Martha Hoover’s 2016 Indianapolis Business Journal Women of Influence Speech
Copyright 2016 Martha Hoover, Patachou Inc.
When I started to think about my comments for this morning I started where every research project in 2016 starts: with Google. I typed in Influential Women and found that there were over 31 million entries. I readily admit that I didn’t go beyond page 2. These entries included scholarly articles to lists on E, Forbes and Vogue and everyone from Cleopatra to Kim Kardashian; from Eleanor Roosevelt to Rosie O’Donnell, from Margaret Thatcher to Margaret Choe, from Queen Victoria to Queen Latifa. It did not take me long to realize that there are two genres of women who are considered influential: the first group are the women throughout history who, by their actions, caused remarkable social change —the true outliers of history: the women who defied the social norms of their day, who were often at risk of tremendous opposition and remarkable sacrifice and who, in the end, initiated real social change. Benazir Bhutto, for example, became the first woman to lead a Muslim majority country. She ran her campaign to restore democracy in Pakistan while under house arrest; her brother along with dozens of her campaign workers were murdered and ultimately she was assassinated. Certainly she was an outlier who made the ultimate sacrifice making her voice heard. The second genre of influential women: Celebrities and professional athletes. And, of course, we all get intuitively now how social media’s impact has expanded these celebrities’ arena of influence beyond what any history book could ever do. I have zero ability to connect the dots on what this all means but, today, it is clear that our top influencers impact is on pop culture instead of social change. Their impact is measured by the number of followers they have, not on the number of minds or type of behavior they change. As someone who usually loves looking forward, I am a little nostalgic, in this regard, for the past. Selena Gomez is the most followed person in the world with over 102 million Instagram followers — in fact, she gained a million followers during the two-week period I was doing research for this speech today. Beyoncé is next on the list with 86 million followers, Kim Kardashian with 84 million. As arguably talented and beautiful and as undeniably successful as they all are, I am a little sad when faced with the fact that their influence over our culture is immeasurable and immense. Hillary Clinton, potentially the first female in history to be President of the United States, one of the most well known women in the world today, has a mere 2.5 million followers. 2.5 million may be a lot of followers compared to the number of people following any of us, but when the person who could be the first female president of the world’s leading super power’s social media influence is 75% less then a reality TV star’s, it makes you think about influence differently.
Numerically speaking, one in every three Americans follows Selena Gomez — they know what she wears, who she dates and who her friends are. Yet, that same ratio, of one in three Americans, cannot tell you where the Pacific Ocean is located; 30% cannot identify the Vice President by name. Only one in a thousand Americans knows what rights the first amendment protects (religion, speech, press, assembly and redress of grievance) but 25%, 25 out of every one hundred Americans, can name all five members of the Simpson family — my favorite statistic of all time. Modern day influence is tricky.
Someone who influenced me greatly when I was young was Shirley Chisholm. She was a true hero of mine growing up. I was in high school when Shirley Chisholm first came into the collective national consciousness and her impact on a generation of young girls, such as myself, was immeasurable although she is now greatly forgotten. In 1968, Shirley Chilsom overcame being poor, she overcame being female, and overcame racism to become the first black women elected to the United States Congress. She stated “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.” Her rise to political prominence and her ultimate staggering influence did not come without sacrifice: there were three assassination attempts on her life. Yet, even when faced with extreme societal opposition and mountain like barriers, she also managed to say: “Be as bold as the person who first ate an oyster. You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
The women who are being recognized today were all bold enough to eat that first oyster. They represent leaders in a variety of areas: the arts, banking, education, philanthropy, law, health care and business. They have made positive change in our city, in the way we do business and in the way we serve others. Isn’t that what we mean when using the word “influence” — the ability to have an effect on the character or on the behavior of someone or something. They have individually effected their organizations; the people with whom they work and the community in which they live.
And, let us recognize the Indianapolis Business Journal for its part in holding this event. Since the 2006 inaugural Women of Influence Event, nearly 200 women have been recognized for leadership at the highest levels of business, the arts and community and public service in central Indiana. The IBJ has been a pioneer in recognizing women who have given their talent, time and treasure and have, in the process, helped to transform our communities. All of these honorees have affected behavior, they have changed perceptions, and they have pushed the corners of envelopes, broken glass ceilings and have left their stamp on the organizations that they serve and the people with whom they serve. These are the women who deserve to be followed on Instagram. And frankly, as I look out on this audience, I am impressed and moved to see over 900 people here — of all ages and all walks of life, here to support other women because I believe so strongly in two things relevant to today: that women need to champion other women completely and wholeheartedly, and that women are the future.
I hope that we change, even slightly, the face of social media today by all of us proudly posting that you are here, supporting women who are using their influence to impact communities. And, I also hope that some day in the future the name of this event is changed to PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE and that one or two men get to be honored too. After all, it’s been said that “women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.”
So much today is about the great divides, the gaps — all the issues that separate and define us; the issues that separate theory from reality. We are either in one camp or another and the space in between is often a gap that seems impossible to fill.
