On Dreaming & Practice: Money Lessons from My Mother Susan

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Gloria Steinem reminds us, “Dreaming is a form of planning.” As a coach and consultant, I know this to be true. I’ve witnessed it make the difference time and time again, which is why we must be in the business of dreaming and then expertly implementing and executing the realities we know can define daily life for ourselves and others.

This post is the fourth in my "On Dreaming and Practice" series highlighting bold women leaders I have had the pleasure of knowing, working with, and/or supporting. These fierce leaders have dreamed bigger for all of us. And for Mother's Day this year, I have decided to write about my mother Susan.

I am super energized to serve as the Women’s Funding Network’s new Money and Power Fellow, but every now and then I ask myself how I got here.

I have not pursued any formal business classes, nor have I ever worked in finance. I studied the sciences and physical literacy in college and graduate school. I’m completely self-taught when it comes to studying class, finance, and economics. I certainly was not raised with an abundance of money, and I have no direct memory about money-speak, saving, or investing from my childhood.

Today, I have created a sweet spot of personal and professional growth for myself working alongside activists and changemakers and the philanthropists who fund them. I’ve built my resume through serving as a coach to smart leaders after raising $70 million over 15 years for the Women's Sports Foundation. I advise clients who are doing bold social change with multi-million dollar funds and organizations, and I’m proud to be the chair of the Board of Tides, an NPO in the top 100 of the 1.4 million in the US in terms of assets. I personally buy and manage real estate and donate significant time and resources to benefit women and girls.

But when I dig deeper into my upbringing and psyche, I can easily see that my mother was in fact my first and greatest teacher around the values and impact of money. 

Susan Weaver Conland ingrained in me so many lessons on generosity and how to work with my resources—maybe not financial resources, but certainly basic human resources like creativity, emotion, love, reflex, impulse, and energy. My mother had enormous human presence. She was innately comfortable in her body, her wisdom, and her power to impact and influence her surroundings.

My mother modeled for me how to show up ready to work hard, learn from people who are smarter than me, and get back up after defeat or disappointment and try again. She also encouraged my basketball career where I learned to “fake it until you make it.”  Failure is constant in basketball… you miss a shot, shake it off, and reach out your arm and call for the ball again. All of these skills have been essential to me as I have navigated my own journey with money and power and as I support more women into their own embodied mindset of money and power now.

The values my mother instilled in me early on included that I was not born into the halls of power and maybe was not even a natural fit for those worlds. Yet, during my time at WSF, I walked the halls of Congress with the likes of Billie Jean King and other athletes for a decade. I was an integral part of that badass team!  

Today, after leading innumerous leadership workshops and board “advances” in local, national, and international settings, I know that so many more women desire to be in the game of money and power or, better yet, want to change the way the game is played.  So many women (and compassionate men!) want to move their money in the direction of women and girls and want to learn how to use a gender and impact lens. And they want to feel more confident and courageous about their agency in the finance arena. This is precisely why I am excited to be WFN's Money and Power Fellow and work within the women’s funding space. I can help!

As an outspoken feminist and lifelong fighter for women’s rights, I am clear that we must move money in the direction of women and girls worldwide. I want entrepreneurs, organizational and political leaders, and corporations to do right by women and girls. I want to see philanthropists use a gender lens, and I want people who do not invest currently to learn how to put their money to work in positive ways. All must be touted for their participation in creating an inclusive and equitable economy and world. 

As I embark on this fellowship, I will push to see more women start talking amongst themselves and sharing their stories about money. I will encourage all of us to take a look at our own money stories and examine what mental tapes and beliefs are true for us. Next, we have to examine societal notions around the positive and negative influence of class, status, and money. And finally, we must talk about systems of power and how we individually think about power, use power, and leverage power for good. 

Rather than work under patriarchal power systems and ideas, what would it mean if we stood together and used our agency to showcase feminine powers? To me, the real sources of power around money—power that would fuel an inclusive feminist economy—are integrity, interdependence, consciousness, embodiment, collaboration, care, and sustainability.

It is clear that my money story starts with the values my mother gave me—a healthy dose of curiosity, faith in abundance, and creativity in how I optimize all of my human and financial resources. My money story grew as I stepped into my own power, staying true to who I was, articulating my values boldly and taking courageous risks with my resources in order to manifest those values. Key for me, has always been to be intentional about the energy I spend on the integration of my two stories—that of my upbringing and the intense philanthropic and money conversations I get to participate in now. We are all born into patterns of thinking on critical issues in our life... structures around family, love, education, and money. And if we are fortunate, we get to build upon them.

As the inaugural Money and Power Fellow for the Women’s Funding Network, the daughter of a peaceful feminist, lover of the earth, and a consultant in philanthropy and gender lens impact investing, I look forward to showcasing more of my values, stories, and lessons.

In so many ways, I have my mother to thank for this opportunity.

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