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Marketing to women has never been more important—or easier, it would seem. Every brand is now expected to make an effort, and fortunately, the formula is simple: Celebrate women for being women; offer them a feminist-sounding brand message; make sure to communicate your product was created with the goal of empowering them, and that’s why they need to buy it.
But the logic is reductive and circular: Empowered women need your brand to empower them because without your brand, they’re not empowered.
It’s a marketing booby-trap that’s perpetuating a new stereotype: The Empowered Woman. Ironically, the message repeated to these women is, “You are not really empowered, but you want to be, don’t you?” And its simplistic overuse is beginning to make lots of women angry.
Consider the reactions of these three new campaigns designed to target The Empowered Woman:
1. Vera Bradley. The handbag designer surely had good intentions to celebrate empowered women with a campaign called “It’s Good to be a Girl.” But unfortunately, most of the reasons are insipid and superficial: Girls, it’s ok to need five shades of lipstick! Girls, we get to eat ice cream after a breakup! Girls, we’re lucky we get our wine poured first!
Women didn’t embrace the message, and took to social media to ridicule the company for infantilizing women as girls, ignoring real gender issues like the wage gap, and demeaning women with antiquated ideas of what they care about most. Many questioned the need for Vera Bradley handbags in the first place.
2. Wrangler. The intention of the “More Than a Bum” campaign launched in the UK this week was, as the marketing director, Ilaria Pasquinelli, said, for women to “focus on what really matters in her life, with what really makes her her." Unfortunately, the ad focuses on what really matters to Wrangler. Their bums.
Even though the 3-minute film features musical performer Kimbra, Olympic volleyball medalist Francesca Piccinini, and the dancer and choreographer Nikeata Thompson, women still found the empowerment message insulting. As one particularly cheeky consumer expressed: “You have severely underestimated your audience. We are beyond this kind of patronizing, piss-weak 'feminism'.” Bummer for Wrangler.
3. Cosmopolitan UK teamed up with European automotive maker SEAT to design a car just for the empowered women, complete with “exclusive design and thoughtful feminine touches.” Women are meant to be attracted to the car by its Candy White color, its headlights designed in an “eyeliner shape, emphasized in the same way makeup emphasizes the eye,” and a “jeweled, bicolor rim design.” Oh, and the car has a handbag hook, too. But best of all, the car is touted for being “easy to park,” because, you know how empowered women have trouble parking, especially when their nails are wet.
This campaign has truly incensed women in the UK, who were not having a good week to begin with. They bashed the two companies all over social media, and took the additional step of starting a petition on Change.org urging the companies “apologize for the mass generalization and for insinuating that all women carry designer handbags, gossip dramatically, need help parking and that all girls 'going somewhere' need a car.” You can sign the petition here.
(Photo via SEAT press release)
Marketing to women has certainly evolved, but as long as marketers continue to play in the sandbox of stereotypes, no matter how modern they are, they are stuck in the past. Brands, be warned. Cross today’s empowered woman, and she will turn her power against you in 140 characters or less.
by Kristi Faulkner
You may know Carl Jung as a giant in the field of psychology. His work a century ago established Analytical Psychology – an approach that continues in practice to this day. But what many don’t know is that Carl would have made an amazing brand strategist. He was always on the hunt for powerful insights, and was driven by both logic and creativity. Like all branding professionals, his life’s work depended on developing breakthrough ideas, and he found inspiration across many disciplines: literature, Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, psychology, sociology, and the arts.
Carl Jung was an influencer and a thought leader before that became a thing. Here are some of his more quotable words of wisdom, creatively applied to branding, advertising, and consumer perception.
“You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.” Your brand promise is worthless if it’s not authentic. Don’t inflate your consumer benefits or overstate your brand promise; your target knows better.
“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotions.” All purchases are ultimately emotional. Recognize your consumer as an emotional being first, and build your strategy from the heart. Motivating insights are grounded in emotions.
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Great brands don’t replicate their competitors’ brand positions, even if their products are parody. Instead, they identify core values that make them each distinct. Nike doesn’t try to be Adidas. Pepsi doesn’t try to be Coke.
“If you are a gifted person, it doesn’t mean that you gained something. It means you have something to give back.” There has been a genuine, generational shift in the importance of corporate responsibility. It is not a fad. It’s an expectation. Consumer research shows that the majority of Millennials believe companies have a duty to give back to society and contribute a portion of profits to good causes.
“We may think that we fully control ourselves. However, a friend can easily reveal something about us that we have absolutely no idea about.” Never underestimate the power of consumer insight. It’s vital to your brand that you regularly engage your consumer in a two-way dialogue. And listen.
“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” There’s been a lot of pressure over the past decade to chase disruption and keep up with cutting-edge platforms, regardless of efficacy. While brand marketers need to stay current, you don’t need to be a slave to the bleeding edge. Just because your competitor is all over “cloud-based mobile virtual reality chat” or whatever, does not mean your brand needs to be. Be strategic and more importantly, be authentic.
“The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable." No one denies that the pace of business is rapidly increasing. However, research has shown that the most innovative minds benefit from downtime – a mind that wanders has more opportunity for creativity. Great branding relies on creativity, of course. Give your imagination the valuable time to play.
“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” Whether you market gym socks, paper towels, or a malaria vaccine, find the meaning in your product and connect with your audience on that basis. Active ingredients, price points and varieties of uses have nothing to do with meaning or mission. Great branding is built on relevance.
“The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.” Brands face crises from time to time. Whether it’s a product recall or a social media kerfuffle, great brands rise from the ashes and soar. Think of JetBlue rebounding from massive operational problems; or Chipotle, and their masterful creative strategy for overcoming the e-Coli breakout in their stores. Look forward, and no obstacle is insurmountable.
“I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.” For many brands, equity is an asset to build on. For others, it’s an albatross. Evolution is critical for survival in a quick-change marketplace. Constantly rethink your brand values, and be willing to progress as necessary. Irrelevance is death.
As brand marketers, it's our responsibility to stay one step ahead of our consumer. Never resist change – in mindset, in consumer desire, in the marketplace. As Dr. Jung famously cautioned, "What you resist, persists.”
Image Source: http://www.renegadetribune.com
by Kristi Faulkner
For women consumers, the worst marketing ideas attempt to persuade women that a product will give you confidence. According to our panel of wise women, confidence is not something you pick up at Walgreens; it comes from within.
Here are 10 ways wise women tell us they increase their confidence. Notice that no one mentioned deodorant or lipstick.
1. Don’t judge yourself. Women say that when they judge themselves, they’re looking at who they are through someone else’s eye. The trick is to allow yourself to be who you are and let go of who you think you need to be.
