Melissa

When It Comes to Networks, Women Need Quality Connections

Networks are key to anyone’s career advancement, but this is especially true for women, who are underrepresented at all levels of business, from first tier managers to the C-Suite. That means peers and colleagues aren’t readily available in the workplace, and a woman must step outside of her daily professional connections to find the support and quality networks that she needs.

Even though women are strong collaborators and communicators, we tend to have fewer business-related connections than our male counterparts. We also tend to divide the connections we do have into personal and professional groups, with less evident overlap than men. This presents some challenges when it comes to building or advancing our careers.

New research in Harvard Business Review by Brian Uzzi, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, finds that when looking at groups of MBAs—analyzing both the makeup of the subjects’ networks and the types of jobs they found after graduation – men benefit not so much from size of network but from being central in a network, or connected to multiple “hubs,” or people who have a lot of contacts across different groups. Women also benefit from being central in a network, “but to achieve the executive positions with the highest levels of authority and pay they also had to have an inner circle of close female contacts, despite having similar qualifications to men including education and work experience.”

Uzzi concludes, “Because women seeking positions of executive leadership often face cultural and political hurdles that men typically do not, they benefit from an inner circle of close female contacts that can share private information about things like an organization’s attitudes toward female leaders, which helps strengthen women’s job search, interviewing, and negotiation strategies.”

For women it isn’t the size of the network that matters, it’s the type of connections that make a difference. Thankfully, a woman’s most formidable strength is her ability to build relationships. This is what networking is really about, not just connecting on LinkedIn, trading cards, or getting business leads. True networks are built on commonalities and trust. You can’t predict when someone you know might make a connection to help you in your career or your life, or when you might help someone else with a referral. The depth and breadth of your network also build a personal and professional safety net, and the connections themselves can bring great joy and satisfaction.

Small Networks Can Make a Big Difference

A strong network doesn’t have to be big to be effective. This is a topic addressed in the book, In This Together, where we discuss a time in Dr. Nancy’s life where she struggled with feeling a lack of support and decided to build a community of like-minded women who would support each other, and realized that when we help one another, anything is possible. “I found that community with the women I call my Psyche Sisters,” she said. “All eight of us were seasoned therapists working on our doctorates in clinical psychology. We gave each other moral, physical, and emotional support, and all eight of us received our doctorates and became licensed psychologists. We have continued for more than twenty years to meet, reflect, encourage, and celebrate who we are as women and psychologists.”

A Strong Network of Women Can Change a Community

We also share the story of Paige Oxendine and Rachel Anderson in the book, In This Together, who were united in a determination to make a difference and show what women can do. They noticed that the leadership of almost everything in their Springfield, Missouri, community could be characterized as overwhelmingly “male, pale, and stale,” and they asked, “Where are all the young women and minorities?

With a grant from the Women’s Foundation in Kansas City, they set up a women’s network, which they named Rosie, and held their launch party the week after the November 2016 presidential election. The realized they’d struck a nerve when more than 200 women showed up. Today, Rosie provides a support and advocacy system, as well as a referral pipeline for female speakers and board members. Their mission is to help connect, partner, collaborate and continue to increase the support and access to resources for women as it relates to professional development, business assistance and leadership, and they support, assist and serve as an advocate network for current and prospective female founders, business owners and leaders in the Springfield region.

Network with Purpose

To build a network that will help you through the good days and bad, and help you continue to advance, think quality over quantity. It’s less about how many people you know, and more about who those people are. Uzzi also recommends that you embrace randomness and diversify your network and inner circle.

Ultimately, you have to put your skills to work and build a network with purpose and focus on connections that can be mutually beneficial. We’re in this together, and we, as women, have a lot of momentum. As we intentionally continue to connect and support one another, we can reach our professional goals, and build a workplace that works for women and men.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Ms. Career Girl says that, “Just as with getting clear on your goals and resolutions, you don’t have to imagine all this from scratch. Check out In This Together to see how you can develop a community of like-minded allies…there’s a ton of actionable insights from 40 successful women that will help you harness the collective power of that community.”

In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, is filled with thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life.

Ready to learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality? Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

Taking Springfield by Storm!

