Posts Categorized: feminism

Leaders of Today and Tomorrow is Recruiting!

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LOTT 2013-14 Cohort

About three years ago, I was asked to speak on a career and employment panel for a program called Leaders of Today and Tomorrow (LOTT). I became so passionate about this amazing program that I joined the board, watched the phenomenal impact it had on the women involved, and am now the proud co-chair.

Here’s the long and the short of it: We want to help college-aged and emerging professional women see their roles in furthering women’s leadership in all sectors of society. The LOTT program is designed to develop young women’s potential to lead professionally, personally, and in their communities. I have said many times that the work I do here on the blog is driven by a desire to empower and encourage all women everywhere to pursue their dreams and make real change in the world. I most certainly want you to look and feel amazing, but mostly I want you to look and feel amazing so you can stop worrying about how you look and get on with the work of your life. My work with LOTT allows me to help a group of young women do just that each and every year.

You can learn more about the program, review program dates, and read testimonials right here.

If you are in the Twin Cities (or surrounding areas and willing to commute in for programming) and you are interested in becoming a mentor or fellow, we are recruiting for both right now!

As we are newly on our own, we are also fundraising to cover the small but important costs of running this program. This program is completely free to the fellows and entirely volunteer-run, but even with 100% board donation support we are shy of meeting our program expenses. We also hope to utilize any additional funds to offset legal costs and aid in expanding the program beyond our home city.

We are not kidding when we say every little bit helps! Tax deductible donations in any amount at all are welcome and appreciated.

We would also love help spreading the word about our program. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, send our website to any women in your life who might be able to join us, support us, or spread our message further.

When will this program be available in my area?

I will absolutely keep you posted, friends. Right now, this program is a life-changer. I have watched our fellows enter fearful, confused, and eager to learn, graduate informed, prepared, and excited for the future. But I want to see LOTT become a world-changer. We need more women in leadership positions in every corner of every industry, at every level of every government, and all across the globe. And I have every intention of doing my part to make that a reality. Your support now will help make this possible, your participation now will pave the way for the fellows and mentors to come. Thank you in advance for anything you can do to help us equip emerging women leaders with the tools they need to build a better tomorrow.

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This Week I Love …

Wendy for sitting me down ten years ago and saying, “Kid, you’re gonna do big things.” I admired her tremendously. She barely knew me. This was such a gift.

… Beth for matching my intensity at every turn and for being my professionalism and graciousness role model.

Sarah for being the person in my life who constantly asks, “What’s next for you?” and keeps me thinking about what more I can accomplish.

… JoAnna for inspiring me with her strength and bravery, and for telling me constantly that she admires me for mine.

Bets for being willing to listen to my worries, connect me with anyone in her network, and celebrate all of my triumphs. Even the tiny, internal ones.

Barbara for mentoring me without meaning to and showing me that a Capricorn CAN be self-employed and love it. By doing it herself first.

Katie for her passion and insight, support and affection.

Allie and Sarah for sending me all the good feminist jokes and working right alongside me to empower women.

… Emily and Anne and Hanna and Gaby for knowing my whole sordid history and loving and accepting me anyway.

Tehilah for her marvelously rambly phone messages, sage advice, and unending support. I know for a fact that if I needed her, she would hop the first flight out of JFK and be at my side in mere hours.

… Claire and Maureen and Anita and Christy for asking, “What can we do to help?” And meaning it.

Trinity for making me think hard about my actions and their repercussions, and for her curiosity and kindness and patience.

Annie for showing me that when you’re chasing your dreams, very little else matters. And for making me laugh my ass off.

Christina for her gentle compassion, flexibility, and unending generosity.

Megan for forgiving me even when she probably shouldn’t have.

Liz for hatching big plans with me, swearing fluently with me, commiserating with me, geeking out with me.

Autumn for reminding me that being candid is always a good idea, and that kindred spirits are rare and precious.

