S.H.E. Summit Recap: Succeeding on Your Own Terms

Courtesy of S.H.E. Summit

Courtesy of S.H.E. Summit

I had the privilege of attending S.H.E. Summit two weekends ago as press. My attendance at the event was the culmination of a two-year promise I made to myself to get there. I stumbled upon this event a few years ago while on Twitter. I saw the hashtag trending and it immediately peaked my interest. I started reading all of the goodness on the hashtag which lead me to Claudia Chan’s website and from there I was hooked.

I have been to quite a few conferences over the years – each of them with a different mashup of pros and cons. Here’s what I appreciated about S.H.E. Summit:

1) The speakers were relatable. Each speaker shared their stories honestly and ended with sincere calls-to-action that spoke to their dedication to seeing all women thrive. Part of what energizes attendees to take action with any information acquired from your event is: Their ability to see themselves in the speakers and/or the stories being told.

2) They didn’t miss the opportunity to include men in the discussion. From the men who attended as a attendees to those who graced the stage, there was an important dialogue at S.H.E. Summit around how the empowerment and progression of women is affecting men. This is a conversation that is usually scoffed at by hardcore feminists, but I appreciated the difference in perspective.

3) Their programming was designed to address the whole woman, not just parts. When have you ever gone to a conference where you can get professional inspiration while finding out that there is underwear that exists to eliminate the god-awful maxi pad all women have to endure during that time of the month? Yes, this happened. We had the privilege of hearing from dynamic founder and serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Period Panties ( sorry not sorry, guys). Miki has created panties that are powered by technology that allows women to ditch the pad. Not only were there unanimous gasps in the room by the women in attendance, but we were all so captivated by her charge to remove the shame that is often synonymous with menstrual cycles for women around the world.

Miki wasn’t the only captivating voice that day. We also had the pleasure of being introduced to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop The Ball ( due to be released in Feb. 2017). Tiffany spoke to me personally because she shared her story of striving to be a perfect mom. She called her particular condition “Home Control Disease” (HCD). HCD is a condition that she defines as “having the need to have everything done a certain way – her way”. After her attempts at perfection failed her consistently, she started to redefine what success looked like.

For Tiffany, success boiled down to these three things:

1) Having a purposeful career

2) Cultivating a juicy partnership

3) Leading a healthy lifestyle.

With a new definition of success and letting go of perfection, she decided that it was okay to “drop the ball”. This meant that she would forgive herself if she missed responding to birthday party invites. It also meant that, she only manages what she can and lives with the imperfection of everything else. This is something I personally grapple with as I try feverishly to manage my three children, wife duties and my business.

Although I well know that I’m not alone in my mommypreneur plight, it was reassuring to know that it was okay to “drop the ball” if it means more peace and less pressure in my life.

Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit

Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit

If these two ladies weren’t enough to whip us in shape, we got hit over the head with the “Women & Money: Why We Struggle in the Relationship & Practical Steps to Financial Empowerment” panel. This panel encompassed Judy Dougherty, VP and Head of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group, Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivating the Masses, Silvia Tergas, Financial Planner at Prudential and was moderated by S.H.E. Summit Founder, Claudia Chan. Their message to us was to not leave our financial futures up to chance. What I appreciated about the discussion was that it talked about the difference between wealth versus income. Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group cited that “wealth is an inside job”.

Typically when we hear about acquiring wealth, it is spoken about as something tangible that we can go out and conquer. It was refreshing to hear them encourage us to do the internal work first so we know how to sustain and build upon the income when it comes.

As you can tell, S.H.E. Summit was chock full of inspiration and activation to get you moving towards chasing your dreams. My overall takeaway was: Success should be defined individually. Much of the pressure and shame women and men feel around how well they are doing in life stems from very general definitions of success that are rooted in how much money you have in your bank account or the items in your closet. Walking away from the S.H.E. Summit I felt empowered to help the women in my life and my clients to redefine success on their own terms. When you are focused on the things that are important to you and you are actively taking steps to achieve your goals – you are indeed a success.

