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March 8, 2016

Today, on International Women’s Day 2016, I ask you, “Why bother speaking up?”

As we celebrate women everywhere and continue to work for equality for women across the globe, there is something central about the progress women have made and their courage, commitment and conviction to speak up.

Look back at the past. Who is your favorite person who spoke up?

images-148Was it Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”

Was it Susan B. Anthony, who thought it was imperative that women should have the right to vote in the United States?

Or maybe it was Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Helen Keller or another well-known woman.

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Was it Margaret Thatcher, who said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

I respectfully beg to differ with Margaret Thatcher and this quote. I believe women can not only get things done, but they can say what they want and lead too.

I believe women can speak up and make a difference. For many years, they have.

Microsoft released a video today for International Women’s Day including hashtag #MakeWhatsNext that showcases how women have not only spoken up but that teaches kids about female inventors who have gotten things done and changed our world.

In the video is a slide that says, “Everything is not ‘man’ made.” Interesting enough, when the video begins, young girls talk about Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and other male inventors.

It’s not that we are not grateful and don’t want to acknowledge these fine inventors who also changed our lives. It’s that women belong in the list too – and not way down it.

When you speak up, you shine the light on what you can and want to do – and you shine the light on others who are doing, being and creating what you appreciate.

Sometimes you will have days where you will need to speak up for yourself. Other days, you’ll need or want to speak up for others who cannot or will not speak up for themselves.

When you speak up, you create the opportunity to make a difference for others and yourself – whether it is personally, professionally and philanthropically.

So on this International Women’s Day this year, I say, “Speak Up, Women!”

If you want things to change, then you’re going to have to start by speaking up.

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Join us for the next Speak Up Women Conference will be at the United Nations on Friday, March 3rd, 2017. Save the Date! Don’t miss out on this elite experience to raise your game, and your life, to the next level by learning how to really speak up and make an impact.


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March 8, 2016

What if you could not wash your face and hands, brush your teeth, take a shower, or drink clean water? What would your life be like?

 

For 780 million people across the planet, this is their daily reality.

 

Jennifer S. Wilkov, the founder of Speak Up Women, has joined forces with The Waterbearers movement to help raise funds to provide 1 million people with clean water by World Water Day, March 22, 2016.

 

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The Waterbearers movement is inspiring women who have access to clean water to get it to those who do not. As a Team Leader, Jennifer has the goal of reaching out to others and their inner circles to bring in 100 donated water filters. 100 people x 100 water filters will mean that a million people may have clean drinking water for first times in their lives.

 

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The Waterbearers work with their partner, Waves for Water, to distribute water filters to those with the highest and most immediate needs worldwide. They use the most advanced, hollow fiber membrane filters that are small, portable, easy-to-use, and can last a decade without needing to be replaced. One filter and its distribution to places in need costs just $50 and provides clean water for up to 100 people. They are currently used in more than 70 countries worldwide.

 

100% of donations go to Waves for Water.org, a 501(c)(3), and is tax-deductible.

To donate,
go to https://fundraise.thewaterbearers.org/fund…/speak-up-women.

Help women help women provide one million people with clean water by World Water Day, March 22nd, 2016.

 

Margaret Mead said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 

She was right.

 

Join the movement.

Donate and help people have clean drinking water,
perhaps for the very first time in their lives.

 

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The next Speak Up Women Conference will be at the United Nations on Friday, March 3rd. Save the Date! Don’t miss out on this elite experience to raise your game, and your life, to the next level by learning how to really speak up and make an impact.


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March 4, 2016

Guest Post from Victoria Moran, Keynote Speaker at the Speak Up Women Conference

 

It can take courage to speak out – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply and know that not everyone does. The key to speaking with certainty and integrity is to know that what you’re saying comes from deep within you, from the core of who you are where your truth lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you take the stage or take a stand. And don’t just ask: wait for the answers that will well up if you’re patient. Writing in a journal is a wonderful way to access the wisdom you carry around already, and get your own customized responses to the queries that will make you speak powerfully and passionately.

