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This is Capitalism: Up Close, Inspired, Explained

Nov 9, 2020

Patricia O’Connell interviews Cortney Stapleton, Partner at Bliss Integrated Communications and one of the Founders of Exponent Women. Patricia and Cortney discuss why women in the dealmaking community benefit from networking and having a place where their voices are heard and their power is raised exponentially.


Listen in to learn how this networking organization can work for the dealmaking women in your organization.

Key Takeaways:

[:31] Patricia O’Connell welcomes Cortney Stapleton to CEO Stories on This is Capitalism.

[:57] Cortney and nine other women co-founded Exponent Women for senior women in the dealmaking community as a place where they can find content and partner with like-minded women to change the face of dealmaking.

[1:35] They wanted a place for senior women to come together in a trusted environment. The founders had done business with each other. They brought their networks together with trust in each other for deeper, more meaningful networking.

[3:06] Exponent aims to exponentially raise women to a new power within this industry. The dealmaking community is heavily weighted towards men, so they wanted to make sure women have a voice and meet like-minded senior women in these companies.

[3:44] Cortney and the other founders believe we don’t see women networking the same way as men. Men network with the same people they knew in college, play golf with, do business with, and go to the gym with. Women have separate networks of friends that don’t mix and they don’t tend to do business with them.

[4:59] Women often have deeper relationships within their networks and larger networks than men do but are uncomfortable asking their friends to do business. Exponent gives dealmaking women a safe space to talk about things they have a passion for in their careers and do business together.

[6:04] Exponent facilitates dealmaking women to feel comfortable making the “ask.” All events, whether in person or online, have the main event and then breakout rooms where a leader, usually a founder, asks the women to introduce themselves, what they do, and what their ask is — what they are looking for.

[7:00] Cortney describes some of the events they have sponsored with authors and facilitators, such as workshops on making the ask. Exponent focuses on bringing women together in inspiring spaces.

[7:58] An early deal in Exponent Women resulted in a $1.5 million commission for one of the members. The Exponent website displays testimonials of women who have made important deals through the network.

[9:05] Cortney’s main career is in integrated marketing communications. She has had lots of asks for organizational marketing help and individual marketing for women. Cortney has brought her network into Exponent to their benefit.

[9:55] When Cortney has a virtual “coffee” after an event, she comes away with one to three things to do to help the person she spoke to, such as connecting them with someone. Cortney focuses on strengthening connections.

[10:31] Exponent opens the way for speaking spots, going into companies to help them with executive visibility or marketing.

[10:48] Current Exponent events focus on deals that will be made despite COVID-19. Upcoming areas of focus are healthcare, technology, and the economy.

[12:00] Dealmaking always requires caution in choosing who is trusted around the table. Dealmakers also want to be around the table with people they like. In this virtual environment, it is necessary to have trusted connections because you are not sitting across from the person.

[13:22] Cortney feels more comfortable with her asks, being very overt about what she wants, and asking others about their asks, outside of the Exponent network. Exponent is a catalyst for senior women to make deals in their environment and workplace.

[15:11] Everyone wants to connect as much as possible, including by giving advice. There has to be a clear line for when advice is a service. It’s important when you’re putting down a specific idea to move a business forward to state that the relationship is moving into a consultative phase and you have a service offering.

[18:39] Exponent Women was formed for East Coast women. Women have flown in from Chicago and California for live events. With the shutdown and virtual tools, Exponent has been able to broaden nationally.

[19:30] Exponent is launching a new sector, Momentum, for junior women looking for mentorship from senior women in the dealmaking spectrum. Junior women have from two to ten years in the dealmaking community. Senior women have been in the industry for a couple of decades. Momentum will focus on topics more valuable to junior women.

[21:36] Every panel, including the annual Exponent Exchange, is very diverse, and includes speakers who are persons of color and LGBTQ persons, talking about investing in deals that are particularly focused on diverse markets.

[22:47] Cortney stresses the importance of diversity of thought, background, skin color, experience, incomes, and more. Clients include every form of diversity. Cortney’s firm, Bliss Integrated Communications, has focused on inclusion for years.

[24:16] Cortney notes the difference between lip service and a focus on diversity. It is important to hold brands accountable for their actions, not just for what they stand for.

[25:33] The world has become completely transparent. It’s so transparent now that you can see people’s living rooms! All of your information is out there. Brands can communicate more easily with their audiences.

[26:42] Cortney wants people to know about what Exponent is doing to bring senior women in dealmaking together. She wants to highlight the whole spectrum of people it takes to make a deal successful. Exponent brings women together to widen their circle of trust.

[27:42] Cortney talks about the role men play in Exponent Women on panels, such as Exchange. You need men to be a part of the change and the dialog.

[28:45] Exponent Women may move into other specialties beyond dealmaking, depending on where the women who are members take it. Right now, dealmaking seems inclusive enough for the women who participate.

[29:45] Cortney shares the website and LinkedIn links for Exponent Women.

[30:04] Patricia thanks Cortney for being on the podcast, This Is Capitalism.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Cortney Stapleton

Bliss Integrated Communications

Exponent Women
Exponent Women on LinkedIn


Microsoft Teams

Exponent Momentum Series

Black Lives Matter