Blessings from the School of Hard Knocks by Dr. Kevin B Kreitman

kreitman_kevin_1-9-21-11-6490-2Maybe it was my name.

My parents named me Kevin, although no one had the courage to tell me how, uh, unusual a name like mine was for a girl.  That is, until 3rd grade when a little boy named Kevin joined the class and I asked the teacher why his parents had given him a girl’s name.

I was also blessed with parents who told me that I could do anything I wanted to do that I put my mind to.  I’m sure they didn’t intend for that to include my early career as a motorcycle mechanic and several years as an owner-operator in the long-haul trucking business.
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Closing the Confidence Gap: Stop Waiting for Permission! by Kathy Klotz-Guest

(Originally posted at Kathy Klotz-Guest’s Linkedin Blog on May 06, 2014 –

Last week, I wrote about the Confidence Gap for women and how important it is to step up to uncertainty and re-frame the way we look at risk. In that post, I talked about a key concept from improvisation – the cornerstone principle of “yes, and” – that we can use to exercise our risk-taking muscles and build confidence.

Closely related to confidence and risk is the issue of permission. Too many people are waiting for validation and permission to do the most important thing in the world: be themselves and do the things they are passionate about. Stop waiting for the external OK to be you and build what you need to build in the world.

If you want to be great, stop asking for permission.

Kathy Pic1-2 real

Truth In Comedy and Life

There’s truth in comedy. In improvisation, we endow our on-stage partners with character traits: gender, relationships, names, idiosynchrasies, etc., in order to build great scenes.

It’s also important to endow yourself on stage and off. In improvisation, I often hear from women, “Why am I always endowed as a mom, or a teacher, or a girl, or a whatever?” That usually means an uninteresting and weaker character. There is some truth here – men tend to endow women with certain qualities. Hell, I’ve said this very thing in frustration a number of times. Years ago, a great male friend and fellow improviser finally said this to me: “What the hell are you waiting for? Why don’t you jump in there and force the guys to keep up? Don’t put up with that!” He was right. I’ve started a business and an improv group for Pete’s sake. Yet, here I was expecting someone else to endow me, to recognize me…to give me permission to shape my on-stage character. Why? What the hell! It made no sense. I should know better, right?!

Listen, we can’t control what others do. We can control our choices. Where is it written that we can’t self-endow? We don’t have to wait for permission. Permission comes from within.

The next time I was endowed as a mom, I endowed myself as a werewolf. And a mom. See, they are not incompatible. You want to endow me as a mom? Fine. I will be the biggest, most badass mom – on my terms so I am “yes, and-ing” others ANDmyself.

That’s the key. You must “yes, and” yourself, too. Give yourself permission to be, do, explore, discover, and create.

Kathy Pic2-2

Successful People Don’t Wait for Permission; They Choose Themselves

Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot calls it “selecting yourself.” You get to discover yourself and act on your talents. You don’t need to wait for someone to fund you or give you that column in a magazine, or promote you, or tell you how how great your ideas are. Get your ideas out into the world. When you see a need, step up and use your talents.

Here are some ways to give yourself permission:

1. See it and do it. If it’s something that compels you, find a way to do it. Partner with others if you need to. Start first. You don’t have to know all the answers ahead of time. Life isn’t a straight line; it’s a series of comically (at times) twisted turns.Visualize the start and end. You don’t have to know all the pieces in between just yet. Just start. Somewhere.

2. Speak up. If you feel you have something to say and contribute to a conversation, don’t talk yourself out of it. Your point of view is as valid as someone else’s. How many times have you wanted to say something and didn’t? You censored yourself. Unless it’s a tacky comment or an expletive in an inappropriate setting, what’s the worst that could happen if you speak your mind? You would be surprised at the support you might get.

3. Dare to ask the basic questions. You won’t look silly; you’ll learn.

4. “Yes, and” and ask, “What if?” Engage in possibility thinking. Asking “what if” can be a very powerful tool to jump start possibilities and new ideas. “Yes, and-ing” others and yourself can create a positive dynamic. Remember, “yes, and” doesn’t mean wewill do it; it’s simply opening up a space that says to people, “I hear you.” And when you do this, most people will reciprocate that positive energy.

5. Stop apologizing when you don’t need to. “I’m sorry, but….this may be wrong but….” Nope. Stop. You have a right to your opinion. Own it. We use an apology to soften our stance or lower our status to be equal to others. While men do this, too, women do this far more often in my personal experience. It signals a lack of confidence and that we are waiting for approval. You don’t need no stinkin’ badges and you don’t need no stinkin’ approval. Unless you are a jerk or hurt someone’s feelings, you don’t have to apologize for an idea, a presentation, a failure, etc.

6. Take your seat at the table. Stop waiting for the invite and invite yourself. Donna Brazile, well known democratic strategist and CNN contributor, tells a great story of how she wasn’t invited to a meeting early in her career. So she found out what time the meeting was happening and showed up. All the seats had been “taken” by briefcases – where men had claimed their spots. While they standing and discussing, she marched in, physically moved aside a briefcase and took her spot! She spoke up at the meeting and acted as if she belonged there. The results? She was invited to future meetings. She stopped asking to be invited.

