Influence and power through spending

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Women control over $20 trillion in world-wide spending.
That’s a lot of buying power.


Catalyst defines buying power as the total personal income that is available after taxes, for spending on virtually everything. Women hold tremendous power in the world economy, because they  drive consumer spending. In fact, women account for 85% of consumer purchases.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. As education advances and marriage delays, there are more women earning their own paychecks than ever. Global incomes of women are estimated to reach $18 trillion by 2018.
  2. Even if a woman doesn’t earn a paycheck, she is still likely the gatekeeper to her household’s expenditures.
  3. Women have a multiplier effect. As primary caregivers for children and the elderly, women often buy on behalf of other household members.

So, what does this mean?

First of all, companies should need to understand how to tailor marketing messages to women. Bridget Brennan, an expert on women’s spending patterns, says companies should study women as you would a foreign market. Female culture has its own language, behaviors, and perceptions. The solution is not to make your product pink, like Dell attempted to do a few years ago:

“Consider Dell’s short-lived effort to market laptops specifically to women. The company fell into the classic “make it pink” mind-set with the May 2009 launch of its Della website. The site emphasized colors, computer accessories, and tips for counting calories and finding recipes. It created an uproar among women, who described it as “slick but disconcerting” and “condescending.” –Harvard Business Review

Dell corrected its error quickly, but the error shows the vast misunderstanding that often comes with marketing to women.

Companies should also work intentionally to stop promoting false female stereotypes. Consistently portraying women as eye-candy, exasperated moms, and helpless damsels in distress does nothing to make today’s women want to buy your products. Making sure to have gender-diversity throughout the company will help combat poor decisions regarding the female consumer.

.  As women continue to break down traditional barriers, their influence is more powerful than ever. It’s time for companies to address the needs of their largest, and perhaps most overlooked customers: women.

Interested in learning more about female spending power? Check out the article in the Harvard Business Review that inspired this post.

Redefining Work-Life “Balance”

Anne Marie Seibel, partner at Bradley

Momentum Alumna Anne Marie Seibel recently published a chapter in the book, “Her Story: Lessons in Success from Lawyers Who Live It.” Anne Marie should know. She is a very successful complex litigation partner in multi-forum, multi-plantiff cases at Bradley law firm. She is active in both professional and local communities, married to a research physician, and mother of two (read her impressive bio here.) How does she balance it all? As she explains in the book, she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t even try.

Here are three key take-aways from her chapter:

Ban balancing.
As Anne Marie explains in the book, her goal is to manage all aspects of life, not balance them. When you are ambitious, there will always be more things you want to do than you have resources to accomplish. Life is not about striking the perfect balance, it’s about prioritizing goals and making tough decisions with limited resources. Anne Marie advises professionals to “spend time allocating the available resources to cover the responsibilities you have” so that you can focus fully on whatever task is at hand, knowing the other important priorities are covered.

Take the long view.
There are many paths to success, and no particular time-table for achieving them. Time is one of the constraints we all have, and at least that’s a level playing field. Anne Marie advises “managing your own expectations and developing reasonable definitions of success.” One of the most important demands on time comes when you have children. Anne Marie cautions against viewing motherhood on one side and career on the other. Instead, she suggests looking at the role of a working parent as a conductor, “asking the wind section to play more loudly while the strings provide the background. All you are doing is adjusting the mix at any given point in time.”

Choose the right team.
Every good manager knows how important the team is to long term success. Choosing a spouse or partner who genuinely shares your life goals, supports you at work, and does their share at home. Beyond your life partner, you need the right team at work, too. Get to know your colleagues well, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and always lend a hand when they need it. Be transparent about your long-term plan and any changes in priorities, goals, and resources. The more your colleagues understand all of your priorities, the more they can empathize and support you on your journey. Finally, says Anne Marie, “develop genuine networks of support–not comparison.” It’s senseless to spend time comparing isolated aspects of life and career with those of colleagues. It’s far better to seek others of “varied life experience and age” to gain from their perspective, and from their support.

In closing, Anne Marie reminds us: “When others ask how you are balancing it all, be sure to answer, ‘I’m managing just fine, thank you.'”


Financial Independence

Lady Liberty Financially Independent

In the spirit of independence and the 4th of July, we want to share some thoughts about financial independence. Last week, the Momentum blog posted on money and fearlessness. The post challenged traditional stereotypes regarding finances, particularly a woman’s tendency to rely on a man as the “breadwinner.”

Financial independence is increasingly important for women. Data suggests that 9 out of 10 women will be solely in charge of their finances at some point in their life.

Not only do women have a longer life expectancy than men, but they are expected to work fewer years in the workforce while being paid less than men. Yikes.

