Farewell, and Thank You All For Making WIPP Great!
Monday, August 3, 2015
Farewell, and Thank You All For Making WIPP Great!
Although retirement is a point in time that most of us aspire to – choosing the right words to share is pretty difficult. The difficulty should not be confused with sadness, rather it lies with how to acknowledge all the people instrumental in our success and who have helped to build an organization that will be sustainable long after my departure. So, the legacy for me is seeing our growth, and my joy, is in seeing our success and the sustainability.
Someone once said “the best time to think about retirement is before the boss does.” For me it was “the best time to think about retirement was before the board did.” So, thank you to the WIPP Board of Directors for giving me the time and the space to decide when it was time to step down.
Discussions on succession have not been new to our organization; we actually have worked on it for well over three years – initially not because I wanted to retire, but because for any organization to be healthy, you must have an environment that cultivates and engages strong new leaders – for they bring new ideas and new energies to the organization. At WIPP we focus like a laser beam on our mission, knowing that processes, people, and operations may vary, but what will not vary is our culture. We are the guardian of our mission; we are collaborative and inclusive, always working together so we could speak with a strong, knowledgeable and thoughtful voice.
I am touched and warmed by each and every board member who has taken on the awesome responsibility of leadership of the women’s business community. You are each amazing and you each have my deepest regard and respect. Jennifer, I am so thankful for your leadership. As Chair of our Board, you have positioned us for growth and demonstrated clearly that both advocacy and engagement is a key driver for business growth.
I am so proud of what we started in 2001 – trying to get women entrepreneurs a seat at the policy table – and here we are now in 2015, sitting at the table. In fact, given many of our policy successes, I often feel like we are sitting at the head of the table. Our bold initiatives on procurement that we are celebrating tonight, and our access to capital platform we just launched, have put us head and shoulders above the rest. We are an organization on the leading edge of shaping policy and opinion.
I will never forget the historic hearing we had in 2014 in the United States Senate, the world’s greatest deliberative body, on barriers to success that women entrepreneurs face. If you were there, and many of you were, we packed the largest hearing room in the Senate. One Senator told her staff, “this is not a hearing, this is a rally.” That happened because of you. You were the women in that room and you were passionate about moving forward and ensuring that women entrepreneurs have the ability to succeed.
I want to thank WIPP’s policy team for being my partners every step of the way. Ann Sullivan, you have been with us, representing WIPP in Washington almost since our first day and have kept us true to our mission. I am so grateful for your leadership.
And it is our education and advocacy programs, bound together by our Economic Blueprint that brings it all together. We have been able to provide training and resources to tens of thousands of women through our flagship GiveMe5 and ChallengeHER procurement programs, our technology, micro-lending, export, and access to capital education, as well as our amazing work with Small Business Saturday that has captured the imagination of the nation. WIPP has become the public/private model for using education to build economic prosperity. Standing behind all of these initiatives and successes is a strong team. The WIPP staff runs the programs, assists members, and executes the vision we laid out for WIPP. I am grateful every single day to our entire team, led by Kristie, Jason, and Pam, for their support and commitment to our mission and goals and to the entire staff at WIPP for making you, our members, #1.
We would not have been successful in our procurement programming, had we not had a very strong partner, American Express OPEN, nor without such great investors in our future such as, AT&T, Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and Pfizer. A huge thank you to all our corporate partners who have been with us every step of the way.
Another partner that has been by our side is the SBA. Under Administrators Karen Mills and Maria Contreras-Sweet, our mission to educate women about federal contracting has become a reality. President Obama promised WIPP that the first task of his new Administrator, Karen Mills, would be to fix the problem. I met with Karen in the White House Mess Hall the day after she was confirmed. And it happened. And she fixed it. And now Administrator Contreras-Sweet and a fabulous team led by Aditi Dussault and John Shoraka are making it one of the most successful government programs ever. Thank you to the entire team at SBA.
Key to our success at WIPP is getting other organizations excited about our agenda. We started with just a few and now have grown to include 78 coalition partners and our outreach totals close to 5 million. They are all amazing and it is so terrific to watch how they can turn your organizations on and rally with us.
An organization is only as strong as its members. I thank each and every member for your support and contribution of time, energy, and expertise. I feel like I know you all so well – we have shared so much through the years.
All of you are the heart and soul of the women’s business community and you all make me so proud. When I think of WIPP and its accomplishments, and what it means to so many of us, I think of you. You put us on the map, you stood up and asked for what is only fair and only right.
So, I leave WIPP in very good hands. Our boards and staff stand ready to take this organization forward. Our Executive Director Kristie Arslan leads this organization. Kristie has my full confidence, and I know, she has your full support.
As I reflect on the future of WIPP, I see an organization that is positioned for growth. I see an organization that can reach many more women with a strong local and regional presence. I see its members running for office and changing the demographics so women become the majority in the US Congress. I see a strong network of coalition partners working together to change the fact that only 2% of women business owners have revenues over $1 million. Or that only 4% of commercial loans go to women. Or that the government spends only 4.6% of its buying with women-owned firms.
As an organization we lead, and we continue to push the envelope. Never content to sit back, we always look for opportunity, and for what is next. What is the state of women’s entrepreneurship? What is our economic impact in our nation and how do we increase it? What does WIPP need to do to respond, to be flexible, to shift gears, to anticipate, and to position our organization and its members to the forefront of our nation? We have a lot of work left to keep us all busy.
We will all have to continue to work together to pave the way for future women entrepreneurs. And I know everyone here will do just that—I know I will. I will be right by your side, and I will be WIPP’s biggest cheerleader. I will be devoting my time as a board member, part of the WIPP International team, leading our strategic planning and taking the time to spend with my dear husband and our family who have all been so incredible and supportive to our efforts.
I want to close this note, and my tenure with WIPP as its president with a poem written by Marge Piercy and made famous from one of the most admired women in the world, Madeleine Albright.
The poem begins with questions:
What can they do to you?
Whatever they want.
They can set you up,
They can bust you,
They can break your fingers,
They can burn your brain with electricity,
They can take your child.
They can do anything and you can't stop them from doing.
How can you stop them?
Alone, you can fight,
You can refuse,
You can take what revenge you can,
But they roll over you.
But two people fighting back to back can cut through a mob.
Two people can keep each other sane; can give support, conviction, love, hope.
Three people are a delegation, a committee, a wedge.
With four you can play bridge and start an organization.
With six you can rent a whole house,
Eat pie for dinner with no seconds,
And hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter.
Ten thousand, power and your own paper.
A hundred thousand, your own media.
Ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time.
It starts when you care to act,
It starts when you do it
again after they said no,
And it starts when you say
"We" and know whom you mean,
And each day you mean one more.
These words remind us that progress occurs one step at a time and never by yourself—always with others. Thank you for taking the time to “care to act.” Let’s keep our seat at the table but let’s make sure we bring many more women with us. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve as WIPP’s President and Cofounder. As I pass the torch, it is with great pride that I pass that light to future leaders.
Women Impacting Public Policy