Creating Opportunity from Adversity: Women in Leadership

Robby Rigano, COO, Fancy Pants Group


The last six months have stirred up a blend of emotions from disappointment to admiration, from frustration to hope. The mobilization of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have set the stage to finally make meaningful and lasting changes for inclusion across all industries.

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Attending SXSW this year was eye opening and I was grateful to be able to attend the Interactive Keynote with Melinda Gates and The Post 50/50 Workforce sessions. I witnessed some incredibly inspiring and motivating conversations about diversity in leadership.

The most telling statistic that was discussed is that 60% of undergraduate and graduate degrees are pursued by women but only 30% of leadership positions are held by women, with less than 10% representation in the C-Suite. This is not only an upsetting statement, but a telling one. Women are ambitious, motivated, and intellectually curious, but something is holding us back whether it be lack of opportunities, lack of support, lack of confidence, or being too risk averse.

Inspired from the commentary from Melinda Gates, Stacy Brown-Philpot, Joanna Coles,  Nina Shaw, Valerie Jarrett, Belinda Johnson, and Marne Levine, the following are just a few ways that we can make a difference:

In the Workplace:

  • Mentor: Actively seek opportunities to mentor. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time, an hour a week or an hour a month. Even a small amount of your time can impact and elevate a career.
  • Recruit for Diversity: Ensure that your recruiter is presenting a pool of diverse candidates for every role. Or consider a promising diverse candidate with less experience and mentor them to succeed in the new role.
  • Measure your Pay Gap: Conduct a gender pay gap analysis in your company, and make a commitment to close the gap. Make equitable offers and create a compensation policy that is formulaic.
  • Reduce Barriers for Working Parents: Update your Paid Medical Leave policy, and consider offering flexible hours and work from home policies for returning parents. Create a comfortable space for new mothers to pump when returning to work since managing breast milk supply is one of the largest sources of stress for working mothers.

Outside of the workplace:

  • Eliminate Biases: Look for barriers and biases in yourself and others. Call them out, and make a change. I wish my mother would have encouraged me to be ‘strong’ and ‘bold’ instead of the socially acceptable ‘polite’ and ‘ladylike’.
  • Balance Responsibility at Home: Everything should be equal at home and at work. Men need to redistribute the work, and not let women take on the majority of the ‘unpaid’ work at home.
  • Support Diverse Businesses: Support businesses that are owned by and support women, people of color and other diverse groups.

This IS the time for us to make changes so that both the current and next generation of women are set up to have equal opportunities for success and the confidence they need to get there. It is the small things that we can do every day that will make the difference. "...getting more women into executive positions means mentoring those women which means helping that junior person, which means bringing her to the meeting, which means including her to the lunch.” – Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbit


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About the Author: As COO, Robby Rigano oversees operations, production and recruiting at Fancy Pants Group. She has over 19 years in the industry with a background in digital production and operations. Her understanding of all aspects of the business and collaborative approach motivates everyone to bring their top game to the table. Prior to joining Fancy Pants, she served as Managing Director of Digital Business at mcgarrybowen, and previously worked at JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles.