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A letter from the editor, Lesley Jane Seymour
A friend sends me a query from a reporter looking for female journalists with great advice for getting a scoop. “Are you interested?” she asks. “Sure,” I say, “happy to talk to them.” When I look into the query however, there is no request for an interview, just a form to fill out with my bio and my photo and my tips. This is weird, I think, but fill it out anyway. Next thing I know it’s published—first on Buzzfeed, then on Thrive. Though I’m thrilled to be included in this list of 59 female journalists, I think to myself, “This is journalism?”
The same thing happens after I’m approached by another friend to contribute my story to a book called, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman.” When I examine the link, it’s the same thing: I fill out all the information, submit my essay, and they get back to me if they like it. I tell my friend I don’t really have time to submit things and see what happens but I’m happy to do it if I can speak with the editor. I finally do connect to a human; I write the story and I’m in.
But when the publicity group approaches me, it’s DIY again: fill out a form with all of my press contacts (I have 1000, so I told them to fuggedaboudit). And on it goes: Want to learn more about an interesting content management system that I’ve stumbled across on the web or more about why I need The Instant Pot? Watch the videos! Read the FAQs (frequently asked questions, for those who aren’t knee deep in this stuff) and read the reviews.
Oh wait, it gets better. Now we’re invited to chat with a bot in a pop-up window who is about as intelligent as a rock and who keeps surfacing the same irrelevant FAQs or articles that never answered my question in the first place. Look, I get the efficiencies of the you’re-on-your-own economy. But this lack of human contact is making me long for the days when I had to hang on the phone pounding the “0” (for operator) button and shouting “rep-re-sent-ative!” to the robo voicemail.
How do you feel about DIY? Post your thoughts on the CoveyClub Facebook page here.
A new semi-permanent tattoo called microblading can bring them back
Microblading, a semi-permanent solution for filling in sparse eyebrows (that have resulted from over-plucking, age, illness or hair loss), is one of the hottest trends in the beauty world. The treatment creates dozens of tattoos that mimic the look of natural brow hairs. Unlike brow pencil or powder, microbladed brows can withstand the wear and tear of both water and sweat. And unlike permanent tattoos, these wear off within one to three years.
The technique is performed by a trained technician using a small “blade” composed of a line of ultrathin needles. The technician dips the microblade tip into a densely pigmented ink, then draws the blade across the skin, creating thin, surface-level cuts; the dye enters the cuts and stains the skin. How long it lasts depends on the darkness of the color chosen and the degree of care you give the tattoo at home. In contrast, traditional tattoo guns are motorized and inject ink deep into the skin (more than three millimeters down), which is why real tattoos last a lifetime.
If the words “tattoo” and “blade” set off your “this is going too far for beauty” alarm bells, know this: “The good news is there is very little risk [for microblading],” says New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman. “The ink is inserted at such a superficial depth [that] there is a very small risk of scarring or keloiding.” Plus, the color eventually fades. Engelman recommends microblading over permanent eyebrow tattooing. “With tattooing I’ve seen green or blue eyebrows when the ink oxidizes,” she warns. “With microblading the coloring is much more natural, and even when the ink fades, it never gets to the point where it is changing colors.” Many inks can change their hue over years as they oxidize but, because microblading is so shallow, the dye fades away before a shift happens. That said, it’s important that your technician understands how the exact ink blend being used will develop over time—so make sure you ask.
As with any treatment, however, there are serious potential downsides. A qualified technician is essential; someone without enough training or experience might use the tool incorrectly or not take the proper hygienic precautions, which could put you at risk for infection or scarring. You must also avoid working with a technician who simply has the wrong taste level for you. We asked Engelman and the county’s top microblading technicians to explain exactly how the treatment works and how you can find the most qualified professional.
What to expect
Step one: the technician tries to find the perfect brow shape for you by applying makeup and examining it in a mirror with you. Once you both agree on the right shape, the technician uses a surgical marker to map out the arch. Next she applies topical numbing cream and, after it kicks in, lays you back on a table. The technician then “scratches” tiny cuts that look like brow hairs into each of your brows. “I apply more numbing cream throughout the process,” says New York and Miami aesthetician Piret Aava. Says New York cosmetologist Kim Horgan, “Most people comment how little they feel and no one I’ve worked with has ever needed to stop because of pain.”
Safety tip: Blades should never be re-used, so make sure your technician shows you a brand-new blade or handpiece before she begins her work.
Healing times vary based on the precise technique used, but typically fine scabs will form and must be kept dry and covered with Aquaphor or Vaseline for the first week. That also means avoiding exercise and sweating for the first two weeks. After scabs disappear, the color may look light as the skin heals; after four to six weeks, the results are fairly set and that’s when most practitioners will have you come in for a follow-up appointment to see if you need a touchup that will add more depth.
How permanent is the look?
Microbladed brows “last about a year to three years and we usually do touch-ups once a year,” says Aava. Because the staining is shallow, the ink fades as your skin exfoliates, eventually shedding the color completely. For that reason, you are advised to keep facial cleansers, as well as mechanical and chemical exfoliators (such as retinol) away from the treated area. “My lightest blonde clients last a year to a year and a half, and brunettes last two to three years,” says Dominique Bossavy, who works out of Los Angeles, New York, and Paris and is recommended by Engelman.
Achieving the most natural look
“[Microblading] is going to be slightly less natural-looking on someone starting with absolutely no hairs at all, but it looks much better than drawing [your brows back] on with makeup,” says Horgan. A technician with an artistic hand can make each mark as thin as a real hair. Color choice is key, too; sometimes multiple, subtle colors work best to create the most natural look. How to know what you’re getting? Examine the technician’s before-and-after images (you can usually find them on the technician’s web site) and, says Aava, ask to see pictures taken a few months or a year after treatment so you can see how the long-term results look.
