NEW YORK – Professionals from diverse fields gathered last week for Women of Influence, an inaugural series of panels organised by Sotheby's featuring women from business, technology, publishing and the arts with moderators from Fortune. The events kicked off on 19 September with a reception and discussion led by Fortune editor at large Jennifer Reingold who spoke with Kristen Bellstrom, a senior editor at Fortune and the author of The Broadsheet, a daily digest of stories about women in business. The following three evenings highlighted technology, fashion and the arts and featured leading women from their respective industries.
JENNIFER REINGOLD, CATERINA FAKE, CANDICE ANDERSON, NANCY LUBLIN AND LAURIE SEGALL. PHOTO BY JULIAN CASSADY.
Women + Business & Tech
The panels got off to a fascinating start on 20 September as Reingold moderated a talk spotlighting some of the most influential and inspiring women working in business and technology today: Caterina Fake, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Flickr and currently serves as Chairman on the board of Etsy, Nancy Lublin, CEO of Crisis Text Line and founder of Dress for Success, Laurie Segall, senior technology correspondent for CNNMoney and editor at large for CNN Tech and Candice Anderson, executive director of Cool Culture. While each spoke to their unique background, the group quickly found a few shared experiences – the challenges women continue to face in a male-dominated industry and the incredible importance of women supporting and amplifying the voices of other women. “We have to create the culture we want to work in,” said Segall. The panel also encouraged their audience, packed with women including Bellstrom, use their individuality (and often outsider status) to their advantage as businesswomen and creative thinkers. "In some ways, I feel powerful in my difference," said Fake. “If you diss me, I fold, I’m out – I’m on to the next one. You can turn being a stranger in a strange land into a powerful position for yourself.”
LAUREN COVELLO, NANETTE LEPORE AND RACHEL ANTONOFF. PHOTO BY JULIAN CASSADY.
Women + Fashion
On 21 September, Lauren Covello, editor of Fortune Venture, joined designers Nanette Lepore and Rachel Antonoff, who were fresh off of New York Fashion Week where they both showed collections. Firmly established in contemporary womenswear, Lepore has also taken on the role of curator, hosting art exhibitions in her homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons and planning another exhibition this fall. Merging these two interests in her Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear collection, Lepore collaborated with artist Laurie Fields, whose mythical and mysterious paintings were incorporated into Lepore’s colourful prints. Antonoff’s latest collection also features whimsical prints, but with a country twist. An ironic and timely highlight of the evening was learning one of her best-selling garments – as a take on an “I’m with stupid” tee, Antonoff created two updates that read “Not with him,” and “I’m with her.” Antonoff was pleasantly surprised when she received a call from Hillary Clinton’s campaign with a heads up that this phrase would be the presidential candidate’s slogan. After sharing career anecdotes, advice for young designers, thoughts on gender equality in the industry and more, the designers felt optimistic about fashion’s future. “Everyone is looking for a new direction in fashion,” said Lepore. With their artistic and witty creations, Lepore and Antonoff are forging the way to do just that.
TONYA LEWIS LEE, CHRISTINE KUAN, STEPH PAYNES, AMY CHAPLIN AND MIA DIEHL. PHOTO BY TIFFANY SAGE/BFA.COM.
Women + The Arts
The week concluded on 23 September with a diverse four-person panel moderated by Mia Diehl, Director of Photography at Fortune. The panelists included vegetarian chef Amy Chaplin, writer and producer Tonya Lewis Lee, director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art Christine Kuan and founder and guitarist of the all-famale band Lez Zeppelin Steph Paynes. The empowering tone of the evening was established from the start when the women shared the pressures of growing up as “dutiful daughters.” As Kuan, a first-generation Chinese American, put it, “When you’re a little kid, you don’t realize that there are a lot more jobs than doctor or lawyer.” The women also acknowledged experiencing gender inequality in their respective industries, some from a very young age. “I remember being four and seeing Eric Clapton play guitar on TV and thinking I want to do that,” Payne said, “Then right on the heels of that thought, I remember thinking, wait, I can’t do that. I’m a girl.” Payne looked to Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Cream for inspiration, but when it came to female role models, there were few. Today, she is changing the game, one head thrash at a time. “It’s about not only pushing through your own artistic insecurities, which I think men have less of,” she said, “but also your cultural boundaries.” Chaplin, a James Beard Award-winning author who hails from Australia, recalled the lengthy process of gaining respect from a team of male chefs when she became the executive chef at famous NYC vegan hotspot Angelica Kitchen. Lewis Lee, shared her story of going from corporate lawyer to working in film and TV, to taking time out to raise her children, to now working on many projects, including a health and wellness platform. With audience questions best summed up by “how do you do it all,” the women agreed: pursue your passion, surround yourself with like-minded supporters, nourish your personal life and let yourself be successful.