Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid, joins the program to discuss her own journey of what led her to create an organization and community dedicated to helping women empower and uplift themselves and others. Discover how to overcome self-doubt and the imposter syndrome and why women often feel the need to push themselves further than their male counterparts. Claire also reveals how to reach out to and engage diverse talent.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- Claire’s story of a particularly painful business trip and how it led her to her current work (5:00)
- How women can learn from each other (11:00)
- The 3 levels of change that need to occur (18:00)
- How to overcome a scarcity mindset (25:00)
- The need for diversity within communities of women (30:00)
- How to attract more diverse talent (35:00)
- How to overcome perfectionism and the imposter syndrome (38:00)
- The role that men have to play as allies (41:00)
- The importance of empathy in the process of uplifting women (43:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: My guest today on The Will To Change is Claire Wasserman. Claire created Ladies Get Paid, a career development organization that helps women negotiate for pay and power at work, because she needed it. The lackof women in leadership roles disturbed her and she was craving a space where women could support one another by openly sharing their professional struggles.
In less than three years, the community has grown to more than 30,000 women from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, connecting through an online network, offline workshops and events, and the conference, www.getmoney-getpaid.com.
In addition to running LGP, Claire is on Well + Good’s Council, coaches individuals and groups, and is a frequent writer, moderator and speaker. She is especially thrilled to be featured in the Sally Hansen global campaign, Shetopia. Claire has been featured widely in the media, from the Washington Post to Refinery29 to GirlBoss to NowThis, and she’s currently writing a book (entitled Ladies Get Paid of course!) to be published in 2020 by Simon & Schuster.
Last year, Claire traveled the country hosting town halls for thousands of women to talk about money, work, and self-worth
Claire, welcome to The Will to Change.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate you having me on.
JENNIFER BROWN: Claire, I’m really excited to have you on to talk about your conference Get Money Get Paid. Your organization is called Ladies Get Paid, but the conference itself is on its third year coming up in this fall of 2019, right in my neighborhood. I think it’s going to be in Brooklyn, New York area. You expect an audience of 1,500 this year. It’s been growing really rapidly. I think it is because the topic of salary equity and as an entrepreneur getting paid certainly. You’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs in your audience as well.
But the whole topic of being a woman and learning some unhealthy money behaviors and financial habits and really empowering ourselves to advocate for ourselves financially is in many respects, I think, really under explored. I know that in my own experience of owning my own company and growing it over the past 12 years I’ve made a lot of money mistakes and I think a lot of them were based on harmful narratives that I think I inherited or heard or took to heart or wrongly believed. And, honestly, wasn’t ever corrected about and I never had a community of women that were gathering specifically to talk about how to get paid, what is integrity with money look like, how do we take care of ourselves when it comes to financials.
Particularly, if you are someone who is very altruistically minded and your biggest passion is doing good in the world, money can have a really interesting relationship with it and its role in all of that because you’re going after something much bigger. I am excited to bring the awareness about your conference to my audience which is full of change makers, very strong women and men in corporate settings but also tons of entrepreneurs and coaches who I speak to a lot about our financial arrangements, how we charge for our work and our time and making sure that we feel valued.
I’m really happy to bring your story to this audience. We always start Will to Change with our diversity story. I want to start by asking you to share a bit about how did you get to this point where you’re so passionate about ladies getting paid?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Oh man, how much time do you have?
JENNIFER BROWN: I know. It’s a good one.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Okay, so long story probably long is I’ve always been social justice motivated. The thing I’ve been fascinated by for years is helping people connect. Helping people see themselves in each other. But I didn’t really get interested in helping women until I had my own masochistic experience which was, I went to a major advertising festival in the south of France. This was probably about four years ago. I was there to get clients. At the time I worked for a company where we paired talent with companies, mostly freelancers in the advertising world.
I was watching from this vantage point of people joining companies. Why would they join the company and then seeing them leave, what made them quit? I realized I was becoming more and more interested in helping people thrive at work rather than just getting them the job. But I get sent to this advertising festival and we’re there to find clients, companies that who want to hire talent.
I walk into a party on the first night and this older white guy comes up to me and he says very friendly, “Hi, whose wife are you?” It was like, oh we’re in Mad Men, okay we’re still there. I should mentioned that there were thousands and thousands of people there but mostly men. The reason I mention that is because the folks who get to sent to Cannes, and that is where this was, they tend to be the heads of companies. The CEOs of agencies or folks that control a lot of money at the brands that they work at.