This week has been one for the books as I returned to Springfield, Missouri and spoke to a number of smart, amazing women (and men) about my latest book, In This Together. The energy that happens when you gather a group of powerful women together is just the best, and this trip was filled with great energy.

I started the day taking part in the Speaker Series for The Association for Women in Communications. This group is comprised of women who are passionate about communications, driven toward greatness, motivated to lead, and inspired to elevate the future. During lunch, I talked about many of the key issues addressed throughout In ThisTogether and had the opportunity to have some great conversations with attendees afterwards.

It was then on to spend an evening with Rosie, a phenomenal group that is highlighted on pages 230-232 in, In This Together. Rosie is network of local women committed to helping other women reach their goals, whether that is to join a board, start a business, land a new job, etc. It is an ideal place to meet the women shaping the community, and provides a support and advocacy system for members, as well as a referral pipeline for female speakers and board members. Their mission is to help connect, partner, collaborate and continue to increase the support and access to resources for women as it relates to professional development, business assistance and leadership, and they support, assist and serve as an advocate network for current and prospective female founders, business owners and leaders in the Springfield region. I would also like to give a big thanks to the men and women at Missouri Trust & Investment Company for sponsoring the evening’s event.

Both events were filled with connections, questions, and conversations on how we, together, can move women’s issues forward, and were equally inspiring and energizing. I can definitely say that I, along with my Women Connect4Good team, had a wonderful time taking Springfield by storm!

Mean Boss or Misunderstood Leader?

It wasn’t long after Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that she was running for president that reports from former staffers depicted her as a brutal mean boss. According to a piece in Politico, former aides, all speaking anonymously, describe a toxic work environment that included everything from demeaning emails to thrown office supplies and requests for staff to perform personal chores.

Klobuchar has defenders too, including former staffers who have gone on the record to push back against the stories, and, “suggest that the critique is grounded in sexism against a woman who demands excellence from her employees.” Forbes reports that many of Klobuchar’s supporters also argue that, “she was being targeted due to her gender and that a man in her position would be considered ‘tough’ instead of toxic.”

Is Klobuchar tough? Is she a bully? The victim of a smear campaign? Or maybe just misunderstood? We will probably never know, but can definitely sympathize with those who feel victimized, and remind them that they are not alone. Studies show that while 60–70 percent of bullies at work are men, 30–40 percent are women, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), they all target women two-thirds of the time.  As we write in In This Together, workplace bullying is so common in various forms that almost three-fourths of employees have been affected by bullying, either as a target or a witness, according to research from Dr. Judith Lynn Fisher-Blando with the University of Phoenix. In fact, WBI has reported that bullying on the job is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination.

While it’s true that assertive women are much more likely to be viewed as bossy or even as bullies than their male counterparts, we can’t assume just because someone is a woman her behaviors are being mislabeled or misinterpreted when charges are made. So how do you know when your boss is being tough, and when they’ve crossed the line? Start by checking your bias. Take a searching and honest look at yourself and the situation:

  • Is there any way you might be misinterpreting what’s going on?
  • Are you the victim of a bullying campaign, or just upset by someone’s manner or tone?
    Does this person treat everyone that way or just you?
  • Are you treating everyone with the same courtesy and respect, or are you being high-handed and demanding to some?
  • Are you performing your job as well as you can, or are you making life difficult for others?

If this isn’t a bullying situation, what can you learn from it? How can you adjust your behavior? And if this is a bullying situation, what do you want to do about it? By finding ways to support the humanity of workplace bullies while working to eliminate their toxic behaviors, you may be able to develop more productive, supportive relationships. However, if you are in a hopelessly toxic situation, focus your efforts on finding your next job ASAP. Picture how great you will feel when this is behind you and new prospects are opening up with a new, better employer and a work group in which you can develop supportive relationships.

In This Together shares a number of ways you can work through workplace bullying issues, eliminate toxic behaviors, salvage your position and move forward. Learning to deal with conflict in positive ways, practicing good communication skills with everyone at work, and exhibiting understanding and compassion will help transform the company into a productive, positive place where you and your coworkers can build your careers together. A tough boss can be a learning experience and challenge you to reach professional excellence. Remember that we all have a shared goal at work to do our best work and make our organization successful. When you focus on that goal and support one another, it becomes much more fun and reduces misunderstandings and perceived slights among leaders and fellow employees.

