As we planned our International Women’s Day event together, Reframe Foundation founder and panel co-moderator Lydia Kutko introduced us to a thought-provoking idea: how does owning our feminine qualities in the workplace allow us to be the most effective mama bosses we can be? Lydia and HEYMAMA’s own Amri Kibbler brought together a panel exploring the ways integrating our feminine qualities proves beneficial. As multifaceted women raising children, how do we show up in the best way possible for everyone and everything in our lives?
With a panel including Fran Hauser (investor, bestselling author, and advice columnist), Kara Ross (gemologist and founder of UNLEASHED), and Laura Maness (CEO of Havas New York), it’s no surprise we walked away with uniquely helpful insights on how to reframe our approach to our work lives—for both our own benefit and for the good of other women.
In starting the Reframe Foundation, Lyida Kutko set out to serve an often-ignored group: incarcerated women. There are fewer re-entry programs for women than men, and she set out to change that. She pitched the NYC Department of Corrections her idea to bring jobs training in the art world to incarcerated women, and there was a lot of excitement around the idea. Not only do incarcerated women gain access to jobs, they have the opportunity to enter into a fulfilling career in the art world.
Through her work at Rikers’s Island, Lydia found that she and the incarcerated women she was working with shared a common problem: stamping down their feminine qualities held them back. The word “reframe” takes on a new meaning: it’s about changing the conversation around incarcerated women, but it’s also about changing the conversation we have with ourselves. As women, how do we self-incarcerate? How can we stop?
There’s one simple way: changing the language we use. Lydia pointed out that so often, we use words like “I was just thinking” when we really want to say “you know what, this is what needs to happen.” There’s a way to find a middle ground, expressing ourselves confidently and saying what we need to say from a place of love.
Fortunately, we had an expert on the topic right on the panel. Fran Hauser literally wrote the book on bringing every side of ourselves into the workplace. In The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, she provides powerful tips for negotiating, offering feedback, and more while maintaining kindness and empathy. Bringing our kindest selves into the workplace isn’t just about pleasantry. During the panel, she shared the impact being kind has on business: “When you lean into kindness, you create psychological safety. Psychological safety is the most common attribute found in high-performing teams.”
While every woman on the panel found success in a different industry, there’s one role they all have in common: mom. Havas New York CEO Laura Maness shared her perspective on managing both:
For me, it’s about reframing balance as presence. It’s about being 100 percent all in, in the moment, wherever I am. So if I’m in the boardroom, or if I’m in a meeting, or I’m trying to fundraise and get this business going, or if I’m with my son at the craft studio, whatever it is, I think balance needs to be reframed as presence and allowing yourself to show up and be all in.
Along similar lines, Laura shared another great insight we know all of the mama bosses reading this will appreciate: “It’s about looking at it as one life integrating all of your passions, and embracing those, and supporting them in every way that you possibly can.”
Through Unleashed World, Kara Ross shares the stories of female entrepreneurs and artisans who have created meaning through their presence. The goal is twofold. The first is to inspire the young women and men watching high profile female entrepreneurs tell their stories, their struggles, and their upbringings. The second goal is to encourage viewers to share their own stories. After sharing their own story, the featured entrepreneur or artist will say “you’ve heard my story, now share yours. Take your phone and do a 30 second video.” Every person’s presence is valuable and every story has meaning, whether it comes from a woman who’s found acclaim through her work or a young woman just beginning to find her passion in life.
Thanks to these mama bosses who shared their own stories and perspectives this International Women’s Day, our New York community walked away ready to refresh the way we show up in every area of our lives. After the panel, we had the chance to discuss our takeaways and enjoy breakfast in a gorgeous Domino Magazine-designed apartment in 100 Barclay. What was for breakfast? Amazing plant-based goodies from Sakara Life (use the code HEYMAMA20 for 20% off!). Mamas took home gift bags packed with goodies from women-owned brands, including BuckWhat, Love Bubby, and First Aid Beauty. We appreciate that we had the chance to spend International Women’s Day among so many inspiring women, on the panel and among the event attendees.
All photos by Stevi Sesin. Read Mama Innovators Share Where They Found Their Role Models to learn how mamas in our Chicago community celebrated International Women’s Day.