How can women lawyers be financially empowered?
Why is it important to feel heard, respected, and create boundaries in the workplace?
Sibgongile Ngako joins me on the podcast this week to talk about financial independence and becoming financially empowered.
Sibongile is a Harvard-educated corporate fintech and compliance executive leveraging her expertise and background to help empower women professionally, personally, and financially.
Sibongile gives listeners actionable tips on:
- [1:00] Why financial empowerment is particularly important for women
- [2:20] How to take control of your finances
- [7:25] Tips to being heard and respected in the workplace
- [11:10] Knowing our limits and boundaries
- [16:20] How empowerment plays a big role in long-term aligning of your goals and success
- [20:10] Sibongile’s book recommendation
- [24:00] The biggest takeaway from this conversation
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Connect with Sibongile here:
Connect with me
[00:00:27] Sibongile: Hello, I’m CBO GCO, and I’m a corporate FinTech exec seeking to empower women personally, professionally and financially.
[00:00:37] Karin: CBO Gela. Thank you so much for being here. Um, Absolutely. I, this is gonna be a great conversation. I know that you’ve got this amazing background and, uh, we are specifically talking, um, about women lawyers and kind of talking especially about empowerment today.
[00:00:55] The big question that we’re going to ask is ask and answer is how can women lawyers create financial, uh, empowerment? And so. I know this is your background. You’ve been working on this for years and years. So tell me, first of all, where, why are we specifically speaking to women as opposed to just the, the broad audience?
[00:01:16] Sibongile: That’s a great question, Karen, because so much of what I talk about applies to everyone, but my focus in particular, in ours today is on women. And with good reason, When you think of the wage gap, the fact that even in 2022, in the 21st century women make 83, 80 4% of what men make, um, the fact that we’re more likely to live paycheck to paycheck.
[00:01:38] The fact that overall women feel less confident about finances, generally in retirement planning in particular. I think it necessitates talking to women in a really targeted. And again, it’s not that all of these tips don’t apply to everyone universally, but I do think that women have, you know, certain societal cultural, uh, challenges that merit targeting us in particular.
[00:02:03] Yeah. Um, in these conversations,
[00:02:06] Karin: so where, where, how do we even begin the conversation? Wh when we are talking about these kind of societal norms that you mentioned, um, where I feel like, uh, I I’ve gone through different coaching programs and kind of business things where they talk about this, uh, taking control of your finances.
[00:02:26] And, um, the first step is usually. Addressing where, where our heads are at with this stuff. So how do you even get started with that?
[00:02:37] Sibongile: I, I totally agree with that because so much is mindset. I mean, we think about finances and we think dollars and cents and yes. Yeah, it is that as well, but so much of it is mindset.
[00:02:46] It’s confidence. It’s knowing your worth, even professionally. I mean, a lot of the, the wage gap and the, the, the challenges that women have. Stem from the fact that our career progressions don’t don’t, um, take us as far, financially and professionally, and that also contributes to our lack of empowerment.
[00:03:03] And so I think knowing your worth professionally is key, knowing the value that you add professionally is key. Being able to articulate that to an employer or perspective employer, and just always being astutely aware of the value that you’re bringing to, to any situation personal professional or otherwise then empowers you.
[00:03:24] To advocate for yourself financially in a different way to take up more space in the room to, to, to be vocal and to, to not feel muted when you’re, you’re in a professional environment and that mindset to your point flows through to all aspects of your life, personal financial and
[00:03:40] Karin: professional. Yeah.
[00:03:42] Yeah. I can think of so many different, um, Kind of moments in a career where, um, you have a choice to kind of like you were saying, stand up and take control or ask questions that, or, or not, you know, kind of sit back and, and just be the listener in that room. So where are some places where, um, where we should be kind.
[00:04:07] Taking that initiative and stepping forward and, and, and choosing that empowerment role.
[00:04:13] Sibongile: So I’d say everywhere. , that’s an easy answer. That’s it? My time here is done self everywhere. So certainly
[00:04:26] for listening in all seriousness, I mean, certainly let let’s start. Um, we can, we can start anywhere, but certainly at work, right? Yeah, because that’s. There’s the potential for financial compensation, right. Being vocal and for taking up space. And what I, frankly, Karen had to realize over the years is that, you know, being vocal is a choice.
