Editor’s note: Before we jump into today’s newsletter, a reminder that our FREE San Francisco Preach event is coming up next Monday (October 7th) at 6:30pm. (Make a note of the time!) Snag your tickets here.
This year’s Chairman Mom Flee was held in the same place, organized by the same team, with roughly the same agenda, several returning speakers and experts, and roughly one-third of the attendees from last year. And, yet, the Event was completely different. It was not only different for me, every single returning guest told me it was different for them.
Last year, the event was held amid the Kavanaugh hearings and with wounds of #metoo still reverberating through our collective psyche. It was angry. It was raw. It was also triumphant and exuberant at times. As much as we focus on creating a safe space, there was an intensity that could verge on combative at times. But at the end there was a feeling that many people didn’t want to leave that space and go back into the fractured and depressing reality of 2018.
I’m not sure the world has gotten much better for women between now and then, but the vibe was palpably different, despite a lot of common denominators. The first thing we all noticed was that wine consumption was down dramatically, and hikes and trail runs were up dramatically. However we are coping now, it seems to be healthier. There was less whooping and screaming during empowering keynotes. There was less full-throated outrage. Instead, there were data-based, thought-out strategies on how to tackle the largest problems thwarting equality. There was serious introspection. There were difficult conversations—for sure. But they were held with a different tenor.
Bestselling author Kim Scott gave a preview for her forthcoming book, that includes 2×2 matrix for decoding what is unconscious bias, deeply believed prejudice, and outright bullying and a playbook for responding to each. Amy Errett of Madison Reed talked more openly about life as an openly gay woman in Silicon Valley than I’ve ever heard before. But it wasn’t just “look at all I have to fight against to be me.” She detailed her plan to drive systemic change in red state America through the rapid growth of color bars which give cosmetologists a living wage, tuition repayment and childcare. She told stories of Evangelical Christians working her color bars who have had their bias confronted by a lesbian giving them the best job they’ve ever had and a roadmap out of poverty. Rachel Gonzales told us about fighting for her transgender daughter’s rights in Texas—work that’s not remotely done. Christina Stembel of Farm Girl Flowers told an all-too-common story of a woman in Silicon Valley identifying a hole in the market that no VCs would fund…until dozens of men ripped the exact same model off. (“Inspired” was the word she carefully used.) Only in her case, she’s winning. Breeze Harper challenged us to stop fixating on people wearing “MAGA hats” in red states and instead to look at the institutional racism that exists in the most liberal strongholds of California. It was the most deeply impacting of the talks to me—it fundamentally changed me.
There was much more in workshops and individual conversations. One private conversation on the beach will stay with me the rest of my life. The 1:1 moments were almost more impactful than the group keynotes and workshops. But you get the idea: It wasn’t that we shied away from big, emotional, difficult topics this year. Hardly. But it was as if we sought to tackle them a different way. We took a step back and listened and looked at data and thoughtfully approached them, with an eye not just to getting angry but getting solutions.
I felt exuberant and almost drunk on feminist sisterhood and power coming out of the Flee last year. This year, I felt cracked open. I felt exposed. I felt like I looked deep inside, versus shouting outward. I felt like it changed me more deeply. Less Bacchus, more Athena.
I don’t say this to say one experience was better than the other. 2018 was a time for that level of rage and screaming and grappling with the newly shocked awareness of where we were as women in America. It’s like 2019 was a year for thoughtfully starting to tackle it. I am so grateful to all of the women who have come both years and have hugged and supported me, but also challenged me to do better. I work very hard to book thought-provoking speakers each year, but the real transformation happens within the group of 80-100 women who dine together, sit together, talk together, share together and truly transform one another.
I came home Saturday and we’d planned on heading to Palm Springs for the rest of the weekend to decompress from what had been an incredibly stressful few weeks. But we didn’t have the money for a flight or the stamina to drive. I got home to San Francisco and collapsed on my couch, falling into what seemed like dreamy semi-unconsciousness. I woke up and cried for an hour. There was just so much to process in such a powerful few days and I was struggling to put any of it into words. And then, I woke up the next morning and started working on the budget and the schedule for next year.
I’m not totally sure how I’ll find the strength or stamina to put it all together again, but I’ve got a year to figure that out. And if the last two years of the Flee have taught me anything, it’s that we can get broken open and shaken to our core as women and then find a way to shift into problem solving mode for the future almost immediately.
We put tickets on sale for 2020 for those who have attended before on Sunday and have already sold a dozen or so. We can’t share a lot of details yet, but I’ll share this much: We are reducing it by a day in order to cut the price from $2500 to $1500. That will still be all-inclusive. It doesn’t matter that we were already a massive discount to any other conference of this caliber. Women just don’t make as much money or have the ability to expense what men can. We have to find a way to include more people. I know that’s still expensive, and I’ll work hard again to get sponsors to subsidize pay-what-you-can tickets. I am working with people like Breeze to make the programming more relevant for women of color. We’ve heard that the experience was too rustic for a lot of you and we are working on that too. We’ve heard that being disconnected for that many days is a non-starter for so many working women—especially moms. We’re examining that.
We are examining everything. Everything except bringing you a safe space to grapple with the biggest problems we face in this world, because despite a dramatically different event the last two years, that is clearly the constant that makes this event so powerful.
If you would like to attend next year, you can go here to put down your deposit and guarantee your spot! I know a lot of the programming and details that I can’t yet share. (Spoiler: There’s no way we don’t sell out.) But what I can’t tell you and I can’t even know is what shape that all encompassing love, ferocity, and sheer force of will for change will take in 2020.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- I said goodbye my crying toddler at the airport – how do you deal with mommy guilt?
- Pricing strategy for corporate clients
- Have you ever organized a pop-up?
- Does anyone have advice where your spouse has an equal job to you?