Jacqueline V. Twillie believes that women’s equality is not a female issue, but a human issue. Through her company ZeroGap she is coaching women in negotiation training sessions, conferences and live video tutorials about how to ask for equal pay in the workplace. After a number of years in business, Dallas, Texas-based Twillie is looking at the big picture, leaning on mentors for support as she grows her business and counting each and every success along the way.
Twillie’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
ZeroGap is a training and development company and we focus on enhancing the leadership skills of women who work in male dominated industries, which is almost every industry. ‘Negotiation Strategy,’ and ‘Owning Your Voice’ are two of our popular training programs. We have private events and teach the leadership skills at conferences in addition to pop-up events such as online webinars.
When I began teaching women to negotiate I realized it was an under taught leadership skill for women. It was an even more prevalent issue for women who work in male-dominated industries. As I begin to form my company and expand beyond the negotiation training sessions I say a need to enhance the skills of women who deal with the unique challenge of being the only woman at the table. Women are excellent leaders, research shows us that, but the road to lead in a male-dominated industry is so arduous. The curriculum we teach addresses those challenges. I believe this work found me and a fire was sparked when I led a workshop teaching women to negotiate, and over 100 women RSVP-ed and nearly all of them showed up – that’s when I knew I had work to do.
Uplifting women is a priority to me because I am a woman. A few years ago on a spiritual guest, I came to my purpose which is to eliminate the gender wage gap. I began teaching women in Atlanta, Georgia about how to negotiate and then through live youtube videos later I began traveling to conferences across the U.S. to remind women they are powerful and to provide them with practical tools to take agency and earn what they are worth in the workplace. Along this journey, I have learned the true power of equipping women with practical tools and showing them how to take agency. I recognize that the fight women’s pay equality is much larger than my personal goals thus when I say I came to my purpose, I believe that my purpose found me.
Maya Angelous has a quote that I believe in deeply, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” I love the work that I do, it’s much larger than me and it feels a weight that I proudly carry even when it is tough. When I get an email, text or phone call from a woman saying, “I did it,” that to me is success. I get so excited for them I sometime shave to snap out of it and realize, “Oh that’s her hard work paying off, I’m just the coach and the cheerleader.”
My biggest success to date is inspiring at least 15 women that I know of to write their story and publish it. The reason why I count this as my biggest success is that we are inspired by others and we are pushed to become the best version of ourselves through stories. While I didn’t set out writing to write a best-selling book to inspire others, I realized that stories women tell in their books will inspire people I will never touch and that is success!
The tips that I have for creating an environment that helps all employees succeed are: teaching the difference between inclusion and diversity and how combined it makes a stronger more productive environment; Women’s equality is not a woman’s issue, it is a human issue. Discussing unconscious bias and the impact of small actions that can significantly impact another person. By facing the biases of women in the workplace through conversations about how women add value to the workplace; Bringing together groups of people with strongly differing views and working towards finding one thing in common that debunks the myth that an opposing view of another person makes them wrong or a ‘bad’ person. In work environments when employees understand how differences make the organization a stronger and better place to work they will be more inclined to learn about each other. Use data and transparency to shed light on problems such as the gender wage gap as a method to erase the wage.
In my view the best way to deal with harassment and inappropriate behavior in any office is to call out that behavior. It takes each person looking out for the other person and saying wrong is wrong. By banding together women and men have more power to confront harassment and inappropriate behavior. I firmly believe that there is strength in numbers whether the person being confronted is a boss, client or peer.
Scaling up is a top challenge I’ve faced and I’m overcoming that challenge with a strong set of mentors who have been where I am. I had to realize that I do not have to learn the hard way I can lean on others who have been down this road for guidance and support. It’s amazing how many people are willing to share guidance if you just ask. Also, in the journey to scaling up, I am aware of the need to add value to my mentors so that the relationship is mutually beneficial. It’s not just a one-way relationship I’m learning and growing as well as giving.
On tough days, I keep myself inspired by unplugging. I keep a gratitude jar on days when I deal with trolls or just feel like it’s an overwhelming task I pull out my gratitude jar and read notes or emails from clients that encourage me to keep going. I also nap when necessary because a good nap is sometimes just the boost I need to keep fighting.
I have so many role models but my great-grandfather was a WWII vet who was an exceptional carpenter. He was well known in our community for being excellent at whatever he did. He instilled in me the drive for excellence even if you have to put into profit to go the extra mile. My other role model who has significantly impacted my life is my mother. She had been an entrepreneur for over 20 years. She allowed me to start my first ‘business’ in the back of her hair salon selling snacks to clients. I had to manage my inventory and not eat all my product and most importantly I had to learn how to manage the money so that I could reinvest in the ‘business’ while this was just a fun game to me and not a real business it was a great lesson that I carry with me to this day. My mother taught me the importance of consistency and taking care of the clients because without clients you have no business to operate. No one achieves success alone, I have a tribe of role models who paved the way.