Motivating…That summarizes the NY Women in Communications Matrix Awards luncheon yesterday. After a weekend where my 14-year-old cat died (as my daughter and her friend were trying to play with him), I sprained my ankle tripping over my kids shoes in the front hall (they never clean them up), I discovered my son’s missing test (in the garbage with a big D in red ink) and my faucet broke, I didn’t really have high expectations for a Monday afternoon lunch. I was just relieved I wasn’t home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and my family but some weekends, a Monday in the office can actually be a relief from the weekend!
I certainly wasn’t expecting to experience any revelations as I assumed (wrongly) that this was just another awards luncheon where people would say nice things about other people and we would clap appropriately in between moments of sneaking peaks at our blackberries. However, this case was a bit different. After the first presentation, I paid close attention. On the one hand, I thought I was going to get depressed. Here all these women have done great things with their careers, and I’m in my 40s, nursing a swollen ankle and thinking about where I’m going to bury my cat among all the other work priorities that were on my mind. However, I was keen to hear more from the honorees, as well as the women who introduced them. Little did I know that my feelings of depression would move to those of motivation. I didn’t think I would walk away so inspired to try just a little bit harder and push myself to take a few more risks in my career. To get some clarity on what triggered this inspiration, it probably would help if I shared who was honored:
• Gwen Ifill, Moderator and Managing Editor of “Washington Week” and Senior Correspondent for “The PBS NewsHour”
• Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Television Networks
• Robin Koval, President of Kaplan Thaler Group
• Cindi Berger, Chairman and CEO of PMK*BNC Public Relations & Marketing
• Idina Menzel, Actress and Singer
• Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
• Gina Sanders, CEO of the Fairchild Fashion Group
• Betty White, No Title Necessary – who received the Lifetime Achievement Award
All of these women inspired me in different ways. Take Betty White, for example, at 89 years old, her outlook on life is so incredibly positive and she is involved with what she loves the most- Acting and Animals – and as she stated “not necessarily in that order.” All of these women cracked the glass ceiling in different ways and that is what made the luncheon so interesting- hearing their stories and the way they were introduced by their friends and colleagues. For example, Rosie O’Donnell didn’t miss a beat when she opened her introduction for Cindi Berger who she said “KEEKS ASS” imitating Arianna Huffington’s introduction of Sheryl Sandberg. I love that these women had fun. They were irreverent, and they didn’t take themselves too seriously. I think this is something we should all take to heart as women in the workforce. You can be good at what you do, but you should have fun doing it. Otherwise, what is the point?
At Ogilvy, last month we launched a Women’s Leadership Professional Network. The mission of the network is to make Ogilvy famous for grooming women leaders of today and tomorrow. This network will include programs designed for women, mentor initiatives, as well as just opportunities to socially network and share best practices. We already have a wonderful track record with Charlotte Beers as our former CEO and Shelly Lazarus as our current Chairman. During her acceptance speech, Sheryl Sandberg shared a fact that has been a focal point for me – women hold 50% of management jobs in the workforce yet only 15% hold a leadership role. The question is how does this happen? Are we our own worst enemies? When will the leadership rank truly represent what women contribute on a daily basis for major corporations around the world?
I know many women drop out of the work force to be stay-at-home moms. And, while women continue to work and struggle with work-life balance, I am very much in the camp of what Cindi Berger stated- I have to work because I love what I do. “Not that there is anything wrong” with being a stay-at-home mom. We give up a lot to go into the office every day. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And because technology has provided such tremendous mobility, a working mother has so much more freedom than even 10 years ago. Who knows what technology will offer 10 or 20 years from now?
I will close on an anecdote. My daughter has a close friend who spends a lot of money on clothes, and she shared with me that her mother commented to her daughter that she “better marry a wealthy man to take care of your expensive habits.” I asked my daughter – “Elizabeth, what do you think I would say if I were speaking to you about expensive shopping habits?” Her response, “Mom, you would say that I better get a great career and make a lot of money when I grow up.” She understands the need to be self-reliant and independent. I’m very proud of her. Someday she will be doing “keek ass’ things at work, while figuring out how to manage her household, bury her cat and do all the things that make up a day in the life of a working mother.