Weekend Observations: How Being Girly Helps Us Be Stronger Women

main_slogan I know, I know, It’s been a few weeks since my last confessi…uh…I mean post.  The reason?  I was scrambling to get to the South of France last week for the annual Cannes Lion Festival.  This is a week filled with advertising folks schmoozing with one another — in boardrooms, at beach cafes and in late night hotel bars over lots and lots of rose.
Needless to say, the beauty and fashion sightings are tremendous. Everyone gets gussied up.  In fact, I think people went all out this year versus years past.  I, on the other hand, was less crazy about my attire and beauty.  Instead of my multi-week lead up of prep, I ended up bringing favorites from the past years and some new cheapie items (though people loved them and kept on asking which designers they belonged to…haha).
Despite all the beauty and fashion fodder I was able to feast my eyes on everyday, I wanted to focus on one aspect of the trip: The Girls’ Lounge. Every year the founder of research company OTX (she has since sold the company to Ipsos), Shelley Zalis, hosts a girls’ lounge throughout the conference.  There she brings women together to chat, hear from experts, snack on female favorites (candy and cocktails). But what’s even better are the hair, nail and make-up treatments, and styling sessions.  What’s more?  You can take advantage of all this beautifying by getting professional headshots.
What’s with all this beautifying?  Is this really what we’re all about?  After all, most of the ladies in Cannes are intelligent, worldly business women.  So wouldn’t we rather trade insights and business practices?
Well, yes.  To an extent.  Of course we all love some great business sound bites but all of us chicks love beauty too!  But the real brilliance of this space is multi-fold.  First, the overall love we have for beauty, and other girly treats, puts us in a fun-loving mindset.  And that helps us all relax and open up.  In fact, the woman getting her make-up done along with me, had broken down at the lounge.  She was so overwhelmed by Shelley’s generosity.  Second, feeling beautiful gives us all a boost of confidence which in turn helps us rock our worlds.  And finally, getting us to unite around what we all love, e.g., i.e., beauty, we forget how may differ in terms of level, industry and background.  We are all sisters ready to have fun and help one another out.
I wasn’t sure I would have a chance to make the lounge.  Too many meetings in the way.  But I had a window and went for it.  Not only did I come back with some candy, a glamorous look, and a new friendship.
Thank you Shelly, and thank you all for our love of girly things.

Weekend Observations: Should We Care if We Make Others Uncomfortable With How We Look?

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What’s better?  To dress how we want because it will make us feel better and perform better? Or is it better to dress for others because it will make them feel more comfortable with us and therefore more amenable to our point of view?
Hmmmm.
Of course we would all probably say a little of both.  And in most cases we do a little of both on a daily basis. None of us dress like total buffoons but we all assert our individuality more or less.
But what happens when you need to perform, I mean really perform, like on a big stage in front of a lot of people.  In such a case you totally need to be on your A game and whatever you need to do to feel the most confident, you do.  Like wear what makes you feel best or most comfortable.  BUUUUTTT, you also have to appeal to a diverse, bug group of people who don’t know you and are going to get a sense of who you are and what you believe in a short amount of time.
So what do you do?
Well, I face this a lot.
Like so many women, what we wear can be both a source of pleasure and pain.
Our outfits and overall appearance can lift our spirit and give us a boost of confidence.  And they can also be another aspect of ourselves that people can pick apart. (Funny how men don’t seem to get this type of criticism, eh?)
In the end, I choose to dress for me.  Because it’s me — not some sanitized version of me — that I want people to know up on the big (or even small stage).  They may not all like what I wear, and frankly, they may not all like me.  But in the end, I’d rather be interesting than easy.

Weekend Observations: It's More Important They See Your Beauty Than Your Slides'

