The 19th amendment, Sandra Day O'Connor, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — all great symbols of movement toward gender equality and female empowerment. But, to be a bit earnest for a minute, we think it's so important with every milestone to remember the support — the hard work, manpower, and research — that it took to accomplish each defining feat. At Marie Claire's Power of Presence luncheon on Wednesday, we were reminded of exactly that — and the inspiration that you find when you're sitting in a room with some of the most successful women in America.
From an Emmy-winning political journalist to superstar fashion bloggers, from CFDA designers to Goldman Sachs executives, about 250 strong, forward-thinking women — everyone short of Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor — gathered in New York City to rally for women in the workplace and to listen to a panel discussion featuring Olivia Wilde, CBS' Norah O’Donnell, The Weinstein Company's Meryl Poster, and designer Rachel Roy.
"I think that we, as women, don’t know our power until much later in life, and the sooner we can learn it, the better," Roy told Refinery29.
Sure, the event hosted some pretty hefty names, and, yes, Coco Rocha was stunning in a sheer, white blouse and deep-red lips, but the undisputed star of the day was the Executive Presence survey, which was conducted by think tank Center For Talent Innovation.
Cosponsored by Marie Claire, Gap, and Bloomberg, among others, the survey (which can be found in Marie Claire's November issue, out now) questioned 4,000 professionals about "executive presence," or the qualities needed to be a woman on top. According to the study, gravitas (confidence, integrity, and grit), communication, and appearance make up the three pillars of this sought-after executive presence. Not surprisingly, 67% of top-level executives believe gravitas matters most, where confidence is key, while an inflated ego and bullying behavior are considered blunders.
One seriously stylish proponent of the gravitas theory: Nina Garcia, who was just recently announced the new creative director of Marie Claire. "One thing we all took out of this is you got to stand your ground and you can’t compromise," Garcia tells us. "Your integrity is everything. For me, that was a really important point and one that I’ve lived in my own professional career. The biggest hardship," she adds, "is when people are competitive, when people are not nice. Again, find your sense of dignity and power, and carry on and don't let that negativity get to you, because that can distract you, disturb you, and that’s not you."
Should you let that negativity get you down, know you can always get back up, says one edgy designer of all things city-chic. "Be persistent. If you’re scared, pretend that you’re not," advises Rebecca Minkoff, who also told us her road to success involved a lot of "failing again and again…or thinking that I failed and figuring out how to do it better, becoming a professional student, and if I didn’t get something right, then figuring it out and constantly going back and making it work."
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images/Amy Sussman
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