You have something to say and something to offer the world. When you own who you are unabashedly and act according to your values, you step into something pretty great – your own power.

Got that blog or book you want to write? That company you want to start? That non-profit that means so much to you? Or maybe it’s just being a badass mom in an improv scene.

Whatever it is, do it. Stop waiting for permission. Choose yourself.

Kathy Klotz-Guest, A marketer and storyteller, helps clients tell compelling stories that get results. The founder of marketing strategy and communications firm, Keeping it Human, she also performs improvisational comedy and kicks jargon’s butt.

Men “Versus” Women…NOT! By Pat Obuchowski

PatObuchowski“Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you’re driving at another.”
– George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) “Pygmalion” (1913)

I spent many years of my career climbing the proverbial ladder in Corporate America. I did what I think is typical of so many women who want to succeed in their careers and be promoted into leadership positions. I looked at who was above me, modeled them, was mentored by them, and got promoted by them. The only problem was that these were always men. I was constantly trying to act less than myself and more like men, even if I would never admit this. Men were my only role models.

As a woman in business, I am always fascinated with the behavior between men and women in the work place. I picked up the latest book by Annis and Gray “Work with Me” in which they define 8 blind spots between men and women in business.

As they state, “There is a conventional wisdom that women and men are no different from each other, have the same aspirations, and are expected to achieve their goals in the same fashion.This is precisely why we are experiencing cultural breakdown today instead of the equality breakthroughs we expected by now.”

“Men and women belong to different species, and communication between them is a science still in its infancy.”
– Bill Cosby

As I do my work in many different organizations, I see that in chastising men for behaving as men, and trying to fix women to act less than themselves and more like men, we are perpetuating a cycle of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

We are not being authentic or honest to each other and more so, to ourselves. Annis and Grey bring an objective (as much as one can be objective) viewpoint into gender intelligence. They find women are not as content in today’s workplace as men are and that women feel valued differently then men. Women feel dismissed for their ideas and excluded from events and opportunities for advancement.

On the other hand, men are generally comfortable in corporate cultures. Their blind spot is not being aware of how their behavior in this primarily male-designed environment affects women. Women’s blind spot is in assuming men’s behaviors are intentional.

In a 2005-2011 Gender Survey by Barbara Annis & Associates they found some very interesting statistics:

  • 82 percent of women say they feel some form of exclusion – whether in business social events and casual meetings, in conversations, or in receiving direct feedback.
  • 92 percent of men don’t believe they’re excluding women.
  • 79 percent of men feel they have to be careful and indirect when providing women critical and timely feedback.
  • 82 percent of women say they want to receive direct feedback from men.
  • 79 percent of men feel appreciated at work while only 48 percent of women feel the same.
  • 82 percent of women want to be recognized for their effort in achieving the results.
  • 89 percent of men want to be recognized for their results.
  • 72 percent of men state that women ask too many questions.
  • 80 percent of women say they prefer to ask questions even when they know the answer.
  • 95 percent of men and women consider trust to be the foundation of a working relationship.
  • 92 percent of women say men earn their trust through caring and concern.
  • 89 percent of men say women earn their trust by showing credibility and competence.

WOW! These are not small percentage differences in culture.

I don’t offer any magical formula to fix this. I just know this needs to change as it is causing a lot of stress and unmanageability in the workplace which overflows into personal lives.

What I do offer is that it doesn’t have to be one side ‘versus’ the other. There are many ways to find the common ground and bridge these gender differences. We simply need to understand where the other gender places his or her greatest value and importance, and why.

“Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pat Obuchowski is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of inVisionaria. inVisionaria is a company devoted to  helping people and organizations find and achieve their vision and their voice. She works with individuals and organizations that are looking for structure, focus and accountability to set and achieve their goals. She also works with people who are ready to make big changes in the their businesses and their lives and step into the leaders they’ve been yearning to be. People who are ready, willing and able to begin playing their “bigger Game” No kidding. Right now.

The approach to achieve this and create this alliance is individually based and is designed between Pat and each of her clients. She is also a contributing author to “Scrappy Women in Business: Living Proof the bending the Rules Isn’t Breaking the Law.”

Family Meals by Dr. Arti Jain

family-meal-3Family meals are making a comeback. And that’s good news for a couple of reasons:

  • Shared family meals are more likely to be nutritious.
  • Kids who eat regularly with their families are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Teens who take part in regular family meals are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, or use marijuana and other drugs, and are more likely to have healthier diets as adults, studies have shown.

Beyond health and nutrition, family meals provide a valuable opportunity to reconnect. This becomes even more important as kids get older.

Making Family Meals Happen

It can be a big challenge to find the time to plan, prepare, and share family meals, then be relaxed enough to enjoy them. Try these three steps to schedule family meals and make them enjoyable for everyone who pulls up a chair.

1. Plan

  • Look over the calendar to choose a time when everyone can be there.
  • Figure out which obstacles are getting in the way of more family meals — busy schedules, no supplies in the house, no time to cook.
  • Ask for the family’s help and ideas on how these roadblocks can be removed. For instance, figure out a way to get groceries purchased for a family meal.
  • Or if time to cook is the problem, try doing some prep work on weekends or even completely preparing a dish ahead of time and putting it in the freezer.

2. Prepare

  • Involve the kids in preparations. Recruiting younger kids can mean a little extra work, but it’s often worth it.
  • Simple tasks such as putting plates on the table, tossing the salad, pouring a beverage, folding the napkins, or being a “taster” are appropriate jobs for preschoolers and school-age kids.
  • Older kids may be able to pitch in even more, such as getting ingredients, washing produce, mixing and stirring, and serving.
  • If you have teens around, consider assigning them a night to cook, with you as the helper.
  • If kids help out, set a good example by saying please and thanks for their help.
  • Being upbeat and pleasant as you prepare the meal can rub off on your kids. If you’re grumbling about the task at hand, chances are they will too. But if the atmosphere is light, you’re showing them how the family can work together and enjoy the fruits of its labor.

3. Enjoy

  • Even if you’re thinking of all you must accomplish after dinner’s done (doing dishes, making lunches, etc.), try not to focus on that during dinner.
  • Make your time at the table pleasant and a chance for everyone to decompress from the day and enjoy being together as a family.
  • They may be starving, but have your kids wait until everyone is seated before digging in.
  • Create a moment of calm before the meal begins, so the cook can shift gears. It also presents a chance to say grace, thank the cook, wish everyone a good meal, or to raise a glass of milk and toast each other.
  • You’re setting the mood and modeling good manners and patience.

Family meals are a good time to teach civilized behavior that kids also can use at restaurants and others’ houses.

You can gently remind when they break the rules, but try to keep tension and discipline at a minimum during mealtime. The focus should remain on making your kids feel loved, connected, and part of the family.

Keep the interactions positive and let the conversation flow. Ask your kids about their days and tell them about yours. Give everyone a chance to talk.

Need some conversation starters? Here are a few:

  • If you could have any food for dinner tomorrow night, what would it be?
  • Who can guess how many potatoes I used to make mashed potatoes?
  • What’s the most delicious food on the table?
  • If you opened a restaurant, what kind would it be?
  • Who’s the best cook you know? (We hope they say it’s you!)


Dr. Arti Jain – Doctor Jain is a very caring pediatrician practicing in the Santa Clara County California area.  You can contact her:  Tel (408)-378-6171 or email her:  You can read more on her website:

From Chick Singer to Boss Lady – by Pamela Rose

me new headshot“Here, can you make us dinner out of this?”  Bobby, the blond keyboardist from the rock band I had just joined, handed me a grocery bag with a whole chicken, a box of spaghetti and a few dejected looking vegetables in it.  I was a little taken aback  – but as a 20 year old wanna-be singer, I just accepted the grocery bag and went to work in the kitchenette while the band started their rehearsal in the living room.   ‘Chick Singer’  was the actual title I had just accrued.  And honestly, chick singer was what I thought of myself back in 1979 – I was the gal with the voice and the tambourine and the dress.

It took me a few years to sort out what the rest of my talents were – agent, human resource manager, bookkeeper, arranger, song-writer and, most important:  Band Leader.

The role of women in music has thankfully gone through a fundamental change in the past 35 years.   We are seeing a stream of extremely talented young women show up on classical, pop, rock and jazz bandstands.   I know that every time a sax or guitar phenom answers the supreme unspoken question from the guys in the band  “it’s cool that she’s a woman, but can she play?” by PLAYING with fire and brilliance – we are changing minds and hearts about women and music from within.

I tour regularly with a show I’ve written about the history of women in jazz and blues “Wild Women of Song: Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era” and I do love getting a chance to alter the cultural memory of the role women played in the creation of American popular music.

But when I was asked to submit something to this Scrappy Women blog – I knew I wanted to address this ‘chick singer’ part of my own musical journey. As I’m reading the entries in this website, I am hoping that some of my experiences might be useful to these smart business babes!

I’ll tell you a secret:  most singers, not just women, understand very little of what musical information the band is hoping to get from the musicians they work with.   The term ‘chick singer’ has come to mean a lot of negative things to a band – the singer who is often uninformed, or arrogant, assuming the band will just back them up and then fuming when the poor musicians don’t devine what he or she had in mind.  There’s a terrible joke:  Q: “How can you tell when a chick singer is at the door?”  A:  “She can’t find the key and has no idea how to enter”.   With a sigh, I must admit that was probably true of me in my earliest days of singing.  And conversely, I was often frustrated that the band didn’t seem to be paying attention to my own attempts to direct an arrangement or tempo or ending.

