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Earning Power!: September 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Aspire to be Sexy!….(but not too sexual)

A group of journalists, producers and public relations specialists were recently meeting in New York to talk about the types of guests that get the best ratings and attention from the audience. It turned into a discussion about how the media rarely covers stories about women, and if women do appear they are unrealistic, stick-thin celebrities or sex symbols. Most of the men appearing in the news, Brad Pitt and Tom cruise aside, are given the cover because of other value they add to informing us about business, society, and politics.

There’s no doubt that part of business success is appearance. There is, however, a lot of confusion about how powerful and necessary it is for women to be sexy, and yet how inappropriate it is to be sexual in any real context where men and women interact. There is a real disparity between what women consume from media as compared to how women are to actually behave in order to achieve success alongside men in power.

Does the media favor stories by men for men? The issue with media is twofold, in the subjects of stories and in those reporting the stories.

First, the media reflects society in that powerful men are still the movers and shakers attracting the most attention. A 2002 study of the major networks ABC, CBS, and NBC revealed that news stories reported on men 86% while stories on women appeared about 14% of the time. A 2003 MediaTenor Report showed similar results, with the top stories women appeared in being crime victims. Business stories about women had a 21% share, which is surprisingly high for women’s stories, and also disappointingly low in the context of the majority of reports on men.

Secondly, journalism itself suffers from the same phenomenon college success to workplace failure for women that many industries do. According to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication women have been the majority of media and journalism majors in college ever year since 1977.

Despite this, men have been a full two-thirds of journalists since 1982, with women only 20.3% of newswire, 21.8% in radio, 33%-36.9% at daily and weekly newspapers, and 37.4% in television as reported by Poynter’s 2003 Journalist Survey.

Broken down, the women in positions of real influence even within these statistics is paltry. For example, at the major networks, women were actual reporters of just 26% of the stories. In radio, women are only 14.4% of news directors. Fully 80% of news editor positions in general media are held by men.

The tragedy is that the figures for media and journalism are so much better than other industries like technology, manufacturing, or politics. It’s much more likely a male or female journalist will have female peers or supervisors, which is not the case for the majority of the workforce.

So the media does favor powerful men and women who are “hot”. It’s simply a reflection of reporting what actually exists in our society. It’s unfortunate that most guys aren’t really aware of what the issue is because things are the same as they have been. We’ve all been living with a statistically proven disparity that across all areas of highest influence from university professorships to corporate boards to news editing---although they may not feel like it to men---men are in charge. So women are still playing by the rules in attempts to achieve parity---even if it has required using all of their assets.

The Purpose Driven Wife

One of the oddest things I hear repeatedly is those people who question a women’s commitment to family when she starts working. This just doesn’t happen to men. Men are expected to work.

This is where work and life balance becomes and issue for both genders. It’s as unfair to expect a man to work from dawn to dusk as it is to expect a woman to stay home the entire time. Neither model optimally benefits the family.

Are you a person that is trying to understand how to balance your mission in work and life? It seems many people these days are searching for purpose and meaning in their lives.

The reality is that the purpose for both male and female go to work is to benefit themselves and their family. The truth is that parenting is difficult and complicated work. Committed fathers are also learning from women's examples that successful work does not have to mean failure as a husband or parent. There can be a great deal of empathy between working partners.

Figures show that 38% of working mothers work full time all year, indicating that the remaining majority are finding other flexible solutions and investments to bring in income. Mothers that are not traditionally employed are still working mothers because child care itself can be exhausting. But also the value that they add to the household in opportunity costs is tremendous as they allow their spouse to pursue greater financial gains for all.

Although 90% of the general female population has a child by 40, this figure is cut in half for the top executive women of the Fortune 500. Still the fact that almost half of these top women are also raising children demonstrates that work success doesn’t have to be sacrificed for family success. In fact, in June 2005 USA Today said that working women are still coming home to thirteen hours or more of housework per week. Often times the top working women stated their need to compensate for their success at work by being hyper-feminine at home.

There has been some trending toward working women who have decided to quit working for others, start their own business, or stop work entirely and make money through investment and money management. When women these women exit corporate America and stay home to raise kids it may look like a return to the 1950’s but in the new millennium there are two key differences.

1) It is a choice. If the woman earned enough and invested wisely to buy time or flexibility she is no longer dependent.
2) It is an enhanced retirement. The woman retains the confidence and esteem of knowing her earning potential outside of home.

What a great place to be in, to have the alternatives that financial empower enables and the self confidence of having proven your abilities in the workplace.

Still, many women worldwide are taught that it is immoral to ever go to work when you have children. This is just intolerable. Some people blame religion, but this would be an incorrect perception, as there are plenty of Old Testament examples of working women, and these accounts are the basis for three of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

For example, we read that even that capable wife from Proverbs 31 is working outside the home in sales and real estate at the same time she is clothing and feeding the kids. She can only “afford to laugh at tomorrow” because she chose the right business to be in and the right investments that allow her to gain to gain dignity, power, and yes, money. This allows her husband to be proud and supportive, even to brag. He is certainly not ashamed or angry with her, nor is there a hint that he’s embarrassed among the top men in town because of expectation that he should be handling everything himself.

In the final analysis, no one would recommend a strategy that drives parents from their homes. But success doesn’t mean jettisoning your family. Taking the time to incorporate the needs of the spirit with financial realities reaps the richest rewards of all. Working and parenting at the same time, which is what most of us do, is the best example we could ever set for our sons and daughters.