The Riveter, a modern day union of working women and allies that elucidates conversation about diversity, equality, and inclusion, held its first annual The Riveter Summit earlier this month. The two-day event brought together nearly 500 people with the intention of inspiring and uniting one another to work toward positive change for women in the workplace through intimate panel discussions and keynote speeches.
Mama Glow’s Latham Thomas spoke on a panel about rebranding motherhood in the workplace, and our dear friend Rebecca Minkoff, fashion designer and creator of the Female Founder Collective, participated in a conversation, “Vote with Your Wallet: Companies That Live Your Values”. Notably, The Riveter’s founder and CEO, Amy Nelson, unveiled “A Work Force for Change” at the summit, a white paper that exposes bias and inequality in the workplace and proposes comprehensive ways in which we can come together to incite positive change for working women. We especially loved the section of the white paper that looked closely at how “a lack of paid parental leave defines the U.S. workforce,” and how even in two-parent households, it is most often the mother who misses work to care for the children.
In between panels, we sat down with both Amy Nelson and Rebecca Minkoff. Here’s what these two incredible women had to say about running their businesses, parenting their children, and the experiences that shaped their approaches to both (no “balance” necessary):
MAMA GLOW: How did your upbringing and past experiences help guide you to where you are today, both personally and professionally?
REBECCA MINKOFF: I was raised with the ideals and values that if I wanted something, I had to work for it. And so nothing was ever handed to me, and while that’s a shitty feeling when you’re a kid, it forces you to be resourceful, it forces you to not depend on anyone, and it forces you to, like, if you want something, you have to figure out how you’re gonna get it. Those are things I give credit to the growth of my company, to how I raise my kids, and just things that seem to have worked.
AMY NELSON: I think about my upbringing all the time. I grew up in a home in the midwest and my parents were civic participants. So my parents did leadership courses, they volunteered for political campaigns, they showed up. And so part of my childhood was, like, being in the basement of a VFW hall stuffing envelopes during elections, and all of those things make you realize that you’re supposed to show up for your neighbors. You’re supposed to be a part of something bigger than you… And so I think that has really led me, as an adult, to gravitate toward a career that I feel has a social impact and that is bettering the lives of people around me. And doing a start-up is really, really hard and I know I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t have this really deep desire to be a part of a powerful community changing something.
MAMA GLOW: As your children watch all of the great work that you do, what are the things you most hope they see, learn from, and apply to their own lives?
AMY: I have four little girls. They’re 5, 3, 2, and 5 months, so they’re really little. And, I mean, I often think all the time when I’m building the company and I think about the future state is that I want The Riveter to be somewhere my daughters want to work. I want to build a culture that people are humans and employees within, that cares about people, but that is one of excellence and that is challenging and that we’re tackling hard problems. What I hope my daughters see is that I have built a company like that… I hope they also see that I know how to fail and get back up… and that The Riveter is a team and that you’re always thankful for your teammates… At The Riveter, we’re talking about hard things. We’re talking about the intersection of gender and race, we’re talking about ageism, we’re talking about maternal bias. Earlier this year, I signed a CEO pledge to support reproductive freedom and I wrote about it for Buzzfeed and I went on TV and talked about it. I was the second CEO in the country to sign it, and it was controversial to some people, but I hope that my daughters also see me using my voice and platform for things that I believe are really important to talk about, even if it’s scary or controversial.
REBECCA: They have no clue, like their understanding of what I do or the things that are important, it doesn’t register at all. And so I hope that they go “Oh wow. She wasn’t maybe as home as we wanted her to be, or sometimes she was more stressed out than we wanted her to be, but she was helping raise the profile of female equality, she was employing hundreds of people at her company.” And so I hope they see that those things make me complete and they make, hopefully, a better world, and so that is worth not always having me around.
MAMA GLOW: How can we, as women, do a better job lifting one another up, and why do you believe women supporting women is so pivotal to forward movement in our careers?
REBECCCA: I think when you just embrace and help each other and you go into a conversation or a meeting with not what that person can do for me but how can I help them, I think everyone benefits and it’s a trite saying but “all ships rise with the tide.” So, don’t be afraid, don’t think there’s scarcity. If you think there’s scarcity, buy a copy of Forbes’ Richest People, and when you see the amount of money they make, you will go “Wow, there’s a lot of money in this world and there’s enough for everybody to have and there’s enough opportunity for everybody to have.” You can be stronger when you do it together. There’s all kinds of women’s groups advocating for women and there’s a lot of women to talk to. So I think it’ll be okay if we all exist together and help each other.
