Furthering Gender Stereotypes? Me??

On the first day of school three of my girlfriends and I escaped for a simply decadent afternoon at the swimming pool. All morning as I packed lunches, checked book bags I had a silly grin on my face. I was looking forward to playing hooky with my friends. As my seven-year old daughter, Grace climbed in my SUV she spied my pool bag. She was completely perplexed. She questioned me as to why would the pool bag be in my car? Did  I not realize summer was over and school had started. When I explained that while she was at school I was retreating with my friends to the pool. Her expression was priceless. She was completely aghast that I would consider going to the pool without her. Today I was not only going to the pool without her but I was going to the pool while she was in school! Continue reading


Women of power and woolly mammoths

Dr. Elaine Yarbrough is a long-time advocate for women. Her career includes over 25 years experience training, consulting, and mediating plus researching, speaking and promoting women and their power.

I had the privilege of participating in one of Elaine’s development sessions several years ago and still use what I learned. She has the unique gift of presenting challenging information in an engaging and low-key humorous way. (When a taxi driver told her that men were meant to lead since they were the hunters and women were the gatherers, Elaine told him she couldn’t recall the last time her husband shot a woolly mammoth for dinner!)

Some of Elaine’s priceless nuggets of wisdom for women everywhere to ponder, promote…and do:

Replace cat fights with support. Elaine believes that the cat fights for which women are infamous are “rooted in being chronically low-powered.” Without the power to fight those with more power, attacks are aimed at one another. Consider your behavior: Do you make catty comments about what another woman said or wore or did? Do you join in the office cat fights? Claim your personal power by stopping the personal attacks and support other women instead. Do business with them. Reinforce their comments in meetings. Know each other’s stories. Have each other’s backs. Support, don’t tear down.

Be motivated by accomplishment, not approval. Elaine sites early education research showing how women are socialized to seek approval. When a little girl correctly answers a question, the teacher responds with “good girl!” However, when a little boy responds correctly, the teacher asks additional probing questions to expand his thought processes. What a telling difference. Stop seeking approval for being a “good girl.”

Pushback when gender slurs come your way. Elaine quotes results from a political study showing that female candidate’s approval ratings went up when they challenged gender slurs directed at them. Approval ratings dropped for female candidates who didn’t pushback. As Elaine says, “start putting yourself up, not down.”

Women of power, it’s time to support one another, seek positive outcomes and toot your own horn!

Image from Emory University 

Resiliency and Successful Life Change

Today’s guest author is Sharon Becker, LISW, ACSW, licensed private practice therapist and passionate about helping people through transition

Being a psychotherapist, I am fascinated by the process of change. Beyond what I do, my current passion for helping others, particularly women, to take advantage of the change process has exponentially grown based on my own personal experiences.

At age forty, I changed career paths, discovered new skills I possessed that I would never have imagined and began to view the world through different lenses. What changed? It was more of an unfolding. External parameters and expectations, which were once a safety net, now felt limiting and restrictive. The more I let go of my fear (which is always essentially rooted in our need to maintain the “status quo” and find external approval), the easier it was to approach challenges with curiosity, creativity and flexibility.

Life is, without a doubt, complicated and often compromising. So, why are some people more successful at navigating the tides of change? What blocks others?

Women, too often, do not receive the necessary support and positive reinforcement to strive to reach their greatest potential and beyond. How can we build confidence, drive and tenacity in women that will enable them to reach these goals? The answers lie in asking the questions.

  • Are you willing to be courageous and persevere in the face of change?
  • Would you take a risk to live without regrets?
  • Can you imagine life with added dimension and depth that you create?
  • What would it take for you to make this commitment to yourself?

As women, we must learn to trust ourselves more, compete with each other less, and stop using men as a barometer for our success. Our many strengths including the ability to “rise to the occasion” (whatever that might be) with flexibility, empathy, compassion, and sensitivity are gifts. Collectively, we must support one another in learning to use these talents and become the leaders of change.


 Art source: Don Dixon Space Art, The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke


How a Simple Connection Sparked a Movement

Shark Marketing Co. CEO Shari Stauch has been involved in publishing, marketing and PR for 33 years. In 2004 she retired from the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour after a 20-year career as a touring pro player and marketer/co-creator of the tour to pursue development of Shark Marketing Co., serving authors and aspiring authors using their words to promote greater issues. She is a 5-time President’s Award recipient and was inducted into the Women’s Pro Billiard Association Hall of Fame in 2007. Shari is currently serving her second term as president of Charleston’s Center for Women, where she moderates the Women Writers Forum, and is co-director of programming for New Orleans’s Words & Music literary festival. She is a certified executive coach; an award-winning essayist and fiction writer; editor; and author of four non-fiction books. She is now completing a novel set in her hometown of Chicago.


Shari Stauch
Shari Stauch

When I first decided to narrow my marketing focus to work with clients with whom I shared a passion – authors – I had no idea what that would look like as a business model. It turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made. I enjoyed the work; and clients enjoyed learning how to promote their words.

Business grew and as it did, the majority of my clientele happened to be women. As it grew more, this clientele further defined itself into a dynamic group of savvy women who, unbeknownst to each other, were exposing deeper issues in their writing, issues that would resonate with the masses…

One author began blogging about animal rights, another about parents dealing with the loss of a child. Another is completing a novel that shines a light on the darkness of male-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace. One is working on a memoir about coming into her own freedom of expression through dance, something that had been denied her in childhood. Yet another is aiding in the charge to end sex trafficking. And the list goes on… Not only was I loving my job, I was learning about so many important issues, and the influence these women were having, each in their own way striving to make our world better, just by speaking and writing and putting themselves out there.

Another of my long-standing clients, an amazing female author, Rosemary James, is co-founder of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society in New Orleans. Attending her conference one year (the fabulous Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans), I was hooked. I’ve been to every conference since, soaking up the infused energy of the world’s greatest authors, editors and agents. Words & Music has become my shared passion, and so naturally I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and encourage everyone who has an interest in words to attend.

And so I did. I suggested to several clients, including writers in Florida, California, Tennessee, New York and South Carolina, that they make the trip to New Orleans, both to support the great work Rosemary was doing for authors and to avail themselves of the opportunity to meet agents, editors, and some of the best writers producing work in this century. It would be a chance for them to network, but also to be inspired, so important for writers when writing is such a solitary art form.

When seven of them readily agreed to give it a go, I was excited for them. But that excitement quickly turned to anxiety. Would they have a good time? Would I be held accountable to make sure they had a good time? I had a lot to do there; would they feel less than cared for if I weren’t paying each enough attention? In short, what was I thinking?

Well, despite all my great experiences working with women through Charleston’s Center for Women and all these special clients, I greatly underestimated the power of women supporting women. By the end of the first day, I’d introduced each to the others. By the end of the second day they were sharing schedules and drinks and comparing critiques. On the third day we had dinner together and the women dubbed themselves “Seven Strong” with a hearty toast… each vowing to connect through their writing in the days and weeks to come.

Since that November conference, those proud members of the “Seven Strong” have forged bonds of steel. They’re planning a retreat at one’s vacation home in Folly Beach, and another at one’s cabin in Tahoe. In between they spend time on the phone and by email, through lunches and road trips, to connect with each other, critique each other’s work, brainstorm their marketing efforts, and encourage and nurture each other as writers and as women.

I’m as proud as any mother hen could be, but I can’t take the credit… It’s really all about that power that surges through women when we’re helping each other. Women supporting women isn’t just a concept; it’s a FORCE… and one to be reckoned with!


Women Supporting Women




Personal Branding: A Road to Self-Confidence and Personal Strength

Shauna Mackenzie Heathman is the owner and founder of Mackenzie Image Consulting, South Carolina’s only full-service image consulting firm, and the new Mark’d - Personal Branding Studio.  Shauna is certified by both the Association of Image Consultants International and the International Institute of Image Communications.
Shauna Mackenzie

Put yourself out there

The point is that because of this, it’s a scary, frightening concept to put ourselves out there.  So much so that this fear holds many people back from reaching their potential, from following their dreams, building relationships, or stepping outside their comfort zone for the betterment of their wellbeing or attaining their goals. My job as an image and personal branding consultant is to make sure the benefits of putting yourself out there outweigh the fear. 

One way my company works with clients is through appearance. Women are incredibly harsh on themselves. Even worse, they beat themselves up over beating themselves up. Most women are unhappy with their wardrobe and the way they look. Most of this boils down to limitations they face, for example, weight, finances, or lack of knowledge on how to dress,  and the dichotomy of wanting to be unique yet fearful of standing out. When we show clients how to dress for their personality, within their means, and in a way that accents their attributes, the fear starts to melt away. But it goes much deeper than this.

