On a bright July morning in New York City, more than 350 women poured into the historic Altman Building to soak up insightful conversation with some of the industry’s most savvy thought leaders and trainers, courtesy of the ADVERTISING Club of New York’s annual Women:NOW Masterclass. This year’s theme embodied the notion of “Defining Our Moment,” which couldn’t be more timely given the seismic social equality movements, heightened awareness and collective female consciousness, and the need to come together as women.
After kicking the event off with a rousing and inspiring clip from the Obama Foundation’s Global Girls Alliance, in which girls of all races and ethnicities belted out Aretha Franklin’s empowering anthem, “Think,” Club President and CEO Gina Grillo took the stage to announce raising over $400,000 for efforts to further promote diversity and education so “all women can meet their potential in inclusive and supportive environments.” Grillo went on to encourage the audience to “seize the day and every day that follows.”
Cecilia Carter, CEO of The Strategy Chick, delivered an engaging, humorous opening keynote filled with personal stories that shared how she was able to “define her moment,” while inspiring the audience to define their own. When met with physical challenges and professional challenges, she had to silence her inner critic by facing herself – or “giving face” as she called it. “Take a selfie. Remove all the filters – who are you looking at? In silencing your inner critic, the first phase begins with you.” Carter’s defining moment? Shaving her head, which not only silenced that inner critic, but, at 60, unleashed the confidence to approach the other half of her life with zeal: “The rest will be the best,” she declared.
Several strong speakers amplified Grillo’s and Carter’s messages of empowerment over the course of the Masterclass.
Do You Hear Me?
Encouraging women to use their voices to achieve results, Mia Roberts, VP of strategic partnerships at the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, got the audience to embrace her definition of ‘straight talk’ – “saying what needs to be said, to whom it needs to be said, when it needs to be said, with the intention to make the situation better.” An effective method of communication, straight talk requires a combination of confidence and courage that leads women to define their moment both in the workplace and elsewhere. “You must speak to the difficult truths that give way to brilliant ideas,” she added.
Inclusion & Belonging
While the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ get tossed around interchangeably, Lisa Feigen Dugal and Kyla-Gaye Barrett from PwC informed the audience on the difference between them. While diversity is about people, inclusion is about environment. “Everyone should have equitable access. We need to give everyone the same tools for success,” said Dugal. And while racial “blind spots” are an inevitable truth, the facilitators instructed the audience to “manage for blind spots and move past them in order to facilitate conversation about diversity.”
Manage Your Heat
As all women chase success and recognition, the question remains: what do you do after that success is achieved? The “Manage Your Heat” panel, moderated by Valerie Graves, Author and former CEO of Vigilante & UWG, and featuring Rakia Reynolds, Founder/CEO of Skai Blue Media, Minjae Ormes, CMO of Visible, and Tiffany R. Warren, Senior VP, Chief Diversity Officer of Omnicom Group and Founder & President of ADCOLOR, taught the audience how to convert “hot flashes” into lasting success. Warren spoke of the importance of always looking towards what’s next. “Spend too long in the sun, and you’ll get burnt,” she explained. “You always have to move on to the next moment—you’ll miss an opportunity to grow if you don’t.” Ormes echoed the same desire to keeping moving to the next hot moment: “When I wasn’t in the spotlight, that’s when I knew I wanted to go back there. Networking really made me realize the value I bring to the table.”
For Reynolds, the spotlight came with some challenges. She recounted the criticism she received when chosen as Dell’s face of small business, as her image—complete with her natural hair—was displayed across billboards nationwide. “Always let setbacks be an example for a great comeback,” she urged. Using the momentum from the social chatter around her selection, Reynolds was able to generate success for her clients, landing them in esteemed publications such as Fast Company and Forbes.
With success comes the power and ability to turn down opportunities, which in turn, can contribute to that often-elusive work/life balance. As Warren put it, “Work can always come again or be repeated, but time with family will not.”
Behind the Curtain
It’s such a common story to hear that women need to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as men. During the “Behind the Curtain” panel session, Sofia Hernandez, Chief Client Officer of Suzy, uncovered what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. Her tips:
- Know Your Worth – Once you’re a champion for yourself you will succeed in any situation. Tap into your network to help uncover your worth. Women should be open and honest when discussing finances!
- Be Resilient – Don’t back down when confronted by inappropriate behavior. Bring leadership into the conversation.
- Rely on your Support System – “Women carry a lot on their shoulders,” meaning that all women need to build a support network to rise up the ranks.
- Nurture Your Network – Whatever the vertical is, you have to go horizontally. Establish relationships outside of your immediate team by letting people know who you are beyond your circle of influence. Send contacts a relevant article, schedule a coffee, send an email about a job update… while these things take a lot of effort, they are worth it!
- Speak Up – If you’re getting talked over in a meeting, or, if someone repeats something you’ve already said, speak up! “It doesn’t always work to your benefit, but it mostly does,” and can have a ripple effect, inspiring other women around you to do the same.
- Find a Mentor and Be One – Find people that fill your gaps to help you be better in places you need improvement. Don’t think that your mentor must be a woman, either—it could just as easily be a man. What’s most important is to reach back down and pull each other up.
Though she’s not even 30 yet, Nadia Masri, CEO & Founder of Perksy, is a four-time founder, and has learned the art of “failing forward.” Her experience taught her that when presented with failure, “never stop starting – the bravest thing you can do is have the courage to pick up and start again.” Now a successful business owner, Masri shared her tips on how to maintain success at the top.
“Take every meeting, as you can learn something from everyone. Hire slow and fire fast, and have the humility to realize it’s not all about you. If you’ve hired correctly, you’d have brought in people smarter than you.”
What’s My Balance?
Women can be meek when discussing money. Financial expert Sherkera Green and Felicia Geiger, Former Director of Talent of Troika/Mission group, unveiled the harsh reality behind finances – that 80% of people live paycheck to paycheck, 57% of people struggle to save money, and 23% of depression is directly correlated to debt. To encourage open communication about finances, a budgeting exercise prompted attendees to speak openly with one another about what’s working, what isn’t, and ways to change.
Toot Your Own Horn
Closing out the Masterclass, Shante Bacon, CEO & Founder of One/35 Agency, invigorated the audience with “Toot Your Own Horn,” a lesson on how to build and manage a killer reputation. As our collective attention spans shorten (seemingly by the day!), we’re consuming less and making bigger decisions on less. Bacon instructed to use only a couple of words to describe what you do to others – but make sure it’s authentic. As women tend to want to cut the awkward silence, Bacon encouraged that the awkwardness could be used as a tool to get what you want. Conversely, if a deal does fall through, “the worst thing you can do is go silent. Stay in touch, figure out what they like, and maintain contact…Most people think business is just business, but it’s entirely personal. It’s important to be constantly in contact.”
The day concluded with the introduction of the new class of ACNY Fellows—15 in total. A standout program in its fourth year, elevating mid-level professionals to the executive level.
Chock full of inspiration and information from the day’s sessions, attendees then mingled over wine and sweets, networking with other women now fully equipped to define their moment.
In The Press
“‘Know your worth. Once you’re a champion for yourself, you will succeed in any situation. Champion yourself and know what you bring to the table.”
Sofia Hernandez, chief client officer at Suzy, was one of the badass speakers at Ad Club’s Women Now Masterclass last week. During Hernandez’s “Behind the Curtain” session, she offered”…..Click here to see more of our press coverage from Campaign!
A hearty thanks to everyone for their attendance and support at this year’s Women:NOW2019 Masterclass. Here’s to seeing you at our future events.