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Monday, April 8, 2019

What Constitutes #MeToo?

So it's finally a movement. This post is overdue because the movement is already a couple of years old. It's both encouraging and disheartening to see that new examples are coming out every day that may or may not apply. I'm not going to get into any specific examples here.

If you've read through my posts (or even just read the description of this blog), it's a documented history of boys (grown men) behaving badly. It is easy to understand why so many women never came forward. For what? To be further harassed, watch the abuser see no consequences (unless it was a promotion), and possibly be fired?

Are women making too much of this? I don't think so. Events can range from real-live sexual harassment (sleep with me if you want that promotion) to simply annoying (he's not your superior and can't threaten you professionally, but is aggressively making unwanted advances). Either way, in the past, if you didn't just laugh it off, you were a bitch with no sense of humor. Today, women may have some real remedies at our disposal.

Full disclosure, I never once felt legitimately "harassed". No male superior or client ever suggested that I must perform certain acts to be promoted or get an order. That doesn't mean that they always behaved appropriately. A couple of them needed to be slapped or publicly embarrassed but it would not have been fair for them to lose their jobs. (I would have been happy with a well-placed kick to the noogies, but that was frowned upon at the time.)

Although its usually a male weapon of choice, true sexual harassment is not about sex at all - it's about power. And, as more women rise in company ranks (please, God), the reverse is possible, it's just not likely. To make a sweeping generalization, women are more focused on getting the work done than the politics, and sex is probably not the weapon they would choose (more on women's favorite weapons another day).

What is the line between inappropriate behavior and career-ending harassment?

I'm not hearing a lot of clarity in the news about what constitutes harassment and what is merely (tongue-in-cheek) inappropriate. Men are understandably frightened right now. Does changing the culture mean they can't comment on your new haircut? Worry about how it will be perceived if they compliment you on your work? Can't ask someone out if they are interested in the person and perceive mutual interest? (Given the time that Americans spend working, that could quickly mean the end of our civilization.)

Let's hope that common sense prevails. People: no means no. That could mean, "no, I don't want to go out with you",  "no I don't even want to flirt with you", "no, I'm not interested AT ALL". As long as "no" is taken for an answer, there shouldn't be any issue, and there shouldn't be any negative consequences for asking the question (again, provided it isn't breaking any company rules). The business world is full of Alphas who sometimes perceive "no" in the same light as a sales objection, which means they just haven't pled their case well enough yet. Women need to communicate clearly and assertively, and men need to understand that no really does mean no. But when she has said "no" and he persists, women can't be afraid to take action. The attention around #metoo should provide some comfort that they are not alone.

The risk is that the pendulum swings too far the other way. What we DON'T want is men too scared to mentor promising women employees or include them in meetings or travel when its required because they're afraid the relationship will be perceived as something other than professional. Making this more common and acceptable is hopefully part of this culture change.

What I envision for this and the next generation of working women (which includes nieces and the women in my son's lives), is a workplace where, when a woman is offered a promotion or is asked to accompany her male boss to a meeting or on a trip, it doesn't even occur to her to question his motives. It's all assumed to be professional because that's all she will ever have experienced.

Let's all take a breath and get some perspective. Support our sisters who have suffered real harassment, change our company policies so that offenders suffer significant consequences and victims are not punished, and then focus on the work. Workplace culture will change as company leaders describe and demonstrate what a respectful working environment looks like. Spoiler alert: it will not include fear or the necessity to walk on eggshells.

If all else fails, try a well-placed spike heel to the noogies.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sixty is Just a (REALLY BIG) Number

How did this happen?  Yes, I know:  it's just a number, you're as young as you feel, we look so much younger than our parents did at 60, yada yada. But it feels like a REALLY BIG number.

And of course, it's better than the alternative, and I do, in fact, have my health (NOT taking that for granted, it's a cliche for a good reason).

I have absolutely no complaints: I am healthy, our kids turned out to be pretty amusing and wonderful people (who live elsewhere and don't ask us for money!) We have our first grandchild (I HIGHLY recommend it!) I'm not working that hard at a job that I really enjoy. My husband is healthy and we have flexible schedules that allow us to take off pretty much whenever we like - and we do.

So what's so bad about 60?

I often joke (kind of) about when I will get my face lift or other "work done", but I struggle with a) fear of the pain that is involved, b) tempting fate with elective surgery, c) reconciling that vanity will have won out and d) associating the cost with the number of months we can rent in FL in the winter. It's easy to decide to age gracefully before you actually look old. In our 40's and 50's, things haven't gone too far south yet.  We spent a lot of time fearing wrinkles: the mirror tells me that wrinkles are not the problem - sagging skin and disappearing eyebrows are today's culprit. What's graceful about that?

Sixty just sounds so old.

In the words of a friend who just turned 60, we should be focusing on the positive. Since this is supposed to be about Biz Tips, I'll pivot to the professional. This is one description I've heard about the life-cycle of a career:

1.  Who's Joe Smith?
2.  We gotta get Joe Smith!
3.  Get me a younger Joe Smith!
4.  Who's Joe Smith?

Professionally, people are still hiring me to run their social media and provide content. I've realized that these client appreciate a certain, um, maturity that can only come with age and experience. A friend from grade school (!) is a web designer who also finds that clients still appreciate the expertise she brings to a project - that's hard to get without putting in the years.

Many former clients are able to retire from their corporate jobs and find or create a job that is more fulfilling. While I have some friends who out-right retire, many more are reinventing. They find that they have time to volunteer, or are in a position to take a serious pay cut in order to do what they love. Honestly, it's a great position to be in. I'm able to contract with companies that interest me, with client contacts that I like and who pay their bills on time!

I've asked many 60+ friends for advice to offer and this seems to be the message to Millennials and younger: live well below your means and save your money! That is the factor that will determine how flexible you can be as you get older. You can only afford to quit your high-paying job for a job that you love IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT.  You can certainly make changes in your lifestyle to accommodate a lower income but money is the thing that provides the means to write your next chapter.

So here's to a fulfilling next chapter to all of you in your 60's and beyond!