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Opinion Editorials

The insulting nature of well-meaning but misguided events for women in business

(EDITORIAL) At events designed for women, organizers often miss the mark and what is often offered is completely insulting. We can do better.

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Comparing apples to… potatoes?

Most of our offline life revolves around events in the tech industry. My husband (our company founder) and I focus on demo days, pitch sessions, data meetups, tech policy panels, tech mentoring, and so forth. We even roam the halls of real estate conferences too, but rarely spend time at women-only events. And here’s why…

I’ve been to enough events for women in business to offer an assessment of what often goes on. For example, last year, I went to a one-day event for women in business. It was huge. It was beautiful. There was champagne, luxury massage stations, and even gourmet chocolates. The women were unanimously giddy. And I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable. I was a fish out of water. A fish on Mars, if you will.

The expo hall and insulting agenda

The expo hall wasn’t filled with tools to help you grow your business, no, it was exclusively weight loss products, scarves, jewelry, makeup, skin care products, bath bombs, and so forth. It was painfully disorienting. Insulting. Is this how women in business see women in business?

Then, looking over the agenda, the sessions were mostly about how to build confidence and find your self-worth, what skirts are hot hot hot right now, and how to communicate to male bosses when feeling emotional. I shit you not.

While I am acutely aware that this one event doesn’t represent all events tailored to women, most are at least marginally guilty of this well-meaning but misguided pandering. The gifts are often overly feminized – “thanks for joining us, here’s a free face lotion that smells like daisies and zebra print.” The vendors or sponsors are costume jewelry makers. The sessions are often little more than “hey, girl power is neat, let’s have girl power!” Okay – complimentary leopard print journals with glitter lettering does not girl power make.

Let’s talk about REAL girl power

Real girl power is not assuming that one gender is superior or inferior. Real girl power (surprise, surprise) empowers women. Real girl power doesn’t diminish women to a demographic that equates their business success to a face wash, a pink prop, an empty effort.

In an attempt to lift each other up, I would posit that we often hold ourselves (and each other) down.Click To Tweet

There is a time and place for this stuff

There is a time and place to buy makeup, overdose on the color pink, and giggle over gel nail polish. But that time is at home or with your friends on your personal time. There is no correlation to your business. You know, that place where you go to negotiate like a boss, where you juggle endless calls, train your staff, master your marketing, pursue continuing education about laws and policies, all while (oh my) managing to be a woman out in this big scary world.

If there was an event just for “men in business” with vendors that minimized them to neon signs for their man cave, engraved bourbon glasses, tie organizers, and golf balls, it would be a flop. If the sessions were about how not to fart during meetings, or how to not sexually harass your female assistant, ticket sales would be zero. This would just never happen.

What you can do next

Next time you’re part of organizing an event, think about what you’ve read here. Let it echo in your mind. Please. All conferences have something corny at them (that scarf vendor is always going to sell out), that’s fine, but is the focus on business as it should be?

I challenge you to seek out vendors that don’t diminish what it is to be a woman in the business world – seek out vendors that will help in business like lead generation tools, online ad managers, productivity suites, and so forth.

Next time you’re going to buy a ticket to an event that is “for women,” check out the vendors, sponsors, and agenda first. If you don’t see anything about business, rather a slew of weight loss and beauty products, think twice.

Look, if you’re going to have a girl’s weekend, just go do it. If you’re having a bake sale or trunk show, just go do it. But let’s not kid ourselves – many of these events for women are little more than a play day.

Stereotyping each other is bad. Stereotyping ourselves is worse. Paying to be stereotyped is repulsive. We can do better.

This editorial was originally published in October of 2016.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Kj Lange

    October 20, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I am with you on this. If I want to do a girls night out and help my friends in different other businesses sell their products, I will. And I do. A girls night out.
    But Womens shows are notorious for this stuff. The one that gripes me more is when they have psychics and tarot card readers.
    Seriously.

  2. Erica Ramus

    October 20, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Years ago when I was an incoming President of our Chamber of Commerce I wanted to start a Women’s group, a subset of the Chamber. The EO fought me and I thought he was wrong. Now I think he was right. SO now our COC does have a women’s only subset – and I don’t go to anything. They have gift exchanges at Christmas, juggling family and business talks, luncheons that talk about choosing the colors you wear and how to financial plan as women. The prior EO thought that segregating woman/men would create a divide and that all groups were welcome at all talks – why make some just for one gender. He was right. I am not saying that the women’s group doesn’t provide value – to some – but it is not what I would have envisioned. If a talk can be on preparing for retirement, for example, why does it need to be targeted to women’s planning for retirement. Oh and the “choose the colors I will wear” and gift exchanges – please. Do it on the weekend.

  3. Kelly Mitchell

    February 28, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Such a refreshing and candid perspective Lani. You reflect many of my thoughts and experiences.

    I think women events should champion women speakers. There are so many great ones out there that rarely see the light of day due to our male oriented society (in all verticals).

    For now, I’ll avoid “Women Conferences” because of all the things you’ve mentioned as I have before and at present. It’s sad.

    Doing business, regardless of your sex, is all about doing it better & learning new things. Not giggles & facials.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      AMEN – thanks for weighing in, Kelly. Truly. 🙂

  4. Bob LeDrew

    March 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    I’m seriously trying to imagine what a men-only “business show” would offer, the inverse of this. Booths from gyms? Ab machines? I don’t doubt there’s a need for women entrepreneurs to be supported. But surely this isn’t what they need.

  5. Erin Young

    February 6, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. As a mother, wife, daughter, friend and an entrepreneur, there are a lot of people who deserve my time and attention. I don’t often get the chance to focus on self-development and learning. So when I do, I’m highly selective.

    When it comes to professional matters, I’d prefer that my gender have nothing to do with the conversation. Why would I choose programming targeted at me based on my gender? Can I expect that the industry’s very best content will come in pink packaging? I think not.

    In my mind, the best (and maybe even only) professional reason to gather on the basis of gender is to focus on strategies for overcoming gender inequality. And that conversation has just as much to do with men as it does with women so it shouldn’t take place at a women-only event.

    Women are diverse. Businesses are diverse. And in my very limited self-development time, I’ll learn more from being around the best from my specific industry–regardless of their gender.

    Hear, hear, Lani!

    • Lani Rosales

      February 8, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Phenomenal points, thank you for taking the time to comment, Erin!!

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Opinion Editorials

The measure of success is more than just salary

(EDITORIAL) Chicago-based hair stylist, Lindsey Olson, explains why passion and dedication is proven to be the most fruitful attributes for success.

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Six figure stigmas

For years, I’ve been interested in the societal stigma that you have to be a doctor or a lawyer in order to make a solid salary. But as time goes on, what I’ve learned is that it isn’t what you do that necessarily makes you money but what you put into it.

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We live in a different world today than we did even 20 years ago and we have more of an ability to think outside of the box when it comes to the search for success. Lindsey Olson, a Chicago-based hair stylist, is a living example of this.

Finding a passion and running with it

After developing an interest for hair early on in life, Olson began her career as a shampoo technician in a salon while still in high school. Immediately after graduation, she went into cosmetology school and continued bettering her craft.

Now, she has found success as a salon professional, as well as a Redken Exchange Artist and educator.

From there, it has become a matter of building onto the foundation of her success by trying new avenues and taking on new challenges.

Risk and reward

“I’ve always had the mindset that anything is possible,” says Olson. “It’s almost like taking risk. Once you start doing a little bit and see what happens, then you do a little bit more…the bigger the risk the bigger the reward. It really comes down to that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

After her years working in a salon, Olson joined the Redken team in 2007.

With this, she has traveled internationally and has taught the ins and outs of hair coloring, cutting, and styling.

Being that the industry of style as a whole can be quite competitive, Olson has had to learn how to brand herself in a way that sets her apart from the competition. With this, she is very active on social media by sharing the work she has done with clients and models.

Branding against the competition

In addition, she also creates hair tutorials that she shares with her followers as a way to gain traction. “[What’s important is] making it known who I am as a person, as an educator, as a hair stylist, [sharing] my style and showing that to people,” Olson explains.

Despite the fact that her dentist tried to take the wind out of her sails in high school by asking what else she had lined up for herself besides cosmetology school, Olson has continued to take on bigger and better challenges. By doing shown, she has proven that a passion can be successful.

In Lindsey’s words

“Moral of the story, I think, is, don’t ever think that you can’t do something. The moments where you get to the place where you doubt yourself are almost some of the best,” states Olson. “If your life isn’t a little chaotic and challenging, you’re not living.”

#Redken

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Opinion Editorials

Why entrepreneurs need minimalism too

(EDITORIAL) You don’t have to ditch your couch and all but one cushion to be a minimalist. Try applying minimalist thinking to your job if you’re having trouble focusing.

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As a concept, minimalism is often accepted as the “getting rid of most of your stuff and sleeping on the floor” fad.

In reality, minimalism is much closer to living an organized life with a pleasant sprinkling of simplicity as garnish—and it may be the answer to your entrepreneurial woes.

I in no way profess to be an expert on this topic, nor do I claim to have “all of the answers” (despite what 16-year-old Jack may have thought).

I’m a firm believer that you should take 99 percent of peoples’ suggestions with a grain of salt, and that mentality holds true here as well.

However, if you’re struggling to focus on your goals and you consistently fall short of your own expectations, following some of these guidelines may give you the clarity of mind that you need to continue.

First, reduce visual clutter.

If you’re anything like the stereotypical entrepreneur, you keep a thousand tabs open on your computer and your PC’s desktop is an unholy amalgam of productivity apps, photoshop templates, and—for some reason—three different versions of iTunes.

Your literal desktop doesn’t fare much better: it’s cluttered with notes, coffee rings, Styrofoam coffee cups, coffee mugs (you drink a lot of coffee, okay?), writing utensils, electronic devices, and…

Stop. You’re giving yourself virtual and visual ADHD.

Cut down on the amount of crap you have to look at and organize your stuff according to its importance. The less time you have to spend looking for the right tab or for your favorite notepad, the more time you’ll spend actually using it.

And, y’know, maybe invest in a thermos.

Instead of splitting your focus, try accomplishing one task before tackling another one.

You may find that focusing on one job until it’s finished and then moving on to the next item on your list improves both your productivity throughout the day and the quality with which each task is accomplished.

Who says you can’t have quality and quantity?

In addition to focusing on one thing at a time, you should be investing your energy in the things that actually matter. Don’t let the inevitabilities of adult life (e.g., taxes, paperwork, an acute awareness of your own mortality, etc.) draw your attention away from the “life” part of that equation.

Instead of worrying about how you’re going to accomplish X, Y, and/or Z at work tomorrow while you’re cooking dinner, try prioritizing the task at hand.

If you allow the important things in your life to hold more value than the ultimately less important stuff, you’ll start to treat it as such.Click To Tweet

Rather than stressing about the Mt. Everest that is your paperwork pile for the following Monday, get your car’s oil changed so that you have one less thing to think about.

Minimalism doesn’t have to be about ditching your 83 lamps and the football-themed TV stand in your living room – it’s about figuring out the few truly important aspects of your daily existence and focusing on them with everything you’ve got.

As an entrepreneur, you have the privilege of getting to do just that.

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Opinion Editorials

Two myths about business that could land you in a lawsuit

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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Business casual

When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

Labor laws still apply

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

Always play it safe

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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