84 Empowering Female Founders: Why Collaboration and Connection Lifts Men Too
Learn why powerful women in business must learn to avoid “business as usual” and leverage authentic feminine traits such as inclusive collaboration and authentic connection. Beth Wilson, transformation coach to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and CEOs shares insights on the nature of transformational leadership and how women’s advancement can also lift men.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to WINGS, Beth.
Beth Wilson: Thank you, Melinda. It’s wonderful to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am excited to talk to you, because you’re helping so many women with your transformational coaching, and all those best selling books, my goodness, so many of them. What is it about our time now that’s inspiring and empowering so many women?
Beth Wilson: Well, I think we really are in a paradigm shift, and a lot of women are moving away from what I call the dominations’ system, and they’re starting to understand that there’s a life-affirming paradigm that is really much more natural to the feminine spirit. A lot of women are not only catching on to that, they’re learning how to express that, and how to move out of domination, because they don’t want to be [inaudible 00:07:04]. They want to work with others. They want to be in collaboration. They want to be in relationships. Women are relational creatures, and we join together and collaborate instead of compete; there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness. This is so true. I mean, it’s my why really, when I think about this podcast. I have seen in my career every time women are really competing with each other, or trying to force things, or acting like men because they thought they had to, to get ahead, it doesn’t work. There’s something inauthentic about it. There’s something … I don’t know, something that leads to stress and burnout or … I don’t know. It just doesn’t work in the end. Have you seen that in the course of your career as well? That there’s just something about that when we try and be dudes, it just doesn’t work.
Beth Wilson: Absolutely. I talk about that in my new book “The Recovering Feminist” because it’s not we’re recovering from feminism, it’s we’re recovering from the effects of the dominations’ system. And whenever women tried to emulate men or tried to be male imposters, it really doesn’t work, because women are these amazing, full, multi-faceted creatures. And we need to draw from all facets of what we are in order to be creative and powerful.
To start to compartmentalize ourselves in terms of thinking, “Oh, that’s how I was supposed to do it.” Or “This is the only road to success.” That’s absolutely not true, Melinda. You and I both know that our careers show that, and in my life coaching practice, I work with a lot of women who are really trying to move out of that, and back into their feminist strength or what I call, “Life-affirming paradigm strength”, because that’s where women want to be. They want balance in their lives. They want to be able to have personal relationships as well as professional success. You can’t have it all, but you sure can have a lot and we can sure have it better.
Melinda Wittstock: It means, though, really rewriting the rules, because if you’re in a corporate situation, or you’re a technology entrepreneur trying to raise venture money on Sand Hill Road, for instance, you’re fitting into this other paradigm, or you feel you have to, I think. How can women flip that if they’re in that situation? Do they have to walk away from that and create something new? Or can they start to flourish in their authentic feminine power within some of those old structures?
Beth Wilson: Well, I think it really varies. I mean, a lot of women are starting to question what innovation really looks like, and having lived in Silicon Valley for 22 years, I know that innovation is a really big buzzword, and it’s really important to these corporations. However, what I’m finding is when women get a grasp on understanding their competencies, their strength, the qualities and the talent that they bring, then they can start to speak to the managers, speak to the higher-ups, even the CEOs, and start to shape the language that these usually men, it’s not always men, but usually men understand in these structures. The men are starting to understand that innovation can look quite different and it has it’s benefit both for the individuals and the company.
Some women are absolutely changing with culture in companies. It is harder, it’s more challenging sometimes depending on the company. I happen to work for a wonderful high-tech company [inaudible 00:10:59] Technology, and it was actually created. I tell the story because it’s so fascinating to me, is it was created by three men, a Russian Jew, a man from India, and a Caucasian Stanford blue blood, okay? These three got together and what they decided was they hired women for every other position in the company, because they understood something intuitively about how women create culture. Their company was extremely successful because they let women run the show and teach them how to handle their people and their company better.
It is happening in certain places. I know this is a long answer to your question, but Silicon Valley at least has openings, and I think a lot of companies are starting to come around it, understand things like emotional intelligent. Women are masters of that. As they learn that these competencies, these talents are very valuable, they do change, but for some women I think it’s too frustrating, and yeah, as you said they have to walk away. It really depends.
