When you think of a tour designed by Ford, where you meet some of their best and brightest employees, you probably don’t expect to be in a room filled entirely with women. Well world, things are changing.
On Tuesday March 7th, the day before National Women’s Day, Ford hosted a tour to celebrate everything female.
Let me set the stage. The day began at the Ford Hub, in Westfield Shopping Center. The hub itself is very impressive; with innovative designs, and revolutionary visions, paired with interactive games, all of which culminate in an extremely entertaining and informative experience, to show you the Ford of the future.
Three extremely remarkable women spoke at the Ford Hub, all of whom are integral members of the Ford team. The first was Sheryl Connelly, who has served as Ford Motor Company’s futurist for over a decade. Her road at Ford was not always easy. Near the beginning of her journey, a car dealership worker accused Ford of only hiring Sheryl because she was a women, so he would be less likely to shout at her. This man assured her that her gender would not stifle his anger one bit, and after their meeting, Sheryl broke down in her car, and cried. Contrary to this worker’s belief, Sheryl was hired due to her extensive experience in business and finance. Her work with has Ford earned her many accolades, including being named one of the ‘Most Creative People in Business’ in 2013 and 2015, courtesy of Fast Company magazine. So, to the rude gentleman at the car dealership, you sir, were full of sh*t.
The next woman we met at Ford Hub was Jackie Dimarco. After a serendipitous encounter at a job fair, Jackie decided to move into the engineering track, and she became Ford Motor Company’s chief engineer of autonomous vehicles, pioneering the development of Ford’s self-driving car platform. Like many female employees in the automobile industry, she was often the only female in the room, but she did not let that stop her. And now, beating out numerous men and a few women, she is in one of Ford’s most sought after leadership position.
Finally, we met Victoria Schein, one of Ford’s youngest employees, who is 23-years-old. She began her career at Ford in an internship – not only was she the sole female among all of the interns, but she was also the only intern who had not graduated from an Ivy League College. The members of Ford were unsure of how to communicate with her, being that she was the only female, and the only Liberal Arts College Graduate at the company. They thought she would not be able to understand or handle the work required to be a Ford employee, and boy were they wrong. She was the only intern to have submitted numerous ideas to the company, resulting in her currently having 15 patents in her name. She was also one of the only interns to speak up in company meetings, and eventually her ingenuity and tenacity gained her full time employment at Ford.
You may be thinking, wow, those women are incredible, how could anything, or anyone, else in the day top meeting these three individuals. To you, my friend, I say the day was not over yet.
Yes women have brains, and brawn, but we also have beauty, and the day would have been amiss without celebrating this aspect of womanhood. Our next stop on our tour was the Paintbox Nail Studio. Paintbox is a high-design nail studio founded by Eleanor Langston, a veteran magazine beauty editor. She noticed that there was a gap in the nail industry for the working woman who wanted high quality nail art, without paying extortionate prices. She designed a look book for her salon, allowing the customer to pick their ideal nail art from these intricate designs.
On the tour, we were fortunate enough to receive our own manicures. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I had never received a manicure before, as I had not understood the need for it. I must say I am now completely converted. Each of us was paired with one of Eleanor’s phenomenal nail artists. We were given the option between gels or painted nails. Gels last longer, but painted nails are easier to remove at home. Adhering to the philosophy of ‘When in Rome’, I went with the gels. I picked my design, and the nail artist went to work. Interestingly, Langston explained that the further away things are from our body, the more likely we are to experiment. As makeup is on our face, we do not try that many extreme things, however as our nails are one of the furthest features from our body, customers feel the luxury to go wild. In that vain, many of the tour members went with bold designs, with bright colors and metallics. As I work on camera, I cannot have anything distracting on my body, so I went with a more subtle design.
Eleanor admitted that her biggest triumph is seeing how confident her customers are when they leave the store. It sounds silly, that something as small as nails can change the way you feel about yourself, but from first hand experience, it is true. I felt so feminine and beautiful after the manicure, wanting to show off my hands any chance I could get. Even now as I type, I am admiring the handiwork of the Painbox Studio, and I feel so luxurious. I highly doubt that will be the last time I get a manicure.
Our final stop on our tour was Otway, a new restaurant that just opened in Brooklyn. What sets it apart? It is America’s first female-owned and female-operated restaurant. The story of how is came about is very interesting. Claire Welle, the Head Chef of Otway, and Samantha Safer, her business partner, previously worked at their hit restaurant Tilda All Day. What sets Otway apart from Tilda All Day is that, at Tilda All Day, there was a male business partner. Like with many successful businesses, their was a falling out among the partners, and much like the Pussycat Dolls, Claire and Samantha decided that: they don’t need no man.
At the restaurant they serve an ever-changing farm-to-farm table menu, which showcases technique and a return to classic dining. The kitchen is entirely female, an anomaly in the catering world. It is interesting that, although females are typically known to be the cooks at home, males dominate the culinary world. Fortunately, at Otway, that has changed. At this kitchen, they celebrate collaboration, each member of the team contributing to the menu as a whole. Furthermore, the food was absolutely divine, providing that classic ‘melt in the mouth’ experience that only phenomenal food can deliver.
The final person we met on this tour was truly the perfect topping on this magnificent cake. Miki Agrawal is the founder and “She-E-O’ of Thinx. Miki looks at all of the aspects of womanhood that have become ‘taboo’ over the years, she noticed that because these aspects are kept ‘hush hush’, the innovation for issues that arise concerning these taboo subjects is non-existent.
One day, her sister and her were tied together in a three-legged-race, and her sister suddenly got her period. Still connected, the women had to run to the bathroom to deal with this inconvenient occurrence. Miki thought that there had to be something better than this. After a little research, Miki discovered that the tampon was invented in the early 1900s, by a man no less, and things really haven’t progressed since. Considering the advancement in technology in the last 20 years, this fact is frightening. Finally, Miki forced change. She finally created the incredible period-proof underwear, which has transformed the working life of so many women, who do not have time to go to the bathroom every couple hours due to the dreaded monthly cycle.
Not only has Miki’s invention drastically improved the quality of life for women everywhere, but Thinx has a charity component that is integral to their company. In places like Uganda, females have no sanitary products to deal with periods. As a consequence are shunned when their red seas part, and they are forced into excile, preventing them from attending school or work. To combat this, Thinx created a give-back partnership, which provided women in Uganda with necessities, and enabled over 60,000 girls to return to school.
Undeniably, Niki’s invention is incredible, yet it was not easy for her to gain investors. At the beginning of her venture, she had to go into hundreds of rooms filled with men, and attempt to explain the extent of inconvenience of periods, and the imperativeness that it stop. Needless to say, these men were not receptive. However, eventually, some investors took finally helped Miki get her business up and running. Now, Thinx is a multi-million dollar company, and I bet those men that passed on her invention are kicking themselves in their nether regions right about now. Niki’s innovations do not end there, she is continuing to work on revolutionizing our downfalls in sanitation, including creating an affordable and portable bidet for the toilet, which reduces toilet paper consumption, and has plentiful sanitation benefits. With a baby on the way, she is now focusing on creating inventions that will forever change problems with pregnancies and beyond.
This day was absolutely unbelievable, and I am honored and humbled to have had the incredible honor of meeting these phenomenal women. I urge you to look into each and every one of their ventures, and take inspiration, and participate in what they have created.
Thank you Ford Female Frontier for creating this incredible tour! See you next year.