Is being a feminist a bad thing?

 

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated last Thursday 8 March. The main call to action this year is gender parity. I went to a few events during the week, e.g., Inspiring Women in the Creative Industry, and IWD with KEA and The New Zealand Business Women’s Network. Each of these events had female panels presenting truly inspirational stories and advice; the theme remaining loyal to the desire for equality of the sexes.

The word feminism was used often, which wasn’t a surprise to me seeing as we were discussing gender parity but, generally, the speakers were reluctant to admit it. Is being a feminist a bad thing? I hope all women are feminists because it only means we want equality with men.

Definition from the Oxford Dictionary

Feminism. Noun. The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

I believe Vera Nazarian, author, sums up gender parity best with her quote:

“A woman is human.
She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man.
Likewise, she is never less.
Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”

I assume activities to mark IWD may last all month in the UK, especially as the nation celebrates 100 years since women got the vote. In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In both countries, the women’s rights campaign was led by the suffragette movement in which women fought hard, literally, to get noticed and to be taken seriously as equal members of the community. I believe it’s this type of behaviour that has tarnished the word feminism. However, it was probably the only way women could get noticed over a 100 years ago is such a male dominated society.

I was born, raised and educated in New Zealand. New Zealand is a young country but we are brought up side by side with our male counterparts to have the same hopes, aspirations and dreams. During the 1980’s a government sponsored campaign Girls can do anything was promoted all over the country. It became part of our vernacular and ingrained into our cultural identity as Kiwi women. I had never thought of my gender as a disadvantage, that is, until I started travelling and working in different countries.

Pay parity is currently high on the public relations agenda in the UK and in many countries around the world. There has been a lot of talk in the UK, including Equal Pay Day which marks the day of the year when women in effect begin to work for free due to the pay gap. UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps this year under a new legal requirement. While it’s only targeting the big employers, I hope action will be taken once the reports are published and the results won’t become just another statistic.

At the beginning of this year, Iceland took legal action on pay parity. Iceland was the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women. What a fantastic advancement! Maybe if we really want results in the UK the government will need to intervene further to make pay parity a legislative mandate.

Women have come a long way since the original suffragette movement. Today I believe we needn’t be aggressive in our pursuit of equality whether we are fighting, not literally, in an organised group or trying to make a difference in our own way. What is important is that we speak; we need to speak up and be heard by our employers and colleagues. We need to speak up at the appropriate time with relevant content so that like our predecessors we are taken seriously and can influence positive change for gender equality.

I hope all women agree that being a feminist isn’t a bad thing.

I’m average, and proud of it!

 

 

My mother was appalled to hear me boast about my averageness at the most recent New Zealand Business Women’s book club brunch.

Why was my mother at book club?

She is visiting from New Zealand and had read the book we were reviewing, so she qualified to join our session.

Why were we talking about being average?

We were summarising the ways we can live life without giving a f*ck according to Martin Mason’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.* His book tells us we need to identity what’s truly important to us and let go of everything else that complicates life.

Under the heading The Tyranny of Exceptionalism Mason makes the point:

Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things. That’s just life.

If we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people and the apparent exceptional things they’ve achieving, it’s pretty difficult to be happy. We should not give a f*ck about what other people do. We should value who we are and what we are capable of.

Why was my mother appalled to hear me boast about my averageness?

Growing up she always pushed – or maybe supported is a better word – my sister and me to try new activities, learn new skills and study hard. She is afraid that by accepting my averageness I won’t go on to achieve anything more. To use her words, “We need to keep moving forward”.

I disagree, and that’s why Mason’s point resonated with me. By accepting my averageness I’m accepting who I am and what I’m capable of, warts and all. I’m not comparing myself to family, friends, work colleagues or contemporaries. And, most definitely, I’m not comparing myself to people I read about or see on social media. I believe embracing my averageness is part of the journey to true happiness. And, happiness is something I do give a f*ck about!

So, who do you agree with? My mother or Mason?

 

* Mark Manson. (2016). The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. HarperCollins.

That moment when you discover an unmet need and decide to make it yourself!

I was looking for a baby’s first year book for my sister’s second born. I could only find lots of very average and expensive notebooks.

