Articles & Tips

The Business of Making Movies: Including Women’s Voices

Guest Post by Barclay DeVeau

Barclay DeVeauLike a lot of business, when a woman is in the lead, movies make more money, whether that lead position is on screen or off. As a director, I depend on my investors to get my movies made. Yet recently, investors I’ve made several films for over the course of the past two decades announced that they would not invest in my next movie, Opal. In spite of having shown these investors an extremely generous return on investment over the years, they refused to even read the script for this project because the lead characters are women.

I wasn’t shocked – I am well aware of the rampant gender bias in the movie business. But I am also not deterred by these investors’ lack of interest in telling a story from a female perspective. Instead, their bias has served to further ignite my passion and has propelled me forward with an even greater determination to get this movie made.

A Southern Gothic Thriller, Opal is filled with long buried mysteries, deep-rooted traditions, ominous plot twists and shocking secrets, but, at its core, Opal is a story of strength, empowerment and the hope one badass  woman leaves to the world.

Set against the backdrop of a contentious mayoral election in picturesque Hartswell, Georgia, Opal is centered around the relationship between an abused young woman and a reclusive matriarch, who will stop at nothing to expose the sins of the town.

When Luna, a headstrong woman in her 50’s, is introduced to the young woman, Purdee, she immediately senses the girl is in jeopardy. Against the advice of her friends, Luna begins investigating. She inserts herself into the young woman’s life – following her, attempting to befriend her, and, ultimately, breaking into her house where she witnesses Purdee’s brutal rape by her own husband, Ray, the son of one of the leading mayoral candidates.

As the rest of the town focuses on the impending election, Luna fixes her attention on freeing Purdee from her life of abuse, whatever it takes.

Luna’s determination is much like my own. I will get Opal made, whatever it takes. Luna’s story deserves to be told and movies featuring strong females must become the norm, rather than the exception.

Movies can be magical. They have the power to transport us into wondrous worlds, take us along on fantastic adventures, move us to tears, laughter and reflection. They serve as communal and cathartic experiences that remind us we are never alone, and, most importantly, movies have the power to inspire our creativity, open our minds, fill us with hope and make us believe that anything is possible.

Child Actor to Director

When I grew up acting, the world of filmmaking enchanted me and enveloped me in its magic. I was most alive on set, soaking in everything around me like a ravenous sponge – the shimmering lights, dazzling costumes, the sweet taste of strawberry lip balm swiped from the make-up artist’s bag of goodies, the smell of freshly sawed wood on set combined with wafts of coffee from the craft services table, the warmth of freshly printed script pages…All of it cast a spell on me.

For much of my childhood I had a wondrous experience as a young actor, working frequently on stage, television and films. I was very blessed to have steadfast support and guidance from my mom, my grandma and from the various directors I worked with.

OPALAcademy Award Level Mentorship

Alan J. Pakula (Klute, All the Presidents Men, Sophie’s Choice) was particularly wonderful with me when he noticed me looking at the director’s monitor one day when I was about twelve. When Alan asked if I was interested in directing, I enthusiastically answered “yes”, sharing that I had already directed several films starring my younger siblings and the kids in my neighborhood – all shot with our family’s VHS camera, a beast that was only a few pounds lighter than I was at the time.

If Alan was amused by my precocious response, he didn’t show it. Instead, he embraced the role of mentor and promptly stood me on an apple box to show me the difference between 35mm, 50mm and 75mm lenses. He explained why he and the production designer had chosen a particular color pallet for the walls and asked me what I thought. He discussed the writing process, the way he worked with the director of photography and the thrill of the scoring stage. He took me along to the wardrobe room to “help” him decide on costumes. He was a wonderful, generous man and he enhanced the magic of movie making for me.

After working with Alan, my neighborhood movies became much more elaborate as I meticulously determined every detail of the costumes, production design and music. By the time I began high school, I had made scores of these films and knew with absolute certainty that I would be a professional director when I grew up.