AMY: Women supporting women is crucial to forward movement in our careers. I think we have been conditioned for so long to believe there’s only one seat at the table. We can take every seat. We have a right to every seat, we’re good enough to be at every seat, and so we have to just use that as our mindset that we belong at the entire table. You know, people always laughed when Ruth Bader Ginsberg said that 9 women would be enough for the Supreme Court because it just seems so outrageous to us. But why the hell shouldn’t there by 9 women on the Supreme Court? So I think if we just adopt that mindset of women helping women, the doors just blow open because of course. Of course we can all be leaders, of course we can all be at the top, and of course we have to extend our hand and pull the person behind us. I am only where I am today because of so many women mentors who have opened doors for me and made connections for me… I also think its incumbent upon us to ask for the help we need… It’s what men do, all day, every day.
MAMA GLOW: It is no secret that women are often asked questions about balancing work and parenthood in a way men rarely are. Why do you think that is, and do you believe that’s a dialogue that needs changing?
AMY: I think it probably harkens back to the fact that a hundred years ago, or 75 years ago, fewer women were in the workforce and were the primary caretakers. Today, women are 41% of primary or sole breadwinners in households, and so that has got to change because we’re almost half of the primary breadwinners. We will be in a decade. And we also still are the primary caretakers. But nobody’s ever asked my husband how he’s balancing the kids and the career, right? And I get asked it, in some form, in every investor meeting all the time… So I point out “You know, it’s really hard to have kids and a career. It’s hard for me, it’s hard for my husband, too.” Go right to it, like, it’s hard for both of us because we’re both doing this, and then I talk about how I’ve built my life and my children’s life to do all of it. There’s no balance, it’s total integration. But these are the choices we’ve made, and you need to trust me as an adult that I have made choices that work.
REBECCA: I don’t know who was the first person to ask that question, but lately I’ve been saying men never had balance, right? So for anyone to think that women would have balance, like where did that idea come from? That’s like all of us being raised with the idea that we’re gonna marry Prince Charming. What I feel is that you have to set yourself up in your life and whoever you choose as your partner to know what you’re getting into before you do it, and surround yourself with your support system. And test your boundaries and make sure you know what you’re comfortable with, that you know what too much feels like and you know what too little feels like.
MAMA GLOW: Between work and motherhood, I’m sure your days are often jam-packed with commitments that you’ve made for others. What are some self care rituals or habits that you stick to so that you’re also devoting time to yourself?
AMY: So people often ask me if I sleep and I’m like I do. I sleep at least 6 hours a night, which is important to me and without that I start to lose the thread really quickly and so I just know that about myself. I also get up really early in the morning so I have some time to myself. And sometimes I’m working then because I want to be, sometimes I’m working out. Sometimes I’m looking at Instagram because I feel like doing nothing and just sipping coffee, but just to have some time by myself in the quiet, in the dark in the morning is really important. The other thing is time with my kids for me is self care. They’re so fun, they’re at such a fun age, so I make sure I have a lot of time to spend with them. And then, my husband and I have every Saturday night to spend with each other after the kids go to bed. Sometimes we don’t have a sitter, sometimes we do it at home, but that’s our time together.
REBECCA: I don’t devote enough time for that, but if I work out twice a week, I feel really proud of myself. And I’m really big on taking a lot of vitamins to, like, hopefully keep my body healthy since I’m running on fumes.
MAMA GLOW: What is one thing you know now about running a company that you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?
REBECCA: The hardest part sometimes of running a company is the people and that is its own skill set, and you have to either be really good at that and at fostering that or you have to hire someone that is because they are the gasoline that makes the engine go. And if you don’t have that set up, then you can’t really succeed.
AMY: When I started running the company, it was really hard and really uncomfortable. And I thought “Okay, in 3 months or 6 months or a year, this is gonna stabilize and you’ll get the hang of it and it’ll be okay.” That’s not the case, especially when you’re building a scalable company. Every time I think I figured out my job, I have a new job. So I learned how to run the company with 10 people, now you get 50, and then a hundred. It always feels scary and it always feels uncomfortable. But the thing about all of that is that you get really used to being uncomfortable, and you accept and realize that you have to be in an uncomfortable place to get to change. And we’re trying to change the world. So I wish someone had told me that you have to get really comfortable being uncomfortable and don’t fight it, just live in that. And that that’s an okay place to live.
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