 

Victoria Moran

 

 

  • What are my values? . . . Sometimes all it takes to know what to do or say is to call up your personal values. And because values can change, deepen, and mature, “What are my values?” is an important question to ask yourself periodically – on your birthday perhaps, or at the New Year. It’s both liberating and motivating to be so well acquainted with your values that you could recite them on demand. My husband was working with this question and announced, “My values spell ditch: discretion, integrity, tolerance, civility, humility.” He was so pleased with his discovery that he had a bracelet made with his values engraved on it. You may want to do something similar, but as long as your values are engraved on your psyche and acted on in your life, that’s enough.

 

  • What does my body have to say about this? … We come from a culture that has long mistrusted the physical body. It’s been seen as the stepchild of the soul, a necessary evil, a confusing juxtaposition of God’s handiwork and the devil’s playground. It is, rather, a vortex of intelligence. Every cell and the millions of atoms comprising each one come equipped with awareness. Your body has something in the neighborhood of 40 trillion cells – that’s quite a consulting committee. Call on it when you’re confused or undecided as to what to say or how to say it. Get in a quiet, relaxed state and ask what your body has to say about staying in the relationship, taking on the volunteer commitment, or moving to another city. Then scan your body and note its sensations. Around the area of your heart, are you picking up the excitement that says “Yes!” even if there’s also a little anxiety about doing something new? Or in your abdominal region, are you feeling something more akin to dread, the fabled “gut reaction” telling you to take another path?

 

  • What am I not seeing? … We all live with blinders on. They come with having a personal vantage point. And yet the answer to a how-to-say-what-I-need-to-say dilemma may lie in seeing just another millimeter of the situation. Ask, then, what you’re not seeing here. This is not a request for superhuman sight, just a slightly broader view. Often, what we’re not seeing is what we don’t want to see. Let’s say you want to talk with your boss about your discomfort on the job. If you were to see just a bit more of the picture, you might learn (or remember) that the problem isn’t the job per se, but that this job isn’t utilizing a talent you’re yearning to express. Once you see that, you can speak with surgical precision, saying what you need to say without making the other person wrong.

 

  • What really matters here? … What’s the priority, the unaccessorized significance in this circumstance? In his classic of the spiritual life, At the Feet of the Master, Krishnamurti writes that as we mature internally, it’s essential to discern not just right from wrong, but more important from less important. Whether it’s making your to-do list for the day and prioritizing its entries, or figuring out which impromptu demands you can tend to in this twenty-hour period and which ones will have to wait, you need to engage in this discernment, to ask yourself what really matters. Generally speaking, things with feelings – i.e., living beings, particularly those closest to you – will take precedence. You’ll learn what’s of greatest consequence to you, in this particular instance, by asking yourself what really matters.

 

  • Is this a situation in which speaking out right now is the thing to do, or am I better to step back and give Life room to move? … Ask this, expecting to get a sense of what is yours to do and say and what isn’t. This is the advanced class of enlightened living. You can probably count on your fingers of one hand the number of times you’ve taken an action that was, in itself, wrongheaded, absurd, or unconscionable. Countless times, however, we’ve all acted too soon or without sufficient information, or we’ve stepped in where our input wasn’t needed and muddied circumstances that were already working themselves out. When you ask yourself, quietly and confidently, what your part is in a given situation, and where to wait (or exit entirely), you’ll get a clear idea of your role. If you ask the question and you still want to barge in and act against the advice of your internal coach, remind yourself that, although life is a series of little dramas, none of them needs a drama queen.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience! 

 

Victoria Moran is the author of a dozen books including Creating a Charmed Life and Main Street Vegan. She’s a podcaster and inspirational speaker who loves New York City, aerial yoga, and her rescue dog, Forbes.



March 3, 2016

PHOTO.so_money_logo Jennifer S Wilkov - Speaker - Author - Consultant

“So Money” Interview with Farnoosh Torabi

Listen to founder Jennifer S. Wilkov talk about her own life-changing experiences with the justice system, why she created the Speak Up Women Conference, and why it is important to speak up.

