I admit I read “If you have to cry go outside, and other things your mother never told you” in 24 hours.
When I have my totally unfair stereotyping hat on, I believe there are two types of women in this world. One type is the group that feeds into and believes the narratives we’re taught as little girls–intense conditioning about the pretty angelic princesses who get the hot prince and all the diamonds. Then there are women like Kelly Cutrone.
The former spend their childhoods making perfect resumes. They apply their type A personality to everything they do. Unfortunately many of these women never make it past the entry level jobs they start at because the rules of the game are actually much different than what Disney taught them. Just look at the statistics.
Today, 53% of corporate entry-level jobs are held by women, a percentage that drops to 37% for mid-management roles and 26% for vice presidents and senior managers, according to McKinsey research. Men are twice as likely as women to advance at each career transition stage.
Why is this happening?
While some of this might be attributed to women dropping out when they start to have children, I believe there’s something else going on here that I can’t quite name. I need your help. I want to know what your experiences are (those of you who are Gen Y). What have been your biggest work challenges? I want to get your challenges addressed.
I believe we need women who have been through the ranks like Kelly Cutrone to step up and provide some much needed sisterly wisdom.
Kelly is successful in her own right. The daughter of a marine, she moved from Syracuse NY to the big apple with $2,000 dollars to her name. Through resourcefulness she secured a job working for Susan Blond, a successful PR executive. Before she knew it she was escorting Michael Jackson through a night club in NYC working with the who-is-who of fashion and music. She struggled through two divorces, a bad drug problem and single motherhood–but she seems to be thriving. She runs her own PR agency People’s Revolution out of her home in New York City. You might catch Kelly on the reality show The Hills (as the employer of Lauren Conrad) or if you saw her reality show on bravo “Kell On Earth.”
In this excerpt from her book she talks about tribes–and what we call mentoring. Here’s what she had to say:
“There’s a reason human beings once lived in tribes: it’s useful. (In fact, I believe the breakdown of the tribal system is responsible for much of the sickness in the world today). Start by identifying people in your community you look up to and them, graciously and with their blessing, use their hard work and experience to your advantage. Pick their brains. I can’t imagine anyone refusing to be a mentor if they’re asked in a spirit of sincerity and humility….beware: triblal relationships are a two-way street. As you forge your own tribe, you’ll become a member of other tribes and ultimiately, if you’re lucky, a tribal elder yourself. Now that my days as an ingenue couch-surfer are behind me I maintain several floors of live/work space and my home has become a temple for an international cast of souls and tribal members needing advice or just a warm meal as they traverse the bumpy roads of their dreams. Lately, these include an Argentinean male supermodel and a friend from an ashram in India…I have cosigned leases when my assistants are transitioning from their parents’ place to their own apartment; I invite interns to my country house for the weekend; I rush to the bedside of friends ailing children in the middle of fashion week, I even buy my girls the right lingerie just as Pat Field did years ago for me. You never know who will end up being your family or where you will find them.”
I find this endearing because I don’t see this happening very often out here. Perhaps this is just my own experience, but why isn’t this female camaraderie happening? Where is it happening?
I particularly like what Cutrone has to say about religion. She encourages young women to get to know themselves–and get real about spirituality. She writes, “I’m not asking you to own your own company, or to do things my way, or to be a CEO of anything except your own journey in this world. I’m asking you to start the church of you. I want you to refuse to pray or play at places that won’t let you speak or where your gender has no power….I want you to fearlessly pursue your dreams and your destiny, conscious that you are not what you do, listening to your inner voice, refusing to let superficial things define you, asking yourself the hard questions about what you believe and what you will serve, fighting the fears in your own mind and finally, loving other women in the process.”
Kelly’s stance on her team is very much like a mama bear. She sees herself as the protector of the young women who come into her office trying to break into the fast-paced world of fashion pr.
“Even though I am sometimes perceived as a bitch or a witch, the office atmosphere I cultivate is nothing like the cultural stereotype of striving women clawing each other to death to get the queen bee’s job. Women have been taught that, in order to get ahead, we have to be secretive and plotting and manipulative, because a straightforward route to the top has always existed for us, and in many industries it still doesn’t.”
I completely agree with Kelly’s statement. I feel there’s still myths that are perpetuated about scarcity that make women un-trusting and competitive with each other when they should be lifting each other up.
“When we’re young we’re taught to compete with other women for what we need to survive: money, or a husband. But if you’re going to be ruthless to another woman, you’d better make sure that your intent is pure and doesn’t come from jealousy or bitterness or any of the other problematic feelings and fears were taught to have about each other (“she’s a home-wrecker,” “she’s going to steal your husband,” “she’s younger than you and wants your job” and so on).”
I agree. We need to end this insecurity and cat fight nonsense and start lifting each other up. I’m starting a sisterhood. Join me.