Cheryl offers: Have you heard the news that Mr. Goodwrench, the hunky guy in blue, but never dirty overalls who supposedly could fix anything on a GM car is retiring? He’s not that old either since he started his career in 1974. However, if he was about 30 when he started that would make him 66, so maybe it’s about time he got a rest. It seems GM has opted for a more gender neutral brand strategy by using the term “Certified” in front of their 4 major brands: Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. I think this is a pretty smart marketing move on their part. With women making the decisions on over 65% of the major household expenditures, it would seem that appealing to their wants and needs through language is a good idea. And let’s face it; most of the times I’ve taken my car to a dealership, the result certainly fell into the category of major household expense. Somehow being “certified” sounds more professional, implies more training, deeper expertise, and possibly there’s even a test at the end to ensure some level of proficiency. In the book, Women Want More by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, the authors clearly define areas where women’s wants and needs are not being met. I’m celebrating this change not only because GM might be making moves to meet some of those needs, but also because one more male brand association has been traded for a more inclusive gender neutral term. And that’s important for another reason. In today’s world, many of the men working do not look like Mr. Goodwrench. They are Latino, Asian, African American, on and on. This is not just a good move; it’s a great move towards inclusiveness that more accurately reflects our world. Thanks GM!
Cheryl offers: I’m reading a darn good book these days; it’s called Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. I’ve known Marcia for several years now and she’s quite the fireball. She caught my attention when I read “Generally women aren’t trying to prove they can do something difficult in spite of their gender; being a woman factors very little into their reasons for proving their worth.” As I thought back over my life when I tackled some pretty interesting challenges myself, in my case I knew she was right on target.
I started my college education at Southern Methodist University when my last child left for college. That was a challenge because I was in the Executive MBA program with no undergraduate degree. They let a few in now and then and I was one of the lucky ones. I always wanted to go to college and never had the stars align until then. I never gave being a woman a thought as I considered getting that degree; I just knew I wanted it. I moved to Zurich Switzerland a few years later on an international assignment with IBM to lead a major transformation effort. I didn’t agree to be away from my family for a year and take on that assignment because I was a woman; it was because it was so darn challenging and it sounded like the most fun imaginable. Later as I left IBM and retired to become an entrepreneur, I embraced that new life without ever thinking I might be leaping from corporate America to entrepreneur-land because I was a woman. It was because I was ready for a new way of life.
Marcia has managed to see women as few others in my humble opinion. There are a lot more books these days being written about women. Marcia has managed to capture insights and perspectives no one else has possibly imagined; and yet, when you read her words, you quickly realize how they are exactly what you’ve known but were never quite able to describe.
Cheryl offers: On the front page of Sunday September 19’s New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal was a picture of several women in Afghanistan. They were dressed in blue veils and garments to identify them as voting poll administrators. These women were there even though the Taliban had threatened to harm anyone participating in the voting process.” WOW” was all I could think as I stared at the picture. These are truly brave women! It occurred to me today as Randy Mayeux delivered a book synopsis of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein that the stories about Florence Nightingale in that book could also be about the women in this picture. You see, Florence didn’t listen to conventional wisdom nor heed warnings from others. She made history by following her passion about what she knew but couldn’t necessarily prove. She was one of those “obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them (new ideas) forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver through systems.” The only word missing from fully describing the Afghanistan women in that picture was courage; the kind of courage that inspires and motivates. None were likely named Florence, and yet they share more than a name – they share her spirit. WOW, am I lucky to have witnessed this!
Cheryl offers: I was reading an article on the front page of the Dallas Morning News today from an author named Christine Wicker inquiring about the seemingly large number of women walking away from marriage these days. This author is seeking answers to what she says seems to be quite a large trend, although one that has been going on for awhile. For quite some time now, women over 50 initiate more divorces than men. Many believe it is based on the fact that women are working now and are so independent that they are rethinking marriage. And with more women than men working in the workplace these days, maybe there’s some truth to it. Frankly I wonder if it’s about trust. Haven’t we all become a bit more suspicious over the past decade? From 9/11, the fall of companies like Enron, to the recent oil spill in the Gulf, then top level executives from IBM and HP betraying trust, there are almost too many examples to count. In their book, Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace by Dennis and Michelle Reina, they state “Words help articulate our expectations, but actions demonstrate our trustworth-iness.” We take those wedding vows and then our actions tell our friends and families what’s really on our minds and in our hearts. I don’t believe you can separate work from our personal life; it’s one life we have and it’s integrated no matter how hard we try to keep them separate. What’s behind this trend? I have no idea but what I do believe I know is this; don’t look at the words from these women, find out what‘s in their hearts. Where the heart goes, the body soon follows.
Cheryl offers: I was at DFW today catching a business flight to Nashville TN. Most people traveling this month seemed to be dressed quite casually, really comfortable for the hot summer months, with a few noticeable exceptions. The one exception that caught my eye was women in 5 inch high heels. Don’t get me wrong, I like high heels myself. In fact I wear them frequently, mostly because I’m pretty short and they make me feel more powerful. However I do avoid them when I travel for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is safety. I can imagine how hard it would be to flee a potential plane disaster in high heels, sprinting to safety seems close to impossible. Like many travelers, my feet swell when I travel. In high heels it can become an almost unbearable situation when walking long distances such as gate changes, terminal changes, and the inevitable walk to your parked car. I know, I’ve done all of these in high heels and that’s why I wear comfortable flats when I travel now. My desire to look professional, chic and hip are still a part of me; and a statement from the new bestseller SWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE THINGS WHEN CHANGE IS HARD by Dan Heath and his brother Chip Heath helps me deal with it better. They write “Clarity dissolves resistance.” How true! Once I was clear on the perils of running in high heels and walking long distances in shoes that feel a size too small after a long flight, my resistance to wearing low healed comfortable shoes dissolved completely. Who knew it could be explained in just 3 words? And by the way, this is a terrific book for lots of other reasons.
Cheryl offers: I met a truly interesting man today at First Friday Book Synopsis; his name is Dean Rubsamen. He works for my insurance company, State Farm. Though he’s not my agent, in a manner of speaking, he is. What I learned was my insurance company is changing their ways in order to give women what we want. If you’ve read either the HBR article “The Female Economy” or the book Women Want More both written by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, you’d know there’s a huge emerging opportunity for many businesses to capture the multi-trillion dollar sized female market. Yes, that “t” is correct; it’s not an “m” or a “b”. In the book, the research is clear about what women want and what is missing from today’s offerings in several key areas: food, fitness, beauty, apparel and financial services. We want convenience that saves us time, products that fit our needs, to be treated as intelligent consumers, and we are willing to trade up to get it. State Farm recognizes this opportunity and is doing something about. In the words of Melanne Vermeer, cofounder and chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, “Without women’s full participation, no country can prosper, but in order to tap their potential, women need the tools for effective leadership. There is no better investment for our world.” I’ve been with State Farm for years based on their service; now I’m with them because they are innovative.