“Looks the part”: the kiss of (career) death?

I read the news with two sets of eyes. First, the obvious search for what’s up. The other, assessing what current events mean for women. This past week, I read a phrase that hurled me back decades in my own career–“Looks the part”– a set of words that may seem like a compliment…or be used as a reason to hold women back. But when the language is associated with decisions regarding the highest offices in our land, I just had to write.

 

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/the-ugly-truth-about-trump-s-fixation-with-looks-1.2886560

The ugly truth about Trump’s fixation with looks

US president-elect’s cabinet choices appear to be more about style than substance

 Another week begins with the US president-elect hosting his ultimate episode of Celebrity Apprentice: D.C. – otherwise known as the selection of his cabinet.

Each day, a parade of contenders arrives on the set of his shiny Trump Tower where an attractive hostess greets them at the revolving door, before rising to the upper floors for the casting session.

Trump’s choices to date suggest a preference for billionaires and military leaders aligned with his wallet and world view.

But now that secretary of state spot is up for grabs, the criterion is even more refined.

Asked why former governor Mitt Romney was up for secretary of state, a top aide quotes Trump as saying Romney “looks the part”.

Looks the part?

True, Romney’s chiseled jaw, perfect posture and tailored suits telegraph suave confidence but is that why Trump might choose him to represent the US around the globe?

Unlike Trump’s unconventional resume, Romney governed Massachusetts, was a powerful businessman who led Bain Capital, and managed the successful Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Trigger-happy Twitter finger

On a personal note, he seems more even-tempered than his new commander-in-chief with the trigger-happy Twitter finger.

But hey, Mitt’s got that handsome, ageing model thing going – so, he’s a shoo-in.

In fact, he’s made the callback list with a dinner appointment Tuesday night. Are table manners under review?

“Looks the part” (or worse, not looking the part) is language women know well, especially in the jobs market.

I recall, as a young public relations director, my boss introduced me at a board meeting: “Sure, she’s a dynamo but she’s the prettiest PR director in the city.”

I was floored. I felt like a doll.

Fast forward 10 years, as I left my Fortune 500 advertising director job, my EVP (executive vice president) bid me farewell: “Don’t worry, I’ll remember you as more than just a pretty face.”

Was that the sum of all that hard work?

Crushes careers

Looks cut both ways. Women deemed too attractive risk being taken as a distraction or as unserious.

Too old, too large or too “something” and we’re just not the right “fit” to represent a brand or a boss (no matter how portly or oddly-coifed he or she might be.)

Statistics show that job candidates who are deemed unattractive, or obese, are less likely to be hired, male or female, though women fare worse.

Unfair?

Yes, but sadly more true than not. And it crushes blossoming careers, human potential and our very souls.

Back to the cabinet: the focus on appearance makes me rethink about the rationale behind the other contenders.

If Trump chooses Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state, is he leaning toward an ornery Rottweiler vibe?

Or if he picks yet another General, do the uniform, crewcut and gold stars shout we may be on the warpath?

Trump has had a bit of a looks fixation throughout his campaign.

He mocked Marco Rubio’s height and tweeted that Chris Christie ought “to take it easy on the cheeseburgers”.

Trump goes full throttle on females. He insulted opponent Carly Fiorina’s face, compared Ted Cruz’s wife unfavourably to his model spouse Melania and, among his many Hillary blows, said: “She doesn’t look presidential”.

Perhaps it’s time for a look in the mirror?

When Trump’s cast is vetted by the US Congress, the committee will assess experience, judgment, and records, not hairdos.

Time to get looks off the table and face what truly matters.

Mary Lou Quinlan is a New York-based author, actor and advocate for women. Her latest play Work – about women’s careers – launches in 2017. Visit justaskawoman.com

 

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Now what? Don’t move on. Move forward.

With the contentious 2016 Presidential election finally over, many women are still shell-shocked. Dumb-founded. Lots of hyphenated feelings. The temptation is to commiserate with cohorts and for the victors to demand that everyone else “Move on!” Not so fast. This two year slog deserves a moment to assess and absorb. Lots of segments of the population are conflicted but I’ll focus on women because…that’s what I do. I listen to women all the time.

My read? While some are disappointed in the loss of a woman for the top office ( I tossed my white ‘suffragette’ jacket on the floor and crawled to sleep that night myself, ) more are concerned with the “normalization” of the winning campaign’s misogynist rhetoric. There can be no joy in Mudville when someone wins while demeaning women’s bodies and brains and constituents give a pass to boasts of assault. This election showed me that too many men–and women–have decided that derogatory sexist behavior is an acceptable part of life in the fast lane. Like most women, I’ve experienced my share of nasty remarks and gritted my teeth through borderline (and actual) harassment. Naively, I thought we were better than that in 2016. I had hoped that we had all grown up and grown fuller as human beings. Seems not.

But back to the headline, Now What? I believe that we have a duty to be sure little girls can grow up with the biggest dreams, unshackled by a rating of 1-10. That young women take on careers with the confidence that they count equally with men and not wonder if they are bait for a late night meeting. And that women, as they evolve through motherhood, aging and life changes, will find a welcome place to work with fairness and dignity, without fear of being marginalized. The political pendulum can swing but we can’t tolerate prejudice from those at the top of our organizations, communities or our country.

I’ve heard from my husband’s male friends that they are surprised that the women in their lives are still down and frustrated after the election. I really don’t feel that “Hillary funk” is the problem. It’s that this entire campaign revealed that things haven’t changed and resurrected nightmares of years ago. The election shone a light on the reality that there are too many who will never support a woman for a senior leadership job, no matter how qualified. It’s easy to say that Hillary wasn’t the right one. But what of the next? Will she be too shrill? Too unseasoned? Too…what?

To those cheering the result of the election, I offer this: supporting your candidate based on policies is your right as a voter. But please, as a human being, speak out clearly against any patterns of sexist behavior. Show your pride by holding the new president to the highest standard. And as women, let’s sit down with others of every generation, especially those with whom we disagree. Instead of “getting over it”, let’s get it out on the table.
Let’s not simply move on; let’s move forward. Together. Out loud.

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Watch Three Generations React to “Makers” on PBS

This week, PBS aired a groundbreaking (and we hope, award-winning!) documentary called “Makers” tracing the journey of women from the awakening of the feminist movement through to today. Chelsea, a prime Gen Y woman and I, a member of the class of ’75, gathered a group of ten women to watch together and weigh in. We invited representatives from all different life stages; a college senior getting ready to transition to the professional world, recent graduates starting careers, newlyweds looking forward to starting a family, empty nesters and life-reinventors.

Our living room of new and old friends represented the movers, shakers and MAKERS of today. This video captures the conversation that just wouldn’t quit—inspired, candid and as women are, openly engaging. Listen in!

 

As Chelsea said, “It’s easy for Gen Y women to forget how many doors had to be knocked down in order for us to be standing where we are today.

We may not have lived through the height of the women’s movement in the 60’s and 70’s, but the energy that was generated then certainly lives within all of us now. Unfortunately the road to equality is still lined with roadblocks, detours and “Do Not Enter” signs. It’s now up to our generation. We each have to ask ourselves—what are the issues and values that I want to stand up for to make a difference for myself, my peers and future generations? When that answer comes, you will be ready to make your mark.”

Sent from both of us with love and with thanks to June, Joanna, Erin, Kelley, Amy, Nidia, Alexis and Maggie.

Mary Lou and Chelsea

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5 Reasons Women Talk More than Men

On TODAY today, Andrea Canning hosted a segment about why women talk more than men, see it here. New research indicates that women may actually over-index on a brain protein linked to language, called FOXP2.

Of course, the piece concluded with lots of irate husbands on the street complaining that their wives never shut up and in-studio banter about who talks more and ‘Chatty Cathy’ defense. After listening to thousands of women–especially my besties–talk over the years, I know they talk more than most men. (I sure do!)

I have used the ‘women talk 20,000 words to men’s 7,000 words’ stat but never knew about the protein rationale. Here are my five unscientific reasons why women talk more:

1. They notice more and therefore, have more content to share. And they want you to know it.

2. As a gender that feels unlistened to, they figure, if I just talk more, something has to get through!

3. They like to tell stories and provide context rather than just ‘get to the point’ as they are so often (annoyingly) told to do.

4. Talking is therapy and connection. By talking, I am soothing, sharing, being alive with you. Silence is often a signal that something is wrong. Unless it’s during savasana, which means, ahh.

5. If they are like me, talking is a way to fill in the sentences that others leave unfinished. Because others don’t talk fast enough. And we know what they are going to say anyway!

The good news for marketers is that women are the talking gender AND the buying gender. Silent types can’t help you figure out your marketing problems. Talkers can. A person of few words, like “Me, too!” isn’t a great help to you. A talker is, and your best talkers are….women.

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A Mother’s Prayer and a Daughter’s Dream: The God Box just made the New York Times bestsellers list!

I am so excited to share this incredible news. The New York Times just named “The God Box” to their bestseller list. This is a huge thrill for me and I can only think of Mom who was the reason for the story and more than that, the reason I believed I could write. Even though I can hear her now saying, “I knew this would happen,” I have to admit, I am over the moon with joy, gratitude and that feeling that comes with doing what you love. Thanks so much to all my friends and family who were behind me every step of the way. This is your story, your success too.

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February 23, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK

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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

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