Assuring you get the right shape
Bossavy, Hogan, and Aava book two-hour first-time appointments in order to give them enough time to amply discuss your desired look and your concerns. All three pros say they deliberately go slightly lighter and sparser on the first application; all require a follow-up appointment four to eight weeks later. “You want to give yourself room for adjustment,” explains Bossavy. “We do it very lightly at first, so I can see how [each woman’s] skin takes the pigment and [then we] touch up appropriately [at the follow-up].”
Prices vary dramatically. For example, Horgan starts at $650, Bossavy at $2500. Prices include the first two-hour appointment as well as a second appointment with a touch-up round.
Choosing the right technician
First, do your safety due diligence. “Be aware that in some states you don’t have to have a cosmetology license to do microblading; you just have to take a class and you’re certified,” warns Horgan. She recommends finding a technician who has, at minimum, a cosmetology license, and, ideally, years of experience with eyebrows. “Make sure the procedure is performed by a trained specialist in a sterile environment, as otherwise you can risk infections and other complications,” says Engelman. “Follow the same precautions as you would if getting a permanent tattoo.”
Make sure you share your treatment provider’s aesthetic. “Find somebody with the same vision and maybe who even looks like you in her style and skin tone,” says Aava. “You don’t want to wake up every morning looking like you’re going to a black-tie [event] when you’re in your pajamas with your family at brunch.”
Make Your Voice Heard
Meredith Bodgas says It’s no longer about asking men to “take out the garbage.” It’s about not having to ask
For Baby Boomers and Generation X, the first cohorts of women to populate the workforce, it was a problem with no name. Then in 1989, sociologist Arlie Hochschild slapped a label on it: “The Second Shift.” Working women were frazzled and worn out because after toiling all day in offices, they came home to their second full-time job: tending home and family. Men just “helped out” around the edges. Since then, men have assumed more parenting responsibilities so that the Bureau of Labor Statistics could report in 2015 that they were doing 1 hour and 25 minutes of household work per day. That didn’t negate the fact that women were still doing nearly twice that––2 and ¼ hours. Or that they were still confined to “women’s work”: three times as many minutes doing laundry and twice as many cleaning or preparing food and drink.
But Meredith Bodgas, the fierce new Editor in Chief of Working Mother Magazine and WorkingMother.com says that the current generation of working moms is opening a new and important front in that battle for work/family balance. They no longer simply want equal hours of diapering, they want men to carry their share of the “mental load” of planning, preparing, and organizing family life. Now, why didn’t we think of that?
The Covey: What are the main struggles for working mothers today and how is Working Mother addressing them?
Meredith Bodgas: I’d argue that there is more emotional labor than ever. Male partners are doing more in terms of chores, mainly because men are more likely to have a working wife—I believe 70 percent of women are working. Technology makes the physical labor of keeping track of the kids, scheduling doctor’s appointments, etc. easier, but technology hasn’t eased the emotional labor — what we call the “mental load” of caretaking. Someone has to be in charge of thinking to get things done; in heterosexual relationships, that’s still the woman. Two prime examples:
Two years ago, Ellen Seidman wrote a blog post for LoveThatMax.com that started with how she had to replenish the toilet paper: it was her job. [She wrote: “I am the only person in our household who ever notices that we need more t.p. … The spouse assumes that my good old trusty eyeballs will notice the dwindling rolls and raise the alert…. All this is in addition to the vast amount of details and to-dos packed into my brain…”] It was a watershed moment [for me, as the editor of this magazine].Women [need to ask] themselves, “why am I doing all of the thinking?”
Our top story of all time was a comic from a French illustrator we use named Emma who explains [the real story of] what’s [likely] going on inside of [the heads of mothers] all the time. Quoting one of these illustrations [and possibly answering that question, ‘why am I doing all of the thinking’]: “And once we’re back at work, things will get so hellish that it will feel less exhausting to keep doing everything than to battle with our partner so that he does his share.”
We’ve been doing a deep dive into how to better divvy up the mental load, how to recognize what is emotional versus physical labor.
The Covey: How have men changed—or not changed—in helping women manage their home versus work responsibilities?
Meredith Bodgas: Men are definitely pitching in more with chores and child care; they’re more willing to recognize they need to do their share. When I grew up in the 90s, my mom and my dad worked, but she did everything. Moms now are older; we say we’re not going to do everything at home and men are responding to that. They want to spend time with the kids. Not that previous generations didn’t love their kids, but millennial men are more comfortable with expressing love and emotions; they want to be more involved with the kids and home.
Technology has affected our home life, too. When we leave work now we’re not offline. There can be a breaking story I have to cover at 11 p.m. at night. That means the lines between work and life are blurred so men understand that women [like themselves, might be working when they’re home].
The Covey: Where do working and stay-at-home moms find common ground?
Meredith Bodgas: [The homefront:] Women still do more of the childcare in heterosexual relationships than men [whether they work inside or outside the home]. A recent study found that between the office and home, working moms are putting in 98 hours a week. [Plus], lots of stay-at-home moms are now working thanks to the rise of businesses that can be run from home; so, very few moms are not bringing in some kind of cash flow to their families.
The Covey: In 2018, are there still divides between mothers who work in the office and those who stay at home?
Meredith Bodgas: The “mommy wars” still exist, but they are less pronounced and less important [than they were a generation ago]. Millennial moms like to unite rather than divide. Stay-at-home moms and working moms have discovered their issues are similar: We’re all dealing with and bonding over the mental load. Also, what we see has changed in the relationship between working and stay-at-home moms is that the latter are often reliant on working moms when they want to start or restart their careers.
The Covey:What does your magazine do to help further the progress working women need to make?
Meredith Bodgas: Working Mother magazine is a brand [that benefits from this] change of culture. It’s where women [come to] get validation. We publish women’s real resumes and LinkedIn profiles.[We do stories about] “How I got more [maternity] leave.” Or “My child was in the NICU and how I fought to get more home time.” [We want to] give proof. Even successful C-suite women have had their share of bumps along the road. Real is the name of the game. If we’re not being real we’re doing a real disservice to readers. We want everyone to reach their professional and family goals [but we want our readers to also know] what is actually going to happen along the way; we don’t sugar coat it.
The Covey: How do you think a media brand like Working Mother can impact the working world?
Meredith Bodgas: The big thing we’re working on right now is the FAMILY Act—it’s the most progressive piece of family-leave legislation that hasn’t yet been killed. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid time; the FAMILY Act would mean paid leave. [The US is] one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t offer any paid time off. States want national legislation and so do we. States such as New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and New York are saying that what we have is “unacceptable.” We hope that with our efforts in the next three to five years there will be a national policy. We’re partnering with the National Partnership for Women & Families to encourage companies with progressive policies to endorse the act and do so publicly.
The Covey: Certainly the biggest story for working women this year has been sexual harassment in the workplace. What has Working Mother done to move that story forward?
Meredith Bodgas: Before the #MeToo movement even took off nationally, we were working on a piece with a prominent employment lawyer about what to do if you are sexually harassed at work. Our October/November issue had CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on the cover and the focus of the feature was that she came out before Roger Ailes passed away and said he sexually harassed her. Everyone else was focused on how it affected your climb up the ladder, but our piece was about how to explain that [you were sexually harassed at work] to your kids. [Camerota] said she was very open; she had to deal with the rumors her kids heard that Roger Ailes had “touched my mom’s butt.”
The Covey: The Working Mother 100 Best Companies report considers flex policies, parental leave, advancement programs. Will you incorporate anything about sexual harassment policies going forward?
Meredith Bodgas: We’re not going to be asking about how they handle sexual harassment but instead what their policies are for advancing women’s careers. If a company is supporting women’s wishes and views so they can climb the ladder, we know they’re supporting them in other ways. We want to see that a company is making sure women are on the board, in C-Suite titles, that men are receiving mentorship from women. As we wait for more companies to track whether male and female employees are paid equally, we ask what percentage of the top 10% of earners are women and what percentage of promotions to the senior manager level and above go to women. We support that mission with the National Association for Female Executives.
The Covey: What are the biggest barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace in 2018?
Meredith Bodgas: Part of it is when women don’t feel comfortable in an organization or don’t see women like them rising in the ranks. A boys’ club at the top is a big deterrent. In that situation, there’s an implicit bias of “She’s a mom so she’s going to leave at five” or “She has kids, they’re a priority, so we can’t put her in this spot.” Men are still in power in the workplace and they keep women out of the top ranks so they don’t have to change their ways. We’re bringing in male allies who realize this is a problem. Through training, we’re helping women smash those barriers and get to the top. I would also argue as more millennials rise through the ranks, they are more dedicated to equality and fairness than previous generations so they’re making workplaces more equal. We’re from a generation of safe college spaces, which is different than what women experienced in college in the 70s and 80s [and even the 90s].
The Covey: Transparency, and even publicizing failures as well as successes seems to be a theme for this new generation of working women and men. What’s changed in your own experience as a working mother from your mother’s generation?
Meredith Bodgas: We’re moving at a glacial pace, but progress is progress. Younger generations are eager to learn from others who came before us and women over 40 need to recognize what the 30-somethings or 20-somethings bring as working women. For instance, millennials are more willing to risk failure, and man do we fail: social media is the land of sharing failures. Hearing those stories of failure, followed by success, from others is very empowering. Everyone can learn from each other and the most successful 40, 50, and 60-year olds are those who are adapting to this new workplace. But there is still resistance and we can see it. I’m 35 so I’m considered a millennial even though I don’t feel like it. I do feel like there’s a disdain for people my age that comes from a place of fear of being replaced.
The Covey: Sounds like there is resentment from the older women who paved the way. What can women do to help each other more in the workplace?
Meredith Bodgas: A struggle still exists—the women at the top feel like, “I didn’t get maternity leave so why do you?” Or “I didn’t discuss my kids at work so you can’t.” When we find ourselves falling into those traps, we need women to say, “No this is not what the women who come after me need. I didn’t get the maternity leave I wanted, but I will fight for them to get it.” I’ve even noticed that with my own team—I saw pay inequity that happened before I got here. I needed to change how we spend the budget to fix it. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.
She's a man magnet for men who want to know what's going on
I suppose I ask for it. My car’s license plate reads “HOTFLAS” but I forget about it until some guy pulls up next to me at a stop sign and rolls down his window and says, “Hey, I like your license plate!” He might also then say, “You must be about 50. Wow, my wife is going through that. It’s really tough. It’s been a real challenge.”
At a cocktail party or a school event, another man might say, “Remind me what you do.” “I’m a doctor specializing in menopause care…” is all I can get out before the response comes in: “Ah, yes, my wife is going through menopause,” he says. “It’s like a stranger is living in my house.”
Add to that these private messages I receive from men at my website, MiddlesexMD:
“My wife turned 40 this past December and has literally stopped being intimate.”
“My wife is 62 and has been having pain over the past year with intercourse.”
“We celebrated our 60th-anniversary last month…we had what I thought was a great sex life until about the last five years.”
So let’s just say it: if you think that you’re confused about what’s happening to you during menopause, that guy you’re with? He’s doubly confused. So to enlighten you, here are the three most common questions husbands/partners ask me about their mates of a certain age and what I tell them.
Question #1. Is not having sex the real “normal” for couples at my age?
Answer: Every couple gets to define their own normal. Data suggest, though, that more couples have sex than are sexless. An AARP study a few years ago revealed that 41 percent of those over 45 and partnered are having weekly sex; 60 percent have sex at least monthly. That said, I hear from plenty of “normal” women in my medical practice who’ve just realized that they haven’t had sex for a year or longer.
Studies support my instinct that keeping intimacy alive in a relationship is a worthy goal. There are straight-up health benefits: Sex bolsters the immune system, relieves chronic pain, protects against depression. A healthy sex life helps couples navigate health problems, especially chronic conditions. And couples who have sex report more relationship satisfaction than those who don’t.
So, with all that going for it, the next up is:
Question #2: Why isn’t my wife interested in sex anymore?
Answer: Well, as they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. First, we need to recognize that sex is different for men and for women. Women tend to be more responsive than spontaneous, and hormonal changes make this even truer after menopause. And second, we need to take seriously that emotional intimacy matters to women.
Post-menopause, when the hormonal drive for intimacy is lessened, life and relationship issues can play a larger role; these include health problems for either of you, stress, especially about finances, fatigue, boredom, or a feeling of distance in this phase of your life together. She may be unhappy with her midlife body (“He’ll see me naked!”). When you know you’re operating as partners and are nurturing the intimacy upon which women depend, then you can address a lagging libido.
Question #3: How can I help my wife, who’s experiencing pain when we have sex?
Answer: Begin by understanding what’s happening. Vaginal dryness is the most common symptom of menopause, and it can cause enough discomfort to make a woman swear off sex. The genital tissues begin to atrophy, which means they literally shrink, become fragile, and lose elasticity. Less circulation to those same tissues means it’s more of a challenge to feel the same sensations we did when we were younger.
There are plenty of products and prescription drugs that can counter these changes; it can be as simple as lubricants, moisturizers, and vibrators or as complex as hormone therapy. What’s your role? Communicate. Talk about what’s changing for her; ask her how she’s feeling about it. Ask what support she’d like from you, how you can explore solutions together. And most of all, be certain that your partner knows how important your shared intimacy is to you.
On April 5, 2010, there were four women in space at the same time, the largest female gathering off planet to that point
How To Go Mano-a-Mano With The Sandman
Sleep. Even the word looks dozy with those double ee’s you can sink into like a hammock. Unless you’re one of us. Then those double ee’s are like a fortress, an ogre baring his teeth, warning Keep Out.
It’s always been that way for me. As a child, I was afraid of my recurring nightmares: cats clawing at my legs, being kidnapped, concentration camps. (The usual.) So I’d fight off sleep rather than tempt the demons.
My father understood this and started me on a ritual. He’d kiss me goodnight and say, “No nightmares tonight,” the theory being that if you said it, it wouldn’t happen. When he was no longer around to say it, I’d say it myself.
As I got older, the only time I had real clarity about my pimples, popularity, and boys, boys, boys was around midnight when I was alone in the dark. It probably didn’t help that I grew up sleeping on the coarse and scratchy linen sheets my parents brought with them when they came from Germany. While I tossed late into the night wondering why I didn’t get tapped for Pep Club, the linen sheets became hair shirts imprisoning me in my adolescent misery. Not much sleep in those years.
Then there was college, and life, and work, moving to a big city, marriage, divorce, and another marriage. Do I really have to tell you that any one of these things can wreck a gal’s 40 winks?
I got my first noise machine in my mid-twenties. Then came the sleeping mask, the ear stopples, blackout curtains, various medications. And while each of these things helped now and again, I’d still get into bed the way most people get onto the subway: defensive, anxious, and ready for a fight. Not conducive to sweet dreams.
Of course, I read the sleep experts and followed their advice about caffeine, no caffeine, not using the bed for anything but sex and sleep, no LED lights, etc. They were helpful, but not perfect.
So I came up with my own sleep rules, which, in the name of science and sisterhood, I will share with you now.
Let’s start with the basics. A firm mattress is a must. Blankets must be made of cotton. No unnatural fibers. No feathers. No quilts. Mattress pads must also be made of cotton. Same goes for nightgowns or pajamas (short sleeves are essential). The body heats up at night (well, this one does, anyway). Only cotton breathes enough to let it naturally cool. Layers are important so you can peel them off during the night. Always sleep with two pillows: one to rest your head on, the other to put over your face should any light penetrate the blackout blinds.
A word about the weather. Ignore it completely. Unless it is below freezing outside, always keep the air conditioner going. Its hum is reassuring and has a nice techno lull to it. It also ensures that the room never gets much above 60 degrees. In case of snow, it’s nice to leave the windows open just enough so that some snow accumulates at the foot of your bed, making you feel nice and snug under your blankets.
Should you choose not to sleep alone, pick your partners wisely. Sleep experts advise against sharing your bed with pets, but I find it comforting when my dog lies under my arm and breathes her gamey breath into my face.
I love my other sleeping partner inordinately and find his large presence next to me reassuring. However, the man also breathes: startlingly big, heaving, walloping breaths. He tells me to give him a little shove and wake him when that happens. But it turns out that little shoves do nothing to silence this man. He is a professional sleeper, as firm and committed to his slumber as he is to his waking hours. Thank god for the ear stopples and the rumble of the air conditioner.
What you do before you go to bed and what time you do it is also essential. My pre-bed warm-up begins at 10:08 when I start to practice piano. I find this relaxing (though I can’t speak for my neighbors). It demands full concentration, and there is always the possibility that I might retain some of what I play if I sleep on it.