I mention that and I want to mention that I was there to find clients so there’s this inherent power dynamic already and then there’s a gender power dynamic and one that I don’t think I fully realized up until I had that experience at Cannes. The other thing that struck me about going to that festival and that’s honestly stayed with me until now is that when I went into the bathroom, when I went into the ladies’ room it seemed like that’s where all the ladies were. It was totally packed. Women were exchanging business cards, talking shop, putting on makeup, and in a way, finding refuge in the bathroom because it was so intense out there.
A lot of drinking, a lot of exhaustion of trying to navigate conversations that were going in directions that felt gross to us, but we were there to make business. Seeing these women connect in that way again, it really struck me. Then to fast forward a bit, after that experience I felt exhausted. I actually blamed myself. For all of the experience I had for that week, whenever it went into a direction of where I was being objectified or some guy saying, “You’re hot,” when I’m trying to pitch him business, I turned it inwards as we often do, and I blamed myself.
I really wondered did it go in that direction because I wore a short skirt? By being friendly was I somehow asking for it? As I was trying to understand the experience, I had this realization that I think for my entire career I had not really sat down and reconciled myself with the things that I experienced by men. Things that did make me uncomfortable. I now know they’re called microaggressions. These very small experiences that we have that we don’t really pay attention to. I think because they can be painful. They might mean that we have to speak up and that’s really scary or it’s that internalizing of well, you know, he didn’t mean it or it’s my fault.
I didn’t know what to do other than just sit with this. But I felt that I should write something. What I ended up writing was not so much what happened at this festival but more about my trying to understand, the process of well, processing it. I felt like that part was the most interesting part. I thought about publishing the article. Honestly, I didn’t have the guts to do it. I felt that by going public that it might get misconstrued as I’m a man hater.
I honestly had fear that I could get fired or lose business, which I now since realized if something feels uncomfortable, if something feels wrong, that’s exactly why you should take action. But instead I forwarded it to some friends who wrote me back and said, “Oh my God, I have experienced this too and I’ve never really understood it.” Then they forwarded to their friends who also wrote back with their stories and kept forwarding it and saw this essay become almost viral in our inbox. This was before Me Too.
But that’s what was happening, was the sharing the stories and the realization that we were not alone and that was powerful. Now, the long story short is really becoming long but the turning point for really starting the company was from that experience starting to do research about women in the workplace. Starting to dig into statistics of women in leadership, what is the wage gap, and discovering that these things were so much worse than I thought. So much worse.
When you see stuff like that you have a choice. You can either do something about it or you can ignore it. Finding out that Hispanic women make $0.55 to the dollar. It’s not the $0.78 to the dollar that we all think it is, that’s for white women. When you discover that you go what can I as an individual possibly do to combat something that’s so systemic. I made the choice of doing nothing for about a year.
Finally, because I was talking about how much to get paid for freelance jobs with a friend, I decided I’m just going to host an event for women to come and to talk about money. The reason that I picked money was because of what it represents. I knew the conversation could be so much bigger. It could be about worth and our value. I think the most important question is one, do you value yourself? Number two, do you advocate for that value? I guess the third part is are you getting the rewards that you have asked for whether that’s in the form of money, or work, or flexibility.
I wasn’t wrong. I had a feeling that there were women who really wanted to talk about this stuff especially since, at the time and this was 2016, we weren’t really talking about it at all. I hosted an event, 100 people came, and it was very clear that there was so much more to not only talk about but to solve and particularly around salary negotiation. That’s really when it began but I don’t think for anybody you just start a business. I think there is so much more leading up to it, even if it’s just practicing being an entrepreneur, so this really organically evolved. Although there was a time where I said, “You know what? I better get an LLC and let’s make this official.”
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank goodness. I love that you were dormant with your knowledge for like a year. You said, “I didn’t do anything with it,” and you were percolating. I think that’s often true. You have to let this “ah-hah” new knowledge moment sink in and decide what is this going to emerge as, “What am I going to birth as a result of this?” How am I going to shift my life, which you’ve really done, to focus solely on this and you’re going to create this space for women to come together and have honest conversations about all these things?
