Our third annual InfluenceHER Week went virtual, but that doesn't mean there was any less inspiration or sense of community.
For four mornings, women and those who identify as women from Greater Boston and beyond convened for a variety of conversations relevant to our current times. Discussions covered how to deal with the blurred lines of work and home; leading through times of crisis; and most importantly, creating opportunities for all women and building workplaces with space for everyone.
For those who might have missed it, we broke down some of the key takeaways and lessons you can learn from this unforgettable week...
Now more than ever, we need to prioritize self-care and set boundaries for our work and technology.
People are feeling busier than ever with a near non-existent divide between our workday and personal day. And it’s no surprise that not long after the quarantine began, the term “Zoom fatigue” emerged as a reflection of our experience of feeling drained and exhausted after ‘tuning in’ for so many hours of the day.
While Zoom meetings are hard to avoid, we need to be more cognizant of our time spent on digital, and how it can negatively affect our well-being.
After years of managing digital content for her clients, Jess Davis (now a writer, creative director, and founder of Folk Rebellion), started to feel the cognitive effects of being constantly plugged in. She experienced what was later coined “digital dementia,” a sensory mismatch in the brain caused by excessive use of technology. This was an “ah-ha” moment for her causing her to take a step back and take a long, hard look at her relationship with tech.
She learned that when you’re constantly switching between tasks, your long thoughts start to go away. But how can you combat this? Jess says you need to start with asking yourself “Am I using this technology to create or consume?” Using tech to create something gets different parts of your brain working, but if you’re aimlessly consuming – that's what will have a more negative effect.
After a long day of Zoom calls, “any way you can reintroduce the 3D is important,” said Jess. Rather than turn on the TV, giving your mind a different medium to focus on will have greater benefits.
You may be thinking – my job is so demanding; I have no choice but to be online 24/7. I’m feeling burnt out.
So, what’s the antidote to burnout? Energy management, said Alanna Fincke, Integrative Health Coach and SVP, Director of Content at meQuilibrium. And to help you manage your energy effectively, understanding the four types of energy—physical, mental, emotional, and motivational—is important.
Think about what are the things you do that lifts your energy and what drains it? How can you focus more on the things that replenish it?
Self-care is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity. The key is not taking one small step. Doing one tiny micro-step actually has a positive effect across our lives. - Alanna Fincke
Tapping into positive thinking, practicing mindfulness, and really taking the time to identify what “fills your tank” rather than depletes it, are all things you can do to boost your energy and help avoid burnout.
Additionally, Jess acknowledged that while our culture tends to confuse the instant versus urgent, “don’t be afraid to push back and set boundaries. Not everything is a fire.”
Thankfully, more and more people are starting to understand and respect that simply sitting in a seat and staring at your screen does not equal good work, said Jess. Right now, you have the opportunity to advocate for the flexibility and times that work for you!
Setting boundaries is necessary for both your effectiveness and well-being.
Companies must set an example for their employees.
It’s also important to address the fact that prioritizing your self-care and well-being does not only fall on you.
Leaders and managers should be modeling self-care behavior.
As Alanna emphasized: “Burnout is not an individual problem, it is an organizational problem. It cannot be solved by individuals alone."
Companies should be prioritizing their employee’s well-being and recognizing that their employees will be better performers when they take care of themselves.
During our Coffee & Conversation with Angela Ruggiero, four-time Olympic athlete and CEO & Founder of the Sports Innovation Lab, she explained how, as a working mother, she understands the struggles many people are going through trying to balance work and family life.
She therefore tries to set the example for her company. “Understanding that everyone is working from home and juggling a lot of things will help us be less critical, and hopefully more authentic when we all return to the office,” said Angela.
By being an authentic leader, you create the space for your employees to bring their whole selves to work. As Angela put it: a good leader and a good organization understands everyone’s individual weaknesses and leans into the qualities that make everyone uniquely themselves.
There's a business case for diversity and having more women in leadership positions.
When female professionals are forced to deal with negative work environments, studies show they are far more likely to depart careers, companies, and industries (All in for Advancement), and this ultimately hurts our economy and depletes the talent pool.
“We really need to take a look at how we look at women of color and women in general, in functional leadership roles,” said author and leadership coach, Kadesh Conroy. “Not just roles where diversity and inclusion is important, but all roles.”
We need more women in business positions because “women have a mindful mindset and lead with compassion—they don't look at the world as a zero-sum game,” added Kadesh. Women are great at thinking long-term and appreciating the mindful mindset that tends to drive people.
“If I'm only looking at the lens of my experience, there is no power,” said Kadesh. “We must look at our systems and reimagine that ‘American Dream’ that was written for a group of people. Let's change the scope of what we’re doing.”
