Speaker Articles

What Would You Have Done In Ellen Pao’s Shoes?

Ellen PaoThe upside to Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins: It brought workplace sexism out into the open, making it part of the national conversation for several weeks. But even after the court ruled against Pao, women everywhere continued to talk about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of sex discrimination that take place in the office. What’s the best way to handle them? Could Pao have stood up for herself more?

“I believe women shouldn’t have to consider whether they confront sexual discrimination; I believe they should only have to figure out the most effective way to do so,” says Norine Yukon, former CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas and current board member for the Texas Conference for Women and several health care corporations. And that, of course, depends on the circumstances and your personal style. But generally speaking, here’s what Yukon and Victoria Pynchon, a lawyer and negotiation consultant, would have done in Pao’s shoes.

You are at a meeting and a man asks you—the only woman present—to take notes.

“I’m a lousy note-taker, so I can say in all honesty that I won’t take notes in fairness to the team.”—Yukon

“I have actually had this happen with a judge, and I responded: ‘I’d love to, Judge, but I’ve found that [a man in the room] is a far better note-taker than I am.’ After suggesting someone else, you could add an explanation, ‘Whenever I’m the note-taker I find it limits my ability to fully participate in the discussion.’ The key is to be respectful—and to praise something about the male replacement.”—Pynchon

You come to an important meeting and there is no seat for you at the table, so you’ll have to sit in a back row. Everyone else at your level is at the table.

“Good communication among team members is key, and communications are better when people can see and hear each other. Also, overt physical isolation can be more than symbolic and can impact decision-making. In this case, I would take a moment to scan the room and see who is sitting where, then pull a chair up to where I want to sit, squeezing in by asking folks to kindly make way. People will usuall find a way to make room for one more.”—Yukon

“Don’t let yourself be sidelined. Why? Because it’s difficult to be heard when you are sitting behind everyone else and it’s bad for your optics. Instead, ask the administrative personnel to please bring you a chair—don’t go get it yourself. You are an Alpha Dog, act like one at least until the revolution requires different behavior of the ruling class. But do remember to say please and thank you to the office staff.”—Pynchon

At meetings, you are constantly interrupted by men, or what you say is ignored.

“It is better to speak with the individuals privately first, and then if the behavior continues, call the offender out to his leader and to the group. I have always tried to not fight fire with fire, because that just ends up burning a lot of people. But I have to admit in some cases, the only way I could stop obnoxious male behavior was by sarcastically interrupting the interrupter.”—Yukon

“I’d say, ‘Excuse me, Joe, but I hadn’t finished what I was saying.’ And when they take credit for your idea, say, ‘Great add-on to what I was saying earlier, Joe; thanks for picking up where I left off.’”—Pynchon

You hear that a business dinner with important players is planned, and only men are invited.

“I would first try not to make any assumptions about the reasons I wasn’t invited. Then I’d go to the organizer of the dinner and ask how the invite list was put together. Depending on that response, I might ask to be included, or I might decide not to make an issue of it. You have to pick your battles because you can’t win them all.”—Yukon

“Go to the man you are closest to among invitees and say, ‘Hey Bob, I understand there’s a business dinner tonight with key players. I’ve got a half dozen questions for Harry, who I’ve become pretty tight with during the [case or some project]. It must have been an oversight to leave me off the guest list. Can you adroitly get me on it?’ This lets him and the group save face and consolidates your importance to the effort without having a confrontation about why you weren’t invited.”—Pynchon

On a chartered plane during a business trip, your male colleagues start talking about female porn stars and Victoria’s Secret models.

“I have been in many situations where inappropriate conversations were started. Almost without exception, I have been able to look these guys straight in the eyes and remind them that I am in the room and that the conversation should stop. Try not to be intimidated even if one of the guys is the boss. I also recommend personally following up with individuals who are ‘leading’ the inappropriate conversations.”—Yukon

“I’d say, ‘I’d love to give you a woman’s perspective on sex workers and soft porn but I’m afraid it would make all the guys uncomfortable’—thus making all the men uncomfortable. I guarantee you that they will change the subject and a few of the more conscious players will realize that making people uncomfortable in conversation is a two-way street, not a one way back alley.”—Pynchon

One day, you are informed that you are being moved to an office that is out of the way, toward the back of the building, away from the “power corridor.”

“Unless there is a construction or remodeling project underway that is causing physical disruption, I would take this as a potentially serious sign of a decision already concluded. To me, this is not limited to females, as I have seen it happen to both men and women who are either out of favor or who have been geographically demoted due to a new employee or new corporate structure. In any case, I would have a conversation with my boss to see what I could learn, and then I’d update my resume and start contacting recruiters.”—Yukon

“Never go with any ‘flow’ that marginalizes you. Instead go to a superior who has your back. Explain how the rearrangement hurts your group—so this isn’t about your ego—then say, ‘I’m happy to talk to HR myself but thought you might want to talk to Carol before I did. What do you think?’ In all of these conversations, you speak as a colleague from a position of power, not a position of weakness. You’re saying you can handle this yourself, but that you want to give a superior the opportunity to use her muscle.”—Pynchon

At the end of the day, our experts agree that speaking up for yourself is always better than keeping quiet. “It’s good to make an effort to grease the wheels of courteous social interaction,” Pynchon says, “but when people are being damaged, diminished or dismissed and polite conversation isn’t working, please feel free to make a ruckus.”

Just make sure that in your response, you “stay authentic, stay fair and stay true to your principles,” Yukon adds.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Uncategorized

Micro-Workouts: The Secret of Busy, Fit Women


Sure, hour-long workouts are great if you have the time. But for the other 362 days of the year, you need to exercise more efficiently. Hello, Micro-Workouts! “The idea, backed by science, is that if you work out smarter, you don’t have to work out longer,” says Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the original 7-minute workout that was featured in the New York Times.

Fast Track to Health

The key is interval training: alternating bursts of high intensity activity with brief recovery periods. “One minute of vigorous exercise is approximately equivalent to two minutes of moderate exercise, so you can get the same, if not greater, returns in less time,” Jordan explains.

You can shave off even more time with the right sequence of exercises. “You’ll work harder and need less recovery time with each individual exercise if those muscles get a relief when you move to the next exercise,” Jordan says. In other words, you save time by overlapping recovery periods with your active minutes.

7 Mighty Minutes

So how short can you go with your workout and still have it count? “Some exercise—even a few minutes—is always better than nothing,” Jordan says. But for a complete body workout, he found seven minutes to be the optimal minimum.

His 7-minute training plan works all the major muscle groups and involves 12 simple exercises (think jumping jacks and wall sits). You do them in 30-second bursts, alternating with 5-second transition periods. The best thing about the workout: Jordan created it with the working person in mind, so it can be done in an office or cubicle—and you don’t need any special equipment or clothes. “I’ve actually done it in a suit, but you probably don’t want to do it in a dress or skirt,” he adds.

Get the free “Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout.” (It includes more than 20 different body weight circuits for beginners to advanced exercisers.)

Beyond Calorie Burning

Microbursts are also a great way to boost energy throughout the day. “Imagine how you feel standing up and going for a walk after sitting for a while,” Jordan says. “That’s all it takes to promote blood circulation and push more glucose and oxygen around the body.”

To rev your metabolism, break up long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity such as standing and walking to the bathroom or up and down a flight of stairs. “Ideally, you want to be getting up for a couple of minutes at least every hour,” Jordan adds. Stuck in a chair during a marathon meeting? Try stretching your back and shoulders and discreetly raising your knees up and down under the table as though you’re marching. You will relieve tension—and may feel like you could hoof a real marathon.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Uncategorized

Exclusive Interview: DKNY PR GIRL Gets Advice-y

Alert TMZ! Aliza Licht, aka DKNY PR GIRL, has a past: The smart, funny and oh-so au currant voice on Twitter was once a science geek. “It’s true—I majored in neurobiology and physiology in preparation for medical school,” says Licht. But before she got there, she realized her true calling was for a career in fashion—and after a few years in magazines and almost 17 years at Donna Karan International, the senior vice president of global communications shares her career advice in her first book, Leave Your Mark. Here’s what she told us.

MY FAVORITE MANTRA

“Life isn’t a dress rehearsal—so you have to go for it. But it takes hard work and dedication and you might not always get what you think you deserve. It doesn’t matter. Handle yourself with professionalism and remember that in business, your personal brand is your greatest asset. Mind your reputation and the rest will come.”

SECRET TO SUCCESS

“Never really believe you have succeeded. I am in the middle of my journey. I can always learn more and do more. People who get satisfied with their success get stagnant and ultimately get blown away by the competition. I am always looking ahead to what I can do next to grow as a person and to expand my horizons. They say in PR you are only as good as your last piece of press coverage. I think I have been trained to never rest on my laurels because of that.”

A CAREER RULE EVERYONE SHOULD BREAK

“I don’t believe in three-year plans or five-year plans. I believe in short–term goals. I believe that if you give 200% to what you’re doing right now, your next step will become apparent. There are many paths one can take and there are no wrong answers.”

SECRET TO CORPORATE LONGEVITY

“The relationships one builds at a company are the key to success. Having a boss that supports your growth is everything. Longevity is only possible when your job continuously evolves and you’re always learning.”

MY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE UNHAPPY WITH HER CAREER CHOICE

“It’s never too late to start over as long as you can handle the hard work and patience it takes to make a switch. It can be daunting and disappointing, not to mention costly, but if you’re really passionate about succeeding in another field, you can do it! To start, do the research on your chosen field and start educating yourself on everything you need to know. Next, canvas your network. Who do you know and who might your friends know? You will be amazed at how many connections you can come up with. Once you feel you are ready, try and set up as many exploratory interviews as you can. Assess what skills or assets you can bring to the job. How might your last experience add value to this new field? Last, be willing to start at the bottom with bells on. Your attitude is everything!”

SECRET TO BEING A SOCIAL MEDIA SUPERSTAR

“For me it is always about the community first and foremost. There’s a reason that it’s called social media. You have to be social! I believe in authentic engagement, in real time. I don’t use content calendars; everything I do is off the cuff. When you are speaking to people from all over the world, you have to find the common denominators so people can relate on global scale.”

SUMMER STYLE MUST-HAVE

“I think the DKNY Cozy is the most essential summer sweater you can own. We all know how the office air conditioning can make it feel like winter in July. With more than twelve ways to tie it, it’s the sweater you can leave on your chair and wear it a different way every day of the week!”

Aliza Licht will be leading “The Skills You Need to Build Your Career” panel at the 2015 Texas Conference for Women on October 15. Follow her on Twitter @AlizaLicht @LEAVEYOURMARKxo.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Uncategorized

CFW SURVEY: ‘I Care’ and the Other Reasons You Do ‘Office Housework’

stock 853Editing a colleague’s report, taking meeting notes, refilling the printer paper tray—the non-job-description stuff you do at work to help someone, your team or the company at large has a name. “Office housework”—and as at home, the bulk of it falls to women, who mostly do it to little acknowledgment, let alone acclaim, reported Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in a recent New York Times article. What’s more, they say, it’s another example of gender bias: Men are praised and rewarded if they pitch in, while women are penalized for not helping.

But is office housework that widespread a burden and do women do it because we have to? We asked our readers and a whopping 2,218 of you responded. You have strong feelings about the topic, ranging from resentment to bemusement. Here’s what you said: Read More

Posted in blog, Job Advancement, Speaker Articles Tagged , |

Self-Promote without Feeling Like a Show-off

Berger, JonahOf course your work should speak for itself, but you can’t assume it’ll always be heard and appreciated. “People are busy, they don’t have time to pay attention to everything—and sometimes even good work gets overlooked,” says Jonah Berger, Wharton School professor and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. “Don’t over-claim, but also don’t be ashamed to be a good spokesperson for your accomplishments.” Here, Berger’s advice about wielding the megaphone, so you can talk yourself up—and feel good about it. Read More

Posted in Communication Skills, Marketing Yourself & Your Small Business, Speaker Articles Tagged |