At 10:37, I start preparing for bed by telling myself that sleep is my friend, not my enemy, as I wash my face, floss, and brush. For some reason, that’s when I become extra chatty and tell my husband all my thoughts from and about the day, all the while foaming Crest. Nonetheless, I am in bed by 11 and ready to read. Reading matter can contain no murders, no kidnappings, no clawing cats or concentration camps. That leaves fashion magazines.
Lights out no later than 11:40.
If, by 12:30, my head is filled with recriminations for past sins and cosmic questions like how do they heat Grand Central Station and why can’t I see the ozone layer, I pick a long word like “concentration” and see how many words I can make from it, or I choose a shorter word and play the anagram game, seeing how many words I can morph.
Sometimes that works, but when it doesn’t and song lyrics from 20 years ago start playing in my head, I will get out of bed for 10 or 15 minutes and look out the living room window. Because I live in a big city, there’s always something going on out there: buses, cars, the lights of other insomniacs across the way. Their presence is a comforting reminder that I am not alone.
Again, I tell myself that sleep is not my enemy, that the night is my friend, before I tiptoe back to bed. By then, the dog is lying on my pillow, and the husband is sound asleep. I crawl into my allotted space, reassured that the room is well chilled and that I have solved my own problems and some of those of the universe. If I’m lucky, then I will fall asleep. No nightmares.
And those are my sleep rules.
Are you still awake?
Betsy Carter is the author of three novels and a memoir. Her novel, We Were Strangers Once, was published last fall.
For other Covey articles on sleep see: “It’s 3 AM. Why Are You Waking UP?” , “4 Weird Sleep Tricks that Work“, “The One Beauty Treatment Every Woman Over 40 Needs.”
Beat the mean girls without sacrificing your authentic self
Getting ahead in the workplace means you have to check your altruistic self at your office door. Right? Ummm. Maybe not.
Fran Hauser, former President of Digital at Time, Inc., Angel Investor, and author of The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate (out April 17) believes being nice is a “superpower,” that one can be assertive without being pushy, and that it’s possible to set boundaries while still being caring. She believes in negotiating effectively by leveraging your empathetic “she-nature.”
The Myth of the Nice Girl wants to embolden women and girls to be confident, strong and decisive by cultivating kindness, compassion, and empathy, and using those qualities as the secret sauce of success in the workplace and in their personal lives.
CoveyClub: What inspired you to write this book?
Fran Hauser: The idea came to me back in 2009. I was President of Digital for People Magazine and I was doing a lot of mentoring, especially of younger women. And the most common question I got asked was, “How can you be so nice and still be successful?”
I looked around to see if there was a book written on the topic and all I could find was, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office [by Lois P. Frankel in 2004] so I thought, ok, there is definitely white space here and this book needs to be written.
But then life got in the way. I had my first son in 2010 and my second in 2011. My job at Time, Inc. just kept getting bigger as I oversaw digital for six brands–so the book project got shelved.
And then two years ago I wrote a short blog post for Forbes.com titled Nice Women Finish First, When They Ask the Right Questions which was about how kind women CAN get the corner office. And [it became one of the top three out of 50 blogs].
A lot of people reached out to me on social media and through email, and I knew it really struck a chord. I’d been working on a playbook about how to launch your career, and I was actually 80 pages into the proposal. When my agent saw the response to the nice girl post she said, “This is the book you should be writing,” which is really ironic because that’s the book I initially wanted to write back in 2009!
CoveyClub: You say that the strongest, most effective leaders use kindness to inspire their co-workers and create powerfully positive workplace environments. How do you handle the inevitable Negative Nellys that might stifle this process?
Fran Hauser: If I see that someone is really negative, I try to figure out why, because sometimes it’s a situational thing that can be addressed. I have a story in the book about this young woman, Jackie, a graphic designer, who would [come to] meetings and I would see her rolling her eyes. She was always negative. One day I called her out on it and asked her if everything was ok, that I was noticing how her energy was off.
She admitted to me that she felt she was being asked to do a lot of tedious things and being taken advantage of by the team. So, I said, “take me through that,” and literally had her list all the things that were bothering her.
There were some things that I told her [she was] just going to have to do, like make [photo] copies for the team, because [she was] the junior person. [I told her that] I had to do that when I was the junior person, too. She was also getting coffee and snacks every day for the team, so I encouraged her to talk to her boss about that and it got fixed. And guess what? Her attitude changed!
But there are other people [for whom being negative] is just their nature. As a leader, [I know] those people are going to bring the whole team down. So, I try to [find] a way that they can contribute on an individual level.
CoveyClub: Why do you think the myth persists that you can’t be nice and get ahead in 2018?
Fran Hauser: Look at the book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. That phrase has been around for a long time. People believe that you can’t be both kind and strong. But I think the most effective leaders are both. They are not mutually exclusive.
Managers and bosses perpetuate the myth. I’ve had many young women tell me, “I had my performance review and my boss told me that I’m too nice and that’s going to hurt me.”
What I say to a woman in that situation is to go back to your boss and ask specifically: “In what way is being nice hurting me [or my progress]?” Maybe the boss has some constructive feedback. They might say “you are always getting buy-ins from everybody else [but] you’re incapable of making a decision.”
That is a very specific [problem] that you can work on. If they [offer no specifics but] say being nice is not their leadership style, then you have to have a productive conversation about how much power [comes from] being “nice” and how it has served you well.
At the end of the day, business is about influencing people, getting the best out of your team, and knowing how to have a constructive conversation with someone when you have really difficult news to deliver.
When you are kind, compassionate and empathetic, it makes all that stuff so much easier. You develop relationships based on trust and you can get so much more done.
CoveyClub: You make a strong case for the importance of networking and mentorship. What do women who can’t find a mentor do? Should you just go up to someone and ask?
Fran Hauser: Start by being really intentional about what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship. It could be that you are looking to advance within your company or it could be that you want to lead the industry that you are in, or do something altogether different. Or it could be that maybe you are looking for somebody who has a specific area of expertise that you want to hone and develop.
Being really thoughtful and intentional about what is it that you are looking for is very important. When I was in media for all those years, I really felt like I needed to start hanging out with people who didn’t look and sound like me, because we were all saying the same things and we all had the same challenges. What was really important was finding somebody who could open up new worlds for me.
Soraya Darabi is a great example, by the way. [She] was much younger than me. I was her mentor, but she ended up being hugely helpful to me because she opened me up to the New York tech scene. She said to me, “Fran, there are so many women who are looking to launch businesses and when they look up, they don’t have any female role models or mentors, and you could be that,” and that’s what got me into angel investing.
[If] you love the company that you work for and can see yourself there for another 5-10 years and you want to keep working your way up, then it’s really important to have somebody powerful within the company as a mentor because they are the ones who are going to know about the opportunities and be your champion.
And then it’s about how you connect with these people. LinkedIn is your friend in a big way because it’s all about the warm introduction, especially if you are looking to get to somebody outside of your company. It’s who we have in common and having somebody help you get to that person.
I’ve had women be really resourceful about getting to me. I had one woman who emailed me and we just didn’t connect so she went to my website and looked at my speaking schedule and came to one of the conferences I was speaking at.
Another woman was having a hard time finding mentors outside of her organization and she started a women’s resource group within her company and as part of that, it was her job to find outside speakers. She ended up developing very organic relationships with these women and some of them became her mentors.
I would also ask your peers who their mentors are and who has been helpful to them; [that person] might be willing to be a mentor to you as well.
It’s shocking to me that only 1 out of 5 women have mentors.
CoveyClub: Many women find it difficult to juggle the work/life balance. Are there any techniques that helped you to balance your high-powered career with motherhood?
Fran Hauser: After our second child, I was drowning, and was totally in transactional mode, just doing the easy things so I could check them off the list and all the big things were just falling. So I created this Four-Square Model (draw two lines, one vertical and one horizontal) of the four big areas that were important in my life. They are Me, Family, Career, and World.
In each one of those areas, I identified the two or three things that I really need to focus on. When I first put this together and compared it with my calendar, what I found was that there was no alignment. The stuff I was spending my time on wasn’t [what] I had said was really important to me.
So, I ripped up my calendar. I was sitting in all these recurring meetings that were just useless. I had no time for thinking or creativity.
When I was at Time, Inc. I created filters for myself. I had a sales team that wanted me to go out on every sales call, and I said I’m only going to go if it’s over a certain amount of revenue, or if it’s a strategic partnership. That’s it.
Or on the technology side, I had all these startups that wanted to meet, but I said only if it’s the CEO will I take the meeting. I delegated the others to someone on my team. Creating those filters empowers the people who work for you.
In the World quadrant, [I listed] all the non-profit stuff that I do. I was really struggling with this because I always want to say yes.
But I decided my focus was going to be on women and girls, and once I decided that it became really easy to say no, this isn’t aligned.
CoveyClub: What was your biggest career misstep and how did you recover?
Fran Hauser: When I left Time, Inc. I decided that I wanted to do investing and I thought about it in two different ways. I continued angel investing (basically, investing my own personal money which I started as a side hustle) and I also joined a venture capital fund as a venture partner part-time.
I was thinking venture capital was going to be my next career, but I wanted to keep doing angel investing on the side, which by the way was the best thing I could have done.
But what I realized was that I didn’t love venture capital. I was spending a lot of time in San Francisco in Silicon Valley and I loved a lot of the people I worked with at the fund, but the industry in general just wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel it was aligned with what brings me joy.
So, I decided to go 100 percent in on my own personal angel investing, which was scary, because it’s always so much easier to be attached to a platform. But I loved the idea of making my own decisions and not having to worry about an investment committee.
There is also a different sense of fiduciary responsibility since, in venture capital, you’re investing other people’s money. I had gotten to a place where (angel investing) brought me more joy and more flexibility to spend more time with my boys.
By the way, when you have those situations, where it doesn’t quite go the way you expect it to go, it sucks. And when you fail at something, it feels horrible.
But I think the most important thing to do is ‘re-frame’ [the experience] from the standpoint of, what did I get out of this? I met amazing people; I grew my network in really powerful ways.
I love that I took the risk to angel invest–that’s something I’m still doing today and have 20 companies that are in my portfolio and 18 of them are female-founded.
CoveyClub: What was that one defining moment where you knew that you were a success because of your true persona as a “nice girl” coupled with your talent and ambition?
Fran Hauser: It was when I was at Coca-Cola enterprises and I was promoted to Director of Finance when I was 29 years old and had 140 people reporting to me.
I remember asking the head of the division why I got this promotion over all the other people that they could have promoted and he said, “Fran, it’s because not only are you smart, but it’s because you make my life easier.”
And that’s true because I am so hugely empathetic.
I would look at how I could be helpful by taking some meetings off his calendar or taking a first pass on a report that he needed. It’s just a natural empathy of really wanting to be helpful but combining that with being smart, ambitious and driven – it’s the secret sauce!
CoveyClub: If you were to throw the dinner party of your dreams, who would be present at your table?
Fran Hauser: Oh, this is fun! I would have Oprah, for her inspiration, Steve Jobs for his vision, and Mother Teresa for her compassion. It would be great to understand their stories and how they became the people they became as they have each had such an incredible impact on the world. It would also be really fun to watch the three of them interact too!
CoveyClub: What is the last thing on your mind before you go to sleep at night and how do you decompress to start fresh for the next day?
Fran Hauser: I find that my mind is always wandering to my to-do list when I’m in bed. I’m always thinking about the stuff I didn’t get to or what I need to do the next day. So usually to get my mind off of that I just focus on something that will put a smile on my face and calm me down, and it’s usually a moment I had with my kids that makes me laugh or calms me.
