Farnaz on Cultures and Archetypes, Featured, New World Strategies, New World Trends, New Realities, Women, Emerging Power

Do you know the underlying needs and values to address women effectively? 10 questions to ask your strategy team

Since the Wave 5 of the Ipsos MediaCT Audience Measurement Group came out earlier this month about Women, Power & Money, I read myriad of articles on the web.  There was one in particular by MediaPost which intrigued me, examining American women’s lives, lifestyles and marketplace choices across three generations—Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers.  I thought the findings identified cultural shifts in women’s priorities and how women are shaping the leadership and financial course of The New World Marketplace.  Of course, as an X-CMO, I thought they were all missing what companies and brands should do differently with their strategic positioning and branding messages with these new findings.  But that is why you are here, reading my blog.

There is no doubt that, despite gender lags in pay and salary negotiations, American women are feeling increasingly empowered, independent, knowledgeable and successful. According to Allianz women money and power research, women made up half of all stock-market investors and controlled 48% of estates worth more than $5 million in 2006-2007. By 2011 women controlled over 50% of the United States’ wealth, and 60% of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands and describe themselves as primary breadwinner.  And according to the latest U.S. Census, regardless of educational attainments, women out-earn their male partners in 22% of households….while this is not a big number worth bragging, it is a far cry from Cinderella archetype.

However, there are radically differing perceptions of financial responsibilities between women and men, says the report.  Women perceive controlling day-to-day spending, with ¾ or more feeling responsible for household purchases, while big-ticket purchases are considered joint responsibility.  Men perceive differently, seeing day-to-day decisions jointly, and big-ticket purchases as largely theirs.  Regardless of this differing perception, it makes sense, in any healthy relationship, to discuss and agree on big-ticket and joint-household purchases…while day-to-day spending may not warrant negotiations.  The same is true in any Corporate structure of financial responsibilities and sign-offs, isn’t it?  This speaks greatly to who should be targeted for what product/service purchases, singularly or jointly, varying by age/generation, culture, income and lifestyle.

Let’s face it.  Since the recession, messages of price value and affordability resonate across genders, cultures and generations.  But throughout the Ipsos study, women show greater tendencies toward price and value (despite income), more inclination to spend on “experiences”, and more openness to new brands….which make them less brand loyal (only 29% express brand loyalty).  Men are more likely to spend on products, less price focused (except for financial services) and show preference for familiar brands.  For women, the security and freedom money brings is 15-20 times more important than the status and respect it affords.

This report also highlights key generational differences:

  • Boomer women perceive more differences between men and women.  However, in my opinion, this is the generation that taught Gen Y about gender equality and “girls can do anything boys can do.”  The study shows that they are more swayed by messages related to “values” and corporate social responsibility, but I believe they are also leading the way with embracing the major cultural shifts for the younger generation…for their sons and daughters.
  • Gen X women are solidly in the lifestage of family formation and its associated trade-offs.  They seem more financially constrained and price-conscious—so price/value messages resonate best with this generation of women, and considered necessity.
  • Gen Y women, aka millenials, feel empowered and equal to men, and are more likely to describe themselves as smart (70% vs. 54% men).  But they also feel more stressed and exhausted in an uphill climb in achieving equal results with men.  Gen Y is also a global generation of women with perspectives and marketplace preferences that transcend gender and cultural borders, and are inspired by shared experiences of technology, innovation, social media, and new creative brands.

I believe it is the Gen Y women that will finally close the gender inequality in corridors of power in the future.  This new generation of women not only feel more ambitious, independent, smart and educated, but they are also less likely than men to be living with their parents—32% versus 40% of men–continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults living at home, according to Pew research.