She was second born to me. I’m her Big Sis, and she always complained that her first smile, tooth, crawl, step, etc., was never documented. So, to make sure that didn’t happen to her second born I’ve made Rocco his very own, personalised ‘My First Year’ book that will record every precious moment right through to his first birthday.

Taking orders for the rest of the year (joke).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facing up to my emotional fears

 

I am fearful of all my emotions … except joy. I am fearful of being fearful. I am fearful of feeling sad, angry, disgust and contempt. I am also fearful of being surprised in a not-so-pleasant way. I want to be happy all of the time, but is my expectation realistic? Is it healthy?

Only recently have I faced up to my emotional fears with the help of Susan David in her book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life*. I’m not a very emotional person, or so I tell myself. I’m a “Bottler”^: I keep my negative emotions subdued and under control by seldom acknowledging them, let along talking about them with anyone. I’ve seen them as a sign of weakness. Onward and upward; put a smile on that dial!

I have believed that as long as I think positively and embrace an optimistic outlook that’s all I need to live a life full of health and wellbeing. Because, after all, isn’t everyone in pursuit of happiness? Fake it until you make it, right?

Wrong. Or so Susan David has taught me. Now I classify happiness as either fake or real. Fake happiness is all smiles and positivity on the outside – great for people around us but quite exhausting for the individual putting on the act. And, not healthy. This is, or was me, probably about 70% of the time. Real happiness is happiness inside and out. Real happiness comes through activities we actively engage in rather than doing what is expected of us. Therefore, I believe real happiness can only be achieved if we face up to our emotions, interpret the information our emotions are telling us and then decide consciously how to think, feel or act.

Basically, this is Susan David’s concept of emotional agility. One of the first steps is to acknowledge that our “emotions contain information, not directions”**. (This is my favourite quote in the whole book.) That is, my emotions aren’t telling me how to feel. Emotions are data that need to be analysed, and then I decide what to do next with this information. I am in control of my emotions. Emotions aren’t weak but rather a powerful tool I can control and use to my advantage.

It wasn’t long before I could put this theory into practice. I have been working from home alone with my new business venture and going from emotional all-time highs feeling a sense of purpose and achievement to new lows when I feel frustrated and anxious. This was an opportunity to face up to my emotional fears.

On one particular ‘low’ day I had a new client prospect that I hadn’t heard back from and, as the days dragged on, it looked like I was unlikely to convert them into a business opportunity. I asked myself: what is my frustration telling me? It’s not telling me I’m useless and doomed to fail (as this would be direction). The emotional data said I’m feeling frustrated because things aren’t going according to what I had envisaged. It’s telling me that, despite wanting a particular outcome, the final decision is out of my hands. So instead of channelling my energy into something I was powerless to control I focused on what I could control. And that was on other new business prospects. So, I drew up a list of potential clients and got on the phone. I was cold calling and this was me facing up to my emotional fears head on. And, I was surprised in a good way. By facing my emotional fears I had confronted frustration and turned it into positive energy and a happy ending!

Epilogue

By the way, I don’t think we can be full of joy all of the time. It’s a very unrealistic expectation when we only have one positive emotion out of all seven. However, my goal still remains to be happy most of the time but I’m just going about it a different way now so I can be a ‘real’ happy and not a fake. I’m facing up to my emotions by acknowledging them, interpreting the data and then deciding how to act. My real happiness will come from actively engaging in activities rather than doing what is expected of me. This has Working Bee Productions written all over it.

 

Footnotes

*David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, New York: Avery an imprint of Penguin Random House, (2016)

^ David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 15% – Loc 587 of 4068.

**David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 35% – Loc 1413 of 4068.

How to become more engaged in one of the world’s largest social networks

 

Are you part of the 87% of LinkedIn members who use one of the world’s largest social networks passively?

Probably (based on the statistic above).

Then I encourage you to read this blog and start participating!

LinkedIn has over 500,000,000 members according to its official counter*. However, only 13% of people use it regularly to post updates on their news feed or engage with their connections, companies and brands. I heard this statistic while watching Viveka von Rosen’s LinkedIn Learning video called LinkedIn For Business**. This figure lags behind the engagement with other dominant social networks, like Facebook and Instagram. Why?