Melinda Wittstock: I think of the woman who, the whistleblower, Uber who had to get out of that really oppressive broke culture, say in the tech scene. Or there’s so many women who are talented coders, but, oh, my goodness, their environment is toxic.
Beth Wilson: Well, I was just going to use that word. I think any organization or company when it gets toxic, I always recommend to my clients that they really take a look at the prices they’re paying and see if it’s worth it, because a lot these people are so talented. They could move into their own company. They’re great entrepreneurs. A lot of them have husbands who will put up the seed money, or husbands who really believe in their vision, and they’ll help them fund it. Some of them happen to have husbands who are VCs. And so they can draw from other men, or women in the community, or even GoFundMe. Women are really innovative and creative, and so a lot of these women that I’ve seen moving out of that toxic environment, they’ve created completely different companies with a lot of support from other people in their lives.
Melinda Wittstock: Isn’t it interesting that all of a sudden too, we had the #MeToo Movement last year, where I don’t know if you had this realization as well, but there were so many women that I knew that I didn’t know that they also had a “me too” moment, right?
Beth Wilson: Righty.
Melinda Wittstock: All looking around and then the suddenly it’s like there’s this strength in numbers, and at the same time there were a whole bunch of new venture funds started by women for women. I’m thinking about Susan Lyne Built by Girls, Female Founders Fund and ElleVest. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of these …
Beth Wilson: Yes, ElleVest right.
Melinda Wittstock: All of a sudden, out of the blue. Do you think the pace of change is picking up? Are we in some sort of quantum change period?
Beth Wilson: Yes, Melinda. I think we are absolutely in a quantum leap here, or as they say a paradigm here. I think we’ve hit that critical math. I think the fear factor is going down. I love it when this happens because it’s not that we haven’t been hearing about this for years. When I worked with the UN to combat human trafficking, I had that moment where I was helping them with media and to connect the issues to media and I thought, “Oh, my God. It’s going to be centuries before we really get traction here.” It just seemed like it was so slow and there was so much resistance, but I tell you, with more and more people pushing on it, and it just sometimes takes one defining moment like the Harvey Weinstein said, “One defining moment will push it over the edge.” That’s what I think is so exciting is women’s critical moment is here, and now we’re leaders who and becoming leaders who get to shape a new way of doing business.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, it’s interesting too. Even in the realm of politics. Now, this is a business show, but given the fact that you were in Congress for a while, you were a congressional aide, when you think of what’s all going on there, do you believe that this is the year of the woman? Do you think a lot of women are going to run for office this year? Is the house in the Senate entirely … Are they going to look completely different?
Beth Wilson: Well, I’ll tell you, EMILY’s List, and I don’t know if your audience knows who EMILY’s List is, but they should learn. EMILY’s List, is the organization that funds women candidates. They said their numbers are way up in terms of women running for office at every level, local all the way up to the national level, and the office said they are breaking records in terms of donations.
Years ago when I spent some time with Helena Kelley Hunt, who is part … She came out of the Hunt Dynasty, and bless her heart, she has dedicated her whole life to moving money to women, and she noticed as an heiress, that even her mother was giving money to her father’s [inaudible 00:16:42] that was the tradition. And so she broke with that tradition. She’s created organizations like Moving Millions and many others, and the Sister Fund. A lot of these have been there doing their work for decades, and now more and more women are starting to see that they can break with tradition, no matter what level of the income spectrum they’re on, and start to get women in office because they know that’s the way they have the changes that a lot of us want to see in this world.
Melinda Wittstock: This is so true. It’s really interesting. When women in any context find themselves in positions of power, what are some of the pitfalls? What are some of the ways in which we’re still getting in our own way and not really fully embracing the opportunity that’s right in front of us?
Beth Wilson: Well, is that a lot of women think that they have to do things a certain way, or they have to be male impostors. Thankfully, a number of women are looking different directions, and that’s part of the reason I wrote my book “The Recovering Feminist” empowering all people to create a whole world. There are ways to do this, and ways to think about this that are really important. We had talked about the idea of power, power with instead of power over. Also, women are learning that what they took as common sense is actually a competency. It’s an actual type of competency.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]If you can articulate what you bring to the table, then you’re often signing your own growth, you’re certainly signing your opportunities for advancement in companies or organizations even at the PTA meeting. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness [/tweet_box]
If women don’t realize and start to name and articulate what they bring to the table in terms of their competencies, their qualities, their skills, their talents, if we don’t have a new way to verbalize that, which I do touch on a lot in the book, then they keep getting stuck because they can’t properly describe especially to their male colleagues or what I would call domination systems-type colleague. If you can articulate what you bring to the table, then you’re often signing your own growth, you’re certainly signing your opportunities for advancement in companies or organizations even at the PTA meeting.