2. Assess your true skills. Wise women know that it’s not enough to just think you’re confident. Real confidence comes from competence. Take an inventory of your skillset, and base your confidence on the knowledge you’ve acquired. Reread your resume if that helps remind you of your accomplishments.
3. It helps to project confidence. Studies have shown that your posture can influence your mood while projecting confidence and poise. Check out this famous Ted talk by Harvard Psychologist Amy Cuddy, who says your body language is a valuable source of personal power.
4. Channel a stellar experience. Remember that presentation you gave that impressed a room full of sourpuss executives? Remember that negotiation where you successfully closed a new client contract? Keep these experiences mentally handy when you’re questioning your ability. Wise women know success breeds success.
7. Be aware of your thoughts. Don’t let your mind wander to another time and place. Wise women stay focused on the task at hand. When you’re concentrating in the moment, your mind has no room for negative thoughts that compromise your confidence.
8. Be in the present. Let the past go. As the saying goes, you don’t live there anymore. And wise women know you can’t change it anyway. Focusing on where you are at this moment is always a shortcut to confidence. Because you’re doing great!
9. Discomfort is a key component of confidence. When you’re uncomfortable, you know you’re taking risks. Risks and confidence go hand and hand. Wise women embrace the discomfort and move through it.
10. There is no confidence without compassion. Wise women know that respect and compassion are how you demonstrate self-love. Confidence is a sign you love yourself, too. You know when you deserve to be treated better – by others, and by yourself.
Most women we spoke with say they struggle with confidence from time to time. But the wise ones have a plan. Be aware the moment you are at your most confident and make a note of the circumstances. When you are feeling low, reflect on that same personal description of confidence and reassure yourself that you always have confidence within you.
by Kristi Faulkner
At Womenkind, we love a good TED talk. Need some motivation in the next 12 minutes? There’s a TED Talk for that. Curious about something esoteric? Want to improve your speaking skills? Wonder what it feels like to have a stroke? There’s a TED talk for everything! Here’s our short list of our favorite TED talks presented by women on topics women will find fascinating.
1) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Danger of a Single Story
Do you know when you’re getting the full story? Acclaimed storyteller and novelist Chimamanda Adichie believes our lives are composed of many overlapping stories, and warns us that one story is never enough to get an accurate picture. Indeed, if we rely on just one, we compromise our understanding. “When we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
2) Mellody Hobson – Color Blind or Color Brave
“If I walked you into a room of a major corporation, and every single person around the boardroom were black, you would think that were weird. But if I walked you into a Fortune 500 company, and everyone around the table is a white man, when will it be that we think that's weird too?”
Finance executive Mellody Hobson believes that speaking openly about race, and making a real effort to achieve diversity in hiring will improve business and society, too.
3) Meera Vijayann – Find Your Voice Against Gender Violence
As a girl growing up in India, citizen journalist Meera Vijayann experienced a number of episodes of unspeakable sexual violence. But speak she does. Vijayann believes that voicing our shame, is the best way to overcome it — and calls on others to open up, too: “I know a lot of us in this room have our secrets, but let us speak up.” While this talk is not easy to listen to, it is profoundly motivating.
4) Anne Marie Slaughter – Can We All “Have It All?”
Anne-Marie Slaughter bravely told the world "Why women still can't have it all" in a widely publicized 2012 article. In this talk, she explains how the solution to equality must come from work culture, public policy and a massive shift in social mores. Because it’s not just about women. “I suggest that real equality, full equality, does not just mean valuing women on male terms. It means creating a much wider range of equally respected choices for women and men."
5) Sheryl Sandberg – Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders
This is the talk that started it all for Sheryl Sandberg. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s critical you do. The Facebook COO reveals why it’s so hard for women to reach the top of the professional world and offers her C-suite advice on how you can.
6) Carol Dweck – The Power of Believing You Can Improve
A researcher of “growth mindset,” Carol Dweck believes that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and improve its ability to solve problems. “We taught them that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time they can get smarter.”
In this talk, Dweck describes her theory of ‘YET’ – essentially a way of framing problems that encourage you to have more confidence in your ability to solve them.
7) Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
This is one of the top TED talks of all time, and for good reason. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy teaches that “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — has measurable positive effects on your body that translate in your ability to succeed. Try it!
8) Leymah Gbowee – Unlock the Intelligence, Passion, Greatness of Girls
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee makes a very convincing argument that unlocking the greatness of girls will transform the world. She also recounts the story of her personal transformation. Astonishing.
9) Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
“There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it.”
If you haven’t seen Brené Brown’s various talks, this is the first one you should see. Brown studies the uniquely human ability to empathize, belong, love. She’s both funny and insightful and is very open about revealing her most personal journey to understand who she really is. You’ll feel like you’re in a deep conversation with a friend. You’ll want to share it with yours.
10) Courtney Martin – Reinventing Feminism
When did “feminism” become the F-word? Courtney Martin examines why the term is so loaded and works through the challenge of finding a descriptor for a new generation of women who embrace the ideals if not the nomenclature. She also cites the importance of mothers as a girl’s most important influence, so that’s pretty cool, too.
Image source: Ted.com
by Kristi Faulkner
Now that the Woman Card has grabbed the spotlight in the political campaigns, brand marketers are asking themselves how they, too, can play the Woman Card.
Marketing to women is not as easy as it used to be, especially now that a woman may be president. Many brands are confused about how to play the Woman Card in a world where the go-to stereotypes are no longer relevant. In the old days, it was as simple as showing women dancing with mops or complaining about that elusive fresh feeling. Nowadays, not even making the product pink is a sufficient play of the Woman Card. But there are other Woman Card best practices that your brand could make use of.
Here's how to guarantee your brand plays the Woman Card effectively in the modern era:
- Even as women advance, there are still only five types of women in the world. Your brand communication should feature at least one: The Yoga-Pants-Wearing-GMO-and-Gluten-Free-Juicing Mom; The Rushed, Harried and Full-of-Regret Career Woman; The Hipster Granny; The Ethnically Ambiguous Best Friend, and the timeless classic, The Boobs. (The last one need not include an actual woman attached to them; they play the Woman Card on their own.)
- In spite of their ability to lead nations and compete successfully in corporate America, women will always dream of being sexually desired. And you don't have to be GoDaddy to effectively play this Woman Card. Virtually any grocery product can remind women that they are, first and foremost, a sexual object: See Kraft salad dressing, Liquid Plumr and the old standby, Bud Light beer.
- Remember, your brand is worthless to a woman if it doesn't empower her. A woman would achieve nothing if it weren't for the confidence she gets from a particular brand of deodorant, a soap that urges her to tell herself she's beautiful (because that's what matters most) or a maxi pad that ensures her she's always had the power to throw a ball without looking goofy. The best Woman Card brand campaigns convince women that without the empowerment provided by the product, they would lack the confidence to accomplish anything.
