Invest in a Woman, Invest in a Nation

In case you were asleep, International Women’s Day was on March 8.  News outlets, celebrities and many brands trumpeted the news. It is officially women’s time to shine.

There is no denying that influential men and women are finally waking up to the fact that when women succeed, the entire economy benefits and society improves. Period. There’s plenty of data.

In fact, an article states that if women-owned businesses disappeared in the U.S. today,” the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR predicts a loss of $2.8 trillion and a major blow for 23 million job-seekers, roughly 16 percent of the U.S. labor force. They discovered if society could access all the untapped potential these female-led companies possess, those businesses would have the possibility to generate $10 trillion in revenue (roughly three to four times greater than current numbers).”

Net net: When women succeed and lead, it creates a better world. (TWEET THIS!)

So when I received this fabulous email from Holly Ruxin, the founder of Montcalm TCR, I had to share it with you. Montcalm TCR is a San Francisco-based wealth management firm that supports smart, performing investments that also place an emphasis on innovative products, services and environmental and social practices. Holly has an extensive background in finance, having begun her investment career at Goldman Sachs. She later managed assets and led private client teams at Morgan Stanley, Montgomery Securities, and Bank of America.

We met because Holly and I are both Activators in SheEO, an innovative funding and support model for women-led ventures that create a better world.

Holly’s email re-ignited my optimism about women entrepreneurship and its global impact so she allowed me to share an excerpt with you:

I had the honor of participating in some amazing events last week in New York City in celebration of International Women’s Day and The Decade of Women launch.

40 Plus Years; Time is Now
Last week, executives and world delegates held an inaugural gathering at the United Nations to elevate International Women’s Day into the official launch of the Decade of Women. Hard to believe the United Nations began its Decade of Women program in 1976 to promote equal rights and opportunities for women around the world. Last week’s resounding message was “time has come to complete this mission”. Celebrated across eight billboards in Times Square, the Decade of Women is now live at It is bringing forth the #WeUniteWe pledge to complete the global equity revolution, an action-focused campaign specifically aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #5 (Gender Equity) by 2030.

Abundance for All
Montcalm wholeheartedly supports Goal #5, along with all 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by focusing on quality investments that also address human dignity, education and advancement, social justice, circular economies, and planet preservation. SDGs main purpose is to create abundance for all; Montcalm is proud to be part of this collaborative effort.

When solving humanity’s problems becomes a necessity for everyone rather than a few, anything is possible. This was the bold energy and intention in everyone I met last week and everything we talked about over several days in various venues with a myriad of people across all aspects of financial investing, capital markets, not-for-profits, and social enterprises. Tenets of interdependence, long-term thinking, and profound collaboration are needed. When we base our thinking on these principals, we can create an infrastructure for more equality and higher standards of living for everyone.

“Invest in a Woman, You Invest in a Nation”
We are at a critical moment in history where we can continue down a familiar path OR create a better future for humanity. Our economic system needs improvement. It’s a two-dimensional model in which many pursue their own best interests whether intentional or unintentional, while leaving groups of people, women included, behind. We can embrace a system engineered to bring equality and sovereignty to all. Last week I saw private corporations, NGOs, the United Nations, financial service companies, and the investment community coming together to solve for this equation through collaboration. I am now more than ever convinced that we can effect great change!

Holly is right. We CAN affect great change.

As you know, my clients are passionate change-makers of both genders, but I’ve worked with an overwhelming majority of female entrepreneurs. It’s been my honor to support them and help their businesses thrive by providing clarity, focus and killer messaging that connects with just the right ideal customers. And my vendors and referral partners tend to be mostly women. Why? These are the people with whom I’ve networked. If you want to work with more women, you need to put yourself in places to meet more of the talented experts out there. Attend the right networking events. Participate in the right online forums and masterminds. Expand your circle.

Maybe serving a majority of women and referring business to even more of them is my little part to play in this movement.

You can be part of this renaissance, too. What are you doing with your business to support women entrepreneurs and change-makers?

The “brand” of Women: Who’s responsible? What can we do?

Last night, a therapist specializing in women and families told me girls as young as 8 years-old are dieting. That’s right….8. When I was that age, I was worried about completing my Strawberry Shortcake doll set.

What the hell is happening?!

In the last few months, I’ve had my eyes opened to how the “brand” of women is represented in our world and it’s caused me some concern. It’s my belief that it should cause everyone concern, whether you have little girls – or just hope for a better functioning society in general. It scares me – but I do believe we can change things.

I blog often about how brands impact our perceptions. Business brands carry both logical and emotional weight to them; for example, you shop at Walmart for the lowest prices, But you may pay more for Tiffany’s Blue Box to enchant, romance and delight. Branding is the story that is told and impacts how we relate to that company, cause or candidate.

I’ve never been a big “feminist” per se. I was turned off in college and in my twenties by what I perceived to be a movement that seems to play the victim, blame others and bash men. As I mature, I now see that while the messengers may have alientated some, the intent of the message is indeed valid.

First,  I encourage you to see the documentary Miss Representation. It talks about media’s portrayal of women, femininity, sexuality and the like. One segment focused on how women politicians are talked about so offensively by the press versus male candidates – and when you see the collage of clips and sound bites, you will be shocked this stuff is being said on TV in the 21st century – it’s disgusting. Another segment discusses how women in visible positions, like journalists, are just perpetuating the sexism themselves.  Female reporters sporting 3-inch heels and short skirts, female anchors wearing low cut blouses and heavy makeup, etc.  FOX News seems the worst at perpetuating this trend. But even a positive role model like Katie Couric , when she looks back at old broadcasts and what she wore, laments if she unwittingly helped contribute to this trend.

Second, I saw this insighful post from my friend Bronwyn Saglimbeni over at Sharp Skirts. It’s her “5 Aha! Feminist Moments” from the recent TEDx Women conference. She talks about the time being now to embrace women’s issues because its no longer a “pet issue” and women now make up half the population. This stuff affects all of us, people! She also talks about new ways we need to celebrate “celebrity” with positive role models (which gives me a ray of hope when I get depressed about the Kardashian-infested world my nieces are growing up in).

Women’s issues are no longer about men bashing. It’s about equality, fairness and a new world order. “Around the world, old power structures are crumbling and something new is emerging,” says Bronwyn.  Equality for women creates beter communities – for women AND men. Even Afghan men are finding that when there is equal education and opportunity for women, there is less violence and crime in the community at large.

In my opinion, the “brand” of women pervasive in our media and culture today – one of catfighting wealthy housewives, vapid spoiled rich girls, and shallow sexy “journalists” – needs to change to catch up with the REALITY of who women really are in our world. This is one case where the “brand identity crisis”  – when the brand does not match the reality – is dangerous: I don’t feel like women in the media or entertainment worlds represent me or my intelligent, contributive and supportive female friends.

The problem is that there’s a war on two fronts: the sexualization of women physically, and the juvenilization of women mentally. Reports abound about the state of “photoshopping women” for magazine covers and H&M was recently lambasted for inserting real model heads on fake bodies for their ads. Reality TV shows women competing for husbands on The Bachelor and tearing each other’s hair out in catfights on Real Housewives. Who’s fault is all of this negative  imagery? Who is demaning it? Is it women ourselves, contributing to the problem every time we thumb through an US Weekly at the nail salon to see what the Kardashian’s are up to, complain about our thighs being too big, get a Botox shot or tune into watch brides fight over wedding dresses on reality TV? Or is the men controlling many of these media outlets? I honestly can’t say for sure….

Many people (including me in the past) would say, “Lighten up! It’s just entertainment and everyone knows it’s not real.” And I get that. I confess to watching mindless TV and reading tabloid mags when I just want to escape or de-stress – it does make your own life seem like a dream! But collectively, what are we doing? Shouldn’t we start to model the behavior we want for our own young girls, so they don’t grow up thinking they will only be judged by their bodies being a perfect size 4, or that their women friends should be viewed as competitor who will only stab them in the back?

What am I saying to my 6 year old niece if she hears me complaining about my weight or sees me watching such trash on TV? What is she to think? Little eyes and ears are watching and learning from us all the time – even when we think they are not. Don’t believe me? Just ask any parent who has slammed their hand in the door, cursed, and then had to live with their 4 year old shouting that same word over and over again for the next 3 months in front of mixed company!

So what can we do? These are just some of my ideas….

  • USE YOUR VOICE: See what the Miss Representation movement is doing to combat negative portrayals of women and spread articles and blogs via social media that talk about this issue.
  • START AT HOME: Explain to the young girls in your life (and I mean 5, 6, 7) that models in magazines are altered and what they means. Tallk with them about the images they see and what they think and start a conversation.
  • MODEL BEHAVIOR: Don’t obsess about your weight or diet in front of young girls – show them healthy eating habits and a healthy appreciation for their bodies. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t combat obesity, but do it from a place of health not “physical perfection.”
  • FIND ROLE MODELS: Find role models of women doing amazing things and set up interviews for the young girls in your life. Tell them about extraordinary women you read about in the news. Let them play with Barbie, or watch Disney princesses if they like (this was a fond part of my childhood, too) but also expose them to women in all professions. If you have a female congresswoman or senator, draft a letter with your young gal to her. If they don’t see positive role models, they won’t know what is possible.
  • PRAISE MIND AND BODY: Praise girls for their talent and intellect, not just their looks. And speaking of looks, help them accept their bodies for all their unique qualities and strengths as well.
  • And if you have young boys in your life? You should actually try all of the above as well.

Katie Couric said, “The media can be an instrument of change: it can maintain the status quo and reflect the views of the society or it can, hopefully, awaken people and change minds. I think it depends on who’s piloting the plane.”

What other ideas do you have to combat this negative brand image? Do you believe there is or is not a problem?Would love to hear from you in the Comments?

Marketing to women? What she’s not telling you

If you market to women in any way, shape or form, run and pick up a copy of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It . Written by three women who run a women’s marketing research firm and have done work for big global brands around the world, it’s chock full of advice on how not to let patterns women show in research lead you to launch a dud.

Chock full of case studies, the book guides you through the half-truths women tell, why they tell them and how to probe around them to get to the whole truth that will really benefit your brand. I adored this book and found it an easy and practical read.

The half truths talked about in the book are:

  • Good intentions – women may tell you what they intend or want to do, not what they will do
  • Approval seeking – they may just tell you as a researcher what you want to hear – or what those in the group with them will support
  • Martyrdom – ensure you speak to her specific “flavor” of martyrdom when crafting messaging that speaks to her needs (hint: Alpha Moms and Beta Moms have different types of martyrdom and if you land the right one with the right group, you will solve their problems without offending them
  • Ego Protection – women may speak from the person she wants  to be versus who she really is
  • Secret Keeping – women tell themselves little lies that a researcher could get lulled into thinking means their product or service fulfills a need that is not really there.

The book does a good job of showing how their research techniques have helped get around these half-truths and to the real whole truth for their clients. Lots of it is very “feminine” in nature (gaining trust, making yourself vulnerable before expecting your participants to do so, learning how to really listen to what she’s saying, etc.) and it sounds like many of their testing sessions actually evolved into therapy sessions. But overall, I found this book’s findings fascinating and, let’s face it ladies, quite true in the context of knowing myself and my own friends.

I particularly loved the example of how to take advantage of “green marketing” the right way with women. Hint, not very many women are as green as they claim, and you only find that out if you can video them or “dig through their cabinets”. Might be more practical to enable “green behavior” while still giving good value for the price and making it super easy for them.

If your business relies on marketing to women, you will want to check out this book.

Disclosure: I was not paid or even asked to write this review. I just enjoyed this book and wanted to share it with all of you. However, the link above is through my Amazon Affiliate program so when you buy, I get some coin. Not a bad trade for turning you on to a good resource, now is it?!