 

From Farnoosh:

Jennifer Wilkov is our So Money guest today. She is a woman who survived being victimized by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and incarcerated in one of New York’s and the Nation’s most violent prisons, Rikers Island. Why? Because this was a result of inappropriately being told to plead guilty to a crime she did not commit, she says.

Shortly thereafter, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) exonerated her, claiming she was innocent and Jennifer went on to continue to succeed as an author, a media personality, an entrepreneur and a speaker. Today, she is the founder and producer of Speak Up Women because she wants women to speak up. That’s one thing that she felt she couldn’t do at the time of her imprisonment. Today, she is a number one radio show host, a number one international best-selling award winning author. Can you believe it? Somebody who goes through such a tragedy is able to now come out on the other side of that not only helping herself but helping so many other women.

I won’t say anything more, you’ll have to tune in to hear more. This episode is going to change your life.

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer S. Wilkov, visit her website jenniferswilkov.com or follow her on Twitter @JenniferWilkov.

One of my favorite quotes from the interview: “Change is a path, it’s a road to making a difference for yourself & others. It’s how you live the life you want.” – Click To Tweet

 


 

Listen. Speak Up. and Join the conversation at the Speak Up Women Conference this Saturday, March 5th, at the United Nations!


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March 3, 2016

Guest Post from Karen Cahn, Panelist, Speak Up In Your Community Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference

 

       When I was going through a divorce, I turned to the Internet to find solace, shared experience and compassion from other women who were going through the same difficult experience.  I didn’t find much by way of “support”, but I did find lots of haters and trolls who made disparaging, disrespectful and hurtful comments about divorce and family issues.  The reality was, there was no safe space for people to have an open dialogue about tough personal issues without being cut down. I realized if I wanted such a space, I needed to stand up and to create it myself.  As a woman, I knew instinctively that women need talk therapy to survive, and for the most part, your friends and family are not the right people to talk with because it’s just not all that comfortable, there’s judgement, sadness on the part of whoever is listening to you, blah blah. It’s for this reason, that my team created technology to allow users to participate publicly or privately, so they could either be public about an issue or they could remain anonymous and speak more freely.  

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       We tested our technology on VProud.tv, a video-driven conversation platform, built for women by women.  VProud’s mission is to cultivate honest conversations among women in a safe and nonjudgmental environment.  We built the technology for VProud around the idea that everyone should have a voice and be able to share their opinion in a venue that is kind, respectful and free from trolls.  The Internet gives everyone a voice but it is challenging to find a place to share that voice without being cut down by others.  Unfortunately, this is particularly a problem for women. Women’s voices, opinions and bodies are constantly being berated on the Internet.  We wanted to stand up and put an end to the online bullying and shaming, so I created a place for women to talk about the issues that were important to them in a safe community platform.

        When we launched VProud.tv, we were inspired by the high levels of engagement, and the incredible amounts of time women who found the site were spending on it, watching video and reading the conversation.  We knew we were ready to start licensing our patent-pending software platform to brands and websites with the hopes of allowing any brand with a website to create safe online communities for their users, whether they were talking about sports, food, technology, or any topic.   VCommunity was built to give people a fun and immersive online video experience while also allowing users the ability to stand up and have a voice about the issues that matter to them.  Through VCommunity, we are using technology to allowing anyone to stand up and have a voice.

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       In the midst of all of this, I was talking to a colleague, Naama Bloom, founder of HelloFlo about the misinformation plaguing the Internet regarding women’s health and family wellness.  Naama and I decided to join together as partners and build a learning platform that allows women to get help about the physical or emotional issues they are experiencing from female doctors and experts. I believe that you can speak up for yourself by trying to solve your health problems.  Unfortunately, many women are unable to do this because they don’t have access to medical experts, who can be expensive, geographically prohibiting or impossible to get an appointment with.  We wanted to make these experts accessible to everyone so we created Learn From Her, a private e-learning platform for women. Our mission is to normalize the conversation about women’s and family health by bringing trustworthy, no-nonsense female experts to people globally, for the cost of a co-pay. Our classes offer a shame and judgment-free, private environment for women to learn about their own bodies and the health and well-being of their families.