Whether You March or Not, You Need to Stay Engaged

Did you march on post-inauguration Saturday in 2017? If you did, you engaged with 4.6 million people in 642 cities on every continent on the globe who demonstrated for women’s rights. One year later, women recognized that anniversary, and once again used the streets to express their concerns. Proving that there is power in numbers, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in major cities and small towns around the globe, sharing messages as diverse as the marchers.

This year, as women again took to the streets marking the third anniversary of the Women’s March, the messages seemed even more diverse, and participants even less cohesive than in prior years. Since its inception in 2017, the Women’s March has been dogged by accusations that it does not speak for all women. As Gloria Feldt pointed out, while the 2019 iteration fielded respectable showings in major cities around the world, there is no question that some wind has gone out of its sails.

Many expressed concerns leading up to the 2018 Women’s March too, voicing fears that the movement lacked the cohesiveness necessary to move forward. Experts warned that there were too many special interests and too many different messages represented to truly affect change. However, what’s important to remember is that it has brought change and done what it was established to do. The Women’s March aimed to engage women from all walks of life and inspire them to continue their activism long after they returned home. In many ways, that goal has been realized.

Despite fractures and differences of opinion, the Women’s March is not doomed to fail. Since the early 19th century, the women’s movement in the United States has fractured along lines of race, class, age and religion. Yet strategic coalitions among these feminists have generated important victories for women’s rights, showing us that the divisions within the Women’s March do not represent an existential threat to the feminist movement.

As we wrote in In This Together, for more than 200 years, women have organized, fought, campaigned, sacrificed, and supported each other to gain the rights to inherit property, to keep their children, get an education, pursue a career, vote, hold office, and the list goes on. Although they often received no credit, women whose intersecting identities left them marginalized with less privilege have nonetheless continued to lead the movements for women’s equality. It’s time to follow their lead. It’s time to exercise all those hard-won rights to achieve true equality now.

Our commitment to change also cannot be limited to a cold Saturday in January. We must maximize the impact of movement building on the individual level — reinforcing the network of support around ourselves and generously helping other women succeed. We should never forget how fortunate we are to live in this time and take part in this movement for equality for all women, everywhere. We can dwell on what’s wrong; we can worry if it will work. Or we can say, “Today is the first day of what remains of my life, and I want to see women achieve equality before I die.”

I for one am going to focus on what I can do every day and join my dear friend Gloria Feldt who said she would “spend zero time angsting about the schisms. I’ll keep moving women forward in my way, toward taking our fair and equal share of leadership in all sectors, including business, professions, and nonprofit or social profit work, not just politics. Taking powerful positions is way more impactful than railing against power.”

Two years ago, thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, and the march events provided a rare chance to build networks of like-minded people. These networks formed in 2017 have grown and expanded, and the women involved remain active. Clearly, this is our time, so let’s keep the actions and momentum building. Let’s ask for what we want, support other women in exercising our “power to,” and believe in our abundant ability to change the world, together.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Gloria Steinem has said Dr. Nancy’s new book will “help us create community, success, and well-being.” Find out why and order your copy (and gifts for your friends) of In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life–thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the bonds of gender inequality. Get engaged and stay engaged by reading and sharing the powerful messages for women in this new book.

Are You Guilty of the Credibility Challenge?

Shortly after a number of newly-elected US Congresswomen were sworn in, a video hit social media that showed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recreating a dance scene from The Breakfast Club while she was a student at Boston University. The video’s release, meant to undermine her newly elected status, had the opposite effect and the attempts to humiliate her instead prompted an outpouring of support. Instead of reducing her credibility, the video seems to have bolstered her popularity.

Observers know, this attempt to undermine the suitability of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is nothing new. During her campaign, critics were quick to critique her words and question whether she should have a voice in the public debate at all. Vox reported a tweet about her by the often-quoted voice of the Washington establishment Norm Ornstein: “This is a person not ready for prime time, certainly not ready for Congress. She should stop campaigning & do a crash course on basics, including economics and foreign policy. Otherwise, she will stumble badly out of the blocks and do major damage. Early impressions hard to erase.”