- Educational and economic progress aside, women continue to value youth and beauty more than anything. Campaigns for wrinkle cream, weight-loss products and especially fashion will have greater appeal if you cast 16-year old models in the roles of adults. The more expensive and aspirational your brand, the younger and thinner the model must obviously be.
- Women love babies. Increase your product's appeal with images of a woman holding both a briefcase and a baby. Or sitting in front of a computer holding a baby. And if she's simultaneously conducting an international conference call from her kitchen while cooking for a man waiting impatiently in front of an empty plate at the dinner table, she must be holding a baby, too. Babies in brand communication may seem gratuitous, but actually, there's no better way to telegraph that women can do it all. That's the Woman Card at its best.
- Women may purchase 72% of cars, but there's no need to have your automotive brand show them driving. If your brand strategy requires playing the Woman Card, put the woman in the passenger seat smiling adoringly at the male driver. Or have her wash the car for a gaggle of goggling guys. And if a scene in your ad requires a "closed course, professional driver" legal disclaimer, it definitely must have a man driving because women would never do that.
- For brands in the financial services category, avoid depicting women at all. They don't understand what you're talking about and it would take forever to explain it. She doesn't invest anyway. However, she does shop, so you could play the Woman Card by demonstrating how your financial products help her spend money faster and easier. After all, shopping gives her life meaning.
If you're a brand marketer who still has doubts about how to play the Woman Card effectively, hire an ad agency led by a team of misogynistic men and a token woman. These conventional thinkers have the expertise to deliver time-tested strategies for playing the Woman Card even on the most innovative digital, social and mobile platforms.
The Woman Card has always been a favorite of marketers, but the more women ascend, the more critical it is to remind them, with an incessant barrage of media images, exactly where they belong.
by Kristi Faulkner
If you’re an ambitious woman pursuing a career in digital media, it’s time you meet WIMMIES (Women in Media), a networking organization with the explicit goal of helping women like you succeed. By hosting quarterly events in intimate environments, the women of WIMMIES inspire candid, off-the-record discussion among trailblazers and newbies alike.
I asked the eight board members (pictured below) for a sampling of the wisdom they teach one another or have learned from one another. Below this photo are examples of the knowledge they shared.
(Pictured left to right: Kim Strebel, International Theatrical Marketing Partnerships and Promotions at Fox Filmed Entertainment; Nikki David, Senior Account Manager, Client Services at KIN Community; Caitlin Bruno, Partner Sales at Snapchat; Danielle Reed, YouTube Partner Sales Lead at Google; Lauren Merriam, Vice President Sales at KIN Community; Allie Greenwald, West Coast Account Executive at Fullscreen; Amy Halvorsen, Account Executive at Maker Studios, and Michelle Meyer, Founder and CEO at Emissaries.)
1) The importance of maintaining balance. One of my "big sisters" in digital media taught me early on to stay balanced and maintain an even keel as much as possible. You can't get too high on the good times or too low on the bad. Staying the middle course will keep you humble and appreciative, whereas if you approach each challenge as if you’re constantly putting out fires, you're bound to get burned. Cooler heads will prevail. -- Allie Greenwald, Account Executive at Fullscreen
2) It’s ok to admit what you don’t know. The moment I started finding success at work, I finally had the confidence to admit what I didn't know. Letting go of my ego was the most liberating thing I ever did in the workplace. If you don't understand something, chances are others don't as well. I once had an account manager who said, "Your greatest strength is that you don't think you know everything." -- Amy Halvorsen, Account Executive at Maker Studios
3) Use your voice. It is vital that women pave the way for the next generation by being vocal about the pay gap, family leave policies, pregnancy discrimination vs. the daddy bonus, flexible schedules, etc. Being bold and vocal about these issues will benefit yourself, your peers and the women who come after you at your company, as well as in your industry. -- Michelle Meyer, Founder and CEO at Emissaries
4) Be both fearless and egoless. Approaching your day with a positive, ego-less team-oriented mindset is key to succeeding in a rapidly changing industry. In my opinion, advancement comes from learning as much as possible, constantly raising your hand to take on new tasks with an understanding of how they’ll drive the business forward and being open-minded to personal growth in unexpected areas. Setting stretch goals for yourself ultimately creates apprehension, self-doubt and even fear, but it's during those times when you learn and advance the most. -- Lauren Merriam, Vice President at KIN Community
5) Listening actively is as important as speaking. By truly hearing what others are saying, you'll be able to craft a more powerful position when you need to impact change or take the lead to put good ideas to work. In the same vein, it is ok to not have all of the answers all of the time. You can build trust and personal equity through an honest effort to find the right answer based on what you have heard. Remember, everyone you work with is human and affected by our common truth and desire to feel heard and connected to others; authentically engaging can often take you further than being the loudest in the room. -- Caitlin Bruno, Partner Sales at Snapchat
6) Failure is a valuable experience. I've learned more about myself and my capability not from my successes, but from my failures. Though uncomfortable, uncertain and scary at the time, they were the most invaluable lessons and experiences. Do not be afraid of failure, of being wrong, of things not going to plan -- there is always something that you're meant to get out of it. -- Kim Strebel, International Theatrical Marketing Partnerships and Promotions at Fox Filmed Entertainment
7) “If you win, you'll be happy, and if you lose, you'll be wise.” This quote about risk taking is one I often refer to when making difficult decisions. At the end of the day, the worst that can happen is you learn from your career choices. Take a chance! -- Danielle Reed, YouTube Partner Sales Lead at Google
8) Get comfortable with "no." One of the most difficult phases that anyone can hear is "no." “No” doesn’t necessarily mean no flat out, it might just mean that you may need to find a new approach. Most people who are fearless in the workplace tend to see a “no” as constructive feedback, which forces them to think differently. Push yourself to get comfortable with the word “no” and this will build the confidence you need to be fearless. -- Nikki David, Senior Account Manager, Client Services at KIN Community
Have experiences and wisdom you want to share with other women? Connect with the women of WIMMIES and do your part to empower, elevate and inspire women like you.
by Kristi Faulkner
I got my first job in advertising about a decade before the Internet, and for those ten sweet years I saw my career path as a clear line that proceeded directly from junior copywriter to someday boarding the corporate G3 for the agency suite at the Super Bowl. Advertising had not changed since the invention of TV and none of us had any reason to expect the disruption heading our way. Fast forward to 2016, and the media business has fragmented so much now it’s pulling apart at the gutter fold. From Netflix to SnapChat to Blab, change happens faster every day. It seems like only a matter of time before “agencies” go the way of typesetters, film splicers, the 15% commission and the three-martini lunch.
