Join the Bucket Brigade: Women Helping Women

The post below comes from Kirsten Wolberg, VP of Talent at PayPal. When Braintree was acquired by PayPal over 3 years ago, I had hoped it would mean many things. One of those things was that soon I would have a network of women that was even bigger and more powerful than the Braintree and Venmo networks alone. When I met Kirsten last year -- she came into her role as the VP of Talent in December of 2015 -- she gave me a performance review just weeks after she stepped into the role. It was one of the best performance reviews I'd ever received. At the time, I was 5 months pregnant. She spoke to my performance with specificity and grace, gathering feedback from the business before adding: "There are two ways to grow in your career. One is that your job changes. Another is that you change."

Braintree and Venmo continue to grow, and I grow with them. But Kirsten was also referring to the fact that I would be embarking on a huge transition personally and that becoming a mom would lead to immense growth. And boy, was she right. She offered her support in the time leading up and in the time after I would become a mother. Her support meant the world to me.

She penned the following post on what I describe as "a different kind of bucket list.” I see her carrying these buckets for me and other women across the organization every single day. Kirsten wrote this as we prepare to be present at the Grace Hopper Conference this week in Houston, Texas. Braintree, Venmo, Xoom, Paydiant, and PayPal will join together to talk about how we’re democratizing payments at the nation’s largest women in computing conference. For those who will also be at #GHC2016, please come to the PayPal booth, sip on a coffee, and chat with us. We’d love to meet you and hear your story.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Barbara Roberts, the first female governor of Oregon, speak. Her message was clear - she was a pioneer who did the hard work of forging a path for women in politics and her role now is to help other women. In her words, she “carried the buckets up the hill, and made sure when they were passed on, they weren’t empty!” What a great image. As a female tech leader in the Silicon Valley, my path has been full of challenges. Through it all I’ve been blessed to have women, and men, willing to help me. So, Governor Roberts message resonated with me; women need to help other women succeed. We all need to pass along buckets full of:

Feedback. I’ve yet to meet a human being who gleefully shares tough messages with others. That said, the fastest way to grow is to get immediate actionable feedback. Having mentors and coaches who never shy away from telling you what you need to hear is invaluable in any career journey. I remember one particularly painful conversation where I heard that “my ego was getting in the way of making the right decision”. Ouch! Sadly, most women don’t get the feedback they need to become their best selves. The 2016 McKinsey Women in the Workplace survey found that women receive informal feedback less frequently than men – despite asking for it just as often. We simply have to change this. Next time you have the opportunity to have a difficult conversation and pass along coaching feedback to a woman – please do it! She may not thank you in the moment, but she’ll be better for it (and so will you!).

Confidence. When talking about their book The Confidence Code, in The Atlantic, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman share “there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.” You don’t have to look hard to see this playing out in companies across the globe. Fortunately, I had a boss early on in my career who said these magic words to me; “I believe in you more than you believe in yourself”. I had no idea how big of a gift this single sentence would be in the trajectory of my career. These words gave me permission to try things that I would not have attempted. This sponsorship gave me a path to claim my confidence. Ultimately, all it takes is a single person who believes in you to make a difference in a woman’s life. We all have this power and it is so easy.

Sisterhood. We’ve all heard the famous Madeline Albright quote “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. The fact remains that many women still compete fiercely with other women. Somewhere along the path we lost our way. In primitive times women gathered in caves and around campfires. We helped each other cook, care for children and heal the sick. In 1897, women began to collaborate and started the suffragette movement, one of many that ultimately changed history. I didn’t experience the power of sisterhood until I started dancing at age 40. Outside of a corporate context, I found a community of women who gathered weekly and supported each other in a way I had never seen. Together we celebrate successes and failures. We help each other by leveraging the unique skills and capabilities we each bring to the community. It’s brilliant. For me sisterhood came from dance, but there are plenty of other avenues like book clubs, Lean In Circles (, and professional associations to name a few. Whatever the path we must bring sisterhood into work and create a campfire where every woman has a seat and every woman will be supported.

Carrying full buckets up hill is so much easier with a bucket brigade. Together we need to re-create a world where no woman is forced to carry the load alone. Sharing feedback, confidence and sisterhood are just some of the ways women can help other women. Because, when women are united, we can accomplish anything.

Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse

Lindsay Verstegen Lindsay leads Recruiting + People Ops at Braintree–first figuring out what Braintree even was in 2012. Likes: bikes, photos, yoga, handwritten letters, and home-brewed kombucha. More posts by this author

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