CEO Panelists Dish On Being Modern Business Women

CEO Panelists Dish

On Being Modern Business Women

When you’re a female networking your way up that corporate ladder with your hammer in hand, prepared to tackle the inevitable (and ahem, unfair) glass ceiling, you’re bound to come across a few disappointing events. There are so many opportunities to slap on a name badge, sip a few cocktails and bump elbows with fellow ladies who run companies or have impressive careers, but sometimes, the actual meat of the event is lost amongst the traditional ‘pink-a-fied’ conversation. As if paying more taxes for feminine products isn’t enough, why should a conversation with vibrant, impactful women be anything less than super-inspiring? That’s why we have to tip our hat to a recent panel hosted by Xeomin, and organized by  Evolve MKD, featuring a panel of impressive and refreshingly-honest female entrepreneurs from the tech to the furniture industry.

Held at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, here are some of the highlights of this empowering event where female CEOs (which ahem, make up a mere 4.6 percent of the Fortune 500 companies) went on the record to be real, offer insight and get truly vulnerable with the stories behind their success. Take some notes from their impressive – and honest – playbooks:

Women rise together.

Though it’d be inaccurate and stereotypical to say women aren’t as competitive as men, it is well-documented that women are more keen to help one another grow than men. Another truth? Women have stronger softer skills – a.k.a. we’re better communicators – which help us not only speak to our co-workers or employees, but to customers, too. Kristi Faulkner, the president of a female-centric advertising agency, Womenkind, shared that when it comes to seeking advice and guidance, most women don’t have to search too far. Why? Women support one another – and strive for excellent by having each other’s backs. 

“I found that I often haven’t had to look for that high in the sky mentor, the same way a lot of guys have to because as women our best mentors are right around us all the time,” says Faulkner. “I feel like I’ve been so lucky to have a peer group where we started out when we were all starting in tech and we rose professionally together. Those women, I’ve been able to ask them anything, we make time for one another, we lean on one another.”

We fight against an unfair advantage

Randi Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and the editor-in-chief of DotComplicated shared a story that might make your jaw drop, like it did ours.

“I give about 50 or 60 speeches a year around the world. I was recently in Kuwait speaking at the first Women in Business conference ever in the whole country,” says the rockstar media mogul and sister of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. “When I started off doing public speaking, I remember a big tech executive at a very hot company that we would all know, he literally looked like he had dragged himself out of a dumpster and walked onstage. I got up on stage and killed it but I had done my own makeup and hair,” she said. “A client called me the next day and said, ‘We liked your presentation but wish you cared about your appearance a little more.’ Literally the guy looked like he lived in a box in Union Square. I went home to my husband, shed a lot of tears and he’s like ‘you can whine about it or accept that this is what it’s like for women in business. If that means building time to get your hair and makeup done, you do that.’ That was one of the biggest wake-up calls as a woman in business. Looks really do matter.”

Is it fair that Zuckerberg was held to a different standard of beauty? Nope. Is it sexist? Yep. But even though we have different boxes to check before doing the same exact thing a man does, we not only do it in stride, but we do more than our male counterparts ever consider.

We can find the market opportunity – even with great risk.

For Niki Cheng, the founder of the BoConcept franchise in NYC, the journey to becoming an entrepreneur was one stepping stone after another riddled with risk. When she immigrated to the U.S., she had a degree that didn’t translate into a robust job market, and after many failed jobs (including getting fired as a coat check), her husband suggested she work at a local furniture store. Though annoyed – considering she already had a degree – she decided to give it a chance. She quickly found a calling in sales, especially since she was able to empathize with the customer. During the panel, she said she would come home super-excited to share how well she did and soon, her husband made another suggestion: why not start your own thing? Noticing a need for lower-cost modern furniture, she launched BoConcept and franchised it, now with eight locations in Manhattan.

“I realized that there’s a problem in the city,” says Cheng. “There is no mid-priced range of modern furniture in New York City. That was in 2003. And I founded BoConcept and I knew that this brand will work.”

We are women – and women are the consumer.

Dr. Anne Chapas, the founder and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology shared that one of the greatest advantages of being a woman in business is that the majority of consumers are, in fact, female. Knowing firsthand the experiences that are inherently specific to a single sex can help you relate to your potential customer in a more impactful, personal way.

“I think for me the most beneficial thing I find is 85% of my patients are women,” says Chapas. “So as soon as they walk in the door, I’ve either been in the situation that they’re in or I’ve seen my mother go through it, so right away there’s an instant connection,” she says. “I know if they’re a little bit anxious, I need to put them at ease or if it’s for a cosmetic reason, it’s going to be natural and we’re going to help them feel better about how they look so they can get ready in the morning faster and get their kids to school and get to the office.”

We can see the privilege – and the flexibility –  in being a woman.

Though the battle for equal pay in the United States continues to fight on, even in 2016, Ireland-based founder and CEO of Vita Liberata, Alyson Hogg says instead of looking at being a female as a setback, consider it a privilege. Why? We are born to be flexible. 

“I think it’s a huge privilege that only 50 percent of the population get. I think we’re very lucky. Part of that is because we have children: People say to me, ‘we’re seriously considering a crash and going back in our business because so many women are having babies at the moment.’ Or they say Ashley’s pregnant. Or Louise is pregnant. And I say that’s fantastic because these girls are going to come back just different people with a whole set of skills that they never even knew that they had,” says the vivacious beauty CEO. “Also I think that because you have to prepare, even if it’s subconscious, that something life-changing is likely to happen to you in your future, you have to be much more flexible. That flexibility is what business is, girls. That is it. Is there any single thing that you have to be it’s flexible. You have to be able to move with the wind. You have to be able to look at a problem and realize you’re not thinking about it right and go from there.

We can have it all – just not all in the same day.

Zuckerberg is the proud mom to two boys – Simcha and Asher – and also a pioneer in the tech industry. But does she really have it all, or can she? For her, it’s about choosing your top battles each and every single day. 

“I have a mantra that I say in the morning — ‘Work, sleep, family, friends, fitness — pick three.’ You can pick a different three tomorrow. In a 24-hour period, you can only pick three,” says Zuckerberg. “You can’t do all of those 5 and do them well. For me, I like to give myself permission to be a little more lopsided instead of feeling like I have to be perfectly balanced and do all of those things in one day. And you hope it just balances out in the long term.”

The evening, which was filled with insights and laughter was a refreshingly honest meeting of the minds. If this was any indication of what is to come, the future is more than female, it’s also fabulous.

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar is a writer and editor in New York. Her work has appeared in Self, Refinery29, Bustle, Prevention and many more. When she's not traveling or spending time with friends, she's going to the latest boxing class, trying a new food trend or volunteering.

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