Opportunity is Constant
I reached out to Kare Anderson in a bold-faced effort to siphon her wisdom for creating new opportunities in a quick-change world. Kare is an expert in connective behavior and she exudes a preternatural warmth and cheerfulness that fosters an instant connection with anyone who meets her.
She kicked off the conversation with a bang: “More than money, smarts or attractiveness, your key to being an opportunity-maker is your capacity to cultivate strong relationships with diverse, complementary and often unexpected individuals.”
Kare believes that to stay relevant in a changing world, you must widen your circle, deepen your connections and draw on commonalities, or what Kare calls “sweet spots.” She shared some powerful ideas that I’m calling:
Six Traits of Opportunity-Makers That Don’t Change Even When Everything Else Does
- A specific purpose. You are better than anybody else at something. Know what that is and use concrete terms to describe your priorities -- what you want or are advocating. When you are clear are about your purpose, you are more grounded and less reactive. Clarity creates opportunities for serendipity.
- An effective communication style. The secret to communicating well is to use fewer, well-chosen words. Say less, better. You’ll be more memorable (and quotable) if you express yourself in simple words and repeat them often.
- A talent for listening. Be a great listener. When you first meet and re-meet people, be present and allow the person to feel heard. Resist jumping in. Speak a bit slower and in a lower voice. Move slower, too. The other person is more likely to stay engaged longer if they feel welcome, safe and comfortable.
- An ability to recognize and synthesize. Look for patterns among individual interests to find the groove of the group. Point out the commonality. “When you suggested this, it seems like we’re all seeing this… am I tracking… does this make sense?” Being the synthesizer of the group keeps you at the center. Opportunity-makers are the glue that holds a group together.
- A master of triangle talk: You+Us+Me. Create a sweet spot of mutuality by speaking to the other person’s interest first (you), followed by how the topic is a shared interest (us), and then get around to how it relates to your own interests (me).
- An optimizer of collective performance. Everyone wants to be able to use their best talents. Know your key talent and look for ways to leverage more value and visibility by combining it with the talents of others. Cultivate unexpected allies with complementary talents and draw those people together around sweet spots.
What I learned from Kare is that more than anything, opportunity-makers are pattern-seekers who deftly build connections around mutual interests. They solve problems and seize opportunities faster and better because they learn to attract smarter support sooner. They move in many circles.
“Hone these skills,” says Kare. “Because no matter how much the world changes, if we use our best talents together more often, we’ll accomplish greater things than we could alone.”
There are a lot more ideas about becoming an opportunity-maker in Kare’s book, Mutuality Matters.
by Kristi Faulkner
The United State of Women, a summit hosted by the White House last week, was a like a good old-fashioned church revival with a go-girl message. A couple thousand women gathered in one room to drink from a geyser of oratory inspiration served hot by a cast as varied as the President and First Lady to Warren Buffet and a local Girl Scout troop. Oh, and Oprah! It wouldn't be a stirring spiritual gathering of women without Oprah. The two-day event was a call to action for America’s women. I could not help but be swept away by the electrifying flow of motivating stories and congratulatory cheers. Together, we were fueling the momentum started by beleaguered generations of women before us.
(Editor's Note: You can watch the full summit here.)
The most powerful speaker, of course, was the most powerful man in the land.
President Obama proclaimed that “progress is not inevitable,” which was a great message to the younger women who seem to imagine that bra burning and suffragette hunger strikes happened in the Pliocene age.
The President called today’s workplace policies “straight out of ‘Mad Men’” and urged that modernization requires companies “to recognize that today’s families and work arrangements come in all shapes.” It’s a plea worth repeating to HR officers everywhere:
“We need equal pay for equal work. We need paid family and sick leave. We need affordable child care. We’ve got to raise the minimum wage. If we’re truly a nation of family values, we wouldn’t put up with the fact that many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth. We should guarantee paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave, too.”
Here are some of the most inspirational words I heard that day:
- Tory Burch announcing that “It’s time that ambition in a woman is as attractive as it is in a man.”
- Nanci Pelosi’s declaring: “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
- Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board, Kiva, inspiring all with this message: “One dream can transform a million realities … and that’s the most hopeful truth I know.”
- The actress Connie Britton underscoring women’s multi-tasking prowess: “We are leaders. We are mothers. We are friends. We are workers. We are wives. We are initiators of change. And that’s just for starters.”
- And for a kicker, Britton adding: “We certainly don’t have time to deal with interference from anyone else about the choices that we make about our own bodies.”
- General Lori Robinson of the United States Air Force reminding us that the United States Military is a meritocracy on day one. “Starting out day one with equal pay. Starting out day one with paid leave and starting out day one with the opportunity to dream and dream of adventure.”
- The charming and wacky Amy Poehler, who founded an organization celebrating Smart Girls, waxing sentimental: “I feel today a wonderful pull between the impatience of youth and the reluctance to settle. And the wisdom of those who have come before us.” And then urging us to honor our uniqueness by “Changing the world by being yourself.”
- The esteemed Maya Angelou sharing the sage advice: “You need to know that you alone are enough.”
- TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes telling us what she does about haters: “Ignore them.”
- Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old CEO who turned a lemonade stand into the Me & the Bees Lemonade empire, leaving no one unmoved with her hard-earned wisdom: “Be fearless. Believe in the impossible. And dream like a kid.”
- First Lady Michelle Obama speaking of self-actualization: “There is a limited box that we are put in, and if we live by that limited definition, we miss out on a lot of who we are.” And once you know who you are, she added, always remember: “The best revenge is success and good work.”
- Of course, wise words from Oprah were the simplest, too: “Until you take your last breath, you are always growing.”
By then end, it was clear what a feminist looks like in 2016: A middle-aged African American man, an octogenarian billionaire, an 11-year-old CEO, and scores of women from across the country in every shape, size and shade. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the United State of Women.
by Kristi Faulkner
It’s been an exasperating couple of weeks for women in advertising. First, it comes to light that the CEO of J. Walter Thompson may have made some very disturbing remarks about raping women for fun. Then we have two uber-CEOs, Martin Sorrel and Maurice Levy, debating in the media whether or not misogyny in our business actually occurs, and if it’s even a serious issue. That is, from a man’s point of view.
All of which got me thinking about Jack Myers’ new book “The Future of Men” – a study of modern masculinity that asserts that men “are being progressively outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and outresourced by women.” Myers’ advises that today’s men must understand, accept, and embrace this fact “if they are to have a positive and productive role” in a world in which women are an equal force.
Myers makes a clear and forceful argument supported by thorough research and data ranging from anthropology, psychology, biology, economics, politics, pop vulture, to human sexuality. The trends propelling the ascendancy of women are undeniable. So why are many men still refusing to take us seriously?
Kristi: Shelley, you spend a lot of time in dialogue with women executives in The Girls’ Lounge which you host at major events all around the world. Do you see the profound changes that “The Future of Men” reports?
Shelley Zalis: Well Jack is absolutely right – we are at a flipping point: Women are getting more aggressive and men are getting more in touch with their emotional lives, too. Women have to embrace masculinity and and men have to embrace femininity. The time has come to not only accept, but to celebrate the feminine and masculine archetypes we all embody.
Kristi: The macro trends Myers reports indicate that women are gaining ground. But in some companies, misogynistic attitudes are still pervasive. Do you see women and men getting closer to equality in business?
Shelley: Equality? Not everywhere. But I do see how important balance has become in business today, and that is progress. We have to collaborate as equal partners of different sexes. Gender equality and neutrality are not an either/or, it’s an and. Transformation is happening, slowly, but it will only become the norm if we do it together.
Kristi: For women to succeed professionally, we need the support of our male colleagues, don’t you think?
Shelley: Men are definitely a part of the equation of women’s success. None of us will succeed if we’re working in a silo – we have to work together in an open and honest way. Though I don't think men always know how to make a difference for women the way women need them to.
Kristi: “The Future of Men” contends that men and women are both impeded by patriarchy. Clearly it works against women, but what’s the problem for men?
Shelley: We enter the work force at a 50/50 male-female ratio The problem starts to happen at the middle level when women have to make choices around family and career. That’s why we call it “the messy middle.” Women get trapped there, but men don't. I believe men do want to promote women and celebrate women to make the table better balanced, but men don’t know what to say because they haven’t been trained properly. They don’t know how to coach women; they don’t know how to comfortably encourage women’s strength and power and control.
Kristi: It is frustrating that we outperform men academically, but when we get to the business world– where men are in charge – the dynamics change and we’re expected to work harder to prove our value.
Shelley: We have to start a whole new narrative. Men have great personal relationships with mothers and sisters, wives, girlfriends, and daughters – but how can men do better at working with women? We have to start a new narrative about parenting, too; sharing responsibilities so the onus isn’t always on her. And men have to train other men to appreciate the diversity women bring.
Kristi: I’d say “The Future of Men” is injecting new ideas in the conversation between men and women. But who’s responsible for fostering the same kind of diversity in thought in the business world where bias is still prevalent?
Shelley: Diversity is the wrong word. Inclusivity and care is a better descriptor. What was (allegedly) going on at JWT is unacceptable behavior for any leader. There should be no tolerance for prejudice of any kind, ever, especially not from a CEO. Look, a leader is not just someone who motivates, embraces, and encourages, but someone who makes all people feel comfortable in the organization and inspired to be a part of the team’s longevity. No leader should have a biased mindset. Leadership is about activating a vision and demonstrating the core principals that the company stands for.
Kristi: You have two sons in their twenties. How do you see their future as men?
Shelley: They have always been taught that men and women are equal. My husband and I both are professionals, parents and partners. There is no “typical” male or female role in our house. We share the responsibility of home, and have demonstrated the importance of both of us having an equal role. However, that's not helped by the objectification of women in media. We’ve had
to emphasize that women are not objects. It’s a challenge, but what do we want this generation to be inspired by? 96% of media is stereotyping women and men – the masculine role is complex, too – not just macho.
Kristi: I think that sums up “The Future of Men” perfectly. Women are evolving, but so are men. Women don’t want to be men. We just want to be equal to men. We’re making significant progress, and men who resist the force of change do so at their own risk.
Shelley: Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman, as someone once said!
by Kristi Faulkner
Which of these consumer categories would you guess ignores, offends and insults women most? Financial services. Tech. Automotive. Beer.
According to a global study by BCG, the category women are most dissatisfied with is financial services. Bonus points if you chose “all of the above,” because that’s the real-life answer. These four categories routinely disregard women (and their dollars), choosing instead to position their products to meet the needs of men. Even as women are earning more and spending more, a ridiculous majority of brands still do not seem to grasp that women invest money, purchase cars, or buy TVs, computers, and sound systems.
Which is why it’s worth noting when a beer company – yes, a beer company -- breaks out and recognizes women solely for their purchasing power.
In this fantastic stereotype-defying campaign video from AB InBev, the giant beer company that owns Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois, women order beers because, hey, they want a beer. Thankfully, there’s no overbearing message encouraging women to muster the confidence to order a beer. No manufactured movement to empower women to order a beer. No quasi-public service message urging that it’s time women are finally liberated from their fear of ordering a beer.
The video doesn’t contend that women are anything less than equal or that they need a boost. The women depicted are strong and self-assured – which is to say they’re normal women. And refreshingly, the campaign doesn't stoop to feminist political correctness. Which brings me to another point:
Do you know the two words a brand should never, ever use when communicating with women?
My agency spoke with more than a thousand women to discover that women dismiss “you-need-confidence” advertising messages as much as they dismiss messages from the GoDaddy end of the spectrum. It turns out that when brands tell women that a shampoo will make them feel more confident or a cereal will empower them, they scoff. Does a shampoo make men feel confident? Are male consumers seeking to be empowered by their morning cup of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt? That would be absurd to men. And it’s just as absurd to women.
Women are insulted by brands that insist women are at a deficit without them.
Unfortunately, most of the “Girl Power” ad campaigns trending right now do just that by touting how empowering brand X is. Listen closely, and you’ll hear an awful lot of shoulds in these campaigns. Today’s advertising tells women they shouldn’t feel bad on a scale, shouldn’t talk to themselves like that, shouldn’t apologize for anything; instead, women should feel more confident, more empowered, and for goodness sake, we should feel better about being girls!
Meanwhile, girls control $13.2 trillion dollars of the economy. Gentleman, that is empowerment.
Thanks, AB InBev, for boldly stating the obvious: women drink beer, women order beer, women buy beer – and lots and lots of other stuff too. #WeAllLoveBeer.
by Kristi Faulkner
Thank you, Mary Wells and Charlotte Beers for paving the way for a new generation of powerful business women lighting the path with insights like these.
1. “Curiosity and creativity are never far apart. You need to be curious to identify problems worth solving, and then come up with new solutions… It’s too easy to say ‘no’ all the time. It’s too easy to be cautious. Pushing the boundaries of creativity means saying ‘yes,’ taking risks, trying new things, learning, and being surprised.”
Lorraine Twohill, Google
2. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do thinks differently from everyone else.”
Sarah Blakely, Spanx
3. “Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.”
Beth Comstock, GE
4. “I learned always to assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent."
Indra Nooyi, Pepsi
5. “If you create a purpose, make sure you deliver on that purpose. It is the filter through which you make every decision.”