Albeit a little early, I agree with you. I think you recognized this was the core of the issue. If we could talk about this, we could start to really talk about what matters that holds women back. I think before, relatively early in the pay equity conversation that now is everywhere widespread, I think you must have seen even in a couple years an evolution, at least I hope you have seen an evolution in terms of what women are bringing into the room that you create and facilitate and convene in terms of at least their knowledge of the challenges. That they’re not just in their head and they’re not imaging them but they’re real and that there is shear numbers now of women talking about this, thinking about how they could advocate for themselves different. Maybe if they have a different degree of confidence based on that knowledge.
Have you seen the energy in your rooms evolve or are we still having just all these brand-new ah-ha moments for women that come and say, “I’ve never thought about it this way and it’s not right and I’m not going to put up with it anymore.”
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, in a way I miss the early days when I hosted these town halls.
JENNIFER BROWN: I bet.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: The energy was like a champagne cork going off where these women had so much frustration. Actually, let me back up for a second. The first event that I hosted, I called it a town hall in the sense that I wanted people to stand up and to share. That this shouldn’t just be a panel discussion where we elevate certain people and we say, “Here’s the advice you should listen to.” I thought that there was a lot more power in people recognizing themselves in each other, having catharsis and being able to share and a collective strategy brainstorm, because you can learn a lot from the person sitting next to you who in fact, may be closer in their career to you versus somebody who’s like 20 years along.
The energy in those rooms, they were almost raw in the sense these women I think had never either understood this kind of stuff for themselves or had never really spoken about it publicly. Then the election happened and then the energy was angry. Still had that energy, but our job was and continues to be taking that energy and moving it into a productive place where you’re not just sitting with your anger but you’re actually taking steps to solving or trying to solve whatever it is that you’re passionate about.
But now what’s so great is none of this is taboo anymore. There’s still a last frontier here in regard to shame I think, that a lot of women have about perfectionism or imposter syndrome, but the discussion of worth and money, that is normalized now. It doesn’t feel as cathartic to talk about it as it once did because you’re constantly reading those articles and you’re seeing more panels.
In that sense, that’s great I feel like some of the heavy lifting of even just giving information, now people are signing up for investment platforms whereas two and a half three years ago we weren’t even there yet. We were just simply talking about do you check your bank account and if so, how do you feel about it? We’re doing like AP level stuff right now. It’s so great to see so many other groups also pick up this subject which again, for many people continues to be scary. There’s a lot of emotional baggage that comes with these kinds of discussions.
JENNIFER BROWN: Well tell me a little bit about the emotional baggage. What are the top, I know you run a bunch of Slack Channels, you’re constantly polling your audience and surveying and gathering data, what is it that holds us back from really owning our worth and all the things that-that means? What do you hear over and over again still even though there has been this evolution in the awareness of the problem and the scale of the problem? What do you find is the gap you want to close with your conference from an awareness or confidence level? What do you wish for your audience that could help allow us to take this paradigm leap?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I would say with all of the classes we teach they range from how to network, figuring out your career path, setting boundaries, imposter syndrome, etc., etc., there is a through line. An absolute through line with all of them. It is perfectionism. It is absolutely. I mean, some of it is that imposter syndrome, not being that you’re there on your merits, that you’ve talked a big game, but your skills and your ability to delivery don’t match it. That’s why you feel like a fraud. That is certainly a huge piece of these subjects that we teach and the conversations that we have.
But I think at the end of the day it’s the inordinate pressure that people put on themselves to deliver over 100% and the fear of being disliked or disrupting. That’s in large part is how we’re socialized and the messages that we’re taught. Forget work, it’s how we look also and being the perfect parent, having the perfect bank account. Then this kind of pressure just morphs into decisions like taking on more projects than you probably should. Being the quote work wife.
Many of us, including myself have been called that by our bosses. By being the work wife that means we’re also taking on emotional labor in addition to the things we actually have to do at our jobs. I find a lot of what we talk about is undoing how we’re socialized and giving women tangible ways to combat perfectionism so that it’s not just about a mindset shift because that can only go so far.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: That’s huge. I would say in terms of the conference and if you want to look at Ladies Get Paid as a whole, we’re really trying to arm women with the tools to become powerful at their companies. To work with their companies to create an environment that allows other women to rise up and become powerful. Then in the third way, and this is the most macro sense of it is civically. If you want to help more than just yourself or more than just your female colleagues, if you want to give back to your community what are ways you can get involved and what are policies out there that will help women again, rise up and be in power.
