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Lip Gloss, Really?

Updated: Jul 5, 2019


More and more we’re seeing that women are coming to terms with their own power. We’re “taking it back” as we choose not to take the crumbs that are left us.


Forbes reports we’re starting our own businesses (40% of new entrepreneurs are women), packing the workforce (representing 46.9% of workers) and educating ourselves (earning more bachelor’s degrees than men for 30 years!)


It’s exciting to see women flex their muscles and embrace themselves and lift each other up.

And yet…..


Ok, I know you’re about to roll your eyes and ask, “another women to power article?” I’m not doing that. I promise.


I just attended a women’s summit that promised to be life changing — a real show of women, those powerful and those not, coming together to brainstorm, network & encourage each other to take command and take what’s ours.


It was sold as a dynamic opportunity to build coalitions & provide “tangible” opportunities to create real solutions. As a woman of color, who has been successful in 2 careers, I thought, “Yes! I want to be there. I want to surround myself with other successful women who — like me — might want to see what the next step is.”


And as nice and well meaning as it was, I left, at the end of the day, thinking I’d just sipped some snake oil from an environmentally sound paper cup.


Living up to the conference promise, a Valerie Jarrett interview made me a fan girl of both her & the compelling woman who interviewed her on stage. Also, hearing Nancy Pelosi speak unplugged, reinforced my devotion.


But here was the rub — and I recognize this could be seen as petty — from the minute I walked into the conference, I was awash in pink and figurative perfume.


Swirling in my swag bag was conspicuous hot pink lip gloss, lip balm, cheap ear buds stuffed in a water-floatie & a self-help book.


I walked past a booth run by a name-brand cosmetics company offering free make-up consultations. Another tried to sell me some shoes. Still another had a wide display of trendy jewelry.


What I didn’t see was a plethora of truly constructive ideas to make myself more valuable to my company, my clients & should I decide I want to change careers, my future employer.


Don’t get me wrong. It was wonderful to see so many women under one roof focussing on the common cause of empowering women. But I think what was lost was our collective intellect. Instead, it seemed more like a pajama party with some umph.


Lip gloss. Really?


If you do a Google search using the words women, conference, swag, you get offerings like: emory board, lip gloss (!), pocket mirrors and adult coloring books. Do the same search for men, and you get elegant moleskins, tool kits, a combo money clip/pocket knife & girlie calendar. I’m not saying the men need these things any more than I need pink lipgloss, but at least their swag has teeth.


They show power. They show strength. They show, without question, “we’re on top of the world.”


I’m willing to bet their exhibition booths are more focussed on financial empowerment & career advancement, manned by experts who are intent on closing a deal, instead of making attendees feel better about blue eye-shadow.


I know I’m being harsh. But, we’ve got some important statements to make. 2018’s McKinsey/Lean-In report shows that since 2015 we’ve made NO progress in improving women’s representation in the corporate world. Zero. We’re under-represented at EVERY level. We hold only 38% of management positions. And most of our workplaces are HOSTILE.


If we want corporate America to start taking us seriously and cracking open the door for us, we need to stop acting like makeup is an important part of our “package.” For goodness sakes, if Ginger Rogers —as she’s believed to have said decades ago— did everything Fred Astaire did, while backwards and in heels, then why after all this time are we still moving backwards?


Maybe, if we invite over a 1,000 women to come together for empowerment, we offer more than lip service & lip gloss. We should have head hunters offering real ideas for career advancement. We should have financial experts offer concrete strategies for better salary negotiation & retirement savings. And the networking opps should have power sessions with facilitators who can encourage real communication that can advance great ideas and pitches.


Let’s stop treating ourselves like the weaker sex. Because we’re not.


We’ve punched some noses — taken down Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes & Harvey Weinstein.


The #MeToo movement was important. But it’s not enough. We have the power and capacity to learn about the complex issues that drive our economy. We have the drive and ability to lead. We just want and need the collective knowledge base of the women who’ve “made it” to be a guiding light. Because frankly, if all these conferences have to offer is puff, then I’m gonna have to say #NotMe.

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