Lean In, Lean Back or Stand Tall?


Yesterday I was surprised to see a feature about women’s ‘real’ feelings about work on the front page of The New York Times.

Surprised because the front page naturally favors breaking news or lately, daily worldwide unrest. And surprised because instead of the usual fawning over female Celeb CEO’s like Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer, this story by Catherine Rampell followed Sara Uttech from Falls River, Wisconsin, who simply wanted to be successful enough so that she could be a wife, a mom, a professional communicator and a woman she was happy to meet in the mirror.

Turns out Sara had ‘made it’ but had made the choice to ask for a flexible schedule. By working every possible angle and hour, she managed not to miss any of the six ballgames her three kids play every week, no mean feat. Now, Sara is lucky. She has a supportive husband, a job that requires little travel, plus she has a responsive manager and her firm is run by a woman with an open mind. Having no kids myself, the boss’s story also touched me, since she acknowledged that despite being childless, her own personal life deserved flex time too. No matter how keenly felt by moms, flexibility isn’t only a mother’s issue, it’s a human one. But we can be our own worst enemies.

According to the Families and Work Institute, only 37% of women and 44% of men actually want a job with more responsibility and yet, we can’t stop leaning in till it kills us. As I travel to speak, I still find women resisting the idea of downshifting, not because of financial limitations but for ego.

Some of the linked-in women’s career groups frankly scare me. In a recent posted question, “Is it okay to be happy where you’re at?” (I still can’t get over the careerist dangling her “at”, but… ), most of the commenting women declared they will never be satisfied until they get the next bigger job. When did “happy” become a synonym for surrender? At a recent speech, I described my own reinvention of a more livable work/life, and one woman raised her hand and asked, “Wait…are you saying the only difference between your busy life then and now, is that now you’re happy?” Well, yeah. That would be the difference. Isn’t it time that we stop defining fulfillment only in the elusive corner office (been there, my friends…it isn’t that pretty) or flex-time as tantamount to opting out, and that we find that center place where we stand tall and seek ‘enough’ space to live happily ever after? Wouldn’t we love to be in that front-page story?

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Making a big leap after 40?

MLQ signing humbnail

Got a career dream waiting in your pocket? Most of us do. In 1998, I took a big step to achieve mine and Just Ask a Woman was the result. And the dreams keep growing. Hope you enjoy this piece published today on LearnVest, the fantastic financial support site for young women. Read it HERE!

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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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My View On The View

Often women will hold back from telling their whole truth opinions in fear of losing approval from their co-workers, or in an effort to protect their own ego.  In a work environment differing opinions and thoughts are often the driving force behind those “ah-ha” moments that in turn lead to some of the most innovative ideas. So, I have to wonder what will it take for women to voice their differing opinions in the workplace?

I was lucky enough to be a part of  The View’s audience for their live show yesterday. There is something so refreshing about the female hosts’ honesty that draws me into their morning show, especially when there are controversial hot topics to discuss. The hotter the topics, the hotter the tension.

Yesterday the women discussed the on-going Weiner-gate scandal and the rumors, which later that day became fact, surrounding his decision to resign from his position as NY Congressman. The women disagreed and Barbara even became very vocal with her opinion on the matter; however, once everyone stated their opinions they moved on, laughing a minute later regarding their past experiences with shoplifting. There is something inspirational (maybe even empowering) watching these five strong women disagree and the tension rise, only for them laugh and move on moments later.

As women, I know we have all been in the situation when we disagree with even our closest friends, but shy away from stating our opinions in fear of losing their approval or hurting our self image. If Elizabeth Hasselbeck can disagree with Barbara Walters, then why can’t I get the courage to tell my friend that I cringe every time she says Jessica Beil is the epitome of beauty?

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Yoplait: Truth or Trigger?


Yoplait, who created an ad where a woman negotiates with herself to be “allowed” a slice of cheesecake (“I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks and they would cancel each other out, right?”), has pulled the ad in response to complaints from the National Eating Disorders Association, which declared that the woman’s internal monologue wasn’t funny or realistic—in fact, it was the depiction of mental conflict that could trigger a person suffering from an eating disorder.

Kudos to Yoplait, of course, for responding appropriately to the situation. Illness aside, here’s a question for you: When the woman in the ad regards the treat and negotiates with herself, what is her actual intention when it comes to her own actions? Let’s break it down:

Half Truth: To justify eating the cheesecake, I’ll limit the rest of my day to celery sticks.

Whole Truth: I’ll consider the celery, but I’ll actually just eat the cheesecake and go on as per usual.

To be honest, we identified with that ad when it showed up in our browser. What unrealistically well-adjusted woman doesn’t second-guess a high-calorie indulgence in the middle of her workday? By nature, Yoplait’s position as a substitute treat and healthy lifestyle aid puts it square at the intersection of health and mental health. And that’s a hard place to be.

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Facebook, LinkedIn, And Little White Secrets

Half Truth: Women divulge details of their lives via ubiquitous social media outlets and opportunities to share.

Whole Truth: Women divulge only the details that that portray them in a chosen light.

Do women really keep secrets anymore? In this culture of confession, with Oprah as high priestess, why would anyone keep a secret when telling them is so easy? In a real-time, digital, Twitter world, where every private thought can be broadcast in a split second, are today’s women just more calculating about what they reveal and what they conceal? How many women post their most flattering (if out of date) pictures on Facebook? Ever read someone’s supposedly accurate profile on Match.com?

The Whole Truth is that women share those secrets, online and off, that portray them the way they like to be perceived and support the personalities they aspire to. Conversely, they safeguard the secrets that damage that image.

Secrets don’t have to be damaging. They can be ‘little white secrets.’ Ask a beauty marketer how many women play down their sins of self-inflicted sun damage while bragging that they wear SPFs all the time. Ask a pharmaceutical marketer how many female consumers promise compliance, yet double down on dosage based on their own doctoring. Ask a furniture marketer how many women claim to have modern, simple taste, yet actually fill their houses with overstuffed furniture and knickknack collections?

You say you don’t keep secrets? Is there a small blip on your resume that seems to have been deleted? Was there an event in your life you’ve never confessed to your spouse? Ever eat a cookie in the bathroom? Keeping secrets is something we learn to do when we are as young as three or four years old. Holding some things inside is part of human nature.

So if you think women don’t keep secrets from you, you’re in for an awakening. We’ve certainly exposed more than our share of them.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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It’s Not About Anger… It’s About Ego

Half Truth: Women are demanding customers.

Whole Truth: Women don’t like retailers who take advantage of their perceived reticence.

Women, who may be mild or diplomatic under most circumstances, will whip out their evil twin when it’s time to duel with errant sales and service people. When we’ve asked women to describe their identities as shoppers, they are proud to claim their power. As one woman told us, ‘I’m a ‘you’ve got one chance to screw up’ shopper.’

Another woman we interviewed demonstrated her revenge technique on a salesman who made her feel he was too busy to take her call. In what was clearly an oft-repeated performance, she mimicked her best imperious voice, as she raved at the hapless receptionist, ‘You tell your boss, this is an escalated phone call, use that word and tell him I want service right now!’ As the other women in the group applauded, I could see her relax into the knowledge that this story only got better with the telling, securing her place as queen of customer

Marketers of services faced with an irate customer like this can figure out whether her anger is real or manufactured by starting with the magic words, ‘You’re right. Now, how can I make this better for you?’ Play to her ego; all she’s really wanting is the respect she deserves and to not be seen as the cowering, customer chump.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Going Green Is Great, But Will It Lead To Sales?

Half Truth: “Green-ness” is a crucial factor when women consider purchasing products.

Whole Truth: “Green-ness” is secondary–it’s more important that a product work well than benefit the environment.

Thanks to the strength of their convictions, women often make marketers think trends are bigger than they are. The green trend, for example, is a case of women being selectively honest. Women will spout their green credentials effortlessly because it presents them as more conscientious consumers. ‘I only buy organic.’ ‘My home is healthier because of green products.’ Saying you’re exclusively green or that you are scrupulously earth conscious is accurate for some, but we have found it’s claimed more often than it’s true. Women know that green is good and waste is bad, so after adopting a green behavior or two, they will start to talk as if they’re actually growing their dinner and recycling the plates, even if their only green gesture is a bottle of Method tile spray in the shower.

We don’t mean to underestimate the power of the green movement and the growing number of consumers who try to make choices that sustain the planet. Niche, squeaky green brands like Seventh Generation have penetrated the cleaning aisles of the biggest chains. But mass brands like Clorox Greenworks cleaned up by offering a dose of feel-good green clean with the silent but mighty hero name of Clorox to assure germ killing. By securing the imprimatur of the Sierra Club and others, the brand has managed to tread the narrow line between green and effective. And we’ve heard that many women are displaying their Greenworks products on their countertops, a giveaway to their badge value.

Green, organic, natural, locally grown, no matter what the language, intent to purchase is often overturned when pricing comes up. Our take on the Whole Truth? She’s ‘green-ish’ and can be more practical than purist. Women are still figuring out their green ground rules. Be careful that you don’t assume that the green game she talks will end up as cash in the register at the end of the day.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Busy Busy: Is She Too Busy, Or Just Too Busy For You?

Half Truth: Women are too busy to spend time on themselves.

Whole Truth: Women are busy, but they’ll make time for the things they really want to do.

Over the last couple of years, we have started to notice a trend. Even the busiest women are finding all kinds of ways to play hooky by either accepting less ambitious goals for themselves or secretly doing fun stuff, like spending hours online under the guise of work.

In research we did for megasite about.com, women, claiming they are doing research for their families, admitted that they quickly drift into shopping, downloading from iTunes, playing games, posting product reviews, and just zoning out on favorite blogs and sites. If women are so pressed for time, you’d think surfing the Internet would be squeezed into the scarce wee hours. But though midnight pops for women’s online usage, the Whole Truth is she’s online all day at her computer in the office, her BlackBerry in the checkout line, checking her cell when she awakes. Interestingly, moms of young kids, likely the most time-squeezed women, are online the most.

Brands that create escapes for women find that they are only too willing to spend their time and money, when the reason is right. Look at the hours spent posting e-pinions and downloading music. How many women get intoxicated with the craft details on etsy or the product descriptions on eBay? Tripadvisor is a delicious way to fantasize about potential vacations, and photo websites such as kodakgallery have women cataloguing memories like professionals. All these activities take time women are willing to give, no matter how crammed their schedules are. Don’t assume that ‘I’m too busy’ means she is. She’s only too busy for what’s boring or unrewarding.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Stress Is Not A Contest: Marketers And Martyrs

Half Truth: Women are stressed.

Whole Truth: Women are stressed, but they aren’t above playing the pity card.

Marketers recoil when women bemoan how busy they are. To many, women’s Martyrdom conjures the annoying and unappealing image of a whiner. (And that’s not the picture of the customer they want to have.) So often, when we show videos of women mired in Martyrdom, marketers get pulled into their quicksand of complaints. Additionally, this Half Truth of Martyrdom puts marketers, especially male ones on the defensive. We can tell this is happening when male clients start citing all the examples of how in their well-balanced families, men do all the heavy lifting.

As a marketer, beware of competing with women’s stress, especially if she’s your customer. As we love to say, ‘Stress is not a contest.’ Even if it were, you’ve got to let your customer win. Women can be incredibly empathetic, but they love to play the pity card, so successful marketers need to base ideas on solving stress rather than compete with it or amplify it. The first step is getting the facts, not just the feelings.

A business that’s plagued with consumers’ stress management is the airline industry, and some brands have navigated this better than others. While both men and women business travelers will trumpet the very true Martyrdom refrain, ‘I’m so exhausted by business travel,’ women, especially those with kids waiting at home, take the indignities of travel personally. Continental Airlines was the first to roll out the red carpet at check-in (in their case, it was blue) so that all Elite members, even the straggling latecomers, could bypass the long line of nonmembers. The blue carpet practically shouted, ‘We know you travel constantly, so here’s one annoyance you can take off your plate.’ They also seem to be the most aggressive about filling any empty business class seat with worthy upgrade candidates, again a life raft for a woman on the edge.

Listen to the Whole Truth behind her Half Truth of Martyrdom to learn how you can redefine your product in her terms and you may find you can reposition your current offering into a Whole Truth winner.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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June 14, 2024
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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