Working with one’s appearance certainly helps to boost one’s self-confidence because it has immediate effects. However, we also work with clients on body language, interpersonal relations, self-packaging, and personal branding. In my company, I specialize in working with soon-to-be entrepreneurs who have a passion but don’t know how to capitalize on it to make it a business and who are fearful of putting themselves out to the world.

Through personal branding, I help clients align their strengths and defining features with their brand and passion in a very strategic way. Since these clients are the face of their company, implementing an image strategy during the early stages of business is key to boosting confidence and credibility. Women have shared with me that through the personal branding process, they feel a sense of ease as their goals were more attainable and less overwhelming than they initially perceived. They have also shared with me that they felt empowered and inspired by the newfound confidence they had to be brave and follow their dreams.

A personal transformation

The best part about my job is watching this transformation as women overcome their fear to lead a happier and more fulfilling life. Sometimes it literally happens in front of my eyes as a woman stands at the mirror looking at herself. I’ve seen women go from slouched over with a disgusted look on their face as they stare at their reflection to standing taller, smiling, and even uttering the occasional, “Damn, I look good!”

To watch a woman take her dream and share it with the world is even more inspiring. Ironically, people already possess the strengths and skills to do so but it’s their fear of putting their face to it that often holds them back. It’s much easier to sit behind the scenes and try it out. If you fail, no big deal because no one knows it was you. There’s less risk involved because your personal credibility and reputation is not on the line. But to put your identity out there draws upon a unique form of courage that turns fear into fuel.  I am truly honored to be a part of this process.

No, we can’t change the thoughts of others, including the judgments they make about us. But as you already know, we have full control over the attitude we have about ourselves and what we do with these judgments. And it’s incredibly refreshing to know that if someone likes you or doesn’t like you, at least it’s based on the real you, the you you intend and want the world to see; not a façade or misperception.




3 ways to master the positive power of speaking up

As a woman in business, have you heard yourself say these things?

“I just hate it when an interviewer asks me to tell them about what I’ve done. It makes me so uncomfortable to talk about myself.”

“I couldn’t possibly put that on my resume. It’s bragging.”

“I know my work is better than several of my colleagues, but ask for a raise – no way!”

A University of Arizona study showed that both men and women speak an average of 16,000 words a day. Yet getting most women to use some of those daily words to talk about their accomplishments and abilities is, well, darn near impossible. Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon, observes “I saw women accept the status quo, take what they were offered and wait for someone else to decide what they deserved because…as a society, we teach little girls that it’s not nice or feminine or appropriate for them to focus on what they want and pursue self-interest.”

Learned behaviors can be unlearned, relearned and applied in positive ways. As part of their Centennial Women in Leadership Series, Ashley Hall (an all female educational institution in Charleston, SC) presented a panel discussion on women’s compensation in which I participated. Emily Hollings, a 2005 Ashley Hall graduate was in the audience. Moved by the messages shared that evening, she took a hard look at her professional situation, prepared her case, asked for a raise – and received it!

Emily offers this advice to women in similar circumstances, “I can relate to those polite, modest girls, especially when it comes to money, but it’s important to realize and to keep telling yourself it’s not rude to ask for more and to play up your strengths. Be relentless about your strengths because that’s the ultimate factor in getting your raise.”

Making your voice heard is learning how to be your own tactful and professional PR firm. Clay Shirky, an associate professor at New York University, observes, “Self-promotion is a skill that produces disproportionate rewards, and if skill at self-promotion remains disproportionately male, those rewards will as well.” Remember, we’re talking assertiveness here – clear, direct, calm, truthful and thoughtful discourse – not aggressiveness or arrogance.

Amp up your personal courage and learn a few techniques to make your voice heard:

  • Say you’re sorry when you truly have something to apologize for instead of making statements like “I’m so sorry to take up your valuable time with this” or “please forgive me for having to bother you with this.” Instead be direct and say “Let’s schedule some time to talk” or “There’s an issue we must discuss.”
  • Lose the wimpy words that weaken your message and/or diminish your authority, e.g. saying things like “I think I have a question” or “hopefully I’ll be able to get the job done.” Demonstrate your confidence in your abilities by simply declaring “I have a question” or “I can get this job completed, and completed well!”
  • Make a list of your accomplishments: every successful project you’ve handled at work, praise your boss has given you, awards and recognition, processes you’ve improved, money that you’ve made for the company, promotions, etc. This list isn’t bragging. It is simply facts – facts about your performance that you must be comfortable discussing in job interviews, at work and while networking. A key element of many jobs is promoting the organization. If you can’t promote yourself, a prospective employer is right to doubt your abilities to promote them.

