2 – Put Yourself First

2 – Put Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

Over the course of interviewing hundreds of female entrepreneurs and experts, we have compiled an interesting collection of “lessons learned”. In sharing stories of the paths taken and obstacles overcome, most entrepreneurs have also shared advice for those who will follow in their footsteps.

In this segment, we have focused on some of the advice that successful businesswomen have shared with regards to the importance of women putting themselves first and being the champions of their careers.

Transcript

Johnson: I don’t care where you end up in life, never lose sight of who you are.

Warner: I’m really a proponent of putting together a freedom fund starting now and setting up a bank account and an investment account just for you and you don’t tell anyone about it.

Barry: We thought oh, if we just really work hard we’re going to get everywhere and we underestimated and underrated and marginalized something that men have figured out all their lives

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

Today’s topic is “Put Yourself First – Lessons Women Need To Learn To Be Successful”

Over the course of interviewing hundreds of female entrepreneurs and experts, we have compiled an interesting collection of “lessons learned”. In sharing stories of the paths taken and obstacles overcome, most entrepreneurs have also shared advice for those who will follow in their footsteps.

In this segment, we have focused on some of the advice that successful businesswomen have shared with regards to the importance of women putting themselves first and being the champions of their careers.

Our first lesson comes from Sheila Johnson. She and her ex-husband co-founded the Black Entertainment Television Network which they sold to Viacom in 1997. She states that the best way for a woman to put herself first is to never lose sight of who she is. Women can’t let someone or something else define them.

Johnson: I can’t emphasize it more or enough, that women should never lose sight of who they are. And I heard a great quote. I was at a commencement address at Bennett College. And I think as the president of Delta Sigma Theta she says, never stand behind a man. For he will block your vision. Which I thought was terrific. It is important. I don’t care where you end up in life, that never lose sight of who you are. And you know. I can say that. But I see so many women, they fall in love, or they think they are in love. And they let so many other people define who they are. Because that one person would say oh, I don’t like your hair that way. Or you are too fat. Or you are too thin. And then suddenly, you are going, well maybe something is wrong with me. And at that moment you are starting to lose a grip. Instead of saying, I like my hair the way I am. And I like the way my body looks. Don’t tell me how – I don’t tell you that. But you – it is very important that you keep a hold with the tightest grip you can on who you are. And learn. I think more mothers should teach their daughters how to love themselves. Because there is so many things going on in society from looking at fashion magazines, to letting people – boyfriends or husbands dictate who you are. And that is not what is important. It is all about you. It may sound selfish. But it is not selfish. It is the most loving thing you can ever do to yourself. Or for yourself.

Kristen: And once you know who you are, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to make sure you have the right resources to achieve your goals. Patricia Warner, founder of consulting company, Global-eze and previously the Director of Sales and Marketing with Corning Incorporated, defines and discusses the importance of creating what she calls a “freedom fund”.

Warner: What I’m going to talk to you about is creating a freedom fund and for me this is a single critical piece in growing up because if you don’t have the resources to do what you want to do, it makes it really tough and you can’t depend on daddy’s money or a scholarship or your husband’s money or your wife’s income to achieve your dreams because those go away. They have a nasty habit of disappearing or something happens in your life. So, I’m really a proponent of putting together a freedom fund starting now and setting up a bank account and an investment account just for you and you don’t tell anyone about it. You research your market value, you do not depend on a parent or a partner to help you and you start this fund in your name only and you keep it secret, except tell your lawyer, your investment banker. You don’t use it to rescue anyone else because you’re the person you should be valuing. So, if you have a fund set up and you set it up in your name and you keep it there and you keep adding it to it, you have the freedom then to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself when there’s ups and downs, to fund additional education if you want it, to take care of your children if you get left handling it by yourself which can happen and you also have the freedom to make big changes in your life.