In the morning, my kids jump into bed and we cuddle and talk about our dreams and the day ahead. It’s such a beautiful way to start the day.
But then when I come downstairs to my office where my phone is, I literally just glance at the home screen, but I don’t go through my emails or texts.
I just do a quick swipe to make sure there is nothing urgent. Then I put it back face down in my office and it stays there while I have breakfast with the boys.
It’s something that I started doing a few years ago because I was finding that I just wasn’t as present for them as I wanted to be in the morning (always checking my phone) and it’s been such a life-changer!
Never squint (and create wrinkles) again!
Three middle-aged women are walking down a block in New York City. They have just come from an art exhibit given by an amazing reinventor—a sixty-something woman who used to be an art director for one of the toniest magazines on earth, but who refuses to curb her creative impulses and instead just keeps producing. She tells them, “I just can’t stop.”
The art is gorgeous; the venue is packed; the event is inspiring. It’s time for dinner and the directions to the restaurant are displayed on a smartphone, in an app. “Who can see?” I ask, hoping someone is near-sighted enough that I won’t have to spend five minutes digging my glasses out of my backpack. Jeannine cracks up: “This is what it’s come to?! Which one of us can see?” Tears of laughter spill down her cheeks.
Alas, yes, this is what it has come to. And according to the American Optometric Association, our ability to see things like a printed page or a computer screen close-up begins to decline around age 41 and continues through age 60–when, thankfully, it stops. Presbyopia, as this problem is called, is a normal change in the eye’s ability to focus and explains why you’re suddenly hunting for more than candlelight to read a menu. So that’s the bad news.
The good news is, your eyesight can decline in style—with the fabulous new readers from Look Optic. Created by a team that used to work at Oliver Peoples, Look Optic is trying to disrupt the drugstore reader business by offering, at $68, a sturdier, more stylish, upscale alternative. These glasses have a beautiful, rich sandblasted finish, prescription level lenses, and a one-year guarantee. Look Optic sent me a pair of honey-colored Abbeys to try and I keep them in my bedside drawer for reading clothing care labels or books before bed. I love that I no longer have to truck downstairs for my heavy duty glasses. With three styles in five colors, Look Optic’s readers are sophisticated enough to wear anywhere. Now, if I can just keep my husband Jeff’s hands off them…
"You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own."
Karen Cahn explains how the path to women's equality begins with our wallets
We think it’s become increasingly clear this year that for women, money is power–and financial equality is everything. That means getting paid the same wages as a guy who holds the same job. It means finding a way to monetize motherhood so that we are not giving away all of those important “services” for free. It means funding women’s entrepreneurial ventures above the current pathetic 2% figure. Join CoveyClub founder Lesley Jane Seymour in an honest CoveyCast podcast talk with Karen Cahn, former Google girl and founder of iFundWomen.com, a rockin’ crowd-funding site just for women, about the secret advantage older women have with crowd-funding (yes, you!), how we are going to finally close the funding gap, and how to know if your reinvention idea is ready for primetime.
She developed celebrity scents; now she helps Alzheimer's patients remember
You may not recognize Ruth Sutcliffe by name, but you’ve almost surely caught wind of her creations: the scents of brand-name shampoos, blue Windex, and any number of other household products.
For 30 years, this petite beauty was a top fragrance designer, “the nose,” for companies such as Coty, Bristol Myers, Clairol, Guess, and Nautica. At the height of her career, she created signature fragrances for the likes of Faith Hill, Céline Dion, Halle Berry, Katy Perry, and Tim McGraw. She even developed a personalized fragrance for Beyoncé (who, for the record, favors notes of vanilla, patchouli, and jasmine).
Then, without warning, Sutcliffe’s job was eliminated. She found herself in her 50’s with a lifetime of experience and an urgent need to reinvent. “All of a sudden, I was on my own,” she recalls. “I knew I was too young to go away and spend the rest of my life doing I-don’t-know-what and die. I was still healthy. I still felt and looked young. I needed to feel relevant.”
It took Sutcliffe a year to get her bearings. She spent the time freelancing as a fragrance consultant, and taking a road trip back to her family home in Arkansas, visiting friends along the way. Then one night, she woke up with a big idea. “I knew that smell is our most powerful sense for stimulating memory and emotions,” she reasoned, “so why not use my knowledge of fragrance to help people with memory problems?” With the certainty that sometimes accompanies midnight inspirations, Sutcliffe knew immediately that she was onto something.
“I thought, oh my God, this is what we need in this world, and I’m the person to do it!” Sutcliffe recalls. “The next day I got up and I dove right into it. I realized that you can think and think and think about something but at some point you just have to take action or you’re never going to get anywhere.”
Though the insight came in a flash, the idea had been percolating for a while. “At the time, I was helping to take care of my mother-in-law, who was living with us and suffering from Alzheimer’s,” she explains. “My own mother had died of a dementia-related illness, so I had a lot of heart for older people.
“I would come home from my job in the city and want to share a bit of my professional world with my mother-in-law,” Sutcliffe says. “I’d bring home experimental fragrances that I was working on and ask her what she thought about them. She really enjoyed that.”
Sadly, there came a day when Sutcliffe realized that her mother-in-law could no longer smell–a common problem in the elderly and a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Ruth’s first reaction was to try to fix the problem. “I thought maybe I could develop a scent-related tool to help people recover their sense of smell.”
But as she immersed herself in Alzheimer’s research, Sutcliffe came to realize that her approach wouldn’t work. So she scaled down her ambition and refocused on an alternative goal: to use smell to bring elderly people out of their shells. She hoped that by evoking their memories and emotions, her scents would draw them into communication.
