Jasmine Lobe, thirties
Writer, actress and producerAlthough Sex and The City may have romanticised the term “sex columnist,” for actress Jasmine Lobe, it was a difficult career path to accept. “Often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies,” says Lobe, who pens “The J-Spot” in The Observer [Candace Bushnell’s former “Sex and The City” column], despite her initial hesitations. With the goal of opening up honest dialogue for women everywhere, Lobe has now set her sights on producing. And, like the illustrious Carrie, she’s optioned her writing for a TV show.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
It sounds cliche but I didn't choose to be a sex columnist, it chose me. I was an actress in Hollywood and wrote about my crazy experiences to stay sane. I showed my writing to a good friend of mine who took a shot on me and gave me my first column in an online magazine called New York Natives. Shortly thereafter, the Observer approached me to be their new sex columnist. The Observer is where Candace Bushnell’s column “Sex and the City” originated so I had big shoes to fill. But I couldn’t think about it that way— I had to make it my own, otherwise, I would have freaked out. I called my column “The J-Spot”, for um, you know, Jasmine. I’m very proud of my column. And then, just recently I optioned the “The J-Spot” to Universal Studios through Full Fathom 5 Productions. So now “The-Jspot” may be a TV show!
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told if I didn’t make it as an actress by the time I was 25, I should find another career. Of course, now it looks like I’ll be producing, so when the time is right, I’ll produce shows or movies to cast myself in. Also, I always knew in my gut I was a writer as well as a performer, and thinking back, it was the harsh words I told myself that hurt the most. How could an actress in Hollywood trying out for parts like "hot blonde #2 in push up bra", break into the media / literary world from her studio apartment in West Hollywood?
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
One of the biggest stereotypes of being a sex columnist is a lot of people assume you’re into orgies or are always up for having sex. One guy accused me of being a prude and a bad sex columnist because I didn’t want to have sex with him. “Do it for research,” he said. As a woman, if you don’t have enough sex your labeled a prude and if you have a lot of sex you’re labeled a slut. It’s really hard to “get it right” if you’re in the habit of pleasing men.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
It took courage to sway the narrative or at least my own narrative. I’d walk into a party in Hollywood as the sweet, pretty girl, maybe even on some producer's arm, and only when asked, I’d say,“ I’m an actress.” But inside I was dying. I knew I was so much more than getting rejected from so many ditzy, blonde acting roles.
I was sick of feeling powerless and not honoring the tiger within me. But I was also afraid to write about my inner most feelings about sex, power dynamics, social status, money and all the issues I felt compelled to unravel. I was afraid to show my anger. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me anymore and that I'd shatter that passive, sweet girl image I had cloaked myself in. Well, I think I shattered that and thank God!
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
I think my number one piece of advice is often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies. It can seem safer in the familiar, but the joy is in the expansion. So don’t be afraid to find your joy. I’ve always loved Elizabeth’ Appell’s line, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.