We talk about the gender pay gap. It is real with the average women earning 21 cents less on the dollar compared to her male counterpart. The pay gap is not the sole divide between the genders. The Lean In Foundation’s Workplace Study is considered one of the most scientific and enlightening windows into corporate America. The first sentence of the study states: “women fall behind and continue to lose ground with every step.” While women are represented almost 50/50 at entry levels in businesses, women are significantly less likely then their male counterparts to be promoted to management, meaning that fewer women end up on the path to executive leadership. Women are less likely to receive positive performance reviews or positive letters of recommendation then their male counterparts, regardless of the similarity of the quality of their work product or commitment to their careers. And, once in the C-level floor: women are given less significant projects to work on, have less access to the people at the top and are consulted with less on critical issues. While women make up 46% of entry-level positions in corporate America, less then 18% make it to the executive floor in leadership roles and fewer then 2% make it to the top position. And, women of color face even more and greater barriers. This means that Asian, Black and Hispanic women are faced with concrete ceilings as opposed to glass. It’s hard enough to shatter glass, try shattering concrete. Gender gap is as real as ever and unfortunately, it is not confined to corporate America nor is it confined to what we get paid.
But I am not here to blame men. Most of the men I know, and the men that I choose to have in my life, and I am sure this is true of the men in the audience today, are increasingly aware of and increasingly offended by the gaps that exist. Sure, they want more for their wives, sisters, significant others, friends, and their colleagues. But, what they really want is more for their daughters. They want the space between what is and what should be to be narrowed. And, so do we. But, I grew up in Texas where it was often said, “wantin’ ain’t gettin.’ ”
The gap between theory and reality exists everywhere. But it takes more to fix a gap then being aware of its existence. In my own company, we analyze our gaps daily. I am basically the Chief of Gaps. With soon to be 12 restaurants and over 400 staff members, we have a lot of balls in the air — in “Patachou-speak” we have a lot of eggs in the air. And, I don’t mind having a full platter of eggs: I love what I do and I often say that I won the job lottery. What I mind is when an egg or two fall off that platter. It’s those symbolic broken eggs that define our internal gaps. Filling these gaps is what keeps me up at night, but filling the gaps also helps to keep Patachou relevant and thriving. We determine if a gap is systemic, if it’s related to training or if it has something to do with managers keeping us accountable. Only then, can we figure out how to correct-how to fill in the gap. If the problem is systemic, we fix the system. It the problem is related to a training error, we re-train. If the problem is managerial, we talk about collective responsibility and individual accountability. Regardless, we clean up the mess and get those eggs off the floor.
It is 2016. Believing that women are equal to men should not be a radical idea. As difficult as this election cycle has been on the American psyche, its one positive, in my view, is that it has pushed the subjects of gender gap, gender inequality and gender bias to the forefront. Gender gap, gender inequality and gender bias are those eggs that have fallen from the platter to the floor. We each have choices to make. We each have the ability to use our individual influence. We can skip over these gaps as if they do not exist; we can acknowledge their existence and do nothing more OR we can acknowledge and fix. To me, recognizing that a problem exists but being unwilling to fix, is like me looking at those broken eggs on the floor and saying “oh well, someone else can deal.” We all have power to close gaps by honoring the power of our individual influence.
Filling in the gaps has been beneficial to Patachou. I believe that filling in gender gaps will be beneficial to our world. If a problem is systemic, let’s fix the system; if a problem is a matter of training, lets become better role models to those around us, and if the problems are managerial, lets hold people accountable. But let’s also examine our own behavior to see if we are stepping over a gap or working to fill it in. Let’s get these broken eggs off of the floor.
Supporting women is the very essence of the girl code and the girl code is a modern day imperative. Serena Williams, tennis legend and icon of remarkable strength, is not just one of the most competitive women on the planet, but one of the most competitive people on the planet. She said, “The success of every women should be an inspiration to another. We should raise each other up.” The days of women being competitive with each other need to be over. We have a duty to our daughters, our sons and to ourselves, to champion each other’s successes. Our success is both individual and universal. Making excuses for paternalistic behavior, locker room talk or bar banter, whatever you call it, only justifies and underscores objectification of women, negative stereotyping and dangerous rape culture. Years ago when I was a prosecutor in sex crimes, we were faced daily with the perception that women who were abused or sexually assaulted somehow shared in blame. Victim blaming still exists, sadly, even today. It should not matter that a woman is dressed a certain way or that she is walking alone at night or that she went to a fraternity party and accepted a drink from someone — she is not the reason she was raped. We should do everything in our power to disrupt biases that misidentify women as being emotional, weak, less serious, less competent and less important. So what do we do? We interrupt the interrupters; we stand up for female colleagues and friends. Stop blaming victims, period. Stop rating women by their looks, instead of their accomplishments. Be bold enough to be the first person to eat that oyster. And, most importantly, we need to stop thinking that passing the right kind of laws or voting a certain way will automatically change culture. If that were the case, racism would have ended in 1863 by the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and equal justice for all would be in full force since 1868 with the passage of the 14th amendment. My high school hero, Shirley Chisholm, got it right again when she stated: “the law cannot do it for us. We must do it for ourselves. Women in this country must become revolutionaries.” We make the choice every day with every action about how and what we influence.
And, one final thing: American women spend approximately 500 billion on the cosmetics and beauty industry a year. In a nation where women spend that much money a year on an industry that profits from our collective self-doubt, learning to love ourselves, to love how we look and who we are, may be the most revolutionary act of all time.
One of my favorite poems was written by Rupi Kaur and says:
I want to apologize to all the women I have called pretty before I’ve called them intelligent or brave (or influential)
I am sorry that I made it sound as though
Something as simple as what you were born with is the most you have to be proud of when your spirit has crushed mountains
From now on I will say things like you are resilient or you are extraordinary not because I don’t think you’re pretty but because you are so much more.
Thank you and congratulations to those being honored today.