How to Be The Change You Want To See

It’s not often that we are inspired to create change because change isn’t easy.  This has been particularly apparent during this recent period of unprecedented change – across politics and post-truth to activism around #metoo, white privilege and #BlackLivesMatter to new and evolving social norms, like gender fluidity.

These important issues were explored in the recent Mobilize Women, Ellevate Network Summit. Here are 7 key take-aways from the dynamic speakers and role models to give you powerful inspiration to help create the type of world that you want to live in by finding your voice.


In every challenging situation is an opportunity to discover more.  Caroline Feeney, CEO of Individual Solutions at Prudential Financial shared how to close the confidence gap that women often experience.  As one of two women in a training cohort of 1,200, she learned to ask herself, “what am I learning from each experience?”  Her advice to her younger self would be to have more confidence and trust in myself.


Neuroscience research is now proving our ability to change our mindset. Sian Beilock, President of Barnard College and a cognitive scientist, noted “how we think matters.”  We have the ability to tell ourselves that nervous sweating before a big event can be our body’s way of helping us perform better rather than meaning that we will fail.   Young Taylor Richards (aka Astronaut StarBright) inspires others that “no matter where you come from and what you look like, you can accomplish anything.”  Following mentors and role models allowed her to believe in her passions and translate that into a way to make a difference for other kids by becoming a STEM advocate.


Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the Obama Foundation, discovered that corporate law was not really her thing when the life she thought she was supposed to live wasn’t turning out the way she hoped.  She ultimately pivoted to find great satisfaction in public service where she could become an advocate for others.  Susan Lee, Chief People Officer at SeatGeek, noted that organizations that put INCLUSION FIRST help everyone find a place to develop and succeed.  While Hannah Beachler, the first African American to win an Academy Award for production design, emphasized the importance of “finding the people you want to work with.  Find your door or make your own door. Look for those who can support you and your vision! Who do you want to surround yourself with? There really is no separation between who you are and how you live your life.”


We can’t do it alone… we need our tribe.  Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest and Chair of Ellevate, noted that research shows that men succeed because of their network’s ability to raise up everyone.  Women need both a strong network and a solid “squad”, a smaller group they can share challenges with to get perspective and insights.  Emily Ladau, a disability rights activist, discovered her community on Twitter and recommended it as a resource.  “Look for others who are grappling with the issues that are important to you,” she recommended.  Find your people so you don’t feel isolated.  Many of the speakers highlighted the importance of building allies – whether mentors, friends, colleagues or partners – to have key people that can support you and be on your side.


To create change, and in driving a social movement in particular, we need to be “willing to take the truth with you everywhere,” said DeRay Mckesson, which can be quite hard in practice when the desire for comfort becomes more important as people gain more recognition and visibility.  Truth is power – “we wait for people to speak the truth that we’re supposed to speak.  It’s a decision to speak the choice, it’s not instinctual,” said truth-teller Luvvie Ajayi.  Once we remain quiet, no one is uncovering what’s really going on and it can become a slippery slope to systems falling apart.


“You get what you negotiate, not what you believe,” was an important truth shared by Sallie Krawcheck which was proven by Elizabeth Rowe, principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who filed an Equal Pay lawsuit against the Boston Symphony orchestra and won. She discovered that knowledge was power as she learned what her male peers were earning and found the opportunity to pursue her claim as the laws changed.  Keep in mind that “it’s none of your business what other people say about you,” when you need to stay positive according to Adama Iwu, a lobbyist and activist who initiated changes in how legislators treat women.


Speaking truth to power isn’t going to be easy for sure, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop going after what matters. “Take the fear and use it!  It’s a practice to learn how to take it in stride and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt – we’re human. I get up to fight another day and try to see the good,” Adama Iwu noted. 

I found Hannah Beachler’s message to those who doubted her particularly inspiring: “I am here. Get used to it!  You will see more women who look like me, not just break the ceiling, but throw myself into the building to break it down so we can rebuild it again.”  I, for one, am thankful for the many powerful role models who keep clearing a path and setting an example of what is possible to help us adapt to the challenges we are facing to create positive changes.


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