Paying Our Power Forward
Lessons from the 2020 Forbes Power Women Summit
By Laura Brusca
VP Corporate Communications, Forbes; VP of Communications, NYWICI
As we look to 2021, it’s important to reflect on how the events of the past year have affected women everywhere and what we can do to make things better going forward.
It’s on that note that Forbes hosted its 8th annual Power Women’s Summit gathering some of the most powerful women to discuss how to emerge from 2020 with actionable solutions for a more equitable future for all. For the first year ever, it was hosted virtually and gathered a record 23,000+ attendees. (You can view recordings from the event here.)
Much like New York Women in Communications (NYWICI), Forbes is focused on driving equality, achieving better access and supporting women at every stage of their career. And in this moment where women’s progress is most at risk, hearing from solvers like Melinda Gates, founders like Tory Burch, action takers like Megan Rapinoe and visionaries like Gwynne Shotwell brought hope, inspiration and real-world solutions for where we go next.
The event also featured a few past NYWICI Matrix honorees including 2020 honoree Tina Tchen, 2016 honoree Mellody Hobson and 2007 honoree Arianna Huffington — all of whom continue to lead the way and serve as inspiration for us all.
Here are a few highlights from the Summit that focus on how we can help women in 2021 and beyond:
Focus on the caregiving issue
From the very start of the Summit, the key issue of women’s role in caregiving was highlighted as one of the critical issues that we must solve. In September alone its estimated 865,000 women dropped out of the American workforce, four times the rate of men, according to a report from the Department of Labor.
“The pandemic has laid bare what our economy is built on — and economies all over the world are built on — the backs of women’s unpaid labor. Women helping to take care of children and other family members,” said Melinda Gates. “If we want to build back, we have to look at this fundamental issue of caregiving.”
Tory Burch continued that point, talking about how in addition to focusing on access to capital, her foundation is focused on improving access to safe and affordable childcare. “We made some progress with women and now I fear that progress is being erased,” Burch said.
Women can’t continue to take on most of the caregiving and still succeed at the same pace in their careers, and this year made that abundantly clear. From striving for equality in your own home to implementing good family medical leave policies, there are many ways we can improve here.
Own your power and pay it forward
During the Summit, one of the key questions asked to every speaker was “How do you define power?”
Gates said: “I define power as using your voice and resources to change the world for others – particularly in a time of crisis.”
As women in communications, we are often the voices for the companies we represent, we help spread the word on important information and we excel at communicating in a meaningful way. We can all use our voices to create change.
In her opening remarks, Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President, Forbes and President & Publisher, ForbesWomen, said, “Now is the time to pay our power forward. If we use this inflection point as an opportunity to replace old systems with new and better ones. Countries can build back more prepared.”
Let’s pay our power forward and use our voices to drive change in 2021.
Take care of yourself first so you can truly thrive
Many this year are battling burnout. We’re taking on more roles at home, we’re working longer hours and we’re not always taking the time to take care of ourselves. It’s important to reflect on ways you can focus more on your own physical and mental health — especially during this time — so that you can be your best self in other parts of your life too.
“When you’re thriving, you’re putting your own oxygen mask on first… you’re taking care of yourself first,” said NYWICI Matrix honoree Arianna Huffington. “When you focus more inward, you’ll have more to give outward… If you want to be your best in times of crisis, you can’t do it when running on empty.”
As we start a new year, think of ways that you can take better care of yourself — whether it’s asking for more help, taking breaks, working out, practicing meditation, keeping a journal or taking time to invest in a new hobby. By taking more “you time,” you’ll be happier, healthier and more able to succeed in everything else.
Be an advocate
In addition to the points above, there was a lot of emphasis on the importance of improving diversity & inclusion across the board. D&I and women’s issues go hand-in-hand. The intersectionality can’t be denied. When one suffers, the other does as well. As ForbesWomen Editor Maggie McGrath said, “Allyship isn’t enough; we need advocates, accomplices and partners.” Don’t be afraid to use your voice to advocate for change.
Although 2020 has been a challenging year for women especially, there is a sense of optimism as well. As Moira Forbes said in her closing remarks, “Women are uniquely positioned to seize on the opportunities presented by these challenges to seize the possibility that they present to rebuild stronger and more equitably. Could the crisis mark a new – and better beginning?”