It is with a heavy heart that I’m canceling the WOWW MENtoring event this Thursday, June 11, 2015.
Unfortunately, there has been widespread misunderstanding about the intent of this event, and I am truly sorry that I have caused offense. This has escalated to the point that I’m concerned about the safety of the panelists and attendees and have decided to cancel Thursday’s event. My panelists and attendees should not suffer the consequences of my mistakes.
The WOWW Campaign was founded as a platform to inspire women to do great things. This inspiration comes from leaders regardless of their gender, race or background. As a first-generation Latina college graduate, it was difficult for me to find inspiration at times…let alone, become an entrepreneur. Due to the lack of support and guidance I sometimes felt at different stages in life, I wanted to create something I wish I had during challenging times. Because of my personal experiences, I decided to start the WOWW Campaign and begin interviewing women in Austin, TX so their stories would help others as much as they helped me.
My goal when I launched the WOWW Campaign was to create an online publication that would share the stories of women in leadership roles that have the courage to speak about their personal and professional experiences. In two and a half months, I interviewed 47 women in Austin and was referred to 153 more for future interviews. I knew there was a need for this to take place, but it wasn’t until the first interview was released that I accepted how large this assignment really was. Planning and hosting events were not part of the original business plan. Events were created as a result of demand when emails came flooding in thanking me that I had started the WOWW Campaign but, that I needed to do more.
My perspective about what I could accomplish shifted drastically when people around me began to show their unconditional support. More importantly, when individuals shared their stories and embraced vulnerability, I also got the courage to do the same. This is when I began to truly appreciate the value of mentorship.
The lessons I’ve learned in less than one week from the MENtoring Event are things I will keep for the rest of my life. I’m beyond grateful to have heard from so many people regarding the messaging of the marketing collateral associated with this event. From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry to have caused pain, grief, resentment and anger – that was not and will never be my intention. Ironically, some of my biggest weaknesses are things that were highlighted on Twitter; beginning with thinking too small. Never did I think people outside of my email newsletter and small Facebook following would view the invitation. Therefore, all of the messaging was crafted in a way that I assumed people knew who I was, what my mission is, and what I’ve accomplished thus far. Big mistake. Nowhere on the invite does it mention that guests would be submitting their questions to men or that this was intended to be an open dialogue, not a lecture as many people mentioned. But because I never thought it’d be viewed by the world, it didn’t cross my mind to include it on the flyer and elaborate on this very important fact.
Messaging mistake #1: Don’t assume the person reading something knows everything about you.
You know what they say about assuming…
The overall purpose of this event was to learn from one another. I wanted men to address the concerns of women but, also share their stories about things they’ve overcome and what was learned from those experiences. It’s easy to talk about things we’ve done right and when and where we’ve been praised but, it’s so much harder to openly discuss the challenging moments that have made the largest impact in our life and perspective. My audience knew this and so did the panelists but again, nowhere on the invite is that portrayed. I paid little attention to the wording because I knew my audience was aware of what my intentions were. I can’t say this enough: never did I think people outside of that group would view this. Quite frankly, it’s hard for me to think on that large of a scale. Probably something I should start addressing and improving if I really want to change the world.
Although this has been a difficult week, I am sincerely grateful for all of the insight I gathered. I’ll forever encourage people, and especially women, to speak their mind because that takes a lot of courage. Thanks to your opinions, I’m going to improve and move forward in a way that makes more women proud to affect change.
From the beginning, I’ve planned the MENtoring event to be a conversation between men and women in an effort to learn from each other and share advice. It was never intended to be condescending to women. In February, I hosted an all-female panel, and this time I wanted to give the guys a turn to be on a panel especially because it was requested from guests that attended that they wanted to hear from men, too. My sincerest apologies if this wasn’t conveyed from the beginning. I’ve jokingly always said that I’m good with numbers but, not-so-great with words. I think this experience has finally proven this point.
Finally, I want to address why I didn’t mention I was giving a portion of the proceeds to a local non-profit organization…
I listened to bad advice from someone I should have tuned out years ago. I was told that telling people who you’re giving to is “bragging” and so I didn’t do that. My plan was to write a check, invite a representative from the organization so they could meet potential donors at the event, and thank them for their good work in the community; all silently because I thought the recognition would be arrogant. Even after talking to the non-profit on the phone I mentioned I didn’t want to use their logo because I’d feel like I was misguiding people. Well, lesson learned. Doing a good deed and bragging is not the same thing and I will never make that mistake again. While reading the comments about charging people to attend was difficult, I also learned so much about being more transparent and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. The WOWW Campaign would not be what it is today without all of the passionate supporters behind us.
I will be issuing refunds in the coming week for those who have already purchased a ticket. Please share this announcement through your social media outlets using the hashtag #WOWWATX