Gender Imbalance Began in College

A few years later, at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, I was one of only a handful of women in my graduating production class of approximately thirty students. Despite the gender imbalance in my program, I never considered that I would be shut out from pursuing a directing career. I wasn’t cocky, but I was confident. This was what was I born to do, I’d known it since I was seven, and I had never once questioned whether I would be allowed to do it.

I was extremely naïve back then, unaware of the gross underrepresentation of women’s voices in film. In the years since college, many of my male classmates from USC have gone on to directing careers. None of the women in my class has directed a feature film. Not one.

These days I am acutely aware of the non-magical side of filmmaking. Men run most of the studios and agencies in Hollywood, they comprise a majority of the film critics, and it is their viewpoint that largely determines which films get greenlit. In spite of the success of a handful of incredible female filmmakers like Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins, 93% of the top 100 films in 2018 were directed by men.

Pre-Depression Women Ruled Hollywood

This revolting gender imbalance wasn’t always the case in the movie business. In the early days of Hollywood (1900-1920’s), women ran several of the independent studios and made up a large percentage of writers and directors. When talkies entered the scene in the late 20’s and films like The Jazz Singer became huge box office successes, a handful of studios (all run by men) began rising to the top. The onset of the Great Depression a few years after talkies hit the scene rendered it nearly impossible for the smaller indie studios (many run by women) to stay afloat. Alicia Malone states in her wonderful book, Backwards & In Heels, at this time “filmmaking started to be looked at as a business instead of a creative enterprise, and corporate structures were implemented, complete with executives in charge. Women were not perceived as being business-minded or executive material, so positions of power on a movie set, such as directing, now were given to men. From the 1930’s onward, Hollywood became a boy’s club. And women have been trying to make their way back into the industry for almost 100 years.”

Shamefully, not much has changed in the film business since the late 1920’s/early 1930’s when this marginalization began. Oh sure, our visual effects are lightyears better, our cameras and technology have advanced by leaps and bounds, but in terms of gender parity, women are still not considered to be leaders. Or, more often, not considered at all.

Lack of Gender Parity Actually Bad for Movie Business

According to the Geena Davis institute on Gender in Media, in 2018 only 7% of directors, 13% of writers and 20% of producers were female. On screen, female leads comprised only 17% of major films produced in 2014 and 2015. Yet, according to a recent study released by CAA in conjunction with Shift 7, female-led films consistently outperform male-led films at the box office across all genres and budget categories. In 2015, films led by women grossed 15.8% more than films led by men, and in 2017, all three of the top-grossing films at the box office were led by women.

It is a myth that films starring men perform better than female-led films and it’s time to capitalize on the truth – women on screen mean a higher return on investment. The marginalization of women on and off the screen in the film industry is, quite literally, bad business. This toxic myth is a fallacy rooted in longstanding gender bias.

Whether this gender bias is conscious or unconscious matters little. What matters is that we fix it. So what do we do? What can we do?

Let’s start with what we shouldn’t do – we shouldn’t sit around lamenting the dire situation. We must take action, because action is what is needed to move the needle. Action from people – women and men – who recognize that the gender imbalance in filmmaking is a disservice, not just to the women being excluded and the young girls who aren’t seeing themselves represented, but to the entire world that is missing out on the voices and creative visions of half the population. We must work together to bring more female-led films to screen. For my part, I will continue moving forward with Opal, a film with an incredibly powerful female lead, which will be directed by me, a woman with a lifetime of directing experience.

Opal Overview—Women Finding Their Voices

Opal is a film about transition, transformation and one woman’s power to change the world. Luna has reached her breaking point. By standing up to the systemic misogyny and unpunished atrocities that have permeated the culture of Hartswell for decades, Luna gives hope to future generations of women in this fictitious town – and the town becomes a symbolic representation of the country as a whole as it struggles with its long history of silencing women, perpetuating racism and burying ugly secrets. Luna’s story and the story of Hartswell are parallel tales, intertwined and complementary. Just as the town experiences dramatic changes – with new industry picking up, Confederate statues coming down, and the first female candidate running for mayor – Luna experiences her own transformation, breaking years of silence and, ultimately, making a decision that will change the course of the future.

