Rich AND Happy!

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PINK’s Signature 11th Annual Fall Empowerment Event changed me. As an Emory University senior, I had many questions about the issues regarding women in the workplace, and this event gave me the support and answers I was seeking.

On Monday October 19th, top corporate executives gathered at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta Hotel to discuss how women can build confidence and create significant career advancement.

What surprised me the most is the new value women are putting on pay! With the pay gap at its narrowest since 1960, women still earn 21 cents on the dollar. Randstad’s newly released Engagement Study data shows that for women, money trumps happiness! Fewer women than men would “give up $10,000 a year to be happier.” 

This year on our distinguished panel, we directly included men in the dialogue by having a top male leader join the conversation to articulate his rationale and best practices for women in the workplace. In this supportive environment, we were able discuss solutions to the pressing issues facing women today.

Ann-Marie Campbell, southern division president of The Home Depot, recounted advice that her teacher had told her when she was 10 years old. “Show up, keep up, speak up.” Only through building that internal confidence, and recognizing that knowledge is power, can you become successful. Ann-Marie would know. Unlike most women, her career skyrocketed. She advanced from her first job as a Home Depot cashier 30 years ago to become southern division president of the $60 billion dollar company today! She’s also on the board of directors of Barnes & Noble and the Potbelly Corporation.

Our one (token) male on the panel, Bill Burke, COO of Newell Rubbermaid, who occasionally blushed during the conversation, shared words of wisdom encouraging everyone to “start seeing people as individuals, not a gender,” because the sooner we start doing that “the better off we’ll all be.”

The women panelists are used to being the only female leader in the room. Even though being in room full of executive men is difficult, Tami Barron, CEO of SouthernLINC Wireless sees it as an advantage. Being the only woman in the room provides the opportunity to stand out and present a different perspective. “Women need to self-promote,” adds Linda Galipeau, CEO of Randstad North America, and “to be honest with yourself at what you’re great at and also what you’re not so great at.” Women also have a tendency to be cautious, too “afraid of falling down,” says Linda. She emphasizes that women need to be taking more risks in their careers. Only with high risk can there be high reward.

When moderator and CBS46 morning Anchor Gloria Neal, asked about leadership style, Alison Lewis, CMO of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, says she strives to be an authentic leader. “I want to be the same person at work as I am at home. If you lead from within with who you are, you can bring out the best in people.” She adds that “the boss has to earn his or her bossdom” and that every person has disparate ways of leading different teams. It’s up to each individual leader to discover what they can offer to earn respect.

Data supports that companies with more women in key executive level jobs perform better financially. Panelists recognized the significant, multidimensional value of diversity. “The more women at the table, the easier it is” for other women to advance says Ann-Marie. She urged the 300 attendees to reach out a helping hand to other women in their industry, for only with collaboration can we elevate women’s empowerment in the workplace.

Audience questions included professional dancer and teacher, Desiree Nathanson’s query about why women have such a hard time taking a compliment. Bill says the same issue applies to men. The crowd was advised to get over it and accept positive feedback. Agnes Scott student Jessica Wise asked how to be authentic and bring your full self to the office if that includes wearing a hijab or talking about racism. Ann-Marie advised her and other millennials to share their views while being “inclusive.”

Panelists talked about the most pressing issues that keep them awake at night. “Delivering results. Making sure people feel good about the company,” said Bill. “Not becoming obsolete on the digital side,” added Linda. “Caring for my elderly parents and kids,” said Ann-Marie. Following this line of questioning, PINK CEO Cynthia Good and her friend, photographer and choreographer Bubba Carr got the entire crowd up and dancing to the tune of “Happy.” Later Cynthia asked how many in the ballroom were still thinking about the pressing issues that keep them up nightly. Not a single hand was raised.

Finally, Gloria asked the panelists, “What do you do to unplug?” Linda defines unplugging as “slowing down.” How does she do this? “Internet shopping!” Tami, an empty nester and one of the few women leaders in the telecommunications industry, comically shares that to unplug from her job, she likes to “walk around the house naked.”

The event taught me that in our high-stress careers, we need to take uncertain risks in the workplace as well as time for ourselves outside of work. Finding that work-life balance will help you live at your happiest. So, as I head out into the working world in just a few months, because of the wisdom shared on a Monday afternoon, I will step up for opportunities even if I’m not 100 percent ready and a little afraid. I’ll be more willing to reach out to leaders at the company where I land for support and guidance; and I may even accept a compliment.

By Celia Lee
Main photo by Bubba Carr[slideshow_deploy id=’30679’]

For more photos from the event, check out:

P.S. Thanks again to our wonderful sponsors who make such dialogue possible! Thanks to InterContinental Hotels Group, Southern Company, The Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, Rigby & Peller, Randstad, Georgia State University Robinson College of Business, Melt, Mighty Leaf Tea, SunTrust, Printing for Less, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, Everywhere Agency, and Greenberg Traurig.

“It’s possible to find that thing that makes you come alive, able to express who you really are, so you can dance to success!” Cynthia Good, CEO PINK

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