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Ok, I know I have a weird title for this post.  But it will make sense soon enough.
You’re hearing from me later in the week than usual because I spent the weekend in a swirl of SXSW activities.
One of those activities was me giving a talk Friday afternoon. Not only did I have the privilege of speaking at this major conference, but I was scheduled to speak in a ballroom at the key location: the Austin Convention Center.
As you can imagine I prepped like hell for this event. I worked for months on my speech, memorized it, created a nice looking presentation, and nailed a pretty cool outfit.  Despite all the prepping that the festival demanded of me (including 6 months of multiple submissions), I assumed the actual venue would be top-notch.
Weelllll, it felt a bit like amateur hour.  The conference did a god job clarifying exactly when and where I had to be. But when I arrived at the actual “stage” there was no clicker, the podium was smack in the middle of the stage (which is terrible if you seek to “own” the stage), and the lighting was horrible.  Either we dimmed the lights so that my sexy slides could pop or we keep the lights up so the audience can see me in all my glory.
I chose my slides over me.
Big mistake.
I asked the conference volunteers to dim the lights.  My slides ended up looked pretty good and my videos generated the energy I wanted, but the audience couldn’t really focus on me.
Let me be clear, I don’t want all eyes on me because I want to show off my blow out or new jeans.  The audience needs to connect with ME first, not my slides.  In hindsight this seems obvious.  But when you work so hard on your content, you can get hung up on it and lose sight of the fact that most people forget 80% of what you say.   If a speaker is awesome, people remember her — her energy, passion and brilliance, not her slides.
Oh well.  At least I didn’t pull a “Michael Bay” and totally screw up (though I think he may have made a perfect move for a whole other reason and that’s a post for another day :)).
Better yet, I did a pretty good job.  Too bad not enough people could have seen it.

Weekend Observations: It’s More Important They See Your Beauty Than Your Slides’

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Ok, I know I have a weird title for this post.  But it will make sense soon enough.

You’re hearing from me later in the week than usual because I spent the weekend in a swirl of SXSW activities.

One of those activities was me giving a talk Friday afternoon. Not only did I have the privilege of speaking at this major conference, but I was scheduled to speak in a ballroom at the key location: the Austin Convention Center.

As you can imagine I prepped like hell for this event. I worked for months on my speech, memorized it, created a nice looking presentation, and nailed a pretty cool outfit.  Despite all the prepping that the festival demanded of me (including 6 months of multiple submissions), I assumed the actual venue would be top-notch.

Weelllll, it felt a bit like amateur hour.  The conference did a god job clarifying exactly when and where I had to be. But when I arrived at the actual “stage” there was no clicker, the podium was smack in the middle of the stage (which is terrible if you seek to “own” the stage), and the lighting was horrible.  Either we dimmed the lights so that my sexy slides could pop or we keep the lights up so the audience can see me in all my glory.

I chose my slides over me.

Big mistake.

I asked the conference volunteers to dim the lights.  My slides ended up looked pretty good and my videos generated the energy I wanted, but the audience couldn’t really focus on me.

Let me be clear, I don’t want all eyes on me because I want to show off my blow out or new jeans.  The audience needs to connect with ME first, not my slides.  In hindsight this seems obvious.  But when you work so hard on your content, you can get hung up on it and lose sight of the fact that most people forget 80% of what you say.   If a speaker is awesome, people remember her — her energy, passion and brilliance, not her slides.

Oh well.  At least I didn’t pull a “Michael Bay” and totally screw up (though I think he may have made a perfect move for a whole other reason and that’s a post for another day :)).

Better yet, I did a pretty good job.  Too bad not enough people could have seen it.

Weekend Observations: Forget the CV, Make a Video

IMG_20140206_163545877Whether we like it or not, how we appear isn’t just a part of the “package” anymore.  It’s become KEY.
Our CV’s aren’t our calling cards or the only entrée into a job or network.  Instead it’s the online video of our last talk that people will check out.
We can complain and moan that we’re all on display now, or we can embrace it.
I came to this harsh truth when I saw a pic of myself in Fast Company in the Feb issue.  It’s a pic among thousands of others that I asked someone to take to be used as professional heads hots.  Because I didn’t pay the big bucks, I was stuck with only 1 or 2 that were worth anything.  For the Fast Company piece, I was asked for a certain pose and my shots with that pose were less than ideal.  Ugh.  So when I opened the magazine which I finally pushed  myself to buy in a Hudson bookstore in JFK airport, and saw the pic, I was not pleased.  I knew that many will have seen my pic along with my title.  And that’s about ALL they’ll know of me.  In other words, Abigail Posner = Dowdy.
Of course, we don’t want people to assume a person’s character or create expectations of someone else based on their pic or video alone.  But in our highly visual world, it’s hard not to.
Yet, there’s another side to this phenomenon too.
I ran into some one at a wedding last night whom I had met casually a few weeks ago.  She said she looked me up and watched one of the my talks.  And from the video she got to “know” me a bit.  I liked that.  So instead of judging me on that one introduction, she had another way to learn about me.
No matter what, we are going to be “seen” a lot more and people are going to learn about us and, yes, maybe even judge us on how we look or appear.  So instead of complain about it, I say invest in some great pics (and get your hair and make-up done beforehand!) and find a way to turn your 2D resume into a video.  I guarantee you’ll be better off.
 