If people are not understanding what you bring to the table and how that can help their organization or company.
Melinda Wittstock: This comes up, this whole theme of personal branding, or being able to confidently talk about your aspirations, or your accomplishments, all the time on this podcast. In fact, one of my guests said that a lot of women confuse personal branding with personal bragging. I think at the root of this, there has to be some sort of fear there that somehow we won’t be accepted or we won’t be liked. Some people call it the tall poppy syndrome. What do you think it is that stops women from fully articulating their mission, their desire, or even talking about their accomplishments?
Beth Wilson: Well, Melinda, thank you so much for asking this question. It is a great question, and it’s a special question for women today, because one of the big things I find when I work in organizational consulting positions is that I find that women often feel shut down. When they do bring an idea up to a colleague, particularly, again, I’m going to go back, so it’s not split between genders, so I want to be really clear about that. It’s often split between individualistic and relational-type people.
When a person brings an idea to a more individualistic or hierarchical type of person, then often what they do is they go straight into devil’s advocate and they start to punch holes into the idea. Now, this is really important, Melinda because these people genuinely think they’re helping the woman out, but most often because 60% of women are relational, they’re not individualistically-minded, and therefore, they experience that your idea is lousy, there …
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, we take it personally. Whereas, if a guy says that to another guy, the guy’s not going to take it personally. It’s just business!
Beth Wilson: Well, not usually unless he’s a more relational-type male, because I coach a lot of men in companies who are more relationally-oriented like women, and they do experience this the same way as women. That’s something that important to look at. But you’re right. For women generally speaking 50% of them are relational and therefore, when they get whole sense in their arguments the devil’s advocate style, then they shut down. They come away, they make the assumption that their colleague thought the idea was lousy, when in fact, the colleague probably thought he was helping, and he was trying to strengthen the idea.
I learn this from Belinda Guthrie who teaches Santa Clara University, and she came up with something called, The Angel’s Advocate, which I absolutely love because that is women’s tendency, a more relational tendency of let’s brainstorm first with this idea, and then later we can start to punch holes in it and strengthen it. With women, if we often go into more of a collaborative, put your dream out, put your mission out, let’s build on it mode, then women do feel confident, then they feel heard, then they feel they can move forward.
But if they get devil’s advocate right after that it’s shuts them down and they’re sure that they were just told in a very roundabout way that their idea’s worthless. That’s a real problem.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it is. I think there’s another part of it, though, too, where often women … We don’t speak up until we think that our idea is perfect or perfectly formed. I see that all the time. The fastest way to really get that removed from your psyche is to become an entrepreneur, because your whole essence every day, that kind of up and down of say innovating a product and trying to find a market for a new product that they’re constantly testing hypotheses, so in a way, or wrong all the time. After a while you learn that, oh, this isn’t being wrong, or this isn’t failing. This is actually, just getting customer feedback. And so it changes your whole way of thinking.
It’s interesting that Reid Hoffman, the founder of PayPal and LinkedIn often says things like, “If you are launching your product and you’re really proud of it, you’re launching too late.” That’s really true, right? If we can apply that to the way we show up in meetings, or the way we talk about ideas, and not think that it has to be perfect before we show it to the world, because I think inherently in that, again, it’s all about getting out of our fear.
Beth Wilson: Oh, sure. Yes Melinda, I think perfectionism is a really bad area for women to go into it like quicksand. Like you, I really encourage them to throw out ideas before they’re perfectly ripe, because oftentimes that’s when women’s brilliance really shines through.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, we collaborate so well together in that sense. I think another trap though that we fall into is sometimes undermining ourselves. I wonder to what extent men take us literally if we say, “God, I don’t know if this is a good idea. But … ” Or, “Oh, this is crazy. I had this crazy idea, but …” When we process what we say with language like that, or we say things like, “I just think … ” We’re minimizing ourselves or our ideas, and I think other women hear it, and they don’t hear it that way, but I think other men potentially do, and they take us at face value. Do you think that’s true?