I was a Snapchat and Instagram beast that day. Check out some of the highlights of my day below:




Food-For-Thought Friday: Speak Less, Listen More- A Lesson on Women’s Rights and Race

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

I have been deciding what I want to call the theme of my Friday posts and then it hit me: Food-for-thought Friday. My goal is to share insights I have on a myriad of topics – either inspired by content I have elsewhere on the interwebs or just something I feel warrants discussion.

Today, I am sharing my latest You Tube video from “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel. If you aren’t already aware, I post a video per week there giving the behind-the-scenes or background on the article of the week. I also post the replays from my weekly Ask Czarina Live™ Periscope show so you should definitely subscribe, but I digress.

Last night, on my Ask Czarina Live™ show I discussed pay equity for women. I talked about the fact that I am disgusted with talking about it. I also shared the startling statistics in the pay equity discussion for women of color.

Did you know?

Although white women get paid 79 cents on every dollar of their white male counterpart makes, Black women make 64 cents on that same dollar. Latinas get paid 54 cents on that same white male dollar. Women across racial demographics who are disabled make 64 cents on the dollar as well. Which brings to light that even though there is a general issue with pay equity for women, the impact is disproportionately adverse when we break it down by race and even ability.

What I find fascinating is the inability of white males and even females to see how this may be a tremendous hurdle for women of color to overcome. There is a mindset that if we (people of color) simply do the “right things” that the problem of inequity goes away and we can all go home and resume our lives as successful professionals. Quick to speak up and offer up solutions, slow to listen.

I contend that it isn’t that simple. There is a system and an institution in this country that makes it near impossible in some cases for women of color to catch up. Even if white women catch up eventually, we will always be behind. That fact doesn’t change unless, white people recognize the issue for what it is and make some serious and intentional changes in how gender and race is viewed in this country. That’s the price of being the majority. What can I say – with great power comes great responsibility as they say.

Someone on my show mentioned, “People pay for what they want.” We could make the case that the fact that pay equity is still an issue is a sign that women overall are unwanted in the workforce. I can also make the case that women of color and those who are disabled are damn near invisible when you consider the spectrum of how much the powers-that-be choose to pay us.

There are ways we can advocate for ourselves as women on the whole, but the advocacy is a harder sell for some of us. This is a fact.

Here’s the food-for-thought: Don’t be offended or quick to offer-up a solution, when women of color speak about the reality of their own plight in the pay equity debacle. It isn’t an affront to white women or anyone else. Instead, ingest the data and decide for yourself if you would want the same for yourself or your daughter. What would you do? I think I already know what your answer is.

Until the next time…thank you for reading! I appreciate you immensely. Stay tuned for more food-for-thought next Friday.

Three Reasons Why Companies Should Provide a Pathway Back to Work for Moms

Women's Rights

As we continue to explore all of the segments of diversity that deserve our attention, let me add another one to the ever-growing list. If you couldn’t tell by the title – the segment I am speaking about is: Moms. Some of women are fortunate enough to be employed by an employer who understands that there is much more that can be done for women returning to work than what FMLA provides. Those women are in the minority. The larger chunk of this segment is betrothed to companies who either don’t care or aren’t creative enough to create opportunities and pathways for mothers returning to work after starting their families.

Did you know?

The U.S. is one of three countries along with Oman and Papua New Guinea that does not offer paid maternity leave. This is a clear indication that we are not only lackluster in support of women before they become mothers, but that we neglect them on the other side of motherhood as well. As such, “off-ramping” or leaving career tracks for women is not just an option but a decision made under the duress of the stigma placed upon women who decide to have a family.

According to the Center For Talent Innovation’s 2005 study, 37% percent of professional women in the U.S. left their career track at some point. 66% opted for flex-time, temp and part-time work instead of completely off-ramping. According to a 2015 Huffington Post Women article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the numbers had not changed much when they revisited the 2005 study in 2010. Shocking!

