These Women Aren’t Just Using Diversity As A Buzzword

These Women Aren’t Just

Using Diversity As A Buzzword

Last week, we profiled Catherine Barba, enigmatic founder of the Women In Innovation Forum that takes place next Monday here in New York City. The forum, which has previously focused on uplifting  and elevating the stories of women in business, and helping to instruct those would-be female entrepreneurs. This year, the focus has shifted to include men in the conversation and hone in on diversity and inclusion.

Below, we spoke to five of the female powerhouses speaking at Monday’s event, about what makes them tick and how we can better ourselves for a more diverse and inclusive future.

Danielle Li, Founder and CEO, PopShop Live

Danielle Li, Founder and CEO, PopShop Live

 1. Please share your biggest obstacle to success thus far and how you overcame it.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint one obstacle. I suppose, the biggest obstacle deep down for me is the fear of doing something new; the uncertainty that surrounds that. For me, I envision myself being very successful in a certain instance to overcome this fear. It’s helpful to start with smaller obstacles and slowly working my way up to more meaningful ones.

2. The issue of diversity is a deep one that certainly goes beyond hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to address it. Can you share some tips that have worked for you business that others can implement in order to create a more inclusive workplace?

Companies that constantly innovate have to realize that building a diverse team is aligned with their interests and vision. When building the founding team in PopShopLive, creating a group of openminded people is planting a seed for the innovation that we strive for. A diverse team brings more opinions, richer perspectives, and larger networks. Having a curious and open-minded team is the solution to having diversity in the workplace. And since curiosity breeds open-mindedness, arguments will morph into an thoughtful debates, at least that’s what we’ve found.

3. As you increase diversity, there are additional challenges to overcome in the workplace, what other practices need to be implemented so the change is a deep, meaningful one rather than surface level?

Diversity itself does not create challenges. The challenge that may arise from diversity stems when communication is not upheld. People who come from different cultures and have different assumptions about different things. Missing conversations can arise in unspoken assumptions or when a shared context is not created. A way to mitigate this is by creating a fun way or safe space for open communication. One concrete example of this in our team is to give people a spotlight to educate the rest of the team about their culture, background, or childhood on how they think differently, so they can bridge the gap of unspoken assumptions. It’s fun to hear their stories.

4. When you’re having a bad day or make a mistake, how do you navigate it? 

It’s cliché, but in a start-up, you’re not innovating if you’re not making mistakes. I navigate mistakes by acknowledging that things will go wrong. It’s a fine balance between being resilient, but also defining failure in order to improve. My advice is to build a quick feedback loop to encourage yourself to iterate quickly and make changes. In other words, learning from mistakes is more important than making them (to hopefully not make them too many more times).

5. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? And why?

Diane Keaton – I like that her curious demeanor has not changed since she was 20 (Annie hall), even now in her 70s. She is not afraid to try and learn new things still today. That’s fierce to me.

Odile Roujol. Angel Investor

1. Please share your biggest obstacle to success thus far and how you overcame it. 

I believe success is a mix of luck, somehow your talent (you need a ”superpower”) and your hard work. It means also taking the time to meet people that helps you to continue to grow as a leader, manager or founder. We all struggle with time management.

It took me years to understand that meeting people would help me to save a lot of time. It has made me a more accomplished person, and has enabled my companies to perform even better.

I encourage all the entrepreneurs I advise to meet great people, your direct competitors, potential investors, dreamt mentors. You’ll learn from the others and keep your vision in mind whether a good or a bad day. It’s inspiring and energizing.

2. The issue of diversity is a deep one that certainly goes beyond hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to address it. Can you share some tips that have worked for you that others can implement in order to create a more inclusive workplace?

I have the privilege to advise Colin Walsh, founder @VaroMoney, a new digital bank targeting Millennials. From the beginning, he wanted to have a positive impact on people’s life. Inclusiveness is part of his company’s DNA, and you can see it by the diversity of his executive team and the different employees profiles.

Founders are role models. They’re inspiring their team, investors and business partners by their values and behaviors.

If you wake up every morning thinking that an inclusive culture means creativity and innovation, and enables you to faster build a global company, then I’m convinced you’ll have the right execution. For sure, having a Chief Diversity Officer for unicorns or Fortune 500 is good but it’s not enough to move forward. “Diversity powers innovation” as Catherine Barba says at the WinForumNY.

