By Ellen Leikind – If you want a reason to be pissed off let’s take a look at the reality of corporate support for women’s initiative programs. I will tell you there are some good programs out there but unfortunately those are the exceptions.

A client recently called me up very frustrated. “I am getting push back on our women’s event. They don’t want to spend the money.” She continued, “I had no trouble getting $600 a head for the guys’ client golf outing but I have to beg for a fraction of that for my women’s program funding even when I invite clients.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a variation on this conversation. Companies love to tout what they do to support women but when it comes to putting bucks behind the programs the story is very different. “I would rather curl up in a ball and stay home watching TV shows I hate than listen to another speaker talk about work life balance while I drink mediocre wine,” a prominent female attorney shared with me.

Companies love to tout what they do to support women but when it comes to putting bucks behind the programs the story is very different.

Women want support so they can advance their careers but they want it to be meaningful and engaging. There must be an interaction that leads to better relationships and more business opportunities. Unfortunately, women tend to be better at the former than they are at the later. A passive strategy doesn’t work and does not motivate or challenge women to reach up and break out of their customary comfort zone.

At the risk of tooting my own horn we need more programs like the initiative I created with PokerDivas. It provides an interactive activity that not only speaks to the skills which help women succeed in business but allows them to literally play out in real time, how it feels to practice those skills of being assertive, reading an opponent, and managing a bully. In addition to learning the strategies of the game extending to life and business, participants walk away knowing how to play poker. The game is an extremely prevalent business networking activity, especially in the financial, legal, technology and entertainment arenas, and if women can participate they will have access to a network from which they were previously excluded.

Recently, we proposed a PokerDivas program to a financial services client, who responded that management would not approve the program because it would promote gambling. (There is no gambling at a PokerDivas event.) Imagine my “surprise” when two weeks later I attended a 300-person poker charity event in New York City where that very same firm spent $20,000 sponsoring two tables. All the seats were taken by men. I guess they wanted to keep their boys’ club intact.

The hypocrisy is rampant.

Another example is Audi. Do you remember how much good press they received for promoting equal pay when airing its Super Bowl 2017 “Daughter” commercial? But when you study the company less than 15% of the senior management team is female. It’s like supporting the National Lung Foundation while you are still selling cigarettes…

screengrab of scene from Audi’s 2017 “Daughter” commercial

It would be great to say that all the focus on women’s initiatives is helping but there is a long way to go. Women need to be let into the game and chardonnay in the conference room is not going to cut it.


About The Author

For well over a decade, Ellen Leikind, a highly successful marketing expert for Fortune 500 companies and the founder of PokerDivas, has made it her business, literally, to help women get what they want out of all areas of their lives, and she does it in the most innovative way… by teaching them poker skills. Featured by Forbes, Huffington Post, Crain’s, ABCNews, CNBC, etc., the proprietary program Ellen has developed is not about gambling and requires zero poker experience. It’s about teaching women the strategies of poker and how to use the skills they acquire at the poker table to empower themselves in their personal and professional lives. The goal is to give women the confidence and tools to make bold moves, be a leader, learn to read people, become a better negotiator, assert themselves, take risks, and play to win.

Ellen Leikind with participants and winners

Ellen Leikind (center), founder of PokerDivas, with initiative participants and winners