Let’s be honest… let’s be real.

Women should be able to start a family whenever they choose. It isn’t a decision that requires the ever-popular buy-in of line managers and the C-Suite. That said, when a woman makes that decision- it shouldn’t be the case that she has to bid adieu to her career aspirations, upward mobility and financial security.

Unfortunately, women are hindered. There’s a stigma around pregnancy and being a parent in many companies. While I choose to focus in on women for the sake of this piece, the stigma extends to any person – who has to put familial obligations before their work at some point.

I can remember so many days working for previous employers – where my need to leave at 5pm was met with grimaces and rolling eyes. I recall many days that one of my children were sick and I had to hear the long sighs and pauses directly after letting my immediate supervisor know I would be taking the day to care for them.

From where I sat, starting a family was seen as an affront to what the company needed to accomplish. How dare you set them back like this? You want to take longer than FMLA will allow, we can’t guarantee your job because you need more time. “Good luck and best wishes” is how they say: “You were great until you decided to have this family, good luck being hired again, but we are moving on.”

Leaning-in for the win or not.

There isn’t enough leaning-in in the world that can change an archaic mindset. If companies believe a woman who has family obligations is worth less than one who can sit behind a desk for 12 hours a day and then again from home neglecting their personal wants and needs – I would say they are insane. One isn’t better than the other – it’s just different. We need to stop alienating women because they choose to have a family. More importantly, we need to welcome them back whether it is after a short or long hiatus- offering different options for either scenario.

Here are three reasons why companies need to provide a pathway for women back to work after starting a family:

1) A 2013 Pew Research Center Survey indicated that 40% of households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the primary or sole providers of income for the household.  By eliminating the pathway for women to return to work, you are very likely creating economic disparities for not only women, but for families on the whole. Washington Post reported last year that 47% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. Already strained household budgets, plus unpaid maternity leaves, coupled with women out of work due to lack of opportunity is very likely a financial burden/nightmare for many families in the U.S.

2) Can you afford to lose another segment of the workforce? KPMG published their 2016 Top Global Market Trends last month. One of the five takeaways from this report was that: “Talent shortages are still top-of-mind for many leaders and they see it as the new norm.” I’ve mentioned in other articles that I think the talent shortage is more perceived than actual. How can we claim talent shortages when we are willfully turning away women from the workforce? Realistically, no organization can afford to lose this segment; which is why it makes sense to create circumstances that favor them staying.

3) It’s the right thing to do. How much more volume do women’s issues need for the parity and double-standards to stop? Every person deserves to be able to sustain themselves and their families by way of gainful employment. Women owned-businesses are on the rise and they are likely to rival establishment businesses and their archaic thinking. The true talent shortage is when women push out the big guys and focus on all of the items that were off the table like: paid maternity leave, flex-work arrangements, backup daycare, eldercare options, paternity leave, phase-back programs etc.

I covered this topic in further detail on my show: Ask Czarina Live ™ Unbothered: Moms Returning To Work. Check out the episode below.




#EqualPayDay What Are You Doing Differently Today?

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

As I turned on my computer yesterday and started to navigate my various social accounts, I found out that it was #EqualPayDay. It was a day for all of us to discuss the obvious issue with pay equity in this country. It also marks how far into the year women must work in order as much as their male counterparts earned in 2014.  I’m always down for a good social campaign, but something about #EqualPayDay feels banal.

It is well documented that women are paid less than men in the workplace. We also know that black and latino women fare the worse with regard to pay equity. The bigger question is: what are employers going to do about it? It’s cute to hop on social media and tweet your support for the day, but again what is anyone going to do about it?

