Lauren Maillian, 32
Marketing Maven and Brand Strategist, Founder and CEO, LMB Group
Having begun her entrepreneurial crusade at 19, it was inevitable that Lauren Maillian would become a marketing and branding powerhouse if only because she was able to begin a successful business while simultaneously tackling her first year of undergraduate studies. "Sometimes you have to crouch before you conquer," says Maillian, who went on to build an enviable empire. Now, not only is she a go-to branding consultant, TV star and author, but she’s also a rockstar mom of two, proving how symbiotic the relationship can be between entrepreneurship and motherhood.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I like to think that this career path chose me. I have always been a connector of people and ever since I was a child I was incredibly inquisitive. My curiosity and empathy has been the hallmark of my ability to story-tell so masterfully. Getting people's attention and keeping them engaged is the cornerstone of a great marketer and that has always been me. Personally, my greatest achievement is my two children. Professionally, my greatest achievement has been my bestselling book, The Path Redefined because I know that I've positively impacted countless women around the world who are trying to find their purpose amidst building a career and often a family.
"Personally, my greatest achievement is my two children."
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
Although I’ve never actually been told to my face that I couldn't do or achieve something because of X, Y or Z, I’ve always been doubted. I almost wish that someone would have explicitly told me why they thought I wouldn't achieve something so I could prove them wrong!
I know that as a black woman, the bar is always higher, the scrutiny even more intense, the microscope amplified on your every move. It's always been an implied bias that I've had to work against everyday, and it's just par for the course.
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I've achieved a great deal of success at an early age, so being young, more specifically, too young to accomplish X has always been the background music to my life's playlist. Best piece of advice I can share with other young ambitious women is a quote from my book, The Path Redefined, "sometimes you have to crouch before you conquer."
"I know that as a black woman, the bar is always higher, the scrutiny even more intense, the microscope amplified on your every move. It’s always been an implied bias that I’ve had to work against everyday."
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
I #SWAAYthenarrative everyday just by being present in the world and by fully showing up as who I genuinely am. I feel that my inclusion at the table--through board meetings, companies, campaigns, press, and keynote speeches--was my way to change the minds of those around me. By merely showing up and doing the work, I was swaaying the narrative and defying stereotypes.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Don't be discouraged! There has never been a better time to be a woman determined to succeed. We all need to keep fighting and earning our way to the top so that we can open all the doors that have been closed for other women to come join us at the top because they've earned it!
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.