I began to watch very closely just how the instrumentalists were able to convey what they wanted from their band mates.  There were many subtle gestures and cues, almost a code, which I made my business to learn.  I took aside band members and asked for their guidance.  And I began to pay attention to each musician’s  unique ability, and how to also be aware of what might be their own weaknesses.  I learned how to put my bands in the best possible light where each moment on stage made us all feel the way artists like to feel:  confident but not complacent, informed yet supremely free to create within the framework which I have explained in just a few words.

I do think that one of the most fun things about my job is not just being the vocalist (although of course I love to sing) but being the Band Leader.  Just this New Year’s I walked onto a stage of mostly unknown to me musicians who, due to  the sudden illness of their usual vocalist and bandleader, needed me to call off 2 ½ hrs of straight dance music, without any rehearsal or set list.  I was grateful for my many years of professional experience – for those years spent learning the code, and for the confidence I felt from the band once they heard my first words (“okay this is a 12 bar blues in E, we’ll take it from the five chord, shuffle groove, one, two, one two three four!) and of course, for all those happy folks packed onto the dance floor all night long.

Not accepting the labels handed to us as women in any business, learning our trade, paying close attention to the needs and abilities of our team – isn’t that what Scrappy Women do?


Pamela Rose is a Bay Area vocalist, bandleader and educator.  Her 6 CD’s are available on Amazon and and when she is not touring nationally with her show Wild Women of Song: Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era  her Bay Area performance schedule can be found by going to



patti-headshot-199x300This article was originally published on and is published here with permission from the author Patti Fletcher.

Get your mind out of the gutter. The F word I am talking about is feminism. My mother is a feminist, but I am not sure she knows it. She will after she reads this article. And my father, well, the same goes for him: feminist. My father might be most shocked to learn that not only is he a feminist, but he also raised me to be one.


Heck, I didn’t know I was a feminist until a few years ago. It won’t be hard to imagine the shock at my claim. My father is the last person who might come to mind when the word “feminist” is spoken. I remember him responding to the topic of feminism when I was younger with gems like “if women want equal rights, then they can open their own damn doors.”  Awesome.

Resurgence of feminism

From the recent NYT article, The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In, to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In mania, to outrage at women breadwinners, to entire HBR’s dedicated to the phenomenon of women in power (honestly, I could go on and on), the resurgence of feminism seems to be everywhere.

I have had far too many arguments with people about what being a feminist is or is not. I don’t want to have another one. So, let me set the record straight with this nice narrative from the author of Wonder Woman, Debora Spar:

“Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. 
It was supposed to make us free;
the challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely,
striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all,
but for lives and loves that matter.”

Freedom + opportunity = feminism

My father is a veteran. He retired after 25 years, serving in most branches of the US Military. My sisters and I never took our country’s freedom for granted. My father taught me that freedom is gained from hard fought wars. Freedom is earned, often with bloodshed, and should never be taken for granted.

My mother was raised by immigrant parents. Her father ruled the roost. Men held the power and women followed the rules. Men were free. Women were not. My mother didn’t agree with that mentality. She went to business school and trained to be a bookkeeper.

My mother was a working mother before working mothers were a phenomenon. I remember hearing one of my aunts say that my mother worked because she had to work. Even at a young age I knew that wasn’t true. My mother worked because she wanted to work. Working outside of her home gave her access and freedom.

How the F word manifests in my life

Being a feminist does not mean that I don’t want my husband to open the occasional door for me. And, at work, it doesn’t mean that I would advocate hiring a less-qualified woman over a more qualified man. The implication of feminism is freedom through equal access to opportunities. Not more freedom or more access. Not better freedom or better access. Equal freedom and equal access.

Simply put, feminism is freedom through equal access to opportunities.

Whether they realized it or not, my parents showed me that freedom is something that I need to fight for and cherish. Freedom gives me choices. And access gives me the ability to make choices that make a difference. With my parents as my examples and my earliest personal champions, I learned how to fight for and earn equal freedom for myself and now for others.

I want my daughters to know the F word

I learned 10 life lessons from watching and listening to my parents. These are the lessons that have made me the feminist I am today. All 10 combined have leveled the playing field for me to make great choices; choices that have given me the freedom and access I need to pursue my dreams. These are the lessons I hope to intentionally pass onto my daughters, who take their own feminism for granted.

1.   Get a good education inside and outside of the classroom.

2.   Always have the ability to earn your own money.

3.   Always have a bank account in your own name.

4.   You will only get out of something what you put into it.

5.   Never ever quit.

6.   Ask questions even when others do not.

7.   Question people in authority.

8.   Do not look to others to define you.

9.   Accept who you are and what makes you tick.

10. Expect and demand a lot from your life.

I want my daughters to know the road my mother and I travelled on our own paths to feminism.

But, mostly, my wish for them is to live feminism through their freedom to make choices based on the equal access they have to opportunities.

Got a comment on this article? Connect with Patti Fletcher at @pkfletcher.


Patti Fletcher is Co-Founder and CEO of PSDNetwork, LLC. PSDNetwork, LLC is committed to being the first place women turn to make startup, leadership and management decisions. Patti has 15 years experience in applications, big data, and technology with global corporations and helps people and organizations transform “what’s next” into reality. 


Nine Similar Behaviors That Have Different Consequences for Men and Women by Caryl Rivers and Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett

17707613 book coverWomen who want to be successful are often urged to act like their male colleagues. But new research says this strategy often backfires. When they behave they same way, women and men are often judged very differently, leading to consequencesthat are poles apart.

This problem is part of what we call “The New Soft War on Women.”

The direct, in-your-face gender discrimination of the past has faded, but cutting- edge new research finds that bias hasn’t vanished. It’s just gone underground and is gaining strength, based on stubborn stereotypes about what women can’t do.

It’s why both men and women too often judge the same actions very differently,when they are taken by one sex or another.

For example:

Caring and showing empathy

Men at work are richly rewarded, and are seen as heroes when they step out of the macho stereotype to offer a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. They get heaps of praise. (Oh, what a wonderful guy!) When men are helpful to others, they are given high performance ratings and they are seen as likely to succeed.  In contrast, when men don’t help, they suffer no consequences. They are just being “guys.”

Women are expected to be caring. Such behavior is taken for granted– and ignored. Women get no credit for caring, because that’s what they are “supposed” to do. But unlike men, when women violate the “caring” norm, they are harshly penalized. They are seen as unlikely to succeed or advance in their company. Moreover, they are judged as nasty, selfish, manipulative, and unworthy of promotions. So it’s a lose-lose for women. They get no benefit for caring, and they get slammed if they don’t care.

Taking risks

Men are seen as leaders and rightfully ambitious workers when they take risks. If he fails, his superiors dust him off and say, “It’s not your fault; try again next time.”  There’s little downside when men take risks.

Women who take risks are looked at with skepticism and are carefully scrutinized. Because of this wariness, women are hesitant to take the kinds of risks they are told they need to take in order to succeed.  Moreover, women who fail don’t get second chances. No one’s there to dust them off.  Risk-taking is a high stakes strategy for women.

Displaying competence

Men who are competent are seen as forceful, worthy of promotion and likely to succeed. It’s all a plus.

Women who display competence often pay a price. They are seen by both men and women as unlikeable–unfeminine, aggressive, conniving and untrustworthy— as “downright awful.” Such perceptions hurt them on the career ladder. Who wants to work with a “bitch?”

Less competent women are seen as more likeable, but not very good at their jobs. Another lose-lose for women. Be very competent, and you’re seen as a bitch. Be less competent, and you won’t move up or you’re out the door.

Working in a mixed-sex team

Men who work with women in a team automatically get credit for the team’s success. The man is assumed to be the leader, even if the woman has actually done most of the work and made most of the decisions. Often, he is promoted while she is not.

Women in a mixed-sex team are seen as relatively less competent, less influential and less likely to have played a leadership role. They do not get credit, even when it’s due.  As a result, women are less likely than men to be promoted.

Speaking at length

Men who dominate the conversation are seen as powerful and forceful.

Women too often find that silence is golden.  Both men and women judge females to be more competent when they are quiet and less capable when they talk more. If women speak up at some length, even if they are in a senior position, they are seen not only as gabby but also as incompetent.

Becoming a parent

Men do not experience any roadblocks in getting hired just because they have a child.  In fact, they enjoy a “fatherhood bonus” and often make more money than non-fathers. Fathers are seen as hardworking, striving for advancement, and reliable.

Women pay a price if there’s any hint in their resumes that they might be mothers. They may not even get inside the door. In one study, managers who had the power to hire and fire were sent resumes identical except for a hint that some women were childless and others were mothers. Managers called back the childless women twice as often as the equally qualified mothers.

Women employees experience a “motherhood penalty” that can be as high as a million dollars over a lifetime.  Mothers are viewed as having divided loyalties, as unreliable, distracted, and therefore are less likely to be hired or promoted.

Having an MBA or other advanced degree

Men with advanced degrees get substantial raises and promotions.

Women earn more advanced degrees than men but   get a far lesser payoff. Female MBAs earn, on average, $4,600 less than male MBAs in their first job out of business school. Male chief financial officers are paid an average of 16 percent more than their female counterparts of similar age at U. S. companies. The Sloan Foundation reports that Women lead in college but not in the workforce…Women’s earnings, relative to those of men, have not kept up with their gains in educational attainment.”

Working hard

Men are expected to be hard workers and they reap the benefits of their efforts. Hard work pays off for them in higher pay and frequent promotions.

Women are not expected to be hard driving and ambitious. When they are, they are seen as unfeminine and uncaring. And they pay a price for their non-traditional behavior. Over a lifetime, women with a bachelor’s degree will earn a third less (estimated $700,000) than a man with the same degree.