Examining issues of domestic abuse, abuse of power, heinous crimes and complicit cover-ups, Opal lives in the nebulous territory between the law and justice, good and evil, the past, present and future. The time for Opal is now. Like countless women in cities and towns across the country, Luna has finally found her voice. She joins the chorus of women banding together, speaking up, fighting for and with each other to put an end to contemptible injustices.

What Opal Needs

Opal has a total capitalization of $5 million. We are currently accepting investors beginning at the $10,000 level. If you are interested in investing in Opal, if you believe the undeniable statistics which consistently show female-led films lead to a higher ROI, and if you are interested in being a part of ending the contemptible injustices women have experienced on and off the screen for nearly a century in the movie business, please reach out to request a comprehensive creative deck and an investment opportunity packet at barclay@opalmovie.com.

When we actively work together to allow women’s stories to be told on the big screen, we can literally double the magic in the movie business. Because in movies and in the business of making them, if we finally give women the opportunity to share their voices and visions, anything really is possible.

*To contact Barclay for a comprehensive creative and investment packet for the film, Opal, email barclay@opalmovie.com.

*To learn more about the past, present and future of women working in film, read Alicia Malone’s book, Backwards & In Heels and see the brilliant documentary This Changes Everything. To research more statistics on the current state of female representation on an off the screen in media, visit the website for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: https://seejane.org

 

How You Can Close the Wage Gap—Start With Your Own

How You Can Close the Wage Gap—Start With Your OwnIf you’re one of the women earning only 85% of your male peers (or less), now is your chance to close that wage gap and get a package to help you make that top-level deal and get your career moving in the right direction. Right now, through Take The Lead’s 5-Year Anniversary Silent Auction, you can bid on two complete career, promotion and pay-raise strategic plans, with custom data and consulting, from She Negotiates and 81Cents.com. Take The Lead is celebrating the anniversary of its amazing launch five years ago and ongoing drive to help women reach complete parity in all sectors by 2025 through this silent auction and big event in NYC on July 25. Don’t wait—bid now for this $2,500 value—learn how to claim your power and get your voice heard to transform your career.

Operating under the philosophy that there is nothing wrong with women and nothing to fix, She Negotiates helps women create a step-by-step roadmap for the next right move in their career or business. They arm clients with a solid negotiation strategy, word-for-word scripts, and role-playing experiences to help them implement their plan to break through barriers and create that big break to close the wage gap one woman at a time. The results speak for themselves; women are getting the promotions and compensation packages they deserve.

She Negotiates co-founder Victoria Pynchon points out that women want to negotiate, but don’t necessarily know how. “Unless you’ve applied the rules to something, you’re not going to be good at it. It’s a skill.” Like any skill, successful negotiation requires learning the basics, and practice, practice, and more practice to get really good at applying communication strategies that work in the corporate world.

Working primarily with women seeking top-level deals and compensation packages, Victoria brings her clients a quarter century of legal practice followed by a decade of mediation, arbitration and negotiation experiences to every engagement. As a former commercial litigator and trial attorney, Victoria not only knows the art of persuasion but also the fears, hopes and challenges faced by corporate CEOs, small business owners and fellow professionals.

“I occupied corporate America for 25 years,” Victoria said. “So much of this is understanding corporate culture and knowing what doesn’t work. When you get to be my age you know. You’ve made all the mistakes.”

If you missed the silent auction, you might want to take advantage of Victoria’s “50 Buck Half Hour” that she offers to potential clients, this mini-session can help you begin work immediately with actionable advice and a rough strategy outline and explore further consulting options. She also offers a one-hour mentoring session exclusively to women who are under thirty and making less than $100K per year.

“There’s just so much to fix,” Victoria said. “But this cohort of women are just amazing, and they’re all caught in the wage gap. They need to understand the water they’re swimming in, and I can help them do that.”

