money smart week 2016 and chicago’s first feminist film festival recaps

One of my favorite things to talk about is also one of life’s most taboo topics:

Money.

Sometimes, I just want to straight-up ask people: “Hey, how much money do you make, and how did you get to that point? Is it a competitive salary in your field?” or “How do you invest your money?” or “Is 1% too high of a fee to pay for a mutual fund? How do you know that your financial advisor is legit?” I don’t want to do this because I’m nosy—it’s because, currently, everything I know about money is based solely on my own LIMITED experience.

It's the Money, Honey! panel: Terry, Kristen, Joanne and Ginny

It’s the Money, Honey! panel: Terry, Kristen, Joanne and Ginny

Although society dictates that it’s not polite to ask people such questions, money is one of life’s necessary evils. And I feel like I can never learn enough about how to earn it, grow it, save it, invest it, give it or spend it. Someday I hope to buy a condo or go to grad school or save for a future child’s college fund or help my parents in their retirement—but I can’t do any of those things if I don’t HAVE money first. That is why I was so pumped that last week was Money Smart Week 2016 in Chicago—a whole week of events put on by our good friends at the YWCA Chicago and DyMynd for the sole purpose of talking about earning, investing, spending and giving money!

I was able to attend Monday’s panel, It’s the Money, Honey!, featuring four smart and dynamic women who discussed all aspects of gender inequality in the workplace, how to fight it and what we’re going to do to achieve equal pay by 2020. Here are my biggest takeaways from each panelist:

Host: Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

In four years, it will be the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote—and we still don’t have equal pay! Awhile ago, Dorri met the President and COO of SpaceX, a woman named Gwynne. They were talking about SpaceX’s latest project: creating the ability for humans to live on Mars within the next 30 years. Gwynne said, “It’s not that complicated. We just have to build an atmosphere around Mars.” Cue the jaw drop. Then, Dorri raised an eyebrow and came to a logical conclusion: If it’s not that complicated to build a freaking atmosphere, it’s certainly not too complicated to achieve equal pay in the workplace. Therefore, Dorri’s goal is to even the pay gap by 2020, 100 years after women earned the right to vote. It’s estimated that would add $58 billion to Chicago’s economy alone.

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Dorri and Carolyn speaking at Friday’s happy hour to close out Money Smart Week 2016. Left to right: Kendra (Chicago Woman), Carolyn (DyMynd), Dorri (YWCA)

Host: Carolyn Leonard, Partner at DyMynd

If you had a chance to read Monika’s interview, you already know about DyMynd, a pioneering company Carolyn and Monika started to conquer the financial frontier and help women feel empowered to meet their financial and investment goals without competing with their values. Carolyn is also one of the first few women to trade on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and I’m very excited to say that you’ll get to read more about her on People with Panache very soon!

Moderator: Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency financial columnist, WGN-Radio commentator, Huffington Post blogger

The gender gap costs every woman $500,000 over her lifetime. Terry comes from the generation of first women—first women traders, first women in banking, first women on boards. When she was one of the first women on the board of McDonald’s, the men told her, “Don’t advocate for salads.” Over the years, Terry says she has seen tremendous change in equality in the workplace, largely because of shareholder influence. But it’s just not enough. She said, “No offense to Harriet Tubman, but it’s not about who’s on the bill. I want to see more Benjamins and Jacksons in your purse!”

Panelist: Kristen Prinz, Managing Principal at The Prinz Law Firm, P.C.

Kristen discussed the many legal aspects involved with several claims regarding gender equality in the workplace: Title VII, Illinois Human Rights Act, Equal Pay Act, National Labor Relations Act and Paycheck Fairness Act. But her true message was about how women need to stop making excuses for each other. Don’t just silently work harder to “prove” yourself while not asking for what you really want, she suggests. Be brave, and stand up for yourself and for other women. Create a posse of women around you where you can all advocate for each other. That is how we’re going to move ahead and achieve equality.

Panelist: Joanne Moffic-Silver, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at the CBOE

Joanne advises to be prepared for an opportunity you want: Write down specific things you have done, and use that to advocate for yourself. Know your brand and your value, and be able to prove your accomplishments so they can’t be downplayed. Also, have a mentor—this person should be someone who also knows your value and can go to bat for you when you’re trying to take the next step.

Panelist: Ginny Clarke, President and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners, LLC

Ginny believes two strategies are most important for career growth: building your fan base and understanding the game. Having allies to mentor and sponsor you are essential to your growth at work. Understanding the game means knowing your role is about performance—not just credentials. Work hard, but then stand up for yourself and ask for what you want.IMG_0195

I left feeling more empowered, armed with the advice of some of our country’s financial trailblazers. And while my two-woman office doesn’t exactly have the gender inequality issues we discussed, I’m still practicing being brave by taking a step outside of my comfort zone to attend this event and even ask a few of the women to be featured on PWP! (Oh, you just wait.)

The week before last, I also attended Chicago’s first feminist film festival. In a whole different way, it blew my mind. I watched a series of shorts about bodies in rest and in motion, each brief film featuring an element of dance and movement. It was mesmerizing. As this was my first film festival and my dance experience is limited to the basic tap, jazz and ballet, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the fluid, emotional, breathtaking images on screen. Each short was very different from the others—beautiful and thought-provoking, one even with element of horror.

But what most compelled me was my realization that even though this film festival was labeled as feminist, there wasn’t just one definition of feminism being portrayed. And that’s exactly how it should be. I’m done with people thinking feminism, at its core, is anything but the equal treatment of women—whether at work or life beyond it. The festival not defining it in one concrete way, not often even articulating the topic, gave everyone the opportunity to personalize and interpret its nuances for themselves.

While on the surface some might see them in quite different worlds, the film festival and Money Smart Week complemented one another. In the coming weeks on People with Panache, we will meet the two women who started the film festival, Michelle and Susan, as well as one of the subjects of the shorts, Leah Zeiger. Leah’s film tells the gut-wrenching story of being manipulated and abused by an older boy in high school. It’s a hard story to hear, or watch, but her message is so important and needs to be shared. We will also feature Carolyn Leonard from DyMynd, Dorri McWhorter from YWCA Chicago and Kristen Prinz from The Prinz Law Firm, as well as one of the sponsors of the event, Kendra Chaplin from Chicago Woman (formerly FW: Chicago Women) magazine.

Whether you’re breaking out your springtime wardrobe, planting seeds for your vegetable garden, rethinking your plans for your tax return or dreaming up a summer staycation, we’re sure your spring is definitely springing, too!

How do you define feminism? And how is that reflected in your financial choices? Share in the comments!

[Photos by Kate.]

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