I was curled up on my couch, scrolling down my timeline as usual, and an article announcing something called #StateOfWomen showed up on my timeline. I clicked on the article and that was the moment I fell in love with my White House, all over again. While reading, I learned that #StateOfWomen was the official hashtag of the United State of Women Summit (USWS). In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, the USWS is a White House, gender equality initiative that addresses women’s rights issues in a range of pillars.
So, whats the fuss about? My excitement bubbled when I learned that this wasn’t a conversation hosted by women, for women, in our expected round table format, but because the summit was an initiative led by people who lead positive policy reform. Yes, policy reform. I was excited because this time, the conversation about women was being facilitated by America’s political heavy hitters.
Although I did not have a front row ticket, I did have the opportunity to sit down with someone who did. Dr. Atira Charles, the Founder and Executive Director of The Mask Project was just one of many Nominated Change Makers at the United State of Women Summit on Wednesday, June 14 in Washington, D.C. “The room had the most diverse setting I’d ever had the opportunity to see… The 12-hour day was inclusive of speakers and panelists providing us with tools to impact the work that we do. We were a room full of influential change makers that became students for the day.”
After a fulfilling conversation to share some knowledge with our Empirelistas, here are Dr. Charles’ top 5 takeaways:
Connect Your Business to Policy Reform
While our political advocates are working for us on The Hill, we should be providing them with beneficial data that we obtain in our work. For example, if you’re an accountant and you manage business accounts, then the collective data and trends that you note could be useful to someone advocating for more funding in the women business sector.
Dr. Charles says, “It’s also the same as if you were a speaker on a college campus and could easily be dispersing legislative research to college women about sexual assault.” Either way, we are in the trenches and the research and audiences that we already have, could be making a real difference in our country if we do our due diligence.
Build Synergy with People Outside of Your Circle
Look, this is as simple as it gets. Staying in an enclosed circle of trusted entrepreneurs is not okay. Especially when we begin to factor in the policy change that could be made when there is good synergy between two professionals. The bottom line here is that we are missing out on opportunity to not only connect, but collaborate.
Remember the accountant I mentioned in the example before? Perhaps this accountant should open up her circle to someone who writes business plans. Take a moment. Let that one sink in. The Mask Project Founder suggests “…send cold emails and make cold calls to people who are in a similar line of work.”
Check Your Privilege
Are you a representation of what many would call a “privileged” life? When’s the last time you stopped to consider how another woman who was not-so-privileged could be benefiting from your influence?
Imagine you’re putting on your jet setting shades and dashing through the airport. Louis bag in hand and carry-on in tow, you hop on the train next to the airport worker who is pushing an elderly woman to her flight. Did you know, that this airport employee not only has little opportunity for promotion, but has no idea if the amount of hours she will work next week will support her family? Did you also know that there is policy that could change that?
This was a realization the Dr. Charles had at the USWS, “I never thought about the need to implement predictable scheduling, which is policy that allows hourly employees to know how many hours they will receive week to week.”
Something that simple probably has never crossed your mind, right? Remember to check your privilege and listen to narratives that are different from your own. Give voice to the voiceless.
Take Control of Your Time
First Lady Michelle Obama said it best after Oprah asked her about balance:
If you don’t take control of your time, people will gobble you up.
Dr. Charles says, “If you stop to think about everything that you could be doing at this moment, the easiest way to take control of your time is by placing value on it. Choose your pillars and only consider commitments that align. Learn to say “no” more often because everything that you commit to takes you away from self and family.”
Use Your Super Power for Good
In our efforts to be the best possible entrepreneur that we can be, its easy to become fatigued, but do not give up. “Your end goal should fulfill two bottom lines, one for your business and one for policy… We all have to keep grinding so that eventually. we can use super power for good.”
Let revenue drive your business growth, but let your influence affect real change. Your purpose is greater than you.
Watch the First Lady and Oprah’s dynamic discussion below.
If you are interested in learning more, visit the United State of Women Site at http://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org