I have a couple of theories:

LinkedIn is a professional social network and, consequently, people may not be as spontaneous as they are on their personal networks. Members are probably more strategic in what they post and who they connect with. I know I am.

Also, in the past I’ve found the user experience on LinkedIn unfriendly. It took me a while to get familiar with the unfamiliar. Then, at the beginning of the year, LinkedIn had an overhaul and everything changed! Well, not everything but the biggest change was to the homepage where everyone lands when they first arrive. Just when I had learnt where to find things, I had to relearn where things lived. Groups was one of them. For people who were already struggling with LinkedIn’s functionality I think this overhaul could have scared some members off.

LinkedIn has been one of the best tools I’ve used to promote and prospect for my new business, Working Bee Productions, since its official launch in May. I was sure that LinkedIn was going to be beneficial but at the start of my journey I wasn’t sure exactly how. So, I embarked on upskilling myself and becoming, in my opinion, a bit of a LinkedIn Whiz!

I have three tips for anyone at the start of their journey, or members who have a new professional objective whether it is optimising your profile, developing a business strategy or creating marketing content. I shared these tips (and some) at a LinkedIn workshop I ran for the New Zealand Business Women’s Network this week. It was an opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences, and the feedback I’ve received has encouraged me to write this blog.

My three top tips

1. Try Premium for free

Once I had become familiar with LinkedIn’s new functionality and knew how I was going to use LinkedIn as part of my new business strategy, I signed up to try LinkedIn’s Premium account – free for 30 days!

There are four different Premium accounts: Career helps job seekers; Business focuses on growing your network; Sales can help identify sales opportunities; and Hiring for those looking for talent. I signed up for Business so I can only comment on this Premium account but I’m sure some/most of the functionality and tools overlap.

My Business Premium account allowed me to communicate with anyone on LinkedIn. They didn’t need to be a 1st level connection. I could message them through InMail by using my InMail credits. Very handy if you are prospecting for new business.

Also helpful was being able to see more LinkedIn network profile information when I conducted advanced searches, and seeing exactly who had viewed my profile and how they had arrived at my profile.

But, for me, the best feature by far was access to LinkedIn Learning.

2. LinkedIn Learning

What a fantastic online learning resource! I started by viewing two videos. The first, LinkedIn Learning, provided basic but essential tips on optimising my profile, building my network, using LinkedIn day to day, and managing my account. The second was LinkedIn For Business and advised on how to develop my LinkedIn business strategy, find my audience, create a dynamic company page, content marketing and recruitment.

But the learning didn’t stop there. I found a (lengthy but very detailed) video that showed me how to build my company website in WordPress. Once I’d done that I viewed another on Google Analytics. I watched videos on grammar, marketing, PowerPoint, InDesign and Acrobat DC. The library is extensive and I’m sure everyone can find something worthwhile to watch and learn.

3. Just give it a go

Most importantly, just give LinkedIn a go! Get into a habit of accessing your account each day and see what’s happening. You will see how members and companies are using it and how one of the world’s largest social networks could help you build your professional and/or company brand.

If you have a new or small business you may consider creating a company page to give your business extra visibility. Showcase pages are linked to company pages and can be used to promote products or services, an upcoming event, or a recent project or case study.

In addition to posting updates and images, you can write articles. I’ve used articles for various reasons; I’ve shared experiences, thoughts, opinions and knowledge. I also find writing can be very therapeutic. It’s helped me on my path to become more emotionally agile^.

Start participating

If you’ve got to the end of this blog and you’re part of the inactive 87% of LinkedIn members, my call to action is to ask you to start actively participating on a regular basis.

 

Footnotes

* https://press.linkedin.com/about-linkedin Last accessed 16 July 2017.

** https://www.linkedin.com/learning/linkedin-for-business/welcome Last accessed 16 July 2017.

^ https://www.nzwomen.co.uk Review of June’s Business Book Brunch written by Bee Christie, Emotional Agility: Get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life by Susan David. Last accessed 16 July 2017.

