It was July of 2011, when a friend posted in our local moms' group that she was planning to host a psychic party at her home with a renown psychic medium who boasts A-lister clientele. It seemed like perfect timing as that same exact week, I had been overcome with the notion that my 11-month-old son had been carrying on conversations from his crib with my deceased maternal grandfather.
Even though I was excited, I was still filled with skepticism while waiting my turn. My name was finally called to go into the room where the psychic was meeting with each mom privately for the readings. I hadn’t even walked two steps into the room when he turned to me and said, “Normally I ask a couple questions before we get started but I can’t even ask anything because your maternal grandfather is here with us and needing to make his presence known. He wants you to know that he is your guardian angel and will always be for the rest of your life.”
From that moment, I was not only a total emotional mess but also all ears. After initially setting the tone by calling out my grandfather, the psychic continued on about my life and hit the nail on the head about so many things. So, when he made his predictions about my career, he definitely had himself a captive audience.
“I am looking at your career and I see great success in your future," he said. "Success is inevitable. You’re still learning at this point in your career but you’re acquiring all the skills … you will start a new endeavor in the future and it’s going to be great. I see March as a month where the floodgates open for you.”
I was so excited to hear this because I had left an executive level agency position to start my own consulting business in order to be home with my son. At that time in my life, I needed all the reassurance I could get that I hadn’t committed financial and/or career suicide. After the reading, I felt positive and invigorated about all aspects of my life.
Imagine my surprise the next day when I got a call from my biggest client to tell me they had just been acquired and were moving all marketing in-house. I was given my 30 days’ notice. I was totally bewildered; the psychic had been so right about everything - how could he have been so off about my career? In spite of this devastating call, the psychic’s words still rang in my head “Success is inevitable.” The days following, I networked with everyone I knew and landed a bigger and better client gig before my 30 days was even up.
Since that time, there have continued to be setbacks and sleepless nights in my career but I always go back to that psychic reading when I’m feeling downhearted. “Success is inevitable.” Whether the psychic is authentic or not, he has managed to plant a seed of positive thinking that has carried me throughout these past six years. Fast-forward to March of 2015, when I launched my current business: Gugu Guru. (Per the psychic’s prediction, the flood gates would open in March and they sure did!) Like everything else in my entrepreneurial journey, I have had some really high highs and really low lows with building this new business but I continue to go back to my mantra and it always seems to come through for me. “Success is inevitable.”
So, my fellow entrepreneurs, do I suggest that you go to a psychic medium? Not necessarily.
Truth is, who knows how things would have played out if that psychic had not opened the reading so powerfully by naming my grandfather. However, I do recommend that you find your success mantra and fully trust in the power of positive thinking. I have no real way of measuring the impact it has had on my career, but I know it’s been profound. If you truly believe that failure is not even a remote possibility in any aspect of your life, consider how it could possibly change the way you do things and the effect that it could have on your life every single day.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."