Archive | August 2012

Coffee Talk – A True Mentoring Experience

On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a special event at the TD Convention Center in Greenville South Carolina.  It was the first annual “Coffee Talk – A Mentoring Experience for Women”.  As the women arrived we began to register at 8:00 am and helped ourselves to coffee which was supplied by Starbucks.  The event started promptly at 8:30 am with Teri Parker, a professional actress, writer and acting teacher who welcomed us and introduced the first speaker.  Our speaker for the morning was Amy Herman.  Amy designed, developed and conducts sessions called “The Art of Perception” using the analysis of works of art to improve perception and communication skills.

She conducts this program across the country and has adapted these sessions for law enforcement, leaders in industry, education and finance.  She has worked with the New York City Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as hospitals, medical schools and nurses.  Amy is also the head of education at The Frick Collection in New York City for eleven years.   She said her Art of Perception sessions should make us rethink how we see and never be afraid to raise questions.  We were told to never be afraid to talk to people about what we are doing and to find our passion – find what we love to do.

After Amy spoke we began our first mentoring session where two at a time mentors rotated from table to table to engage the women in conversations that really matter and ask questions that challenged our thinking.  The first two mentors at my table was Lori Coon, the Chief Operating Officer of Integrated Media Publishing and Edna K. Morris, Chief Executive Officer / Partner of Range Restaurant Group.  We asked them questions about how they began their careers and what advice they could give us as we moved forward in our careers.  These women are bright, insightful and overflowing with rich experiences that we all seemed to soak up like sponges.

After our first mentor session we took a Starbucks coffee break for fifteen minutes then continued on to our second mentor session.  The second two mentors that came to our table were Chandra Dillard, Director of Community Relations at Furman University and a State House of Representatives in District 23 and Andrea Meade, Executive Vice President of Operations & Corporate Development at ScanSource, Inc.  They talked to us about the best advice they were ever given.  They said in leadership you should listen more, be a problem solver and balance life and our careers.  Both women cultivated an atmosphere of great discussions between themselves and the women at the table.  When the session was complete we move to the dining room for lunch.

Our speaker for the afternoon was Susan Tardanico.  She is CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance which is a leadership communications consultancy that advises, coaches and supports executives at major corporations, nonprofits and entrepreneurial ventures.  She is also executive in Residence at the Center for Creative Leadership, writes for Forbes and Forbes Woman and is a member of the adjunct faculties of Georgetown and New York universities where she runs a graduate leadership programs.  Susan’s speech was titled, “How to step into Our Power”.

She told us all solid relationships begin with a solid relationship with yourself.  We should also leverage our intuition and intellect and change our beliefs about our circumstances.  She said that a lot of women suffer from “Imposter Syndrome”, this is defined as “Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved”.   She also said we should let go of limiting beliefs and make choices aligned with who you are.  Make allies and create strategic relationships, these are the ones that matter. Most importantly she told us to know that we are worthy, another words, no your own worth.  The event ended at 1:30 pm and most of the mentors stayed around for continued conversation and questions.

This was an excellent experience and I felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle my purpose head on.

Why Are We Settling For Less?

The wage gap between men and women is a well-documented fact.  But new research shows this gap is attributed in part to the way women are perceived in the workplace.  This study showed that when managers knew they could blame the company’s financial position for their pay decisions, they were more likely to give women smaller raises than men.  It was said that women may be more readily appeased by this excuse than men.  Findings from an experiment of 184 male and female managers with an average of 13.5 years of experience gave 71% of the money available for raises to men and only allocated 29% of the money for women.  Some of this disparity was blamed on the differences in men’s and women’s willingness or skill in negotiating pay.  But if you are giving 71% of the money to men, why would they need to negotiate?

It also showed that managers who gave women explanations or excuses for smaller raises felt they were treating women fairly because they could explain the differences. When managers could not explain their decisions, they gave equal raises to men and women. It is amazing how little we have progressed in the last 100 years.  How much longer are we going to allow ourselves to be discriminated against?  Why are we doing the same jobs with less pay?  Why are we settling for less?

Women in the Olympics Are Winning the Gold But Missing Respect

As the Olympic games come to an end we can look back and see the accomplishments made by women.  But what did we really accomplish?  Gabby Douglas was the first African-American to win the gymnastic all around gold medal as well as the gold for the USA gymnastics team.  But all we heard about was her hair.  The two women from Saudi Arabia were the first women to participate in the Olympics.  But they were called #prostituteoftheOlympics on Twitter even before competing.  Allison Schmitt won a gold medal for swimming but was criticized for not being sexy enough and Lolo Jones was criticized for being too sexy.  Lolo blamed this kind of talk for her lack luster performance in the Olympics.  Serena Williams won two gold medals in the Olympics for tennis, having won the most Golden Grand Slams, man or women in both singles and doubles.  But all they could talk about was her “crip walk” victory dance.  I read an article in the New York Times where the writer said, “Hey, girls, you can play, but only under these rules”:

  • Be pretty, but not too pretty
  • Celebrate but only in approved ways
  • And by all means, when breaking down huge color barriers, make sure your hair is styled in a way that is pleasing to everybody

And women, let’s stop being our own worst enemy by contributing to the double standards in the Olympics. We should be looking at accomplishments of women in the Olympics, not their hair, clothes and looks.  If we don’t support one another, how can we expect to get the respect we deserve?  When we stand by and allow the criticism of these women we are creating discrimination for women everywhere.  So let’s go get the gold but don’t forget the respect.