You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

  Yesterday I had the opporunity to attend two important events in the state of Utah.  The first was the Governor’s Economic Summit and the second was a private gathering for “Utah’s Wonder Women.”  Both events had a focus on women in leadership, and are committed to helping Utah move our state forward toward equality.

So much good going on in both of these forums, but my most memorable quote from the day came repeated at both of them:  “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See.”.  This was in reference to defining one of the roles that female leaders need to take both in Utah and around the world.  Often, without knowing it, we are role models to those around us.  In my case, listening to this made me proud of what I do, not because I have arrived at some place of achievement, but because I am showing my daughter and my son what is possible.

One of our guest speaker, Margit Wennmachers, a partner with Andreessen Horowitz, shared a story about how her daughter’s second grade class had the opportunity to Skype with a female college student in Germany who was studying to be a physicist.  Within weeks, four of the girls in the class had decided that when they grow up they want to become physicists too.  How amazing that exposure to something alone, puts the seed of an idea in childrens’ minds.  What a powerful example.

Sometimes, I look at myself and wonder if all of the stress and pressure, and a feeling of missing out on things in my kids’ lives, makes working worth it.  I love what I do.  But, I love my kids and Jon more.  After yesterday, I gained more realization that although it is, of couse, a trade off, I don’t work just for me.  I work for Katharine and Matthew, and for all of the other young women in my life…to help them see what they can be.

Making Change Happen in Utah

Last night at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used the stage to speak about an incredibly important issue to me – equality for women. Unfortunately, her memorable Oscar speech was followed with backstage words that didn’t help the cause. You can agree or disagree with her backstage follow up, but I hope that it is hard for any of us to disagree with what she said behind the microphone.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”             – Patricia Arquette

The issue of equal rights, and equal pay for women has been on my mind a lot lately. Since last fall, I have been spending a lot of thinking time about how I can help the women in my life succeed professionally. Whether it be giving my time to them, or clearing the path for their success, I have become more aware that I have a key role in helping the people around me succeed.   Last nights speech from Patricia renewed my energy, and I decided to write tonight about an experience I had last December. I had intended to blog about it then, but lost momentum. Thank you Patricia for helping me to get pissed off again (the most productive time to channel my inner feminist!).

In December, Jon and I were watching television after our kids were in bed.  He was on his iPad browsing Facebook, and ran across an article from the NY Post that caught his attention.  The headline….”5 places women shouldn’t spend their travel dollars.”  He asked me to guess to see if I could come up with the list of places before reading me the article.  I rattled off Saudi Arabia (on the list), Iran (not on the list), a few countries in Africa (not on the list), and he continued to say no until I couldn’t come up with any more ideas.  Finally, he just started reading me the article.  My jaw dropped with the mention of Utah as #5.  And Turkey for that matter, which when visiting I found a wonderful open place.

The article leads with:

 “It’s a sad fact that in the 21st century, women around the globe continue to encounter rampant discrimination, harassment and inequality. Sad — though not necessarily surprising. Here are five places where women’s rights are being exploited and sexism reaches into the highest echelons of government — reason enough to take your travel dollars elsewhere.”

The state I love to live and work in meets this description?  That sucks.  I found myself a combination of pissed off at the state of affairs for women in Utah, and frustrated with the quality of journalism demonstrated by the NY Post.

Part 1:  As I mentioned in my previous post, we do need to make progress in Utah.  We need to raise young men and women who think about many options for a woman’s career – both going to work and being a mom.  We need to close the pay gap between men and women which is ranked 49th in the United States for equality.  We need more females in our state government.  We need more women in company leadership.  We need more young women to complete post-secondary education.  And, we need companies to lead the way to make this change happen.

Part 2:  Good journalism is dead.  This may be extreme, but so is calling Utah one of the top 5 worse spots for women to put their travel dollars based on discrimination, inequality, sexual exploitation, etc.  There are countries around the world where women cannot show their face, where over half of new brides are under 16, where over 80% of women report domestic abuse, and you put Utah as #5 on this list?  I appreciate the journalist bringing attention to women’s issues, and even the women’s issues of Utah, but do your research.  This article was simply inflammatory (which of course I fell for hook, line and sinker).

I feel lucky to have a support network in my husband, family and friends that help support my desires professionally and personally.  I am grateful for my upbringing where my parents taught me to only see what is possible for me, never the barriers in front of me, and to work hard to achieve what is possible.  I feel proud of my company, CHG Healthcare Services, for creating a culture to work where women in Utah (and around the country) can have the career that they want, while balancing a family at home if they choose.  Our leading brand, CompHealth, has an executive leadership team with 50% women leaders.

This recent speech by Patricia Arquette and the preceding NY Post article has elevated my commitment and my desire to utilize my experiences, and the experiences at CHG Healthcare to lead Utah out of inequality, to show other companies, and women living in our state, that change can happen if we all put our energy, our money and our time towards making it happen.  In doing so, we will not only create a better culture in Utah for females, but equality for others who are underrepresented.

So what, you may ask, am I going to do about it?  No answers yet, but stay tuned.  Today it begins with telling you that change can happen.  We are doing it at CHG Healthcare….why aren’t you?

Commitments: Help Utah Female Professionals Succeed

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Recently, my friend pointed me toward an article in the recent Utah Business magazine that gave the facts on the employment of women and men in Utah and their current wages.  The data was sourced to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey.  And, it made me sad.  Out of just over 1.2 million employed, civilian workers females made up 44.4% of the workforce and earned a median $20,053 per year (compared to males at $39,880).