[00:04:45] I mean, I think the, the other end of the spectrum is that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves as women. And I know I was doing this for a long time and still have to caution myself, even, even after decades in the, in the workforce. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to, you know, know the answer, to be the one to speak up to kind of, you know, make, make that impact in a really, um, uh, you know, quick way.
[00:05:09] And of course that, that is the goal. You wanna make an impact. You wanna feel professionally valued, but there’s a lot of power in. You know, knowing when to speak up and knowing when to listen and, you know, kind of reading the room. And I mean, there there’s so many elements taking up space doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve come to realize talking all the time.
[00:05:30] Yeah. But it’s, it’s, there’s power in being selective about what you say and when, and to whom. Um, that, that we also need to embrace, but yeah, certainly starting in the workforce and that could be asking questions, um, speaking up when you disagree. Um, and, and you know, this is where frankly, you know, companies and businesses, having a psychologically safe environment that allows everyone to do that.
[00:05:54] But particularly women is so important, but it’s, you know, asking questions. It. You know, saying I actually have a different perspective and, and voicing that, um, and knowing that you are, you know, perfectly empowered to, to have that be that voice of dissent. Um, and so I think it starts there. But, but even in the household, I mean, you know, so many women are, are working women, their heads of their households financially, or, or, or even if not financially, they’re the, they’re the managers, they’re the CEOs of their household.
[00:06:23] Um, but for me a long time, it, it, it took a while to realize that proud of part of personal empowerment is also asking for help know, knowing when to say, you know what, this is actually too much. Um, and, and, and knowing when to take care of yourself. Yeah. I mean, we think empowerment and we think power. And we think that it means, you know, taking charge and being in the lead and yes, you know, ha carrying everything on your shoulders.
[00:06:47] But again, just like I was saying about, you know, knowing when to be silent and when to listen and read a room, same thing in your personal life. Sometimes there’s great power in taking care of yourself. Yeah. Sometimes there’s great power in saying, no, I cannot do that right now. Or I can’t do that period.
[00:07:03] and there’s great power. Not having to explain yourself as to why you’re saying no. So there, I mean, we have so many options to us, um, and don’t have to think about empowerment in just one.
[00:07:13] Karin: That’s such, I was thinking about so many examples when you were just talking. Um, and it’s such, I feel like it’s such a issue that so many, uh, women that I know deal with, for example, the, when you were, um, earlier, and when you were talking, I was thinking about every woman who is an entrepreneur or, you know, somewhat level of success that I know feels like they.
[00:07:36] Every degree behind their name before they can that’s right. Say that they know anything that’s and I had the same issue myself. I felt like I can’t think about, um, doing all these things until I, I have an MBA until I have a PhD until I do all these things. Well, that didn’t exactly align with, um, the, the rest of my life plans that I had.
[00:07:57] So I was halfway through my PhD and, um, my husband and I decided to start a family and that didn’t, uh, that didn’t work out. And that’s another long separate story that I won’t get to like often left field with. But, um, I have recently come across a lot of quotes that talk. Imagine if you were the white guy in the room, um, everyone would listen to what you were saying, regardless of what credentials you had behind your name.
[00:08:24] And so, um, how do we, the first question I have is how do we, how do we get through that? How do we kind of say, okay, Take a breath. You are just as credentialed and knowledgeable on this topic. As that guy, you don’t need to go back and add another six years of school in order to answer that question. How, how do we mentally get through
[00:08:43] Sibongile: that?
[00:08:43] Yeah. I almost think we have to reset our foundational assumption that I, again, I think women tend to have, which is I have to be a hundred percent qualified for a job to do a job to begin with. Yeah. Forget the, let let, before you even get to the credential part. And I’ve seen also a lot of posts and quotes on this recently.
[00:09:02] Um, but I remember, uh, at my last, um, employer, there was a more senior level VP that was coming to speak to our team. Um, and he said something like, like in the interview he said, um, I think he was interviewing for a privacy role or some such thing. And in the interview he said, you know, What I know about privacy, I could fit on the back of a postage stamp.
[00:09:25] oh my God. And I just remember being appalled because imagine if I showed up, I mean, it, it wouldn’t car, it wouldn’t even occur to me in a million years to do anything. And, and to show up with that little knowledge about that, whatever it is, you know, it could be, and then to call it out and then to call it out on, on top of it.
