Mujer, You Can!

A CONVERSATION ABOUT WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND SOCIETY

You know that feeling when you meet someone for the very first time and something just clicks? It’s such a good feeling! That’s exactly what I experienced when meeting Lilly Athamanah, Lisa Nation, and Robert Richmond. Lilly is the Communication Specialist at the Joyce Foundation. She interned at the Mayor’s office working on political campaigns for four years and has done public relations in Chicago. Lisa Nation is the Co-Founder of the LisaApp. Lisa has been a hairstylist for twenty-three years, working as an independent artist for the past seventeen. Lisa and her husband Robert Richmond, Co-Founder & CEO of the LisaApp, have developed their company with the intention of empowering artists in the beauty industry.

Lilly, Lisa, Robert & I were able to have such an empowering conversation while getting to know each other on a personal level. I’ve never felt more empowered after meeting people for the first time! Here are some empowering reminders, shared in our conversation, that every woman, no matter how young or old, should always keep in mind no matter what season of life they are going through.

WHERE YOU COME FROM DOESN’T DETERMINE WHERE YOU ARE GOING.

Lilly’s parents came from Thailand and raised Lilly and her sister in the city of Chicago. Growing up, Lilly would admire the city’s skyline and thought the skyscrapers looked “like a sticker in the sky.” Now that she has worked in and for the city, she realizes that this is her city, too! “I'm not just on the outside and I'm looking for ways to make my parents proud.”

Lisa is from a hidden “middle-of-nowhere” area in San Diego, California. Her dad was a construction worker and drove a tractor. Her mom stayed home to raise the children. Lisa was a C-average student who graduated high school “barely.” Lisa’s strength was her creativity which led her to beauty school. The rest is history. “Never in a million years did I ever think I would be in a position to be a co-founder of a technology company, and so it just goes to show that you don't know what road you’ll go down, but you are capable no matter who you are, to do things that you never thought possible.”

I myself was born in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. with my mother and siblings at a very young age. Growing up, I was an honor-roll student with many awards and recognition for academic success. However, it wasn’t until I got to high school that I was faced with the gruesome reality of not being able to afford college and having very limited access to financial aid. It felt as if I would never accomplish anything in life. Not being able to pursue higher education, I found myself settling for opportunities that fell short of my dreams and aspirations, not out of desire but out of need. As the years have gone by, I have been graced with open doors and opportunities that go above and beyond my wildest dreams—Holistic being one of them! I never thought I’d be able to share a blog with anyone outside of my network of friends and family, and here I am sharing and (hopefully) inspiring you!

PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE & position yourself for luck

Lilly recalls running into her professors from Carleton College and having a conversation with them about what was going on in her life and the achievements she was accomplishing on a personal level. They’d say things like, “ I remember that you were so shy on the first day of school and now you're someone who does interviews and someone who's bringing press releases,” and “I see your name in the news.” Lilly has also kept in communication with one of her mentors, Tom Alexander (yep, our very own). Lilly believes it’s important to notice the growth that you see in yourself and how far you’ve come by having great mentors and making sure that there are people who believe in you and are there to give you really honest opinions.

Robert brought up this interesting analogy to the game of poker. “I think poker really parallels life. Like poker, where the chips are stacked against you, sometimes you have to read your opponent. You got to make decisions that are going to make you sink or swim. You hear the phrase, ‘Oh, you got lucky!’ and through poker I realize that yeah there's lucky moments in poker and there's lucky moments in life but you have to put yourself in a position to be lucky. So if someone goes and wins the lottery, they're lucky— we know that— but they put themselves in a position to be lucky by purchasing that ticket. Luck only exists if you are reaching out for it.”

Take risks & Don’t be afraid of failure

“Be comfortable with taking risks. Not crazy risks, but calculated risks,” said Lilly when speaking about having an idea, going for it, and seeing where it takes you.

Robert quoted Howard Tullman, “Fail forward.” That's such a great statement because we're all going to fail, no doubt about it, but if we fall backwards we might not ever want to get back on that horse again.

I am a firm believer that great things never come from comfort zones. Sure, risks are scary but experience is a gain in any risk-taking situation. By taking risks, we may discover that we are really good at something and if we’re not good at it, it is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a billion “whoops” than a million “what ifs.”

Ally with men

I was able to interview Robert a few weeks back, and was immediately fascinated by the inspiration that Lisa gives Robert and the support that Robert has for Lisa. To say it was heart-warming is an understatement. I asked Robert during our conversation what piece of advice he would offer men not just as significant others, fathers, friends, coworkers, but as humans to support and stand with women. “I think that respect is just a word that a lot of men don't use when they talk about women but there has to be more than respect. There needs to be a deep admiration and love for women. Us men wouldn't be born if it weren’t for women. We wouldn't be nurtured if it wasn't for these women. “ Lisa stated that as women we need men, too! “There's that strength that women can bring along with intuitiveness, and a nurturing standpoint. Then there's the strength that a man has that if the world is going to collapse they're going to be able to hold the buildings up so we can run out and save the children. There's a balance there and there's a partnership too,” said Lisa. Robert then stated, “I think men just have to learn to lose their ego and I think that, to get real deep, men are always in trying to impress women on a certain level. I just think that you have to kind of surrender a little bit to women and allow them to better you.”

break the mold

“Breaking what we've been taught. Breaking what we've been raised with. Fully knowing and realizing that we have a voice. And that we can be heard.” — Lisa Nation

Growing up in a Hispanic household, I was taught that men and children are to be served first by women. Men were the ones who went to work and brought food to the table for women to prepare and serve. It shocks people when they see my husband serving me meals that he cooked and later washing the dishes that I ate on! We both have jobs and he also serves on our nation’s armed forces; yet, he still has time to serve my son and I. I was questioned about the child care my son would receive since I would be working. Almost as if it was a huge no-no that someone other than myself was looking after him. I stand in awe of stay-at-home moms since being a mom is a job of its own, not to mention it’s a twenty-four hour shift 365 days a year; however, I personally am seeking a different path. I want to be out there in the world meeting people such as Lilly, Lisa, and Robert. I want to develop into a woman who is fearless, skilled, and professional. Breaking my culture’s mold has been an adventure of its own, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lilly shared the moment her mom announced to her family that she would be starting a job. She describes it as one of the most memorable moments of her childhood. She remembers her dad being a bit offended and her sister and her being confused thinking, “You're supposed to be just our mom,” but looking back, Lilly now realizes how impactful it was for her mom to take that big of a step. “Now that my dad is retired, my mom is still working and she loves it! She's a power woman in the family. If she never took that step, just imagine the things that she would have been missing out on."

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Having met these amazing individuals and having an empowering conversation truly made me feel proud of being a woman who has not settled and continues to follow her dreams despite of life’s circumstances, her background, and her fears and failures. I encourage you to also dream big, be confident in what you bring to the table, take risks, “fail forward”, make male allies, and break the mold!

dedicated to our daughters. Our nieces.our sisters. our girl gang. Ourselves. We are women. We are able.

Elda Baez