In doing some follow up research, I got a lot more sad at the current state of affairs in Utah for female professionals.  It ultimately makes me worried for my daughter, wanting to figure out a way to help her lean to navigate the workforce reality.  USA Today stated in a recent article that Utah is the #1 worst state for women.  The methodology for their rating looks at wage gap, women in private company leadership, women in state legislature, poverty rate and infant mortality rate.  The article even noted that in Utah, women are holding less than 1 in 3 management positions.

I have been a resident of Utah for about 10 of the last 13 years.  I never thought I would live in Utah.  I met Jon at a wedding in Ohio, and I vividly remember him telling me he lived in Utah.  Utah?  I knew California, Las Vegas, Yellowstone and the Colorado rockies, but Utah?  Weren’t people from Utah either Mormon or ski bums?  Jon didn’t seem like either when I met him, so I went with it.  I was simply a love-struck 20 something, wondering more about where our next date weekend would be than the state of the workforce for female professionals.  I ultimately moved here, have fallen in love with the place, and have led about half of my 16 year career in the state.

Now, I consider myself a Utah local, a professional woman, and one of the apparently few female company executives in the state. I sit here thinking about how my role as a female executive can help drive change.  It is ironic to think this way, because I rarely, if ever, think about being a woman at work.  Over the years, I have come to work, tried my hardest to succeed every day, looked for opportunities to stretch myself, learned a lot, and ultimately tried not to take no for an answer.  By not defining myself using my gender, I have never seen professional boundaries.  This boundary-less world view has by its definition opened up my eyes to opportunities that I would otherwise never have seen.

I want to help, and take a purposeful role in making the future better in Utah for women.  But, I feel stuck.  Due to the fact that I am a working mother of two, and have the job that I have, I have little time to give to anything beyond my family and my job.  I feel guilty and sad to see this state of affairs and not be able to give more to help change it.  That said, this reality I live in of having to forcefully prioritize the time that I have, has been one of the things that has made me successful over the years.  So, my game plan is to help in the way my schedule and life allow.  I figured writing down a few commitments would help me to remember to stay accountable.

  • Raising strong-willed, independent children with Jon who see professional women as the norm;
  • Helping people in my team succeed as female professionals (in particular working moms);
  • Continue building a culture at CHG Healthcare where it is possible to be a successful working mom and a working dad;
  • Mentor people whenever I can find a spare moment helping to guide them through the choices that they need to make;
  • And, most importantly, never give up on my own dreams.  Shape them to be what I want them to be, not what others think is the right answer.

A short but important list that will hopefully help make a difference.

‘Femvertising’: Authenticity Sells? Let’s Hope So.

I was interested to see at the AdWeek 2014 conference this week that they had a panel on ‘Femvertising’ moderated by Samantha Skey, the Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.  A few definitions if you haven’t hear about this.

Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Advertising – the act of producing an advertisement which is something that is shown or presented to the public to help sell a product or make an announcement.

Femvertising – defined by Samantha during that panel as pro-female messaging within advertising.

Although conceptually I get it, and support the rise of advertising that shows women and girls in authentic ways, I sit here feeling frustrated about this new term.  For some reason it gets me asking why we need a ‘slogan’ to simply communicate what seems like what should be common sense?  Shouldn’t pro-female messaging sell without needing a movement?  Shouldn’t this be what marketers bring out of the gates in our work?  Okay – insert idealistic groan.  This just isn’t how it works no matter how much my idealist wants it to be that way.

So, how does it actually work?  As marketers we are accountable for advertising within an organization.  Per above, this means we are responsible for producing advertisements that sell a product or service or help to make an announcement.  Generally, in organizations we are considered ‘spenders’ of money.  We work long and hard to come up with ideas that sell, and then to sell our ideas internally to our organizations so that they can get funded to be produced and distributed via a media buy which is again a part of funding we must secure on the inside of an organization.

As we do these marketing plans and work on aligning the leaders of our organization, especially in a world where digital marketing is a predominant force in the spend wars of advertising, we talk about measurement.  How are we going to measure if our advertising is working?  What are our expectations for return on investment from the money we invest both in the production of the idea and the media buy?  In order to answer this, we look to historical performance as a benchmark.  How has our audience responded to our advertising in the past, and how much has it helped to sell our products or services?  Often times this gets us back to applying what has worked in the past to sell stuff.  Generally, this is the retouched image removing some inches around a waistline, the aspirational (read that as unrealistically beautiful) model flipping her hair over her shoulder and other unattainable visualizations of what being a woman/girl (and a man for that matter) is supposed to be.

So, as marketers (and advertisers) we have generally been either creating the problem, or are simply doing our jobs which is to sell stuff.  The less progressive position is to assume the latter…to assume that the only way to sell things is to present these ‘aspirational’ images assuming that is what sells.  The more progressive position is to change things.  To not look back at history to direct the choices we make in our current advertising.  Instead, to take on ‘femvertising’ as presented in the panel despite the potential difficulty this brings in making your case in the internal sale for funding of your advertising.  This may require a shift away from a direct sales link of our advertising (like television advertising had a direct link!) and cause us to think differently about how positive reputation of our brands will drive sales over time.  The work from Always in the #LikeAGirl video gives us measurable hope (48 millions YouTube views and counting) that this idealistic view of success is achievable.  But, does it sell product?  Let’s hope so.

So instead of being frustrated that we need a new term like ‘femvertising’ to bring authenticity in advertising out, I am channeling that frustration into action within my marketing team.  Let’s hope other marketers out there are on board.