In my book, I cited the Levi Strauss Millennial study that showed  values such as independence (96%) and being able to shape their own future (87%) trump everything… including becoming a mom (68%) and marriage (only 50%).  This generation of women who grew up with executive mothers see the hard-working, hard-charging work life as “extreme” and costs too great.  This is the most educated cohort of all times with a zest for entrepreneurship, if for nothing else, so they can shape their own future.  So clearly they have the greatest influence on cultural evolution for women.  (Also read, Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women)

If you think about it, these underlying “values” and “needs” have major implications in building emotional connections through your branding and communication strategies and messages.  More importantly, they help define need-based targeting for brand products and services.  For example, price/value is increasingly becoming a greater and greater “need” for women in providing quality life for families, and brands have greater and greater “need” to differentiate amidst the clutter with lower brand loyalties among women consumers.  Generational life phase clearly bring forth different set of needs, but the aspirational values for women cross over generationally and demographically.

Targeting women, in general, is an economic imperative and strategic necessity for profitable growth.  Targeting women effectively can also serve as a key strategic differentiation for companies.  Women not only control majority of buying decisions, but they also demand change and expect it to be meaningful.

If I was consulting for your company, I’d start with asking your strategy and marketing teams these 10 key questions.  Here they are…go ahead and ask your team….this is good starting point for your strategic discussions around your Value Propositions and branding/communication strategies:

  • Have we re-evaluated our core target to primarily include women ?
  • Have we defined which women, which needs and at what relative price?
  • Does our Value Proposition(s) identify and align with evolving needs and values?
  • How do we differentiate from competition?  Is this clearly being communicated?
  • Do we know which one of our products/services is “her decision” alone, and which ones are joint with her partner?  Are we communicating accordingly?
  • Are we enhancing “her experience”?  If so, how are we communicating this?
  • Does she consider us “affordable” relative to competition?  (Note:  affordable is not the same as cheap)
  • Are we avoiding gender biases and stereotypes in our communication strategies?
  • Have we identified the sweet spot of commonalities cross-generationally?
  • Are we recognizing and acknowledging The New World Modern Woman?

Can you and your team answer these questions effectively?  Are you ready to shift?

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Do women hold themselves back from corridors of power? My take on “Lean In”

It took several weeks of unusual summer rain in Atlanta and couple of days without phone, internet and cable, before I finished reading some of the books laying on my night stand for months.  One of them, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.

I was among many women who bought this book due to all the media hype, but didn’t read it immediately.  Mainly because there were so many articles, blogs, reviews, videos and TV interviews, that I felt I had already read the book.  But not true.  The promotional sound bites and all the controversy don’t do this book justice.  I must admit, reading her ‘acknowledgements’ section, which was as big as any chapter in the book, made me think that if I only had that much help with my book (or any help), I would end up with the same media coverage.  Envy aside, kudos to her and her team….I absolutely love her message and her courage to start this important dialogue, and believe her book is a must read for all women and men.  And here’s why…..

Sheryl Sandberg is the first woman who finally spoke up about internal barriers as much as external barriers that hold women back from reaching leadership positions.  It’s true.  Many women (not all) hold themselves back by lacking self-confidence through gender stereotype messages they hear and tend to believe throughout life….  by not raising their hands or sitting at the table…. and by pulling back when they should be leaning in (leaving before leaving).  Her TEDtalk speech with this main message reached over 550 million views.  In the book she goes further into complex challenges women face and adjustments/differences we can make ourselves: increasing self-confidence and closing the ambition gap, getting our partners to do more at home (Make Your Partner a Real Partner)… not holding ourselves to unattainable standards (The Myth of Doing It All)…. and of course my favorite–avoiding gender stereotypes (OK, she doesn’t have a chapter on this, but she references it allot and I’m personally all about this.)

