees at the BBC.

The more salary information is actively reported, the more leading ladies and other women in the industry can leverage their earning power. Under California’s new Fair Pay Act, Hollywood employees will be allowed to discuss their co-workers’ wages and ways to eliminate loopholes that allowed employers to justify unequal pay distribution between genders.

Act II. All Heroes need Allies

Sure, women don’t need saving in the movies anymore, but support sure helps. Allyship in the workplace is another way that industries like Hollywood can topple the pay gap. Cultural change only occurs when organizational catalysts act as allies and cheerleaders for the cause. Organizational shifts need to occur from the heavily male-dominated studios first.

We’ve seen many examples of male to support diversity. Male actors like Benedict Cumberbatch vowed to only work on films where his female co-stars are paid equally. Others like Bradley Cooper have publicly supported the movement.

The Harvard Business Review examines how other males in Hollywood (and elsewhere) can help topple the patriarchal pay gap. First, male allies need to be committed to the cause and community even at the risk of not fitting in with the dominant culture. Researchers suggest that men at every level can call out insults and affronts, eliminate pay and promotion disparities, and advocate for diversity policies in their organizations. The more vocal male allies call out injustices and believe in the possibility of change within the industry, the more others will unify around a culture of change.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Attorney Neil Meyer, who represented Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson, says, “We’re a community, and to the extent that any or all of us do something to perpetuate inequality, we’re all complicit; either you’re trying to be a part of the solution or you’re trying to be part of the problem.”

Act III. Call Action on Equal Policies and Initiatives

Equal pay will not prevail until action-oriented policies become ingrained within organizations. In Hollywood, it’s reported that women make even less than the national average of 80 cents to every dollar that men make; research from Dominican University of California shows that sometimes Hollywood women may make as low as 30 cents to a man’s dollar based on a “quota system.”

But new organizations and networks are trying to curb these systems. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has raised more than $22 million since it began to fight for equal pay and help end harassment in the various workplaces. In fact, the Time’s Up movement prompted HBO to close the pay gap across all its TV shows. Other industry firms, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and the International Creative Management, have taken on the “50–50 by 2020” pledge.

Other initiatives like Women’s Media Action Coalition (WeMac) and Take the Lead’s “50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment” project are executing multi-pronged goals to achieve intersectional gender parity in the workforce. WeMac has already sought justice through seven task forces that lobby, litigate, research and fund projects. Take the Lead aims for gender parity in film and television by 2025. Their leadership building program has created a network giving women accessible tools that help them navigate the industry and serve as an example of how to close the gap.

Of course, there are a series of federal and state laws that support the equal pay wage movement. However, none of them demand inclusive hiring or reporting. As women grow more powerful in Hollywood, they should require contracts that are inclusive of their value and other female setworkers, too. For one, it’s necessary to demand inclusion riders — a clause that stipulates on the diversity of the cast and crew to retain acting services. More actors like Frances McDormand and Michael B. Jordan now use this tool to alleviate the pay gaps that persist for gender and racial minorities in the film industry. Secondly, it’s important not only to discuss pay with co-workers, but to negotiate and stipulate transparent communications regarding salary within a contract. With building pressures on studios, Hollywood women can band together and use these tactics to close the pay gap even further.

Time’s Up, Pay Up!

Hollywood is a business like any other and merely reflects the poor state of pay inequality across the country. The Institute for Women’s Policy Researchsuggests that California, where the epicenter of entertainment studios lie, will close the pay gap by 2043. Executives need to get behind the scenes and enact fairer policies, not just condemn inequality on the public stage. The glare of the lens is on industry leaders in Hollywood to pay up. If not, women should take on the everyday Wonder Woman role and demand a happy ending to unjust policies ourselves.

3 Strategic Ways Emerging Tech is Already Fixing the Gender Gap for Women

3 Strategic Ways Emerging Tech is Already Fixing the Gender Gap for Women

Emerging technologies can create more equal economic opportunities for women across the globe…

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

In today’s budding digital economy, many of us often assume social progress is bound to improve at a similar pace as technology. However, the gender gap is causing an even deeper divide than we originally expected.

According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report, the gender gap continues to widen as women remain behind in politics, health, education and economics. In fact, recent research predicts that at our current rate of progress, gender parity won’t occur for another 217 years. That sounds frightening, especially given that women earn 80 cents to every dollar men make while only 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

But there is still cause for hope. Emerging technologies now democratize access to resources like education and finance, helping improve gender equality at a faster rate than we might have previously thought possible. Not only will this kind of tech advancement be instrumental in closing the gender gap, but it will also help accelerate economic growth and promote innovationfor companies across the board.

Here are three crucial ways we can utilize emerging technologies to support more economic opportunities for women — and close the gender gap for good.

To Secure Financial Assistance

Women often lack the financial resources and infrastructure that men receive in and out of the workforce. Globally, 42 percent of women and girls remain unbanked, meaning that women are less likely to be financially informed and economically independent.

Bill and Melinda Gates’ Level One Project aims to fix that problem. It focuses on using blockchain technology to bring the financially disenfranchised, including women in underdeveloped nations, into the traditional banking and digital economies.

The project has created a model for a country-level digital financial services system designed to bring the poor into the formal economy. The system uses wireless and simple 2G cell phones to reduce processing costs for users while integrating fraud and security protections. Crucially, this transparent setup gives women in developing nations access to a bank account and the freedom to take charge of their financial futures.

Fintech also eases the financial burdens caused by collateral or credit history issues. For example, data can help financial providers assess and help clients in lieu of traditional documentation which many women in developing countries don’t hold. Companies like Kenya’s FarmDrive, Mexico’s Konfío and banking services like M-Pesa are paving the way in this realm. An MIT study identified M-Pesa as particularly effective in assisting female-led households out of poverty.

Meanwhile, developing countries are using biometric IDs to introduce financial safeguards for women, like Pakistan’s emerging fintech tools that ensure women receive direct payments to avoid going through male family members.

But Fintech’s unique tools can offer women financial autonomy in more ways than one. Blockchain is yet another innovation that allows self-starting women to send and receive direct payments via a digital ledger. In developing countries, the ledger is especially important to lowering barriers to financial inclusion for women. Further, the interface allows for quicker access to funds and transparent recordkeeping of their finances without having to deal with the (sometimes discriminatory) practices of central banks.

Genevieve Leveille, CEO of AgriLedger, is an expert in using blockchain to connect users. Leveille believes that “blockchain will give [women] not only the ability to communicate, but also…to [fully realize] themselves in ways that we can’t right now.”

To Banish Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias causes gender discrimination due to ingrained cultural notions concerning a woman’s role or ability in the workforce. But artificial intelligence is stepping in to conquer these patterns. For instance, the Seattle-based augmented writing company, Textio, uses automated technology to write job listings with gender-neutral phrasing. It helped one of their clients increase female recruits from 18 to 57 percent. Mya Systems, an AI recruitment tool, incorporates AI-based chatbots that interview and evaluate job candidates to ask objective, performance-based questions which could help avoid unconscious bias in the early rounds of hiring.

In addition, companies like Ideal are helping to eliminate bias from the hiring and promotion process. Their AI-based software connects to a resume tracking system, screening prior candidates and external databases to source outside candidates for open positions (and current employees for promotions). These tools help reduce bias during the screening process, allowing more women to take that crucial step towards a face-to-face interview.

To Create New Career Opportunities

As automated technology disrupts all industries, more and more people are getting pushed out of jobs. Women are no exception. At the same time, however, automated and intelligent technologies are creating new educational opportunities for self-starting women.

According to a recent PwC report, using intelligent tech like big data creates strategic support systems — helping women advance economically. These technologies create career advantages, lowering the costs of starting new businesses and also providing more flexibility during working hours.

Big data solutions and cloud computing innovations offer unique opportunities to connect working women in any field to educational opportunities with other industry professionals. Big data analytics help educate women in their fields, providing predictive analysis on consumer insights, real-time data and trends so that they can be on the forefront of emerging talent. EY’s Analytics and AI Academy is one such learning program seeking to educate its female employees on big data.

Companies use big data analytics to help organizations close the pay gap, too. Data reporting tools help businesses audit salaries that allow them to assess if they’re closing pay disparity on a regular basis. When used transparently, the technology can give women access to data that clarifies if they’re earning equal pay. Gapsquare, for instance, uses machine learning and cloud-based software so companies can match finance data with HR data in systems like payroll. The tool is already implemented by major companies like Conde Nast and Vodafone. With these tools, employers have no excuse for keeping men and women at separate and unequal pay scales.

