Culture 22 January 2018
“So Miss America, can you cook?"
“Oh honey, why you readin' The Economist? That's a man's world."
“You graduated from University of Michigan? So you're actually smart?"
The person inquiring about my culinary skills?
An older Indian man, who asked me this right after I had the honor of hosting a reception & introducing the Indian Prime Minister Modi at a sold out crowd in Madison Square Garden.
And the one concerned about my literary capacity?
A seemingly friendly southern man who was sitting next to me on a flight to Boston when I was on my way to give a keynote address at Harvard.
The woman surprised by my degree?
She approached me immediately after I finished a speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya about my work on social entrepreneurship.
As Miss America 2014, I've heard my fair share of sexist comments. Never mind that in the past three years since I've been crowned, I've spoken at almost 45 different universities including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale; had my advocacy work recognized by President Obama and was invited to collaborate with the First Lady on her campaign, “Let's Move"; and embarked on a 14-day tour in India sponsored by the U.S. Department of State—promoting education, women's empowerment, and diversity.
To top it off, I co-produced and hosted a reality television series, “Made in America," a show that empowers young South Asian women. But this isn't just a Miss America problem. In light of this past year's #MeToo & #TimesUp movements, it's finally dawned upon society how dark & pervasive sexist behavior is ingrained across all industries and cultures.
So regardless of my achievements in a professional setting (and the unseen amounts of hard work and perseverance that went into them), why am I being reduced to archaic notions of gender roles and stereotypes?
Some might argue it's because of the Miss America organization and the sexist stereotype that plagues pageants and the swimsuit competition. It's no secret that the swimsuit competition has undergone much scrutiny and criticism over the organizations history. And to be honest, it was far from my best friend. I struggled being overweight as a child and constantly had issues with my body image. It took me three times to even win a local title in the organization and almost threw in the towel because of my personal struggle. I've talked openly about overcoming my eating disorder, and my transformative fifty pound weight loss journey to health and fitness. However, the most significant part of this journey was discovering a feeling I had never had before; a feeling of mental clarity and focus. It gave me a sense of discipline and strength that was reflective across all facets of my life. I never imagined I would be crushing daily crossfit workouts and become fluent in acronyms like AMRAPs and EMOMs, but my goodness there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride when you know you've pushed past your self imposed limitations.
"So regardless of my achievements in a professional setting (and the unseen amounts of hard work and perseverance that went into them), why am I being reduced to archaic notions of gender roles and stereotypes?"
That being said, let's imagine a scenario in which there was no Miss America pageant or swimsuit competition. Would the people quoted in the beginning still have asked about my culinary skills or imply that I can't possibly understand what was written in The Economist? To me, the answer is a stark “YES."
The underlying issue isn't about a swimsuit competition or being Miss America, it's the sexism and gender roles we face as women, regardless of whether we've ever been involved with pageants or not. Just like the time when my badass surgeon sister (with no history of competing in Miss America) finished operating on a patient and went to inform the family upon successful completion of the procedure. Immediately upon seeing her, they assumed she was the nurse, subsequently called her “sweetie" and asked when they could speak with the doctor. As women, we know hundreds and thousands of instances like this.
One of the largest issues surrounding the Miss America Organization is that many people still view the organization solely as “beauty not brains." In all fairness, I can understand how the messaging and brand of Miss America has been lost through the many years. After the recent & appalling email scandal within the Miss America organization, the women who have the highest stake in this organization did what we do best: communicate, organize, and take action. As former Miss America's, we were deeply concerned about the future of the organization. By collectively electing Gretchen Carlson as chairwoman of the board, it's safe to say that we are entering an optimistic era of leadership for the future of the organization. For the first time ever in the organizations history, we have female representation in the chairman position. And with a powerful group of women leading us into this pivotal and revitalizing moment, I trust we will successfully shift the perception that we're “just a beauty pageant" and truly showcase the narrative that has always been woven into the fabric of who Miss America is.
The thousands of women who have been involved in the program have earned scholarship monies to further their education. They have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, hosts, news anchors, CEOs, engineers, PhDs, Broadway performers, political servants, and so much more.