All that sounds great, right?  I nodded my head in agreement most of the entire time and even laughed out loud quite a few times (it’s a witty, funny book).  So why all the controversy, and why are so many women so pissed off?  Sheryl may think it’s because success and likability are negatively correlated for women, by both women and men.  She has a chapter on this with great research no one can negate.  But I think there is more….I believe there are two main reasons at the core of the controversy and mixed responses by women about this important message:

First, many women don’t face these internal barriers, depending on cultural and family backgrounds, but face complex external barriers that hold them back.  It’s important to read this book without reaching any conclusions, because her argument does not negate external barriers, but pushes everyone to get rid of internal barriers critical to gaining power and success.  She poses this as the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation.  The chicken: women will tear down the external institutional barriers once we achieve leadership roles and make sure we level the playing field (one can shoot holes all over this with research too.)  The egg: we need to eliminate the external institutional barrier to get women into those roles in the first place.  Both valid, she encourages women that instead of debating over which comes first, to focus on the chicken and our own internal barriers.  It’s a brave move and rarely discussed.  Problem is, without reading the book, some think she is attacking the victim.  That is not true at all, but perhaps her marketing team have not done a good job balancing her promotional/media messages to include both, as she has done in her book, without alienating those women who truly know how to “lean in” but face institutional barriers.  Even those women can really benefit from her message of unconscious gender bias and stereotypes that women face ourselves, and against one another.

Second, and more importantly, I think people in general (men and women) have a harder time relating to those who have not been through similar experiences and hardships.  Overcoming severe adversities is a common thread among greatest leaders….one that entices people to listen, relate, learn and follow.  And Sheryl has not been through much other than difficult child labor and long work hours.  No one should ever hold that against her and the important message she is sending out to The New World Marketplace.  But this lack of common wo/man relatability goes far beyond a correlation analysis of success and likability.  We all love–regardless of gender, age and culture–hero/eins who rise from ashes like the Phoenix, overcoming adversities and helping others.

With all that said, I give “Lean In” a big thumbs up.  But I’d only re-write Time’s headline, “don’t hate her because she is successful,” and say, read this book regardless of how relatively easy success came to the writer, because the message is excellent, prevalent and important for all women and men cross-generationally.  Bravo Sheryl.

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New World Trend & Cultural Shift: Is Dad the New Mom?

We are used to generations of women doing the lioness’ share of child care and housework, even if they have jobs outside the home.  Now we are seeing rise of co-parenting and cultural shifts phasing out “husband and wife” and “father and mother” and replacing them with functional roles of “spouse and parent.”  Work-family balance is no longer a women’s issue—it is now truly a “family” issue as the word intended.

According to the most recent Census report, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 176,000.  And according to a report released by the Family and Work Institute last year, men are also experiencing work-family conflict, with 60% saying it was an issue in 2008 (up from 35% in 1977.)  That figure remained relatively flat for women (47% in 2008, 41% in 1977.)  Today’s Gen Y dads, aka millennials, spend 4+ hours per day with kids under 13, versus only 2 hours in 1977.

A similar WSJ article reported from Census that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Pew studies report that dads have tripled the amount of time they spend with their children since 1965.  Myriad of research showing increased share of household chores by men…not surprising given the increased presence of women in the workplace, right?  But the world outside of homes and inside marketing/branding meeting rooms haven’t caught up yet.

New World fathers are no longer seen as just financial providers or occasional babysitters.  They are actively engaged in their children’s daily lives and routine care and view fatherhood as a big part of their personal identities and a pride attribute of who they are as individuals.   Factors vary from job market and increasing cost of child care, to rise of women at work, blurring gender roles in the youth culture, and to a degree,  today’s men raised amid the women’s movement and perhaps absent fathers… But, no one can argue that the new world of more involved dads as full time partners in parenting has arrived and it’s here to stay.

What’s even more interesting is what Pew Research calls “breadwinner moms.”   A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.  The share was just 11% in 1960.  One of my continuous sound bites about The New World Marketplace is that 1/3 of Gen Y were into unwed mothers.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups:

1) 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated…grown from 4% in 1960 to 15% in 2011.

2) 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers, who are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, less likely to have a college degree, grown from 7% to 25% during the same period.  And they are more likely to be never married than divorced/separated.

No surprises here, education has always had direct correlation to income, and unfortunately to date, correlation to race/ethnicity (but this is changing.)  Interestingly, both groups of breadwinner moms have grown in size in the past as seen by increasing work population of women.  What may be surprising to most is that the total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner.  And married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands.  This is a trend most likely to escalate as we see for every 2 men graduating from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs.

