Yes WIE Can: Talking Institutional Change with Dee Poku-Spalding
Employee experience is a priority because it drives retention engagement and ultimately business growth yet turnover keeps rising because traditional approaches to improving proving experience are too narrow s._a._p. Success factors helps you expand your strategy and redefined employee experiences from every angle you can capture you're in the moment insights from employees across multiple interactions then link them with operational data to see what is happening in your workforce and understand why you can break down system barriers using intelligent technology to integrate experiences with h._r. And across the business and you can practically tackle the toughest challenges like diversity inclusion wellbeing and more with s._a._p. Success factors you can deliver comprehensive unexpectedly exceptional experiences that keep employees engaged and keep your business growing everyone. It's rebecca. You're listening to superwomen today. I am thrilled to bring to you d poku. She is a founder of many things one of the things she has found his dinner for ladies where she brings incredible women together in a room to have vulnerable passionate interesting conversations. She's also the founder of the other festival and this was a great honest episode so take listen. I <music>. I'm here with the incredibly inspirational and talented d poku. Thank you for joining me today. Thank you for calling me that so i would love for us to start with what is the wea- network and how did you come up with the idea so we as a community and it's designed to give gave women the network and the support systems they need to get ahead and to be successful and it was inspired by my own experiences navigating the workplace so i spent most of my career working for big corporations and it's it's hard as a woman and it's hard as a woman of color the overcome various obstacles and i i feel there are things there were things into in the business world that reads designed ryan to trip women up and if you don't understand those invisible rolls it can be very difficult for you and so whenever i came up against those roadblocks yes i had to just figure them out for myself and i would either fail and learn from it or you know somehow stumble upon the right answer but i it didn't have anyone to return to. It didn't have people there. I felt comfortable sharing my weaknesses way they'll sharing my confusion with so and and i didn't i certainly didn't have mentors all noise even understand that concept that that even could exist for me and so i did well doing what i did and in the business but there's so much more i could have done and we was created to help women like me so women who are in who are in a similar situation to figure things out and to learn from the experiences about this and what is we stand for. We stands for women inspiration and enterprise which is a very long day but it does have a purpose and i i do think that any organization or industry organization nation that's designed to support women or just executives should have joel function so we have hard as we have you know to sit of tough the moments and so we need that inspiration. I'm a motivation daily in that can come through just knowing someone's become the same hurdles just sort of being around or hearing from and people who have been there and so that's the inspiration portion is just should've. What do you need to get you over the daily humps then the enterprise is israeli the toolkit so we we don't just want women said come talks and just here inspiring people and go home and have a five minute high. I want them to leave with a notebook filled with ideas and you know sort of specific sort of nuts and bolts that they need. It's so we want them to understand how to negotiate. We wanted to understand how to present themselves. What their personal story and narrative is wanting to understand stand you know all facets of the business world from dish salt in to marketing to fundraising so we just want to sort of give them that full full breadth of information so you started that and then you also started something called the other festival. What is the other festival on. How did you decide decide to launch not just one but two companies so it was the other festival was inspired by the changing demographic demographic of the women who started to come to the events so we he was created to support women who had my specific background and experience so women who were sort of in that middle point mid point if that crazy you're just starting to come up against the glass ceiling or you know and and so it was really early bouts of female executives navigating corporate culture that was me and then what i notice what that was that the demos started skewing queuing younger and younger and there were all these like bad young twenty year olds who wanted success yesterday and were filled with ideas who who also showing up and they were very entrepreneurial very ideas driven very impatient looking for experiences is and it just started to feel like what i was providing with. We wasn't really serving that specific. Audience particularly well and i also was just inspired by the suit of budgeting entrepreneurial spirit. I was seeing in young women so most of the entrepreneurs i knew a women who had had jobs ups and then transferred into entrepreneurship whereas these were women who were straight out of college for like okay i have this idea i'm going to raise money and like make it happen and so the other festival was was really for them and <hes> and so encompasses more so it has all of the great components of wheel this the learning and the networking but it's also very experiential and so there's musa can ought and books and it's a way of sort of forming