Weekend Observations: Let's Get a Grip On What's Really Unfair

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Let’s talk about fairness.
I just read a post in the New Yorker (Does Beauty Drive Economic Success?) about a new study that correlates the good looks of newly appointed CEOs to a rise in their companys’ stock prices.  This study follows a long line of studies that show how better looking people enjoy more economic success than less attractive folks.
The post proceeds to add comments by cultural theorists, like Naomi Wolf, condemning the “unfairness” of looks-ism in the workplace.
Now, come on.
Successful business people share a lot of qualities beyond looks that I find unfair too!  I bet you most successful people have a knack for making friends, telling jokes, and speaking in public.  I wish I could have some of these traits.
EVERYONE is going to have a set of gifts that will raise them to great heights.  Is that fair?  Just today, as I was watching my daughter kick ass at fencing, I thought to myself: “Wow, I wish I had her ability to maneuver my body the way she does.”  She was born with a physical intelligence that I will never have.  Is that fair?  Of course!
Being better looking isn’t something we should be judged on exclusively, of course.  But having it be a component of our overall package isn’t shameful.
And if you want to talk about fairness, being 20 lbs overweight or bald does not nearly compare to being raised in an underprivileged household, being born in a poverty-stricken country, or being severely disabled.  Think these folks will have it easy being successful in business?  Now that’s unfair!
Let’s get real here.  If we’re all so worried about not being successful because of how great (or not) we look, then hone another talent or skill.  Nobody gets by via looks alone.  It’s a package.

Weekend Observations: Let’s Get a Grip On What’s Really Unfair

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Let’s talk about fairness.

I just read a post in the New Yorker (Does Beauty Drive Economic Success?) about a new study that correlates the good looks of newly appointed CEOs to a rise in their companys’ stock prices.  This study follows a long line of studies that show how better looking people enjoy more economic success than less attractive folks.

The post proceeds to add comments by cultural theorists, like Naomi Wolf, condemning the “unfairness” of looks-ism in the workplace.

Now, come on.

Successful business people share a lot of qualities beyond looks that I find unfair too!  I bet you most successful people have a knack for making friends, telling jokes, and speaking in public.  I wish I could have some of these traits.

EVERYONE is going to have a set of gifts that will raise them to great heights.  Is that fair?  Just today, as I was watching my daughter kick ass at fencing, I thought to myself: “Wow, I wish I had her ability to maneuver my body the way she does.”  She was born with a physical intelligence that I will never have.  Is that fair?  Of course!

Being better looking isn’t something we should be judged on exclusively, of course.  But having it be a component of our overall package isn’t shameful.

And if you want to talk about fairness, being 20 lbs overweight or bald does not nearly compare to being raised in an underprivileged household, being born in a poverty-stricken country, or being severely disabled.  Think these folks will have it easy being successful in business?  Now that’s unfair!

Let’s get real here.  If we’re all so worried about not being successful because of how great (or not) we look, then hone another talent or skill.  Nobody gets by via looks alone.  It’s a package.

Weekend Observation: Beauty Catastrophes, A Good Thing? Yep

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Imagine this: I’ve traveled all the way across the country only to find out my hotel is in East Bumfuck, Ca, which is FAAAARRRR from the dinner I’m supposed to have that night.  So, I suck it up go an hour out of my way and back, and finally return to my hotel much later than desired.
Why do I care about my lack of beauty sleep?  Well, the following day I needed to be up on stage to present to a new set clients.  And it doesn’t end there. I then needed to zip up to San Fran that eve and fly the next AM to Atlanta only to be fresh and lovely for my NEXT big stage event!
What is truly freaking me out at this point is not so much the lack of sleep I’m going to endure, but that fact that I screwed up my blow out appointment for the following day.  Despite a crazy schedule, I figured out how to get a blow out in Palo Alto (not a straight shot, but the only place I trusted to give me a satisfactory “do”).
Now, you’re probably thinking, what’s the big deal?  It’s going to be a scheduling nightmare anyway.  But, oh, hair — along with the outfit and heels — can make or break a look.  Of course I needed to feel confident about my content.  But as we all know, if I feel I look like shit, I’m SOOO not “on.”
Once I arrived back at my hotel, I noticed my colleagues, whom I had yet to meet in person, sitting at the hotel bar.  I could have slunk towards the hotel elevators and let myself cool off in my room.  Or I could have introduced myself and greased the wheels for the following day.  And that’s what I did.  I came over and said “hi.”  As you can imagine, I was harried, stressed and not super professional given my hair agita.   I could have tried to contain my stress and show how smooth and under control I am.  After all, this is these ladies’ first time meeting me in the flesh.  How dare I seem like a spaz, especially over hair!!.
But I didn’t hold back.  I launched way in.  I threw away any semblance of professionalism, and told the ladies about my hair woes.  Rather than reeling back in horror, the ladies jumped right in to help me solve the problem.  And, even after we figured the hair situation out, we continued to share stories about our love of blow outs.  And what’s even better?  The following day, after I killed the presentation, they sent recco’s of blow out places in their home town of Chicago.
No question I may have seemed a bit crazy and frivolous, but I do feel like the beauty talk bonded us.  Sure, I would have seemed more perfect or out of reach had I swooped in looking and acting calm, cool, and collected and looking perfect.  But who likes those people, anyway?  Beauty is a great unifier.  And when others can help their friends look even more beautiful, the bonds among us get that much stronger.

