Farnaz on Featured, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, New World Trends, New Realities, Women, Emerging Power
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.
If you liked this blog, please “share”…. and I love to read your comments, too.
We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in the US, and most people and companies are not aware. Some of us who are, ignore it or simply not happy about it. Just the word “multicultural” draws in polarized reactions. This is one of the three macro trends that I define as imperatives for business and social success in the future. And it is shaping the emerging middle class in America.
I remember the marketing days when Latinos were primarily segmented into the lower income category. But that is no longer the case, is it? According to a new Nielsen report published last month, Latino’s income growth during the past decade has significantly surpassed the nation’s average. Although 43% of Latino’s still earn below $35k/year (versus 35% total), 36% earn $35-75k (at par with 34% total) and growing at a higher rate. What may be even more surprising to most is that 10% earn $75-100k, which is a 31% growth since 2000…. and 11% over $100k per year, which is a dramatic 71% increase.
Over 52 million strong, or 1 in 6, Latino buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 will change to $1.5 trillion by 2015. You can expect Latino population and buying power to continue growing even with the decline in the immigration numbers.
Let’s put this into context… There are more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, Malaysians in Malaysia, or South Africans in South Africa. Latinos in the US represent second-largest Latino nation, right after Mexico, and before Spain, Columbia and Argentina. If a standalone country, the buying power would be one of the top 20 economies in the world.
In my November blog, how to reach the fastest growing Asian market, I explained how the Asian market is over-indexing the US national average in just about every meaningful consumer category—specially in income, education and family size. With this recent study showing Latino income on the rise, we can safely say that the landscape of American middle class is rapidly changing into a multicultural mosaic. We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in America, which will in turn redefine every aspect of the pop culture, consumerism, politics, economy and business. Just think of how branding strategies will have to shift for retail, residential buying, food, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment and media.
American marketers have never relied on a broad-stroke depiction of White consumers. They should keep the same mindset when it comes to Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups. Stereotyping the Latinos or Asians in the US will not be any different than stereotyping Caucasians.
According to Census, among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns. Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial children accounted for all the US youth growth in the last decade. Think of how this will define the next generation of our country. The multi-racial children are clearly the result of inter-racial marriages. Marriage across racial and ethnic lines has doubled since 1980, with 41% of all intermarriages in 2008 between Hispanics and whites, 15% between Asians and Whites, 11% between blacks and whites, and 16% in which both parties are non-white.
Contrary to the popular belief on language barrier, Neilsen particularly notes that Latino consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, TV, online video and social networking/entertainment makes this group one of the most engaged in the digital space. During February 2012, Latinos increased their visits to social networks/blogs by 14% from a year ago. This is also true for all multicultural population as Gen Y is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. Unlike the ethnic groups in previous generations assimilating in the mainstream culture, the new and young multicultural populations take big pride in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and are considered acculturated.
This article is not intended to be an advertising campaign for Hispanic media and agencies. For me, it is critical to add that older, white males are just as much part of the multicultural societies as any other ethnic groups. I define Multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse. That does not mean excluding Caucasians or implying ethnic minorities only.
So, how are you defining or stereotyping your multicultural initiatives?
It doesn’t take a visionary to know that the world is different from the way it was only a decade ago. And it will be even more different a decade from now. It’s the pace and complexity of the cultural shifts that has brought on the degree of change that is shaking up society as we see it today. Walk through any retail store or business office today, and you will see how “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of image, race, ethnicity, lifestyle and culture.
Image by definition means a representation of the external form of a person or thing – the opinion or concept of something that is held by the public. When you think of an Asian, Muslim, Hispanic or African American person or customer, what images come to mind? What type of stereotypes, biases and prejudices are holding you and your organizations back from relating and engaging cross-culturally?
When I was a CMO, I was an Iranian woman at an American company. I had tattoos and multi-colored hair. Sure, I wore my Prada suits, and dressed differently at work than at the beach or a visit to an ashram. But I projected an image that traditional business wasn’t comfortable with. And guess what? I drove five consecutive years of sales growth, something that more conventional CMOs in that role had never done. People ask me how I did it. Simple. I brought forth my passion, built a great team of multi-and-cross-cultural talent, and looked inside the multicultural target customers. I avoided all stereotypes.