Beth Wilson: I do think that’s true, and again, it depends on the type of company or organization you’re in, but absolutely. That’s real issue for women, because what women are often doing when they say that, is it’s almost like a defense mechanism to say, “Don’t bring that devil’s advocate on me too hard.” You know what I mean? That’s their way to say, “Don’t jump on me really quickly out of the gate here.” It’s a defense mechanism, and so it is really important for women to come forward with an idea as confidently as possible. They can say, “I was thinking about this.” They can be a little more vague about it, but to just say, “Hey, I have a great idea.” That’s better tap for people like me as a coach or other women, because you’re right, Melinda, otherwise it could be taken literally and it could be discounted very, very quickly.
Melinda Wittstock: So, Beth, take me back in time a little bit to what you were doing before you started to have your own reinvention, or your own like, these epiphanies like, “Oh, it doesn’t have to be like this. It could be like this.” What all came before that moment?
Beth Wilson: Oh, boy. Well, I have a really mixed career path. I was one of those people who just … I did the opposite in college than a lot of people do. I said, “Well, I’m so good at English languages, philosophy and so on, but I’m going to move over to international relations because I don’t know that much about it.” I [inaudible 00:29:54] tend to challenge myself, but it really led me right into a plum job in Congress as a Legislative Assistant for Patricia Schroeder, and at that time she was the only woman on the Armed Services Committee.
I’ll tell you, Melinda, sometimes I think if we just trust our own path and journey, there is a lot of magic to be found, because every piece of my journey, that set me up to learn in the Armed Services Committee how I could talk to these mostly men, I mean, 99% men, and get them to understand what I was saying.
Now, at the time I didn’t realize that I was moving into what’s called the relational style of language, but I was also learning how to use a more individualistic style with these men, and talk in a way that they could understand me, and yet, believe it or not, I was still getting my ideas across. It was adapting how they spoke and keeping my heart true to my values. That mixture really taught me a lot. At the time I’m just doing it intuitively, but as time went on and I learned there’s a language for that. There’s a way to articulate. There’s a guy who call something emotional and social intelligence. I’m actually doing that.
[tweet_box design=”box_12_at” float=”none” author=”Beth Wilson” pic_url=”https://www.melindawittstock.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Beth-Wilson.png”]If we just trust our own path and journey, there is a lot of magic to be found. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness[/tweet_box]
I had to put the pieces together, and I love working one on one with people, and so I decided that I could create more social change by moving into writing books, and speaking and working with people one on one. That’s how I move through my career, but I think for a lot of women, women are dot connectors. I really want to bring this up because if we become conscious to the dots we’re connecting even in our own lives, we see how empowering our path is, and we can start to use that path and those epiphanies to move us into a place of the greater articulation, greater success, maybe ideas that we have for creating new products, new services.
I mean, my book “Meditation for New Mothers” I was laying out in the sun on the one day that my son actually took a nap long enough for me to relax, and boom, the idea came to me. and I went with it, and I really want women to trust connecting the dots, putting things together and the ideas and the epiphanies they have, because they’ve led me through a wonderful life.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s beautiful. I’m a bigger meditation person, but I wasn’t when I had my kids. I wish I had. It would have really helped a lot. I launched a business when my daughter was six weeks old, and it was not planned exactly that way. I mean, it took me so long to get the money and get everything in place for it, that I got pregnant, had her, it ended up launching like, and it was insane. It was actually a political news organization agency.
I was running around Congress with a microphone and a breast pump, and running payroll and signing clients, and growing this news agency. And it was crazy. In that first year we grew it to 300 hundred stations. I look back on it now and I think, “God, where was I?” I wasn’t very connected with myself. I think I could have really used your book. I wish you’d written it then. Meditation would have been great. No, but it’s true. This is a really interesting thing.
As we get in touch, you mentioned being in touch with our hearts, and to be heart-centered. Often we do get so into the doing, like crossing things off the list of all the things we have to get done with ridiculous efficiency, and with all our multi-tasking powers, but we can easily lose ourselves profoundly in that unless we take time to actually have silence, have quiet time to just really self care, but also be in touch with ourselves, and in touch with our hearts, and in touch with who we are, what our purpose is.
Those are those times as like silent times. It could be in the spa. It could be walking the dog. It could be anything, having a massage, but those moments are when such great ideas and inspirations actually come. Do you find that?