Anne Finucane, Bank of America
6. “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”
Anne Sweeney, formerly at Disney
7. “I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you're giving up that makes you resentful.”
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo
8. “What I always say is, Do every job you're in like you're going to do it for the rest of your life and demonstrate that ownership of it.”
Mary Barra, GM
9. “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
Virginia Rometty, IBM
10. “Embrace diversity of thought and people. Embrace light. Shine it to spot the flaws in an idea or innovation before your competition does that for you.”
Ellen Kullman, DuPont
11. “Things happen to you. You have to make sure you happen to things.”
Ursula Burns, Xerox
12. “If you have the choice between being bored and being engaged, that’s an easy pick. We work really hard to make sure we take the right risks and try new things because they almost always pay off—and that makes it so much more fun for people to engage.”
Dana Anderson, Mondelez International
13. “How you manage change can make all the difference.”
Irene Rosenfeld, Modelez International
14. “If it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably not dreaming big enough.”
15. “Choose to do less fretting & more doing, less wanting and more having.”
Jessica Herrin, Stella & Dot
16. “A woman with a voice, is a by definition, a strong woman.”
Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
17. “It’s less about what you sacrifice and more about what you prioritize. The best advice I got early on: Only make your family a priority.”
Angie Hicks, Angie’s List
18. "Not that I would have listened, but I wish I'd known that it was okay to make mistakes earlier in my career. I went on to make some real doozies, but I wish that rather than being embarrassed, which I was, I appreciated it was all part of learning and developing on the job."
Irene Chang Britt, Campbell Soup Company
19. “When you're at work as long as we are, you need to be inspired by the people you're with as much as the work itself.”
Kristen Lemkau, JP Morgan Chase
20. It’s not about what I like or what one of my colleagues likes. It's about what the customer wants, where she is and how she wants to communicate.
Martine Reardon, Macy’s CMO
21. If people really want to move up the career ladder, I say take risks. Take the toughest, most difficult job or project someone can give you because that’s how you move ahead. You take the toughest, thorniest thing, and you pull it off, and that helps you get recognized and get promoted.
Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott
22. "Be brave. The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake."
Meg Whitman, HP
by Kristi Faulkner
Last week, McKinsey & Company released “Women in the Workplace,” a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America today. Over 30,000 professionals participated from a range of industries that include tech, retail, finance, healthcare, and media. Here are the most interesting conclusions:
1. Women are more loyal employees than men.
Compared to their male colleagues, SVP-level women are 20% less likely to leave, and women in C-suite are about half as likely to leave their companies for other employment.
2. Women are underrepresented at every level in the career pipeline, with the greatest disparity in senior leadership.
Corporate America lacks gender equality beyond the entry level, especially at the top, which averages only 17% women. But how does the media business fare? A quick look at the executive tier of the major holding companies reveals just 3 of 16 top executives at IPG are women; 3 of 14 at Omnicom; and according to the annual report of WPP-owned agencies, only 7 of their 31 chiefs are women. Unfortunately, these figures indicate our industry is right in line with the rest of the nation.
3. Nothing will change until CEOs actively demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity, and hold their managers accountable, too. 74% of companies report that gender diversity is a top CEO priority, but only 37% of women employees of those companies believe that to be true. (49% of men aren’t convinced, either.) And only 40% of companies hold managers accountable to gender-diversity metrics.
4. Employees who are mothers have even greater ambitions than their peers.There’s no reason to put women on the “mommy track.” Mothers are 15% more interested in being a top executive than women without children.
5. Companies can boost women’s advancement by offering them mentors and sponsors.
The fact is, women face greater barriers to advancement than men, including unconscious bias when it comes to promotions. Twice as many men as women say that senior leaders helped them advance. Both men and women agree that sponsorship is vital to success but women have less access.
6. Gender diversity has to be as important to men as it is to women.
70% of men think gender diversity is important, yet only 1 in 9 men believe that women have fewer opportunities than they do.
7. Women are as competitive as men, but don't believe their work is rewarded.
In spite of the fact that more women than men graduate college, and outperform their male peers in all subjects, the study concludes that women are still challenged to advance and achieve gender equality in corporate America. Two-thirds of women don’t think their companies are meritocracies. And, according to McKinsey’s data, the guys agree.
Overall, only 28% of senior level women report being very happy with their careers. Unconscious gender biases are likely driving the dissatisfaction. This fact is doubly disappointing to those of us working in an industry who’s main purpose is to get people to buy stuff (and by people, I mean women, because they buy the most stuff). It makes no economic sense for any company to hold a bias towards the very audience they must attract.
by Kristi Faulkner
“Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline,” proclaimed Jim Collins in the classic business tome Good to Great. I was curious to understand what kind of discipline is required of women who rise to greatness in business. What commitments do they choose to make and how do those drive their career achievements?
1. They are committed to their friendships. Research has shown women’s friendships are a strong predictor of their resistance to stress and boost longevity, too. Maintaining deep emotional connections is one of the best ways to develop and nurture EQ, an important leadership quality.
2. They are committed to staying curious. As Mary Wells famously said, “You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.” Creative solutions are fueled by the curiosity to ask better questions.
3. They are committed list-makers. Successful women stay organized and list-making is the single best way to get organized, prioritize, stay focused, and feel accomplished. Some use the notebook app on their smartphones to keep a running list of things they want to accomplish, organized by categories like People to Call, Emails to Write, Tasks, Family, etc. They take a few minutes to update it every morning and let the productivity begin.
4. They are committed to yes, and just as committed to no. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time. Successful women are selective about the commitments they make and know not to stretch themselves too thin. They give 100% or nothing at all. As the saying goes, “If you trim yourself for everyone, you will soon whittle away.”
5. They are committed to self-love. Successful women know they can’t be unstoppable if they don’t stop to take care of themselves. They get up early to have quiet time alone, exercise regularly, eat right, take up meditation, hike, do yoga, and spend time with their families. And most importantly, they take vacations. Marissa Mayer has said she takes off one week every three months to recharge. Balancing work and pleasure is proven to increase productivity.
