Thursday, May 16, 2019

Can a Single Day Conference Dismantle the Patriarchy?

Last Friday, while you were on your first cup of coffee, the ladies of Expose were at the airport bright ’n’ early on a plane bound for Sydney.

When we walked into the 9 To Thrive Summit, I didn’t know what to expect. I grew up following my dad around conferences, but it’s been years since the last and I figured there might be a difference when you’ve been sent to by your boss rather than as a 12-year-old who’s just stoked to have her own lanyard and fully intends to make the freebies/snack table the #1 networking priority. 

The answer to my question was almost instant. The room was abuzz with pastel power suits, pink, and plaid. Filtering in through balloon archways past walls decked out in glitter and even a *gasp* adult ball pit, you’re bombarded with empowerment from the get-go. It had the kind of energy that hit you in the face with a truth demanding to be known – this day was choc-a-block full of some raw, femme power. Here are our biggest takeaways:

1. The difference between surviving and thriving is a choice that happens daily

What was really emphasized was the importance of actively reflecting on what’s important to you and what should be prioritized in order to be happy and reach your goals. – Georgia

If, like me, you have a masochistic tendency to overbook yourself into oblivion, hearing that you’re the one in charge of whether or not you live in survival mode hurts. Big time. I hate taking accountability as much as the next gal, but the seminars were jam-packed with methods for doing so that are so fun it almost doesn’t hurt (keyword: almost).

The Overworked and Overwhelmed panel of Kemi NekvapilDr Nikki StampDr Libby Weave and Talitha Cummins put a great baseline in place - according to them, the key is to constantly ask, “Am I doing this for my own fulfillment or because I’m subservient to other people?” They expanded this by challenging us to question the language we use in conversations. When we say, “I don’t have time for that” or “I can’t afford it”, what we’re really revealing is that it’s not our priority. Another valuable insight was to question the urgency we automatically attach to things - instead of assuming we are The Actual Worst when we don’t respond to an email within an hour, take it with a grain of salt. Nobody cares as much as we think they do. It’s actually quite fine (and necessary) to let ourselves be human. Groundbreaking, I know.

On the topic of being human, the panelists brought forth some great identifiers for acknowledging the red flags of burnout - namely, losing enjoyment for the things you love and letting self-care fall by the wayside. Their recommendation for fixing these? Counterintuitive, but a big one - if you feel like crap and want to lay in bed all day, do the opposite. Make plans with friends, do some exercise or get creative. When we’re coming from a place of exhaustion, it’s easy to self-medicate with behaviors that only perpetuate the downward spiral further.

Mindset is an extremely important factor - you need to ensure you're taking care of yourself and not allowing yourself to become overwhelmed with work. Danica

In her Surviving vs. Thriving seminar, Kemi Nekvapil gave us some practical tools on the matter. She talked about four key questions we should ask ourselves in order to figure out how to move forward when we feel stuck:

In what areas am I thriving?

In what areas am I surviving?

Who is responsible for making a change in the area mentioned above?

What can I ask them in order to get this done?

From there, it was simple. Just ask. Ask without assuming you know the answer. Give people a chance to take care of you in a real way. Have the courage to make your needs known.

An eye-opener was to not expect the people around you to just know what you need - you need to ask and you should never feel guilty for asking for help or saying no when people ask things of you. - Hannah


2. It’s time to be unapologetic and real, and support women who are already doing such

The Money Talks panel had some great insights on this. Having open conversation day-to-day about our business, not being ashamed to ask for help, making the topic of money and powerless taboo (because men often talk freely about these topics). Also making the effort to tell other women when they’re inspiring you and have done a good job. - Georgia

One of the biggest reasons for the gender wealth disparity, according to Effie Zahos, Emma Isaacs, Mel Browne and Christina Hobbs, the panelists of Money Talks, was our collective fear as women of openly discussing money or our desire to accumulate wealth. They say, no more. As women, it’s our job to be transparent with our peers about what we’ve got in the works to fight back against the old boy’s club of investing. Part of this - a vital aspect - is being brave enough to openly want it.