Beth Wilson: Absolutely. I’m so glad you …
Melinda Wittstock: Do you? But it’s true. I mean, you’ve written a book about meditation, so this must be … I always love to meet someone else who meditates.
Beth Wilson: Oh, yeah. And also, Melinda, don’t let me fool you. The reason I wrote books on balance was because I needed it just as much as anybody else. I was trying to figure out, there’s got to be a way to do this. That’s why I wrote my book, “Meditation for New Mothers” and “How to Create Balance in our lives, Busy Mothers’ Lives.” I really had to look at those because I think that those quiet moments are essential for women. And more recently value that, but almost every other culture has down time. In Europe, you can get paid to go to the spa, or the government will pay for you to go to the spa if you need time now.
Melinda Wittstock: So enlightening.
Beth Wilson: And this is a whole different reality.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, but this is a great reason to become an entrepreneur in a way, right? Because you really are at the end of the day, you set your own schedule. I find the more disciplined I am about ring-fencing time or blocking time off where nobody can call me, or I have my Friday massage, or whatever it’s going to be, actually the more I get done. It’s all like the less I work the more I get done. I don’t know how that is, but it’s true. I work hard, but …
Beth Wilson: I’m right there with you. I think it’s so true. I think if we don’t replenish, I think women forget how nutty they can get. If you get really off-center, you start to yell at people, or you’re more prone to yelling at people. You can’t connect with your kids, you can’t connect with yourself. It really is about grounding and in that really positive way, where you feel really centered, really solid in yourself, really connected to yourself and connected to your idea and connected to your business, and really connected to your client.
I think that that kind of connection … and for some people it’s also to a higher self, or higher purpose, or to spirit, it doesn’t matter to me what people call it. But when people are in alignment with themselves and their spirituality, their grounding, it really comes into their business. I found that time and time again. Melinda, I think a lot of people would do so much better if they’re grounded and are connected, and then they would get so much more done.
When we’re focused … Science has done studies on this. When people are focused, we could actually work four to five hours a day instead of an eight-hour work day, because most people who are focused, because they’re relaxed and they know they can get time off, they don’t get so frantic, and they’re more balanced and they actually get a lot more done in about four to five hours than eight hours. I love that. Science is proving us right.
Melinda Wittstock: This is true. Oh, man, I love it. When you’re working with your clients and they are all in some process or at some stage in that kind of, I’ll call it a re-invention curve, right? And in the WINGS context, taken on the flight path, may you taking flight getting higher and higher and soaring. How do you work with them? What are some of the challenges? What are some to the things that they need the most help, particularly women?
Beth Wilson: Well, first of all, a lot of women initially come in because they have an idea, they need to get the confidence in the idea, and then their first question is, how in the world am I going to balance this with my home life? That’s their first question always. And they want to feel some reassurance that going into business and becoming entrepreneur doesn’t mean that male model of success, where they never see their kids, they just have to start hiring more and more people to handle more aspects of their life, because they don’t really get to live their life anymore.
Part of my job is to reassure them that there is, especially as an entrepreneur, you have the freedom to build this anyway you want. And there’s a lot of ways to peel this onion, where you can have success in your personal life and in your professional life. It’s that convincing and working with them to find steps that go to their situation, so they can feel comfortable and confident that being successful doesn’t mean giving up everything they hold dear.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow. That’s wonderful. Well, Beth, how can people find you and work with you? What’s your process? Do you have any kind of special offer for any WINGS listeners that say, “Oh, my goodness. I’ve got to work with Beth right away, right now.”
Beth Wilson: Oh, you bet. You bet. Melinda, I have my book, “The Recovering Feminist: Empowering All People to Create a Whole World” It’s now going to be on sale for your listeners. If they go to Amazon, I’m going to set that up so that they can get it for 23% off …
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, nice.
Beth Wilson: Yeah, and if they’re interested in working with me personally they’re welcome to go to my website bethwilsonlifecoach.com, or recoveringfeministbook.com and I’m happy to work with them one on one to speak with their organizations, and they’re welcome to call me, 650-384-5454. Any of those ways I would love to be in touch.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much Beth for putting on your wings today. I loved our conversation. I think we soared high into the sky. It was wonderful, thank you.
Beth Wilson: We did. Thank you so much, Melinda.