community around creativity and yeah and just sort of creating more sort of innovative space and so i wanted to call it something else else just to give it its own identity and that was an impulse but at the end up feeling like the right decision there are no. I have to figure out how to really sort of merge the two hugh entities but that's for another conversation being that there are lots of female conferences popping up and there's old ones. There's new ones all all the time. How would you distinguish the other festival from the rest like what would make someone who's listening go. Oh this is for me. You know i get off his question the law and there there there is a lot out there. You know one thing i would say was that i've been doing this awhile before. This was a thing i started this organization and saw this need so. I think that i just have a very long time to really learn and understand from women about what their needs are. Most people who come to prevents describe the authenticity of it <hes> that there's just this real sense of women pulling together in a in a very sort of authentic way and there's a certain kind of woman who's attracted to my events and she tends to be sort of a cosmopolitan cosmopolitan city girl. Who's you know ideas driven whether she works for company. Whether she's starting her own thing she still has not entrepreneurial spirit in <hes> so <hes> she wants company she source of innovating enterpreneurial within her company and so i just think it's that sort of you you know there's a certain type of woman and we woman and used to know who she is and so people form really deep connections when they come because they just find that there are like minded people there for them but you know and above that i would just say that the content is always really really practical. I don't want to waste anyone's time time ever and so i just you know i defy anyone to come and say that they came to an event of mine and left empty-handed. I like that challenge you so one of the things and i think for people who may be aren't in this world to be able to get people like arianna huffington christy turlington or donna karen to speak at era festival. That's no small feat. What was a secret ingredient for gaining this type of support and involvement with women that are so high profile. I think is really important. I wouldn't know why you're asking whoever you're asking and to have a bespoke approach to them <hes> and so i i i'll never just sir like standard letters to everybody. I just try in and tailor it to the person and i'm very specific about who i asked to speak so it's never just sort of these are the names. I'm just going to ask a you know. I'm always scribbling notes because i'll read something or see something hit. Something and i think you know this woman. I love what she has to say. I love how she's approaching her work and so i always have sort of copious notes in the in the back of my iphone <hes> with just names of people so many so many so many so that's you know that's important so there was no exactly why i'm asking them and i think that's important but also i've built a network and i built relationships. I started in the fashion business. I then moved into the movie industry and i'm doing this and and over the years i've built some we need strong relationships with people who have connections and so i generally always know someone who knows someone who knows that a person and so it's just always you know easier to go through a connection then to sort of fire off a standard letters through an info email. I always say the six degrees of separation is totally real. It's what got me to where i got to six degrees of different women just helping you helping in passing the baton right yep yeah. It's completely that so i'm surrounded by women who have connections and women who want to help nope and i liked to say that the key to your success is through the power of your network and i truly believe that that everything i have everything i've achieved has been through the incredible network of women who are around me and so if you haven't cultivated those relationships and they mean cultivate in the suit of most authentic loving sense so that would if you don't have that around you then i think is just very hottest exceed yet so once you had confirmed early on you know some me larger names. How did you gain momentum to get the attention so that people would attend the festival. How do you capture that an audience. I guess is what i'm asking so oh i mean now. It has this terminology around it but they call it sort of micro influences but it didn't you know there was no such thing then <hes> even influence influences was using a very different way. We're dating ourselves so so you know i think again it's about you know who the pockets of people who have influence within the circles and <hes> do they believe in what you're doing enough to this shadow with their circles and then they're circles show without the circles and they really believe in that grassroots approach and the reason i operate that ways that in my <hes> movie career that's how we promoted movies so i worked for studios by always worked on the indie side of things so i was always working on this sort of <hes> <hes> smaller budget more attorney driven content and so we didn't have the big budgets that the big studio would have as we considered spend spend masses on like big ads and and so it's so much more about chris cole support and word of mouth or that sort of grassroots stuff and so i really i have visit of deepen intrinsic understanding about human psyche and what makes people want to share things with other people and how you position things to different audience says and so i i think it's about undiscerning audience having a really good understanding of who they are and creating the materials and the language around that and then and tapping into all of your might co influences as well as the press and all the other stuff but i just think that that when you start to see the all the people he he you think who you admire who you think are interested interesting story all doing the same thing you know then you just follow. It's just human nature right raw all kaos rea- so what do you think not that you can boil this down but i'm curious to know what you see. What do women either in in business or as entrepreneurs or working in the corporate world. What are some of the biggest challenges you see that we are encountering and any advice to overcome that well i think with stock i think stock i mean obviously there are people who breakthrough but i would say overall as agenda i think west of stock in this holding pattern and i've just seen there are just so many organizations and networks rex and advocacy groups and everyone doing this work to move women forward and yet when you look at the stats like we're just serve hovering we just can't land the plane and i think was stock because because of the status quo at the top and it's just unchanging and until there is a karate shift in sort of the gender of the people in positions of power which is never gonna have that trickle down effect so there needs to be like a radical shift because it's otherwise all they do which is sort of half human nature is just kind of support other people who look like them and it's just natural for them to who want to do that is do you see like a like minded do then you just what helped the two just don't bob and you just don't necessarily relate relate to rebecca andean try but and so you know i just feel that more radical solutions a called for a nights strongly believing quotas and they know that it's very unpopular with some people but you know if you look at countries france and canada where they have quotas and norway and where they have women boards example has been a radical improvement in the percentage of women on corporate boards in those countries because of quotas coaches and i think that we've spent years waiting for the systems to do right by by women by people of color. It's just not happening which is stuck and so i think we have to forced the change. In once we force that change we have to allow for <hes> you know some generational shifts because often i remember toronto a buck said this meaning well where she was she spoke at the cannes lions and someone who was asking her about the fact that there are women who i'm superpower who still don't then sort of changed the you know the demographic makeup stop the workforce and she said it. It's two things like women can also be affected by patriarchy so we can also you know have had the same conditioning the mayor of act in the same way and so even though you know we've reached a position of ceo we still kind of allow the same assistance systems to continue and and so we need to have time to get comfortable and to evolve our thinking to change those systems but also you need the right women so it's not just about any woman at seic women want to go in and sort of radically shake things up and so and so i think that we need to both those things happen is more than at the top making those there's decisions and when you look again like countries in the nordic regions and you see in government in the bills that are discussed and like you know the issues that the at the forefront you know there are things like maternity leave and justice. You know other issues that affect women the workplace and so you know we do that naturally someone. Someone told me that henry ford was the creator of the modern you know nine to five a man and even that you know even if we shifted how we look at a workday yeah i know as a woman i have a drastically different idea for a modern workday yep ten to four would be great. You can take your kids to school. You can go to the gym. Maybe get some self karen there and be home to make dinner. If you like that sort of thing i mean it's just fascinating that it's everything that we know of is based on a man for a car factory. Absolutely i think you know i'm struggling right now. He's struggling like me to sister. September is a tough month yeah and i don't. I think people really appreciate that enough in the struggle you know when i dropped my kid off at eight hundred thousand. You have tons more children than ideas down to you. I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted. Just you know getting kenny him to school and then that that sort of you know to forty anti in time like what is that like who's not designed tilman. It's it is it's punishment and yet at the same time women you know if they leave the office because they i wanna see that case though because they want to spend time with kids penalized for it and so you know structurally the whole system in it was a disaster and i just don't think that you know even well meaning men and will think in the same way as we would about how we would start your lives in those positions right as you say the workplace as it stands was i was created by men and so we need some radical shifts in the way that we approach that totally so you went from being in fashion to working within the film industry and then you decided to shift gears and become an entrepreneur. Who did you have any moments at that point of like leaving. Maybe something that's safe and starting autumn my own. What was that feeling like. And how did you sort of say fuck it. I'm going forward. I'm going to do this. It was the most terrifying era find time with my life. You know i like to describe it as as always having been institutionalized i was so oh us too the pucks of working for fancy companies and