[00:09:43] Yeah. And yet he got that role and yet it did not prevent him from stepping into that role and what he was coming to talk to us about was this, this new role that he was in. Wow. And so. Firstly, I think we have to, you know, scrub our minds of the foundational assumption that we have to be a hundred percent qualified for in order to step into a job.
[00:10:03] We have to scrub our minds of that. And we have to scrub the minds of the people around us of that. Yeah. That look, if I have 75% of the credentials, um, that’s actually quite a bit . Okay. Right. Yeah. And along with the experience and, and start putting into the pot of what, um, makes us qualified to do something.
[00:10:23] Other intangibles, such as leadership qualities, such as, you know, the, the ability for folks to, to follow you, such as, you know, your, your general organizational philosophies, such as other components of your experience, such as the diversity of your experience, whether it’s in, you know, that field or not. I mean, I’ve, um, we were talking about this earlier.
[00:10:44] I mean, I, yes, I’ve had 20 years in financial services. I also used to be an opera singer. I, I also do musical theater. And so I actually think that adds in a really unique way to the, the, you know, Pope right. Of what I have to bring to a role because I’m great at public speaking. I’m great at reading people.
[00:11:02] I’m very empathetic. I’m a good listener. And so, um, I think we have to. Rethink the way we think about what it means to be qualified, to do something. Yeah, it
[00:11:12] Karin: really like when you’re describing that, it really feels like, um, in the past we would look at a job description in a very kind of two dimensional way, and we’re not looking at this whole person and the whole person is clearly the one that’s gonna sit with that team and work on whatever project.
[00:11:29] And, um, they’re not gonna set aside. The opera singing part of themselves, like that is gonna be a part of their, that personality that, uh, either, you know, that, that brings some element of, you know, of humanity to that group. Um, so yeah, I just feel like that’s, that’s such an important part of the, the group dynamics and the work dynamics that are really getting missed.
[00:11:56] Sibongile: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely true. And I think it’s incumbent. To change our mindset in, in that regard so that we don’t put that pressure on ourselves to be 110% qualified. I mean, I think I saw a post that if you’re a hundred percent qualified for a job, you’re overqualified. Yeah. Cause why would you wanna do something that you’re a hundred percent qualified to?
[00:12:14] Do you want something that’s going to progress you or stretch you or develop you in a different way? So exactly any job that I’m a hundred percent qualified to do, I, I’m not interested in right. Because it’s, it’s not developing me in any way. Exactly.
[00:12:26] Karin: I’m a hundred percent qualified to work at a fast food restaurant and you know, like, but why would I want to do that?
[00:12:33] That’s right. That’s right. It’s that is not what my, that for you, my, my life. Plan has laid out for me. Right. That’s right. That’s. So going back to what you were talking about in terms of kind of, uh, knowing where, um, your limits are and the boundaries. And, um, I am such a advocate of bringing in the, the best experts for, you know, whatever roles to kind of fill in the gaps of, um, what you need.
[00:12:59] Uh, in a, in for example, I am not a fan of. Accounting or the bookkeeping side of the business. Like, I, I like to see the charts because I’m a very visual person and I like to see how things are going and the, and the trends and all of that and, and get the reports. But the actual administrative part of it.
[00:13:21] Just turns my stomach and it is not my strength. And so finding the right person for that and not feeling like, uh, I have to do it all. And it took me a long time to get to that point. Cause I felt like, especially when it comes to finances, it feels very private and it feels like I should. I should be doing that all myself.
[00:13:43] So how do we get through those shoulds that we have kind of cemented into our brains, uh, and kind of let go how do we do
[00:13:51] Sibongile: that? Yeah, it’s funny. Cuz I had a post that I, um, put up a couple months ago about the word should yeah. And why we should eliminate it from our vocabulary and that’s, I mean, you really touched on it Karin, which is, it’s just a judgment yeah.
[00:14:04] That we’re putting on ourselves. About, you know, the gap between where we are or what our comfort is and where we think we should be. And so I, I say for one, let’s eliminate you for our vocabulary. Yeah. Um, but also, you know, see, call it for what it is sometimes, you know, as Carla Harris says, you, you just have to call a thing a thing.
