“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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“Can’t means Won’t”

As a drama queen teen, whenever I’d whine “I can’t clean my room before I go out!” my Mom would say “Can’t means won’t.” Mom knew that language directed behavior. And lately while writing my new play “WORK”, I’ve been thinking about our speaking tics that sabotage results.

Take my fitness routine for example. I had none. I dance twice a week but waltz isn’t always aerobic and I was dipping into too many breakfast sandwiches. Then I noticed the FB posts of a fellow dancer, dietician and fitness trainer Christine Coen. She’d share her breakfast of yogurt with fruit and acai (however you pronounce it) and demonstrate lifting weights. Very large weights. After four months as voyeur, I wrote and she suggested I follow a meal plan and meet her for multiple 10 minute weight sessions lifting till my muscles failed.”FAILED?” But 10 minutes sounded appealing. “Where’s your gym?” A 12 minute walk from my apartment. “Oh, I can’t do that.” The “can’t” reflex. “I already go to Soho to dance and to Noho to rehearse and doctors are uptown and our house is in PA. I don’t want more geography.” Pathetic. Three weeks ago, I got over myself and now admit that the walk is the best warm up for Christine time and it takes, what? A half hour total to take care of myself? (Here’s Christine and happy, if makeup-free-Christineme at her gym.)

Language is an energy driver or crusher. And it carries into life and work, especially among women: “Maybe this isn’t a good idea but…” “Sorry, I didn’t mean to push for too much money…” “I’m not an expert at this but…” In the spirit of making everybody feel good or unthreatened, we undermine ourselves. Our natural talent for creating common ground and avoiding conflict is an asset but sometimes, we’ve got to get our true voice heard. Strong. Certain. Active. “I can.” I can hear the hackles go up as we resist the idea that women need more coaching on this while men seem to stride from cradle to cubicle with confidence. But it’s too prevalent not to mention and I want all of us, men and women, to know our worth. Speak your voice. Oh, and if you are looking to step it up, you can find Christine at Christine.Coen.com I’ll share results when I hit my goal. I can, I can, I can.

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Dancing with all of my Heart

When I received the email inviting me to participate in a one-night “Dancing with the Stars” style competition to raise money for the Catholic Schools of my hometown Philadelphia, I said yes faster than my fingers could hit the keys. They say “you can take the girl out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the girl” and that is so true in my case. I have always been loyal to those who ‘brought’ me and even though I have never waltzed, cha-cha-ed or tango’d onstage, nothing can stop me now.

I’ve begun four months of training with a fabulous dancer/choreographer/teacher here in NYC and on March 21st, we will hit the dance floor at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. Scared? Not yet. Excited? Over the moon. Please check out www.dancingforourfuturestars.com for details and vote for me anytime if you have the heart! 4700 kids will thank you. (Me, too!)shoese too!)

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Phyllis K. Robinson: in loving memory of a legendary adwoman

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Today’s New York Times carried dueling obituaries of two female giants—award-winning costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge and advertising legend Phyllis K. Robinson. Both brilliant, dignified, professional women with long and remarkable careers. Ms. Aldredge died at 88; Ms. Robinson at 89. I didn’t know the costume genius personally, though along with generations of film and theatergoers, I marveled at her work. But Phyllis was my colleague and friend.

Her obit featured a 1949 photo of a Phyllis I wasn’t privileged to meet. Back then, she was the only woman with the powerful job of copy chief at the hottest new agency in New York, Doyle Dane Bernbach. Chicly turned out in dramatic black eyeglasses and the perfect (now) vintage dress, she’s pictured across the desk from two men. She’d just turned to the camera with a knowing smile, totally at ease despite the fact that she was a rare female bird in the advertising jungle of the real Mad Men era.

More than 40 years later, when I met Phyllis in the early 90s, she was a deservedly high paid freelance writer at DDB in a changed ad world. I was a newly minted account SVP, hired to rescue the failing Clairol business, still on the agency’s roster since Phyllis’ earlier days. The renamed and consolidated DDBNeedham Worldwide boasted global clients and creative awards, but without the swagger that made the original so…original.

Other than sharing the same October 22nd birthday, Phyllis and I could not have been more different. Like Aldredge, Phyllis knew the power of appearances. She’d sweep into our chaotic meetings, an imposing mothership of a woman, swathed in Armani or McFadden, always understated, confident and courteous. In contrast, I was coming to work on full account-saving alert, wearing a too-eager smile with too-bright skirt suits to match. I was a traffic light compared to her incandescence.

As unlikely as it seemed, the two of us hit it off (though I imagine she wished she could dial down my sartorial voltage.) Phyllis and I worked side by side in an effort to save the Clairol account for DDB. In the 70s, she’d written some of Clairol’s most famous lines, such as “You, Only Better” for Nice N Easy, so right for the Me decade. As the years passed, and brand managers faded as fast as bottle blondes, additional agencies were brought in to fight for the scraps of what had been an American cosmetic icon.

I remember one particular shootout when the agency gathered at least a dozen creative teams to come up with something to please the irate client on the Nice N Easy brand. Each pair would walk into the creative directors’ office with their latest idea, much of it unfortunately the sorts of one-off or gimmick-laden spots better at building a reel than a brand.

I watched as board by board, the young Turks’ work was smacked down and the teams responded with protest or petulance. But when Phyllis, then twice their age, quietly entered the session last in line—alone– even the prickliest creative directors fell silent. She could clean their clocks before she had her first coffee.

She’d take out her carefully typed notes (yes, typed on a manual typewriter) and gently read the most extraordinarily thoughtful pitch, as strategic as it was poetic—the consummate pro. When she’d deliver the closing line, it was as if no other words could possibly fulfill what she’d so effortlessly captured. That day, she presented a simple idea that linked a box of hair color to self discovery and expression, “Nice N Easy. Find Yourself”.

All the sight gags, the music hijacking, the ba-dump-ba-dump executions that had gone before, hung in effigy. There was only one real idea in the room.

Phyllis’ campaign won the day and she shot a beautiful series of spots. But eventually, the revolving door of clients lost their appetite for it, fired the agency and went on to do ad after forgettable ad.

Phyllis was disappointed but not dismayed. She knew what was important in her life. Her beloved husband Rick. Her only daughter Nancy for whom she quit the ad job of a lifetime. Phyllis told me that, in a move unheard of in the 50s, she demanded a part time arrangement so that she could work from home during the first idyllic years of delayed motherhood. The DDB boys balked. She quit and waited them out until they realized they couldn’t do without her and met her terms.

But the biggest reason Phyllis never seemed crushed by rejection, was that she knew she had more ideas where those came from. I learned from her that confidence was born not of arrogance but from dogged hard work and unflinching persistence.

She once showed me a box containing meticulous files of index cards with notations of copy and insight for every brand she worked on or wanted to work on. Like Phyllis herself, each was a jewel of true brilliance perfectly turned out, patiently waiting its turn to shine.

As I read her obituary, I saw that she’d actually slipped from this earth on New Years Eve in Manhattan, the city she loved. Amid fireworks and applause, she quietly left us. How like her to leave us with her light, without a word spoken.

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What the blip

I recently read an aritlce on cnn about a new website, blippy.com. When you register, you link your credit card to the website and it publicly displays (a la facebook status) your purchases (ex. “dudup spent $1.29 at iTunes – Empire State of Mind (Part II)” )……and so?

I don’t get it, worst part is that in the interview with the founder he admitted he wasn’t sure what the point was either-seriously? As a marketer I can see the advantage of being able to track spending, but only if your target registers on the site.

I guess if you really coveted your friends shoes, but did not want to ask her where she got them or how much she paid for them, you could turn to blippy where *hopefully* she purchased them with her credit card.

How many moms do you think are going to visit blippy in the hopes that someone is purchasing milk at three different locations near them so they can price compare?

The strangest part is I can’t stop thinking about blippy….maybe it’s because I’m a closet shopper who would be mortified if anyone could see that every time I visit CVS I easily spend $100. Just curious-who are you blippy users and what do you use it for?

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Don’t Blame Her

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a grad business class at Fordham and of course, had started with the power of female consumers. And a guy raised his hand and asked, “Well, if women are responsible for 85% of the buying, aren’t they the ones that caused the country’s financial crisis?” Grrrr to the sarcastic but clever question, but I simply said that there was plenty of blame to go around. 

But a recent study shows that if anything, women’s behavior as investors is actually what could bail us out of this mess. According to a piece by Jason Zweig in the Wall St. Journal, women are not only more risk averse as investors, they are more fear-averse. Where last Fall’s market crash made men angry, it made women afraid. 

We’ve been talking for years about women’s habit of deliberate decision making, particularly in financial services, but Zweig’s report really brought it home. Because while women’s fear makes them even more conservative, men’s anger incites their financial revenge. He writes, “The results of a nationwide survey of hundreds of investors conducted in March, just days after the Dow bottomed at 6547, show how anger and fear in the minds of men and women can affect their financial decisions…one in eight men, but only one in every 40 women, had ‘made riskier investments looking for long-term growth’ in the previous week. Female investors were twice as likely to expect the return on stocks over the coming year to be zero or negative…

“The women were more concerned but took fewer actions,” said psychologist Ellen Peters of the University of Oregon, who co-directed the survey. “They were also more pessimistic — or realistic? — about what to expect from the market.”

Stocks are up 35% since March, so the women’s fears haven’t yet come to pass. But their inaction already looks wise.”

So, to that student with the 85% question, nyah, nyah.

And it doesn’t depend on their age, unlike the original, and prevents smooth penile muscles from relaxation, 60 minutes before sexual activity. After several successful sexual acts with the pill there is usually no more need for it, visit a doctor to get instructions which dosage of Super P-Force is optimum for you. If this happens you will not be ghostlook.com able to have proper sexual intercourse and satisfy your wife or partner in the bedroom.

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December 9, 2019
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.
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