Consider these statistics on American women from The Simple Dollar:

  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
    women possess a lower level of financial knowledge than men.
  • In another study by Financial Finesse, a survey found that 65% of women have control of their cash flow (as opposed to 83% of men), 45% of women have an emergency fund (64% for men), and 48% of women pay their credit card balances in full (70% for men).
  • 87% of American elderly in poverty are women.

The site goes on to present a guide to achieving financial independence:

  1. Understand your cash flow.
  2. Determine your goals and set a budget.
  3. Eradicate debt.
  4. Save!
  5. Protect yourself.

For further tips, here is a great Ted Talk about financial literacy delivered by Alexa von Tobel.

However, perhaps the most important tip falls back on this idea of fearlessness. Don’t be afraid to seek financial advice, negotiate your salary, or overstep cultural gender roles. Seek out financial knowledge to better understand what you do not know. Take care of you. Financial independence will never occur without the discipline, humility, and drive required to change.

The principles are simple. The results will change your future.

Facetime with Jenifer Kimbrough

One of the greatest things about Momentum is the powerful alumnae network. Periodically we interview these amazing women about their experience in our program.

Jenifer Goforth Kimbrough serves as Chief Financial Officer at Oakworth Capital Bank. She has over 20 years of financial services experience which includes serving banking, broker/dealer and insurance clients with Ernst & Young, serving as the director of investor relations at Regions Financial Corporation, and serving on the Board of Directors and as chair of the Audit Committee for a publicly traded property/casualty insurance company. Jenifer graduated from the University of Alabama in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Business Administration, receiving her CPA certificate soon after.

Additionally, Jenifer has served as the national president of the American Woman’s Society of CPAs and on the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. She has served in numerous community volunteer leadership positions including on the Boards of the Junior League of Birmingham, the Mountain Brook PTO Council, and the Ranger PTO.  She teaches Sunday School at Canterbury United Methodist Church and is active with her alma mater, currently serving on The University of Alabama’s Accounting Advisory Board and as a Culverhouse Connections mentor for young women in accounting. Jenifer completed Momentum’s executive leadership program as part of Class Four in 2006. 

What did you gain from your MOMENTUM experience?

More than anything, Momentum gave me a fantastic network of friends and leaders.  That includes members of my own Momentum class as well as other Momentum alumnae.  When you learn that someone that you’ve never met before is a Momentum alumna, there is an instant connection and familiarity between the two of you – I love that!  I also learned to breathe…we have to take time to reflect and recharge.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

Years ago I worked for a partner at Ernst & Young who I  respected immensely, and who counseled me to “paddle your own canoe.”   Don’t worry about anybody else, what opportunities or accolades or financial benefit they may have been given that you weren’t.  Just worry about you and doing the absolute best you can do every day and in every situation. The rest will take care of itself.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders face?

The next generation of women leaders will face a lot of the same challenges we face today!  That said, they will need to figure out what success really means to them (as opposed to someone else’s definition) and then how to go about making it happen.  The pace of change today, driven mainly by technology,  is incredible.  It will require more vision and creativity than ever before to play within a new and ever-changing set of rules in order to stay in front of that change as opposed to trying to fit an existing product or service or idea into a much different paradigm.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18 year old self?

I would say so much!  Here are a few things:  One, to learn as much as I could about what people do and how they do it by asking lots of questions.  Two, to take that knowledge and recognize that I have the opportunity to create my own unique reality over time.  Three, to really appreciate that every human being has something unique and special to offer no matter what package they come wrapped in.

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

Integrity, Empathy, Visionary

How do you find balance in your career, home, and community life?

For me, the pursuit of career, home, community balance starts with the big picture of knowing what is really important to me in all of the aspects of my life. From there I make sure all decisions, big and small, are consistent with those priorities.

Is there a book that has been helpful to you in your career? If so, please share the title and author.

The book I always seem to come back to is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  It’s a simple, common sense approach that applies to every endeavor.

Is there anything else you would like to share? Advice you would like to give women in leadership?

Things I’ve been taught from those I was fortunate enough to be “brought along” by….

  • do your best to be your authentic self as you lead
  • remind yourself what it’s like to be led
  • make sure you’d be willing to do anything you ask someone else to do
  • always have someone (or “someones”) you’re bringing along behind you

On money and fearlessness

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Last night, I read the chapter “Fearless About Money” from Arianna Huffington’s book, On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work, and Life.

I was intrigued by this quote:

“Even today, a surprising number of us (women) still think that it’s the man’s job to make and understand money. Far too often we delegate this responsibility and don’t learn enough about money- so of course we fear it. That’s where we have to start. We can never be fearless about money until we demystify it and take charge of it.”


