Anna Bager, Executive Vice President of Industry Initiatives at IAB, kicked off the first-ever IAB Women Visionaries event by stating, “No one will care for your career as much as you. Take charge and plan your way forward.” She offered a big picture view of the current conditions for women, both in the workplace and in society, and set the tone for the day, promising leadership lessons and practical takeaways for the standing-room-only crowd.
In the first session, “Are Leaders Made or Born? Impactful Moments on The Path from Management to Leadership,” Bonita Coleman Stewart, Vice President, Global Partnerships at Google started off with the thought: “A great leader is defined by a great team.” And she helped define the leadership journey in four steps delivering concrete tips on how to execute them.
Leadership is a journey.
- Feedback: Radical Candor. Everyone deserves feedback. But we don’t want to hurt feelings. As you get more senior, you tend to get less and less feedback. Ask for permission to give feedback. How do you like to receive feedback?
- Managers vs. Leaders. As a leader, find challenges that are in your people’s way. Solve for them, and you can win over the team
- Authenticity. People are terrified about failure. But failure can be very helpful. Being a role model goes a long way. Being real and vulnerable makes you more approachable.
- Role Models. Deliver total focus on your people. Be In the moment. Take time. Chase complex problems and situations.
At Google, they are segmenting and bringing together cohorts to formalize mentorship, including career stage and underrepresented segments to meet individual needs. On the question of balancing team building and delivering results, schedule an hour where no business is transacted. Happier employees are and more connected, and therefore more productive. Ask yourself, do you want to be right or be effective? Think about what it will take to move people in your direction.
In the following session “A Founder’s Tale: Launching Lola,” Jordana Kier, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Lola was interviewed by Joy Marcus, Visiting Professor in Entrepreneurship at Princeton University. Kier talked about starting Lola. “The first iteration was around convenience, but then I found out tampons are Class 2 medical devices so makers don’t need to disclose ingredients. That was the insight. I found the best supply of materials. Then we made the delivery right-get the types and mix you need customized. Look, periods are uncomfortable to discuss. But we did so in a straightforward voice. Consumer-centric thinking about the whole lifecycle. From the first period to the last hot flash.”
Getting funding wasn’t easy for Kier. “Many of the pitches were with all men who didn’t know anything about tampons. They didn’t understand the pain point. You can’t even find out what is in a tampon. There is power in being the expert in the room. I simply decided that I’m going to shape the conversation.”
Kier concluded with “Know what you’re not good at and find the right partners. Praise in public and constructive criticism in private. Music taught me discipline and conducting made me understand every instrument across a single piece of music. Anyone can come with amazing ideas. It doesn’t matter about the title.”
The next session was called “A Founder’s Tale: Creating a New Type of Boss and Mentor.” Rachel Tipograph, Founder and CEO of MikMak was interviewed by her mentor Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO and Co-Founder of VaynerMedia.
Tipograph stated that she is public about making mistakes and suggests that leaders should have humility and pride at the same time as it illustrates authenticity.
“Be extremely self-aware. What am I the best at? And what do I need help with? I don’t need to reinvent every part of the wheel. Just find the right people to surround myself with.”
“Business is done in five- minute deals in the hallway,” Tipograph continued. When trying to find mentors and champions, “List your core business objectives and who do you need to get them done? Find the right mentors by laddering everything back to business objectives.”
When asked about his investment in women owned businesses, Vaynerchuck said, “I’m just looking for good businesses to invest in. Remember, there are better opportunities beyond VCs. There are high net worth individuals.”
The next session was titled “Backing a New Wave of Founders: Lessons in Venturing.” Sharon Harris, Strategic Marketing Executive, Global Product Marketer, Mobile SME and Change Agent introduced the idea of constantly challenging yourself by stating, “You stop living the day you stop learning.”
Susan Lyne, President & Founding Partner of BBG Ventures talked about the wave of female founders. Women are the dominate consumer. 85% of all purchase decisions are made/influenced by women. Women are also the power users on social platforms. A founder who understands this consumer has an advantage. And you see that in results. Women drove 63% higher ROI than male led startups.
What separates the good founders from the others?
- Target a real consumer pain point. Find something that makes life better in a material way
- Put in the time up front. What does the competitive market look like? Will this succeed? Put the customer first
- Make brand development a key priority. The voice needs to be carried through everything you do
- Build networks and tap them constantly. You’ll never have the answer to everything
- Leverage PR and content marketing for early growth. Storytelling, video, build press at every stage. Can you generate PR?
- Are resilient. Don’t throw up your hands. Find the nugget to transform if it is not working
Fundraising Dos and Don’ts
- Do you want venture capital?
- Do get a warm introduction
- Do your homework on who you’re pitching
- Do start with your team
- Do know the drivers of the business and all current user data
- Don’t assume a higher valuation is better
- Don’t confuse TAM, QAM, and Target Market
- Don’t underestimate the time it will take to reach key milestones
- Don’t underestimate the time it will take to get capital
Lyne made a bold prediction: “We believe that in the next decade half of the country’s unicorns will be led by women. So go out and build something great.” And she finished with some inspiration around a failure. “When I got fired. I got great advice from my husband. Take 72 hours to wallow in it. Then let’s talk about how we’ll make this fantastic.”
