When Jamie asked me to be part of this panel my response was that I really only fit half the bill. I am definitely a woman, but I am not an entrepreneur, unless you count creating a program for fast tracking people of color in the philanthropy sector or being a founding member of a Community Foundation. Mostly I am a retired professor and fundraiser.
Having said that, I do believe I can share some of my experiences and hopefully be helpful to you in your current and future endeavors. As singer Meatloaf sings, “objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are.” My hope is that my experiences (some close and some not so close) will inform your future in some way.
When I was a fairly new graduate of a MA/MBA program in Arts Administration, I was selected to be part of a year-long program for women which was presented by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Participants were chosen based on who the Chamber believed were candidates for future C-Suites positions. It was a diverse group that mostly included women in the for-profit world, but there were a few of us who worked for nonprofits in the community.
We were divided into Master Mind Groups of 8 and assigned a coach. She worked with us throughout the year individually and in a group. We attended a weekend workshop with a horse whisperer who taught us about “leading from behind.” Speakers covered a wide range of topics including Girlfriendology, Performance Psychology, Power and Influence, Good Management (Coaching), Conflict Resolution, and my personal favorite, Human Auras. We also took a battery of personality tests to help us understand our skill sets.
One of the most useful things we did was create a personal strategic plan, which included the usual components – Situation Analysis, Mission, Vision and Values Statements, Goals, Action Steps and Measurements. If you haven’t done this for yourself, I highly recommend it. It can help you focus on what is really important – and not what you have been told is important.
After that year of self-reflection (who gets to do that in midlife unless forced), of the eight women in my Master Mind Group, only one was still focused on making it to the C-Suite. What we all realized as we did the work of the course was that we were striving for someone else’s goal for us. It was incredibly freeing to let go of that and plan for what we knew was important to us. Some of us had the voice of a parent urging us on. Others had a boss or a teacher whose misplaced encouragement meant that if we didn’t “make it” we would disappoint. In my case, it was someone in my past who told me “you might as well forget about doing it, a woman can’t make it in that field.” My motivation was to prove him wrong. Surprise — it turned out I didn’t like the aforementioned “field” after all.
As Glennon Doyle says in her new book UNTAMED, “What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world’s expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves.”
I would say that the women in my group left WE Lead as better leaders, parents, mentors, and individuals because we had detoxed from the world’s expectations and had found ourselves.
Now almost 15 years later, all of us are still working in some capacity. One is in the C-Suite, as planned. We have made the changes we needed to make, and we are all true to our personal missions.
In the nonprofit world we have what we call the “double bottom line.” Though we are called nonprofits, that does not mean we are called to lose money every year. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the community we serve to be fiscally responsible and, in that case, a goal of making a profit and putting it back into the mission is key. But the other part of the bottom line is a commitment to that mission. Every decision we make is run through both lenses.
Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
I recently read an article about Patagonia, a certified B Corp, and its reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. They were one of the first to close and will likely be one of the last to reopen fully. They will have to be creative in their pivot because many of their stores are social meeting places. This will not be good for their profits, but it does balance with their core values. As their CEO, Rose Marcario, said in the article, “The challenge that we face now is how do we take care of our employees and our community while all of this is happening in a way that is true to our values?”
What if we as women treated our lives like a nonprofit or a B Corp? Instead of making getting to the top our goal – or whatever that little voice is telling us – let’s take some time to detox from what the world says that we want, and create a plan for ourselves that allows us a double bottom line – fiscal responsibility AND being true to our core missions and values.
Take a minute to think about what that would look like if companies took this idea to heart. And even more important, if their shareholders did. The bottom line might be smaller, but workers would have healthcare, childcare, a living wage and our planet would be greener. Who knows, people might pay more for their products if they knew that. It works for Patagonia.
As women entrepreneurs and nonprofits we have the opportunity to model that – in our work and in our lives. If we are truly detoxed from what others expect, we can focus on what we expect from ourselves. I suspect that it might be different from what the world tells us success looks like.
About Sydney Schnurr, CFRE
Sydney recently retired from the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music where she taught in the Graduate Arts Administration Program.
Prior to that she was Development Director for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival and Associate Development Director for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. She also served as President of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Fundraising Professionals where she helped found New Faces of Fundraising, a program for fast tracking POC in the fundraising profession. Sydney currently serves as a founding board member of the Chaffee County Community Foundation.
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