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Women professionals advocate action at Ellevate Summit

NOW is the time for women to own our power.

Women are driven, focused and expect equal treatment. They don’t need to be empowered, they have plenty of power already – and NOW is the time to use it to overcome gender inequality.

That was the message at last week’s Ellevate Network Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit where founders, activists and business leaders gathered to be inspired and to share winning strategies for change. Ellevate Chair Sallie Krawcheck and team rallied a community of speakers from global organizations, non-profits, startups – even the UFC and NFL – to help participants put inspiring words into result-driven actions.

Here are 6 takeaways to mobilize yourself and your business, leveling the stage for the next generation.

1. Learn through doing.

An innovation ‘must.’ Alexandra Friedman, Co-Founder of LOLA, an all-organic, home-delivery feminine care product line, shares that taking early action and overcoming fear of the unknown is essential when launching new products.

“Pick one idea and move it forward, learn as you go – confidence comes from doing.”

2. Embrace setbacks.

Alison Levine – mountain climber, leadership consultant and NY Times best-selling author of On the Edge – says to not only expect, but embrace setbacks.

“We’re not a very failure-tolerant society. It prevents people from taking risks, but sometimes you have to go backwards for a bit in order to get where you want to be.  It’s an opportunity to regroup [and] get back on track.  Backing up is not the same as backing down.”

Same for those unexpected emergencies, said Gigi Lee Chang, founder of Plum Organics, an organic, non-GMO baby food brand.

“Think practically.  There’s always tomorrow.  Whatever fires happen, you will get back to that To-Do list tomorrow.”

3. Collaborate with competitors.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but Ellevate participants spoke openly about rallying with the competition to expand opportunities and close the earnings gap.  For the bigger win, there’s strength in numbers, said Michelle Waterson, MMA fighter with the UFC.

“When it comes to the other female fighters, we’re competitors, but we’re not.  We’re more alike than we are different.  We need to band together as professional athletes and we should be treated as such; equally.  I even talk to the guys about what they make.  It’s not taboo anymore.  This is your career.”

4. Be authentic.

Avoid the “be more like a man” trap, says Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, a humanitarian organization that offers social and economic support for marginalized women in Iraq, Syria and 6 other conflict-affected countries.

“We were taught to lead like a man – we did that and we’ve hit the ceiling.  We need to lead like women. We need to be authentic and use our own individual voices.”

And the dreaded “how are you managing your work-life balance?” question start-up moms hear?  Shut. It. Down. Focus on what you’re giving to your business, says Jas Booth – army veteran, mom and founder of Final Salute, Inc, a transitional housing non-profit for homeless women veterans.

“People think because you’re a wife and mother, you’re sacrificing something.  That’s not how I view it.  I don’t view my life like a pie chart.  My balance is giving 100% in that moment.”

5. Learn how to sell yourself.

Founders know it’s important to assess their own strengths and leverage partners where they need improvement, but there’s one thing most agree you can’t dish off:  the pitch.

Alexandra Friedman says:

“Building a business requires a lot of skills and knowledge not one person has, so you need to find helpers to plug those gaps.  But you must learn how to sell yourself.  Be ready to take that on.  If that’s a skill you haven’t developed yet, figure out how to gain that skill.  Investors expect you to advocate for your business well.”

6. The next generation is already rewriting the rules. Get on board.

A new era of gender equality is already in progress and our job is to enable it, says Jas Booth.

“This is the time to do anything like a girl.  We can lead, cure, create, make money like a girl.  We’re past the point of gender marginalization.”

Past the point and maybe we should be done talking about it, says Nithya Das, SVP/General Counsel leading the diversity and inclusion efforts for AppNexus, the event’s host. Das says that kids don’t see gender bias unless the adults who grew up with it, introduce it.

“The landscape is shifting for kids, it’s much more gender equal.  Taking gender bias out of the discussion at an early age is important.  As parents, we have to support this mindset shift.”

The Ellevate Summit was a great one-stop-shop for the biz success kit, full of tools and advice for thriving women in business. How are you reaching your next big goal? Share your winning ways below!