        Lastly, through VProud and Learn From Her, I realized how hard it is for women to speak up about mental health issues.  Society has come a long way in the past few decades regarding mental health understanding, but there is still a long way to go.  The truth of the matter is that WE ALL suffer from mental health issues, whether it is directly or through association.  I wanted to normalize mental health issues because I’ve found that stigma comes from misunderstanding or lack of information. VProud was selected to be a part of the first-ever YouTube Global Initiative for Women.  The campaign launches in March for Women’s History Month and is intended to highlight the best up-and-coming female YouTube creators. We knew that we wanted to work on a project that focused on female mental health.  VProud’s project, You’re Not Crazy, is a mental health themed variety show, consisting of raw, dynamic conversations between diverse women, interspersed with stand-up comedy & storytelling from our favorite comedians. If we can talk openly and honestly (and laugh a little) about mental health issues, we can help to allow women to speak up and get the help that they need and deserve.

        In my life and career, I have found that by speaking up for yourself and your own needs can help other people to do the same thing.  If my voice can help people feel less alone, and direct them towards the tools they need to speak up for themselves, I believe I have had a successful career.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience!



March 3, 2016

Guest Post from Tai Beauchamp, Panelist, How to Speak Up & What’s Holding You Back Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference

 

TV Personality, entrepreneur, and influencer shares why she chooses to seek life harmony

I’m often asked, “How do you do it all?” My response is usually a simple “I don’t do it all.” After a quizzical stare, she might rephrase the question adding more detail in an effort to help clarify exactly what she means, “Well, how do you balance all that you have going on? I mean you work in TV and media. You have your own company. You travel the world for business and for pleasure. Right?”

“Yes, all of that is true,” I answer in a rather matter of fact tone.

 

The inquirer, let’s call her Sam, a 27-year old, will usually continue, “And I think I remember reading that you take care of your grandmother. And from your Instagram, you attend the hottest events at least three to four times a week. And you have fabulous friends and stuff. So in my book, that’s doing it all and balancing a lot!”

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I usually smirk right about now because Sam is right, it is doing a lot! —A whole hell of a lot and if I’m honest, at times, it’s doing just a little too much. But in 2016, as progressive, driven women, we all have a lot going on in life and if necessary could probably add more. It’s just what it is. But it’s the question of “balance” or perceived balance that always captures my attention and interest.

 

And so it’s now that I drop a truth bomb that catches Sam off guard. “I don’t balance.”

 

“Huh?” she responds. “I can’t tell by the looks of it!”

 

“I don’t seek balance. Life balance is a lie as far as I’m concerned,” I say.

 

Now grimacing in disbelief at either my honesty or what she now wonders may be her own naiveté I’m not sure, Sam retorts, “Oh, really?”

 

“Yes, really.”

 

Most don’t want to hear this nevertheless believe it, but logically, even scientifically, it’s impossible to balance anything that isn’t divided into equal parts, never mind more than two, maybe four, and possibly six things.

 

I’ve been out of college for almost 16 years, and at around age 28 when my grandmother suddenly became ill, I became a caregiver, visiting her at her rehabilitation center daily. This was on top of managing two major consulting roles (one as a philanthropy consultant and the other as editor of a major women’s magazine). I had also just started my company so I was trying to drum up business, I had relationships that I cherished and wanted to maintain, and was also newly single so I was trying to date and just live. This isn’t uncommon for most 21st Century women, so in no way do I or should you see my life or myself as an anomaly. But my philosophy and approach is very different and counters what most life coach type experts and psychologists even encourage.

 

I don’t want “life balance”; I want “life harmony”. I want to be able to juggle things fairly well. I want all things to work together as best as possible but balancing say 25 things? Not so much. When I think of harmony, I think flowing, calm movement. I think fluidity. I hear beautiful sounds, some notes higher than others but all melodic. I like that. It’s not easy to do by any stretch but it takes the pressure off believing that all areas of my life (in no particular order) professional, personal, spiritual and emotional, love, and social can or should receive the same amount of attention and effort at any given time. I’ve had to train the people in my life, especially my family and team members, to understand my philosophy. I also have to remind myself at times that it’s okay not to be able to do it all, especially at once. It feels right and because it does, I sing and hum more often even with 7 or 11 balls in the air.