[00:14:23] And I think the more we can. Separate in our minds. Reality. Yeah. Which is frankly a very small part of what happens in our head. Yeah. Versus all the, frankly, the lies we tell ourselves, that’s how, um, one of my favorite authors refers to it, the lies we tell ourselves. Yeah. Um, and these, you know, lofty expectations we hold for ourselves.
[00:14:45] The more we can do that and shift our mindset to that place. The better off we’ll be. And the better off whatever we’ll do it we’re doing will be because you are better served and your business is better served when you’re bringing in an expert to do something than when you’re trying to do it yourself.
[00:15:01] Right. And should we, we should feel no hesitation and no shame whatsoever in, you know, calling upon. I don’t know, cooks childcare. Yeah. Accountants, bookkeeping. I mean, what fill in the blanket, frankly, across all aspects of our lives. And I personally think that this is where women Excel as leaders, not to over generalize, but, but just a little bit.
[00:15:25] Yeah. Excel is leaders because I think we are more open to. Relying on listen, listening to, and relying on the people who, whose area of expertise it is in a certain subject matter. And I think that serves us really well. I’ve seen, um, you know, some leaders really see prosper and this, this is my personal philosophy with where you are the expert.
[00:15:47] That’s why I brought you in here. Yes. Obviously I will have a kind of discerning lens when I’m listening to what you’re saying or recommending. Yeah. But, um, I. We as leaders, women leaders tend to have more deference for people’s area of expertise, and that can actually also service really well in our organizations.
[00:16:04] Very. .
[00:16:05] Karin: Yeah, I agree completely, especially, you know, our audience is all lawyers and I feel like, uh, when I’m talking about these types of topics more broadly, the ego becomes, uh, you know, a big part of it. But I will say the ego issues for in my experience. And I’ve been working with. Exclusively with lawyers for going on 13, 14 years, the ego issues come up way more frequently when I’m dealing with men.
[00:16:33] Um, the women are much more like what you’ve described. They’re willing to say, okay, listen, I am the expert. This is my business. However, I don’t know websites as well as you do. I don’t know the marketing. I, I need you to help me through this. Here’s what I’m trying to achieve. And so I know that I need to point the ship in this direction, but you need to help us get there because there’s this, this part that I am not the expert in.
[00:16:57] And, uh, men have a harder time saying that. I think that’s in my
[00:17:01] Sibongile: experience. That’s I think that’s absolutely right. And, you know, speaking of societal norms, I think, you know, just in the same way that we are conditioned in a certain. Men are, you know, from, from the, from the age of being little boys are also conditioned to be leaders to be self-sufficient to have it.
[00:17:16] You know what I mean? So it’s a different kind of conditioning. Yes. And so it’s, it’s frankly not surprising.
[00:17:22] Karin: Yeah. And they’re conditioned to kind of, um, to not. Defer to another person as much. So it’s a little more painful. It’s, you know, it’s not, it’s not as, as easy of a, as a experience that I, that I think, you know, and of course we’re, we’re generalizing.
[00:17:37] So there’s some people that are, you know, the flip side, but of course, you know, yeah. Gen generally though. yeah. So, so how does this all play out in terms of like, if we’re looking at a woman lawyer who’s. She’s got her own law firm. She’s got a good amount of success and she is, you know, really working through and you know, it, from what I’ve seen a lot of times the, um, administrative, the financial, the business side of the law firm, um, especially if they’re growing quickly and they really have to focus on just their legal work, that side of it.
[00:18:12] Is just kind of being pasted together in a hasty way and not necessarily as strategic. Um, and then after a certain number of years, they realize. I need a better plan here. And so how does this feeling or sense or strategy of empowerment really play into kind of a long term plan for aligning with their, their goals and their successes?
[00:18:35] Yeah, I
[00:18:36] Sibongile: mean, it’s a great question. I think you touched on it, which is we don’t have to, we shouldn’t put that pressure on ourselves to be hasty and to kind of press forward without a strategy. I personally believe maybe this is because I spent decades as a risk management professional. And so my mind thinks that way, but I, I think nine times out of 10, we’re always better served with some plan.
