If you have ever been to a DrivenWomen group or bumped into Miisa Mink at one of the Soho Houses she frequently works at, you will know two things: her infectious and determined energy is enough to motivate any woman to go for the goal and she is the first person to jump in and hold you accountable as you put a plan in place to make it happen. The founder and chief doer at the hugely popular DrivenWoman Network, she’s an entrepreneur, author and blogger with a mission: To grab women by the hand and cheer them on as she pulls them out of their comfort zone into the direction of their best life. I had the great pleasure of attending her flagship event, The Festival Of Doers, last year and walked away more inspired and dedicated than I had been in years and I am counting down the days until the next (sold out) event next week. Today, I am sitting down with Miisa to talk about the ways women can work together to create a female-centric ecosystem, the importance of the #MeToo movement and why it’s time to change the feminist conversation.
1. You started out in branding, and anyone who has been to one of your seamless and stylish Driven Women events knows you are incredibly skilled in this area. Can you tell us a bit about where you started and how you made the transition to DrivenWoman?
MM: I spent many years successfully branding companies but over time, it was clear to me that my purpose and passion was in using my skills, talents and drive to support other women in creating the best possible life and career for themselves. I am so proud that DrivenWomen was an A-ha moment that has led to a movement.
2. Having experienced the Festival of Doers event last year for the first time, I was blown away by how positive, proactive and truly empowering the event was. There was no whining or male-bashing, just a group of exceptional women coming together to exchange wisdom, support and skills. Can you tell us more about the event? How did it start? How has it grown and what's your vision for the future?
MM: The DrivenWoman model represents the new kind of thinking, a new ecosystem, aiming to create value on all levels: physical, emotional, spiritual and financial, bringing women together to build their own future.
The flagship event, Festival Of Doers in on the 26th of January in London, brings together women thought leaders from around the world and creates a new kind of empowerment event. Rather than discussing what is wrong with the world and how unfair the current system is, it offers attendees a chance to learn from other women and commit to making a change in their own lives. The one-day seminar integrates principles of DrivenWoman: attendees write down their goals, share their dreams & ideas openly and identify action points they will put into practice the very next day. When women come together to support each other magic will happen.
The conversation around general sexism, harassment and wage inequality has arguably grown louder than it has since the 1970's, yet, you have said that much of those speaking are "missing the point". What should we be focusing on?
MM: We keep having the wrong conversations about women's empowerment. The focus is on how the organizations and companies should change and how women should change (become braver and more confident) in order to reach the top. It’s good progress but it’s too slow and it’s completely missing the point.
The current structure is deeply patriarchal, and in order to change it, we have focused, up until now, changing corporate leadership and organizational structures. Targets to get more women on boards have had a positive effect. 26% of FTSE100 board positions now occupied by women, but this hasn’t closed the gender pay gap, which at this rate will close only in 95 years! To change the system and to change it faster women should be encouraged to build their own structures, not trying to hold on to the old ones. I’ve spoken to hundreds of women in our DrivenWoman groups and one thing is for certain, it’s only because women accept unequal treatment it is allowed to continue. As soon as a woman starts to demand better treatment changes occur in the form of a pay rise, promotion, career change or starting their own business or side project.
When women stop accepting a daily struggle as a norm, when we start walking away from situations that are abusive (#MeToo) or corporate structures that are non-supportive, the world will change.
Looking at posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and thinking of the marches and the recent show of solidarity at The Golden Globes, it seems that we are entering a new feminist revolution. Generations of women are coming together to fight for the respect and equality that has eluded us generation-after-generation. What do you think about this new wave of feminism?
MM: When you think about feminism or women’s empowerment movement you think about suffragettes, feminists burning bras, or women on barricades demanding equal pay. This is history and we are very grateful for those who fought for our rights. But as long as women keep fighting we engage our time and energy in a wrong battle. There is no need for a fight, there’s no enemy. We must to look inside and ask “What do I want?” and then start acting from a position of opportunity and dreams, not from a position of a victim. In the Western world, we women are able to create our own opportunity if we are willing to look for new ideas, take a little bit of risk and accept that we will have to step outside of our comfort zone and put effort into reaching our new goals long- term.
You speak a lot about a women-centric ecosystem. How do you feel is the best way to go about this and why is it so important?
MM: Women are already creating their own ecosystem through women-centric innovation which will eventually break the patriarchal code. The new ecosystem is funded by women-centric funding models such as iFundWomen and Brava Investments.
And new networking and co-working concepts such as DrivenWoman, SheWorx and The Wing are growing rapidly. In order to successfully create this new ecosystem, we must abandon the constant need for male appraisal and learn that we don’t need to be validated by men, we can be validated by each other. We are, after all, 50% of the population. There’s no reason why we can’t create our own products and services. But we also have to start making conscious decisions on all levels only buying into the new ecosystem and only support companies that are aligned with our values.
The Driven Women groups have been hailed as "accountability meetings with inspiring women" and places that focus on "making passion productive". Why do you feel these groups are so popular?
MM: Our groups focus on making small steps that bring you closer to your goals. Often our dreams and ideas are so big that it feels there’s no way we can achieve them so we don’t even try. At DrivenWoman groups, women are encouraged to take small steps and sooner than they know big things start to happen. The first step is to say out loud that I want something different, and that’s the hardest. It’s held back by that same fear of exposure and judgment. Women are more likely to try new things and take a risk if they see other women do it too. Women are naturally supportive and connected. #MeToo is great evidence, women gave up the fear of exposure when they saw other women doing the same. At DrivenWoman groups women see other women taking risks, saying no to abusive work culture, finding new careers and starting their own businesses, and suddenly ideas that seemed alien at first become doable.
One member had an idea of a digital platform that would bring together all charities, people and companies, think “Linkedin for all charitable activities". Well, that’s such a big idea, how could one girl make it happen? Now, 18 months later she has successfully raised £250,000 and the new platform is launching in March. All because she started with one small step: making a hand video of her idea in her DrivenWoman group. The groups are places that allow women to formulate their own idea of achievement instead of continuing to buy into the same old success model that has no place for us.
Can you describe that model for us?
MM: In these groups and out, it has become increasingly evident that more and more women are seeking to find deeper meaning and to leave a legacy. We are tired of buying into the old-fashioned definition of success: money and status, ie the patriarchal model of constant competition to get to the top of the hill. There’s a real movement going on; women leaving top jobs when they seemingly ‘have it all’. We see it at DrivenWomen daily. The traditional success trajectory doesn’t resonate with the very high calibre career women the same way it did when we thought we wanted to ‘make it in the man’s world’.
Women are waking up to a realization that the corporate playing field was designed by men for men. It was built to emphasize the masculine traits or competition and ‘killing it’. We now want to create success on our own terms and look for something where we can make a positive impact, work collaboratively and have more freedom. Our groups allow a space for women to build that with the support of peers who understand and respect them and challenge them to get out of the perfection trap.
What exactly is "the perfection trap"?
MM: I will give you a couple of examples of what we hear many times in our DrivenWomen groups: A board level director joined to gain more confidence dealing with her boss, the CEO. She soon realized that the problem was actually the fact she was seeking for his approval, not that he didn’t give it. As soon as she realized the only ‘approval’ she needed was her own, her confidence shifted and she doesn’t let her boss push her around anymore.
Another member noticed that she’d always stay out late at company dinners feeling she needed to keep the atmosphere going and everyone happy, when in fact she wanted to go home to sleep, and be fresh and ready to pursue her own ideas in the morning. As soon as she stopped pleasing her male colleagues (and went home to get some sleep) her own entrepreneurial ideas surfaced and she gained the confidence to leave her job and start on her own.
Women are still seeking a man’s approval, most times subconsciously. This is an ancient survival mechanism coded in our genes. Women who did their own thing went on adventures and pursued their own ideas didn’t have babies, and those who were keen to please and conform to men’s wishes had more children. Over time this survival mechanism has been ingrained in us so deep we don’t even see it happening. (Yuval Noah Harari suggests in his book, Sapiens.
This constant competition has also resulted in backstabbing etc competing in the male environment for the glory of male approval. It’s a vicious cycle, to seek to perfect towards the judging eyes of the patriarchal society (yes, all societies still are) and the approval of other women trapped in the same perfection game. As we know, women often find the greatest opposition from other women.
It’s therefore easy to understand why women are often afraid to share their own ideas and views openly. For centuries stepping outside the norm directed by a masculine agenda resulted in shaming and ridicule (at best) and violence or abuse (at worse). We are afraid to be ‘pushed out of the heard’ if we stand out, be loud and don’t conform. However, no goal was ever achieved in silence. The shift has started. And the only door for women to break free is to step into the unknown and leave structures that don’t serve us. If you are unhappy in your working environment – seek out a company with a more female-friendly culture. If you don’t think the industry you are working in doesn’t serve the female market – start your own business. If you don’t want to give up starting a family for your career – learn a new skill or set up a concept where you can work flexibly from home. It’s about making that positive choice that will work better for you.
Finally, you speak quite a bit about allowing your sisters to support you. What do you feel women can do to not only support those around us but allow ourselves to accept support from others?
MM: We have been isolated from each other for decades because we have been trying to 'make it' in the man’s world. We’ve been trying to please and to lean-in. We’ve been taught to ‘wear the suit’ and talk the talk. This meant we adopted the masculine strategies to get ahead, the steal heels, the warrior attitude. This has in many cases cut us off from our naturally supportive feminine energy, from our own power, and our sisterhood. We must all ask ourselves, is this the success I want? And if it’s not, then jump out of the rat race and find another path that better serves us.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above topics or on the general topic of women helping women. Share your thoughts with us below!