To Empower or Not To Empower - That Is The Question


I recently read the much acclaimed book, "Own It: The Power of Women at Work," by Sallie Krawcheck and came away with a number of observations.  If you haven't read it, or heard of Sallie Krawcheck, it won't take long for you to find thousands of articles of her giving financial advice to women.  The basis of her book is generally centered around women investing in themselves, literally, by investing more money earlier on.

If you're like me, a professional millennial woman of immigrants, then your parents probably didn't teach you about what a 401K was, compound interest or stocks and bonds.  Many women, and men, never learn this from their parents.  Financial management isn't a sexy topic.

Sallie Krawcheck was one of those women who went down the financial career path and completely dominated it.  I mean BIG time. She was named "the most powerful woman on wall street," and served as CEO at Citi and head of global wealth management at Merrill Lynch.  Today, she runs Ellevest, a financial investment platform for women. For Sallie Krawcheck to reach those heights is phenomenal and promising.  I greatly admire that, which is why when Sallie's book came out, I immediately went home and read it cover to cover.

And I hit a snag on the first page. It hit me hard... She was over the word "empowered" for women in the workplace.  It's one of the pillars that I started Les Naly on - Inspiring, Motivating and Empowering women at work and life.  It's our credo for goodness sake!  And here Sallie is, a woman I deeply admire, just tearing it to bits.

Upon further reading though, I read her explanation for eliminating the word "empowered."  She looked up the meaning of "empowered," in the dictionary and it went like this:

Empowered: Give someone the authority or power to do something.

Of course when I started Les Naly, I really meant "empowering" women, by giving them the tools to get stuff done.  I didn't necessarily mean for this website, or me for that fact, to give women the power to do something. I don't hold all the power- although we all do hold a level of our own power.  It was a thought that I pondered on for weeks.  I even wrote down the word on a notecard and put it on my iMac; taking the time to contemplate the word and it's meaning.

After a couple more weeks, I forgot about the word. I forgot about the thought that had been plaguing me and how I associated the word with this website.  I continued to plow away at Les Naly and LNCG, working on client projects and whatnot until a pivotal moment that helped me with my internal decision about the word "empowered."

I was at breakfast with another female colleague when she asked me about the Les Naly website and the free weekly planner we were giving away.  She is an avid bullet journal enthusiast and found it helpful when planning out her week.  She often finds weekly planners like these on Pinterest and prints them out.  She complimented me on the design and told me to keep up the good work and to continue "empowering" women. 

I sipped my hot coffee quietly as the word triggered me - empowered.

I asked her if she really felt that I had empowered her with the weekly planner.  If she felt more empowered with her week because she had the weekly planner.  She replied yes, and yes.  But I continued to nudge her... Why?  How?  When?

Growing more intrigued with my questioning, we got into the conversation about Sallie Krawcheck's take on the word "empowered."  We sat there with our eggs and coffee and even looked up the definition, just to be sure we had the same understanding of the word.  We both agreed with Sallie Krawcheck's take on the word in the end.  However, my colleague said something so eye opening to me after breakfast.

"I'm not going to let anyone tell me how to feel empowered and how not to.  I do have the power, but you can still empower other women who need it.  Not all of us are as brave or as strong without a little push."


When I got home, I wrote nearly eight pages in my personal journal about what the word "empowered," means to me without missing a beat.

I went back to my desk and stared at the notecard until I decided that I want to keep the word empowered.  My colleague was right... Not all of us are that strong or that brave.  I know I surely wasn't.  No one gave me power to quit my corporate job in tech, no one gave me power to start my own business, and no one sure as hell gives me power to live my life.  But it took me a long time to get there.  It took me a long time to realize the power I had within.

It was other women, much like Sallie Krawcheck, that empowered me mentally and spiritually to keep going and overcome my obstacles.  It was other blogs, websites and mentors who empowered me when I didn't have enough information or didn't believe in myself.

I don't have any power to offer women, other than what I give myself.  But I can do something small in my efforts with Les Naly to help women feel more empowered in a small way.  I can develop and design a marketing strategy that helps my LNCG clients feel more empowered when they market their brands and products. I can say encouraging words to a young woman who is about to graduate and is completely lost about what to do at work.

Maybe the word empowered is out.  Maybe it's been overused and beat to death.  Maybe the word empowered has been presented so many times without any grit or action behind it that it almost renders itself useless in promoting women at work.

But I can't help but wonder - what if some of us need that little bit of push, that light, that encouragement and that hand to help us take the next step.  Maybe we don't have the power to give away, but we can exert the energy to help a fellow woman along the way.

So the question is: To empower, or not to empower?

It's up to you.