you don't even realize just how much that has affected your your psyche until you leave all that behind. No one's paying for your uber's anymore. Nobody no i mean i used to be able to you know say this privileged privileged to kind of just if i was going on a trip i would just walk out the door on copy there and everything had been planned and they were i._t. People who've fixed computer and people travel companies and you know just sort of dis- basic structural things that allowed you to sort of move through your workday workday in the innovative comfortable manner and then suddenly you're on your own and sitting in the apple genius bar and it's you know it's it's just it's it's a radical shift. The big change for me actually was i hadn't realized just how much my my identity had been bound up in my job up so i was i've been i become so accustomed to saying. I'm defend paramount m._d. From universal they come d from these fancy companies and people would sort of respond you know in the right way and they would return my calls or just been nice to me and i just you know being nice to me because i was great great and and so you know that was different in a particularly because i was in l._a. At the time and l._a. Stephanie its own taste and people that are very transparent about their ambition and so they you know they want to know fairly quickly if you're going to be helpful or not and so so that they can move on and so i would just kind of anticipate that and almost hit of take myself out of the equation. It was like a very strange thing and so what i realized i was doing doing which is pointed out to me by fan was that i wasn't sort of owning my power and when people inquired about what i did i would answer in this. Should've he know half hearted shoulders hunt sort of i do this thing in the my voice with trail often because i just didn't feel important enough yet because my <unk> business wasn't successful and people hadn't heard of it and <hes> and so that took some time to get around <hes> and then suddenly i should've i found eh and and there was just such a change in the way that people responded to me you know when my shoulders but back in when i asserted myself and when i spoke with with confidence and when i made it sound great and people are attracted to things that sound exciting and things and so <hes> you know it was sort of subtle shift in my manner that really should have changed the way push might business made a huge impact. I always look for a firm handshake. If i get a wimpy one and i'm like ooh not for me so i would love to talk about career obstacles <hes> being an entrepreneur. I could tell you mine all day long <hes> <unk>. Everyone has them not only. Are you starting at as an entrepreneur earlier. You're a woman more specifically. You're a woman of color. What are some some of the challenges that you've had to navigate now that you that you you know full force go into being an entrepreneur money money money money money and did i mention money lots of money lots of money he no. It's a tough one and i encourage anyone who has daughters to teach them how to talk about money comfortably to ask for money to you know district be comfortable around that subject to understand it to understand that finances <hes> <hes>. I think it's the most important skill that we can give young women. There are lots of stats around the percents of women who don't negotiate ashamed salaries. Who don't you know who go into pitch meetings and doughnut. She asked for the money and so i'm i'm i'm. I've definitely have fooling into that bracket. I found it hard to ask the money. When i what's for companies. <hes> i find it difficult to sort of pitch and ask for money i can talk about my vision and my mission all day long <hes> but the asking for the money i've definitely always found hard and i've had sieve train myself solve an exercise that muscle. It's muscle yeah. It really is to improve that skill yup switching gears. There's a little bit what were some of the biggest lessons you've learned in creating this platform that supports and encourages women in business <hes> i think the biggest lesson is sort of goes back to the you know the network thing but just the importance of being an ally and having allies around you and and how important those allies were to me <hes> and how it's impossible to succeed without them and how important it is to sort of to to be that to other people and you know being an ally means making yourself uncomfortable. It's picking up the phone to call that person that you just like. We you know you really don't want to bother them like especially like non behalf of somebody else you know because it's like she'll contact and or hearing doing something in a conversation. That's just not right. You know that that you know maybe racist or sexist or in a way should just use your voice and and incorrect that situation like those sorts of things i think really important and how have you learned to do that. Till i get comfortable all with the discomfort. I'm still learning you know and it it depends on the situation and sometimes you know it's sometimes sometimes it's about saying the thing in front of everyone in the group. Sometimes it's about a private word <hes> sometimes it's just about giving yourself. That's sort of talking to like. Why don't you want to do that. Like what is it that sit of stopping you why yousef annoyed by that email that pessene that keeps asking whatever it is it's about sort of you know that self-awareness and then sort of tackling nine yourself and getting to know yourself better and being braver. I find and it easier actually <hes> to do this sort of public forums. It's so much easier like on in social you know speaking peaking at on a panel in public forums to sort of say the things. It's