I am a solopreneur with a little over two years under my belt as a business owner. I can assure you when my time comes to hire a few good women to assist me with building my legacy they will be compensated adequately for their efforts regardless of gender, color or any other identifiable criteria beyond their control. That’s my vision for my company.  I have powerhouse women friends who also own their own businesses and have dedicated themselves to filling in all the pay equity gaps women have had to deal with for eternity by offering: fair salaries, childcare and eldercare options, real maternity leave that isn’t confined to a 12 week FMLA allotment etc. You see, the end to the gender pay gap in this country has to start with good intentions. If you have little or no regard for a certain subsection of citizens or better yet the people you employ (who happen to be human beings like you) none of this will change.

Food for thought…

Women don’t just get screwed on salary alone, it is the entire package and delivery that creates economic disparity. Every unpaid medical or maternity leave, the inordinate costs of childcare and eldercare; and wages that have stopped increasing or do so marginally prevents us from being able to sustain ourselves and our families. According to a recent study by the Center For American Progress, over 50% of women work outside of the household and contribute to their families economic security.

I have been pretty transparent about my salary negotiation missteps over the course of my career. However, what’s really disturbing is that the “sisterhood” isn’t collectively on the same page when it comes to closing this gap. Out of the seven positions I have held over the course of my career, I have had one male boss. The rest have been women. In all circumstances, not one of them ever advocated or demanded I be paid my worth. They used to lie and tell me that they were pulling for me to get the raises I was fighting for, but it was hot air. It was never their intention to ensure that I was paid a fair wage for my efforts.

Here’s the bottom-line, if I work hard and provide quality outcomes I expect to be paid commensurate with the result. I don’t want to hear: “hang in there” “I’m rooting for you” “Budgets are tight” or “maybe next year”. Women want this to change now- not in 2049 or 2178.

I say all of this to say leaning-in never increased my salary, asking for more never increased my salary and it had little to do with my ability or lack thereof to negotiate. The system in many companies is not geared to serve the interests of women or minorities for that matter. The companies that care and want to see everyone succeed do so because they start with good intentions, consistent action and passion for establishing fair workplace standards.

I know many of you felt empowered yesterday, but what are you doing about it today in your own businesses? I’ll wait. 


31 Days, 32 Revelations: Playing The Game Is Played Out

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Series Introduction

Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.

Day 13 of 31- Playing The Game Is Played Out

I just read this story about actress and comedian Mo’Nique speaking about how she was blackballed in Hollywood after having success in the movie “Precious”.  Director, Lee Daniels expressed that Mo’Nique hurt her self during the course of the Precious production by “making unreasonable demands and not playing the game”. As far as I’m concerned, she may have been “unreasonable” or even difficult. What I take issue with is the fact that the game isn’t the same for everyone. She was not and will not be the last difficult celebrity to grace a movie stage. Difficult and unreasonable demands of movie stars on set is the kind of fodder that lines tabloids daily. The difficulty doesn’t stop Hollywood from spending millions of dollars supporting projects with some of these people.

This story line is no different to what goes on in Corporate America everyday. I recall just a few years ago being discouraged from filing an EEO claim by an HR person  who cautioned me to “play the game”. I even recall women executives in meetings setting women’s suffrage back several decades by giggling, twirling their hair and flirting through negotiations. My question is: what is the game? Is the game that you “shut up, smile and look pretty” as actress Sheryl Lee Ralph suggests? Why is the advice to women in 2015 that we should bat our eyes, smile when we are displeased and not be heard? If the game is about brown-nosing and/or keeping up appearances, I am out.

I’m not suggesting you have outbursts like a child when the spirit moves you ; but a person should be able to demand and communicate needs and wants without it being tied back to some facade you have to keep up to get ahead. It should be the case that any women can show up to the boardroom or the set as she is. We shouldn’t have to apologize for who we are and why we want what we want, Men do it all the time and don’t have to perform in the manner that we are expected to as women.

