By: Alisha Sedor
Over the last couple of weeks, The Wing hosted a series of talks with powerful women under the theme “Women in Power Conversations: If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu.” Sponsored by Netflix’s House of Cards Season 6 (Claire’s outfits, amirite?), the talks featured a series of incredible women at the different Wing locations including Sarah Hurwitz, Glynda Carr, Kelly Dittmar, Stephanie Young, Yohana Desta, Elana Leopold, and Melissa James Gibson.
I had the privilege of attending a panel featuring Padma Lakshmi, host and executive producer of Top Chef, and Cindi Leive, former editor-in-chief of both Glamour and Self magazines. The evening’s theme was all about professional power - what it means, how to get it, and how both women have worked to gain power and struggled with power dynamics in their professional careers.
For me, the biggest takeaway was the importance of a mind-shift about power that we need to drive across our professional culture. Leive phrased it as living in a power-scarcity mindset. We’ve been conditioned to think that there is only so much power to go around, pitting people into competition with each other. While healthy competition drives us forward, the scarcity mindset can hold us all back because we’re unwilling to help and uplift each other.
Rather, both Lakshmi and Leive make the case that the way to the top is by flipping power-scarcity thinking on its head. Lakshmi said, “[real] power is when you can help empower other people” by providing connections and support to those around you. People who have real power have the ability to open doors for others, and don’t serve as gatekeepers. They give of their power willingly.
Leive also talked about how asking for advice is often seen as a weakness, but can actually be an exhibition of power. This theme reminded me a bit of Brene Brown on vulnerability. The truly powerful know when to tap those around them for information and advice, and how to leverage that into more success. If you wall yourself off for fear of being vulnerable or appearing to not know “everything,” you’re actually doing yourself and your team a disservice. She also discussed themes of “power in doing” and not just having power, citing the example of Dr. Blasey Ford - while she did not have the power in that hearing, she certainly did something powerful. I loved the idea of working toward doing powerful things and focusing less on simply having power.
Finally, Lakshmi talked about some accommodations to their typical filming process on Top Chef that were required while she was still breastfeeding her child such as more frequent breaks and Judge’s Table sessions that took less than 7 hours to film. After years of long days with few breaks, suddenly it was possible to do things a little differently. She noted, “people will adjust when you tell them they need to.” All I have to say to that is, get it girl.
Need some help finding your power? Let’s chat.