It’s become increasingly important for women to stop worrying about being perfect and find the courage to take action to advance their careers, according to Nell Merlino, creator of Take Our Daughters to Work Day and founder and president of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence.
“None of us can do everything,” but “we are all best at something,” so we all need to figure out what we’re best at and then “lay claim to” that expertise and make sure other people know that also, she said during the keynote “Courage versus Perfection” at the Oct. 4 SoCal Women’s Leadership Group annual meeting at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The event was co-located with the Hollywood Innovation & Technology Summit (HITS) Fall event.
“We need to put ourselves in more situations where we may not know everything and we’re not perfect for the position, but that we’re a good bet on doing it,” she said. Too many women have convinced themselves they’re just “not good enough” for many jobs they probably are more than good enough for, according to Merlino.
Merlino knows a thing or two about scaling, disrupting the status quo and mobilizing millions (of people and dollars). After all, she launched the Take our Daughters to Work movement, which inspired 25 million people across the U.S. to bring their girls to work in 1993, mustering up this movement with only two fax machines. And that was before the internet, before influencers and going viral. Since then, she also created an initiative for female entrepreneurs called “Make Mine a Million $ Business” (think “Shark Tank” for women).
During the keynote, the expert on business growth shared her principles and practices to stop hesitation and get to action, which can help women become unstoppable forces of nature with their impact in work and life.
Kicking off the keynote, she said: “I’m talking about one of my favorite subjects, which is the advancement of women. And I think what a lot of you are curious about – and struggling with – is how do you move on in your careers; how do you get to change the world and live your purpose. And that is what I’ve been doing my entire career… [and] also helping other women — and a few really brave men – do the same thing.”
She noted that she’s now “working on this project to create a sequel to Take Our Daughters to Work Day” because “I think the time has come, particularly given the actual moment that we are all living through, and I think one of the questions I always ask is: ‘What are girls learning when they’re watching us?’”
She told attendees: “Girls are learning how to be and how to act and how to behave in the world based on what we do.”
Merlino has “really been thinking about the word courage a lot because we’ve seen a lot of courageous women recently,” she said, noting there’s major differences between being courageous and being perfect. While it’s tempting to just decide that “being perfect maybe is the way to go,” she said: “What’s pretty clear to me is that courage is starting to be the thing that we better all get invested in.”
Take Our Daughters to Work Day was created as a “direct result” of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill Senate hearings in 1991, she pointed out, noting “all of us were really furious” that despite Hill’s courage, Thomas was still appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, she said those hearings “changed a lot of things,” including the fact that more women wound up being elected to Congress than ever before and “things have progressively changed” since then. After the hearings, she also went on to create Take Our Daughters to Work Day to help boost the self-esteem of girls and show them what opportunities were available for them.
She recalled: “More than anything, what had occurred to me was if workplaces could be flooded with more females that companies would start to understand what the future was going to look like” as an increasing number of women started to enter the workforce. Since 1993, an increased number of women started going to college as well, she noted.
The Make Mine a Million $ Business initiative that she created after that “helped women with microbusinesses grow them into million-dollar companies,” she also said, pointing to a photo taken in 2011 of her and the first all-female group to ever ring the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange.
“What I do is help people see the future and see themselves in it,” she told attendees.
She concluded by noting how important it is for women to make sure they understand what their capabilities are and make sure everybody else knows what they are also.
“Keeping that secret about what you’re capable of doing is not helping you – and it’s not helping where you work either,” she pointed out.
Produced by Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH) in cooperation with the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT), the afternoon program was supported by these women’s entertainment coalitions: Fox’s Women in [email protected], Lionsgate Women’s Empowerment Group (WEG), NBC Universal’s SoCal Women’s Network (WNN), Netflix’s Women in Tech, SPE’s Women in Technology (WiT), Women of Fox Sports, Women of Warner (WOW) and Women of Action Vision and Empowerment (WAVE).