Kristen: Putting yourself first isn’t only about knowing yourself and creating a freedom fund. Women also need to learn how to use the system – and build new systems to network within the professional scene. Subha Barry is Managing Director of Multicultural and Diversified Business Development for Merrill Lynch. As an Indian woman struggling to break through corporate America’s glass ceiling and as a cancer survivor, Barry shares how she began to develop a network of women within Merill and how this network later came to help her and help her help others soon after it was developed.

Barry: But I think increasingly what’s happening now is women are beginning to understand the power in those informal networks that the guys have that they don’t get to have. So here it is, you have these other women, you kind of know them, you know that if they’re anything like you, they’re working really hard, they probably are pretty darn good, so this thing you make up inside your head about the competition out there is a bigger thing inside your head than it actually is and the only way to overcome it is to really get to know these women and for that you need to really make the time. And as one of the senior women at Merrill now I’ve really taken it upon myself to start to bring these women together. I have a group of eight women… once a week, it’s a standing call, you don’t have to be on it but somebody or the other will be and those that get together, we chat about what happened during the week and it’s our little, you know, lets go get a beer session. We just don’t have the time and half the time someone’s driving home and another one is … you know, standing outside the building. I mean we are all in different places but we get on the call and we sort of get to know each other and mine came really out of a need because the year in 2002, when I had my third bout with Hodgkin’s that year, I had about 20 speaking engagements on my schedule for the year. It was already preset. And when I got sick I knew I would be out. Definitely not in any shape to go do these speaking engagements and I turned around and I said, who do I pass it on to, and the easy thing would have been to give it to the HR department and said, you know guys figure it out and do it, and somehow I said, you know, I’ve taken each of these on very thoughtfully for a very specific reason and I think the obligation is mine to find out the right women for it. So I went on a search in the organization to find the 20 women, each one would take one from me. It was a very interesting journey, so it… as recently as 2002 is when I began to realize how powerful this network among women could be and how supportive we can be of each other and all the good that can come out of it, mentoring programs that are born from it because each one of them now pulls women from their organization for me to meet and I do the same for them and I … but I think we just never really thought that was as important. We thought oh, if we just really work hard we’re going to get everywhere and we underestimated and underrated and marginalized something that men have figured out all their lives that I think we really need to learn to do.

Kristen: Lois Frankel is a professional coach and author of two international bestsellers, “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office” and “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich”. She states that women need to get better at promoting themselves in the workplace – putting themselves first and as she puts it, “building their brand”

Frankel: You need to build your brand, you need to be in meetings, you need to see and be seen, you need to be seen as someone who can make critical decisions, who knows how to balance strategic and the strategy with the tactics, somebody who’s willing to take risks. This is who gets recognized in organizations and this is a challenge for us because in fact we’re used to putting everybody else first. It’s not about us. Now one of the things that you need to do is build your brand, okay, you are a brand in the work place. We are all a brand. Why do you buy a brand? Like why do you buy Coca Cola versus Kroger or Albertsons or whatever, why do you buy a brand? Because number one, you know it. It’s consistent, the perception is that it’s better. Right, all these things, that’s why you buy a brand. Well you are a brand in the workplace.

Kristen: Finally, Angela Mwanza, Vice President at Lehman Brothers Private Investment Management, builds on Frankel’s concept of “building your brand” by stating that women need to become better at asking… Not just asking for help – but putting themselves first and asking for the deal, the raise and the responsibilities…

Mwanza: I think one thing that I’ve always observed is and I’ve observed in myself so I’m not pointing the finger, is sometimes we don’t ask. We don’t ask for help because we feel we have to be superwoman and know everything and we sometimes don’t … for fear of looking stupid or lesser than … especially if you’re in a room of mostly people who don’t look like you, you tend not to ask. I think it’s not just asking for help, it’s asking for the raise, asking for more money, asking for more responsibilities, asking for the big deal, but thinking that if I sit back and I work really hard, you know, it will come to me. Ideally, yeah, but you know, most companies on Wall Street, and I know Lehman is definitely a meritocracy, but sometimes you won’t get noticed. So you have to you know, toot your own horn sometimes.

Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers, please check our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

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