Victoria recommends that her clients know their market value first, and then work from there. 81Cents.com – supported by an Advisory Committee of Berkeley and Harvard negotiations professors – is a go-to, and helps women determine whether or not they’re being paid fairly. With compensation reports built especially for members, 81Cents.com provides women with personalized feedback on their pay from professionals in their field as well as hiring managers and recruiters.

As Victoria writes, the devil’s in the details, and between the work she’s doing through She Negotiates and 81Cents.com, women at every level are getting those details, being armed with the skills, and amassing the knowledge they need to close the wage gap.

“These women know they’re caught in the wage gap, and work for major corporations who know it too,” Victoria concluded. “I believe they want to close it, one person at a time.”

Take The LeadBID NOW! There’s not much time left. Take The Lead’s 5-Year Anniversary Silent Auction is almost here. Besides the complete career, promotion and pay-raise strategic plans, with custom data and consulting, from She Negotiates and 81Cents.com, valued at $2500 each, you can bid on many other exciting prizes, including lunch with Oscar-nominee Kathleen Turner and Take the Lead co-founder Gloria Feldt. Plus, there will be a special live auction at the Summer Gathering in New York on July 25, which will be held at the Alley Co-Working Space (119 West 24th Street). The event will also include the launch of a new podcast series hosted by Feldt and SheMedia’s Vice President of Video Programming Reshma Gopaldas, and a performance by actress/singer Ari Afsar (Hamilton-Chicago). Tickets are available at http://bit.ly/2FNSaFw.

Don’t miss out. It’s an exciting time for women to claim their power and support women. This opportunity provides both. Remember, the woman you should support first is yourself. Close the wage gap for women by starting with own. Make your voice heard with a proven strategy from She Negotiates to finally close your wage gap and redirect your career.

Order Your Copy of Dr. Nancy’s New Book Today!

Navigating negotiations and closing the pay gap are just a couple of the issues covered in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women.

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today! After you’ve read it, please, leave us a 5-star review on Amazon. Your review will help us reach more women with proven techniques for achieving gender equality by working with other women and our male allies.

Gender Equality Starts with a Conversation

gender equalityIn order to create gender equality in the workplace, women and men, need to start a conversation to share ideas from our diverse perspectives. By doing so, we can build an environment where every person – regardless of gender – is valued, respected, and equally compensated. It isn’t as easy as making a wish, we’re going to have to recognize where we are now, and develop strategies and work together to move forward from here.

In the new book, In This Together, we point to studies done by Catalyst, Fairygodboss, and others that show men’s perspectives about equality in the workplace differ from women’s. Women see the need for more women leaders, family-friendly schedules, and equal pay. Men, not so much. Men are not conscious of the discrepancy, so they don’t even see it. We all need to get on the same page together before we can write the next chapter. Don’t assume that anyone, especially men, will understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes unless you teach them what it’s like to be a woman in your workplace.

Building a case for our male counterparts to join us in our efforts isn’t one-sided, equality benefits us all. For example, McKinsey & Company found that companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, which leads to reduced costs for replacing top executives.  Gender equality can also:

  • Increase profits–as evidenced by a 2007 Catalyst report that finds Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors achieved markedly better results.
  • Increase revenue–as MIT researchers also found that a more even gender split not only leads to happier, more productive employees, but it can also increase revenue by 41 percent.

The Institute for Gender Partnership, founded by podcast guest Rayona Sharpnack, who serves at the organization’s CEO,  teaches organizations how to master “Gender Partnership” so that they are able to effectively understand, connect, and communicate with 100% of customers, end-users, and stakeholders — AND fully able to attract, retain and develop 100% of the available talent pool. Through targeted leadership services and training programs, men and women are taught to learn from and leverage one another’s special skills and talents, listen to one another’s ideas, and to have patience with each other’s individual styles. It’s through this process that the Institute has found a team’s creativity, productivity, and decision-making are no longer hobbled by miscommunication, misunderstandings, or unconscious bias.

To bring your male allies on board, you can start small. As we write in In This Together, you can simply reassure your ally that you are neither holding him responsible nor expecting him to solve women’s problems; you only want him to become more aware. Communicate with your ally about your needs and goals and discuss biases, assumptions, and oppressive patterns of behavior that you observe at work.

