As the founder and CEO of GirlQuake and a Forbes contributor, Denise Restauri amplifies the voices of girls and women by giving them platforms to redefine the notion of power and create a global force for positive change. Denise is the author of the Forbes book Their Roaring Thirties: Brutally Honest Career Talk From Women Who Beat The Youth Trap. She has been at start-up, speed-up READ MORE »
ON The State of Women
Q: Women helping women. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this?
A: “This Is Not A Hazing” — Those words are fresh in my mind because that’s a chapter in my new Forbes book, Their Roaring Thirties: Brutally Honest Career Talk From Women Who Beat The Youth Trap. I see a big opportunity for women to help women – a big gap that needs to be filled. Traditional leaders, “power women,” need to fully embrace the emerging 20 to 30-something powers. We’re seeing a massive redistribution of power taking place – away from traditional leaders to action-oriented 20 to 30-something women. I hear power women say, “These young women are our future.” They really believe that, but too often there is little or no action following that statement. Even worse, some women believe there’s only one seat at the table for a woman, resulting in a hazing mentality, making young women jump through the same hoops they did 20 years ago. We need to change that. Our actions need to scream out: “I am opening my doors and truly embracing the emerging powers – they are changing our world and I am helping them.” When that happens, we’ll see real change.
How do traditional leaders embrace emerging powers? It’s not one size fits all. I do it in many different ways. I am a mentor. I’m a board member of two non-profits led by female Millennials – She’s the First and The Empowerment Plan. I use my platforms to amplify the voices of emerging powers. And I genuinely bring Millennials into my network – that means a sentence that starts with “I’m going to work with you…” We all have platforms and networks – size doesn’t matter. Based on my experiences, there’s one thing I’m certain of: power women will benefit as much (if not more) than theMillennials, especially when the Millennials bring them into their networks.
Q: Besides capital, what are the 3 most important things one needs in getting a business of the ground?
A: 1) Perfect is the enemy of the good –Voltaire. I try to not let perfection get in my way of progress (I’m not there yet – I’m a work in progress!). That means taking risks and actions. It’s not just about a killer idea, it’s about taking that idea to market. My actions don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be good enough to get the job done. I take an action, hit the pause button to see what I’ve learned, build from that learning and then take the next step. Do I fail? Sure. I like to think of them as intelligent failures or failing forward, failures I learn from and share with others. But when I’m in a hole, I stop digging and get out (that’s also an action).
2) Work to our strengths, not our weaknesses. My best successes come when I work with people who are smarter than I am, people who have different assets. I can’t be everything, but the team I work with can.
3) Get paid for what you’re worth. Don’t let people “pick your brain.” It’s flattering when people seek your wisdom and advice, but your brain is worth a lot. Charge for it.
Q: What is your dream for your children?
A: My dream for my daughter is for her to live HER dream. When my daughter was born, a friend asked me, “What’s the most important thing you want for your daughter?” I answered, “To be happy.” 21 years later, that’s still my final answer. When your child is happy, great things will happen. But that means that I need to let her live her dreams, not my dreams. I need to support her, not determine her future. So many young women I talk to tell me they have been dreaming of going to Harvard since they were in second grade. Where does that come from? What 7-year-old wakes up on her own and thinks “I don’t want to play with Sally because I need to get into Harvard?” Hearing those stories made me realize how important it is to allow my daughter to live her dreams.
Q: I define personal leadership as living your optimal life. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean being a CEO or business owner. How do you define leadership in your life?
A: I recently published a post on Forbes.com: Why Leadership is About Dignity. I think dignity is one of the most important ingredients in leadership – personally and professionally. Here are 5 “dignity” guidelines:
1) Recognize human dignity. We need to start with a goal to recognize and support human dignity. We should be a part of a solution that recognizes the dignity in all people. That’s empowerment.
2) Do what’s right, not what’s easy. Every move we make should be with great integrity and intent. It’s about authenticity and transparency. It’s not always easy, but it’s right.
3) Share the shining star. It’s not about MY shining star or proving what I can achieve or demonstrating MY abilities. It’s about listening and learning from others and helping them become shining stars.
4) Leadership is a muscle. Leadership is a muscle that needs to be trained and exercised in real life – every day. Those lessons – when we overcome challenges, admit to and fix our mistakes – far outweigh the leadership lessons we learn in books.
5) Dream big. Take risks and live outside our comfort zone and encourage others to do so also. And that leads to a quote from Rosalynn Carter: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go.” Just do it with dignity.
Q: Failure is…..(please fill in the blank)
A: Failure is when we are afraid to do something because we are afraid of failing. It’s extremely counter productive because failure is part of the process of success.
ON Self Care
Q: Too often women take care of themselves last, yet self-care is critical to being successful at everything else. How do you take care of yourself?
A: My first thought goes to the word “exercise.” Maybe it’s because I don’t like to exercise- I know that’s not a smart thing to say, but it’s honest. However, I recently discovered Pilates and I’m loving it. But taking care of myself is much bigger than making an appointment at the Pilates studio. What works best for me is to take care of myself everday, in different ways:
Love The Company I Keep: I spend time with people I love being with – people with great energy and integrity. I am getting better at saying “no” to people who aren’t in that camp.
Tune My Mind: People are definitely a big part of tuning my mind — listening to people (especially young women) — their stories, their successes, their failures.
Fuel My Body: Whenever possible I eat organic and farm to table. Green – a green drink a day plus lots of vegetables and fruit. Having said that, I love chocolate and french fries.
Walk Sign Is Green: I love walking around New York City – I see new people, places, and things every day. Some of my best ideas come when I’m wandering around aimlessly, with no destination in site.