I think at the end of the day, we really are talking about power and being empowered and power is the ability to choose, to have freedom and that you can have influence where you are so you can make positive choices that help other people and not just be a middle manager taking what you’re given and feeling grateful for it. You should have more agency in what you do. But yeah, individual company and civically we’ve got to attack all three of those because you’re getting a raise, which is fabulous only goes so far. How can we affect more women?
That’s my way of trying to combat something that’s so systemic while also admitting the wage gap won’t close for 216 years, so guess what? I don’t think I’ll ever go out of business. We’re just doing the best we can here.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I mean, I have to ask you, given your lens which I so agree with it’s individual, the system, which is the organization to influence change for not just yourself but for others in the organization and then civically which is outside the four walls, literal or virtual walls of your place of employment and really getting engaged in the social, political, economic conversation and being an advocate on that level. I love that you think about it in those realms and just because you might have a great salary negotiation and you might get what you deserve the fact that you were underpaid indicates that there’s a systemic issue, so your work is not done.
You talk about emotional labor, it’s so hard to imagine I’m going to show up differently, I’m going to negotiate, I’m going to fight for this and by the way I need to also take responsibility for changing my company as well. It’s interesting, I’m sure you’ve seen this, but the penalty that we pay for being the agitator in the system. I see this because a lot of people come to me after working with us and say, “Oh my gosh, I want to do diversity work full time. It’s so much more meaningful to me. I’m realizing that this is where it’s at and this is what I want to do.”
That’s cool, that’s great, because we always need more people. It’s interesting, I have mostly women coming to me with that want and desire and feeling awakened to something much larger that they want to tackle and devote their life to. But isn’t it a form of labor that women feel like we’re the only ones fighting for the pay equity when really it affects everyone in the system? I have to ask sometimes, this is not just our issue. If we have unequal organizations, it impacts everyone in terms of that inequality.
I guess how do you recommend, if the question of being that one that carries not only the burden for yourself and how you show up and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself and getting taken care of but actually also being the standard bearer in the organization, is there fatigue amongst women? People of color, by the way, are doing the same thing for ethnicity questions and representation for diverse talent. There are some of us that are carrying the water for this and it’s a lot because we’re also needing to manage all of those microaggressions at the same time we’re advocating for change on the systemic level.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Right. That’s something that we’ve been thinking about a lot because right now our major focus is helping the individual woman figure out how to improve her life at work. Which again, means she has to now take action which is exhausting, on top of already suffering from presumably low pay or whatever it is. So, we continually remind women what is a next step you can take to get other people involved to help you? How do you get buy in from your calls to management so that you’re not just the only one?
Honestly, we create a space where women can just vent also, so that they can release some of that tension that they’re feeling. That they can get support, even just emotional support from other women, so that when they do take action, they know that they have a whole army of ladies behind them cheering them on. I think that actually goes a long way, it really does. A huge part of what we do is helping women make the case for what they want. Demonstrating that these programs are good for the bottom line.
You’ve got to get the ball started but if you’re the only one carrying it through, it’s not going to have the lasting change that you want it to have at work. So, really how do you get other people on board to buy into what your vision is so that together you can make some changes at your company. Then hopefully after that you’re just holding a piece of this rather than the whole thing.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I had a guest on The Will to Change, Nkem Ndefo, and she said, “We have to give ourselves permission to step into the battle and then step out. Step into the arena and step out.”
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: That’s so good.
JENNIFER BROWN: It should be like a relay race, if we’re working too hard to the point of burnout, emotional, physical, it’s affecting our health because we care so much and we’re so upset, it’s not a sustainable plan.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: No.
JENNIFER BROWN: I also think that those of us with more privilege, you and I talked about this, pay less of a price. We get less exhausted. We have more supports if you will because we’re managing less bias based on who we are. I really relate to that as somebody in certain communities of privilege from an identity perspective that I need to use my voice to advocate. To not just have the, like you said very early on, that the pay gap is not the same pay gap for white women as it is for women of color. You have a young audience at your conferences, you have a really diverse audience. I was amazed, is your average age 28 to 32 I think you said?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, it’s really women who are in middle management and thinking about leadership and feeling like they’re hitting some kind of barrier.