a little bit harder in a small group. I was with a friend recently who i don't want to be identified. Your friend mary from my mary. You know said something about the way she was raising her daughter. There was sort of related to grace and i thought that's wrong. We were in a group and i just thought i thought that was an appropriate to call her out in that group. I didn't want to embarrass her and i'm still figuring out like how to say. I need to say to her without her being offended but i also know that i need to say to her totally and so i'm working on that so i think it's about like it's it situation by situation but also just making himself brave and i what i do see is that most people can be brave in a public forum and unless brave privately with friends and you just made me realize that because all say just about anything in a public forum but i have a friend who comes to my house and expects to be waited on hand and foot by myself and my husband and clean up after her her. She doesn't even know that. I feel this way because i can't bring myself to be like i'm not your maid. This is not an in. You're not welcome here until you clean up your shit right so it's funny you say that yeah there there. It is so when you feel asked to help out another or you feel like you. You know you need to say something. Do you ever feel this burden knowing you want to help but it still feels like a burden to do it. And how do you sort of get through that or not it is. It's a burden mostly because it's a number of things right and so we know one is the i'm busy and so i'm just about getting through my own days and you know racing my kid and you know forget the marriage right who's that there is a husband somewhere in the background very understanding how yes yes so you know so. There's all of fatso. It's like you know i'm trying to deal with my own stuff and then there's sort of business relationships that you've built up over a period of time and sort of getting past you know not wanting to sit of rock relationships and for me i it depends on who's doing the asking and the nature of the relationship and you know and i just try and deal with everything on a case by case basis you know i tried to help everyone in some way if i can't do the thing maybe beat aware of them in another direction so i can't do this thing but i can help you in this other way because of what i do i get countless emails emails and approaches from young women who want to me. It's you know he want advice and again. That's a lot and so i've started trying to do this. Thing where like icon fridays is when. I'll just kind of try and follow up with those women and i have a friend who does office hours. She'll just meet above protecting his winning idea so i don't think i think that you have to sort of think about who you on what you're capable of like. Don't make sure that you know your strong and think about your own self care. I because you're no good to anyone if like you know you're not protected and safe and then you have to give you know deal with each thing on a case by case basis but <hes> you know it's important that we give and it's about the degree to which you can you can do what you do yeah totally so so one thing that frustrates me is the word empowerment which implies that we don't have our own power. It's given to you yet this you. This word is thrown around and used by every organization that wants to help us. Even sometimes i find myself saying it because of a lack of another word if you have the word that would be better than that. Let me know but what do you think we can do to change that idea. If you don't have the word i know it's a word you know way back when that i used to use a knife bandit i wouldn't use it anymore because 'cause i also think that <hes> it's a cop-out and allows companies to put sort of surface bomb on the situation like we're empowering during our women with this you know great women's day like that bullshit you know give me the pay-wise like gimme the promotion <hes> you know like give me the big contract like pay me. Those are the things that i want to see and i wanna see women put into positions of power a- and so yeah i don't use the word empowerment ever and so i you know i just use other variations around like more hotline things like gender gender equality and women's rights and those vast the vast array yeah yeah yeah i think i think empower has deaf has become a cop-out for so many companies and satisfy such is quite irritating to me because so many now sort of empowering ads and and then when you look behind the companies who are creating this content of you know creating those odds you know you see that they're not sort of walking the talk you know late sedona create these like super cool viral ads and then have no women on your board have no women in senior management. You know have no good sort of paid. Leave policies like i think that we should always look behind the company's doing this stuff totally so one thing. I like to ask everybody just because obviously there's what's google about. You is what something that we would be surprised is to know about you okay so i went to a convent. Wow <hes> like you went to college at a convent inventor. You just went to a guy went to a convent school high school okay. I don't know what you call it here but when i was junior school i don't know i don't really understand on the school thing but when i was going to school okay it was a convent run by nuns and that wasn't very nice. The nuns were mean nuns but there was a period during that time when i thought i wanted to be a nun and into that was that's interesting. That's very interesting. What you said nope not for me. You know i found the catholic church nice to just be very unforgiving and it just felt it was filled with rules