Oh. My. God.
The Women at Zynga group hosted a phenomenal event yesterday that I was so honored to be part of. It was a breakfast all about female empowerment and pushing through boundaries as told from women across the tech and entertainment landscape.
On the panel was Zynga’s Chief Legal Officer Phuong Phillips, Rebecca Covington Webber from Hamilton, and Trisha Yearwood from…pretty much every entertainment medium on earth.
There was so much I took away from this experience—both the greenroom conversations and the actual panel itself. I want to spend a few days in this space, talking about what I learned from each of these women and reliving it myself! (I had a lot to say too, but if you read this newsletter often, you know all of my talking points already!)
First off, let’s talk about Phuong Phillips. So she’s a total badass professionally. Before becoming the chief legal officer at Zynga, she was the Associate General Counsel for Tesla, managing the post-acquisition integration of SolarCity, among other duties. She was a VP at SolarCity before that and held a ton of other impressive Valley jobs. She’s also an amazing mom who had her daughter there with her, just before they flew off to a dance competition where she’d be there supporting her daughter every moment.
She masterminded this whole panel. She got a good chunk of Zynga’s board there, the CEO introduced it, and she proved Women at Zynga has the most crucial ingredient that makes employee resource groups effective: Getting widespread executive buy-in.
And I got a glimpse in the greenroom of how she does it. She and another exec were talking about taking their kids to Hamilton again, and she said, “Maybe we could give Rebecca the opportunity to take us backstage!”
Do you see what she did there? She made her ask seem like an opportunity!
When I pointed that out—in wide-eyed admiration—the other Zynga executives laughed and said this is her special power. Her advice to the women in the room? Not surprisingly: MAKE THE ASK! And make it in the right way, with consensus, in a way that makes the person on the other end feel good about what they are doing.
She also talked about how to make massive changes in a company that size and an industry (gaming) that can be pretty hostile to women, but first making the changes in her power. Who she hires. Who she champions. How she garners executive support and where she throws that support.
In talking to some of the women on her team afterwards, she is one of those female execs who walks the walk. They said she’s championed women, built consensus to support them, and advocated for them.
Oh and did I mention her personal story? She and her family were refugees from Vietnam. She spoke about the incredibly courage it took her parents to spirit them away by boat despite a fear of the water, just to give their kids a better life. She also talked about a moment in the process where they told her she had to change her first name to something more American sounding. Badass as even a young girl, she refused, saying her name was who she was and she was proud of it.
Getting to know Phuong for just a few hours today was such a reminder to me of how many unsung women there are in the tech world who are top of their game and lifting up others, whether they are on the covers of magazines are not. It gave me just a little more hope for the industry.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom: