What comes to mind when you think of a poker game? Is it a basement or a casino? Is it filled with smoke? Is it mostly men? If those are the assumptions you made, you’re not far off because out of the one hundred million people who play poker, fewer than 10% of them are women. Learning the game of poker isn’t just for fun, it can teach women key skills in life — making bets on themselves, taking risks at work, and practicing their best poker face in a negotiation.
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Erin Lydon has spent much of her career making male-dominated fields more equitable for women. At the start of her career, she worked in private banking at J.P. Morgan. While she loved the job, at the end of her first year there she found out that her bonus was nowhere near as high as her male colleagues. Looking back, she realized it was because she didn’t know she was supposed to push back — she didn’t know how to play the game. “I just felt like there’s this whole game being played and I didn’t understand it because I didn’t know I was supposed to ask for more,” Lydon says.
Lydon is now the President of Poker Power, a women-led community that uses the game of poker to build confidence, challenge the status quo, learn strategy, and assess risk. She wants women to understand that they do have a seat at the poker table. “What happens every single time we do this is a woman will come to the moment in the game where she should shove her chips all into the middle of the table, put all her value into the middle of the table, and she’ll say, ‘Can I just keep back six or seven of them for a rainy day fund?’ And we say, ‘No. You cannot keep back six or seven of them,’ because this is the behavior we’re trying to change.”
Listen to the How She Does It podcast to hear more about Erin Lydon’s career from private banking to poker whiz, the difference between a fish and a shark (in poker, not the aquarium), and how women can use the skills learned in poker to navigate everything from a divorce to a raise.
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