By Ken Mammarella
Of all the ideas put forward to help shatter the glass ceiling for women, one kept recurring and earning applause at a panel discussion on Monday: know and promote thyself.
The panel was organized by Great Dames, a nonprofit marking its 10th year connecting women in Delaware. Two hashtags – #HeForShe and #MaleAllies – enforced the evening’s theme: why men’s support is vital in spurring gender equity, diversity, and an improved bottom line.
“Own who you are,” said panelist Allison Garrett, founder of The Prison Break Success System.
“Own that label,” said panelist Sarah Kenney-Cruz, communications and public relations manager at Delaware Prosperity Partnership. “We need to teach women to be advocates for themselves.”
“Ask five friends to tell you your strengths [so you can] recognize what you bring to the table,” said panelist Fred Dawson, a wealth adviser focused on women.
Of course, there’s more to generating progress for women in business than self-realization and self-promotion. “The onus is on society and women to push and push until they get what they want,” said panelist Mac Nagaswami Macleod, co-founder and CEO of Carvertise.
And women need to specify what they want from male leaders and mentors. “I need to be told what to do,” said Pedro Moore, entrepreneur venture adviser to Daymond John of “Shark Tank.”
Results are clear. “When women work in a group, productivity goes up,” said Maria Hess, senior director of publications and executive communications at Wilmington University, a Great Dames board member and moderator of the discussion, which also included forceful advice from audience members.
Progress should start with parents. “You have the responsibility to tell your children they’re the best,” said Bebe Coker, an advocate for education and educational equality for 50 years.
Dawson talked about the commitment his mother made as a single parent, which is why he is writing the third book in his “Pearls” series about local women’s journeys to success.
Macleod said his mother, also a single parent, and female teachers at Sanford School were all strong role models. “Society should be 100 percent equal,” he said.
Progress should continue in school. “We’re always presented with old white men as role models,” said Dorcas Olatunji, a Charter School senior and member of the state board of education. But all students “need to know that they have a seat at the table.”
And progress should continue throughout the working world. “Never apologize unless you actually mean it,” said audience member Alyssa Cahill. “Stand up when you know you’re right.”
“We’re all responsible for ourselves,” said audience member Betsy Harvey, a wellbeing coach for women. “But we need to help each other, too. And we need to ask for help.”
“We are really strong when we band together,” Lt. Gov Bethany Hall Long said in her welcome.
“Diversity is not easy,” Kenney-Cruz said. “But pulling from just your network doesn’t get the best results.”
Sharon Kelly Hake, who cofounded Great Dames with daughter Heather Cassey, asked attendees to “remember just one number” among figures offered at the event at Harry’s Savoy Grill in North Wilmington. Although the idea that the gender pay gap would take 108 years to be eliminated was much-discussed, she wanted them to remember “the power of one” person. She urged everyone to reach out to one person tomorrow and say “I value you” and they’re available for help.