• Tatiana Swedek

#DayoftheGirl: 3 Lessons from Women in Business

Updated: Apr 21, 2020


For girls to recognize their own capabilities, they need an environment which celebrates diversity, encourages collaboration and emphasizes mentorship.

International Day of the Girl should be a day of shouting, disrupting, listening, empowering, and teaching. But so should every day.

In 2012, the United Nations marked October 11th as the International Day of the Girl in order to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

Last week, the Independent Lodging Congress held its first female-focused panel. The title? “Who Runs the World? Lessons from Women in Business.” To say the talk was uplifting would be an absolute understatement. The lessons crossed not only the realms of business, but life, too.

For girls to recognize their own capabilities, they need an environment which celebrates diversity, encourages collaboration and emphasizes mentorship.

Diversity is KEY

In order to breed an inclusive world (and business), we must embrace diversity. Currently, a number of large corporations are trying to tap into this. Initiatives such as Comcast’s Diversity & Inclusion division and Uber’s appointment of Bozoma Saint John as Chief Brand Officer are just the beginning.

While the large corporations make it feel like a forced PR plea to consumers, we should look at these moves as positive shifts in the culture of business.

“The more diversity there is in terms of work, you’re going to have a more interesting product and service."

Incorporating new narratives, perspectives, and voices only enables a team to reach a well-rounded understanding of various audiences. “Diversity is huge,” notes Elizabeth Keating, Partner & President of Revolver New York, a full-service agency focused on lifestyle branding, product development and product design. “The more diversity there is in terms of work, you’re going to have a more interesting product and service,” she commented at Friday’s conference.

Diversity also promotes understanding and flexibility. Without a diverse line-up of decision makers, the room would simply cater to a singular group of people.

Collaborate.

And with diversity comes collaboration. Let’s be real, women in the workforce are often stigmatized at catty and competitive. I’ve seen countless headlines spewing things like “Why Women Fail at Collaboration.” Honestly, it’s just not true. We love seeing each other succeed. What’s even better? Helping each other succeed.

Hello!! Does anyone remember the Women’s March of 2017? A movement which brought together over 2 million women around the world? Organized by (you guessed it!) a diverse team of women.


That collaborative energy from the Women’s March lives far beyond that initiative because, well, women see the importance of collaboration.

“Women don’t look at the world as a zero sum game, we’re willing to share the credit, shout out ideas and come up with creative solutions as a team.”

“I find that women leaders foster an environment of innovation because we are natural collaborators,” says Bettina Prentice, Founder & Creative Director of Prentice Cultural. “Women don’t look at the world as a zero sum game, we’re willing to share the credit, shout out ideas and come up with creative solutions as a team.”

And in that, Prentice is 100% right. In order for women to spread and foster new ideas, we must work with each other. Shouting together gets the message across in insurmountable ways.

Did someone say Mentorship?!

With collaboration comes mentorship. And mentors can be found anywhere.

Man or woman, we’ve all needed someone to look up to, to guide us. Without those role models, how would we know what’s possible?

"Girls learn everything from watching women. Let's show them how to be leaders everyday.”

Nell Merlino, Founder of Take our Daughters to Work Day and Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, said it best: "Girls learn everything from watching women. Let's show them how to be leaders everyday.”

Merlino’s 1993 initiative called Take Our Daughters to Work helped to mobilize 70 million people on behalf of girls.

For Elizabeth Keating, it started at home with her mother. She stresses the importance of finding the right mentor: “It is important to have someone that cares enough to navigate this path with you and ensure women have strong, compassionate and intelligent guidance.”

Unfortunately, many girls have to look outside of their homes for that mentorship. A 2017 study by Egon Zehnder found that only 54% of women have access to senior leaders who can serve as mentors. The study also shows that while advocacy for mentorship tools generally declines as age increases, women at the C-suite level reported using these tools at the highest rates. The numbers infer that if a woman doesn’t reach a professional threshold by a specific age, they stop reaching out.

But Amri Kibbler, Editor in Chief of heymama.co, sees the possibility of a mentor-mentee relationship everywhere. “The cornerstone of our community is built around the idea that women want to heal each other,” Kibbler notes.

While it may be a young girl’s responsibility to ask, it’s women’s role to be open and approachable. But, it just starts with the bravery of asking Will you be my mentor?

“You will be surprised how many women are willing to take time out of their schedules to give advice if you just ask,” Kibbler assures.

And if all else fails, look at just that as your school book. Annbeth Eschbach, Founder & CEO of Exhale Spa, teaches us to take leaps and learn from the falls. “I think failure for me has been better than my MBA,” comments Eschbach, whose company just completed a huge deal with Hyatt. She says that failure is indeed her mentor: “I encourage everyone to fail big and learn from it.”

So ask yourself: who is your ideal mentor / mentee? Are they right in front of you? No matter how young you may be, I guarantee there’s a girl looking to you for guidance. With support comes collaboration and with more women in leadership roles comes stronger advocacy and helping girls look past gender stratification in every facet.


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