From there you can think together strategically about how to address any issues that are inhibiting your ability to do your work, achieve your goals, and thrive in your relationships with your coworkers. Ultimately, open communication about these issues lets women and their allies develop positive working relationships based on their shared values. Communication will also create opportunities for collaboration among peers. From the outset women and their allies can agree to work together, share in the rewards of success, and give credit where credit is due.

Bottom line, gender equality starts with a conversation and looking for ways we can work together and achieve our goals. We need to highlight the thousands of ways we all win when we achieve equality and build the case to bring our male allies on board. Men are part of the solution, and when we work with them, we can change the workplace and the world together.

Order Dr. Nancy’s New Book Today!

Dealing with sexism and cultivating men as allies are just a couple of the issues covered in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women.

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today! After you’ve read it, please, leave us a 5-star review on Amazon. Your review will help us reach more women with proven techniques for achieving gender equality by working with other women and our male allies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work with Other Women, Not Against Them

Work with Other Women, Not Against ThemReady to get ahead? Then you need to start working with other women, not against them. We’re all on the same team, working toward the same goals, so why on earth do we sometimes forget that and treat each other badly, sabotage one another’s work, or hold another woman down? The aggression women can display towards one another can derail a job, or even a career, and works against women’s progress as a whole. This aggression doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious through bullying or other direct behaviors, it can be indirect and still quite devastating.

As we write in the new book, In This Together, sometimes women will sabotage one another and intentionally lie or destroy the work of others to discredit them, they may engage in backstabbing, or even take credit for the work of others. Whether it’s called bullying, bitchiness, relational or indirect aggression, or something else, women who hold each other back set us all back, which pushes gender equality even further away.  We can’t allow ourselves, or our progress, to be derailed by the bad behaviors of others, but instead must focus on ways we can work together, cooperate and collaborate to achieve our common goals.

In the workplace, women managers sometimes seek to protect their status in a hierarchy dominated by men by being overly tough on their female employees. This is what University of Arizona management professor Allison Gabriel calls the “Queen Bee Syndrome.” Gabriel conducted a large study and found that women, especially those who display traditionally masculine traits, such as dominance, are especially targeted. Women of color are also targeted more often.

However, aggression among women isn’t limited to those in power positions. Generally, women are meaner to each other than men are to women. Through her research, Gabriel concludes that women are more likely to suffer from what she calls “female-instigated incivility” than men are, and fall victim to low-intensity deviant behavior, like ignoring, interrupting, mocking, and other disrespectful treatments, used to put women back in their place.

What Not To Do

Some women can be disruptive for what appears to be nothing more than for the sake of disrupting. Here’s an example of a woman most of us have probably encountered at least once in our professional lives, and her actions are perfect examples of indirect aggression:

“Brittney” was hired to do a job with a specific deadline, but she didn’t do it. She also did not take responsibility for her failure to perform. In fact, not only did she fail to deliver, she manipulated her employer and other people around her. She took other people’s ideas and appropriated them as her own, without giving credit to anyone else. She doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do, and she’s not good at following directions. Whether her actions are merely thoughtless or intentional, she HAS demonstrated that you can’t trust her.

Brittney’s behavior has the potential to be detrimental to any woman – or man – involved in the project. Her lack of responsibility, follow through, and performance destroys relationships and kills friendships. Chances are Brittney can’t be rehabilitated, at least in her current position. Don’t allow yourself to get angry. While anger can be a great motivator, we weaken our ability to make change if we get derailed by our differences or spend too much time stressing over bad behavior. When you meet someone like this, your best bet is to say thanks but no thanks and move forward without her. Don’t try to be a shero and “fix her.” If you’re stuck in a workplace with her, find ways to work around her or cover for potential lack of follow-through. We discuss many options for working with this kind of person in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together.