 

So today, on March 5, 2016 and beyond, I speak up about choosing not to balance but harmonize. And I speak up to help other women to let go of the pressure to “balance it all” especially at the same time.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience! 

 

Tai Beauchamp is a TV Host and Personality, Entrepreneur and founder of TheTaiLife.com. She empowers women through style. You can read more inspiring content at TheTaiLife.com. Follow her on @theTaiLife and @taiBeau on all social media platforms.



March 3, 2016

Guest Post from Jessica Minhas, Panelist, Speak Up In Your Community Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference

 

“That which angers you, you’re meant to solve. That which grieves you, you’re meant to heal.”- Jessica Minhas

 

When I was growing up I thought I wanted to be a TV host. In fact, I was pretty sure of it. Many a conversation have Oprah and I had in my bathroom mirror. I just loved asking questions, and getting to the ‘heart of the matter.’ It made me feel like I was doing something good, and it made me feel like I was being heard.

 

Later when I grew up a little, well… a lot a bit, and started confronting my own childhood history of neglect, abuse and trauma (reluctantly at first, but more on that in a second), it made me realize something about those epic bathroom interviews — I still wanted to get to know people’s stories, for sure, but more than that, I wanted to help people feel seen.

 

In my twenties, I eventually found myself working as an actress/model and TV host/journalist in New York City, while on my way to find my biological family. You see, being on TV equaled being seen, and, boy, did I want my family to see me! I was raised by just my maternal grandfather. After he suddenly passed away while I was still a teenager, I set out to find my biological mother and father once and for all. I figured if I was on TV, it would up my odds of them finding me, or vice versa (classic teenage logic).

 

When a chance trip to India fell in my lap, I decided I should take it and “meet my people.” While I was there, I was exposed to the realities of the child sex trade. For the first time in my life, I not only met people who kind of looked like me (I’m half German and half Indian), but who also shared really similar stories of abuse and neglect, and who didn’t have access to education like I did.
I came back to the United States charged to change the world! (Think: Avenger-like enthusiasm.) And what I got in return were blank faces and stares. I didn’t realize it then, but I was overwhelming people with my zealous enthusiasm.

 

Simultaneously, also unbeknownst to me, all this talk about sexual violence was triggering me, and I was leaking out my trauma story like a helium balloon. I can only imagine my listener’s inner confusion at my impassioned advocating about sex trafficking victims buffered in between my own dissociative ramblings about that time I was raped, or the times I barricaded myself in my room to save myself from my grandfather’s nightly drunken rageful fits.

 

Some brave souls did try and gently nudge me into self-awareness by suggesting counseling, but, honestly, by that time, as a know-it-all 23-year-old, I had already survived all of this ‘stuff’, so the last thing I wanted to do was go backwards. Besides, I thought to myself, I was going to change the world.

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Now I understand that the first step in changing the world, is changing our own worlds. Our past, the scary, and even the dreadfully sad bits of our stories, our purpose, how we show up for our lives, and how we become ‘the change we want to see in the world’ are all inextricably linked. Sometimes the only way to truly move forward is to go back to the beginning. So, in the spirit of speaking up, being seen and being heard, here are three key takeaways I’ve learned in the process of becoming a healthier person, with a voice, who knows how to use it:

 

  • Be Curious: “That which cannot be named, cannot be healed.”- Dr. Dan Allender

 

Part of getting better is knowing what we need to get better from. Science tells us that what we suppress will be expressed… whether we like it or not, if not verbally, instead in the form of chronic health issues or mental illnesses. Case in point, I struggled with unexplainable anxiety for years. Only when I started diving deep into my history and getting really curious about who I was, where I came from and what I experienced, did I realize just how impactful my childhood trauma had been on my adult life.