[00:18:59] Now there might be divergences from the plan. Things happen. Life happens, pandemics happen, pandemics happen. Exactly. So, you know, we can’t control it. All right. But I think we’re always better served by some kind of, kind of short term, medium term, long term strategy, understanding that things may happen.
[00:19:16] You know, require us to pivot. Um, but that we have that in place. And I think where, where it ties into empowerment is that often when we, I, I know for myself times when I’ve moved hastily, it’s because I’m, I’m not grounded in what I’m doing or, um, I’m not feeling empowered in that particular moment. I mean, even if something as like, if I’m giving a presentation or having to answer a question, if I answer a Hasti.
[00:19:40] Yeah. It, it’s usually an indication that I’m not really grounded yeah. In that moment and what I’m doing. And so I think it’s so incumbent upon just us as people, but any entrepreneur in particular to take that moment and it doesn’t have to be weeks or months. I mean, it, it, it could just be a short period of time to say, what is my strategy here?
[00:19:59] What is my vision? And then it actually becomes easier because I think the irony is that. And I was talking to someone else about this the other day, the irony is that people. Oh, if I, if I hit the pause button button to develop a strategy that will slow me down. Yes. Or, but the, the irony being that it actually clarifies your path and probably saves you from a, from some trial and error, something that you might have hacked into and then had to back out of.
[00:20:25] Um, and so really feel empowered to not go into things hastily and to set that strategy, knowing that of course things happen and, and you may need to.
[00:20:36] Karin: Yeah, that is, it’s so fascinating to me. The more I talk to people in all these different industries, the way this all ties back to an overall strategy for every part of the firm, because we have a marketing plan where we do the same thing.
[00:20:51] We set down with a firm and plan out a year of marketing. For the same reasons. And we start with the same details. Let’s, you know, take into account the, the activities of the last two years. We could not have predicted the pandemic. If we were planning, you know, a marketing strategy in 2019, we would not have known what was gonna happen.
[00:21:09] And it seriously impacted the marketing of all of the firms that we worked with. They changed everything. They had to make sure that they had a pandemic strategy posted on their website and how they were meeting and all of those things. However, knowing that they have that strategy laid out, allows them to not get distracted by those shiny objects, especially with marketing.
[00:21:30] I feel like, you know, and I’m sure this is the case in, in other industries and parts of their plans. It’s so easy to, for my clients to email me and say, I just saw one of my colleagues on TikTok. Should I be on TikTok? You know, I just saw this X, Y, and Z. Maybe I need to do that. And all of a sudden, it’s just like, they’re trying to turn a train, you know, 90 degrees, that’s already going 120 miles an hour.
[00:21:58] I feel like that wasn’t a great analogy, but you know, ,
[00:22:00] Sibongile: I got the gist and I’m sure the listeners
[00:22:02] Karin: did too. Yeah, exactly. But for the same reason, like your financial plan. It all comes back to laying it out, taking that breath, having a strategy, obviously taking notes throughout, um, as time goes on and adjusting as necessary, but, um, being calm and collected and, you know, uh, consistent.
[00:22:25] Um, so, uh, so where I had another question and I just completely like my brain just lost it. Um, so. So let’s talk about your, uh, book that you were gonna recommend. I’m gonna, um, ask Simone to cut this part out because I feel like I’m just jumping around a little bit. All right. So, Let’s talk a little bit about the book recommendation that you have for the group.
[00:22:51] Um, for the audience, we, as, you know, lawyers are full of, you know, busy schedules and they don’t have time for a great book that that is not worth their time. So let us know, tell us what book you have to recommend to the
[00:23:03] Sibongile: audience today. So I’d highly recommend the four agreements by Dongo Ruiz. And speaking of time, it’s, I, I find that it’s really succinctly written.
[00:23:13] And so that’s frankly, one of the things I, I like about it, but it, it, um, in it, uh, Ruiz lays out what he calls these four agreements. And, you know, interestingly enough, there, there aren’t necessarily things that you haven’t heard before. One is be impeccable with your words and others don’t take things personally don’t make assumptions.
[00:23:32] So there, there, there are all things that we’ve heard before in other contexts, but the, the way he lays them out succinctly, um, but also ties it into basically ego and how we manage our ego and how we keep grounded in our personal values. Is just so illuminating. And it’s the kind, it’s the kind of book that you can keep coming back to.
