Last week, I had the honor of attending the Ellevate Mobilize Women’s Summit in NYC. Imagine a room filled with 600 women from all walks of life – coming together to be inspired, to motivate each other and to make meaningful connections.
Well, that is what I imagined but it was so much more than that. I have pages upon pages upon pages of notes that highlight powerful words of wisdom, personal examples of women rising up, challenging perspectives to stop and think about, and more. And on top of that, I met some of the warmest, most inviting group of women too.
When I say game changer, the Ellevate Mobilize Women’s Summit was just that for me and I am guessing safe to say for the vast majority of women who came too.
One area in particular that stuck with me is this concept of Closing the Confidence Gap and the nuances between men and women. Caroline Feeney, CEO of Individual Solutions at Prudential, provided interesting perspective around the dynamics of how the gaps we have in challenges have much bigger implications for our longer-term health and well-being.
The Confidence Gap is as you would expect, speaks to the fact that women are typically less self-assured than men and this difference can significantly impact our ability to be successful in both our roles and in overall leadership. Being confident can pay dividends in our futures and while not an easy switch to flip, is critical for women to overcome.
Caroline suggests that for us to be able to do this, women have to stop trying to be one of the guys and be their true authentic selves in life – and in leadership. This is a philosophy that I speak on professionally too – we cannot keep trying to be the older, white man at the top of the shop. We are women – we are not old, white men! The more we break down the belief that this is the gold standard, the more our chances to overcome and see equality in our lifetimes. (Enough on my soap box there…)
We can learn many things from men including the fact that sponsorship is an important part of anyone’s success. We can learn to speak up more quickly and stop other people from getting the credit for our ideas or getting them vocalized first. We can stop going after roles where we are 100% qualified and go after roles where we are mostly qualified to give us room to grow. And we can learn to be confident and proud of our contributions – and vocalize them – instead of assuming that if we keep our heads down, the rest will follow.
Women, unfortunately, have many disadvantages in the workforce. According to Caroline, we have 4 major gaps that will play into our long-term futures:
Gap 1 - time: Women spend nearly 28 hours a week doing unpaid work (ie caregiving, household duties, etc. which is 65% greater than working men.
Gap 2 - wages: The average women earns $0.81 to the $1 men earn. This gap widens significantly when you look at women of color too.
Gap 3 - longevity: Most women live over 6 years longer than men.
Gap 4 - investments: Women tend to invest significantly less than men which reduces our ability to make up for the gender pay gap. Women also keep 71% of their equity in cash and on average will have saved 43% less than men for retirement.
So not only do we have a confidence gap emotionally that we have to focus on, we also have a financial gap that we need to tackle to ensure our long-term ability to thrive. Wowza!
How do we overcome?
Caroline suggests that we do an honest self-assessment on our assets first. Do basic research including looking at online tools, using an online advisor or even hiring a financial advisor if we don’t have the time or knowhow to do it ourselves. We have to start somewhere to ensure that we have a place to land now and in the future.
Whether it is advancement, equal pay or financial security, it is clear that women face different challenges than men. Rather than pretend we are all on equal ground, it is imperative that we talk about this with each other. We collectively have to come together to solve these issues and if we’ve been able to overcome any of these, it is our duty to give back and mentor other women who are still working to solve for these gaps.
So, let’s be advocates for each other – and find ways that we can all #riseup to greatness.