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#PayItForward: Women at Work

Pictured left to right: Tamara Mellon, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Storm Reid, Noor Tagouri, and Sallie Krawcheck

"Middle-management is where diversity goes to die."

The room erupted into laughter. Not only because Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, has excellent comedic timing. But what she said rang true for a lot of women, specifically in answer to the question: Should business programs provide diversity training prior to students receiving their degrees? Because when Sallie talks about it, it seems rather obvious that waiting until people reach the middle-management level is a touch too late to start addressing things like unconscious bias in hiring practices.

Because then we end up...where we are now.

I had the pleasure of attending the Pay It Forward conference this week in D.C. where I watched a panel of talented, ambitious women offer career counsel to an audience of talented, ambitious women. The talk was hosted by Sallie Krawcheck and Tamara Mellon, founder of the namesake brand and Co-Founder of Jimmy Choo. And despite teaching me the crushing statistics of just how underpaid, underrepresented, and underappreciated women are in the workplace, it was the best conference I've ever attended.

Moderated by the charming and insightful Kathryn Finney, CEO and Co-Founder of digitalundivided (so many female entrepreneurs in one room!), the group covered a range of topics from the ever-present discussion of pay inequality to the impact of appearance and attire in the working environment. I was fortunate to receive such insight from Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, media mogul and activist Noor Tagouri, and rising star Storm Reid.

They discussed how gender, race, age, and class have impacted their career development, financial mobility, and goals for the future. Listening to these women tell their stories of success through struggle made it clear that the statistics can be beaten.

But damn if it isn't hard.

Yet even as they face these challenges themselves, they took their collective time, effort, and resources to freely offer this educational, networking opportunity to young women and students. This is what paying it forward is all about. If we're going to bridge The Gap, we must keep extending an open hand to the generation of women coming up behind us. Women from all backgrounds and walks of life.

And as a black woman in that audience, it was downright exhilarating to see that in action. I hear a lot about intersectional feminism these days. It seems to be something of a hot morality trend at the moment. The term is constantly thrown around, typically in the context of someone or something not being intersectional enough. And as a result, it's not often demonstrated properly and prominently.

But being able to attend this event and see plenty of women who looked like me, both on the stage and in the audience, offered a promising look towards the future. Because it seems like the women who are out there making big changes and creating the platforms we need might actually get it. And that, well...

That makes me want to get to work.

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