3. As you increase diversity, there are additional challenges to overcome in the workplace, what other practices need to be implemented so the change is a deep, meaningful one rather than surface level?

We all have cognitive biases, and it’s more comfortable to hire people like us. I’m personally a big fan of score cards for hiring or assessing people, to come back to facts and enable a conversation if people disagree.

To fight gender inequality, I always encourage founders to have female candidates, even if it’s harder to find them for some jobs, and not only for jobs such as legal, HR, or office manager, but as a COO or CTO or CPO (Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Product Officer).

In Silicon Valley, most founders are engineers, most of them Masters or PhD in computer science. The ones I’ve seen scaling faster are the ones aware that a strong team means different profiles. It’s the same for the Boards. I believe French regulation with quotas for women is somehow helping people to be aware. It’s not fixing all the issues, but it empowers the executive team and CEO to go further.

Odile Roujol. Angel Investor

4. When you’re having a bad day or make a mistake, how do you navigate it? Any advice?

Breath, walk. We forget to stay connected to who we are.

My best inspiration came from my children, Kids see you as a parent. They don’t care about how you’re performing, they love you and whatever happens at work. You need supporters if you’re an entrepreneur. It’s a tough job and a long journey.

If you hurt people,  please apologize, and show you’re aware. Make sure people know that their input has a value to you and that everyone can be heard.

Again it took time to accept and  show my vulnerabilities as a manager and leader.

You are human. Show it. It helps people to be engaged.

5. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? And why?

I’d love to be one of of the guardian fairies in a Disney movie (by the way, I’m super happy by Black Panther’s success).

TeLisa Daughtry. Founder & CTO, FlyTechnista

TeLisa Daughtry. Founder, FlyTechnista

1. Please share your biggest obstacle to success thus far and how you overcame it.

As a woman-of-color & female founder… you’d think trying to raise $2M would be my biggest obstacle; but it wasn’t. Nothing in my life outweighs living on the MTA E train, and overcoming homelessness!

Fresh out of college, I landed a few amazing internships in the city that I had always dreamed of living in (New York). A few months later, I found myself employed in my first real career path job. Shortly after, a few short months later, the stock market tanks, companies are laying people off left and right, and I’m unemployed, with no unemployment, no savings, no friends or family in the city of my dreams, and no place to call home!

Yes, I could have returned back to Boston, to the loving arms and couch of my mama; but my pride and determination, wouldn’t allow me to. So, I endured riding the NYC subway trains for more than 6 months; and then I made friends with amazing and generous people who had couches, floors, and air mattresses; for me to crash on! I looked up, and it was nearly two years later; the economy hadn’t changed much, nor did my living arrangement and employment status.

I was in a dangerous situation and crying my face off at 3am sitting on a bench at 145th Street station; I asked my best-friend to buy me a ticket to come home back to Boston. I left that night with just the close on my back, and did not return back to New York until three years later!

2. The issue of diversity is a deep one that certainly goes beyond hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to address it. Can you share some tips that have worked for you that others can implement in order to create a more inclusive workplace?

I believe there are many things that can be done outside of the Chief Diversity Officer role, in the workplace to make it better and more inclusive for everyone; here are three things that I’ve found to yield the most rewarding results:

1.  Shift our mentality from just being an individual in an organization; to being a ‘culture ambassador’ in an organization. 

2. Greet each other and say “Good Morning.”

3. Kill the cliques. It’s great to have common bonds and shared interests, but, it can be very dangerous and toxic to the productivity and culture of a workplace. 

3. As you increase diversity, there are additional challenges to overcome in the workplace, what other practices need to be implemented so the change is a deep, meaningful one rather than surface level?

As we increase diversity in the workplace, I believe that there will definitely be challenges that come along with this; three practices that I have found helpful to creating meaningful engagement beyond surface level is:

1. Acknowledge and respect our differences.

2. Create safe spaces where dialogue and education can happen.

3.  Don’t “Other:” Don’t ever treat or assume that any one group of people are the same.

4. When you’re having a bad day or make a mistake, how do you navigate it? 

2017 felt like I had an entire year of back-to-back bad days; so navigating through them had kinda became my thing. Thankfully, a few years earlier I had started to put some really good positive habits into place; a gratitude journal, meditation, and rapping affirmations.

Doing these three things allowed me to function with peace, gratitude, clarity, and humor; through it all.