Expressing anger

Men who express anger at work are judged by males and females as committed to their jobs, powerful, competent and worthy of a high salary. Blowing your stack is not a problem for a man.

Women who express anger, in contrast, are seen much less favorably. They are viewed as out of control, irrational, incompetent, weak and unworthy of a high salary. Only if women can demonstrate that they have a reasonable, non-emotional reason for their anger will they avoid being labeled.

Simply being male or female

Men benefit from the male stereotype–forceful, competent, assertive, a leader. Unless they demonstrate otherwise, the stereotype helps them.

Women suffer from the female stereotype–passive, incompetent, non-assertive, a follower, not a leader. They have to actively prove they don’t fit these categories before they can escape the female stereotype.

Women need to be aware of these traps to avoid stalling out in the workplace. But women can’t do it alone. Companies need to mean it when they say they want gender diversity. New research finds that while ninety percent of companies about the globe have such policies, too often these programs lack clear goals, evaluation and enforcement, and less than half have criteria that allow for them to be evaluated. There’s little commitment to the programs in the C‑suite, and it gets weaker as you go down the organizational ladder. At lower management levels, a paltry 17 percent of managers support diversity programs. It can be disastrous for a young woman if early in her career she runs into a manager whose mind-set, conscious or otherwise, is that women don’t have what it takes.


Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at the College of Communication at Boston University. A nationally known author and journalist, she received the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Dr. Rosalind C. Barnett is a senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Her pioneering research on workplace issues and family life in America has been sponsored by federal grants, and she is often invited to lecture at major venues in the United States and abroad. Dr. Barnett has a private clinical psychology practice and is the author of scholarly and popular books and articles.

Women, Careers and Risk: Lessons from the Improv Comedy Stage by Kathy Klotz-Guest

Kathy Klotz-Guest head shot pic1Research today illustrates that on average women do not take the same career risks that men do. Why? The reasons are complex but they all point back to a very important subject – how women perceive, manage, and act on risk. Despite gender differences, however, the fact is that anyone can increase the confidence required for smart risk-taking.

As a marketer and business owner, I’ve seen women take far fewer risks in the workplace. I’ve also seen that same fear of failure mirrored in my almost 20 years doing comedy. I’ve seen women come and go – quitting before they reached the prize of confidence, acceptance and the ability to take risks and handle failure. The ability to take risks and to see failure as learning are critical for career growth, innovation, and yes, for comedic success.

Today, I perform regularly with a group where the percent of women ranges anywhere from 10% to 25%. At one time, in a group of 14 players, I was the only woman. My stand-up days were more polarized; I’d often be 1 of 2 women on open-mic nights out of a lineup up of over 15 comics. The good news is I think the gender ratio is changing, at least in improv. In my experience, there are more women in improvisation than in stand-up comedy.

While I am sure there are many social and cultural (as well as family) reasons that contribute to this situation (and because many women aren’t nurtured to think they are funny), I also know the rewards that come from improvisation. Improv isn’t just about being funny. It’s so much more than that: it strengthens our ability to make choices, to take risks, and to trust our gut because it increases confidence. These are the same qualities that have facilitated some bold and successful career moves in my life. No guts, no glory – of course, women don’t have to bet the farm to succeed. They just need to reach beyond where they “think” they are just capable enough. That’s what men do. Statistically, men fail more, and they also succeed more. That’s because they take “bigger” chances where the downside isn’t all that bad, and the upside is substantial.

The bottom line is that “risk” matters, especially in careers and comedy. This lack of bigger “game” risk-taking has longer-term economic implications for women and explains, in part, the gender wage-gap that still exists today (about 21% for equal work according to the Department of Labor). Yes, women are more likely to take time out from the workforce to have and raise children than their male counterparts, and this accounts for some of the gap. However, research also tells us that women are also less likely to take risks in negotiating pay, better benefits, and promotions, and in taking “risky” projects that also come with high visibility in the organization. In the end, less risk-taking in a woman’s career leads to a lifetime wage and career gap estimated to be greater than $500,000. And more than money, it means too many women are ‘settling’ for careers that don’t match their potential or desire.

Women and Risk-Taking

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell explores the concept of 10,000 hours: it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice and experience to reach virtuoso status in an area of expertise – music, software programming, painting, innovating, and comedy. Of course, part of those 10,000 hours will involve failing if you are doing it right. You can’t achieve expert status without trying, failing, taking risks, and learning from those choices. There are also various degrees of risk and it’s important for women to recognize that many of these choices involve “recoverable” risk where no one is hurt, besides maybe a bruised ego here and there.

Research also points out that men and women, on average, deal with and process failure in different ways. Men, for instance, on average look at failure not as a personal flaw, but rather, as a situation outside themselves that just didn’t work out. You win some, you lose some, you move on. Conversely, women are more likely (on average – yes there are individual differences) to personalize failure and view it through the lens of some shortcoming on their end.