Criticism of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t only come from men, or Republicans. Even former Senator Claire McCaskill weighed in, describing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez as, ““a bright and shiny new object who came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman.”

In fact, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has pulled off an incredible political achievement: she waged an effective campaign and won a seat in the House. But that’s not good enough. All women in the public eye draw criticism and commentary, not just for their politics and policies, but also for their appearance – as is the case with Senator Krysten Sinema, who was called out by a prominent Arizona Republican who took exception to what she wore when she was sworn into office.

Bruce Ash, a national GOP committeeman resorted to name-calling and said that “dumb ass people” helped get Sen. Sinema elected, she looked more looked more like “Senator Madonna” than the “Senator Barbie Doll” of her campaign.

Call me crazy but I can’t recall reading a single news story questioning a newly elected man’s attire. And as for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez being “not ready for prime time,” what about Rep. Paul Ryan, who was 28 when first elected in 1998 and has failed fact-checks for years. PolitiFact Wisconsin has collected some of his “pants on fire” claims on a special web page. Yet, he is considered an idea man, and no one has said he is unfit to serve in Congress or that he isn’t ready for prime time.

Everyone has biases and some of the issues that these women are facing are a direct result of those biases (the rest is just flat out sexism, but that’s a topic for another day). As we explain in In This Together: “It’s hard to see and talk about the stereotypes that create gender bias because we have absorbed them with every breath since birth. Some of these are internal and limit the aspirations and expectations we have for ourselves as women. Our culture has for a long time assigned men to every power position, so it’s no surprise that we automatically attribute authority to males of any species and see women’s helping roles as normal. Men certainly still run the worlds of business and politics, but many women are in denial about this because they just can’t believe that gender bias is still so widespread.”

The rush to criticize the women who were just elected shows how widespread gender bias is in the politics. If we are to create equality for all women, we have to call out the comments that seek to undermine women, name them as biases and talk about them. And if we want to see more women step into leadership roles, we need to encourage them and counteract the public ridicule they often face. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Sinema, and all of the newly elected women need our support beyond the ballot box. We need to defend their credibility and together change our perception of leadership. In my new book, we provide scripts and strategies for counteracting behaviors that undermine and denigrate women.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Elisa Parker, who has co-founded several organizations to support women, including the award-winning multimedia program “See Jane Do,” has called Dr. Nancy’s new book “a game changer,” and Gloria Steinem has said it will “help us create community, success, and well-being.” Find out why and order your copy (and gifts for your friends) of In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life–thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the bonds of gender inequality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beating the Blues – 10 Ways to Have a Joyful New Year

When the glitter settles and the holidays bustle is finally over, many of us sink into sadness and feel blue and let down. Whether the causes lie inside, outside, or both, you can take a deep breath, refuse to feel bad, and get serious about taking control of your life and your emotions. Here are 10 proven strategies that will help you beat the blues and get your life back on a happy track.

  1. Grieve the loss. If past losses have caused your holiday blues, take time to finish grieving over your loss. It’s important to feel the sadness and grief and get clear about the reality of the loss. With acceptance, the intensity of the blues will lessen and a normal pleasure in life will return.
  2. Seek serenity. Many losses can be addressed through the principles of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Learning to identify which is which is a key to happiness after the holidays and all year round.
  3. Practice self-forgiveness. Repeat these messages:
    • “I deserve to be happy.”
    • “I am lovable.”
    • “I am valuable.”
  4. Stop obsessive thinking. Thoughts such as “I didn’t do it right, my gifts were lousy gifts, I said the wrong thing, it’s my fault, I woulda-shoulda-coulda,” can be stopped with a strategy of prayer or meditation.
  5. Avoid the ambush. Do not get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, which can lead to poor judgment, bad decisions and regret. Stay away from substances and behaviors often used to numb pain, including alcohol, excessive spending or sexual relationships.
  6. Flee toxic people. Stay away even (or especially) if they are relatives. Increase time with people and environments of calm and good humor. Let go of resentments related to holidays past and declare an amnesty in family feuds.
  7. Take off the target. Some people’s families are downright predatory, turning as a group against one member. Being the target feels terrible, but don’t give credence to the criticism. Bring it into perspective by making a list of who was the target at the last six family gatherings.
  8. Practice extreme self-care. Manage stress by getting back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. Restore a balance of sleep, healthy eating, exercise and other activities. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, so claim time for aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices or other calming activities.
  9. Reach out to other people. The blues naturally make a person withdraw,  instead seek out friendly nonjudgmental company.
  10. Volunteer. Helping someone in need will highlight the many reasons a person has for feeling gratitude despite the pain.