Writing in my gratitude journal in the morning, allows me to reflect on the things that I am grateful for. Meditation, helped me to clear my mind from the day and negative thoughts; it has also helped me to be still, and see where I want to be. Rapping affirmations to myself, helps me to remind myself how dope I am, when I’m feeling really down. And, I love Hip-Hop so that always makes me happy.

5. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? And why?

She would be a mashup between Danai Gurira (because, I take no mess and can get straight walker-killer-Wakanda-ninja in a matter of seconds); Phylicia Rashad (because, she slays with a timeless grace); Letitia Wright (because, she killed it as Shuri, and a FlyTechnista of course, much like me);  and lastly, Michaela Coel (because, I have such a crazy and random life).

Norma Bastidas. Endurance athlete and activist

1. Please share your biggest obstacle to success thus far and how you overcame it. 

When it comes to adversity I have had my share. Born in Sinaloa Mexico, ground zero of Mexico’s drug cartels and to a poor family with an alcoholic father that dies at young age leaving us in a very vulnerable stage, I have survived child sex abuse, an abduction, being sold in the sex trade as a teenager. The path was not always easy but I got through it by believing that my life could get better if I didn’t give up.

2. The issue of diversity is a deep one that certainly goes beyond hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to address it. Can you share some tips that have worked for you that others can implement in order to create a more inclusive workplace?

I am lucky that as an adventurer I am already connected to a very diverse group of individuals; it attracts misfits naturally.

3. As you increase diversity, there are additional challenges to overcome in the workplace, what other practices need to be implemented so the change is a deep, meaningful one rather than surface level?

One of the problems when I put a team together for a world record is that some of my team members are not use to working with a diverse group and it can become stressful, for my last world record we were gone for two and a half months away while I was wither swimming, biking or running my team was cramped in an RV and it became stressful, the best thing was that they had to learn to get along and at the end they all became very close and tolerant towards other people’s cultures or lifestyles, at the beginning I set the rules of conduct and I didn’t tolerate any behavior that could alienate a team member.

4. When you’re having a bad day or make a mistake, how do you navigate it? Any advice?

I tell myself that I can live with failure but not with not trying, a bad day is better than a bad life and a mistake is preferable that a life lived without trying.

5. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? And why?

Sara Ramirez, I love her work and we were both born in Mazatlan Sinaloa Mexico.

Norma Bastidas. Endurance athlete and activist

Cristina Dolan. Co-Founder and COO, iXLedger

1. Please share your biggest obstacle to success thus far and how you overcame it. 

Optimizing time management is critical because lack of time can be the biggest obstacle to success.  Achieving the right balance to maintain a high level of energy which makes it possible to engage in important daily tasks, as well as, strategic initiatives can be difficult.  It is easy to be driven by urgent to do lists, but without focusing on the strategic goals and continuous learning you will never grow in your career.

2. The issue of diversity is a deep one that certainly goes beyond hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to address it. Can you share some tips that have worked for you that others can implement in order to create a more inclusive workplace?

Inclusion in the workplace can only take place with the acquisition of skills and experience.  This requires more than just implementing policies because collaboration between respected peers is about execution and the ability to work together. Diversity in problem solving has been proven to result in better outcomes, but skills and communications are just as critical.

3. As you increase diversity, there are additional challenges to overcome in the workplace, what other practices need to be implemented so the change is a deep, meaningful one rather than surface level?

The workplace is about people and how they collaborate together to generate results, which requires developing an effective communications style. This is the glue that brings people and projects together, yet many people are unaware of how they communicate both with their voices, their mannerisms and their clothing.  Policies alone won’t change this dynamic, the people have to want to engage in ways that are effective and meaningful and not just because policies dictate that they exchange words.

4. When you’re having a bad day or make a mistake, how do you navigate it?

I try not to think about ‘bad days’ because once you  view the world with that filter, you won’t see the good opportunities.  You will only see and gravitate towards the bad. My advice is to assume that when things don’t work out it isn’t about having a bad day, it is about viewing it as an alert that reminds you to re-adjust towards a more refined goal.

5. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life? And why?

I would want a woman that is able to play a character that is both feminine and yet a strong leader.  Life is a journey and leadership is about navigating that journey, listening and communication skills are the navigation tools.   Life isn’t just about the destination it is how you navigate that journey and the readjusting process is what makes it a human life.

Cristina Dolan. Co-Founder and COO, iXLedger
Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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