Archives: 2011

What happened to the Men’s Movement?

December 12th, 2011

Much has been written recently about the Women’s Movement – the accomplishments and failures of feminism in general and the relevance of some the movement’s leaders in particular.  Growing up as a young kid in the 50’s I was right at home having a mom who would never have been referred to as a ‘stay at home mom’, though that is surely what she was.  As a teenager in the 60’s, being the youngest of her three, it did seem that she was the ‘unusual’ mom when she went from volunteering at my elementary school library and started working part-time at the local Doubleday bookstore.  The books may have been the same but the experience was totally different – all of a sudden I was a latch-key kid with all of the requisite perks and liabilities.  And mom had the kind of self respect that comes from earning her own money outside of the home.  She wasn’t earning as much money as her male counterparts (nor were any or her ‘female sisters’) but at least she was expanding her horizons and getting paid for it.

The Women’s Movement aimed at shattering sexism, specifically by breaking through the glass ceiling, among many other worthy targets.  Women do earn more than they did pre-feminism.  There are more women executives now than ever before. And yet, when you dig into the lives of women executives (or women in general I imagine) you find ample evidence that the glass ceiling is more secure, and more difficult to penetrate, than ever.   For those of you looking for some good advice on how to pierce that barrier, I recommend “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth.”  Author Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, takes an in-depth look at how women today achieve their deserved recognition and financial worth. As pointed out on Amazon (where you can go to buy the book) “it’s no secret that women have long been overlooked and under-compensated, and while great strides have made in recent decades, the value placed on women versus their male counterparts is still consistently unbalanced.”

Before we move to the point I want to make as hinted to by the title of this blog, let’s consider that while compensation is important, in oh-so-many ways (survival, recognition, self worth, organizational influence, etc.), it’s not what we’re going to hear eulogized at our funerals.  If you are a working (outside the home) mom and you’re interested in that kind of fullfillment, and I’m hoping you are, take a look at “The Working Mother’s Manifesto: This is How We Do It”.  This piece opens the door on the ‘less is more’ theory by recognizing that a) money not only isn’t everything, it’s not even close, and, b) when you’re willing to negotiate getting less money (for less time worked) you can get more of what you really want, time for yourself and time to spend with the people you love.   This is where Carol Evans, the author, and CEO of Working Mother magazine, encourages working mothers (and fathers) to ask their organizations for what they need to attain a healthy balance between work and family.

So, that last parenthentical phrase “(and fathers)” is where I’m heading.  Yes, we had a Women’s Movement, and much progress was made, certainly not as much as we’d have liked, especially when it comes to equity in compensation, but progress nontheless.   What’s been missing is a movement of equal size and weight for men.  About men.  By men.

Now I’m going to say something that many of you will rail against.  You may even curse, and moan, and some of you will want to throw things and some of you will definitely want to stop reading.  Please don’t!  Bear with me a minute.  Here it comes…

Men are the oppressed gender.  There, I’ve said it.  Ok, please put down whatever it was you were about to toss in my direction.  You may even want to take a deep breath. Let’s take a look.  Together.

When it comes to what really, really matters in life, what are we talking about?  Yes, money and the attending  comfort and security that it brings are huge.  But let’s face it, how many eulegies have you heard that focused on how much money that person had?  Or that even mentioned money?  I’m guessing none, or at least very, very few.

What we do hear, and not just at funerals but at retirement banquets, testimonial dinners, toasts at family events is how much love people had in their lives. How much love they gave and how much they were loved.  It is in this category that men are culturally at a severe disadvantage.  At least through my generation (Boomers) we were told not to cry (“be a big boy now”), not to be ‘weak’ (“suck it up”) or even talk about our feelings.  We were expected to be the bread winners (at least that’s changed generationally) and though we could help change diapers and share in the household chores it was the rare man who elected to be a stay-at-home dad while mom brought home the bacon.  Yes, many of us did break a few barriers, mostly through the requirements necessitated by being a dual income family.  But in the end we were not encouraged to go the extra mile to ensure that we’d have the time and energy to secure the kind of deep, spiritually based connections with our kids, our friends, our families, our communities that women just naturally fall into.

