25 April 2021|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Launching a business
By Neha Sampat, CEO and Founder, Contentstack. As a woman leader in an industry largely dominated by men, I’ve always believed in embracing diversity of thought. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it also results in a better workplace and product for employees and customers. Many studies show that having women on boards or in executive positions results in better financial performance. In fact, Nasdaq recently required its 3,000-plus listing companies to appoint at least one woman and at least one minority or LGBTQ+ person.
One of the most straightforward ways to create diversity of thought is allyship. I firmly believe that women leaders must find or create ways to support other women as a way to achieve overall equity. This can be through hiring or encouraging others to make their own entrepreneurial leaps. During the pandemic, I looked inward to focus on ways I could elevate the voices of female trailblazers and share their experiences and learnings to lift others up. This led to Dreammakers, my podcast featuring candid conversations with women that explore success, purpose, and what it takes to bridge the two.
As a celebration of Women’s History Month, I’ve shared the top lessons I’ve learned from conversations with my guests, the Dreammakers. I hope they’ll inspire you just as much as they’ve inspired me.
#1: Be open to big ideas at any moment. Tracey Milligan is the Founder and CEO of Term Payments and Executive Director of The Milligan Foundation. Through Term Payments, her latest entrepreneurial venture, she’s pioneering online layaway — making higher-end online purchases available to those who don’t have credit. The idea struck when Tracey was enjoying retail therapy on the e-commerce site Net-a-Porter.
“I was eyeing a pair of Louboutin’s and I thought to myself, ‘These are great…If only they had layaway.’” This fleeting thought became the origin of Term Payments, which brings access to higher-cost items in a market that does not have the means to purchase them via credit or micro-loans. Tracey unexpectedly saw a gap in the marketplace, and jumped to close that gap. But at that moment she had to be open to the idea, and that’s a skill she cultivated throughout her life.
#2: Strive to be on the kiddie coaster some of the time. Melinda Garvey founded On the Dot Diversity with the purpose of facilitating allyship so that everyone can create their path to success. When people question whether or not to become an entrepreneur, Melinda recommends setting expectations for the “ride” you’re about to embark on. She says, “As an entrepreneur, you will always be on the rollercoaster. There is no exit. But strive to be on the kiddie coaster some of the time.”
By shifting your mindset, this approach makes the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship easier to navigate. The valleys won’t be as overwhelming.
#3: Ask ‘Why Not?’ More. Deborah Dull, a circular economy visionary and founder of The Circular Supply Chain Network, believes in the power of exploring “why not.” Why not set the bar higher? Just because it’s policy today doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or improved. Barriers can be removed.
While this line of questioning can be frustrating – especially for coworkers – Deborah believes it’s also enlightening. Her advice is to look for others who also challenge the status quo. The collective rebel spirit will help revolutionize the world.
#4: If you want representative thought leadership, put in the work. Sheri Hinish is the co-founder of Supply Chain Revolution, a podcast that explores innovation, ideas that challenge conventional thinking, and great people across global supply chains. Sheri has always enjoyed challenging paradigms in a way that is meaningful, but professional. One arena that needs to be upleveled is the speaking circuit — in particular, what she calls “manels” (male-only panels).
There is a diversity of talent, and the supply chain and STEM fields have come a long way. Sheri believes public engagements must catch up. She says, “I’ve been told by conference organizers, ‘We asked a woman and she declined.’ Ask another one!” Having true thought leadership means elevating diverse voices within your community. Make recommendations and broker introductions to potential speakers.
#5: Cultivate the paradox of being both open and selective. Christie L Cleveland of Freeletics shared an interesting perspective of younger women embarking on their dreammaking journeys. Remain open to new ideas, viewpoints and experiences and also be selective and realize what is worth your time. Opportunities lie in that paradox.
She says, “People are afraid of being selective – they worry they will shut down opportunities. But, turning down something that is not right for you puts that idea back into the universe for someone else.” Maybe putting our ideas into the universe for someone else to give them life is a way of giving back?
If you know a dreammaker woman — someone skilled at balancing profit and purpose while also lifting people and communities up — I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me on Twitter: @nehasf.
About the Author
Neha Sampat (@nehasf) is CEO at Contentstack™ – a leading Content Management System (CMS) and Content Experience Platform (CXP). Previously, Neha was Founder and CEO of Digital Experience Platform Built.io®, which was acquired by German software powerhouse Software AG in September 2018. Neha also founded digital transformation consultancy Raw Engineering, which helps large organizations adopt API-first, cloud-native and SaaS technologies. Neha is a recognized industry leader, a proponent of diversity and an outspoken advocate for women in leadership. Neha can be found appearing on keynote stages or expert panels discussing her experiences as an entrepreneur, a female leader, or her company’s role in the future of technology. She is also the host of Dreammakers, a podcast featuring candid conversations between trailblazing women.