“The Next Big Thing: Career Positioning and Pivots” was the next session of the day. Executive recruiter Ann Blinkhorn, Founder and CEO of Blinkhorn, L.L.C., stated that women remain underrepresented in leadership and the C-Suite. To make it to the top, women must:
1. Conduct an honest self-assessment. Develop an elevator pitch and live that pitch
2. Be explicit about your aspirations
3. Diversify your experience
4. Assemble your own diverse “advisory board”
5. Know your industry, not just your company
6. Consider a radical detour to grow as an executive
7. Gain board experience
Mia Saini Duchnowski, Co-Founder and CEO, Oars + Alps explained, “When you make a radical career pivot you have to know, ‘If I don’t succeed, it will still be OK.’”
Susie Nam, Chief Operating Officer, Droga5 said, “Women pivot all the time, taking a risk every day.”
The group finished with the advice, “Communicate your aspirations and ask for help. What are the missing pieces in my skill set? What can I do to grow as a leader and manager?”
Jessica Bennett, Gender Editor at The New York Times and Meredith Kopit Levien, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of The New York Times Company took the stage in a session titled “Through the Gender Lens: The Evolution of Media”. Bennett talked about the current editorial climate, “The story keeps evolving. Beyond the sexual harassment tsunami, masculinity is a subject that is very important today. Things like what does consent look like today.”
“Newsrooms in a decade will more accurately reflect society. Millions more people are engaged in news that ever before,” continued Bennett.
Kopit Levien stated, “I will never again play not to lose. I had to learn how to be someone who played to win. Everything else was different after that.”
“I do better in rooms where there are more women. I was for some time the only women in the room and that is more difficult than it seems,” Kopit Levien shared. “Nothing has been as empowering to me as traveling in a sisterhood of women who are trying to make their way thru all the things they are in their lives, mothers and executives and wives… It is an untold story about women helping women.”
The following session was called The Gender Gap: Men and Women Solve for Better Workplaces. Suzanne Vranica, Advertising Editor at The Wall Street Journal, started the conversation by stating that it starts with a simple question: “How do I change things?” Make the commitment to diversity. Start with diversity as a business strategy. When business gets tough it will always fall to a lower priority. But know that more diverse companies deliver better results.
“At big companies we are trained to celebrate the journey even when we are not happy with the destination.” Brad Jakeman, Former President, PepsiCo Global Beverage Group added to the discussion. “Young talent wants to know your social footprint. They are less interested in what the company makes and more interested in what makes the company.”
Tonia O’Connor, Chief Revenue Officer, Univision continued, “You have to ask or you won’t get it. Nobody wakes up thinking how they can help your career today.”
Vranica concluded, “It’s incredibly important to include men. Let’s not make it a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. No great business outcomes come from a homogenous group.”
The next session, “Sunlight & Water: Becoming A Manager & A Leader,” was a lively discussion about leadership styles at the beginning of two senior leaders’ careers. When you see smart women in your 20’s, success is much easier. The mentorship of a strong woman matters.
“Things have changed. I was told on how to dress and act. A coach actually said I should act more like a man. To be a leader you need to be true to yourself. The rule books of leadership were written by men.”
Lynda Clarizio, Former President of U.S. Media Nielsen delivered her rules for leadership: Be Authentic. Be Open. Be Personal.
Nada Stirratt, Vice President, Global Marketing Solutions, North America at Facebook has posters all over her wall: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” “Don’t mold me into you. Just make me the best version of me and we’ll both be successful,” Stirratt relayed in a story.
In the next session called “Bring Your Full Self to Work: Building an Inclusive Culture,” Danielle Lee, Global Vice President, Partner Solutions at Spotify, stated that “You are a tapestry of all your experiences. The good and bad things that have happened along the way that allow you to be a strong and empathetic leader.”
Allison Allen, Industry D&I and HR Leader/Advocate added, “Kids today are not buying. We are judging not for talent, but on looks. We spend lots of time not being our full selves. Companies are saying, ‘We hear your concern and let’s work together to fix this.’”
“Looking even deeper than just gender.” Lee said. “There’s a chance for misconceptions to manifest themselves in the global workplace.”
Kerry Bianchi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Visto, tied it all together with, “Inclusion is more important than diversity. If you don’t feel valued, you won’t stay. If you don’t have a connection to the people you work with, you won’t be great.”
In the final session titled “The Playbook: Where We Go from Here,” Anna Bager, Executive Vice President of Industry Initiatives at IAB and Alexa Christon, Host of Adlandia took the stage. Christon shared her Top 3 moments from the day: Every meeting mentioned women. It’s not going to happen top down. Asking for help is underrated.
Bager let the audience know that IAB will keep the day’s conversation going on social, on their site and in many forums to come. She also shared her Top 3 takeways: Hire for your weaknesses. Close your laptop and focus and really listen. Build your airplane while you’re flying it.
From the audience, many attendees mentioned what had resonated with them:
- Some of my worst bosses helped make me who I am
- You don’t have to go with the story. You can change it. Do something about it. Don’t be a victim, own it
- You’re always adjusting. Keep learning
- Conducting an orchestra as a metaphor for leadership
- Play to win. Don’t play to not lose
- Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white dude
- Have a voice. Be yourself
- It’s about the money that gets lost and not about the feel good. D and I matters
“No one understands that there is an invisible bridge. So cross it and make the leap,” Christon inspired the crowd.