and regulations that at the time i wouldn't have called it sort of agenda thing but now i realized that was what it was <hes> so even in the age of seven something didn't feel right to me and <hes> and so so you know so this i was very very young <hes> and so you know that went away but there was a time when i just thought that being a number of a good a good way to to help to help and to give back helping an incredible ways yeah so i feel like you've given great nuggets of advice throughout this interview but is there anything you'd like to leave our listeners listeners with as kind of what i hope they can take with on their day and change about their lives so i mean i guess you know what i've learned is is how to deal with rejection and <hes> and the bad times and i just think that especially as an entrepreneur <hes> well even just at any point like your life to second ebbs and flows and peaks and valleys and without sounding sort of trite with with every valley up you know there is a peak coming and you have to what i what i do is. I try and recover fast. I think his waiting important to like have you cry and then just go into solution mode and you know and so. I just think that <hes> it's important to just roll with the bad times knowing that good times are around the corner. I love that you know it's just served me well and and has just sort of kept me positive positive and motivated and as an entrepreneur you need that you need that sort of self motivation and so just knowing that you know there's something around. The corner really helps me totally. I feel like with us over indulge millennials. <hes> rejection can be hard. Sometimes it happens every day. It happens every day and <hes> <hes> you know. I don't take any it's not you. I mean you know i like there are people who email me who i forget to email back or in my draft sparks. My drafts box is horrendous. Everyone goes into draft so i can remember team modern back and then you know and so you just don't i know why <hes> so just you know learning how not that's nice and distinctive about where you where you're trying to get to and your own path rather offensive. Self flagellating is important so with your quick recoveries after you've been rejected. What is that healing process. Look like for you so for me. A problem shared is a problem haft so i'm not want to wallow by myself and <hes> and i just find that when you're sort of in the thick of an issue it's just very hard to sort of see out of the the fog and showing that with somebody eh who has an objective view of it can immediately sort of left you out of where you are and i have a you know. I encourage everyone at shea so i have a best friend who is my go-to on. These things like i think everyone should have that person who you can be completely vulnerable with with just with no artifice. I just lay it all out there. Who really knows you and who loves him. Respects you and and and you know and seige potential and is there for you regardless so that you can sort of you know just kind of go there with that person and so i have that person and so i can just go and say like this really shitty thing happened. She's like well but you know that you always do this thing and she just gonna can immediately see and i can see it for her to and so for me. It's about sharing yeah and then immediately going into solution mode so what went wrong. What do i need to do do next and i just think the as soon as you start doing that you you'll just slowly lift yourself out of it and everyone takes his all different amounts of time and you know it's it's just it's the nature of my personality to do that. I know the father people. You know it can be a harder process but i just always encourage people not to go through anything by themselves if they can agreed. I always like to air this with someone who am close to but that's in a certain not even a similar business is but a similar level. I guess if it's businesses yes right because it's one thing to share it with your friend. Who is a stay at home. Mom and she has no idea what you're talking about but i usually find someone who's like c._e._o. Or just whatever in in my network like lemme vomit on you. What do i do yeah. I mean it has to be someone whose opinion you trust in value and respect <hes> from a professional standpoint so you know so. They need to be on your level. Yeah yeah nothing against no one. That's not no no but that's my little warning but it's just. I think that you know for most of us. You know we're trying to sort of walk through life seeming to have it together and so it can be harder to go there with someone who's not on your level totally and and so. I just think that when it's someone who gets it who's at the same place. It's just easier to be more honest with someone who's up and coming here. You're you're sort of trying to be a mental into together with. It's just different yeah. You don't want to vomit all over someone. That's still excited about starting exactly this is. It's coming your way to suck it up. D poku thank you so much. I love this thank you that was deep poku. If you wanna know more about her you can follow her at diphu today our views from n. y. I. phone gal. All i knew about rebecca before listening was that she had founded a clothing company. That's about it. I've since become a total fan because our guests have been great and the topics interesting her down to the earth honest approach to asking questions and sharing her own experience come across as super relatable even though she's a millionaire founder i wish i wish i was a millionaire founder. That'd it'd be awesome. I'm now a real fan great podcasts for anyone interested in hearing the inside story about starting and running a business. You are so welcome and thanks for tuning his his book.