Power Up and Power On

Gender parity is crucial to help all entrepreneurs, including female business leaders, create more agile and innovative growth opportunities. Emerging technologies will be a crucial driving force that helps women across all sectors achieve this equality. At the same time, major companies and society must hold each other accountable when we use technologies that reiterate gender bias. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to create an equitable legacy so women aren’t struggling to keep up for another two centuries. It’s time to power up those devices so we can use them to empower everyone.

3 Ways Female Entrepreneurs can Disrupt VC Culture — and Gain More Funding

3 Ways Female Entrepreneurs can Disrupt VC Culture — and Gain More Funding

This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC

Women are the most rapidly growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. In fact, female-led businesses outperform those of their male peers in many venture capital (VC) portfolios.

Yet, less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have a female founder and less than 1 percent have a black female founder. Female-led startups only received 2.2 percent of total venture capital funding in 2018.

Investors claim that the lack of funding for diverse candidates is a pipeline problem, meaning they can’t find any female or minority females founders with whom to invest. However, it’s clear that it’s not a pipeline problem; biased structures limit women from accessing funding and support as easily as their male counterparts.

The way we construct and invest in the entrepreneurial ecosystem has to change. If female entrepreneurs are to gain more funding, traditional power bases must become more inclusive. To create a more immediate impact, women leaders can help disrupt the sector in a few simple ways to help themselves and each other earn more equal opportunities for funding and success.

1. Use Diverse Decision Makers

Nearly 92 percent of investment partners in the top 100 VCs are white men. It’s not surprising that a large majority of funding goes to similar demographics. But the system isn’t just going to change overnight. For their part, female-led startups should look for investment opportunities outside of traditional VC networks and Ivy League schools. Instead, try networking with a more diverse group and actively seek out female venture capitalists. Chloe Capital and SoGal Ventures are two examples of venture capital firms led by women seeking to fund only women-led businesses. As female entrepreneurs utilize more diverse sources of funding, they can start to diversify decision-making in the sector, and also support other women and minorities, creating an equal and unified entrepreneurial environment.

2. Redefine Cultural Rules

The rules that help cradle patriarchal, unconscious bias in the venture capital and business spheres need to be redefined. Female founders can help lead the way for the cause by promoting and supporting entrepreneurial cultures and sourcing standards that redefine and level the playing field.

First, female-led startups should start by creating new work cultures that promote diversity, equality, respect and inclusion. The #MeToo movement helped pave the way for female business leaders like Susan Fowler, Elizabeth Scott and Amelie Lamont to speak out about the harassment they’ve experienced, showing that attempts to isolate and demean female founders are pervasive within every industry. Since the ecosystem stacks its odds against women, a dedicated refocus should be set forth to maintain more equal rules of conduct.

Second, to change the culture, female entrepreneurs should encourage every industry to turn previously biased competition practices into avenues for support and transparency. One way is through redefining pitch competition.

Pitching a business is often the best way to prove your company’s worth, but women are disadvantaged due to bias. While men get asked promotion-oriented questions, female founders are instead asked “prevention-oriented” questions.

Thankfully, recent innovations are helping to reduce that bias. For example, Village Capital uses a peer selection model while Springboard Enterpriseshas a “dolphin tank” which focuses less on competition and more on channeling expertise from industry professionals who can help female entrepreneurs succeed.

3. Create Coalitions and New Systems of Power

Most female founders try to assimilate to the structures set before them, hoping it will allow them to compete with the “big boys.” However, this mindset still leads to inequality because it doesn’t address the underlying problem.

Underrepresented groups should continue to ‘lean in,’ but if they want to create a true revolution they have to join and promote new power coalitions and movements that support them. Recently, the surge of new investment funds for women by women — think Ellevest’s Impact Portfolios and The Female Founders Fund — help equalize existing power structures. Further, crowdfunding financing platforms, like iFundWomenand Seed Invest, tend to create better opportunities to redistribute entrepreneurship and democratize the venture capital space. Other female founders are acknowledging their power to disrupt the industry by joining forces with initiatives like the #FoundersForChange coalition, whose signers commit to promoting and advancing racial and gender diversity in their investment decisions.

Female leaders have the power to disrupt traditional VC culture through diversity, solidarity and actionable coalitions that propel the idea of equality forward. As more women utilize these principles, they can transform the systems that have acted as barriers to fair and equal funding — and ultimately improve the level of success for female entrepreneurs across the country.

3 Ways to Foster Empathy and Connection within your Small Business

3 Ways to Foster Empathy and Connection within your Small Business

This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC

Entrepreneurship is normally associated with traits like power, strength and audacity, but soft skills like empathy and connection are just as important for entrepreneurial success, if not more so. According to Businessolver’s 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study, 87 percent of CEOs agree that a company’s financial performance is intricately tied to compassion.

