International Women’s Day 2018: Press for Progress Event Recap

Monika Black, Kayte Malik, Priya Shah, Beth Sehgal, Jessica Papilla, Melissa Healy at Leo Burnett for International Women’s Day

by Lidia Varesco Racoma, Photography by Anna Olsztynska

On Thursday, March 8, 2018—International Women’s Day—over 200 women and men gathered at Leo Burnett in Chicago to discuss how we can collectively press forward and progress gender parity; how we can motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

The event began with Melissa Healy (SVP Group Creative Director at ?Leo Burnett) presenting a powerful new campaign called We Are Unstoppable. Developed here in Chicago, the campaign aims to eliminate sexual harassment in the advertising industry. (Learn more and add your name in solidarity here

About the panel

The panel was made up of women working in the corporate, nonprofit and startup sectors, and was moderated by Jessica Papilla (Data Analyst at Leo Burnett).

Monika Black, PhD, CPC | Chief Strategy Officer at DyMynd

Kayte MalikCEO and Co-founder of Dresscode

Beth Sehgal, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion for A.T. Kearney

Priya ShahFounder and Executive Director of The Simple Good

Q1. What is the importance of gender-based leadership and gender parity?

Everyone has to be represented at the table. (Monika Black)

Women are designed to run the world and the time to do it is now. There is no “i” in “empowerment,” but there is one in “collective.” (Monika Black)

More women in boardrooms = more money for investors. (Monika Black)

There is a whole sea of people ready to jump with you—but we all have to be seen and recognized. (Monika Black)

Women need to invest in other women to drive the change we want. (Kayte Malik)

It’s up to us to financially invest in other women who can make that change. We need to recognize what we can do with (and for) each other. (Kayte Mailk)

Q2. What is the importance of having a female role model? Who is your role model and how do they influence you?

Find people who look or think like you. Conversations like this [the one we are having at this event] make it easier to find female role models in business. (Kayte Malik)

The first female board member at my firm helped me see the path forward and expand my view of myself, what I’m capable of and what I can do. She demonstrated things she did that were trailblazing. (Beth Sehgal)

My mom—mothers embody much of your identity whether you like it or not. Her small acts of kindness makes up all of me, I carry it with me and in the work I do. A mother’s love is not shown in everyone’s upbringing, so I try to show it every day in my work and pass it on to the youth we serve. (Priya Shah)

I struggle with this due to my family upbringing and situation. In my late 20s, I found mentors and realized every woman’s story has something in it to move her forward (even someone you need in everyday life). These stories tell me I have a choice to pivot, stay or stand up for someone. I see mentoring becoming intergenerational and love being around millennials. (Monika Black

Q3. How are you holding doors open to create an inclusive and empowered future for women?

Sponsorship—there is reciprocity in the relationship; if she wins, you win. Consider how you support and encourage women coming up behind or beside you. Create a safe space for them to take risks. Advocate for them when they are not there, to create the exposure they need. Help them build their networks. Expand their idea of why they are and what they are capable of. (Beth Sehgal)

My call to action is: Who are you going to sponsor? Who will you seek out to hold open the door for you? (Beth Sehgal)

Beth also mentioned the book, The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. 

I’m in the unique position of building a company from scratch. Don’t be afraid to say you messed up—create a safe space,. Take that risk, that’s what you’re here for. (Kayte Mailk)

We know what joy is and we have freedom in our expression of joy. You need joy to fuel this world. Capture joyful moments—help everyone know how to find their joy. Fuel the joy forward—it will move quicker than any deficits. Joy blows the door open! Be open to the diversity of expression of joy, respect it as the fullness of each person’s humanity. (Monika Black)

Q4. How will you press for progress?

It’s OK to be ambitious but you have to look and listen to what others are doing and their ambitions. You’re not right all the time. (Kayte Mailk)

If we go to an event featuring women (i.e. show, game, etc.) the men will follow. It starts with us. (Priya Shah)

Keep the gender parity mindset to create real transformation and lasting change. Think about how do we engage men to challenge privilege and unconscious/conscious bias? (Beth Sehgal)

Audience Q&A: How do you find your community?

Find a diverse community that offers different perspectives on decision-making (Priya Shah).

Use LinkedIn to see “who is connected to who” and who can make a soft introduction. (Kayte Malik)

Audience Q&A: What are challenges/biases for women of color and how can we overcome them?

Turn it into an asset. I have turned every adversity into an asset. Own your character and cultural strengths and they can’t use it against you. Take it back. Play your own game. Set your own rules. People will want to plat YOUR game. (Monika Black)

You have the ability to connect with different types of people and cultures, and this is an asset to be leveraged in the corporate world. You can drive more empathy in corporate culture. (Priya Shah)

Try to have conversations and understand people all throughout your career. (Kayte Mailk)

Sponsorship! (Beth Sehgal, see more of her thoughts about sponsorship above)

Audience Q&A: How will you implement these larger goals on a daily basis?

Walk through the door together—or reach around and create another door. Be a part of bringing someone’s day UP. (Monika Black)

Ask yourself: What is the simple good you did today for another woman? (Compliment, help, offer backup) Make it a habit. (Priya Shah)

Share information (an article, post, etc) to someone who may benefit from it—knowledge is power. (Kayte Malik)

Model inclusive behavior for men and women. Amplify the voice of someone who may not be heard. Stack the deck to your aspiration—provide opportunity to all. (Beth Sehgal)

Speaker takeaways

The speakers were just as inspired as the attendees! Here are some of their takeaways from the evening’s discussion.

Women have what we need, in this moment and for these times! We are surrounded by so many incredible women with smart and brilliant souls. The panelists, the participants, the women shouting out from the back, everyone is ready to move and to press forward. It is simply time for each woman to lead from where she is at, to take count each step that she takes for herself as a step forward for the collective. –Monika Black

The evening felt so powerful. It made me feel that if we could bring that collective power where ever we go, we can really change this world for the better. I felt inspired that this was the direction of where we were going. —Priya Shah

Closing thoughts

SheSays Chicago leader Jennifer Lemerand had these inspiring closing thoughts: You never know how you’ll make an impact on someone.

This event truly was an example of how someone’s words can make an impact on you and your life. I know I walked away with so much positivity and inspiration, and have been reaching out to the speakers to thank them personally.

How will you make an impact in another woman’s life today?


Thank you to Leo Burnett and WomanKind for hosting, to Melissa Healy for working with SheSays Chicago for the third year in a row on IWD, to Ascend Training for their raffle donation of two classes, to The Daily Planet for their gift donations for our speakers, and to all of the women and men for joining the conversation. 

To continue our press for progress, our raffle donor Ascend Training is offering a custom SheSays 50% Discount for anyone that enrolls in one of the following classes before April 30th. Use code SHESAYS18.

Note that these classes do not need to take place before April 30th; rather, participants just need to register to lock in the discounted SheSays pricing.  Payment in full is due prior to the first day of class.

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