 

  • Lean in: “You can only free someone else, insomuch as you have freed yourself.” -Dr. Dan Allender

 

Throughout my humanitarian work, my supervisors would always encourage us to be examining our own stories as we engage with our survivors. If we were feeling some internal resistance, that was an indicator of an opportunity to lean into our stories a bit more. That indicator may be pointing to some of our history that’s inhibiting us from ‘feeling’ pain.

 

There was something else about trauma survivors that I once heard. “Abuse survivors will scare you with how much they know about you. They can take one look at you and know you inside out.” They’ve been trained to be hyper vigilant in order to survive their situation, so in our work on their trauma, they can sense when we’re resisting something, or when parts of their stories are making us uncomfortable. Part of getting better is visiting your past and leaning into the parts that still burden us so we can free ourselves, and free others too.

 

  • Embrace: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” -Dr. Susan Jeffers

 

Trauma can sometimes make us scared to take risks, or believe in ourselves, or feel valuable and loveable, all making intimacy and important relationships terrifying. Equally, though, building solid social support helps us ‘relearn’ or even ‘learn’ for the first time, (like in my case,) what healthy people are like; the irony being that the intimacy and vulnerability effort is sometimes the scariest part of everything.

 

Still, having been through everything I’ve been through, having heard the survivors’ stories of some of the worst atrocities history has even seen, I can tell you with 100% certainty, healing is possible. It may be really frightening to articulate what’s happened in your life, but there’s freedom down the road. Yes, the struggle is real, but so is redemption and so is hope.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations! 

 

About the Author: Jessica Minhas is a human rights advocate, author, social entrepreneur, and media commentator who makes complex human rights issues relevant, understandable and actionable for audiences of all ages. Learn more about her work at www.jessicaminhas.com and www.illgofirst.com.



March 1, 2016

Is it time yet? This is an age-old question we have all asked at every age and stage of life. It’s like being in the backseat of a car and asking the driver, “Are we there yet?”

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Too often I am told by people, especially women, that they are not sure when the right time to speak up is.

The time to speak up, my friends, is now. NOW!

If you want to address something that is bothering you in a personal or professional relationship, it is only going to fester or possibly get worse as you wait for the “right time” to speak up about it to the right person.

 

And I mean the RIGHT person – the person you need address directly about it. It doesn’t mean talking with five other people who don’t have anything to do with the situation that is bothering you unless you are either practicing how you are going to speak up or asking for encouragement to do it. Gossiping with others about it is not going to help you. Neither is complaining about it to everyone but the person who is bothering you. Speaking directly with the person or persons involved will.

 

If you feel bad every time you are around a particular person, job site or see someone suffering, then those feelings are not going to change until you decide to speak up and tell someone how you feel.

 

Here is how you know it’s time to speak up and why that time is always now:

 

  • Nothing will change until you speak up. In fact, it may get worse.

 

  • You cannot expect the other person to read your mind or your feelings. If you do, you’ll be waiting a lifetime and then some for something to change.

 

  • Your efforts to speak up take courage. Dig down deep and stand up for yourself and your life. Speaking up is all about you taking the rare opportunity to step up to speak your mind and stand your ground about who you are, what you want, how you feel, and how you want to live your life.

 

  • Speak up for others who you see need help. There are so many people in this world who don’t know how to speak up for themselves. They need help, but they don’t know how to ask for it. Be that beacon for them. Articulate what they cannot and find ways to speak up for them so they can have better lives.

 

  • Not speaking up means you are allowing a leak in your energy to continue to drain you as you spend your time, energy and effort managing your feelings and spirit around something so negative in your world. Get rid of it! Go and address it head on so you can resolve it and solve it – for yourself and others.

 

 

Life is short. You never know what is going to happen to the ones you love, much less the ones you care about and collaborate with.

 

Now is always the right time to speak up. It is genuinely the first step to living the life you want and making sure all those in your world know what’s best for you.
Speak up for yourself and what you want, need and feel. If you don’t, who will?

 

Do it now!

