Tiffany Pham, Founder of female-oriented social platform Mogul, is hoping to continue the momentum from the Women's March, by uniting millions of young women in protest across college campuses.
“It's a campaign that emerged organically and took off like wildfire across college campuses," said Pham, the Founder and CEO of women-focused media network, Mogul, of her #ReadMyLips campaign. “It's a campaign of women sending messages directly to the White House [voicing concern for Trump's administration]."
The #ReadMyLips campaign, which now includes students from thousands of schools, began with 24 universities including Harvard, Yale, NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, and Wellesley. According to Pham, participant statements are printed and placed inside statues- incidentally designed by Saturday Night Live veterans-and delivered to the White House.
“We want to ensure women's voices are heard," says Pham, whose life focus has been and continues to be empowering women through access to communication and content.
Pham's platform, Mogul, which she describes as a “social platform enabling women to connect and get opportunities from each other," now has 18 million readers (aged 18 to 34 years old) per week across 196 countries and 30,470 cities, according to Pham.
“Our community is made up of upwardly mobile rising stars," says Pham. We are aspiring to inspire incredible women who are doing incredible things."
“Essentially my vision for Mogul was inspired by my family," says Pham. “I had grown up in a family that had been for many generations in media and I wanted to follow their footsteps. From early age made my mind up I would provide information access to the world."
Pham, who grew up in Plano, Texas, and learned how to master English through television shows and movies, says she saw from a young age how important access to information was.
“I saw how media was such a powerful tool especially for learning and education and I never forgot that experience," says Pham.
It was during her time at Yale University that Pham decided she would create a company for women, with the goal of empowering them through access to information. Pham then attended Harvard Business School she worked for four years in media for various executives at BBC, HBO and CBS, across television and radio.
“I got to see a lot of different types of media," said Pham, who worked with the Mayor of Beijing on a new venture; an international screenwriting competition. “It was one of the first attempts to reach through cultural gaps between the US and Beijing at that time. I found top talent in the US and had them submit screenplays oriented around Beijing."
Through her project in China, Pham, who was working three jobs and producing films on the side, began to see through her goal of providing access to information across the world. A few months later Pham found herself listed in Forbes 30 Under 30.
“The final catalyst towards launching Mogul was one day I woke up and all these young women around the world started to write me hundreds and thousands of letters," says Pham, regarding the reaction to her feature. “I started writing back to every single letter and started to realize they were telling me my messages were changing their lives. I thought 'what if we could exchange information and share our journeys'?"
“Where were the women's voices?"
After a couple of weeks, Pham taught herself programming and built the first iteration of Mogul on a simple platform, which she launched in 2014. Pham's goal was to offer women that chance to upload-content in real time and see what's trending in terms of women's conversations around the world. According to Pham, Mogul had 1 million users in the first month, a number she attributes to a core database of passionate women who all shared it with their respective networks. Another impressive feat? According to Pham, the site became immediately profitable, and thus self-supporting and sustainable, thanks to its large reach.
“I ultimately knew that what I was creating, as a Millennial myself, would be supremely helpful," says Pham. “It would be for my own personal usage; for me, for my friends, for the young women writing to me. Ultimately I realize all these young women in my life were sharing it, and I saw how much it was resonating and realized how much it was needed. Reddit and Wikipedia (whose authors are 91 percent men) are similar platforms plats yet they are catering to mostly men."
Mogul currently includes two arms in its business model; Mogul Studios, which supports the creation of content with brand partners like IBM, Estée Lauder, and Samsung; as well as Mogul At Work, an employee platform where women can share information about their workplace, and where jobs are posted.
According to Pham, Mogul was commissioned by the NYC Department of education to train 100,00 teachers in gender equality training.
According to Pham, for each dollar generated by Mogul At Work, Mogul provides free access to 62 million girls in need of education, in partnership with the United Nations, beginning with India, Pakistan, Canada, Kenya, Myanmar, and Egypt.
“With world-changing partnerships such as with UN Women, we will be distributing free educational resources to over 62 million women across 93 countries, beginning with Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean," says Pham. “With the launch of our partnership, Mogul and UN Women will now be accelerating educational and economic opportunities for women worldwide. We are proud to make this global impact together."
According to Pham she is currently focused on continuing to grow her platform, with no plans to slow down.
“Our aim to take this to new heights," says Pham. “We built a strong foundations to make a big impact on women globally and that model is one that has enabled Mogul to become a highly sustainable, highly profitable social enterprise. We want to take it to next level, continuing to fortify and scale internationally, and through mobile expansion to new women abroad."
When it comes to the future of media, as a whole, Pham believes the democratization of content will continue.
“I believe that in the future everyone will be creating content in some way," says Pham. “In the end what will differentiate that content is authenticity. Brands are creating content, so are influencers, consumers, and businesses. That's why the Mogul platform has positioned itself to become a daily destination for all these corresponding parties. Mogul will enable them to reach women."
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."