As a successful NYC advertising professional, Cheryl Benton knows a thing or two about creating media images that create public perception, which is why she was disturbed when she saw a survey that reported US adolescent girls still perceived the #1 value for girls and women is their appearance. No matter how hard we’ve tried to change that viewpoint, girls are pressured about their looks more than ever before with the prevalence of social media and a culture that is stuck in the midst of gender inequality.
To get that needle to move, Cheryl says that we need to educate everyone. And that begins with everyone reading Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together. Cheryl says that every college campus should have it and every corporation should make it required reading. Changing people’s perception and giving a voice to women is Cheryl’s passion. She began her successful international media platform, The Three Tomatoes.com, when she began to feel invisible in her 50’s. She saw that advertisers were not speaking to her or her friends, and she decided that they could just talk to one another. Her little group of 60 people grew among women from coast to coast and around the world found messages that resonated with them also. As Head Tomato, Cheryl continues to look for ways to empower women and girls and her newest volunteer effort was to found the NYC Leadership Council for Plan International USA.
Plan International Lifting Girls Out of Poverty
Cheryl explains that Plan International has been fighting for children’s rights (mostly in developing countries) since 1937. More recently, they have realized the importance of lifting girls out of poverty. Her role with the NYC Leadership Council is to help raise awareness and funding for the “Because I’m a Girl” program. In the spring of 2018, Plan International sponsored a survey of 1,006 adolescent girls and boys about gender equality, which resulted in the report, “The State of Gender Equality for US Adolescents.”
Although 95% of teens between 10 and 19 years old believed in gender equality, there was more confusion about what that meant. Most (54%) were more comfortable with women continuing traditional roles. But there was quite a difference between boys’ and girls’ perspectives on the current status of inequality. Cheryl summarized the difference in perspectives: 21% of girls thought there is currently gender equality, while 41% of boys think there is. And over 51% of girls think it’s a problem, contrasted with only 19% of boys who think it’s an issue. Similar findings among women and men bear out that this doesn’t change much with age. However, Cheryl believes the onus is on the school systems who have no curriculum to educate children and teens about genders and sex education, and the media of course, which plays a huge role perpetuating cultural norms. And Dr. Nancy added that parents also have a responsibility to guide their children, help them see through the corrected gender lens at home, provide role models and mentor them toward achieving their goals.
Great Messages from In This Together
When Dr. Nancy asked Cheryl to share her pearls of wisdom, Cheryl started quoting things she had underlined in Dr. Nancy’s new book. One powerful line Cheryl said she noted was how are feminine traits are actually our power tools. If we perceive them that way, companies will also begin to see them as powerful assets to the business. Another piece of advice she thought was important is, “Ask for what you want.” She noted that men are so much better at negotiating than women. She urges her daughter to go in and ask for that raise, telling her how to point out what she has done for the company and why she deserves it.
Ultimately Cheryl says, the most important thing is to believe in yourself. That core belief will help us stand up to those who would tear us down. For today’s women, she sees social media as especially challenging for younger women. You have to be really strong to stand up to the naysayers and those who thrive on tearing others down. That’s why she says the power of girl friends is so important. She hearkens back to In This Together in its advice to build your council or team of supporters to amplify your voice.
Lift As You Go
Listen to this great conversation for more information and great advice from these two Leading Women co-authors. And check out The Three Tomatoes.com website for what to do in NYC, LA and San Francisco, plus great make-over and fashion advice ,and how to buy Cheryl’s books, Can You See Us Now: A Novel for Grownups and Martini Wisdom: and Other Midlife Musings from The Three Tomatoes, must-reads for tomatoes everywhere.
Order Dr. Nancy’s new book or pick it up at your book store
Read the great advice that Cheryl mentioned and others 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 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 binds of gender inequality. Then remember to get your copy – and gifts for your friends.