A product is born
With that in mind, Sutcliffe developed The Essential Awakenings Smell and Memory Kit—6 vials of fragrance designed specifically to resonate with the elderly. (The kit has since earned her a spot as a semi-finalist in the 2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge by the Small Business Association.) Sutcliffe’s first step was purchasing the raw materials needed for the scents she wanted. She tapped her wide net of contacts from the industry to find perfumers who were willing to develop the smells.
“Trusted contacts are a lifeline in business,” she points out.
Originally, Sutcliffe planned to create scents reminiscent of iconic brands of the past, like Irish Spring or Dial soap. “But I abandoned that approach when one elderly woman said the soap scent reminded her of her late husband,” she explains. “I wanted to bring happiness to people, not sadness, longing, or loss.” She also knew that using brand names would require getting permission from their manufacturers–no easy task.
So instead, Sutcliffe scoured her childhood memories. “Smells were simpler 50 years ago,” she explains. “People didn’t bake cakes from pre-mixes but made them from scratch, so their recipe lineup included things like vanilla extract, cinnamon, real pumpkin filling, fresh apples.” These are some of the scents that ended up in the Essential Awakenings kit. “I also included jasmine, one of the scents contained in Joy, which was a very popular perfume at the time,” she adds.
At last, Sutcliffe had her winning combination. Her original Essential Awakenings kit includes the scents of grass, chocolate, mint, pineapple, cinnamon, and jasmine. She has since brought out a second edition of the kit featuring vanilla, apples, pine, lavender, lilac, and even popcorn.
Sutcliffe tested her product with more than 300 people in senior centers and nursing homes. “They loved it,” she reports. “Many people who came into a session very withdrawn started to open up and share memories.”
She recalls a man who, at first, refused to participate. “He would sit silently in his wheelchair, outside the circle,” she says. “But then he caught the scent of lavender and said, ‘I think there was lavender in the cologne I used to wear.’ I started naming colognes that contained lavender, like Brut and Canoe. And he responded, ‘I didn’t know you could wear a canoe!’ Next, when the group smelled chocolate, he joked, ‘I want to date the woman who wears this!’ His sense of humor came out. It was a real turning point, and it gave me so much joy.”
When she leads groups in nursing homes, Sutcliffe passes out narrow strips of blotter paper dipped in one of her scents, and asks participants to guess the smell. Clue cards are included in the kit with prompts like, “this is a spice that goes into apple pie or pumpkin pie. You can bake with it … or sprinkle it on your cereal…” She asks participants to describe the fragrance: “Does this smell sweet? Is it sour? Is it floral or fruity?” Once someone guesses the fragrance correctly, she engages the group in discussion about what memories they associate with that smell.
In a recent session, she asked one woman to share her memories prompted by the scent of jasmine. “Didn’t somebody write a song about jasmine?” the woman said. “It reminds me of my garden… I always wrote poetry in my garden… maybe I’ll write a poem about jasmine!” The idea left her beaming.
“Oooh, I can smell something!” cried another resident while sniffing a mint-scented strip. “I didn’t think I could smell anything anymore, but I can smell this! It’s nice!” Ruth is careful to include people who have truly lost their sense of smell. “Do you know when you lost your ability to smell?” she might ask. “Do you remember what your favorite smells used to be?”
A one-woman show
Getting her business off the ground felt monumental to Sutcliffe. “I’m a one-woman show, doing everything myself–development, marketing, packaging, sales,” she says. “I’m swimming in waters no one has swum in before. This was my first venture without a corporate team around me.”
Sutcliffe decided early on to work with as many women as possible, to offset the age and sex discrimination that she says are very real in the corporate world. “Women have a tougher time getting hired than men,” she says. “A middle-age man can be fat and ugly with an alcohol problem, but he’ll get the job before a middle-aged woman,” she says with a wry smile. Sutcliffe also committed to using only American labor. “Growing up in the Midwest, I saw poverty, and I know how important jobs are,” she says. “Manufacturing in the U.S. also gives me better quality control, and eliminates the headache of international shipping.”
So what’s next?
Sutcliffe has clear but realistic expectations for her products. “I know Essential Awakenings is a niche product, and it’s not going to make anyone a million dollars,” she says.” But it’s important to me, and it makes me truly happy to make old people smile.
“Now I want to bring it to a wider audience,” she says. Her next project: a kit aimed at families with young children, helping them identify smells and discover new ones. “If you’re a kid being raised in the city, for example, you wouldn’t know the smell of fresh mown hay or cut grass,” she explains. “This will be a fun educational tool that can bring families together.”
These days, Ruth works out of her Greenwich, Connecticut home with a stunning view of Long Island Sound. Despite the long hours, she says she’s feeling calmer than her days working in industry. “I’ve had people tell me that I look better than ever, and that has to be because I have less stress from the workplace. I’m not running for trains anymore,” Sutcliffe says.
“These days, I worry less about how I look. We women put so much pressure on ourselves to look good, be thin, have our hair and nails done perfectly—and in the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. These days, I’m able to say f#@* that! I am who I am, with a ton of experience, and no one can ever take that away from me.”
Betsy Carter’s novel, We Were Strangers Once, was published by Grand Central Publishing in August, 2017. When Carter isn’t writing, or trying to sleep, she is playing piano or swimming.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for nearly 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten. She is also the founder of MiddlesexMD, where she shares practice-tested and clinically sound information with women on keeping an active and joyful sex life during and after menopause.
Amy Sunshine is a New Jersey-based writer and a former editor at Parents and Self magazines. Her expertise writing about healthcare for physicians and patients has gained her clients such as Harvard Medical School and Boston Scientific as well as several agencies including ICC Lowe, Natrel, McCann, and CDM.
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