EXECUTIVE IMPACT

Leveling Up in a Man's World: A Conversation with Cindy Gallop

By Kali Shulklapper

The self-proclaimed “Michael Bay of Business,” Cindy Gallop is the founder and CEO of co-action marketing enterprise software IfWeRanTheWorld and founder of social sextech platform MakeLoveNotPorn. Below are highlights from our conversation with Cindy on disrupting the status quo and building a new world order:

Step one: Reorientation 

I want you to reorientate your view of the system as it currently operates. To change the way you look at the circumstances you find yourself in. In the most read Harvard Business Review article of all time — titled Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? — Tomas Chamorro argues that we focus quite rightly on the huge number of barriers that are faced by brilliant women, but a far bigger problem is the lack of obstacles for incompetent men. And that is absolutely the issue.

A very popular topic of conversation these days is the observation that (surprise, surprise) —  countries led by women leaders have been managing the pandemic much more effectively than countries led by men. But I emphasize that the reason is absolutely not what I've seen some of the coverage default to, which is that ‘women are so much more empathetic and in touch with their feelings.’ That has nothing to do with why women have led more effectively.  The reason they have led more effectively is that in order to get to the top, those women have had to go through so much shit. Sexism, racism, bias, sexual harassment. By the time you are the woman leader of a nation, you have had to be absolutely outstanding in that role — compared to all the white men who have never had to encounter any of that. As a woman, you have had to fight for where you are, and everything that goes into that fight is why you're bloody brilliant at what you're doing. It’s why you absolutely deserve to be in the C-Suite.

Step two: Pragmatism —

Pragmatism is about operating within your current system to get to where you want to be, and make what you want to happen happen. Most importantly, no matter what your role is, where you're working, or what you're doing, I want all of you to bullshit like the men do. And it doesn't matter how much you think you're bullshitting, because you will never, ever bullshit at the level that the men do. When you think you're bullshitting, you’re actually just doing yourself justice. So in every meeting, every presentation, every pitch, every negotiation, bullshit like the men do. And when you have a decision to make, a meeting or presentation to lead, ask yourself: WWSWGD. What would a straight white guy do? And then do that. Because while you’re thinking, ‘I really want to go for that position, but I'm not sure I'm good enough,’ Chad is going,’ I can fucking do that shit.’ And if you’re worried about being the diversity hire, think about all the mediocre men who got hired just because they were men. So be the diversity hire. And then do the bloody brilliant job that proves how much you deserved it all along.

And then, no matter what you're doing, I want you to unashamedly set out to make an absolute, goddamn, fucking shit ton of money. We need it to change the pay equity paradigm, and we need it to fund and support other women. To build our own financial ecosystem. Because the white male one is not working for us. So when you do ask for that money, whether it's in a job interview or your performance review, I want you to ask for the highest amount you can say out loud without bursting out laughing.

Step 3: Reinvention —

Ultimately, what I would like all of you to do is completely reinvent the system. Because we need to do more than just successfully operate within the existing one. And this is where I absolutely differ from Sheryl Sandberg. Rather than lean in, I want you to redesign. To start your own industry by starting your own business or venture. A young woman once asked me, ‘Cindy, what’s the single piece of advice that you would give to a young person going into advertising today?’ And I said, ‘don't.’ And what I meant by that is, don't go into advertising to go into advertising. Go into advertising to make what you want to happen happen.

And it doesn't matter if anything I say is sparking innovative, disruptive ideas in your brain. If you go back to the office tomorrow morning, and you plug all of that brilliance, innovation, disruption, and inspiration back into the same old world order systems and processes, you get the same old world order crap out the other end. So reinvent your industry and redesign your business model. Identify what you think is missing — what nobody has brought to the table yet. Create that, and then sell it to an old world order player for a shit ton of money.


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