6. They are committed to mentoring. Successful women appreciate that their careers are an ongoing learning process. Regardless of how high up the ladder they go, they continue to seek advice, support and direction. They look for inspiration from everyone they meet and know it’s worth investing the time to mentor and sponsor more junior team members. Not only does helping others garner respect, it also establishes them as a source of expertise.
by Kristi Faulkner
1. If you don’t have brave, you don’t have brand. – Jeff Charney, Progressive
2. The most dangerous words in marketing: We’ve always done it this way. – Bradley Jakeman, Pepsi
3. Dance with controversy. – Melisa Goldie, Calvin Klein
4. The most critical thing a 21st century brand must do is stand for something. – Jonathan Mildenhall, Airbnb
5. Generosity is a competitive advantage. – Dana Anderson, Mondelez
6. The enemy is ubiquity. – Loren Angelo, Audi
7. You only get one chance to be out front. Platforms get saturated, people move on. – Linda Boff, GE
8. I don’t think advertising is dead. I think it’s craving courage. – Robert Lynch, Arby’s
9. Don’t be afraid of the smartest people in the room. Embrace them. – Denise Karkos, TD Ameritrade
10. Tension and debate have to be a part of the creative process. – Melisa Goldie, Calvin Klein
11. Young people don't own cool, growth or innovation. Products can adjust, logos can change entirely, but meaning is ageless. – Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson
12. Content is content. We fall in love with great storytelling. – Linda Boff, GE
13. Lean in to the uncomfortable truth. – Jonathan Mildenhall, Airbnb
14. I am sick and tired as a client of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women. – Bradley Jakeman, Pepsi
15. If you don’t disrupt, you’re wasting money. – Jeff Charney, Progressive
16. Deliver distinguished, progressive solutions. Challenge convention. – Loren Angelo, Audi
17. We don’t believe in B2B or B2C, we believe in B2H. We market to humans. – Linda Boff, GE
18. Our vision is to be relevant and compelling. But just as important is the resolve to stick to it. – John Weston, Mayo Clinic
19. There’s not such thing as digital marketing. There’s just marketing. We live in a digital culture. – Bradley Jakeman, Pepsi
20. To really engage a lot of people, you have to be prepared to lose some people along the way. – Melissa Goldie, Calvin Klein
21. Nothing would matter if the content we created wasn’t interesting, contagious and shareable. – Linda Boff, GE
22. Take control of the conversation, don’t let the conversation control you. – Robert Lynch, Arby’s
23. Don’t get caught up in the analytics and let fear take over. – Melisa Goldie, Calvin Klein
24. All the science of marketing is useless if you don’t have a truly authentic brand. – Denise Karkos, TD Ameritrade.
25. I have sworn off programmatic! I think the topic is finished! – Dana Anderson, CMO Mondelez
26. Ad blocking, viewability, none of it matters without great work – Linda Boff, GE
27. Flexibility is the new stability. – Kira Wampler, Lyft
28. We need to build cultures that are restless and dissatisfied if we are to disrupt the disrupters. – Bradley Jakeman, Pepsi
29. Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk. – Loren Angelo, Audi
30. Hiring Justin Bieber was the most difficult decision I’ve made in 15 years on the brand. – Melisa Goldie, Calving Klein
31. Airbnb, Uber, Facebook: They are the turd in my packaged goods punchbowl. – Dana Anderson, CMO Mondelez
by Kristi Faulkner
When one of the largest, most innovative, and most profitable tech companies in the world takes specific action to market to women, it’s good reason to rejoice.
When the new Apple Music campaign broke a couple of weeks ago on the Emmy Awards, women were heartened by a familiar story featuring a dream team of girlfriends, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige confiding over white wine and music. Intimately shot by one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, Ava DuVernany, the campaign is a force of feminine ingenuity. It had us all believing that Apple was breaking the mass-media glass ceiling with advertising respectfully portraying successful, multidimensional women as the prime consumers of entertainment tech.
That is, until Jimmy Iovine, Apple Music’s top guy (along with longtime business partner and notorious misogynist, Dr. Dre), abruptly corrected our misperception.
Brother Jimmy went on live TV to explain his inspiration: “I always knew that women find it very difficult at times – some women – to find music.” So he and Apple created a streaming music service “curated by real people” to make it easier for the weaker sex to accomplish the task of finding music. And here’s how he came up with this powerful consumer insight:
“I just thought of a problem: Girls are sitting around talking about boys. Or complaining about boys, when they have their heart broken, or whatever,” he said. “And they need music for that, right? It’s hard to find the right music. Not everybody knows a DJ.”
As cringe-worthy as it is, the most offensive issue here is not another dumbass marketing executive revealing his not-so-unconscious bias. It’s that on the brink of 2016, so many men who run major consumer brands still view the female consumer as a moron.
Jimmy, a woman needs a DJ like a fish needs a bicycle.
The enormous purchasing power of women isn’t a novelty to exploit like a flash-in-the-pan boy band. While both the music and technology industries are notoriously gender-biased, in the rest of the world, women ascend to command armies, run universities, steer foundations, lead companies and even countries, so we’re probably capable of finding a good song when we’re heartbroken. Most importantly, today’s unstoppable economic force, aka women, will keep on earning money and spending money on stuff like cars and computers and music, heartbreak or not. The female consumer deserves authentic respect from those who desire to engage them.
If the most progressive, innovative company on earth still doesn’t recognize that simple fact, well, we’ve had our hearts broken by brands before. We’ll get over it.
If you’re wondering, eventually, Jimmy Iovine did apologize. And Mary J. Blige did put the knife down.
by Kristi Faulkner
Disruption, like a breakout summer hit, is the song playing on every station. At last week’s ANA gathering, the Masters of Marketing chorus could be heard singing in three-part harmony:
Disruption of media. Disruption of business models. Disruption of agency models. Disruption of the disrupters who disrupted everything in the first place.
Marketing’s plea for disruption is the newest way of making the same old demand: give us more creative thinking! The CMO’s of Mondelez, GE, TD Ameritrade, and even the uber-disrupter, Airbnb, all emphasized the mission-critical need for an endless stream of powerful new ideas in today’s fast moving world.
Bring it on, say the agencies. We’re idea people. We’ve got your disruption.
No you don’t, says Pepsico’s Bradley Jakeman, who sees the agency’s ability to deliver disruption being held back by old-fashioned attitudes and models. He asserts that an agency’s ideas are only as interesting, innovative and impactful as the people who come up with them:
"I am sick and tired, as a client, of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women.”
Apparently, homogenous groups of white guys do not a disruption make.
An independent study of the S&P 1500 determined that diversity is the single biggest contributor to successful innovation. Companies that prioritized innovation have been proven to achieve “greater financial gains when women were part of the top leadership ranks.” Do today’s big agencies prioritize innovation?
In our business, rule number one is Know Your Target. And, like Brad, we all know that 75% of women consider themselves the primary shoppers of the home; that women influence 85% of all purchases across all categories; that women control 61% of the wealth in the U.S. From cars to computers to food to medicine, women are the target.
So why do guys run the ad biz?
The lack of women in creative leadership is attributed to a systematic lack of support for motherhood, mentorship, opportunities and even the work – women tend to get relegated to “women’s accounts” which don’t have the prestige of more high-profile accounts like cars and tech – and yes, Brad – Pepsi. And when it comes to award show judging, gender bias is rampant. Guys win awards and get promoted – that’s the way it’s always been.
