Just An Online Minute... Channeling My Inner Hippie In The Company Of Women
The 2009 Best Companies for Multicultural Women Luncheon, The Sheraton, New York
July 21, 2009
Today I had the pleasure, the very honest and disconnected-from-the-Internet pleasure, of attending Working Mother Media Best Companies For Multicultural Women National Conference 2009. I expected the same old blah blah blah of the cookie cutter women's power play seminars, but the sense I got as soon as I ran into the first guests was anything but. Feel free to revisit your lunch in your mouth when I say this, but I felt enveloped in a hairnet of warm happiness when I entered the ballroom hosting the luncheon. This was after I walked by some sexy young things very scantily clad in the lobby of the Sheraton, which at first jarred me until I realized there was more than one convention today.
I'm an oversharer, so I'm going to bestow upon you my morning -- very quickly, and then I'll try not to mention it again. I had to talk myself off the food poisoning ledge up until the last minute before heading to the Sheraton. I don't know what rat-lung worm had attached itself to my brain from my 3 p.m. salad yesterday, but, oy. I didn't want to make an entire audience of multicultural women throw up all over their perfectly sliced chicken breasts and risotto, Stand By Me style (can't forget THAT scene). I'm glad I made it, because as I checked the number on the back of my nametag, I found the number 2. I saw table #2 at the front of the ballroom with the label "VIP." Well that can't be right. I'm press. I don't even get the ticket for the branded adorable canvas yacht bag -- there's no way I'm sitting at the front of the house. I asked the woman next to me, Sharmey Shah, what the deal was. She was with IBM and was confused as to why she wasn't seated with her Blue crew.
Sharmey ended up moving to the IBM table, which I instantly assaulted because the actual voice, not the name, of Flor Estevez sounded familiar to me (you know by now I used to work at IBM). Flor has some great ideas about getting more high-level exec types involved in social media (AND she let me in on this program inside IBM where young social-media-doers -- or whippersnappers -- "reverse mentor" execs. There is no shame in needing a tutorial. I like translating that into the media and advertising world. We're all just up the rear ends of the Mad Men and big publisher types for no good reason other than the status they've created for themselves. Are they conducting amazing podcasts? Are they blogging (ghost blogging doesn't count) with quality, are they life (career) streaming? Some of the smaller sparky guys are. And if not, I say the makers and doers out here should bring them on a tagalong -- see how it's really done. You know, get the idea people to see what it's like to dig your heels down and execute that idea. It's really powerful stuff and I'll bet simply exposing the big wigs to the on-the-ground stuff would open so many brain doors. Holy tangent, batman!
OK, so the awards start, and rather than name every single winner, which you can find here, I'd like to call your attention to Legacy award winner and keynote Hennrietta Mann, Ph.D., a "Cheyenne hearted woman" who felt protocol required her to thank a few people before diving into her acceptance speech. No, she didn't thank the VP of programming or anything like that, she thanked "The people in the long houses" and the people whose spirits have gotten her to where she is. I tucked my BlackBerry away. There's something to be said for respecting someone enough to give them your full attention - and as I looked around the room, none of these women of all sized, shapes, and colors were Twittering. There was no hashtag.
She thanked the women who helped her to be successful in her 50+ years as an educator -- the women "who without whom there would not be children, no maternalism... and nothing to balance the power of man." Mann is also the founding president of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College, where students are taught to speak their language, and taught iN their language. Whenever I hear people speak proudly of their cultures, I long for pride in mine. I mean, what should I do? Learn Irish dancing? I've got the beer love thing going already, but I want to focus on the less fratty side of being Irish. And what else? I could learn how to make the best borscht on earth. I have walked by the Ukrainian Society building and wondered if they miss me. Later today I'm going to edit this column and add the Cheyenne (or Arapaho .. .or both?) phrases she taught the guests because you could apply them to the way we treat each other in life and in work. One multisyllabic phrase meant something like "Do not use harmful words against each other."
While I skipped my dinner last night due to Harvey Levin, the name of the worm I got from a certain peaceful salad bar, and skipped breakfast and lunch as well today, it doesn't compare to the 3 day spiritual journey that Henrietta Mann embarked on when a 14-year-old girl asked her to return to the Cheyenne sun dance lodge with her as her teacher. They fasted together for 3 days and when she came out of it, she was so thankful for a glass of water. She reminded us that our bodies are 75% water, which means we're connected. She didn't mean connected to the high speed Internet. She meant connected to the rain, ice, and mist - and that the warmth you feel inside you isn't Harvey the worm, it's the fire that you're connected to. "We live in a relational universe and we need to take care of it as good relatives," she said.
I know, I'm getting all flowery on you - but take a break sometime from your ABC of selling, your bizdev, your press relations, your drumming up and closing down, and feel our environment. I'm all for digging out the negative pieces and taking care of each other. Heck, I may even join some huggy woman's group after this. Oh that's right, I said huggy. As Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media, handed out each award, she warmly hugged each winner. And it didn't look uncomfortable, it looked really nice. Maybe because I feel all twisted up inside, I want my mommy or something.