Arianna Huffington just might be right. I believe my apprehension about money stems from my lack of understanding it. As a college student, I have only dipped my toe in the vast pool of finances. I have quickly come to realize that being an adult is expensive. As a female, I have always been encouraged to marry a “breadwinner.” The principle isn’t inherently bad, but what if I don’t? What if I stay single? Or marry someone with fewer career aspirations? What if I’m widowed or go through a divorce? These are all common scenarios, and all would require the means to provide for myself regardless of circumstance.

If I’m not careful, fear can creep in and alter my perspective on money. Money has tremendous power as it is viewed as a sense of security and the ultimate measure of success.  If allowed, money can put reigns on people’s lives by binding them to safety instead of pursuing a life of passion. However, as Mellody Hobson once said, “angst won’t be satiated by the size of your bank account.”

So, where’s the balance?

Arianna Huffington says the balance is here: “We need to put  money into proper perspective in our lives, stop avoiding it, learn about it, and stop making it more important than it is.”

As women, I believe the best thing we can do is strive for financial independence, harness the spending power available to us, and, perhaps most importantly, give back. True fearlessness about money will only come from living a life driven by purpose, not financial security.

Preventing and dealing with burnout

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

50% of the American workforce is “burnt out.” Sara Holtz’s podcast, Advice To My Younger Me, featured Dana Campbell, a career strategy and burnout coach, on the issue.

In a clinical sense, burnout is characterized by, a heightened sense of cynicism, or a loss of personal efficacy. Researchers claim you must experience two of the three characteristics to be dealing with clinical burnout. This trend seems to be happening earlier and earlier in young professional lives, with a particular affect on Millennials. Why?

Millennials deal with a greater expectation of “round-the-clock” work. Also, Millennials tend to value meaningful work more than any other generation. Burnout is much more expected if someone is working a job radically out of alignment with their life values. The combination of long hours, and constant, unfulfilling work usually results in the characteristics of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, a loss of personal efficacy.

So how does one prevent burnout? Dana Campbell offered these three tips:

  1. Define what “success” means to you. The definition of success should be holistic- not just career related. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

  2. Realize that you are not your work. Your personal identity is not found in your corporate title.

  3. Stop listening to what everyone else thinks you should do, and figure out what it is that you are passionate about. Follow the thing that gives you the greatest sense of joy.

These tips extend beyond preventative burnout. Also, don’t be fooled into believing that Millennials are the only generation that faces burnout. These characteristics can be true for anybody. If you believe you are facing burnout, then here are the two tips Dana Campbell extends to you:

photo via Paula Davis-Laack
  1. Care for your nervous system. If you are in a sense of burnout, then your body is in fight-or-flight mode due to a heightened sense of anxiety and stress. Caring for your nervous system can best be done through conscious relaxation or restorative yoga.

  2. Forgive yourself. You aren’t alone. In fact, according to statistics, half of your co-workers are dealing with the same problem. Take steps towards a better life.

The most important takeaway I gained from Dana Campbell’s podcast was this: don’t be afraid to chase after what you really want. Life is too short to pursue unfulfilling dreams.

Change through micro decision-making

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Recently, Fortune published an article entitled “Sallie Krawcheck: Why Corporate America Will Never ‘Get’ Diversity.” Sallie Krawcheck is an incredibly influential business woman in corporate America.  In her article, Sallie Krawcheck attempts to explain why workplace equality fails to grow in the midst of growing awareness. She says,

“Here’s my theory: We tend to talk about the advancement of women as a macro issue—something to be tackled by corporations, industries, society. But in reality, so much of it comes down to the micro.”

She goes on to describe micro forces that hold diversity back and micro decisions that have the potential to push diversity forward. Micro forces include bosses and our individual implicit bias. Micro decisions can be anything from supporting organizations that are “doing it right” to starting your own business. Sallie Krawcheck argues we can only combat micro forces with micro decisions.

photo via

Sallie Krawcheck’s thought process behind diversity in the workplace intrigued me. Building diversity is one of the core values at her company, Ellevest. Through that difficult process, Sallie Krawcheck has come to realize that true power comes from the everyday decisions women like you and me make.  If that is the case, then ask yourself this: what am I doing to implement my values into my daily decision-making? How am I pushing forward the mission I believe in?

At the end of the day, we can only be responsible for our own actions. Change starts small, but it has the power to grow into something quite dramatic. Start with you. Step into a mentoring role. Start the negotiation you have been shying away from. Find a network of people who hold similar values as you. Move in a direction that compliments the change you would like to see in the workplace. Change requires tenacity, but don’t be afraid to chase after it.