What do all these cultural shifts mean to you and your businesses?

It’s simple.  Think about it.  Should diaper bags and child care materials all have pink bows and flowers on them?  Diaper Dude now sells dozens of styles of bags designed to appeal to men…grey, black, camouflage prints, even bags with baseball team logos.  Are you in the restaurant business?  Have you thought about changing tables in your men’s restrooms?  Are you in technology business?  Think of the AT&T ad showing a dad changing diapers while talking sports on his smartphone with his friend.

The new generations of parents use technology to feel connected and involved with their children.  It’s no longer just about reading the popular books on parenting, but also weekly customized e-mails from BabyCenter, apps like Contraction Timer, iPads at daycares logging activity throughout the day, watching your kids on your smartphones from your office.  Even doggie day cares allow that.  But why aren’t we seeing enough of these new world life scenarios in advertising campaigns for technology brands, specially using dads?  Working moms, hands-on dads and more involved young fathers are the new normal.  Think about that next time you are developing an ad campaign for a household product.

This type of cultural trend has significant impact on traditional paradigms and how marketers should view targeting families for products and services.

Yes… Women control 85% of consumer buying decisions.  Moms will remain a key target market for many business categories.  But what do you think appeals to women and moms?  Certainly not the old gender stereotypes.

Here are 3 simple tips to get you started:

1.  Don’t speak to mom at the exclusion of dad, unless you are targeting single mothers only …he is a trusted parenting partner.

2.  Avoid all gender stereotypes in your branding messages and strategies.  Market to shared values and needs, not gender.  Market to the inside of your customers, not outside.

2.  Don’t project your own traditional cultural paradigm in your branding strategies.  You are not your customers.  And it is The New World Marketplace, afterall.

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Cultural Change Expert explains why women don’t need to man up to be successful leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (by Tate Publishing)

ATLANTA, GA. – It’s The New World Marketplace afterall, and women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  A rapid cultural shift has occurred over the last decade, but author and thought leader Farnaz Wallace believes it’s not being addressed by businesses and leaders.

“With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power,” she said.  ”Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies to eliminate obstacles that force talented women to choose between family and career, and others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up–but I believe there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.”

Wallace breaks these down into four essentials for women to succeed in The New World Marketplace Leadership: Inner-authenticity, Being the woman leader other women want to work for, Re-defining Power, and Avoiding all gender stereotypes.

“I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love always follows,” she said.  ”But how can women gain trust and respect if they’re trying to be someone they are not?”  Wallace believes it’s far more important to find the richest, fullest expression of one’s authentic self, and spend majority of time in strength and passion and generate results, versus trying to fit into a perceived cultural norm.

“Research shows that women have a tougher time working for women,” she said.  ”To be a successful leader, people of all ages, cultures, race and gender must want to follow and work for you, specially other women.  Men and women largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.”

“That’s even more of an important toptic than gender inequality because the old business culture of command and control doesn’t work for men or women,” she said.  Wallace believes it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others, and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership–a blend of hard and soft powers, she calls it “smart” powers.  ”Women don’t need to man up to be successful, they need to possess smart powers,” she said.

“Women are different than other women, just as men are different than other men, why the continuous focus on gender stereotyping?” she asks.  ”I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.”

Wallace is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic consultant focused on helping companies capitalize on cultural macro trends in today’s fast-changing marketplace. She is the published author of the book, The New World Marketplace, and presently resides in Atlanta.

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4 Tips on How to Become A New World Woman Leader (Video/Blog)

With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power.  Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies as it relates to the flexible work schedule and eliminating obstacles that force brilliant women to choose between family and career.  Others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up.  While I think there is truth in both, I think there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.

