Stop Underestimating Yourself

Cecile RichardsBefore being interviewed for the position of president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards thought she was unqualified and should just skip it. Uncertain what to do, she called her mom, the late former Governor of Texas, Ann Richards. Never one to mince her words, the elder Richards said simply: “Get it together.”

Today, we all need women who remind us that we’re ready for the next big thing—even before we think we are, Richards said during a Conferences for Women conversation with Fortune senior editor Ellen McGirt, NFL’s Samantha Rapoport and others.

“My new motto,” said Richards, “is strike before you’re ready. If you do that, then you’ll actually have more opportunities than if you wait until everything is buttoned up and you’ve got all the skills that you need.”

It’s also good way to balance out our tendency to underestimate ourselves, she added.

Yet while allyship among women—of all races, ethnicities, sexual and gender orientations is important—so is helping to bring men into the effort to create opportunities for all women to advance, as McGirt observed.

Here are three ideas from women are helping to effectively do that:

  • “You can’t talk about doing it for just diversity sake,” says Kate Gulliver, vice president, global head of talent, Wayfair. “You have to talk about the business reason behind why you’re doing it.”
  • “We didn’t push gender diversity or force feed anything about hiring women to our head coaches and general managers, who they say they don’t have time,” said Samantha “Sam” Rapoport, director, football development, NFL and former football player. “What we did was we found the women for them.”
  • The NFL’s Rapoport also identified men who quietly supported women and invited them to speak about the benefits of women in the workplace and why we need more women in football. “Once you start speaking about something,” she says, “you feel a little bit more engaged in it.” The result: More women were interviewed, and more were hired.

Ellen McGirt, senior editor of Fortune; Samantha “Sam” Rapoport, director, football development, NFL and former football player; Cecile Richards, former president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund; Kate Gulliver, vice president, global head of talent, Wayfair; were part of the conversation “Women Breaking Barriers: Lessons from the Frontlines,” held at the 2018 Massachusetts Conference for Women. You can listen to the entire session here.


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