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Takeaways from Maryam Banikarim and Caroline A. Wanga at the 2022 Women in Leadership Institute | Day 2 of #WILinstitute

November 2, 2022 Kristen Howe

Kristen here, reporting in from the Women in Leadership Institute™! It’s Day 2 of this amazing conference, and the insights we are hearing from the main stage are simply life-changing.

This week, thousands of women leaders from premier companies and organizations around the world are with us in Orlando, Florida, or tuning in virtually, for four days of leadership development. Participants are experiencing a journey of self-discovery and transformation—as we dive into the 2022 theme of ReCHARGE, ReIMAGINE, ReIGNITE.

We are thrilled to give you an insider’s look here on the Linkage Leadership Insights blog.

Today, we heard from two exceptional women leaders: Maryam Banikarim and Caroline A. Wanga. Their thought-provoking insights have the power to change the way we approach life and leadership.

We also hosted our annual Intersectionality & Advancement in the Workplace panel, which featured an inspiring, diverse cohort of women leaders who shared their experiences in corporate America and outlined how leaders can model better allyship in the workplace.

Be sure to check out our key takeaways from Day 1 of #WILinstitute, then dive into Day 2:


Are you clear about your vision? Are you able to articulate your ideas in a way that inspires forward momentum?

The “Clear” competency is all about having a compelling vision for who we want to be as a leader and how we want to contribute in the working world. It’s about using communication to inspire action and support from your teams.

When we communicate our opinions clearly and accurately and demonstrate creativity in developing our ideas, we unlock huge potential. Clear leaders distill ideas into focused messages, and when put into practice, the Clear competency empowers women leaders to realize new leadership heights.

It’s time for us to define the type of leader we want to become—and clearly articulate that message to the world.

As a purpose-driven CMO who led four major businesses through sweeping transformation and topline growth, Maryam Banikarim captured national attention with her viral New York Times essay on taking a “pause” at the height of her highly successful career.

Maryam is the former CMO of NextDoor, and is the founder and managing partner of MaryamB, a purpose-driven consultancy. She is also the co-founder of NYCNext, whose mission is to support the NYC artistic community, to help NYC recover, rebuild and become a more equitable place for all, and to energize others by creating spontaneous moments of joy in all five boroughs. During her keynote, Maryam shared her tips for finding Clarity and purpose in your career and life.

Key Takeaways from Maryam:
  • Don’t worry about being different or “uncool”—pursue interests that you truly enjoy to find your passions and purpose.
  • Emphasize action—by “doing,” you can figure out what truly matters to you and the impact you want to have.
  • It’s great to have a plan for exactly what you want at work, but be sure to remain flexible—and leave yourself space to reconnect with the things that bring you joy.
  • Above all, your community is your strength—who you work with is just as important as the work you do.
  • Maryam shared that her purpose is “to create connections ​that build communities ​that make a difference.” Take the time to articulate your own Clarity statement—make sure it’s clear and concise, and defines the impact you want to have.



Every woman is different in how they experience the world. Factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, cultural differences and differing abilities “intersect” and overlap with one another. For women, the discrimination that stems from this intersectionality profoundly impacts their ability to professionally advance. Today, our panelists shared their stories and advice about advancing in a world that doesn’t always understand and appreciate difference.

Our panelists were:

  • Lucy M. De La Cruz, MD, Chief of Breast Surgery & Director, Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH)
  • Beverly Jackson, Former VP of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing at Twitter
  • Kamille Richardson, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, iSee Technologies, Inc

Bev Wright, Executive Coach and Women in Leadership Learning Team Leader, moderated the panel and sparked a meaningful discussion about intersectionality, allyship and mentorship.

Key Takeaways:
  • Being authentic and vulnerable is crucial to your advancement as a leader, according to Beverly. “I ask for what I need, I ask for what I want, and I’m truthful about what I’m going through so people know how to help me,” she said.
  • Kamille, who was born blind, shared the frustration she faced in finding an employer who would hire her and how it inspired her to create her own path and equip organizations with the tools they need to create inclusive environments. “All those ‘nos’ led to me saying ‘yes’ to myself,” she said.
  • Lucy spoke to the importance of always knowing your value, not letting others underestimate your worth, and embracing failure when it happens. “It was actually all of the things that I failed at that led me to be who I am today,” she shared.
  • Beverly and Kamille talked about the importance of having a “champion” who will open doors and advocate for you. They shared that your champion could come from an unlikely place—so don’t discount anybody.
  • Use your own power to advocate for and advance those around you. “The moment I wake up, I’m an advocate and I’m on a mission,” said Lucy, while Beverly encouraged those of us with financial power to “pay women what they are worth.”



Do you engage the commitment of others? Are you an authentic leader?

The “Inspire” competency is all about authenticity—knowing who you are, what you believe, and acting in accordance with those values. Inspiring leaders bring out the best in their people and teams. Regardless of how “tough” their style is, they balance this with warmth and compassion. They effectively engage and inspire the commitment, collaboration and contributions of others—instead of trying to do it all themselves.

It’s time to channel our unique authenticity to engage the people around us to new heights.

Caroline Wanga has worked her way up from entry-level positions to the highest of senior leadership roles and is passionate about modeling what she teaches. She is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ESSENCE Communications Inc., the number one media, technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women and communities. She also serves as Chief Growth Officer for ESSENCE Ventures, parent company of ESSENCE. Caroline leads the brand’s ongoing innovation intended to provide its communities with the platforms, content and resources they need—when and where they need it.

Caroline joined Essence Ventures as Chief Growth Officer in 2020 from Target Corporation, where she served as Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer. A self-proclaimed cultural architect with a passion for constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing organizational culture, she champions authenticity and thrives while she inspires in innovative environments.

Key Takeaways from Caroline:
  • Finding and owning your authentic self is absolutely essential to your success. “Who you are is who you are. If you cannot be who you are, where you are, you change where you are, not who you are,” said Caroline.
  • For Caroline, inspiration is not intentional—inspiration is the feeling that sharing her authentic story creates in others.
  • Live in indignant pursuit of your purpose—and trust that, when you find that purpose and do what you were born to do, the people around you will be inspired to their own purpose.
  • Listen to voices of dissent—not to believe them, but to understand where to build your armor up so your critics can’t hold you back.
  • Don’t be afraid to “fire yourself” from a job that doesn’t suit your purpose—and look intentionally for your next experience and where it can get you.


What’s next at the Women in Leadership Institute? Tomorrow, we turn our attention to keynote presentations from Liz Wiseman on the “Influential” competency and Laila Ali on the “Bold” competency, with a special Legends in Leadership Q&A with Anne Chow. Be sure to continue to follow along on the Linkage Leadership Insights blog and on social media for in-the-moment insights.

The Women in Leadership Institute is taking place November 1–4, 2022. Didn’t get a chance to join us for the live experience? On-Demand passes are now available, giving you on-demand access to the recorded conference from November 14, 2022, through January 31, 2023. Learn more about On-Demand passes.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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