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Nina Shaw And Aileen Lee On Why Women Need Allies At Work

From left: Nina Shaw, Aileen Lee and Desiree Gruber at ForbesWomen Summit 2019.

Julia Ferrier

“We have all been living on islands and now we’re a team,” said Aileen Lee about her Time’s Up sisters at the 2019 ForbesWomen Summit.

In 2017, a coalition of 300 women working in the entertainment industry banded together to brainstorm ways to protect their female colleagues, some of whom had recently shared stories of widespread sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct in the workplace. The movement became known as Time’s Up and has since grown to provide legal services, support and education for women experiencing harassment at work.

Nina Shaw, a top entertainment lawyer and founder of her firm, Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein Lezcano, and Aileen Lee, one of the first female venture capital firm founders, are two of the trailblazing women who make up the Time’s Up network.

Shaw and Lee, who beat the odds and rose to the top of their male-dominated fields, joined Desiree Gruber, the founder and CEO of Full Picture, a public relations firm for a discussion on allyship.

Building relationships at work

For both women, relationships are key. But how do they know who will support them? For Shaw, it’s all about holding on to the good people and letting everyone else go. “When you find people who believe in the things you believe in, who are aligned with you, hold tight to them,” she said, adding that she gives the same advice to her clients navigating careers in entertainment.

Some of her biggest clients include Regina King, Jamie Foxx and recently Ava DuVernay, the director of the Netflix hit Central Park Five.

“We’re going to be together forever because we are in a war together,” she said to Lee.

“Nina is not a chest beater,” said Lee. “She is a soft-spoken leader.” While a man is easily the loudest person in the room and demands the most energy, we are moving towards a world where people with different leadership personalities, where introverts and extroverts can command respect, she added.

I shine when you shine

Lee, who says she’s one of the 9% of women in venture capital, knows all too well what it’s like to walk into a meeting and be one of the only woman in the room — if not the only one. For her, however, these meetings are an ideal place to prop up female colleagues and recognize their talents. “When you know there’s another woman in the room with a superpower and she’s not speaking up, you should call on her,” said Lee. Men don’t do that for women, but when women do it for other women, said Lee, it helps to balance out the power dynamic in the room.

“Next time you’re in a meeting and you make a statement, amplify someone else,” added Shaw.

Staying motivated

At All Raise, Lee’s nonprofit accelerator for female funders and founders, her team motivates other women through ambition rather than fear. “Making people feel bad for mistakes they’ve made in the past will not make them dig harder or faster,” said Lee.

Lee, a Forbes Top Tech Investor and mother of three, cofounded Cowboy Ventures in 2012, which has since invested in companies like Rent The Runway and Dollar Shave Club and recently started Cowboy Ventures III, a $95 million fund dedicated to backing seed-stage technology startups.

It can be difficult, however, to always look on the bright side, especially as a woman. Lee, who said she’s “pissed off a lot of the time,” made the mistake of hiding her frustrations to avoid being seen as a “pain” or the stereotypical “high maintenance” characterization of women. As a result, people haven’t heard what it’s like to be a woman or a minority in the industry.

Women are not going to solve our societal issues alone,” she said. She called on the women to partner with male colleagues to help change the status quo, by finding men who are empathetic and can be stronger allies.

Feeling left out?

“Invite yourselves,” said Shaw. Despite being at the top of her industry, Shaw recalled several instances where a group of men got together for an industry event — they didn’t bother to call her.

Instead, she said to them, “If you don’t include me, you’re going to look like you missed something.”

Lee calls these groups, “fauxgressives,” or faux-progressives — people who pretend to care about being inclusive, but only call their guy friends to take business trips with. In male dominated fields, where men are friends with men and not women, they get together and share ideas, whereas the minority women are left to think by themselves.

“We’re talking about doing the hardest thing in the world, which is to change the culture,” said Shaw.

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