For too long the women and men who believe in this iconic program, many of whom are volunteers, have defended the organization as relevant and empowering. When in fact, we are part of the feminist movement in our own right. Breaking stereotypes has been embedded in our history. Our young women have represented various cultures, races, religion, ethnicities, socioeconomic groups, and communities. We advocate for ourselves, our platforms, and the constituents we represent.
We have stood together in solidarity for the rights of our sisters and the organization. This is empowerment at its core. Our voices are being heard. We are relevant. We are creators, groundbreakers and role models--past, present, and future.
Whether it's your child or your brand, there is nothing quite like the excitement you get when you see the fruits of your efforts grow. In the face of aversion, you must remain cool-minded and adaptable to remain effective. This can be quite stressful, and every minute counts. Alone, the responsibility can be overwhelming - wouldn't it be nice if things just ran themselves sometimes? Especially those things that we do mindlessly all the time, and seem to take up most of our time?
When you start a business, you soon come to realize that in order to grow your brand, you need to be extremely organized. And to be efficiently organized, it is imperative that you master the art of managing your time. The saying 'time is money' rings true when it comes to growth. This is why we're going to provide you with helpful tips that will allow you to save time so you can focus on growing your brand.
Use the Right Tools
Technology has changed the way we conduct our business with each other. Today, more than ever before, we have access to data which gives us clearer insight and vision, as well as better tools for productivity. However, as we all know, this is all conditional to your intent. As much as a smartphone can be a tool for productivity, it can also be a fantastic source of distraction and procrastination, which is directly detrimental to said productivity. Automation is an advantage that is available to almost everyone today when it would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
When a brand is still young, the team is still close-knit and there isn't too much coordination necessary when it comes to keeping up to date and on top of work. Chat groups and video calls can do, as well as simple task-managing apps. But as you grow, your workflow becomes more complex and the volume of data generated by your company will very quickly become a logistical nightmare.
Telltale signs of data overwhelming are endless excel sheets, frantic Post-it notes all around the (real or digital) office, and relying on the consumer rather than business-oriented data storage and communications solutions. These have their limits, and investing in a holistic company-wide system will not be a waste.
Work More Effectively
Your workflow can be simplified into smaller tasks which follow each other in a sequence, which can have conditional elements to it. That's where automation comes in. If you can draw it in a flowchart, you can automate it. Tasks that would have taken days can be outsourced to a machine that will not only perform but also learn in the process.
There is now a myriad of online services for freelancers which essentially give them the productivity potential of a small firm. We're now at the point where bots at https://www.hellobonsai.com/contract-templates can generate custom templates for the documents your brand needs, replacing the need for a legal consultant to intervene. You just need to know what you want to automate, and what you want to make out of it. If you create a logical process from the inception of your brand, then the automation will be seamless, as all you will need to do is add more tasks.
Be Mobile and Flexible
Most of your coworkers and clients will probably already have a smartphone, or will soon. It is also very likely that beyond using these for leisure and social activities, they use them for work. It is now normal to switch off the heating in that apartment you've been renting out while you are on holiday because your AirBNB tenants are overusing it. Or to track the status of your latest food delivery while you are sitting on the toilet.
Consumers today are not only constantly on the move, but they are also increasingly data-focused. They will be looking for results and have the capabilities they need to research, analyze, and calculate what they deem necessary to ensure they will be making the right decision. They thus also expect the same in return, in the form of bespoke customer service that is both intelligent and responsive.
Data is everywhere and is relatively easy to obtain. In a single click, you can generate a web analysis that will reveal more information about your blog or website than your doctor will ever tell you about your own body. Before diving into this ocean of data, take time to identify what is really important to you. Brainstorming is a great tool to really identify and prioritize what you and your team should be focusing on first. If you try to wage war on all fronts, then the chances of winning are slim.
With the right tools and the right method, you can save yourself quite a considerable amount of time. With both the agility and flexibility that data managing and automation software brings to the table, you will see an increase in your productivity. Careful planning is key, and if you focus on streamlining your workflow, you will be able to take your brand to the next level.