Business 17 May 2018
Whether it started with Kris Jenner and her family of reality TV stars turned millionaires businesswomen, or whether it began with the cringey home workout VCRs of the 80s, the era of the celebrity turned entrepreneur started many moons ago, but has significantly evolved over the last few years.
With the advent of social media, more influencers, be it actors, models, reality TV stars, singers and so on, have side hustles. If their public profile is big enough and their social media thriving, you can guarantee an eagle-eyed business partner has approached them, or they themselves approached a venture, with their social profile as their big backing.
What has emerged from this trend is indeed an interesting cast of both entrepreneurs and activists who have decided to capitalise majorly on their public profile and put it to use, either monetarily or for social change. This month, The Wall Street Journal launched their first "Future of Everything Festival," and amongst a plethora of significant speaker themes was that of the uber-celebrity, utilizing their fame for things other than club entry and free merch.
Jessica Alba at The Future of Everything Festival. Photo: Zimbio
Amidst an impressive lineup of entrepreneurs, activists, celebrities and CEOs, the festival kicked off with a very provocative female lineup in the beauty and wellness category. Among those we heard from were Tata Harper, Natalie Mackey, Bobbi Brown and Jessica Alba.
It was Alba's talk that perhaps stuck out the most. Here she was, an incredibly beautiful mother of three, who has seen her fair share of Hollywood, and had garnered a name for herself, when she discovered that acting simply wasn't going to cut it, because of well, diapers.
“Outside press, people were just like what the heck? An actress creating something substantive? That was surprising,'' said the entrepreneur, who founded The Honest Company in 2011. She, like so many others, had discovered a problem, and decided to solve it, which resulted in the creation of her business, when she created a subscription service for diapers after her and husband Cash Warren ran out late one night.
Alba who on top of branching out of her acting career, has also begun championing women in the workplace. While relaying her investment story, she pointed out the irony of middle-aged men informing her about her targeted female demographic, and how she decided there was an actionable way to change such a conversation. Two years ago, she found herself as one of only three female executives at the company out of nine, and has since created a programme with her head of HR, called WELL, Women Excelling in Leadership and Living, which prioritizes women's mental health and home life, while aiding them to get to where they want in their careers. "The living part is something that I think is cool," said the founder. "You have to hang onto your wellness and your mental health. That matters, your home life matters. Being a whole person is the person that we want to come to work everyday."
Amber Tamblyn at The Future of Everything Festival. Photo: Zimbio
Tamblyn, a familiar face for all Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants lovers, is a vocal feminist and founding member of Time’s Up. Since her early days of acting, she has branched out into poetry and is preparing to release her first book, Any Man, which revolves around a female rapist, next month.
Tamblyn's chat focused predominantly on the need for discussion and debate on the current state of feminism and women's standing in this country. “It’s important that we maintain dialogues, and not monologues about the conversation,” said Tamblyn who was championing the need for both liberal and conservative feminism that is so often neglected when discussing the likes of #metoo and Time’s Up.
"Nothing is going to go back, we can only go forward. It doesn't mean that it's not going to be extremely difficult, but it does mean that it's on its way. The wheels are now in motion,"
-Amber Tamblyn"I think for instance when we look at the elephant in the room, which is [that] over 50 percent of white women voted for Donal Trump in this last election, [sic] how is that possible?" she asked. "How is it that there's such a state of [sic] Stockholm Syndrome that these women don't even understand that they're ultimately voting against their own self-interest?"
Sarah Jessica Alba at The Future of Everything Festival. Photo: Wall Street Journal
An animated Tamblyn continued to remonstrate about the ramifications of such an important appointment, and how, in order to avoid a repeat dismal chain of events the election set off, we need to start having difficulty conversations with these women who are Trump supporters now.
Funnelling this spent energy into her writing and books -one of which took nearly six years to write- her new novel spins the "typical" rhetoric and behavior of serial male rapists and focuses instead on a female rapist, which Tamblyn posits, will give us cause to talk about the ramifications of the flip side, something which recent series and characters have done a great job depicting, read; Villanelle in Killing Eve, or Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Parker, who began her entrepreneurial journey with fragrance "Lovely" back in 2005, and more recently released a collection of shoes, is another active member of Time's Up and proponent of women working. On the subject of her (many) businesses, noted that she's exceedingly happy when she looks around and finds herself surrounded by women. While her partner in business may be a man, a large portion of her employees are women. "I was mentored by women, that I admired, who allowed me second and third careers outside of being an actor," she said, and is evidently using this mentorship mentality to pay the success forward.
The former Sex in the City star is no stranger to activism either. It was in March of this year that Parker and 15 of her Hollywood cohorts formed a female power group to approach Andrew Cuomo about women receiving sub-par wages in the service industry. In an effort to highlight the plight of female servers -who make up 70 percent of the sector- Parker has been and will continue to be very vocal in her quest to gain equal pay for these workers who are by and large underrepresented in media coverage and beyond. She's now working with ROC to shed more light on this matter. "It's my responsibility, and... it's a privilege. I think, because I was always surrounded by women that did that naturally as well," she noted.
"There's so much about being a low-wage worker in this country that's unacceptable, that keeps people marginalized,"
-Sarah Jessica Parker
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.