Is It More Than The Blues?

Depression can have many different causes and help is available. Please consult a mental health professional if three of these symptoms of real depression last more than a couple of weeks:

  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Dulled emotions, irritability, explosive anger
  • No enjoyment for usual activities
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unresolved grief issues
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Thoughts of suicide should never be taken lightly. Instead, dial 911 in the USA or Canada or go to a hospital emergency room.

Know that happiness is your choice to make.  Focusing on loss and regret brings sorrow; focusing on gratitude and hope brings joy. Use your gratitude journal to get you started. Write down six things at the end of the day you are grateful for. You can start small and build from there. You’ll find when you turn the page and start being grateful for what you have that’s healthy and supports your happiness, more things, people, activities come your way.

 

How to Create Your Wonderful Holidays and Life

How have the holidays been going for you so far this year? Several years ago, divorce turned me back into a single woman after many years of marriage, and I’m happy to say my holidays these days feel just fine. The adjustment was challenging, and I confess I had some blue days, but by now I’ve learned that the secret to creating a wonderful holiday is to make my own choices and not allow other people’s stereotyped ideas to define me. Each of us has the right to spend the holidays the way we want to, right? Yes, you do, too. Yet, too often we let others dictate what we do, for our holidays and for our entire lives.

Women are doing that much less today than we used to because we are gaining more confidence in our own rights and abilities. We can learn a lot about this from single women because they build their lives outside the traditional stereotyped wife-and-mother roles for women. They may be single parents, or happily childfree, and heads of their own households. They pursue meaningful careers, and enjoy a rich social life, a strong and supportive circle of friends and family, are important to a lot of people and spread joy and good works throughout their communities.

During the holidays do your expectations keep you from seeing your circumstances for what they really are? Do you wear rose-colored glasses or focus on ways you fall short and feel depressed? One stereotype is that of the unhappy spinster alone at the holidays, but read on.

Bella de Paulo noted in Psychology Today that articles about making your unmarried life work focus almost exclusively on single women. Why? Because stereotypes assume women would rather be married and mothers, but the reality is quite different. Even more women than men said they thought being single helped them by allowing them to focus more on their work, or their studies, on making more friends, or on prioritizing their own needs. They said that being single makes them feel empowered, and able to enjoy the adventure and journey of their lives.

Many women who feel trapped by their choices imagine that becoming single is the only way to gain control of their lives. But what if you could ask for the support and assistance you want for your holidays rather than feeling trapped in impossible expectations? What if you could skip the parts of the holidays you hate and create new traditions? Guess what! You can. Go for it!

When women learn that I’m divorced, they say, “Well, you don’t have someone at home that controls your money.” I reply, “That’s right. Why do you?” It’s a worthy question. If you were in charge of YOUR life, what would you want your holidays – and your coming year — to look like?

Many women have never allowed themselves to ask such questions and feel like they have no choices. That’s not true at all. We learned a lot about stereotyped gender roles while working on my new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. It takes focused attention to change our holiday experiences, just as it takes work to change other parts of our lives. I’m convinced the best way to handle such discomfort is in solidarity with our women friends. Together, we can laugh at ourselves, create a vision for our futures, and find the courage to ask for what we want.

Here’s to creating the best holidays – and the best lives – that we can imagine for ourselves.