JENNIFER BROWN: How does the topic of being allies to each other come up in your rooms? I’ll tell you, when I’m giving keynotes, I can predict it, somebody will always ask me in the Q&A and sometimes it’s usually a woman and she says, “I don’t feel supported by other woman.” Oh yeah, all the time. I’m put on the spot in front of hundreds of people to explain why this might be. Look, perception is reality, I have not had that experience however, I’ve heard it so many times that I have to have an answer for it, and I would be curious what your answer is for that. But I would really love to know also how do we acknowledge the differences amongst us as women and what responsibility does that come with and how does that get talked about in your rooms?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Sure. I tend to say that we’ve only progressed as far as the ones who still struggle among us. So, when I did a bunch of research about women in the workplace honestly, the statistics that I couldn’t forget that kept nagging in the back of my mind were statistics that had nothing to do with me, because I’m a white woman and I do come from a background of privilege. But I just felt like we, as white women, we’re not actually as far along if there are other women who still experience these things.
That’s just I guess the way I was brought up. It’s a sense of obligation I have to use my privilege for good. But the thing that I remind women is first historically and I’m sure that you talk about this too that there’s a scarcity mindset that we have when we go into work, if that’s my answer.
JENNIFER BROWN: Only a few of us.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, if only a few of us get into leadership then it feels like we’re competing with each other. There’s part of that where I think women need to understand that again, the way that we’re socializing or the way that the workplace is structured historically that does have an influence. Also, by the way that we are expected to compete for male partners. The competition extends beyond our companies.
But then I go quickly into tangible ways that women can support each other because I think often times the conversation ends with just be nice to each other. Just support one another. It’s like no, no we need some actual strategies here because there are deliberate things that you can do that establishes an environment at work which is hey, the behaviors that we have here need to be one of support.
For example, there’s a phrase called Shine Theory. This was coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. They have a great podcast called Call Your Girlfriend. For them, they define Shine Theory really as a woman appreciating another woman in public. Saying, “Hey, I thought you had a great idea.” By doing it in public in front of other people that’s getting them credit. It’s again, also establishing in front of everybody that this is the way that we operate which is supporting each other.
Also, if you find that somebody’s idea is taken from a woman in a meeting just again, back up and say, “Hey, I think Jennifer actually came up with that.” Which is going to take a little more courage to do. If you’re interested in reading more about specific tactics at work that can support other woman, I highly, highly recommend a book called Feminist Fight Club.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that book.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, that one has really good stuff. That really breaks down when you’re in the moment in a certain situation what the heck do you actually do.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, yes, it’s so funny too. It’s such a funny book.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: You’ve got to have a sense of humor about this stuff.
JENNIFER BROWN: You do. Otherwise it’s a little dire.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s huge. I also think taking your female colleagues, or really all of your colleagues out for one-on-ones, “Hey, can I grab a coffee with you?” I think if you begin to understand another person then you can figure out who you operate with them and how you communicate this. This is good practice in general, but preemptively before you might have a tricky relationship with another woman, just take them out to coffee. Ask them about their career. Just start there and you’ll find that those potential landmines of awkwardness or tension is just not going to happen.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I so agree. Other things you and I were riffing on were who you put on stage. You said you can’t have just women of color talking about diversity on stage. They should be teaching classes on finance. One of your most popular sessions is about financial dos and don’ts at the conference. I wonder how do you intentionally create a mix on stage, which is so important. I follow on Twitter #NoMoreManels. It’s a whole thing. Literally, they troll around the world looking for all male panels and all white panels which is “wanels” with a W.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Please send that to me.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, I can.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I would love to join something like that.
JENNIFER BROWN: I hope to have the creator of it on the podcast because I’m fascinating with what she’s seeing in the world. I get asked this a lot, of course, you’ve heard all the tropes, “We can’t find this kind of panelist or that kind of panelist. We can’t get them in the room. I don’t want to tokenize anybody by targeting a certain community to make sure they come.” I just think a lot of people just don’t know where to start with all this and frankly, they’re not trying hard enough.
