By Maddie Handler, Guest Writer
Finding people with a similar mindset or outlook is something that resonates with most Thunderbirds. It’s like a support group of like-minded individuals that aren’t afraid to say the same things you were always thinking. For me, the feeling of being in a room with powerful, feminine, and perfectly imperfect women looking to make a change is a fit all its own.
I found this when I attended the recent Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference, a world-renowned, annual conference series dedicated to increasing the flow of capital towards social impact and sustainability. The event is always held in San Francisco and is the leading gathering for impact investors and social entrepreneurs. This year, in addition to their already incredible programs, SOCAP allowed a gathering of like-minded, socially responsible, and extraordinary women to discuss the issue of male-dominated businesses. These women weren’t just CEOs, investors, and entrepreneurs, but also mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends, and wives. They were yogis and surfers, professional chefs and designers, and above all, queens of imperfection.
The “When Women Lead” forum at SOCAP created a safe haven for women like me to reflect on my successes and consider ways to further propel myself forward with the support of a movement of feminine leaders. One of the most important lessons from this gathering was that being feminine is NOT a bad thing. Women in the workplace shouldn’t feel stigmatized for wearing dresses, becoming pregnant, having periods, and messing up. Just because traditional business seems to dictate that the most powerful leaders must be cold, heartless men in suit shells, doesn’t mean that this is the reality we have to live in. There is a shift occurring, whether we know it or not, and women are at the helm of this purpose-driven change.
Women that run businesses are often capable of orienting their organizational culture around multiple levels of purpose, whether it’s social, environmental, or even mental. This is evident in Kate Spade’s impact business in Rwanda and HigherRing’s B Corp-certified living wage clause. Along with this, a so-called “goddess mentality” harnesses the creatively-inclined, right-brained philosophy of many women and integrates this with the best parts of the more “masculine” left brain. These practices can be translated into business as dismantling business as usual. Rather than simply focusing on the economics and profits of business, we, women, can provide mental health spaces and family care. We can look after one another and care for people who may not be the of same race or sexuality, or speak the same language.
I guess my point here is this: the only way women can completely smash the “business as usual,” patriarchal system is if we harness our innate abilities that are afforded to us as females. We take the masculine paradigm and realize that we can turn it on its head. That is the way this world is going, so it’s up to us, as fierce ladies, to fuel that change that is already happening.
Maddie is a second-year student in the MAGAM program.