Why Gaining Equality Inspires Women’s Hope

What a thrill to experience women’s quest for equality through the play, “Gloria: A Life” in New York City this past weekend! The theater-in-the-round evoked Gloria Steinem’s living room, with each seat backed by a colorful pillow, the stage filled with Persian rugs and ethnic prints, stacks of books, and electrified by a powerful ensemble cast of eight women actors. Multi-media projections brought history to life as Christine Lahti enacted Steinem’s career, starting as a “girl writer” in the news industry of the time, which was unashamedly dominated by white men, also portrayed to entertaining effect by women actors.

For two hours, we were THERE with the young Gloria as she struggled to escape the pink ghettos of fashion and beauty writing assignments, as she fought to gain recognition for her skills rather than her looks, and as she learned from experienced African-American organizers. Over the decades and in community with other women, she gained the courage to overcome her fear of public speaking and began her life’s work as an organizer.   We learned with her, as she spoke with other activists hundreds of times each year, learning and educating around a still-radical notion: women and men arefully equal and human.

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter sat riveted throughout the performance, and said she learned a lot that she had not known about the women’s fight for equality. I learned a lot too:

  • That the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy, that Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to attend the Constitutional Convention as consultants, and that their first question was, “Where are your women?”
  • That despite denigrating public pronouncements by national (male) TV commentators, the first issue of magazine, which Steinem co-founded and published free of fashion and beauty advertising in 1971, sold out in Los Angeles in just eight days.
  • That experienced women activists of color were allowed to speak to the media only about race while Steinem, a newbie, was elevated as the spokesperson for women’s issues (which might explain a lot about racial tensions surrounding the 2016 Women’s Marches.)
  • That the protesters who piled bras, girdles and other restrictive clothing into a barrel never set a match to it because they could not get a fire permit and were too obedient to break the law, even though the press forever after dubbed them “Bra Burners.”

And so much more. What a great teaching tool! I hope the play becomes popular in high school theater programs because young people need to understand what it took to gain the rights they enjoy today.

The play is adapted from Steinem’s fascinating 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, and if you can’t get to New York to see the play, you should read the book. At the performance I attended, which was a benefit for TakeTheLead, Steinem herself led the audience discussion that forms an integral part of every performance. Women and men, young and old, asked questions, shared personal stories, and expressed their appreciation for the doors Steinem and her peers opened for all women today. Rights young women take for granted today were absolutely outrageous ideas then.  Sexual harassment, previously accepted as “just life,” is now a thingthat women can fight. Today women have a legal basis for seeking equal pay, equal opportunity, and the right to control our own bodies, even though progress is uneven and continually threatened.

Steinem, now 84, noted in her closing comments one benefit of growing old: she can remember when things were so much worse than today. She stressed that women’s equality is not something to be won in a mass movement later, but by each woman every day doing a small thing to stand up for equal rights. We gain the courage for those actions by connecting and living in community with others, sharing our stories, laughing and crying, and making our plans together. She left us with a challenge and a question: “What outrageous action for equality will you take in the next 24 hours?”

How to Balance Your Crazy Busy Holiday Season

‘Tis not the season to run yourself ragged, but I know that for many women, that’s what happens during the holidays. If your constant companion is an endless to-do list, you are not alone. As women, we tend to give, and give, and give some more taking care of people at home, at work, and in the community. Now that we’re well into the holiday season – aka the season of giving – we ramp that up and our time revolves around (likely unreasonable) expectations about parties, shopping, gifts, and spending time with friends and family. In the quest to hit the deadline, find the perfect gift or attend the next party many of us lose sight of our own health and wellbeing. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves overwhelmed, too exhausted to do or give another thing, and waiting anxiously for the holidays to be over.

With all you have to do, it may seem counter intuitive to reach out to another woman for help. Sure, she’s busy too, but your women friends really can help you get through a stressful holiday season with year-end deadlines at work. With their encouragement, you will find new ways to be kinder to yourself and maybe even cross things off your list, as long as you can find the courage to ask for the help you need. As we wrote in, In This Together, “You can put five women together in a room, and within an hour they’ll have analyzed the problem, made a plan, divided up the action steps, and begun to work toward a solution. Women share skills of problem solving and mutual respect and complement one another’s strengths.”

