Pumps in Power

Stiletto Network has been so inspiring for me personally, and my intention in telling this story has been not only to identify, but also to catalyze this powerful nationwide movement. So I’m thrilled to report that since the book was published in May, I’ve received hundreds of emails from women across the country who either have their own Stiletto Networks or want to start one.

I’ve found these groups among women in all industries and age groups — from CEOs to aspiring Millennials to moms launching businesses in their basements. This proves that you don’t need to be famous or fabulous to create a Stiletto Network, and you need not begin with major connections. Anyone can do this.

pumps

Need more evidence? Channel 7 WSPA recently aired a fantastic segment showcasing Stiletto Networks in South Carolina — groups like “Women Mean Business” in Greenville and “Sparkle” in Spartanburg. These are local female entrepreneurs, women merging business and friendship and helping each other grow.

To quote Laura Thomas, WSPA anchor/reporter: “It’s a community of women with high heels, and even higher hopes.”

Women like Laura Skelton, owner of River Falls Spa; Duffy Baehr, owner of Baehr Feet; Anne Anderson, owner of Herb & Renewal; Brooke Shugart of Studio B for Pilates and Barre; Brandy Gutierrez of iRecycle; and Sara Riddle, who is opening a maternity and nursing store called Haute Mama.

“We have many roles,” says Shugart. “We’re mothers and wives and business owners, and I just feel like it’s very important for us to encourage each other.”

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The Cleats Network

After more than two months of practice, members of Congress and members of the media — the “Bad News Babes” — faced off on Wednesday at the fifth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game. It was my great pleasure to cover the event for both the Washington Post and for MSNBC’s “The Cycle.”

While their male counterparts remain divided along party lines — the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which includes almost all men, pits Republicans against Democrats — the softball team is a bipartisan effort.

This game is notorious for its trash-talking, but it’s fostering a spirit of civility in politics. Players say it has allowed them to develop strong personal ties that are reducing antagonism on Capitol Hill, easing gridlock, and slowly overturning the Old Boys’ Clubs of both politics and press.

Sound familiar? We call it the “Cleats Network” — and it is ridiculously fun.

Even better? These ladies raised $125,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, which tends to the unique needs of young women with breast cancer.


Caleb Shirt

Members Line Up

Boehner

At Bat

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Hard Shells, Blue Suits

In Stiletto Network, one exec refers to “the hard shells, the blue suits,” while another recalls those “dorky silk ties” women used to wear. And in Chapter 1, I talk about trailblazers in the ‘80’s: “All wore Reeboks over nude hose, shoulder pads over thick skin. Life, they were told, was not a spectator sport.”

By Canyon Castator

By Canyon Castator

We all have a memory of THAT “power suit,” the one donned like armor to face the day. (And by “power suit” I do not mean the ill-advised, head-to-toe orange tweed number I wore at Goldman near the turn of the century – about which my former colleagues will remain mum and nod compliantly when I blame Y2K Fever).

I’ve always loved fashion. I relished prancing out the door in make-up and heels. Until, as a relatively junior employee, I started getting as much attention for my outfits as for my work. Arguably more. My clothes were always professional – never a “showcase of knockers and knees” – but in banking they stood out.

Really bad move on my part, but I was young….

These days I’m seeing a lot of sheaths and chic separates, as well as rockin’ kicks; they’re feminine, but not va-va-voom in a way that undermines anyone’s credibility or effectiveness. And still I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend who’s still banking. After more than 15 years on Wall Street, she decided to splurge on a few pairs of decadent-yet-office-appropriate shoes. She’d toiled in the trenches and deserved it – or so she thought.

“Who’s your new boyfriend?” one colleague inquired when she wore them to work, implying a Sugar-Daddy was bankrolling her purchases. “Someone doesn’t need a bonus,” another sniped.

Of course that’s a singular example, but the question remains: Can we as women appreciate fashion and spend time and money on clothes, yet still be taken seriously in the workplace?

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Stiletto Network on the TODAY Show!

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Stiletto Network on Rock Center!

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Stiletto Network on MSNBC’s The Cycle!

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No one thought it would work, but we’ve gone all over the U.S. and brought hundreds of women along. Our women’s initiative was the most successful pilot in the history of the Red Cross. This is a global movement, and women are now asking other women. It’s our golf course—these strong, vibrant, powerful circles. And we’ve hit the big time.”

Melanie Sabelhaus, entrepreneur, executive, former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and Vice Chairman, The American Red Cross

Stiletto Network (Page 210)