Unfortunately, workers indicate they aren’t experiencing enough of the trait in the workplace. That’s perhaps due, in part, to the way technology disrupts the way we empathize with others. The same study found that while 96 percent of employees believe it’s essential for employers to demonstrate empathy, 92 percent of employees also believe organizations are under-valuing the invaluable trait.

By creating empathetic business environments and policies that encourage authentic connections with employees, small business leaders are able to better support their employees and develop the structure necessary to build highly successful enterprises.

Here are a few significant ways to foster empathy and connection in your small business:

1. Encourage Professional Support

If leaders want to promote a culture of empathy, it needs to come from the top down. CEOs can invest time and understanding in their employees, for example, by encouraging collaborative conversations instead of transactional relationships. As a small business leader, working in the trenches helps gain trust and insight into the everyday tasks your employees undertake.

As leaders maintain a hands-on presence, they should also require other executives and managers to meet with different employees (including workers in other departments) every week. This exposure helps higher-ups identify the personal and business challenges each individual faces while allowing leaders to practice the patience and understanding needed to create supportive and professional relationships.

2. Create Service-Oriented Practices

Incorporating service-oriented practices within your company can highlight your compassion for your team. Coined by American educator and businessman, Stephen Covey, these practices utilize empathetic traits to show employees how to treat their customers. Some essential ways to build empathy in your company are through basic communication skills:

Listen and Ask for Feedback: Learn about the concerns and need of your employees. Asking them for feedback is crucial to understanding different concerns and perspectives. Use survey findings and employee focus group interviews to examine the benefits and culture changes they need. Considering people’s concerns is a hallmark characteristic of empathy, so leaders that make listening a priority can expect to benefit from a higher level of trust loyalty.

Inspire Open and Honest Conversations: Authentic and transparent conversations allow leaders to identify any underlying issues within their companies. Leaders should consider addressing professional stress, for example, during general discussions that offer advice on how to cope with workplace issues. There are other ways to form bonds and support employees, too. Organizing a lunch meeting where leaders share inspiring stories of their own professional hardships before they reached success can provide honest and helpful examples for employees who feel pressure at work. Honesty opens up the conversation for others to share their needs at work. Empathetic leaders can better identify and understand the root causes behind poor performance and allow them to help struggling employees improve.

3. Offer Empathy Training

Soft skills don’t come easy for everybody. Two-third of employees surveyed in the 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study reported that they think it’s difficult for most people at their companies to demonstrate empathy consistently. But with the right training and guidance, building empathy can become a reality for many dysfunctional work teams and companies. Proven effective in helping interpersonal relationships grow, empathy trainingteaches employees to develop their communication skills and emotional intelligence so they can connect with and understand the perspectives, emotions and motivations of others. For example, trainees are advised on how to develop interpersonal characteristics like learning to ask people more questions or focusing on coworkers’ similarities rather than their differences.

The same empathy study referenced above shows the majority of employees are interested in participating in these training workshops or consulting outside specialists. The survey also showed that 90 percent of CEOs felt they could make the case for empathy training in their organizations.

Empathy training has worked in the past. Telefonica Germany, for example, implemented such a program within their company and saw customer satisfaction rates increase by 6 percent within a month and a half. With empathy training, employees can learn valuable lessons and increase their productivity through more positive ways of working.

Empathy Helps Companies Evolve

Just because leaders are busy running a company, doesn’t mean they need to dismiss the emotional needs of their most valuable assets: the employees that help the business operate on a daily basis. Empathy and connection are the cornerstones of a cohesive business and have been shown to increase engagement, productivity, sales and loyalty. As small business owners, our role is simple: build connections through empathy to watch our teams blossom and, overall, sustain company growth.

Will the #MeToo Movement Inspire an Increase in Female Executives and Entrepreneurs?

Will the #MeToo Movement Inspire an Increase in Female Executives and Entrepreneurs?

The #MeToo movement is paving the way for female leaders and entrepreneurs…

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

During Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony recalling her experience with Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, women across the nation watched with bated breath. For many, the moment was not just a condemnation of the judge’s attitude, but a sober reminder that sexual assault and harassment are deeply ingrained within our society.

Ford’s statements — representative of the #MeToo movement’s core mission — emphasized the actuality and lasting impact of sexual assault and harassment women often face in daily life. During the hearing, calls to the National Sexual Harassment Hotline spiked by 201 percent.

The #MeToo movement has no doubt encouraged an increase in awareness, education, and reports around sexual harassment and other inequalities in the workforce. Even so, the business world remains largely male-dominated with gender bias a continued barrier to entry for women. Among those hurdles is some male leaders’ recent discomfort in mentoring women and working alone with women in the wake of increased allegations.

Will that apprehension stagnate progress for female leaders? Or will the #MeToo movement’s principles support their empowerment in business and ultimately lead to an increase the number of female leaders in the workforce?

Much of that answer depends on the level to which #MeToo can extend its impact beyond education and reporting, and make a lasting difference in improving company culture, increasing mentorship opportunities, and eliminating the confidence gap.

#MeToo Changes Company Culture

Well before the #MeToo movement, we saw how harassment cases created major changes within the workforce that empowered women. After Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas in 1991, sexual harassment cases in the United States went up by 50 percent a year later. The increased awareness also spawned the election of a record-breaking number of women, reports The Washington Post.

Since the #MeToo movement began over a year ago, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that sexual harassment charges have increased over 12 percent in the past year. So far this year, the agency alone has filed 50 percent more harassment cases than in 2017.

Thankfully, workplaces are finally improving the way they react to these reports. In the movement’s wake, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)reported that 1 in 3 executives claimed to have changed their behavior, some making it easier for HR to investigate harassment reports without fears of retaliation. Additionally, an American Psychological Association survey found that 32 percent of workers said employers had taken action to prevent workplace sexual harassment after #MeToo.

The movement has also helped establish sexual harassment resources and programs. For example, Hollywood’s Time’s Up legal defense fund raised over $20 million to offer legal support to women in the workplace. Under state jurisdictions, California and New York are now required to provide company sexual harassment training each year. The Weinstein Clauses demands that businesses know if any allegations of sexual assault were made against a partnering party.

What does all this signify for female leadership? As a PwC survey examines, the more laws and protocols established to protect the safety, transparency and moral support of women in the workplace, the more female leaders will feel like their thoughts, talents and goals matter. When women can think and grow freely at work (instead of missing them out of anxiety or fear), it allows them to harness and demonstrate confidence and leadership growth.

#MeToo Means more Mentoring

The #MeToo movement has exposed another inequality for women in the workplace: a lack of mentorship opportunities. Carol Stubbings, the Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organisation practices says, “It’s important having mentoring and good female leadership programmes to constantly tell these people that they are really good, they are really valued, they’ve got a great skill set that will take them far in the organization.”

LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey poll found that after #MeToo, half of male managers are now uncomfortable participating in common workplace activities like mentoring and working alone. Rachel Thomas, the president of LeanIn, identifies that this means women are losing valuable opportunities and interaction time with senior leaders.

In response to the #MeToo backlash, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has since confronted the issue with the creation of the #MentorHer campaignwhich challenges men to mentor women in the workplace. Thus far, 38 prominent leaders and CEOs like Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Disney’s Bob Iger committed to mentor women at their own companies, setting an example for leading companies across the board.

Even if the average male leader is slow to follow suit, female leadership may very well fill the gap.

According to Development Dimensions International, 73% of women already mentor other women in the workplace. Building on the awareness of the #MeToo movement’s initiatives, the Harvard Business Review points out that when women support each other, they become more aware of information and are more united, two essential steps in learning and closing the confidence gap for potential female leaders.

Is the Future of Leadership Female?

Today, only 40 percent of small business owners are women and merely 6.4 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 are female. Yet, as the #MeToo movement gains momentum, it sets the stage for an influx of more female leaders. That’s especially the case since companies with more female executives make more money, improving their competitive edge through innovation and collaboration.

Despite the hardships that women like Dr. Ford face after speaking out, Ernst & Young reports that women are projected to own nearly one-third of all business in the world by 2028, with half of them in developing markets. The 2017 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight study indicates that most female entrepreneurs hold an optimistic outlook for the next 20 years. A further 61 percent of women business owners expect their incomes to match or exceed their male counterparts by 2037.

The #MeToo movement is helping to shape the discourse of a woman’s lead in the workplace. Women leaders must continue to be vocal about inequality and male leaders must act as allies, hiring, supporting and promoting more women. Change will occur, albeit slowly.