But it’s so organic for your conference and I’m struck. I wonder whether it’s generational? I wonder whether that’s just how your generation rolls and as somebody who is a Gen Xer, I think it’s relatively much more difficult because we aren’t as aware. Our friend groups aren’t as diverse in a literal sense, I think. This is more a stereotype of a more Millennial generation is that it’s a diverse generation and diversity is table stakes for younger people. It’s good news. Really, really good news for the companies I’m trying to drag forward into the century.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Honestly, not only is it important to have a diverse group of people talking about this, it’s boring if you don’t. I’m so over people who have similar experiences, it’s just boring. Forget the being shamed online or whatever, it’s just you’re going to have a way more interesting conversation. I think the best thing to do is to find other organizations that you can partner with. Ask them, “Hey, what can we do to support you? Also, we’re looking for,” and fill in the blank. Again, partnering with organizations that you can source amazing speakers through them but remember, you have to offer them something first. This can’t just be you asking them for something.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, give before you get.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah. The Shine Theory, you promoting their event or whatever in a newsletter, that takes you two seconds to do and can go a long way. Also, don’t be afraid to be explicit about what you’re looking for.
JENNIFER BROWN: I agree.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I frequently post on Facebook, “I’m looking for a woman of color in tech.” I mean, that could be controversial in that I’m specifically saying that I don’t want a white woman, but this is also me demonstrating to people in my network that you need to be doing this kind of work. If you don’t know how to do it, you can also ask for help. Also, making it clear that it’s not about tokenism if you have more than one person on your panel that represents. Meaning, having an all-male panel and one woman, that’s not diverse to me. That continues on to race. That’s also huge, don’t feel like your job is just done when you have one.
JENNIFER BROWN: You didn’t check the box.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Again, it goes back down to this will be a way more interesting conversation. But to your point earlier about us not just wanting women of color to talk about the specifics of being a women of a color, I do think that’s really important. I certainly wouldn’t want to be asked on panels that every time I’m considered as a speaker I have to talk about my race. That’s not interesting to everybody. They may want to talk about other things. Keep that in mind too, it’s not about one person and it’s not about that person talking about something specific to the reason they’re marginalized. Getting help, not being afraid to ask for help. If you can’t find anybody, to your point earlier, you’re not looking hard enough.
JENNIFER BROWN: It’s so true. Would your advice change, I was just trying to coach a white straight man friend of mine, such a good heart, so involved and cannot for the life of him get a diverse audience in the programs that he runs. I gave him the exact same advice that you just said which is be explicit. Don’t be afraid to be explicit. Ask for what you’re looking for. Is it viewed differently when a white guy does that? Are there some additional nuances? How would you advise him? Is your advice the exact same depending on who you’re talking to?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah. I think when he reaches out to people it’s not just, “Hey, I’m looking for X, Y and Z.” I think he should also talk about his intention, about why he thinks this is important so that it is clear to other people that this isn’t just checking a box or being afraid to be called out. I always appreciate when men reach out and they ask how they can support. But then they say why, why do they want to support? Why is this meaningful to them? I would be much more inclined to help somebody who’s expressing that versus what potentially could be a bit performative.
Again, just go to organizations. Go to D&I people. It’s a numbers game, the more people you reach out to the more of a chance you’re going to find folks. Let’s say I ask one or two speakers, I go to them and I say, “Do you know anybody that you think would be stellar who fits this profile?”
JENNIFER BROWN: Always do that.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Again, saying why, why do think it’s important? Again, reminding them I’m here to support you whatever I can do to help you.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s great.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I think you’ll build it from there.
JENNIFER BROWN: We talk a lot about ethnicity and race, diversity, maybe we talk about LGBTQ diversity in the room. What are some of your own personal goals for diversifying this audience or at the very least doing a better job or a bigger job or a bigger splash around centering different stories that you, in this context of your conference haven’t really heard from as much as you would like to hear from? What are your personal goals with that?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I think again, just partnering with more groups that don’t look like us. We’re also in the process of hiring somebody who has a D&I background who is going to be helping us grow our community. Also knowing that we have limitations in regard to our own network. Maybe you need to hire somebody who comes from a completely different place. Even she’s not in New York and we’re here so we felt like there needed to be some geographic diversity as well.