Christina Luconi, Chief People Officer at Rapid7, echoed these sentiments, saying, “as a rapidly growing company, diversity of thought is incredibly important, and that’s what sparks all the innovation and growth. And diversity of thought is usually accompanied by diversity of people."
Studies also show that diverse companies produce more revenue.
Having the different lenses of experience in a company is critical, and legitimately affects the bottom line.
But, diversity is an INVESTMENT, and it's something companies have to commit to for the long haul.
It’s critical to recognize that achieving diversity won’t come easy. It’s something that companies need to not only prioritize but make an investment and commitment to.
As Google Cambridge worked to enhance their efforts, the “opportunity and challenge became: how do we create recognition programs that are rewarding and incentivizing employees to be more involved in the diversity and inclusion work?" said Purvi Trivedi, Customer Engineering Lead for Google Cloud.
One of the initiatives created by Googlers is the I Am Remarkable workshop, which focuses on talking about and challenging gender norms and cultural norms.
In light of the recent racial crisis, there’s hope that the spotlight on diversity and inclusion efforts will remain bright.
Minda Harts, best-selling author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, emphasized that the current problems won’t be solved through a few Zoom calls — it will take intentionality, us facing the ugly truths of our workplaces, and having the courageous conversations to help get there.
Holding a company meeting to openly discuss the injustices and racism in our communities is a start, but companies need to invest in Black businesses and support those who have already been putting in the work.
The businesses that are going to thrive are the ones that have some intentionality and understand that it's going to take an investment to scale diversity. - Minda Harts
Companies need to commit to equity work not just as a moment, but as a movement.
Expect the unexpected, and don't get down on yourself when things don't go your way.
It’s safe to say that in terms of the unexpected, this year was on a whole new level.
2020 has tested us big time, and made us question everything, including ourselves.
But Claire Wasserman of Ladies Get Paid reminded us that you can’t plan for a pandemic. “Things happen, and you just need to make sure you have a contingency plan and be able to quickly pivot. Remind yourself that you did the best you could with the resources, information, and experiences you had at the time.”
You may think you’ve planned for everything, but there will always be something that gets thrown at you out of left field.
As Liz Eskenazi, Founder, Principal Consultant, and Executive Coach at Mind the Core, said: "If COVID’s taught us anything, it’s even when we have a plan, we’re gonna need to reinvent it a million times anyways!"
Given this reality, you shouldn’t give yourself a hard time for not being fully prepared or not handling these challenges perfectly. Alanna Fincke underlined the fact that “resilience is a state, not a trait.” That it’s a learnable set of skills that anyone can learn, and therefore something you can get better at!
If you want to change your patterns of stress, you have to start with your thoughts. And resilience is the science of helping us do that, said Alanna.
Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table.
Sometimes it’s all too easy for us to blame external factors for the obstacles we face or our failures.
But relying on yourself to be your own best advocate and lift yourself up is key for your success. Take the words of Liz Eskenazi: “it’s really our own self-talk that impacts what our programming will be.”
As a woman in tech, Christina Luconi said there have been many times when she was the only woman in the room. But she remembers thinking, “why not me? I have every right to be here.” Having the confidence to tell yourself “I’m talented and have what it takes to be here,” can go a long way, rather than conceding to society telling you that you don't have opportunities simply because you’re a woman.
Every room we walk into, we belong, but not every room we walk into deserves us in it. - Minda Harts
Angela Ruggiero has also had to navigate through the male-dominated tech world, and her advice: “You have to go in with your eyes wide open and anticipate the uphill battle. Recognize where you are— but if you can see it; you can be it.”
Recognize your strengths, and forge ahead knowing that if you put forth brilliant work, it will be impossible to ignore.
We are more powerful together.
One lesson that our speakers all kept coming back to: the undeniable fact that when we band together, we can achieve so much more.
When it comes to driving change within your company, Christina Luconi noted that “as cheesy as it sounds, [it] takes a village. You need people at the grassroots level buying in.”
Purvi Trivedi added that the effort to shift the culture at your organization involves creating the opportunities for others to be a part of it, and “building a longer table”.
Alone, we can only do so much. Together, we can be a force that drives significant change.
“Women use partnerships as a primary means of strength. It’s about coming together in a compassionate community, for the growth of humanity. We understand the power of collective community,” said Kadesh Conroy.
We are not just the worker bees, we are the QUEEN bees. We keep the hive going. - Kadesh Conroy
These conversations reminded MITX President, Amy Quigley, why she started InfluenceHER in the first place – around the idea that women supporting women is a greater power.
As you move forward in your life and career, remember that you are not alone and there is power in your community and the people you surround yourself with. In the words of Minda Harts: “Success is not a solo sport.”