Audi for being my polar opposite and mirror image all at once. And for reminding me to RELAX, for God’s sake.

Amy for kicking ass and taking names, for cracking me up on the regular, and for inspiring me with her meticulous plans for world domination.

Letta for being brilliant, hilarious, effusive, and unstoppable.

This week I’m thinking about the women in my life and how essential they are to my happiness and well-being. I am blessed and fortunate to have a large and loving network of women friends who do nothing but support me, encourage me, and lift me up. In a world where the media pits women against each other, focuses on competition instead of collaboration, and manufactures cat-fights to drive ratings and page views, I want to take a moment to say that I love my women friends so much. More than I can ever express in words. We stand together, we work together, and unlike the TV- and movie-depicted women we never steal each others’ boyfriends. Or thunder. Or anything at all.

I started this blog because of my women friends. I realized that I was having the same conversations over and over again about weight and body image and confidence and self-esteem. My friends struggled to feel good about their bodies in a constant and exhausting way, and I wanted to show them that they didn’t need to change themselves. Not ever. And that instead of digging into another crash diet or investing in a round of Botox, they might consider exploring dressing options that highlighted what they already loved about their bodies. And practice some daily acceptance and forgiveness. I had those conversations in person, and they helped me move toward having them in writing and in a space where they might support and validate even more women.

I write and speak and teach to empower all women including the ones I’ve never met, but the people who make that work possible and keep me going when I’m ready to throw in the towel? They’re my women friends. The people who hug me and tell me they’re proud of me and remind me to be grateful. The people whose successes thrill me, whose tragedies crush me, whose new endeavors and adventures fill me with pride and joy. The people who see me often yet are always visibly glad, or see me seldom but welcome me as if not a day has gone by.

The older I get, the more strongly I believe that it’s essential to tell the important people in your life how important they are. Tell the people you love that you love them. I tell these amazing, inspiring women that I love and value them as often as I can to their faces, or to their phones and computers. I probably do it a little more than is strictly necessary, but I’d rather err on the gushy side. If you have women in your life who support and celebrate you, I’d love it if you would take a moment today to reach out and let them know how much you appreciate them.

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Makeup and Professionalism

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Over the past few months, I’ve read several essays linking makeup and professionalism. Written by stylish women working in corporate America, these articles insist that daily makeup application is a must for working women, and that going without it may degrade your image of competence and reliability. They inevitably cite a recent study, the results of which indicate that women wearing just the right amount of makeup appear more trustworthy and likable to most observers. And they send readers scrambling to Sephora to upgrade their stashes.

I never experimented with makeup as a girl and didn’t even learn to pluck my eyebrows until I was 30. The older I get, the more I find myself relying on cosmetics to define and conceal, shape and highlight my features. And although I’d rather spend my precious minutes reading or sleeping or kissing my husband, I don’t actively resent my ever-expanding makeup application routine.

I do, however, resent the implication that a woman without makeup doesn’t belong in the workplace, or that applying makeup is essential to career success. And here’s why:

Laws versus policing

I encourage my readers and clients to select clothing that fits their figures and broadcasts their confidence and self-respect. I believe that dressing is a social contract and that understanding the norms surrounding appropriate dressing choices for various life situations will ease human relationships. But I am also aware that there are laws about clothing. Actual laws that apply to both men and women. To go about in public and not be fined or arrested, humans must be clothed. And in my opinion, since we’ve got to get dressed anyway, we might as well do it expressively and in ways that feel good. Since dressing is social, we can also make style choices that will make us appear polished, impressive, and self-aware. So, in my view, acquiring an understanding of how to dress is both beneficial and required.

There are no laws about wearing makeup. Makeup is entirely optional everywhere. Although some men wear makeup, the majority of makeup consumers and wearers are women. And to tell these women that they should feel obliged to apply makeup on a daily basis in order to garner the respect and admiration of their colleagues is to police their behaviors based solely on social norms. To say that makeup is essential to workplace achievement is to promote the belief that the performance of traditional femininity is the only route to professional success for women. To insist on a set of grooming-related behaviors that doesn’t remove dirt or odor, doesn’t make something that is naturally messy look neater, and really only serves to “enhance” or “amplify” certain facial features is to remind women that their physical selves are never going to be acceptable in their natural state.

