Powerful Bits of Business Inspiration from Forbes' Women’s Summit

By Kristi Faulkner WomenAdvancing Archives

“Women are the majority in this country, and that’s worth repeating,” stated Scandal star Kerry Washington to the hundreds of influencers at the recent Forbes Women's Summit.  They were on a collective mission to improve the power imbalance in politics, business, media and cyberspace, making for an enthusiastic sharing of insights and inspiration.

Here are the themes that resonated most:

  1. A more equitable balance of power depends on the cooperation of men in leadership.  “Getting more women into male dominated industries requires support from the top down,” said Christine Gaspar of Audi of America.  “Companies must reach out to women and make clear how their talents fit and work to demystify stereotypes that certain professions are for men only.”
  2. Success is about focus and reflection, not gender.  As one of the just 4% of directors in Hollywood with two X chromosomes, the brilliant Patty Jenkins encouraged women to forget they’re women.  “Don’t think about being a woman, just keep your head down, work hard and think for yourself about what you want,” she exclaimed.  Apropos for the celebrated director of Wonder Woman, Jenkins urged women to be their own hero.  “No one is coming to save us,” she said.
  3. Be willing to take risks, especially after a failure.  Deloitte’s Suzanne Kounkel urged the audience to make a habit of fearlessness: "If you're not taking a risk, every day, every week, you're in trouble," she stated.
  4. Role models are more important than ever.  Actress Natalie Warren emphasized the #RedefinePower theme by urging media moguls in the audience to “invest in role models.”  It’s critical that young women “see it to be it,” a point underscored by Kerry Washington when she said, "We have a responsibility to give other women a leg up.”
  5. Work/life balance is still a universal goal.  Facebook’s Carolyn Everson admitted work-life balance was one of the areas that employee surveys indicated as lacking at the media powerhouse.  She set the goal of turning Facebook into a workplace where people would want to spend their entire careers and mental health was an inhibitor to that objective.  Everson created a program in which employees write a vision of their most personal goals and share it with their teams in a gesture of openness and bonding.  She reported that work/life balance is improving and the program is creating honesty and transparency and is dramatically changing the culture at Facebook.
  6. Female entrepreneurs have a critical edge: resilience.  Nadia Boujarwah of disruptive fashion company Dia & Co. said women have a natural advantage as entrepreneurs.  “As women, we always knew it was going to be hard,” she noted.  “We’re prepared, and we're resilient.”  Anyways, as Suzanne Kounkel added, "Women never get credit for doing the status quo.”  Speaking to the theme of resilience, Kim Kardashian West gave a personal account of how the harrowing robbery in Paris motivated her to reevaluate her own career objectives.  After taking a break from her family’s empire, she bounced back with a new focus on her own entrepreneurial endeavors -- developing a clothing line for children and a new cosmetics brand.  “I took the experience and made it into a growth process,” she said.
  7. There’s money to be made in diversity.  “The world is changing and if you want to get rich, pay attention to women. Women are where the money are,” Patty Jenkins stated, referring to the upside of creating bold content for a growing female audience.  ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis concurred.  "Companies that are more inclusive have better results," she said.

But perhaps the most inspiring woman to rouse the crowd was, in fact, a girl.  Marley Dias, the 12-year old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks spoke to the challenge of leading innovation. Marley cautioned that while solving personal frustrations may lead to a great idea, true innovation is driven by listening and learning.

And that we did, Marley.

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