Why HWW Impact Symposium 2014 was Better than a Lesbian Dance Party

The signs that history was being made started with brilliant Clara Miller, President of the F.B. Heron Foundation, playfully provoking us in her keynote address, “Now that corporations have government in their pocket, why should we go to government? Why not go straight to the corporations?” Many of us may think this way, but Clara said it out loud to a crowd of 250 people.

Next Liesel Pritzker Simmons, innovative Co-Founder of the Blue Haven Initiative, shared her story of inheriting wealth as a college student and finding her own way to be socially responsible with her money. She joked to the crowd, “There is a hideous double standard. Apparently it is perfectly fine to just straight up lose money, but if you lose money with a social overlay, that’s really bad.”

Change-maker and Partner at Goodwin Procter LLP, Elise Zoli, presented meta-analytic studies that found women perform better than men as recipients of micro financing, as leaders of companies backed by venture capitalists, and as leaders of hedge funds. Yet, investors back women less often than their male counterparts, even when they deliver the exact same pitch. An advisory board has formed to move ahead on this ROI Factor Project, which I have proudly joined.

Erika Karp, rock star Founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital Inc., led a dynamic conversation on innovating business models for scaling social impact and building new forms of governance through more transparent metrics and better board practices. Out of the ESG factors (Environmental, Social, and Governance), Erika said the “G” factor comes first and paves the way for the other two. She had such a good time on the panel, she ended by saying, “After 25 years of sitting in board rooms with men, now it’s my turn. This is better than a lesbian dance party!”

The last time I had the same powerful sense of being part of a historical moment was coming of age as a feminist in the 90s. Twenty years later, the world has changed enormously for many groups of women and LGBTQ people, even though we still have a long way to go. The difference is the “F” word at the High Water Women’s Impact Investment Symposium was not Feminist; it was Finance. Women in finance, that is.

These women are making history now after several decades working to amass the positions of authority, build the relationships with male and female collaborators, and gain access to the resources required to have a fighting chance at seriously changing the world. Lets dance!

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