[00:23:54] And you know, that I keep having to re remind myself of, because you know, it’s, you know, when, when you read the book, you feel that empowerment and you feel grounded, but then life happens and you kind of wander away from those core principles. And I read it periodically to, to bring me back, um, and so much of, of kind of how I’ve evolved.
[00:24:13] Um, His has been trial and error in life and just my journey in life. But I found that his book really crystallized that journey and, and, and, um, described really clearly what those principles are. That, that keep me feeling grounded. Yeah.
[00:24:28] Karin: I read this book years ago and, uh, I came back to it not long ago and it’s still, it’s one of those few books that really.
[00:24:39] Maintains over time. It’s such solid. I feel like the first time I read it, I, I, I was like, what is everyone talking about? This seems very simple. , you know, it seems like this could be, you know, some of the, you could list the four agreements on a postcard, but. But there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of it, because, uh, it’s just some of these basic core ideas of how to just be a better human being and really, uh, in relation to other human beings.
[00:25:10] So not just like you and how to be a great person, but how to really interact with people in a way that, um, is gonna give you kind of long term. Quality relationships and, you know, yeah. That’s such a great book.
[00:25:25] Sibongile: Yeah. I mean, in speaking of empowerment, like a sense of self, like you take something like, don’t take things personally.
[00:25:31] I mean, I mean, how many times have you heard that? A million times. Yes. And, but his take on it and you know, um, I’m paraphrasing of course, is that it’s not that you shouldn’t, it’s not that. Uh, shouldn’t just take the bad things personally, even the good things. Like how many times do we let praise and reputation and all of these external drivers, you know, influence how we see ourselves.
[00:25:53] Yes. And for me, in particular, kind of the hyper achieving pleaser that, that I am, I mean, that was so illuminating that like, wait, I don’t, I shouldn’t take. Any of this personally, because I, because there’s a core of who I am and that remains UN impacted or should remain ideally, right. UN impacted by, you know, all of these external influences, whether, you know, it’s praise or, or something
[00:26:16] Karin: else or negative.
[00:26:17] Yeah. And it’s really hard. I mean, some of these ideas are so hard. I mean, going back to this idea of the ego and how the ego gets in the way of all of this stuff, especially for people who like yourself are very successful and have kind of R risen through life in, on a certain path. Like a lot of the lawyers that are listening, it’s hard to.
[00:26:39] To recognize that, okay. In this moment, um, either the praise or the, the negative feedback, it’s not about me. This is, you know, I need to not take this personally. I need to find a way to kind of step back and take sort of a Zen approach to a. All of this and, and rise above and be the bigger person. Um, it’s really a great book.
[00:26:59] It’s definitely, you know, I definitely highly recommend it and obviously we will link to it on the, um, show notes. And we have a library that links all of the books that our guests have recommended. So definitely a good one to pick up. And, and like you said, it’s a nice, short one that you, you can kind of get through quickly and.
[00:27:16] Just pick up some great tips about being, being a person. Um, okay. So what’s one big takeaway that you’d like listeners to get from this episode.
[00:27:25] Sibongile: I would say just the word empowerment. So embrace the word empowerment. Eradicate the word should oh, that’s if I were great. That is so good.
[00:27:37] Karin: Yeah. Should is kind of the opposite of empowerment.
[00:27:41] Yeah. That’s that really ISS sort of the, uh, I’m picturing like a giant hand, just pushing a person, holding a person down that’s right. Um, versus the opposite. Yeah, that is, I love that. That’s amazing. So SIBO. GACO I’m sorry if I I’m sure people butcher your name every day. Oh, I said
[00:27:59] Sibongile: beautifully. No car said it
[00:28:00] Karin: beautifully really?
[00:28:01] Oh, thank you. She is a Harvard educated FinTech executive seeking to empower women. Thank you so much for being here. I feel like this was such a great, uh, Empowering. I know this that’s a corny way to bring that topic back in here, but it was such a great conversation. And I feel like it there’s some really good solid tips in here that people will walk away with knowing, um, that they just need to take some take that control and power within their own firms so that they can really get to those goals that they’re trying to achieve.
[00:28:32] Thank you again, this was a great conversation.
[00:28:34] Sibongile: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Karen.