What’s important to keep in mind is that Brittney is the exception, not the rule. So is the bully in your office, and the snarky woman running the committee. It is our job to remain focused on being positive, helping others, and supporting one another. If we get sidetracked into attacking another woman, we’re less likely to organize and fight for equality for all. We need to actively look for ways to help one another, and put aside judgment and criticisms, and focus on what we share in common – our experiences, hopes, and dreams—and how we can help each other. Let’s stop working against one another and instead work together to make gender equality happen.

Order Dr. Nancy’s New Book Today!

Looking at what makes women mean and dealing with bullies are just a couple of the issues covered in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women.

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

Helping Women Move Out of the Shadows and Get the Credit They Deserve

Women have been left in the shadows and not given the credit they deserve. Last month, NASA made a course correction and officially renamed a facility in West Virginia after Katherine Johnson. You may remember Katherine, an African-American mathematician and centenarian whose career was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures.” This was not the first public acknowledgement of her work. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Johnson and other black women mathematicians, who worked in NASA’s computing pool more than 50 years ago, were separated from their white colleagues, and commonly called, “colored computers.” These women calculated trajectories for the Apollo missions, and Johnson herself tracked several major missions, including Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 in 1961 and John Glenn’s Friendship 7. “Hidden Figures” highlighted Johnson and other black women’s fight for equality in the workplace.

The lack of acknowledgement Johnson received for her work is not an isolated incident. Women have not received credit for a number of brilliant breakthroughs and achievements for hundreds of years. Sometimes deliberately stole credit for women’s work, other times the recognition was transferred more indirectly. This has created a false myth that women’s history lacks great creative and intellectual achievement, which undermines women’s past and future accomplishments, and has largely erased their work from history books, and eliminated powerful role models from the stories we tell our children.

Johnson and her colleagues are just one example of remarkable women throughout history who didn’t get the credit they deserved for revolutionizing the world we live in.

Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fusion. As acting director for the Institute for Chemistry in 1933, Meitner had to flee after Hitler came to power, but kept in touch with chemist Otto Hahn. Letters between the two of them show that they discovered nuclear fission together in the 1930s. Meitner was denied proper credit due because she was Jewish and a refugee, whereas Hahn, who stayed loyal to the Nazis, later won the Nobel Prize for this work, and refused to give Meitner credit.

Trotula of Solerno was a pioneer in women’s health. An Italian doctor in the eleventh century who wrote specifically about women’s health, Trotula of Solerno has been recognized as “the world’s first gynecologist.” Her writings are still considered building blocks in our knowledge about human health, and women’s health specifically. However, her work had been questioned over the centuries because historians and medical professionals were skeptical that a woman could have produced works of such accuracy or importance.

Hedy Lamarr invented wireless communication. During World War II, Hedy Lamarr worked closely with George Antheil to develop the idea of “frequency hopping,” which would have prevented the bugging of military radios. The U.S. Navy ignored her patent though and used her research to develop new technologies. Years later, her patent was rediscovered, which led to her receiving the Electronic Frontier Foundation award shortly before her death in 2000.

Anna Arnold Hedgeman organized the March on Washington. Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman on the organizing committee for the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. But according to Bowdoin College professor Jennifer Scanlon, the civil rights leader was “hidden, concealed, out of sight” by the men around her. Not only did Hedgemen galvanize many different groups of people to participate in the march, she organized transportation and made sure attendees had food and water.

While these women’s stories, and many more like them, have been uncovered and are once again being shared and told, there are tens of thousands of women whose work remains in the shadows. Take for example the women who fought for our right to vote, or the multiple black women who were part of the Civil Rights Movement, and today the women who march, and who courageously share their stories through the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp. Their stories need to be told and their achievements celebrated so their work can light the way and for other women to follow.

The women whose work has shaped our history have created the foundation for us to boldly move into the future and have paved the way for us to pursue parity in political office, equity in men-dominated workplaces, equal access to high-status professions, equal treatment after divorce, and punishment of sexual harassment and rape. They have set the stage for us to achieve full equality. We need to share their stories and write our own—giving ourselves the credit we deserve.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama and No Drama Leadership says In This Together, “Offers women a powerful perspective about how to advance, how to get support and how to give support to others.”

Check out In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life 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.”

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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