I am taking a break from our goal setting challenge today because of a news story that has been making the rounds and causing some controversy.
A family from Louisiana decided to do something a little different for their Christmas card this year. Upon doing so a firestorm was created on social media . Before I go on, let me stress that in no way do I think that this family or photographer intended to promote violence against women (as many of the comments on social media elude to). I do however think that this points to a larger problem, this family didn't see why this image might be sending the wrong message
So, why is it the wrong message? This picture creates the illusion that silencing women of all ages is okay.
it is not!
It implies that getting women to shut-up can be celebrated with a thumbs up.
It implies that silencing a woman can be laughed at with a witty tagline.
Research shows that the first step to violence and terrorism against any group of people is that of dehumanizing them. Making them less than human by reducing them to a body part or an object, or even by silencing them. All of this is destructive but the silencing is the one that hits me the hardest.
It can be argued that most people are looking to be heard. What happens when we take that option away? When we take away a person's voice, we take away their ability to fight, to be heard, to be understood. We become less than in our own head. We become unhappy, unsatisfied, uninspired.
Some of you may be reading this and think that I am giving this photo/concept way too much energy but you would be wrong. There is a wealth of evidence to back me up.
I studied "communications" in school. I decided it had a broader reach than a traditional marketing degree. With this I chose to spend a large part of my time studying gender and kids. I knew that this is the direction that the business world was going and wanted to better understand the consumer that I would potentially be marketing too. I now work in marketing and realize the approach I took is rare. Very few if any marketers actually take course work focused on gender, psychology or sociology. Maybe a class here or there, but no real emphasis on it. This is why I struggle with my profession. At it's core, marketing is convincing people to buy, do or act. It works with the psyche and what motivates people. It is great responsibility.
Unfortunately, it seems sometimes like marketers are worse than the stereotypes of lawyers. I say that because in my experience very few people in marketing actually know anything beyond the "business" part of marketing. Marketing is so much more than that. It is about knowing how people think, what they desire and why and using that information for good. How can you do this if you don't know anything beyond the numbers?
Marketing shapes the way we look at the world, whether we like to admit it or not. Marketing and media shapes the way we see and feel about ourselves subconsciously, it convinces us what we want and what we need. Herein lies the responsibility. Do we use this power to do good and make the world better or do we use it to make a buck? Are they mutually exclusive?
I would argue they are not.
We live in a visual society, one that puts emphasis on "seeing is believing". Instagram has exploded on the scene, as has Snap Chat and a number of other social networks that focus solely on imagery. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If it is that how can we remain complacent with imagery like this family photo or any of the images on this post? How can we claim ignorance as to what these image are really saying?
How can you call yourself a marketer if you don't know how consumers digest the imagery and content you are putting in the universe?
my opinion? you can't.
I could continue to go on about this but realize this is an much bigger subject than a single blog post. So I will come down from my soap box for a minute and get back to the point Did this family have ill intent when creating this holiday card? of course not. Does it speaker to a larger problem in our society? Of course it does. I couldn't let today go by without at least addressing it. I won't apologize for this big soap box because I believe so full heartedly in it but I will work to better formulate my thoughts for future posts.
I would like to say one more thing regarding the "witty tagline" that says "peace on earth". The silencing of women will not create "PEACE ON EARTH". In fact, it is the attempted silencing of women that is causing so much destruction, war and terror on this place we called Earth.
This week I had the pleasure of being able to speak at the University of San Francisco. It was such a great experience to talk about "The Economy of Gender in Sports" with a group of people just embarking on the career as students in the Sports Marketing Master's Program. You can see how excited they are to start the next chapter and be part of an industry that they love. There is something contagious about that. It almost makes you want to go back. (I said ALMOST)
The part that excited me the most was seeing how many women were in the room. Traditionally sports hasn't been the most welcoming place for women but in the last decade or so things have slowly started to change and these women were proof of that. What struck me though was what followed my presentation. A number of the ladies came up to me (which is common after speaking) but it was what they said that was truly inspiring to me.
One of the women explained that she had not previously known how she would fit into the industry and if it was the right place for her but seeing the data and information, she saw it and was excited about what that could mean for her future. Another said that she had always wanted to do this but that this just made it real. And yet another said that she had never been on the dge of her seet for a presentation before adn for this she was. The reason for this had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the content.
Often times as women, we know what we want to do or we know we want to do something but it is rare that we are able to see in advance where the opportunities are and how we can ft in and being able to share details of the industry and how women fit in allows women to see a path and have the confidence to move forward. It is not lost on me that I get to be the microphone for that cause. It is because of this I thought I would share a little bit of the information I shared with them to hopefully help you get inspired to get out there too.
P.S. One last thing. Major shout out to the University of San Francsico Sports Marketing Management program for inviting me to participate and the students in the program for having such a great dialog and reminding me why I do what I do.
Yesterday I started a 5 day series that I am calling "5 in 5" each day this week I will cover a different hurdle and tips for clearing them as we start climbing those ladders so that we can shatter those glass ceilings. It's a lot of work, so let's get started. First, a reminder of the topics the topics...
- Sorry not sorry (Posted Monday August 3, 2015)
- I"m here for a reason, get over it
- A lil' swag goes a long way
- Just ask Kanye
- Eww, verbal diarrhea is so not cool
- Seriously, dude, it's not a good look
- I got shot gun, I called it
- (and other ridiculous game you should learn to play)
- Let em' hear you roar
- (it's okay, we promise)
Today, we talk SWAG. Not the free stuff brands give out to convince you to like their product. I am talking about real swagger here.