I understand that there are plenty of voluntary behaviors that human beings engage to further their personal goals, plenty of things we do because they’re beneficial though not required. And yet this case is so focused on forcing women to be and look one specific way, I can’t help but feel it is more about reinforcing existing social norms than it is about ensuring the professional success of women as a group.

The fine line

But what about that study, you ask? Well, first off, it was funded by Procter & Gamble, a company that manufactures and sells makeup and was undoubtedly thrilled to see results linking makeup and trustworthiness. But perhaps more importantly, the results emphasized that while barefaced is too little, “glamorous” is too much. If you apply just the right amount of eyeshadow and blush, you appear more capable, reliable and amiable. But overdo it and “there may be a lowering of trust.”

So not only are you being asked to spend money on cosmetics and spend your time and energy applying them, you must be very careful not to apply too little or too much or you risk ruining everything. Without makeup, you’re unprofessional, inexperienced, a hippie or a child or a socially oblivious loser. With too much makeup you’re unprofessional in an entirely different way, still socially oblivious but more on the sexualized diva end of the spectrum.

There are parallels to dressing, here, of course: Women are expected to dress in ways that aren’t too dowdy or too slutty. Fall too far on either side and you risk ridicule and censure by the lady-policing machinery built into modern society. This is nothing you’ll ever hear me defending. But again, wearing clothing is required by law and since you’ve got to get dressed anyway, choosing to align your lawfully required garments with social expectations may work to your benefit. Makeup is optional. And if you aren’t naturally interested in it and you ARE going to be judged negatively should you fail to apply the exact right amount of it, why bother at all?

Focus on accomplishment

I give presentations on professional dress and grooming to college seniors and women’s leadership programs, so you’ll never hear me say that how you present your physical self in professional situations is irrelevant. But here’s a tidbit that goes into every single lecture I deliver: Comportment, demeanor, dress, grooming, and overall appearance constitute the first levels of information about ourselves that we offer to the observing world. They may not be the most important, but they are the first, which makes them worthy of effort and attention.

What I hope to convey to my audience members is that blending personal style and comfort preferences with environmental expectations can help you create looks that feel great and allow you to forget all about what you look like so you can focus on your message, your work, your passion. I also remind them that badly applied makeup is generally considered to be worse than no makeup at all, and that it’s completely fine to skip it. I want them to feel confident and empowered, and I want them to think more about their goals than their shoes.

By telling women that a perfectly applied face of makeup is a prerequisite for career success, we are telling them that how they look is more important than what they know or what they have achieved. We are telling them that their natural faces will distract people, that being pretty is necessary regardless of circumstance, that performing femininity in exactly the right way isn’t just helpful, it’s essential. Insisting that makeup become integral to a professional woman’s daily life subtly tells her that if she doesn’t look right it won’t matter how smart or creative or innovative or capable she is. And that is patently untrue.

Since I’ve admitted to being a makeup novice myself, I realize I may sound defensive. And maybe I am. When I read this spate of makeup-career articles, the underlying message I got was, “If you don’t wear makeup, you don’t look like a grownup to other grownups.” And that sentiment makes me want to break things. Some adult women wear makeup and others don’t. Learning to apply makeup is a rite of passage for many, but it is not a skill set required for acceptance into the Grown-Ass Woman Club. Any more than having children or going to college or losing your virginity or working outside the home or any of the other arbitrary markers of so-called “real” womanhood are. Being a woman can be done in infinite ways, and forging a successful career path can play out in infinite ways. Accomplished, professional, grown women can take on the world at any age, at any stage, and in any way they see fit.

And they can do it with or without lipstick and foundation.

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