The new millennium has marked a change from traditional business practices and stereotypical views of gender and ethnic roles in a society. More and more everyday, companies and agencies are aiming cross-cultural marketing towards general market. The automotive industry, as an example, has done a great job in multicultural branding. But despite dollars and efforts spent, a study showed that a multicultural customer going to a car dealer is kept waiting 27% longer. How many times does a sales person judge what the customers can spend just by looking at them? Isn’t everyone looking for value these days?
Yes, I am an evangelist for 3 major macro trends: Women, Youth and Multi-and-Cross-Cultural. But by no means do I intend to imply that it should be a woman’s world where White or older men should not be valued. I believe in an androgynous mind and a color blind society – a world where performance and ethical values meet. As Seth Godin puts it, companies we think of as ethical got that way because ethical people made it so.
Next time you are re-evaluating your Value Proposition, and conducting marketing research, don’t get lost in the pile of facts and data. Consider tapping into internal motivators and values, and communicate your marketing messages accordingly. More importantly, make sure your customer experience delivers on your brand promise. You must be willing to forsake all your past biases and prejudices to succeed in the New World Marketplace. And it is time to market and engage customers from their inside, not their outside image.
If I was born from 1982 to somewhere close to 2000, I’d be feeling pretty unique and awesome by now. Let’s look at some Gen Y characteristics that are stereotyped: idealistic and socially conscious, confident, ambitious, achievement-and-team-oriented, authenticity seekers, attention cravers, culturally liberal, virtual relationships, engage or loose me, ask and guide me, immersed in the digital world from an early age…. This is known to be a generation of self-confident optimists due to years of helicopter parenting and unconditional positive reinforcement from work-centric and goal-oriented Baby Boomer parents who over-compensated for how tough they had it.
While all that may be true, when was the last time we asked a Hispanic, African American, Asian or multiracial Gen Y if these so-called core traits apply to them? Did they have helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them? I’m not convinced that socio-economic groups other than white affluent teenagers display the same Gen Y attributes we read about. It’s not that multi-and-cross-cultural parents don’t want to treat their kids as special, but they often don’t have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources to do it.
Since the 2000 Census allowed people to select more than one racial group, Gen Ys have asserted their rights to have all their heritages respected, counted and acknowledged. 2010 Census showed 32% growth in multiracial category from 2000, and on track to grow another 25%.
I think we can look for cross-cultural commonalities and find these shared values and characteristics:
- Yes, first era of reality TV, rise of dot-com, virtual relationships
- Change is mandatory, make it meaningful
- Demand for authenticity and honesty
- Culturally liberal, color and gender neutral if it weren’t for parents influence & 9/11
- Family centric with much closer relationship with parents, unlike the “individualistic” Gen X’ers
- Delaying some rites of passage into adulthood (for more on this, click here)
- Love flexibility and work-life-balance even more than Gen X’ers
- So, yes, perceived as a bit lazy by workaholic Boomers
- Less employed than any other generation due to the economic situation starting up in
- More educated, purchasing power rivals that of the Boomers
- Leverage the digital world to connect, engage & motivate – but want it personal & real
- Freedom, equality, opportunity, inspiration & honesty are cross-cultural shared values
How do you think all this will re-define Corporate America as Baby Boomers start to retire? You’d have to be willing to make a difference to make a living. Think of Lady GaGa and her message of “be who you are”, and Black Eye Peas, a group as multi-culti as you can get. Cross-cultural messaging through commonalities works. Start now.
We’ve all heard Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Most of us may have even read the book. We stereotype genders, and get stereotyped ourselves…more than you can imagine. There are many theories, articles and books – many scientific – that claim women’s brains are clinically different from men’s. Many attempts to rationalize why women and men behave and react differently. Why? Just so we can understand our “segmentation” theories and market to them accordingly? How are you and your companies stereotyping these human behaviors?