In my keynote speech at Possible Woman conference two weeks ago, I addressed what it takes to be a successful woman leader in The New World Marketplace.  Here’s a 5-min video highlight of this keynote address followed by my written summary of the 4 tips I shared:

 

 

1.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect

I wasn’t just a woman working hard to advance my career in Corporate America, I was an Iranian-American woman….so you can just imagine the brutal stereotypes I had to face and overcome.  I wasn’t just an Iranian-American woman, but I had multi-colored hair and tattoos.   A far cry from a traditional image of a successful businessman.  But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves.  Under my CMO leadership, we drove 5 years of consecutive same-store-sales growth.   So, I built trust and respect instead of focusing on changing myself to fit into a cultural norm…and I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love follows.  Trust and respect are two most important shared values in relationships in The New World Marketplace.  But how can you possibly gain trust and respect of your collegues, employees, bosses, even your customers, when you’re trying to be someone you’re not?

It’s far more important to always find the richest, fullest expression of your authentic self, and spend majority of your time in your strengths and passion, versus trying to fit into an exclusive image of the professional businessman, which is no longer the success archetype in The New World Marketplace. Because being good at what you do has nothing to do with how others see you…but it has everything to do with how you see and feel about yourself.

I not only believe the inner authenticity translates in to your own power and success, but I believe authenticity in branding strategies also translates in to your company success.   Strategy is not about being the best, it’s about being different and unique.  Your own branding strategy has to be the same….about your own uniqueness and differentiation.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect and let the results speak for themselves.

2.  Be the woman leader other women want to work for

Beyond my non-traditional image and my business and financial performance, it was my style of leadership that differentiated me.  I was determined to become the woman leader other women wanted to work for.  As an emerging leader, I was always promoted every 2-3 years by working hard and driving results.  And I’ve had just as many female bosses as I’ve had male bosses….yet the women bosses weren’t the ones promoting me.  I always questioned whether it was a scarcity mentality that there is just not enough abundance to go around for all of us…or a flaw in leadership training for women.  I decided then that I wanted to be a woman leader other women wanted to work for and that I’d provide an environment for women to thrive and succeed.

As I was doing research for my book, I came across this data from Time Magazine:   More than 2/3 of women still think men resent powerful women…yet 45% of women say female bosses are harder to work for, versus only 29% of men.  This is a major issue not often addressed.

Believe it or not, men and women of all races and ages largely agree on life goals.  It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.  That’s even more of an important topic than gender inequality, because one of my biggest fear is reaching gender equality but maintaining the same business culture of domination, command and control.  Because that model is not working, and simply switching gender without redefining power and success will not address the core issue.

3.  Redefine Power as a blend of hard and soft powers – SMART powers

I believe it’s time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership.  In fact, the need to control and dominate, in reality, is a feeling of powerlessness.  That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination-oriented values.  I don’t believe you need to man up to be a successful woman leader.

Feminine values or soft powers are loaded with polarizing reactions, but they are meant to refer to values associated with creation, life-generating, nurturing powers, caring, relating…human and relationship values that have become a business imperative and taught in almost all leadership materials…versus taking, conquest and domination.

It’s time to use feminine and masculine powers as qualities and values in all women and men, instead of gender stereotyping.  Let’s face it…there are many women who lead with masculine hard powers, and there are many men who lead with relating, nurturing, caring & soft powers.  It has nothing to do with gender.

I believe we all need both…. and it’s a matter of knowing when to use which… Blend of hard powers and soft powers….let’s just call it “SMART POWERS.”  It’s time for women leaders to re-evaluate how they view power to succeed and use SMART powers.

4.  Stop gender stereotyping, avoid focus on gender differences

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Ask yourself why do we persist to focus on gender differences.  Men are logical.  Women are emotional.  If that’s true, and marketing is designed to get an “emotional” response and attachment from customers, why do we bother market to men at all?  Men are different from other men.  Women are different than other women.  Why the continuous focus on how men and women are different?  Haven’t we confused our next generations of leaders enough?

I, for one, have defied all gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to be a caring, nurturing woman as a leader.  I used my masculine powers to gain competitive market share and drive financial results, but I led my team with feminine powers of caring, relating and partnership.

The focus on gender inequality must be different than our continuous focus on gender differences.  In fact, I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.