First, a definition. Swagger is a hip-hop term that you are probably farmiliar with but I am putting a bit of a spin on my definition. You will notice I defined it as "graceful confidence". I did this because when we are talking workplace, hustle and purpose, there has to be a certain grace to your actions. You have to balance between being cocky, self assured, confident and a total jerk. If I had a visual for this it would be Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. If you do not know who they are, shame on you. They were both dancers, singers and actors who moved with a quiet, distinguished and definitely graceful confidence. There was something about it that was just.....well...
cool with out even knowing it. Don't believe me? Watch for yourself.
Ok, so what do tap dancers have to do with swag and what does swag have to do with the workplace?
It's simple, every single thing in the workplace comes down to one thing... confidence. With out it, you aren't going very far. But if you are a woman the rules are a bit different.
There are studies out there that show identical resume's being looked over by people. The only difference was the name on the top of the resume, for example John vs. Jennifer. The men were always evaluated much more favorably than the women regardless of the gender of the person doing the evaluation. Studies range by occupation and industry but the result are startlingy similar. All of the things that people use to describe men as competent and exception at work are the same traits that are used to say the women are not.
Negative words are more often used to describe a woman's performance. In many cases, the woman can't win. If she acts "like one of the guys" she is deemed unpleasant, aggressive, bossy etc. If she acts "like one of the girls" she is emotional, unstable, fickle. Talk about playing a game with a loaded deck.
I ran into the situation more than once during my career. I can pull out review after review that use the following adjectives to describe me:
- too passionate
- need to develop your leadership skills more
- too invested in the job
- bitchy or condescending, bossy,
- rub some people the wrong way
- doing too much, other people are feeling "dwarfed" (yes that is a real quote)
- "maybe take it down just one notch"
Sadly, this list could go on. It is this same list however that would have co-workers come to me for advice and bosses asking me to take lead, be an example and to grab the bull by the horns and get things done. All of my reviews in my career have been marked with an "exceeds expectations" and full raises/bonuses, you name it but the negative language you see above was also in all of them.
How do we then deal with this catch 22? I can only speak from my own personal experience and so I will share with you what I have experienced.
When all of this negative language is presented to you, find out what they would suggest you do to change it for the better. Ask you bosses questions. Questions and insight are powerful weapons. Use them to navigate the "aggression" which I call "confidence" to your advantage.
Don't just ask any questions though. Ask them tough question that require your superiors to have just as much responsibility for your success as you have. Ask what you can do. Ask for examples of when what you did or said could be perceived negative. You will start to see some patterns.
I noticed that the things they were complaining about were also the things they liked in other employees. So I did the comparison game. Now I do no normally recommend this but in this instance it made sense.
Seek out people in your organization that you admire, people who are hard working, have great reputations for getting things done and being effective leaders. Ask all of these people to coffee or lunch or even drinks. Now ask them questions as well.
When I did this I asked both the women and men the same questions.
What do you struggle with in the workplace if anything regarding your gender?
Is it hard to work in an office full of people of the opposite gender?
Got any tips for how to navigate the corporate structure with regards to these things?
When the women responded I started to see similarities. When I asked the men the same question I got a lot of blank and/or confused stairs and a question in return "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."
This was an interesting experiment and one I highly recommend. Next pull your bosses aside and ask some simple questions. Ask them to compare you to a male counterpart. GASP! right? Ask the following:
- Am I more or less passionate than him?
- Am I more of less aggressive than him?
- Is my work better or worse than his?
When asked these questions, every single manager I asked answered "no" or in some instances "more and better". Well, that's not confusing at all. It's like the boys who says he likes you one day, then pulls on your pigtails the next day.
The cherry on top for me was the question below:
have you ever heard anyone in leadership use these same words to describe him?
do they call him a bitch?
Do they say he is bossy?
do they tell him to take it down a notch?
Blank stares, sit back in chairs, shadow of understanding comes across faces followed by a frantic brain scan to figure out what to say were typically the responses I received.
This is a long way to say that having the confidence to ask the questions and speak up when something isn't right is swag. It is graceful confidence because it is trying to determine where and if improvements truly need to be made. It puts the focus on the work and not the gender.
I can not necessarily say after this happened, I no longer felt a gender bias at work. If that were the case, it would have been once boss I spoke to instead of multiple. However, I did notice in all cases, a different level of respect from those particular managers. In one case, my next review raved about all of the changes I had made to become a really "solid leader" of the team and that I had really taken the criticism to heart and made the necessary changes to go further in my career.
I swear to you, I changed nothing except the fact that I asked those questions.
Sometimes we have to get people to see us in another light and sometimes you have to work your way around the path to get to the final destination. Do whatever works for you but don't shy away, get quiet and sit down in the corner. We gain nothing from shrinking into the background. Sometimes, you gotta get a little Kanye West up in the place (in the most respectful way possible of course.) So turn up your collar, put on those high heels (as my friend Suzanne just emailed me) and get your swagger on.
To the cool kids, hipsters and people in the hip-hop game, thanks for letting me borrow your slang for this. I realize I may not be the intended demographic for such language but it works and it resonated with me, so again ... no apologies, just thanks.
Have you ever got all Yeezy on a situation at work? Tell me about in the comments below or on social media using the hashtags
Tomorrow we continue the series and just to prepare you, things may sound a little gross because we are talking about verbal diarrhea. I know, as Jimmy Fallon would say ... EWW.