JENNIFER BROWN: Sure.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: If you’re having trouble doing it yourself, figure out how you can get help. That too, just continuing to do that. We’re always learning, and this stuff isn’t necessarily getting easier, so I think people need to recognize that until their own network is extremely diverse, they have to continually be getting creative in the way that they source folks to get involved in what they’re doing.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I want audience members to really understand if it’s done right there is not a penalty for being explicit about these goals. Having these goals and wanting better representation and wanting to have, like you just point out, more interesting discussions because inevitably it really is. It offers the opportunity for more people in any audience to see themselves in the stories and in the people, they’re seeing on stage. That’s so important.
So much of this is you’ve got to see it to believe it as we talk about so much on The Will to Change. A lot of us didn’t have those role models and I think going back to the conversation about perfectionism, I think we do feel that compulsion to be perfect because we are the first, because we are the only. There’s so much pressure on us to not only make ourselves look good but make everybody that comes after us look good as well so we can’t fail. We work 150% all the time because we’re so grateful to be there because we understand that nobody else has gotten there, you know?
To me the perfectionism is not just some random choice we make or a habit, it’s literally a product of being the only. I do think that we’re more careful. We exhaust ourselves. We make sure we’re unassailable, but no human is unassailable. If we had held male leaders to that standard, I don’t know how many leaders would still be standing. I wish I could fix this imposter syndrome perfectionist piece in women.
I struggle with it myself, but at least I know to spot it when it happens, and I try to consciously let go. I say to myself, “I know more than enough about this topic.” Talk about mastery, right? We love what is it, who’s book is it, 10,000 hours indicates mastery?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Malcolm Gladwell.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, Malcolm Gladwell. I’m like I have more than enough mastery. I have everything I need. I don’t need to try harder. I don’t need to do more research. I don’t need to make the case 10 more ways. Being an entrepreneur of course, you know, helps give you a voice. Unlike any other experience you know you have to struggle through this stuff, and you’ve got to lead a bunch of people towards an exciting vision and you don’t have time for perfectionism. But that doesn’t mean that every female founder doesn’t struggle with some of these toxic behaviors that we’ve absorbed too.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I think the big part here is when things do go wrong, which they will, to not look at it as a catastrophe and to not associate what you do with who you are and your worth which is very hard to do especially if you’re really ambitious or you love what you do. If something happens like if an event doesn’t go well that you’ve organized, don’t now transfer into I am bad at events. No, I feel like I’m bad at events. You could say that, “I feel like this,” to not take it on as an identity or to really admit that you made decisions based on the information and experiences that you’ve had at that time, now what can you learn moving forward? Just chart progress in small ways. That’s a really good thing.
Maybe you still suffer from the perfectionist and the imposter syndrome, which we all probably will forever, not to be dramatic about it, but if that’s how we socialize the chances that we’re going to undo it completely are pretty slim. But you could chart progress in well before when I would feel like something was a catastrophe maybe I’d feel it for a full day. But now I feel it for a half day.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, that’s progress.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Right. Not beating yourself up because then you’re judging yourself first and then you’re adding another layer of judgment on top of it. Just know, this is where I’m at and I’m going to see what are the ways I have progressed even if they’re small.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. We always talk about amongst women, let’s fix each other’s crowns. I love that image, if it’s tilted a little to the side, I’m going to straighten it for you. I’m going to help you whether you see it or not, publicly or privately, I think we have to coach each other when we see each other going into these behavioral spirals. I love what you said, that progress can look so many different ways and even dismantling some of that perfectionism even in small ways is a huge leap forward for all of us.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: We almost don’t have any time left but one more question I had for you, have you thought about the inclusion of men or involvement of male leaders in your conferences? Is there some new behaviors and patterning and practice that could occur? Men are the other part of the equation that’s as we try to show up differently, we need cooperation and support and understanding from those on the other side of the table and often that is our male colleagues. We can do all the changing, but the changing isn’t going to stick. It’s the push and pull, right?
We can push, push, it’s the Lean In Sheryl Sandberg, show up differently and everybody will see you differently and you’ll see yourself differently. Well, not exactly. Do you think about how are we going to address the behaviors that either encourage us to be empowered or continue to squash the empowerment intentionally or not?