 

In The New World Marketplace, it’s neither the man’s world nor a woman’s nation.  It’s a dynamic, cooperative shared reality that is under constant evaluation.  And the template of success and happiness is very unique and personal to each individual, and is gender neutral and color blind.  If you lead with authenticity, purpose and passion, power and success will follow.

 

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Farnaz Wallace Keynote Address at Diversity Woman Leadership Conference

Farnaz Wallace delivers a thought-provoking, motivational keynote about The New World Marketplace at 2012 Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference in Washington DC on December 17, 2012.  Here’s a short 3-minute clip of this speech:

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Farnaz Wallace Joins Possible Woman Conference As Opening Keynote, April 24

The dynamic Farnaz Wallace, author of The New World Marketplace and CEO/Founder of Farnaz Global LLC, will be the opening keynote speaker at the Possible Woman Conference Wednesday April 24 at Atlanta Marriott Marquis. In its 17th year, Possible Woman is an inspiring conference that connects attendees with the growth possibilities in every woman.

Wallace joins international dance star Judith Jamison, choreographer and artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who will be the luncheon keynote speaker.

As a former Chief Marketing Officer with Church’s Chicken who drove five years of consecutive sales growth outpacing the category, Wallace coined the phrase The New World Marketplace to define how women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future. She is a provocative thinker and an insightful strategist who helps leaders and companies capitalize on cultural macro trends and define their brand’s value proposition and sustainable revenue models in today’s fast-changing marketplace.

Of Iranian background, Wallace immigrated with her family to Louisiana at the age 15. She uses the lessons learned by overcoming issues of ethnicity, gender, class, caste, religious, political, economic and lifestyle experiences to shape her vision and keep it alive. She believes in the spirit’s deep desire for freedom, self-determination and self-expressions to maintain an inner authenticity. She leads others to find authenticity within themselves, their companies and customers.

“Her whole life has been a Possible Woman experience!” said Linda Wind, CEO of Wind Enterprises®, organizer of the annual regional leadership conference. “Her ideas are fascinating and will help makePOWER. PURPOSE. PASSION. Possible Woman 2013 the most dynamic Possible Woman event yet!”

Read More…..

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An Honest Discussion About Gender Gap – in Leadership and Politics

The gender gap continues as the hottest topic as both business leaders and women’s movement continue their focus on underrepresentation of women in high government positions, C-suites and corridors of power.  You don’t have to like politics or follow partisan conventions to know that the gender gap is at the forefront of political campaigns as well. The empowerment initiatives are overtly celebrated, but little to no honest discussions are taking place in regards to the real social, cultural and business barriers women face.

This is the Republican National Convention week.  Judging by the line-up of speakers, it is easy to see how the GOP is going out of their way to show that this is not just the party for the older white men.  Last night, Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez gave brilliant speeches.  Paul Ryan referred to his mom as his role model.  Ann Romney saluted moms, specially working moms who have to work a little harder.  All clearly designed to bridge the gender gap for the Romney campaign.  Again, empowering but no mentions of the real issues and barriers, nor any solutions on how to overcome them.

Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote an amazing, honest article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.  I personally wouldn’t use that title, because asking whether women can have it all is a rhetorical question.  We never seem to ask if men can have it all, and the question itself is airbrushing reality for both men and women.  It’s the same ironic label as “working women” when women represent over 50% of the work force.  We don’t seem to ever say “working men.”

Slaughter stepped down from her high power government position so she can spend more time with her sons.  She notes reasons such as, inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel and constant pressure to be in the office, conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, and the insistence that work be done in the office.  This is not unique to Slaughter.  These are the barrier most women face with our current social and business policies, particularly in positions of power.  What is more unique is her financial independence and the ability to choose family over career.  A choice most working mothers, with the same maternal instincts, do not have….they struggle to simply keep what they already have.  This may explain why we have over 50% women representation in low-to-mid-management positions but a very small token in top positions.

Do we want social/business policies and political platforms that keep women at home or a better gender balance in leadership that has proven over and over again to grow the businesses and economy?  This brings us up to the honest dialogue about the gender gap.