We all face internal limiting beliefs but knowing that others are going through or have gone through similar experiences was enormously empowering. I have been told I'm too confident, too driven, too happy (yes, that's a real one!) So I learned to not apologize for being myself and to speak up. - Hannah


3. A special kind of magic happens when women choose to stand together and refuse to budge

Ita Buttrose told a tale of how she decided to stick her neck on the line to save the job of a young intern just because she saw some talent that she thought stood a chance. This story was the undercurrent of very positive energy pulsating throughout the whole day - the desire to smash down the expectation that all women should be in competition with each other and instead, relax into the notion that there’s actually enough success for all of us and we’d probably be more effective if we got over ourselves and worked as a team.

 Being in a room filled with 2000 women all there to learn more, better themselves and support each other was empowering. A particular moment of empowerment was at the end of Kemi Nekvapil’s talk when we all stood up and held hands, connecting and showing that we’re all in this together - women supporting women. – Georgia

It’s important to support other women and help to bring them up rather than looking at them as competition. - Danica

Next time I see a woman I admire, I will most certainly let them know. Whether it be a “You look really nice today!” to “You handled that difficult situation really well!’', I’m setting myself a new goal to “sprinkle that shit everywhere.” - Hannah

4. The best results come when we choose to be authentic and disrupt.

A quote that really struck a chord with me was “Innovation isn’t about being first or different, it’s about being better at the right time!”, honing in on your skills and perfecting them so you stand out by being better. – Georgia

Miki Agrawal brought the house down with her lessons on disrupting. She taught us about the value of edutaining rather than just spouting salesy BS about your product out into the void and hoping somebody catches on. To do this, she said, the key is to talk about your products in an accessible and relatable way, like you’re telling a friend about it. Be radically authentic, even if it makes you uncomfortable, relentlessly back yourself, and then back that sh*t with some showstopping creative. When designing the aforementioned showstopping creative, her tip was to look at every piece through the lens of deciding whether or not it’s “fridge-worthy” and if it’s not so gorgeous you’d adhere it to something you look at every day, bin it and start again.

Bonus points if you create an experience that invites the audience to participate, as people are a thousand times more willing to follow through with an experience that requires action on their behalf.


5. We won the lottery of life and have a duty to support those who didn’t.

This is a direct quote from Miki, who spoke about using business as a vehicle for making effective change in the world. Her innovation takes the form of companies that are designed to build up disadvantaged groups with every single purchase, and this setup was a humbling reminder. How many of you reading this wish you were making a positive impact on the world but feel like you don't have the means? I know this certainly rings true for me, and Miki’s lesson really hit home. When you decide it's necessary to who you are, you can build your life around it and the rest will follow. The Money Talks panel also touched on how you can use your spending to create a better world, and it was empowering to realize truly how much control each of us has over the world we live in. Excuse me while I go in a Google deep dive on ethical investing for the next 6-12 hours. 

Businesses these days are too concerned with consumption when they should be focused on contribution! You should be asking how you can help your customers in business, not how your customers can help you. - Hannah

To surmise, while I was shocked to leave that pleasant bubble of feminine energy and discover that the pay gap still had the audacity to exist, the day was full of lessons that I didn’t even know I needed and am so grateful to have the insight of. And, while the talks were great, nothing can top having a couple of wines with the girls from the office and then tipsily discussing how we’re basically The Bold Type in a cab on the way to the airport. For this, I’ll give the floor over to Hannah.

A day spent in an environment that was designed to curate inspiration and connection perpetuated our vulnerability with each other, which lead to some powerful conversations about life and career. I was already proud of the women in the office, but spending time one on one with each of them was a deeply humbling experience. I’m more motivated than ever to present myself as a role model for young women and to lead by example in all areas of my life (not just at work). As Kemi said during her talk, everyone is a role model to someone, so be the best role model you can be.

Isn’t that sweet? We love to bond with our coworkers.