Whether it is comedy or career, the same risk-taking is needed to grow to the next level. Just as men take bigger career risks, they also tend to take more chances in comedy. That begs the question – what can women be doing to strengthen their ability to take measured risks and to see failure as learning rather than personalizing it? Moreover, “failure” isn’t bad – it’s part of growth. You are expected and encouraged to fail or you’re not trying hard enough.

Of course, some of this difference between the genders can be explained by physiology. Men are wired to take more risks because they have traditionally been the “hunters.” Yet, the good news is that much of this difference has to do with skills and behaviors that can be learned.

The “Yes, and!” Concept

One of the best ways for people to learn to trust their instincts, take small risks that lead successfully to bigger ones, and learn to see failure as learning is through improvisation. Improvisation is based on a positive framing – “Yes, and!” mentality that accepts offers from others, builds on other suggestions, allows people to stay focused on the present and to fail good-naturedly with small risks. Improvisation strengthens decision-making skills by making it OK to fail. You have to fail to know what works! Without the risk-taking, there is no success.

Improvisation creates a safe environment where failure is encouraged because it means you are taking changes, pushing the envelope and exploring to see what works. Over time, your instincts are strengthened and risk-taking becomes less scary. There are no “wrong” answers in improvisation; there are many choices and alternatives. Improvisation strengthens our ability to react to the situation at hand – to respond with our own solid choices that accept and add (the “Yes, and!”) on to “offers” presented to us by others. Little risks (with low stakes) taken over time lead us to make bolder and bigger choices as we grow in our confidence. This permeates others aspects of our lives including our careers.

While improvisation won’t change the overall salary gap or underrepresentation on corporate boards or the C-suite over night, it will strengthen women’s confidence in their own choices, in their risk-taking and will help them learn that “failure” is not personal. Nor is it something to be feared. It happens, you learn and grow from it, and you move on. And sometimes you get it just right, and get a “win.” Like when you negotiate for better pay or a more visible position. And it’s those little individual wins that, in aggregate, will lead to real change.

After all, ladies, we’ve got nothing to lose by trying. It’s the high cost of failing to take smart risks – the lack of pay equity and loss of bigger careers – that we should fear.


Kathy Klotz-Guest, A marketer and storyteller, helps clients tell compelling stories that get results. The founder of marketing strategy and communications firm, Keeping it Human, she also performs improvisational comedy and kicks jargon’s butt.

The Female Entrepreneur – Unstoppable Passion By Bonnie Ross-Parker

brp portraitWho is this woman?  She is empowered, enlightened and enterprising.  She exudes energy, enthusiasm and confidence.  She has chosen to embark on a journey and create a mission only she can fulfill.  The female entrepreneur is a risk taker.  She connects.  She collaborates and she gives back and she will not be denied.  She deserves success and takes pride in her accomplishments.  She knows that her gifts matter and strongly believes in her journey.  This strong willed, focused woman must live her destiny by sharing her talents with the world.  She sets the standard of excellence in all that she does and in all that she is.  She endures even under the toughest of challenges and naysayers.

The female entrepreneur is unstoppable.  She does it all.  She creates.  She markets.  She promotes.  She shares resources.  She supports other likeminded individuals with her ideas, her time and knowledge.  It requires courage to be an entrepreneurial woman in today’s marketplace.  There’s no fall back.  No guaranteed pay check.  No employee benefits.  No paid vacations.  It’s you, your products and/or services that are vying for consumers in an already established economic environment.  This individual possesses the fortitude to differentiate herself from everyone else by finding a unique way to be memorable.

When I decided to leave the teaching profession after 12 years in the classroom, I was ready to pursue what at that time was a dream to become an entrepreneur.  That was over 30 years ago!  I bought a franchise.  Everyone thought I was crazy.  A typical comment was, “How can you give up your career, vacations, benefits, etc. to owning a retail business?  You’ll have to work year round including weekends!”  No one and nothing could persuade me.  It was time and I as ready.  I was determined.  I was tired of someone else directing my life.  I wanted control even if that meant long hours, hard work and an unknown future.  Twelve years later I owned 6 franchises and became the company’s Regional Director with responsibility to oversee 22 other stores.

I look back on those years with huge satisfaction.  I went from school teacher to entrepreneur.  I went from a single, dependable pay check to multiple streams of income.  I proved to myself and those who doubted my unstoppable determination that I could meet the challenges and survive.

I know firsthand what it takes to break away and go out on one’s own.  I know the amount of faith it requires.  I also know the rewards that come from doing what you really want to do even if that requires following unfamiliar roads to travel an uncertain journey.  The female entrepreneur is doing better than surviving.  She’s thriving.  She’s unique.  She’s a gift.  She’s a person who endures.  It serves us all to pay attention to and support her economically.  She takes her tasks seriously, often over delivers and shows us what is possible by her example.  If you are a female entrepreneur, congratulations.  If you are considering ‘stepping out on your own’, go for it.  When you believe in yourself, others will believe in you. Be unstoppable.

