I have never been very typical and have always been proud of that. I like being different in my opinions, ideas and outlook on life. It has allowed to continuously grow and enjoy experiences most people don't give themselves the opportunity to take advantage of. As a matter of fact, my teenage daughters will tell you my number one piece of parenting advice is to try and "not" fit in.
The less we worry about what others think, the more we can follow our heart and chase our dreams. So that is what I did at the age of 48 when I decided to do something totally outside the norm from what my female peers were doing. Instead of fighting the aging process, I decided to use my lifetime experiences in fitness, embrace my maturity and show others that age is just a number and we are only as old as we let ourselves feel. And so the journey to "One Million" social media followers begun.
Like every other challenge I have taken on, I approached this new venture with the same thoughtfulness. I can't count the number of times I have been asked this past year “How did you do it?" It's an anomaly for people to consider how it was possible to grow such a huge social media following in such a short amount of time. I think they believe there is some “magic trick' and want to hear my secret, but my answer is plain and simple. I did my homework and I remained true to myself. Every entrepreneur knows that success is the perfect combination of preparedness and good fortune. My success follows this same logic. I researched, read and asked questions of anyone who seemed to know about the world of social media. Not all of it was accurate and there were a lot of gray areas, still I took it all in and came to my own conclusions.
Then one cold February evening I took my first brave step, uploaded a video of me jumping rope and hit “post". I waited for something to happen. My nerves rattled a little as my very first comment came through. “Wow you are good!". Instant smile. Ok, good feedback. I will continue.
Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters.
As the days passed, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, sharing with whomever would welcome it, the world of fitness I had grown up with. A million doubts raced through my mind. What would people think? Would I get criticized for being too old? Still, I was determined and I knew if I did this right, I had the chance to impact so many people in such a positive way. I was not going to give up. I became more and more passionate about creating new and exciting content. I wanted to share everything I learned throughout my lifetime of fitness, from dancing professional ballet as a child, to teaching aerobic classes back in the 80's, to competing and placing in bodybuilding shows in my early forties. I had learned so much over the years and aside from being able to help my close friends, this was the first time I was getting the chance to share on a much broader level. It was amazing to see comments and questions from all over the globe. I felt connected and inspired in return. I was even given a nickname of the “Jump Rope Queen" because of my unique style of jump rope. I quickly became known for my energy and authenticity.
Not only did I focus on exercise, but as a Psychologist, the mind/body connection has always been a critical part of whom I am. I often spent hours writing content for my motivational posts.
I always told it like it was and people responded well to that. I made a point to network and reach out to others so we could find ways to support one another. Pretty soon, the sponsors started knocking, but I refrained to give in to temptation and focused instead on telling my story rather than looking to turn a buck for a product I didn't believe in. People could tell I was the real deal and came to me with questions on everything from diet to dealing with injuries. I always led them in the right direction if I did not know the answer and did not provide false information or try and take credit I wasn't worthy of. Building a community was first and foremost in my mind. I knew the business end would come down the road, but sometimes we need to hold off and be patient to reach our longer-term goals. This strategy worked for me and now I have a select group of brands I endorse because I have been a loyal consumer of theirs for years. That is refreshing in today's world of false advertising and it makes a valid point that there is still room for integrity.
Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters. Suddenly my momentum was on a fast and steady rise. I was encouraged to branch out to Facebook and YouTube and I partnered with a fitness app company to develop my very own training app that could be used by people all over the world for anywhere/anytime workouts. I hired a branding expert, a videographer and photographer. I even started doing live streams. I was really doing this! It was an amazing feeling to know that I represented every woman and helped them to feel good about themselves again, rather than getting discouraged over photoshopped images. I helped others see they didn't have to be in the field of fitness, or in their twenties to look and feel great, they just had to have the motivation and drive to make their well-being a priority.
I will say that despite the great reward and creativity my new venture has allowed, it is also quite a departure from my everyday life. I would be lying if I said it was easy. As my brand continues to grow, I need to find more and more ways to juggle my primary career and my family. A good friend of mine who is also an entrepreneur asked me how I was managing and what I felt I needed to give up. Then she laughed and said “sleep right?'. I still wonder how she knew. Like anything new, there are always sacrifices to be made, but in the end it is all worth it. What I love best is that I am showing my daughters through example what it means to be a strong independent woman and follow your dreams. I am also showing all women out there that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. If you can help others along the way, well that's really the icing on the cake. I am fortunate at this late stage in my life to create a new exciting adventure for myself, one that is continuing to grow on a daily basis. I wonder what the year ahead will bring. I also know that since I am doing something I feel so strongly about it will only get better and better!
I hope I have inspired you!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.