In the age of disruption, agencies must recognize the insanity of the disparity in the ranks. Women are as insightful, imaginative and passionate about ideas as their male colleagues. Women bring a depth of empathy and understanding and a naturally contrasting point of view – the very drivers of creativity and innovation. Agencies need to join the movement fueled by the fact that a dismal 3% of advertising creative directors are women.
Truly disrupting the agency model has to begin with new thinking about talent, and that means new thinking about women – as creatives, as leaders, as professionals, and most importantly, as consumers.
by Kristi Faulkner
Studies have shown that highly networked people have greater career and salary growth, and more job satisfaction than those with leaner networks. But for many of us too-busy multi-tasking career women, networking can seem like an extracurricular task we know we’re supposed to do—and fully intend to—if we ever find the time.
Just how valuable can a network be? I went straight to the top and spoke with Linda Descano, the immediate past-president of New York Women in Communications, an EVP at Havas PR, and a highly regarded super-connector.
Anyone who knows Linda Descano (and chances are, many of you do) will attest to her unique ability to connect with people – those she knows well, and those she’s just met. The network she’s built is nothing short of phenomenal. And it’s made a phenomenal difference in her life, too.
Here’s how Linda says making strong connections can add meaning to your life:
1. Meeting new people is the best source of fresh perspective and new ideas.
Cultivating expertise is not just about what you know or how you work, it’s about who you know and the ideas they bring forward, stimulate, or inspire. Stepping outside of your day-to-day existence and interacting with new people opens up your purview. Making broader connections help you connect the dots and generate fresh solutions to your everyday problems.
2.You’re only as strong as your relationships. (So strengthen them.)
Authentic relationships are built on mutual respect and support. Strong connections cultivate exponential opportunity for everyone. Nurture your relationships by staying in contact, socializing ideas, sharing insights and offering advice. You never know where these relationships will take you: to new job opportunities, speaking engagements, business opportunities, and beyond.
3. You’re never alone when other people are vested in your success.
Whether you’re trying to get to the next level in your career, or find a new job after an unsettling layoff, your network is likely to put their social capital to work for you. And of course, you would for them, too. But support doesn’t always have to be of the critical sort. Linda recounts the amazing people who’ve shared great ideas for haircuts, undiscovered gems of restaurants, doctor recommendations, and of course, must-read books – all things that contribute to a successful life and lifestyle.
4. A strong network helps you move smoothly through life and can make everything less daunting.
The people in your network naturally want the best for you. Rally those forces when needed, and enjoy the flow of advice and recommendations, introductions and connections. Linda describes how a contact from a board she served on heard she was moving to a new city and introduced her to someone who happened to be married to an author of books about her new hometown. She not only made two new friends but added a valuable resident expert to her contacts.
5. Human connection recharges the soul.
A famous study from MIT found a direct link between social connections and happiness. According to Linda, “The support of a strong network helps you stand straighter, cushions you when you fall, and can keep you from getting in your own way.” Though she’s a self-professed introvert, Linda attributes the act of adopting “a networking state of mind” to her leadership success. The mindset also helps anyone overcome the intimidation of large crowds.
6. There’s joy and personal fulfillment in giving back to your connections.
Linda never hesitates to give her wisdom, her experience, and her “lesson learned” perspective in reciprocation to those in her network. “I can’t coach everyone, but I will open up my Rolodex, make my connections available to others, and make introductions to help make someone’s path easier,” says Linda. “For me, it’s about using my time and talents to help others to figure out if I’m not the best person to help, who would be?” For Linda, it’s a pleasure to give back to people who share her passion and a sense of purpose.
What’s the best way to be authentic when you’re networking? According to Linda, it’s as natural as saying hello, asking people about themselves, and expressing true interest. Just see where the conversation goes, she says. “Not every conversation is going to lead somewhere, but if it feels right, express that you would welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation.”
by Kristi Faulkner
For many, serving on a company board would be the pinnacle of a career. It’s a lofty long-term goal, but if you actively build the skills needed for board seat throughout your career, you’ll be better positioned for opportunities to present themselves later.
Why aspire to be on a corporate board? For the satisfaction of sharing your hard-earned wisdom and helping to influence and inspire quality in a management team. There’s also the experience of seeing how things work in other companies, working with people you’d never get to otherwise, and being exposed to how other groups solve problems and innovate. Plus, it can be quite lucrative. Board directors are often paid handsomely to attend a few meetings a year.
Perhaps most importantly, holding a board seat increases your value to your own company. Professionals who have the ability to work across other industries bring unique insight and valuable perspective.
How does a person in the midst of building a career lay track to join the board of directors someday?
I asked Nancy May, an expert in board governance and the CEO of Board Bench for her guidance. Nancy coaches board of director candidates and knows exactly what managers who have their eye on the prize need to do to prepare for an esteemed seat.
- Quantify everything.
You’ll have many achievements in your career – you’ll drive sales, build teams, acquire customers – and it’s important that you keep track and quantify your successes in terms of the financial returns you’ve contributed over time. If you’re in a role not directly responsible for P&L, like marketing, be able to articulate how your role has contributed to the success of the business, and what your personal ROI is.
Learn how to read and analyze a balance sheet.
Follow companies you like and get in the habit of reading their quarterly reports. Develop a sense of how companies work at the highest level. Every local college and university has a course in corporate governance, consider signing up.
- Get exposure to other board directors.
Look for opportunities to get in front of your own board – make a presentation, deliver a report. You could also join an organization like the American College of Corporate Directors.
- Plan well in advance.
You don’t wait until your reach the c-suite or leave your job to begin searching for a potential board seat. Begin your search in the prime of your career when you have optimal cashé.
- Make sure your bio and CV are up to speed.
Create an editorialized version of your character and personality. Highlight not just management, but governance experience. Accurately represent that you have influence in working with committees. Present this information in a way that demonstrates your value.
- Build a network and cultivate references.
Ultimately, networking is the best way to find out where opportunities are, and eventually be invited for board consideration. Build a strong network throughout your career. If you’re in a large corporation, it’s easier to get a seat on the board of a large corporation.
- Diversity is an asset. No board will hire you just because you bring diversity, but there are great companies looking for qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and perspective.
Conventional wisdom says that serving on nonprofit boards is a path to a corporate board seat, but Nancy cautions against this approach. “Non-profit boards will help you gain exposure and experience, but it’s not a direct track,” says Nancy. “Never join a nonprofit unless you are absolutely passionate about the mission.”
“Ultimately,” says Nancy, “you need a skill that is in top demand, so begin to make yourself a source of valuable support, advice and guidance as early in your career as you can.”