Jill Muti, Head of School at Ashley Hall, sums it up best, “When a woman enters the workforce today, it’s imperative that she be confident and capable of advocating for herself.”

What other advice would you offer?

Image source: The Artist’s Business Digest




We Are All Daughters


My daughter was found in a basket at the gate of a senior high school in Shao Yang City, Hunan Province, China.

She was taken by Riot Police to an orphanage in Hunan. An advertisement in the Hunan Daily paper said she was found wearing a red sweater and wrapped in a red flowery cotton quilt. She was left with a bottle and one package of formula.  She joined our family when she was just nine months old. The name given to her by the orphanage was Shao Yang Miao. Her last name was that of her birth city Shao Yang. We were told  the meaning of  her first name, Miao, was little seedling.

“Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them”-Chinese Proverb

As with most mothers, I feel an enormous sense of responsiblity for raising my children. I have two biological sons as well as my adopted daughter. When my husband and I traveled to China to meet our daughter, we did so with eleven other couples.  One couple who traveled with us had no other children. This particular set of parents asked us how did the feeling compare when my biological sons were placed in my arms as compared to when my adopted daughter was placed in my arms. I could honestly answer the feeling was the same. The enormity of love that encompassed me with the arrival of each of my children was an equally overwhelming blessing. While I feel no difference in the amount of love for my sons or daughter, there is a difference. What I feel is an added sense of responsibility; I feel responsibility to her birth mother and a responsibility to her birth nation.

“To forget one’s ancestor’s is to be a brook without a source, a tree without root”-Chinese Proverb

An additional point of responsiblity I feel for my daughter is for her role as a woman. It is a challenge to have her embrace her culture and understand the complexity of the role of women in Chinese society. I want her to understand the value of all that is uniquely feminine as well as to understand that there is truly no limit to what she can accomplish as a woman and as a person.

One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade”-Chinese Proverb

As I take on this responsibility to raise my daughter, I find myself craving information on how to help her grow into womanhood. I am encouraged when I read Sharon Becker’s blog post on the importance of resiliency or Margie Analise’s blog on self-esteem. I know these are two keys to helping my daughter live her BIG life. As I reflect back on her start in life, her birth mother may have had another key to Grace living a big life. The key is courage!

I have been told women found abandoning babies in China face grave consequences, potentially life imprisonment. I imagine Grace’s birth mom caring for her for the first few days after her birth. She packed her daughter and wrapped her in the Chinese color of luck and placed her in front of a gate where she knew she would be found.

So I strive to help my daughter discover resiliency, self-esteem, and courage. As I attempt to do this, I reflect on her American name Grace, my mom’s given name. The name Grace reminds me of the daily blessing she is in my life.


Feeling Little in a Big World

Sharon Becker, LISW, ACSW is a licensed private practice therapist with over 25 years of counseling experience. She works with individuals, couples and families, specializing in the treatment of depression and anxiety problems, substance abuse and transitional life challenges in women. Sharon also leads women’s groups and workshops on empowerment, leadership and self actualization.

Sharon Becker

Once upon a time, the world was big and I was little.

But, that was then and this is now. In my 50’s, I still fall into feeling little from time to time. We all do. That feeling lies in the core of my gut, and I can feel the anxiety throughout my body when it’s activated.

The good news is that the feeling passes with time, and I can rekindle my flame with greater strength and wisdom that has come with age and experience. I am also no longer afraid to go there.

We often confuse fear of the feelings with the feelings themselves, like the boogey man under our bed. This becomes exacerbated by denial, avoidance and numbness which further feeds the fire and allows it to grow.

Why do some of us have the courage to follow the path of growth while others remain stuck?

A question through the ages, no doubt. Most importantly, we must recognize that there’s no simple answer no matter how hard we wish for one. I often joke with clients who come to me for counseling that “if only I had my magic wand.”

Building resiliency takes courage and commitment. Perhaps, there is a different value to feeling “little” that we can capitalize on. If we allow ourselves to feel “little,” we can return to that part of childhood that allows us to dream.

Let this spirit inspire each of us to take the “baby” steps in our journey. Wonderful treasures like personal dignity and integrity awaits you.