Weekend Observation: The Difference Red Makes

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I did it.
I went red.
Not brick, not mauve, not cherry.  I went full on RED.  MAC’s Russian Red to be exact.  And the response has been fascinating.
If you recall, I had a “presentation make-over.”  In other words, I worked with a stylist to find me the right make-up for big-stage presentations.  While I bought everything on the carefully drawn list of cosmetics, the one item I shunned away from was the bright lipstick, MAC’s Rebel.
Since I have a few big presentations this week in various cities around the country, I decided to take the plunge and buy it.  But I didn’t stop there.  I  took the opportunity to go all out and take the step that I avoided since my teen years: wearing bright red lipstick.
Why have I stayed away from this feminine, sexy, and powerful color for so long? Maybe I was self-conscious and didn’t want to stand out.  Or maybe I thought my lips were too small and my jaw to big to pull it off. Or maybe I never felt quite grown-up and sophisticated enough.
Actually it was all three.
But at the ripe old age of 41, I have realized it’s time.  If not now then when, right?
So I did it.  I bought Rebel, Russian Red and Cherry lip liner to boot.  And after day 1, I’m happy to say that I’m liking the results.  Sure, I had a few snafus — lip liner not quite outlining my lips properly, and at one point I could have sworn that one side of my lips was brighter than the other — but, all in all, I’m happy.  It definitely brightens up my face and I even think I got a few glances from chaps on the street.  But most of all, I’m psyched that I had the confidence to finally do it, and just say “what the hell.”  What’s more, I had the same feeling I get when wearing high heels: powerful, strong and sharp.
I’m excited to wear red again.  Still a little hesitant on the Rebel color but looking forward to meeting this challenge head on! (Don’t you wish all of our life-long challenges were so fun? :))

Looks Discrimination is Still Out There, But That Doesn't Mean Attractiveness is Bad

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While it may not be new news, looks discrimination is still plaguing us in the workplace.  And, no surprise, it hurts women more than men.  Naomi Wolf wrote about this recently in her piece:  ‘Beauty Quotient’ still limiting factor for professional women.  And I’m not just talking about women who may appear less than desirable.  I’m  even referring to women who seem “too sexy” for some.
Ugh, I’m so sick of it.
As you all of you know, I’m a big proponent of people – women and men alike — caring for their appearances.  I think they will be physically and emotionally healthier as a result.  And I also recognize that our looks are our part of the package we share with colleagues and customers.  How we appear matters and sends signals.  But it shouldn’t be something that gets in the way of progress, of course.
I’m fortunate enough to work alongside some of the most competent, intelligent people in the world. And they also happen to be quite attractive.  Few may win Miss or Mr. Universe contests, but they all make it a habit of appearing attractive.  To them, it’s a no brainer.  If you’re high achieving in your job, then you’re the same with your body.  And that’s not a bad thing!  They’re probably high achieving when it comes to their weekend activities and hobbies too!  If they think it makes them whole, then so be it.  Does this drive for beauty lead to some deviant behaviors?  Maybe for a few.  But the majority of the people I work with are just happy, hard-working folks who see their bodies as a work of progress and something to be embraced and celebrated.  Net net, looking good makes them feel better about themselves.
I’m not endorsing looks discrimination.  Don’t get me wrong.  But not to recognizing the positive power of attractiveness for one’s own sake and that of others, isn’t the way either.  I truly believe if we all just concentrated on our own physical health and well-being a bit more instead of focusing so much on that of others’, we’d all be that much happier and more accepting of those around us.