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah. I think obviously, real change isn’t going to happen until the people at the top make it happen. The reason we focus on women is we can’t wait for the people at the top. Not to say that we’re inciting a coup or revolution here, but if you want to affect change you have to figure out how you can do it. That means you might not be the leader. You’ve got to do something or have some kind of agency in your life. We’re very focused on, from a more grassroots level, how women can rise up at work. But again, acknowledging that it’s going to require buy in from leadership which tend to be men.
But what we do, at least right now, is we’re helping the women at companies advocate for themselves as opposed to us coming in and working as like a D&I consultant or us helping management have structural change. That’s not really our expertise. We’re really more about giving our community the tools and the talking points to do that. Again, right now the focus is on women, moving forward who knows but probably we’d be better served to simply partner with another group who’s focus is specifically on working with management to make change. Working with men so that we’re working with men so that they become allies. For now, we’re not particularly in that world but that doesn’t mean it isn’t massively important which it absolutely is.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s great. There are more and more conferences growing where it’s just targeted for men and it is about this conversation but through their eyes.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: We’re getting there.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: I should mention, everything has to be done with empathy. Absolutely, even if you’re upset the only way that you’re going to really be able to communicate with somebody is if you can see it in their eyes and so that you can speak to the things that they may be concerned about when you try to get what you want. It’s almost like help them help you and the best way to do that is to see it from their lens.
JENNIFER BROWN: Claire, tell us where we can find more information about you, your conference, tell us about your book quickly that is next year, I think, coming out hopefully. But tell us how to find your thought leadership and for those folks here that are interested in the conference where can they find out more.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: First check us out at LadiesGetPaid.com. It’s totally free to join. Go to LadiesGetPaid.com/join. When you join, you’ll get our newsletter but also access to that slack group that you mentioned earlier. This is a place where literally 30,000 women are sharing advice and resources and jobs. That’s great and that’s free. If you want to learn about the conference, there’s a tab at the top of the website you can click on. You can also go directly to GetMoney-GetPaid.com. I haven’t picked the date for the next one yet, but most likely it will be October 2019. As for my book, I’m working hard on it. I should be done with my manuscript by summer, wish me luck.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, I do.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Yeah, it turns out that these book sellers, these distributors they order their books way in advance, so it isn’t like you just write a book and it goes to print. It can take upwards of nine months to actually get it onto book shelves.
JENNIFER BROWN: By then this will be an even bigger topic. We’re not slowing down.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Maybe, hopefully, we’ve elected a female president.
JENNIFER BROWN: Look at that.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: It will be interesting to see how the conversation continues to morph. But in the meantime, just to stay updated with all the things I’m doing. I’ve got to give a shout out to my Instagram which is ClaireWassermanXO. My book publisher said that would probably be a good idea if I increase my following. But no, really, I’m going to start to do Instagram stories that basically take my classes and make them digestible and we’ll be calling that office hours so that I can spread more of this thought leadership to more people.
JENNIFER BROWN: Claire, thank you for everything you’ve created. It’s so important. I’m loving it. I hope I can be on that stage someday and contribute and just feel the energy that I’m sure is in that room. We’re just here to support you and what you’re creating. Thank you so much for joining me.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Oh, thank you. Yes, I’m saying it publicly, let’s talk about getting you on that stage.
JENNIFER BROWN: I would love it.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Public accountability, giving me a platform to talk about this. I think a way to help other women is again, simply ask how can I promote what you’re doing because even if you post just on Facebook that somebody has an organization or an event, listen you don’t know who is going to end up showing up and possibly changing their life, really. Helping other people can be small and simply by giving them a platform to speak up goes a long way, so you’ve done that for me and I’m extremely appreciative.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you Claire. Thank you so much. May we change the world with some of these ideas. Thanks for joining me.
CLAIRE WASSERMAN: Awesome. Thanks so much. Bye Jennifer.
- Influencing the Systems We’re In, with Egon Zehnder's US Head of DEI Dede Orraca-Cecil
- Trust in Action: How Inclusive Leaders Can Create a Better World with Author Jim Massey
- Designing for Identity, with Author Jessica Bantom
- Amplifying Diverse Voices at Hearst Television: ERG Business Impact with Elfi Martinez and Yasmine Osborne
- Meeting the Moment: Navigating DEI Challenges in 2023 and Beyond with Jennifer and JBC's Elfi Martinez