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I Was Told I Was Too Stylish To Be Taken Seriously

#SWAAYthenarrative

Heather Monahan, 43


Founder of Boss In Heels (and in recovery from corporate America)

Heather Monahan is a boss in every sense of the word. After spending the bulk of her career climbing the corporate ladder, the rockstar executive and single mother decided to abandon the proverbial hamster wheel and instead dedicate her life to helping women squash self doubt. Her initiative, rightfully dubbed #bossinheels, aims to destroy the male-oriented vision of what being a “boss” means. “Become your number one cheerleader instead of your biggest saboteur,” advises the blonde beauty. “It will change your life.”

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

My entire life has led me to where I am today. Having struggled with my own insecurities early on and not having a strong female mentor led me to the decision to empower others and give them the insight I was always searching for. While working in corporate America and doing what I thought I was supposed to do, I stumbled upon what I was meant to do. It didn’t happen overnight it was more of an evolution over time. As I grew more confident in myself it became overwhelmingly clear what I needed to do; I needed to be the person that I needed when I was younger, I needed to shine my light so others could see. My greatest achievement is risking my comfort zone to be the person I am becoming and showing my son through my actions not just my words that everyone should live up to their potential and chase their dreams.

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

You can't dress feminine and be taken seriously.

3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

My own self-doubt. To overcome self-doubt you must take action and develop your confidence muscle. Who you surround yourself with is everything – fire negative people in your life and watch you take off. How you see yourself is how others will see you – speak kindly to yourself, make yourself a priority, love yourself the same way you would a baby – this takes practice but it can become a habit.

Journal to see how far you have come and keep track of all of your small wins. Turn scarcity into abundance by writing down three things a day that you can be grateful for. Moving into your fear and realizing that you are okay will give you strength for your next challenge while backing away does the opposite. Speak up in meetings, speak up for yourself and speak your truth. Becoming your number one cheerleader instead of your biggest saboteur will change your life. Go for it!

4. What did you learn through your personal journey?

Early in my career I was taken aside by a very stoic and cold woman who told me that I dressed inappropriately for work and needed to wear pantsuits and more formal conservative attire. I have never been a very conservative pantsuit type of girl so this conversation didn’t go well.

Time and time again in my career I have been told to look a certain way or dress a certain way and with much difficulty, I did not listen. I was sexually harassed at my first job and was told that the way that I dressed invited these types of challenges.

Years later I remember being at a company meeting and sitting in on a roast where I was tagged the “VP of Cleavage” apparently this was a knock at the strapless dress I was wearing. I excused myself and cried in the bathroom for a few minutes before composing myself and returning to the meeting. The ironic thing is in the past year as I have launched my personal brand to empower others, I have heard so much positive feedback and appreciation for my sense of style. Believing in yourself and being yourself will always pay dividends in the end but isn’t always easy along the way. Be true to you.

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

The only limitations that can be put on you are the ones that you put on yourself. Make a conscious choice to challenge the status quo. I learned that Oprah was fired from TV many years ago, only to become the media maven that she is today. Everyone will be told ‘no’ and why they are wrong or not good enough, and those are the moments you pivot and find a way to make it work in spite of the negativity. If success was easy everyone would have it. Let nothing stop you in chasing your dreams and nothing will.

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Politics

Michael Bloomberg Can’t Handle A Woman With A Voice (aka Elizabeth Warren)

Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.


At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.

But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?

Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.

But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).

Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."

As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.

  • Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
  • Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
  • Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
  • Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.

Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?

Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.

Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.

This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.

"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit

Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.

Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.

She was, and still is being, silenced.

After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."

Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."

Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.

Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.