The Inspiring Minds of the Women of “Ellevate”

“Own your success.” These three small but powerful words shook me the other night.

Do I do this?  In this fast-paced, ever-changing world of business, do I, or the other women around me, give themselves the credit they deserve for their successes, big and small? And, isn’t this ever-more important especially as we move into mid- and later careers?

A friend recently recommended I look into “Ellevate,” a global professional network for women, and when I did, I was immediately drawn to their message of empowering women in business and to the title of one event in particular—“Resilience: A Conversation with Deborah Norville, Jennifer Gilbert and Lauren Manning.” It is Gilbert who faced the audience that night and said, “Own your success.”

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From left: Sallie Krawcheck, Jennifer Gilbert, Deborah Norville, and Lauren Manning. 

Resilience is a quality every woman needs to pull from within to persevere and succeed both in work and in life. Ellevate brought together three women who shared their incredible stories of strength and fortitude under some of the toughest of circumstances.

Deborah Norville, after replacing Jane Pauley on the Today Show in 1989, got a lot of negative attention in the press. She was completely phased out of the program after going on maternity leave the following year. It was a very public exit and she had to get creative to rebuild her career, starting with radio. She has been host of Inside Edition since 1995 and is a two-time Emmy winner.

Jennifer Gilbert, who was attacked and stabbed by a stranger 37 times when she was 22, fought off her attacker and saved her own life. After this traumatic experience, she rebuilt her sense of self and started a successful events company. She was later recognized as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Lauren Manning, former Managing Director and Partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, survived the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. With 82% of her body covered in burns, it was weeks before anyone told her the Towers were gone and that everyone she knew was gone. She could have given up, but she found the inner strength to heal and move on. She has written a New York Times bestseller.

Suddenly my own concerns in life seemed pretty small in comparison—and downright ordinary. I want to be happy—but more than that I want to achieve extraordinary things. What I loved about these women was that while they each had overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in life, they didn’t minimize some of the more ordinary problems women face. Gilbert said, just because your name is plucked from the “fishbowl” of bad things doesn’t mean you’re exempt in the future. All of these women have had to face some form of belittlement, career-backstabbing, and judgement from other people. Laura Manning said, “I felt discriminated against and belittled by the media. Labeled as a victim, not a survivor.”

When faced with extreme circumstances, rather than buckling under they became extraordinary. This is important—no matter how big or small life’s challenges may be.  As Norville said, “We are all public figures in our own individual lives.” In this world where our lives can suddenly become magnified on a global stage very quickly, this is true on a whole new level.

Resilience isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity.

Sallie Krawcheck, president of Ellevate and moderator of the discussion, asked the panelists to share some practical tips in this critical area. This is so important, whether you are leading a project, making a career move, or facing some of the toughest of life’s challenges.

Here are just a few takeaways from this panel of remarkable women:

  • The first step is to understand how empowered you are.

  • You need to be true to your internal goals and obligations.

  • Reassess where you lie in your current paradigm, understand if your goal is feasible, and create a pathway to success.

  • Change people’s perception of your power to prevail.

  • Be there for other women.

  • Realize you have a choice—even when you have fear. Own the fear and use it to your advantage.

  • The only thing you can control in a difficult or unexpected event is what you do and who you are after it happens. It’s about how you deal with it. We can’t control what life throws at us, but who we are the day or minute after is in our control.

  • Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams—be thorough.

  • Anything we can do as women to elevate other women is so important.

  • And finally, own your success.

To me, this evening was about more than resilience—it was about elevating yourself and other women.

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