As a Leadership Atlanta graduate (Class of 2017 – “The Class”), I have the privilege of attending the organization’s annual Women’s Forum. At last year’s forum I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion of “Women Breadwinners,” which was a pivotal time that helped position me for my 2019 quest to better understand the role of money and power dynamics in relationships.
The second annual Women’s Forum took place this year and focused on “Preparing the Next Generation of Women for Success.” It was a phenomenal event moderated by the incomparable Monica Pearson. I grew up with Monica in my living room each night on “Channel Two Action News,” so seeing her in her element interviewing a panel of college and university presidents was awe-inspiring.
The presidents in attendance represented four very different institutions and, not coincidentally, were all women:
- Spelman College – Mary Schmidt
- Atlanta Technical College – Victoria Seals
- Emory University – Claire Sterk
- Kennesaw State University – Pamela Whitten
Given the diversity of student demographics in each institution, it was particularly interesting to hear the leaders’ philosophies around the next generation of women students and their trends. The speakers shared a wealth of valuable insights and ideas – no surprise, from such a distinguished panel of leaders. Amidst my fangirl adulation, I was able to take away three core lessons that we all should remember:
First, we ALL (female and male) have an obligation to help mentor and sponsor the next generation. That’s the only way women are going to continue to get a seat at the table and be able to be a part of big decisions. Sponsoring someone, vouching for them and advocating on their behalf behind the scenes is critical.
Next, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Embrace your own unique skills and leadership. I have watched my own personal evolution with this. In the financial advisory space, I hear the cliché “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel” at least on a weekly basis. Everyone is striving to follow what the “top dog” is doing from a business standpoint, as well as behavior. This does not bode well for women advisors, as there have not been many female high-producing advisors. For myself, this has forced me to just embrace who I am and what I’m about. I’ve spent over 30 years worrying about what everyone thinks about my leadership style and everything else that goes along with this. Maybe it’s the industry… or maybe just being in my 40’s, but I’ve come to peace with this.
Lastly, and in many ways most importantly, someone brought up the fact that it’s important for white women to sponsor women of color. She stated that this is critical to ensure they have a seat at the table in the board room, to represent greater diversity of person and thought.
Ironically, Ms. Whitten was quick to say that she “didn’t speak for all white women.” Her ability to do this casually and effectively highlighted an earlier point in the panel that Ms. Seals had made about black women having to represent black women everywhere. Her mistakes would be an embarrassment and tarnish the role of black women in general. “Women of color have to represent all women of that color.” If they fail, that failure embarrasses “their family,” or all women of that race.
This final point brought the amazing event full circle and served as proof of one of the reasons why so many of us love the graduates of Leadership Atlanta: We aren’t afraid to embrace the tough discussions.
Meredith Moore is a 20-year veteran of the financial advisory industry who specializes in bringing a customized approach to support the highly personal dynamics that govern her clients’ relationship with money and success. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards and a noted speaker and writer focusing on the intersection of power, money, and gender within relationships. Ms. Moore can be reached at www.artisanfsonline.com.
Artisan Financial Strategies, 1125 Cambridge Square, Suite C, Alpharetta, GA 30009 (770) 587-0281. Learn how to take control of your financial life and discover what makes women’s financial planning needs such a unique challenge with our free, white paper: https://www.artisanfsonline.com/.19.htm