 

Don’t miss the Speak Up Women Conference! Time is running out and so are our limited number of seats!

 

Haven’t purchased your ticket yet? The Speak Up Women Conference at the United Nations is on March 5th. Time is running out! Don’t miss out on this elite experience to raise your game, and your life, to the next level by learning how to really speak up and make an impact.



March 1, 2016

Guest Post from Kathy Zucker, Panelist, Speak Up In Your Community Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference

Taking risks. Speaking up. Sharing information. What do all of these things have in common? Conversation.

Every single person wants to be seen. To be heard. To have their words validated. Every one. And often? Nobody is listening.

When you are a person who listens to others, you are instantly a person of interest. That is it. You do not have to be superbly talented. The best writer. Photographer. Actor. All you have to do? Is talk to people. Well, and be genuinely interested in them.

Kathy Zucker - Panelist, Speak Up in Your Community Panel
Kathy Zucker – Panelist, Speak Up in Your Community Panel

Every time I talk to someone – and I talk to everyone – I learn something new. It is never something I expect. But just like bargain hunting in a department store, sooner or later you find a dark corner of a display that everyone has overlooked and uncover a hidden treasure.

Listening takes practice. I have made mistakes over and over again as I have learned how to take part in discussions. Own your mistakes. Apologize for errors. Learn how to avoid repeating them. And then move on. Every time I get involved in conversations on national and local levels, I learn more about myself. Another bonus? I get to see how amazing people handle themselves under pressure. These are people I admire. Respect. And that is how I identify people I want to be friends with.

Is it scary to start a conversation? Absolutely yes. I never know how someone will receive my thoughts, particularly the risky ones. Sometimes I go too far, and people let me know right away. But I would a million times rather risk going too far than playing things safe, especially if my heart is screaming at me to take a chance. Because the safe route? Is actually unsafe.

How can something safe be unsafe? Schools and authority figures teach us from a young age to follow a well-trodden path toward success. Study hard. Get good grades and test scores. Go to college. Get a job. But here is the hidden danger of the safe route. Everybody is pursuing the same thing. The safe route is obvious. It practically has neon lights flashing above it. And when something is obvious, that means a crowd is headed toward an entry door that can admit only a few.

So how can you be successful? By doing something different, or being the first. I am not the best mom. The best writer. The best anything, really. What am I? Someone who sees strategy five, ten and twenty years into the future. Everything I do showcases the choices I make that reflect my ability in strategic planning. From the place where I choose to raise my family to the companies I partner with, every choice reflects what I want to stand for long-term. Even – and especially – this book is part of my plan. What is my goal? I am not looking to get rich. The book is being published under an imprint belonging to one of my companies. My goal? Is to have something I can point to when people ask what I have been doing during the time since I left my full-time corporate job. Now every time someone asks that question? My response will be, read the book.

There are five members of my family. Each one has different skills. Goals. My children are still very young. They are unformed. Zucker_SpeakUp_Conversation-2I am beginning to see the outlines of what my older children will be as adults. I am learning who they are as people at the same time as the entire world is learning. How is this happening? Through the real time social media posts that I create every day showcasing my five family members.

Every time I post a picture and story about a member of my family, I am opening the door to opportunities. How am I doing that? By telling people what my kid is interested in, I am giving them a blueprint for what will work for that individual. When I posted a picture drawn by my oldest child, book editors reached out asking if she is interested in collaborating to illustrate future projects.

Each time I share a story that tears my heart apart, people feel connected to my family. To an individual child. To the family as a whole. And when people feel a deep connection? They search for ways to help us in small and large ways.

These connections are a two way street. When people are kind to my family, they own a tiny piece of my heart. So when they send congratulations on a milestone? I thank them for their friendship. I am extremely busy. Everyone knows this. But in the midst of scrolling down the ever-increasing volume of my timelines, posts jump out at me. Birthdays. Car accidents. Travel pictures. Whenever I see something that tugs at my heart, I like or comment on it. And each like? Is an invitation to start a conversation. Often, I see the same names pop up on instant messenger. And then? We open our hearts to each other.