With our “tend and befriend” approach to stressful situations, women can be your strongest allies and your greatest source of encouragement this time of year. A quick cup of coffee with a friend could help you prioritize and develop a path forward. A quick phone call with a colleague can give you an action plan and make your unmanageable situation suddenly doable. We have been taught to conceal our vulnerability. But when we act authentically and invite others to help us solve a problem, we discover strength and power to accomplish things far beyond anything we can do alone.

Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change, knows that it’s a balancing act and that it can be tough to manage overwhelm at the end of the year. At this time of year, leaders like Kathy can be thinking, “I can’t believe how much I have to do. I can’t believe other people have already done their holiday shopping while I haven’t done laundry in a month.” Kathy recommends three tips to manage end-of-year overwhelm:

  1. Write everything down to manage the details
  2. Take your time on each task rather than rushing
  3. Take yourself for a walk at least three times a week

Those are all great, effective ideas, and I want to add: Reach out to other women. Especially during the holidays, each of us needs to support other women everywhere. Not one of us is as creative, skilled, and powerful as we are together.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do for your health and well-being this season – and every other day of the year – is to be true to yourself. You really can’t be all things to all people. No, you can’t. So take a break, take a breath, and nurture yourself and your connections. You deserve a happy holiday season, too! And the better care you take of yourself, the more you will have to give. It’s a miracle!

Gloria Steinem’s Endorsement is Something I Cherish

This is a big thank you to Gloria Steinem, who endorsed our new book, In This Together – How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. I will thank her in person on December 15 when I attend the play “Gloria, A Life” in Manhattan (please join us there), but I’d like to tell you now why it means so much to me that she wrote:

“Whether our problem is isolation in a male-dominant culture, distance across racial barriers, living in front of a computer screen, or all three, Nancy O’Reilly’s In This Together will help us to create community, success, and well-being.”

That’s exactly what I hoped this book would do, and Steinem’s radical idea that we are “linked, not ranked” is the key to women to supporting each other. When we join together around our common goals for women and girls, there’s no limit to what we can do. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by income, social standing, race, ethnicity, gender expression, background, or any other differences. As a traveling feminist, Steinem learned “one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” That’s crazy talk, right!

Gloria Steinem, as you know, is a feminist activist and organizer who has stood up for her belief in the equality and full humanity of women and men since the 1960s. It’s this simple yet radical concept that underlies women’s worldwide fight for equality. She is a thrilling writer and thinker, author of five books, and co-founder of NewYork magazine and Ms. Magazine, where she still serves as consulting editor. Steinem and I are united in our support for Take The Lead, as they seek to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity by 2025.

In My Life on The Road, Steinem tells stories about the travels and relationships that have shaped her activism. She lived in India as a young woman, and that is where she first witnessed the power of talking circles, where everyone in the village had a chance to speak and listen in turn, and the goal was understanding and consensus rather than winning or losing.

Why Equality for Women Frightens People

Change is about more than uniting people in a movement, though. Steinem encourages others to find their voices, noting, “The first step toward speaking for others is speaking up for ourselves.” By suggesting that women should have equality everywhere, she up-ended the patriarchal power structure. People who have power usually fight to keep it, and feminists became a lightning rod for criticism, controversy and often vocal protests. Even some women have felt more threatened by this idea than liberated.

We write a lot in In This Together about the many gender stereotypes that limit women’s aspirations and behavior. Refusing to accept those limits when writing in praise of the benefits of travel, Steinem pointed out, “Even the dictionary defines adventurer as “a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures,” but adventuress is “a woman who uses unscrupulous means in order to gain wealth or social position.”

When people fretted that Steinem was in danger when traveling alone, she pointed out, “Records show that women are most likely to be beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home is an even more dangerous place for women than the road.”

Full equality would empower women to provide safety for ourselves and our families, and to pursue any career. Steinem recalls working as the only “girl writer” on a pioneering political satire TV show. Women were – and are – poorly represented in the writing room, she wrote, “probably because the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.”

Have you noticed that when women gather together, we laugh a lot? When we link together joyfully around our common humanity and goals, it’s a wonderful life! Women are better off now than at any time in history, due in large part to the continuing work of courageous women. We’re keeping it going. Thank you, Gloria Steinem for taking the lead.

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