Potential Paid Leave Program

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Ivanka Trump, a working young mother, proposed a $25 billion federal paid leave program as part of the president’s budget plan, according to the Washington Post. As of right now, the United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee new mothers or fathers a single day of paid time off. The proposal would guarantee six weeks of paid time off, which is less than other developed countries, but it is still progress.

Each state would be responsible for designing and running their own programs. So far, only California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey offer new parent benefits, with New York and Washington D.C. in the works.

As of today, workers in the United States can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after a birth, as long as they’ve worked at a company that employs at least 50 people for a year. Currently, 58 percent of American companies replace at least some wages during maternity leave, and only 12 percent cover some leave for dads.  The proposal includes working mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. The inclusion of men in the proposal encourages equal responsibility in family planning.

Business leaders are hesitant to absorb the expense of paid leave, but there is value in providing financial support for mothers due to the research suggesting a large reduction in employee turnover.

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The government’s initiative to improve benefits for working women by offering paid leave encourages me. The issue is gaining valued attention, since it would traditionally be addressed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. As I begin my career, I don’t want to feel as if I am compromising work for my family, or vice versa. The paid leave program could create a sense of security for working mothers in the United States.  I am grateful this is a topic of discussion in the White House. It shows the importance of having women like Ivanka Trump in positions of power. Women who will acknowledge gender issues and work against them.


The Sisterhood They Didn’t Know They Needed

May 18th, Momentum will graduate our 14th class of outstanding professional women leaders. Every year, at the beginning of our leadership training, we ask the class about any concerns regarding the program. And every year, we hear the same concern resurface again and again: I am worried about what it’s going to be like to be with all women, all the time. Because our participants are very high on the org chart, they have spent most of their careers interacting with a predominantly male peer group. So long, in fact, that they are convinced they get along better with men.

What is exciting to see is how these concerns melt away in a matter of minutes. In fact, as one after another they confirm the “room full of women” concern, the relationships are starting to build. They are more alike than they are different. Within the course of the afternoon, they are no longer concerned about how they will relate to the other women, or what the other women will think of them,  or of how their participation in an all-women’s program will be viewed by others. By the end of day one, they know they are surrounded by strong women with great talents, and they are proud to share the room.

As the year progresses, our class hears from renowned authors, trainers and facilitators. In between sessions they complete numerous assignments requiring introspection. In their co-mentoring groups they share experiences, discoveries, and vulnerabilities. Within a couple of months, when class day rolls around, they are no longer thinking “how can I make time for this,” and are now thinking, “I really need this!” They have found the value of Sisterhood. Very soon they will join the larger sisterhood of Momentum Alumnae, 350 women strong!




New Study Suggests Equal Pay Next Century

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

In January, Momentum’s April Benetollo wrote a post entitled “Who Can Wait for 2085?”  The article focused on the study that projected women to achieve parity in leadership in this country in the year 2085.

A new study from the AAUW suggests that women may not achieve pay equity with men until the year 2152. Yes, middle of the next century.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the earnings ratio hasn’t had significant annual change since 2007. The gap has narrowed since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Still, the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.”

-The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, Spring 2017 Edition, AAUW

An early career woman faces the daunting reality of the gender pay gap, especially as she makes career path decisions that affect her long-term salary. Some of the gender pay gap stems from the motherhood penalty, which we will discuss at a later time, but this Forbes article has two suggestions for eliminating the gender pay gap: implementing pay transparency and eliminating negotiation.

photo credit: Wall Street Journal

The idea about implementing pay transparency is establishing unbiased meritocracy within an organization. It would raise awareness among employees, which has been the consistent weapon of choice to combat gender bias. It’s not that organizations are outwardly opposed to equal gender rights, rather organizations are unaware of how their actions affect the gender pay gap. Underlying biases are not always recognizable. Implementing pay transparency could eliminate the issue, forcing organizations to be honest about how employees are rewarded for their work.

Men negotiate salary and benefits 4 times more than women, but when women negotiate, they are likely to earn $1 million more over their lifetime than women who refuse to negotiate. It’s easy to accept a salary lower than market-value during the early career stages, but employees who do are likely to continue being underpaid for the duration of their time with that company. If eliminating negotiation is not an option, then women must find their voice and exude enough confidence to negotiate, even when they may be a minority in the workplace.

The difference between pay equity in 2059 and 2152 is vast. As an early career woman, 2059 means I will see pay equity in my lifetime. 2152 means that my grandchildren will. Entering the workforce with awareness of these issues and the confidence to fight for them will make all the difference.