When given a choice, women seem to make compromises that men are less likely to make.  Of course, fathers do not love their children any less than mothers do, but men seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their career.   Whether this “choice” is culturally driven or maternal instincts (I think it is both), the reality remains that positions of power provide that choice, while lower positions are occupied by those without one.

Work-life balance is not a women’s issue—it is a social and business issue for all of us. Slaughter offers good solutions for flexible working hours, investment intervals and family-comes-first management culture….shifting the false notion of when, where and how work will be done.  I agree and implemented all these suggestions in my previous C-suite position, while generating great financial results.  I’d add longer maternity leave, better affordable child-care, and women’s health issues to this list—particularly pertinent for those working mothers, without a choice, who are our future leaders.

Many men, just like women, would like this cultural change too, but we need to redefine what success looks like.  Her article sites research proving that organizations with extensive work-family policies have better performance.  So, what do you think is stopping politicians, specially female politicians who fight so hard for women’s votes, from addressing these issues?  We keep hearing that children are our future, but are they paying any respect to our future when it comes to working mothers?

I don’t have any kids, so this is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in policies that support women not to choose between family and career.  I can afford my own insurance, so taking away women’s right to have health insurance pay for birth control is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, and the freedom to “choose.”  Professional success with real commitment to family life–with or without kids–is important to everyone.  Don’t you think it’s more about country’s social and business policies than women’s lack of ambition, as often repeated by the status quo?

Political campaigns are rightfully centered on job creation and keeping women and men employed.  But they are missing a greater point on how to support families when they are employed.  A big opportunity in closing the gender gap in leadership, as well as political votes.  You see, it’s time to have an honest dialogue about the gender gap.

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Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women – Should Men Falling Behind?

I saw the movie Snow White & the Huntsman last week and was intrigued by the twist to this fairy tale.  This Snow White didn’t just lie down waiting to be kissed and saved.  She got trained in the art of war by the Huntsman and led an army of her fellow men in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.  These archetypal changes for the roles of women is nothing new in movies and our pop culture.  Remember Princess Leia standing up to Darth Vader in Star Wars, or Trinity fighting alongside Neo in The Matrix?  And who can argue whether Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond or not?

The hero/ine is an archetype that is universal, but we are now recognizing that it is also gender neutral.   Practically all new epic movies from Avatar to Harry Potter have female heroines as well as males heroes who physically go to war, fight injustice, and bring peace, harmony and happiness to the world.  I find it interesting that different female archetypes throughout history were far more diverse and complicated than where we ended up in our current social model and branding messages.  Even in the classical music world, we’ve seen classical trumpeters as stereotypically male.  But women like Alison Balsom, who won the female artist of the year in Classic Brit Awards 2011, have trumped that stereotype as well.

I read an interesting article on New York Times, Boys Have Fallen Behind, about how American girls have achieved parity with boys in math but are well ahead in verbal skills and reading.  The National Honor Society says that 64% of its outstanding members are girls. Some colleges even give special help to male applicants to avoid skewed sex ratios.  How is that for a change?  Among whites, women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of master’s degrees. Among blacks, the figures are 66% and 72%.  One of my own continuous sound bites: for every two men graduating from college, three women graduate, and with better GPAs.  This is real, and contrary to the popular belief that it may due to multicultural demographic growth in the US, it is a global concept.

The National Bureau of Economic Research outlines this beautifully in the article, Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College.  In 2003, there were 1.35 females for every male who graduated from a four-year college. That contrasts with 1960, when there were 1.6 males for every female.  This article suggests that the shift started in the 70s when women aimed to have careers rather than to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, and as a result the age of first marriage increased by 2.5 years.  Factors include the availability of the contraceptive “pill”, the feminist movement, social acceptance of co-habitating without marriage and higher divorce rates.  By 2009, the median age for the first marriage was delayed by 5 years (Do You Really Know 20-somethings).  I believe it is a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.