Who knows?  Mo’Nique could very well have been terrible to work with. I just wished we lived in a society that treated like instances equally. In this case, that would mean blackballing every actor or actress that is difficult. The truth is money is spent on people that are liked, can bring in revenue and “look” and “act” the part. I wasn’t that person when I worked in Corporate America and Mo’Nique isn’t that for Hollywood unfortunately,


Czarina’s Lesson: There are limits to equality and fairness where money is the primary concern.

31 Days, 32 Revelations: Silent Sentinel

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


Series Introduction

Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.

Day 4 of 31- Silent Sentinel

March 3rd, 1913 a woman by the name of Alice Paul organized  a woman’s suffrage parade of more than 5,000 women participants from every state in the union. This wasn’t just any day, it was President Wilson’s first inauguration. It wasn’t your typical parade, Paul and the participants were marching in the name of woman’s suffrage. Onlookers assaulted the marchers which very quickly escalated to a volatile situation.

Four years later, Alice Paul broke away from the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to form a more radical delegation of women’s rights activists called the National Women’s Party (NWP). It was also during that time that she assembled the “Silent Sentinels” to protest President Wilson’s ongoing lack of support for women’s suffrage. As pictured above, these women asked the obvious questions: “how long must liberty wait and “what will you do for women’s suffrage”.

Why is this important?

This moment in history verifies what I have been saying in previous posts- when you choose awareness and action over ignorance and inaction- it is a problem. Alice Paul and her fellow suffragists were attacked while police officers pretended not to see the attacks and then they were arrested and put away for seven months. I note that when the NYPD and Ferguson had the center stage last year, I did not choose silence over what I knew, I spoke up and called them out – namely the administration for having a poor system and and even worse practices. As a wife to a detective and someone who grew up with the NYPD, I felt there was no one better to talk about the real issues that were causing the civil unrest than me. In return, I had several men chime in. One said that they hoped for my husband’s sake that I was “hot” and that I must be an “A-1 ball-buster at home”. Another exclaimed ” who is this chick that thinks she knows the NYPD and how to fix the issues- she hasn’t a clue.”

Like Alice Paul, these men found my rhetoric and disposition to be “unladylike” and “radical”. In 2015, it is still the opinion of many men that a woman should know her place. I should be seen and not heard. Since I have an opinion, I must automatically drive my husband insane. If the latter is true, the only way the relationship could be worth it (according to these guys) is if I were “hot”. It is not only pathetic but sad, that I even have this as an anecdote to share.

Here’s the facts: I don’t bust balls for folly, but I certainly will-if warranted. I am allowed to have an opinion and feel empowered to speak up, if I choose. I am very much a lady and also radical when the spirit moves me. I don’t take kindly to anyone telling me when and how I should react. I am confident in my skin and operate on these premises, because my father (a man) constantly drilled me on the importance of being independent and strong. I’ve seen what hair twirling, flirting and “lady-like” behavior gets women in the boardroom. You get smirks, raised eyebrows and side-eye from the women witnessing a weak attempt of a fellow woman trying to be seen as worthy and viable. I simply wish that as women we could just show up unapologetically and be accepted for what we bring to the table.

In conclusion, the men that were spewing this stuff  had never been schooled on social media 101 apparently. As such, it never occurred to them that the thread they were bashing me on would be seen by my dad. I can tell you that no matter how old a woman gets, no father takes kindly to people speaking ill of their daughter. My dad had a field day with one of them-to which this gentleman agreed he was in the wrong for making assumptions about who I was because he didn’t like my opinion. While I can’t be sure if these men were truly sorry or just sorry that the father of the conspirator caught them in the act, This situation and others ensure that I will continue to speak out in the future.

The time for women to be paid equitably, treated fairly , and regarded as the awesome human beings we are is now. Alice Paul was fighting this fight over 96 years ago, isn’t it time?

Czarina’s Lesson: When it comes to the fight for civil liberties, what is old is new and what is new is old. There’s no true liberty until everyone is afforded the same opportunities and rights.

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