Bonnie Ross-Parker, America’s Connection Diva, is a high energy, enthusiastic, successful businesswoman and solo-entrepreneur. She is a speaker and author who is passionate about teaching individuals how to step up their game in any networking situation.
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We Move Forward By Janeen Halliwell

WMF 2012 Janeen & FloraThere are milestones that we, as women, share.  We can collectively roll our eyes, laugh or cry at the memory of buying a first bra, going on a first date, having a first kiss, getting married (or not), deciding whether to have kids (or not), and being a mom, a single mom, or stepmom.  We’ve all faced decisions about whether to work our way up the ladder, further our education, step out and start our own business or to take a different route altogether.  Eventually we all change roles as we go from daughter to caregiver, supporting our ageing parents and eventually letting go once they are gone.  After each of these milestones is reached, we are faced with the same question – “What is next?”  The answer lies in taking stock of your ‘You Are Here’ location on your life’s journey, and being mindful of the direction you want to head next.  And then you move forward.

With Every Ending There is a New Beginning

At 48, I’ve done my share of moving forward.  I’ve held the titles of student, wife, divorcee, wife again, and stepmom. I’ve owned businesses, completed a graduate degree, worked on four continents, travelled to 33 countries and sailed 9000 sea miles.  I’ve worked hard and truly lived.  But even with all those experiences under my belt, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to move forward when I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. The grieving stopped me in my tracks.

In the summer of 2010, my father was failing. After a heartbreaking visit to his doctor where he was told, “Scotty you are dying,” I witnessed hope fade from my dad’s eyes and leave his frail body. I put my work as a consultant and trainer on hold and moved in with my parents.  A visit to Victoria Hospice followed, at which time the inevitable became our reality. My dad moved in a few days later.  And, at 1 a.m. on July 26, 2010, he breathed his last breath, with me and my mother holding him as tightly as we could.

The months that followed were rough.  My mother went to Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, Mexico, to heal, as it is known for its magical qualities that mend people’s souls.  I visited my mother there in March 2011. I was still grieving and finding every day to be difficult.  It was during this trip that I had a vision: I will host an International Women’s Day conference and celebration on the Island of Women!  It was time to take on a project that would ignite my soul, and that had an element risk, as risk-taking is something I espouse through my work.  The conference needed a name.  I called it We Move Forward because the 3-days were about women re-energizing all that makes them whole, body, mind, and soul, and steering their life in the direction of their passion and purpose.

It would be different from other women’s conferences.  Inspirational speakers would go far beyond just giving a canned talk and then leaving, they would participate in the full 3 days.  Group discussions and activities would have women shifting inspiration into action.  We Move Forward would create positive change and it would include local women through sponsorship.

Believe and Create

I felt passionate about my vision, and set out to create it.  I had a snazzy website developed,  booked a conference space, and approached potential sponsors. I got on a bus in Mexico and visited international women’s clubs in Cancun and Merida, encouraging women to join me on ‘Isla’ in March 2012.  I made my voice heard on television, radio and social media.

I had never taken on something so big and so full of promises – promises of inspirational speakers, promises to pay these speakers, and promises of an experience of a lifetime to registrants – that is, if there were registrants.

You see, registrations didn’t take off as I had hoped.  They trickled in.  Consequently, some of the people who were eager at the beginning of the project began to lose interest.  Many dropped off.  It didn’t look like a money maker after-all.  I crawled forward.

The Show Must Go On!

In January 2012, I sat down with my registration sheet that contained 21 names, my project plan and calculator.  I needed 63 registrants to pay for my promises.  If 45 women registered, I would lose money, but still be able to run the conference.  But at 21, I was deep in the hole.  Do I quit or do I move forward, I asked myself?

I reflected on why I wanted to see We Move Forward happen, and the scrapper in me pulled herself up by the bootstraps and took a broad step forward. And, on March 8, 2012, 81 women gathered on Isla Mujeres to celebrate International Women’s Day.  The 3-day conference surpassed everyone’s expectations with women calling it “crazy amazing”, “life-changing”, and “a MUST for all women.”

I am thrilled to say that We Move Forward is heading into its 3rd year.  The WMF community continues to grow in numbers, with many women returning again and again.  The WMF experience continues to propel women in one direction – forward.  From March 7-9, 2014 women will celebrate their accomplishments and how they have moved up, over and around life’s challenges, in the company of women just like them – ordinary women that are capable of extraordinary things.  That is the essence of We Move Forward.

“We are all ordinary women that are capable of extraordinary things.  Taking time out to get clear on our desired future brings us closer to experiencing it.  Surrounding ourselves with like-minded & hearted women is the perfect environment to build our confidence to take our next step forward.  Believe in yourself and pay attention to those who believe in you too.”

Janeen Halliwell, Founder & Director, We Move Forward, Island of Women, Mexico and Principal, Consultant & Trainer, People Minded Business Inc.

Twitter: @janeenhalliwell