I’m hoping that it’s not too late.  For a Mens Movement or, better still, a Peoples Movement, where we all get to focus on the things that really matter.  Time with our loved ones (and I’m not talking just a weeks vacation a year), time to reflect, time to connect, time to feel.

Happy Holidays!

Where are our mentors?

August 5th, 2011

This is a guest blog by Alexa Cole, associate of Cole Consulting.

Alexa with mentor/aunt Janet. Janet and Alexa currently live on opposite coasts.

In this age we are living in, where knowledge is free and if there is ever a doubt we throw around the now household term “just google it”, I am constantly wondering: where are our mentors? Our teachers of the old crafts, the wise elders, the parents you don’t just visit on holidays but who share with you real-time skills for a better life — how to balance a check book, sew a button, grow your own food. Those that teach outside of what is taught in school curriculum and help us find our true path in life.

I’ve recently been looking to change fields within my career and this has involved 4 months of vigorous searching for something that feeds me. There have been many nights recently where I make vision boards and eat ice cream, trying to quell depression. There have also been many coffee dates with people I don’t really know, trying to glean some kind of sign about what I’m meant to do next.
One such date, with my second cousin’s wife, Natalie, was more of a family visit turned social networking meeting. Natalie is beautiful, strong, and has a way of saying things like they must take no effort at all; “You should really talk to my friend Pam. She lives in Oakland and is very involved in the women’s health business and could probably help you find a job.” Natalie’s not the only sweet soul doling out names and places to me like sides to my dinner dish, “no problem at all.”
I respect the advice and appreciate hints on my path, but what I am really after is: How can I find a great career path like you, that feels fulfilling and pays decently? To this, Natalie replies, “I had this amazing mentor about 15 years ago and she got me this great job and helped me.. and showed me…, introduced me…” on and on. I was still hanging on to this term “mentor”, wondering how I could get one and how much they would cost. Just a week before I had reached out to my old college counselor via facebook to say, “Hope you’re loving Maine. xoxo. I’m losing my mind. Can you still counsel me pretty please even though I’m 3000 miles away now and already have my degree from your institution? xoxo”
I haven’t heard back from her yet and wouldn’t expect anyone to take a time out from summer vacation to help an alum who should have figured it all out after the $40k tuition. But I haven’t figured it all out, and frankly, even my friends who seem to have it all together don’t have it figured out. So where are our mentors to guide our way? Where are these connections between hearts and minds — old and young — where valuable tools and resources can be passed down?
Maybe they’re teaching about farming, or being an astronaut, or some field I am not often passing between.   Or maybe I’m supposed to find the path by myself, listen more closely to the signs and friends around me. Sure would be nice to have a little extra guidance, that’s for sure. If you know of any mentors who are looking for a disciple, please send them to 1800GETAJOB, where I’m currently forwarding all of my calls. Until then, thanks for reading. And may we all find the path we are seeking, with help or without, for all of our days.

Learning from BIG mistakes

April 4th, 2011

It was 1986.  I just had to scratch the entrepreneurial itch again.  I had helped start a parent-cooperative elementary school, The Schoolhouse, ten years earlier, and wanted to start something in my ‘new’ field, energy conservation / energy management, which I entered back in ’79 after six years as an educator.  Bernie Sanders had been elected Mayor of Burlington by a 10 vote margin five years earlier and Burlington was just beginning to be a hotbed for progressive politics, food and business, my real passions.

I answered an ad in the Burlington Free Press titled “Wanted: General Manager/Entrepreneur” to start-up and head-up an employee-owned and managed energy services company, that was to be the for-profit part of Vermont Energy Investment Corp’s (VEIC) double business plan.

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Leadership lessons for Moses, from the Torah… his woes, his father-in-law as mentor and God as Coach

January 31st, 2011

Talk about a tough job load!  Yes, I know how hard many of our CEO’s have it, especially the women CEO’s and executives who not only have to juggle the demands of employees, customers, their Board, the Street and whatever current key stakeholder has their hooks into them at any given moment.  But for a minute consider Moses… when God handed him the Ten Commandments and told him he had to both lead his people out of servitude, into the desert AND institute an whole new set of policies and procedures.

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