And to top it all off….Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech, either.  It turns out that women are new lead adopters of the whole bundle of technology.  The technology industry’s focus on men is just a reflection of women’s current underrepresentation at major venture capital firms and electronic/internet companies.  And it is built on a plain wrong stereotype and a far cry from the reality of the new marketplace.  To negate this stereotype further, this research shows that the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, not the 18-24 year olds.  So who do you think you should ask about what the future looks like?

At a time when men are still hugely overrepresented in Congress, on executive boards, and in the corridors of power, do we think this will shift the future of our Corporate and Leadership culture?   The Dark Side of Girls’ Success in School article in Huffington Post argues that it won’t unless girls shift the “good student” toolkit for greater risk taking and challenging the authority.  This article attributes girls’ success in school to respect for an obedience of authority, careful rule-following, people-pleasing and succeeding in an externally imposed framework…qualities that will translate into their success at lower-mid-levels, but not as leaders and game changers.  While there may be some truth in this perspective, I can shoot holes in it by women’s zest for entrepreneurship, which is all about risk taking…and decades of women’s movement which is all about challenging the authority and shrugging off criticism.

So when I’m asked on interviews whether we will ever achieve gender equality in leadership in my life time, I always say, yes, we will, and just by default of this cultural evolution currently in progress.  Even the child care culture is evolving as men get more involved with this responsibility.  And young families will end up with the spouse most qualified to earn higher pay taking on greater financial responsibility, regardless of gender.  Again, a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.

Should we care whether boys are struggling in schools and underrepresented in colleges?  Of course we should.  The feminist movement, rise of women and the evolving cultures and archetypes were always about equality and partnership–to make the best use of human capital for economic success and to enhance our social models–but never about the shift in power, making one inferior to the other.  Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone focused on their own personal and unique strengths and passions, regardless of gender?  I would argue that this will be the only way to increase productivity and prosperity , both at work and in personal lives.

 

 

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50 is the new 30

Have you heard this, or seen this on t-shirts and bumper stickers?  It’s true.  I’m turning 50 this summer, so I’m inspired to write a blog about what this really means.  People flatter me all the time by saying I don’t look my age.  But I’m not the only one.  Turning 50, for many, have made it possible to live an active, healthy, productive lifestyle.  This is a game changer for many businesses that have been stuck with their 18-49 target planning.  And here’s why….

In my 2012 trend predictions blog, I noted that with baby boomers staying younger and more fit, expect to see a higher % of ad dollars for them.  There is more.  Boomers 50+ have unique life stage milestones that provide them with the means to splurge more on bigger-ticket items—changing jobs, starting a new business (yes, thank you very much), children going off to college or getting married, adopting a healthier lifestyle, changing homes,  developing new hobbies, discovering new habits, taking more trips, joining the digital/mobile way of living, enrolling in weight loss programs, becoming care givers to parents or even a spouse.  This is more than just going through a mid-life crisis of ditching the spouse and buying a motorcycle/sports car, or jumping out of an airplane.

Maybe it’s just about forgetting to get and feel older.  For women, in particular, it’s about saying good bye to invisibility and getting traded in for the younger.  I think 35 to 60 is where it all comes together for women with elegant maturity, spiritual wisdom and a balanced outlook on inner and outer beauty.

This mid-life transition, once a very exhausting and confusing life stage, is now a midpoint to another adult life that can easily last 30 to 40 years more, thanks to medical science coupled with holistic herbal approach, greener/healthier forms and diet, active lifestyle, and living a more meaningful life in pursue of happiness beyond a paycheck and financial planning.  These are rapid cultural shifts with a completely different set of needs and values.  Our pop culture, from actresses and TV personalities to business leaders and writers, is already redefining 50.

Companies who understand the dynamics of this new milestone and negate existing stereotypes will be able to intelligently develop products and services that allow this new 50+ target maximize the upside of their lives, and will win in the New World Marketplace.

So to all friends:  let’s celebrate the new 50 and start redefining our culture.

PS—My pre-release party and book signing event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18thClick here for the details.

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