Star Jones, ESQ, seemed to have it all in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The former Senior District Attorney for the City of New York was a co-host on the popular ABC chat fest The View, newly married and down more than 150 lbs after weight loss surgery, but it all changed in the blink of an eye.
She stepped away from the View's co-host table on her own terms in 2006, divorced her husband in 2008, just three years after they wed in an over-the-top ceremony and was diagnosed with heart disease soon thereafter.
Jones spent years trying to rebuild her self-esteem and her career, and learned quite a bit along the way. Today she is in a really good place. Jones, now 55, recently wed Ricardo Lugo and is devoting much of her time to empowering women to be the best that they can be. She caught up with SWAAY and shared sage counsel on how to start over no matter where you are in your life.
"My passion today is helping women succeed professionally around the world."
"Speak up! Women are likely to "put their heads down" and "make no noise," believing that hard work alone will pay off. This is not accurate. If you want to be noticed in the workplace, you have to speak up and lead."
What are you up to now?
My passion today is helping women succeed professionally around the world. As the President of The International Association of Women, I am working with corporations, human resources professionals, and business leaders to fight for diversity in the workplace and establish a strong talent pipeline to provide access for all talented women to have the opportunity to earn positions in the C-suite.
It's 2018 and we know women have made their way into the workplace, but we are not seeking mediocrity we are seeking top leadership and executive positions.
You have said, “You can have financial strength, professional strength, emotional strength, but for me, without spiritual strength, none of the rest of it matters." Can you tell us how spirituality has helped guide you and comfort you in the past?
I believe in the total woman! For me, my health, spiritual life, and the security and comfort I have in my personal life all equate to my success. I have been a successful professional for over 20 years, but without faith and health, none of it matters. In the past, my faith has carried me through heart disease, career changes, and reaching my desired milestones and goals.But faith without work is dead so although I am a woman of faith, I match it with a solid work ethic and I am not afraid to work [hard] and encourage other women to do the same!
"It's important to remember that a bad day is not a bad life. More importantly, be solution focused." Photo Courtesy of EURweb.com
How do you stay healthy?
As a volunteer for the American Heart Association and a heart disease survivor, this topic is dear to me. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in America, and in many cases, it can be prevented with exercise and a healthy diet. My motto is to eat less and move more. And you don't have to be a fitness queen to take care of yourself! You may not run a marathon, but making even small daily choices to eat better and be active will decrease your chances of becoming obese or getting heart disease. Taking care of ourselves and eating and sleeping well is imperative for all women. We are often the center of our families and if mama ain't happy no one is happy!
How do you cope with a bad day?
It's important to remember that a bad day is not a bad life. More importantly, be solution focused. You have five minutes to cry and complain and then you have to think like a boss and move on! I always ask myself, “What caused my expectations to fail and made today harder for me?" Next, I come up with a solution to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Bad days truly are learning experiences that pave the way for great days!
Can you share some power moves for female execs and those who want to become female execs?
“Speak up! Women are likely to “put their heads down" and “make no noise," believing that hard work alone will pay off. This is not accurate. If you want to be noticed in the workplace, you have to speak up and lead."
I also suggest the following:
-Work solo when possible versus participating in group projects where there could be disorganization and unclear roles.
-Go beyond your job description. Those who get noticed at work are those who approach each day with wide-angle vision. They see through a lens that extends well beyond their job description.
-If you want to be a leader, lead! Helping your colleagues succeed is a sign of self-confidence, self-trust, teamwork and collaborative leadership.
-Stay far away from the underground conversations because you never know when you may get associated with the negative dynamics (even if you are not involved).
If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
I don't hold life regrets just learning experiences. However I will say, I am thoroughly enjoying empowering women to advance their careers and live their best lives. I would have loved to be in the position I am in now sooner in my career. I am a tremendous believer in women supporting other women. Helping women to rise, dream, and lead has been the highlight of my career.
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.