From . : ; ! ? / to :-) (seriously?)

I’d like to thank Lynne Truss for the detailed punctuation history lesson in her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Each chapter introduces a set of punctuation marks and provides background as to why we have the system we use today. I am a stickler for grammar, and Truss has given me permission to stand up and declare, publically, my love for punctuation. I am ready to defend our punctuation code. In this blog, I’ll take you on a short journey from when the first punctuation marks were introduced, i.e., the comma, colon and full stop, to the 21st century where emoticons, e.g., 🙁 and ;-o, are in danger of hijacking our traditional system. My objective is educational so you may too see the continued value in punctuation and be ready to stand in its defence.

The orator

The earliest writing had no capitalisation, vowels, spaces or punctuation. Greeksranalltheirletterstogether. Letters were written down not to be read to one’s self but to be read aloud; no one was expected to read or understand a text on first sight. This was the art of oratory in the centuries before Christ (BC). However, as writing evolved a system of dots was introduced around the 5th century BC. The dots were placed at the bottom, middle or top of each line and indicated a pause of increasing length between sections of speech. Today we know them as the comma, colon and full stop.

Christianity

It wasn’t until anno Domini (AD), around the 6th century, when writing really took off and other types of punctuation marks were introduced. Why? Christianity was on the rise and the bible was being produced to help spread the word of God. Instead of reading aloud, people were reading to themselves and these new marks suggested changes in tone, like the question mark, as well as grammatical meaning. A unified alphabet of letters was devised, which differentiated between upper and lower case letters, and spaces between words were introduced.

The printing press

By the time the Renaissance rolled around in the 14th century, the punctuation system was fairly well established with writers. There was the mixture of ancient Greek dots; colons, question marks, and exclamation marks; and a few late comers such as the slash and dash. This was timely as the printing press was invented around this period, and the punctuation system, as we know it, was standardised. Punctuation then remained largely frozen in time … until the late 20th century.

Electronic technology

Everyone has had easy access to technology with the introduction of computers, which has enabled anyone to create their own published content. People have taken artistic license with punctuation rules, and, for the first time since the 14th century, punctuation is showing signs of life. Marks and symbols are being used to provide emphasis and emotions to words in place of traditional punctuation. Is this a good thing? It can be very *upsetting* to GRAMMAR STICKLERS who see this as a bastardisation(!!) of our punctuation code :-(. If people insist on taking liberties with punctuation and/or using emoticons, I hope they do so after they have learnt the importance and value of our traditional system, and they are ready to defend it. As Pablo Picasso said:

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Is this the end of the working bee?

 

I’m not referring to the actual worker bee. That is, the female bees who do most of the work in the hive, day in and day out; they work as a team performing specific jobs and duties in the pursuit of producing honey.

However, I’m sure the term working bee, which is widely used in New Zealand, derives from the worker bee because, instead of bees, it’s people who work together in a coordinated fashion to achieve a common goal. Working bees are typically organised by volunteers in the community to help local clubs, kindergartens and schools maintain and improve their property, grounds and equipment.

I have fond memories of attending working bees with my parents when I was a child. Mum and Dad would spend a weekend each term at my kindergarten, Constance Colegrove, and then my primary school, Vicky Avenue, painting murals on the driveway, erecting fences, scrubbing swimming pools and tending to the gardens. The kids had lots of fun as it was an opportunity to spend more time playing with our friends while our parents worked – hard!

As my mother recollects, it was always the same parents who volunteered; a bit like the female worker bees, I suppose:

“You’d see the same faces turning up each time bringing homemade scones or sandwiches to share for a lunch break. But they’re not as fashionable these days as more often than not both parents work, especially in the cities, and we don’t seem to have as much time on our hands to donate to such hands-on activities.”

Consequently, the community chores that were once performed by working bees are now performed by paid professionals, and the money is usually raised by increased annual subscriptions or fundraising events.

Question: So, is this the end of the working bee as we know it?

Answer: Perhaps … in New Zealand. But this is only the beginning for Working Bee Productions. It’s our objective to work together with marketing-led organisations and advertising agencies in a coordinated fashion to achieve a desired goal.