A friend recently published a non-fiction “unputdownable” read which is being touted as not only timely, but very important by the critics, the media, and yes, the Twitterverse. Entitled “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works”, TIME magazine Washington, D.C. correspondent and now authorÂ Jay Newton-Small (she’s a woman with a man’s name – I love that- I even named my female rescue puppy Frasier after Frasier Crane) has been hot on the book tour circuit, first launching appropriately in the nation’s capital with a private soiree for a room spilling over with prominent journos and the media atÂ Cafe Milano last month. Currently, Jay is simultaneously on the campaign trail for her day job with TIME.
For the book, she interviewed over 150 high powered women. While sometimes shocking, many of the stories are not wholly surprising. There are dramatic twists and numerous “behind the magic curtain moments” that are in black and white for us know. We little people (speaking for myself) have always had a “what really goes on?” curiosity when it comes to the most powerful people. The inner sanctum anecdotes will leave you shaking your head furiously, then nodding it emphatically, all the while, hungering for more.
From Capitol Hill to the White House to the military to law enforcement and the private sector, we are told what power can be created when women work together and the long battle that has been forged to even land where we are now: a critical mass of women in power positions and major influence. We’ll get to Jay and the book soon, but first …
It was December 2009 and I sat at table in the Park Hyatt’s ground floor main ballroom with seven other women. We were eight of many who had gathered forÂ Pathways to Power: Empowering a New Generation of Women Leaders. The star of this breakfast program was none other than the first female Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. I did a visual sweep around the room. It was chockÂ full of women running their own small and burgeoning firms, many in corporate and non-profit leadership positions. Each was suited up, proudly donning lipstick, heels, and well coiffed-dos. Accessories ran the gambit of scarves, broaches, bold gold jewelry and designer handbags. We all seemed to be sizing each other up and down. It was a bit stiff, the conversations, and the high-pitched din of voices even began to irritate me, especially so early in the morning. From where I sat, it was almost unnatural, all these women together. Sure, I had been in a sorority and I had plenty of girlfriends, but there were very few and far between times that I trusted and truly respected my female managers over the course of my short and early career that had commence in 1994. The ones that were at the “top” were considered “bitches” by those below them and employee masses. They also stood out like sore thumbs surrounded by the mostly male leadership and executive teams. Remember, this was also in the 90’s and early aughts.
So when Madeline Albright came to center stage and after her thoughtful answers were given in a most straightforward way, the biggest takeaway we left with was her FAMOUS quote : There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
Wait, there are women who actually sincerely help women? I involuntarily shook my head. Not from my experience. They just want to climb over you, knock you down, trip you, steal your ideas, even lie about you.
And then it happened. When I attended Pathways to Power, I’d been out on my own for a mere two years. I was green as could be in the entrepreneurial arena and had barely escaped alive the misogynistic claws of my former boss and business partner. Suddenly, I began to meet and be connected with the most incredible, passionate, ambitious, brilliant, creative, and focused women with intentions to make whatever they had going for them work. True, it wasn’t all coming up roses, there were and are and always will be those women who will steal your ideas with a smile and knock you down when you aren’t looking, but what I was encountering in my “new world” was an environment of locking arms and together marching ahead.
Re-energized and fascinated, I began to seek out other women to promote and help them. Their histories, stories, relentless work ethic, and desire to collaborate and succeed together,Â whether as a one person, or 20 person shop, or even as a corporate division leader looking to mentor other women, fueled my fire.
They came from all walks of life and varied in age, marital status, kids, no kids, living in the suburbs, or downtown, and it was confetti of industries.
Many whom I met over the years became close friends and some stayed in more of an acquaintance role, but I knew I could count on them and they on me. I’ve watched more than I can count be promoted, change companies, get fired, get hired, be featured in publications, have television hits, earn multiple awards, gain national recognition, achieve grand status, sell companies, start new ones, merge and design partnerships across enterprises. That’s just professionally. Those back stories are never without drama, hilarity and plenty of WTF’s. From a personal stand point, well, those tales are just as crazy, weird, scary, funny, and awesome.
And so, it is with great pleasure that I get to (yup, I’m the founder of this platform, so I get to – and by that I mean pick and choose) vet a list of women whom I declare as The Punch Power Circle: Women of Distinction in D.C.Â These women have weathered storms professionally, personally and have branded themselves in a most distinct manner, with finesse, style, intelligent, creativity, grace under pressure and humor. I have learned a LOT from them over many years, so one thing I can say from knowing these ladies is that they share a common thread: They are true to themselves, during the worst, weirdest and best of times.
First up is yes, you guessed it: Jay Newton-Small. We’ll have her interview (expect some fun video pieces as she’s on the trail) shortly.