Calling out ingrained patriarchal systems is a testimony to the bravery and leadership that women are displaying to make their voices heard. We’ve already seen a record number of women running for Congress this year — why not female business leaders, too?

How MLM Takes Advantage of Would-Be Female Entrepreneurs

How MLM Takes Advantage of Would-Be Female Entrepreneurs

This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal

Reasons why MLM could be a pitfall for professional women on their way to the top 

Pyramids are some of the world’s most recognizable structures—from Egypt to Chichén Itzá, you know one when you see one. It should be no surprise, then, that the pyramid shape also represents one of the world’s most notorious schemes and sale structures.

Pyramid schemes operate and turn profit via top-down recruitment—essentially built opposite the way a physical pyramid would be— and are illegal for a simple reason: they make money off the sale of distributorship rather than products and services. While the top of that pyramid reaps many rewards, mathematically as many as 99% of distributors end up losing money as it funnels ever-upward, making the structure unsustainable (another area where the parallel to ancient Egypt ends).

MLM businesses aren’t illegal, at least not technically—so long as there are legitimate products bought and sold, they can skirt the label. And who are we to deny the women that do feel empowered by the ability to make extra money while, often, doing the brunt of housework and child-rearing unpaid?

It’s a complicated topic. As a female entrepreneur myself, I try to support all women and whatever their version of success may be, because I know first-hand how harrowing it can be to prove yourself in a world that’s very eager to box you in. While it’s any woman’s choice to get involved in MLM, and business integrity is best judged on a case-by-case basis, overall MLM may be taking advantage of more women than it empowers.

A false promise of entrepreneurship

One way MLM businesses recruit is on one level an issue of semantics, and on another an issue of bombast. By calling independent sales consultants entrepreneurs, these businesses promote a false idea of entrepreneurship. In reality, those involved are salespeople with no control over the product or its prices. Like any other salesperson, they have a goal to hit and earn commission dependent on how well they do. That’s okay, but call it what it is, not entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, women targeted and too often exploited by these kinds of businesses are sold on an idea of empowerment and entrepreneurship that is, at best, a smokescreen. It may not be likely an entrepreneur will make it big, but if she succeeds she can go from zero to 100 on her merit and hard work. The same isn’t true of the “entrepreneurs” in MLM businesses. Many put their savings and social lives at stake just to break even.
These women want what we all want. Financial independence. Flexibility. Credibility. Success. And if they fail to get there, it’s less their own failure than a failure by design. Ambition can only get you so far if you’re dozens of tiers down in a pyramid where cuts of your earnings flow to those higher up, and you rely on those below you to to sell and stay loyal (often by pressuring family and friends).

Women who could otherwise put their skills to use and find success starting up a small business may have their dreams warped by predatory MLM companies. And for those that do succeed, or enjoy it enough to ignore the small paycheck? It seems a shame to channel positive energy into a system that is likely to harm more women than it benefits.

A spectrum of severity

The appeal of the modern MLM business model is no mystery. With less of a startup cost than a traditional business and a built-in network of support, many independent consultants have found happiness with these opportunities.

But it’s important to note that not all MLM are created equal after all. I won’t paint them all with the same stroke because, while the model has its flaws, so do many models including capitalism. Like anything, there is a spectrum of severity. While the crimes of one shouldn’t indict the whole, they should caution them at least.

As one example, popular MLM business LuLaRoe has a billion dollar lawsuit on its hands after a number of consultants, who paid a hefty $6K startup fee, found themselves in mountains of debt trying to sell sometimes-damaged clothes of declining quality.

If that sounds bad, on the far end of the spectrum are groups like NXIVM, an MLM organization that purports to offer professional development and mentorship for women–in addition to referring to its members as “slaves,” physically branding their skin, and much, much worse.

The line between MLM and cult, then, is finer than any of us would like to believe. A vast majority of these businesses would never abuse their members, yes, but the association is disconcerting to say the least.

Knowing the difference

Those in the business can articulate what to look for if you actually want to find success in MLM. Network Marketing professional Gino Niccoli advises seeking an upline that trains you well and brings you prospects for your downline, for example. The product should be of quality and have a unique selling proposition, he says, if you don’t want to work uphill to make less money in a saturated marketplace. Lastly, if company profit comes from distributorship fees more than product sales, that’s a definite red flag.

At the end of the day we are all responsible to approach business propositions with healthy skepticism, but MLM has earned an extra dose of it in my opinion. Many of us as women can and should do more with our talents. The world needs them more than it does overpriced leggings.