I am grateful every day that I took an unconventional path. Has it been difficult? Poorly paid? Yes and yes. But while I may not have the bank balance I might have had if I had stayed in a corporate job, I have something far more valuable – a wide network of friends who have answers for all of my questions. And if you share information and start conversations? You can have the same.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience!

 

The above excerpt is a chapter of the forthcoming book, Five: How a Family Can Create a Career, scheduled to be published in April 2016 by the Metro Media Network, a division of the Metro Moms Network, LLC ®. You can learn more at kathyzucker.com/five.


Trumpbour-Kelly-Keenan-Headshot-2.jpg

March 1, 2016

Guest Post from Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, Founder of See Jane Invest and Moderator, Speak Up for Financing Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference

 

I’m an angel investor, which means companies directly ask for my money. Because I work with angel investing groups, I choose among entrepreneurs who have made it through a tough selection process. They present their ideas to me and my colleagues at monthly pitch meetings hoping to secure sizable checks.

 

Kelly Keenan Trumpbour - Moderator, Speak Up for Financing Panel

Frequently, I am the only female investor in the room. The majority of companies pitching us have zero women founders in the mix. That’s changing, and I’m happy to report seeing more and more women at the helm of great ideas. I’ve been privileged to see suburb pitches from women founders who are on fire, and I am left with the unenviable task of choosing among them.

 

And yet, more often than I would like, when other female-founded companies are in front of me, the person telling me about it isn’t always the woman who created it. It’s often a guy.

 

Can I tell you how often I see a woman founder’s picture in a company’s slideshow, but the woman herself is not in the room with me? Do you know how many times women co-founders take a seat in the back of the room, ready and available for our follow-up questions, but they are not running the presentation?

 

It makes me want to rewrite the Tammy Wynette classic and belt from the top of my lungs, “STAND BY YOUR IDEA!! (twang twang twang) . . . . And show the world you love it!”

 

Ladies . . . LADIES!!! Just give me one other example, anywhere in your life, where you hand the microphone to a guy so he can explain your thought process about something you care so very deeply about.

 

Because I don’t hear random guys saying things like, “Well Bob, Ella went vegan in college because she believes in a cruelty free, sustainable food model, which is why she’s hoping you will offer her tofu from now on!” Or, “You know what Ron, that’s a great question. Does Tanya want to get married someday? I think the important question here is does she want to get married to you. And while we are so delighted by your interest, I think you can see that her brand will need to hold out for more.”

 

I know what you put into these companies. Many of you have maxed out credit cards, taken out another mortgage on a house, skipped sleep, ignored friends and exasperated family members. And then your team comes to pitch me and I don’t see you at the front of the room telling me why it is all (still) worth it.

 

And I think I know why. It’s not necessarily a lack of confidence or self-esteem. I think it’s because you care so very much about your idea that you want to entrust its communication to the very best possible messenger. If you are going to walk into a room full of mostly male investors, why not offer them your male co-founder? It’s smart. Like can attract like. But it’s also safe, and it bets against you being the best possible messenger.

 

If you have made it far enough as an entrepreneur to pitch me, you have found a way to live with risk. Maybe it’s never become what you might call comfy (and it never will), but like a decent roommate, you’re familiar enough with its rhythms to sleep a few hours most nights.

 

If you have enough of the gambler in you to put tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars behind your concept, risk a steady paycheck somewhere else, and cash in every favor for one shot at the gold ring, why not bet on your voice being the best voice?

 

Your job as the startup founder will always be far more difficult than my job as an investor. I don’t envy the strain you volunteer for, even if I admire your tenacity. But when I invest, I invest only in women-owned companies. I’m quite public about that. It’s on my websites, my social media pages, and my business cards. Two minutes into a conversation with me, and you will know I invest in women-led startups. Why? Because it matters to me that other people see and hear about an angel investor who expects women to be as present as men in the startup industry.

 

In putting my money where my mouth is, I’m hoping to model the change you need to get more investment. To get my investment, I need you to speak up and stand by your idea.

 

I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience!