👸 New beauty standards?
Following these women making waves and building wealth 🚀
Welcome to episode 5 of The Upgrading Women Newsletter 🔥
I’m your editor, Rebecca Leppard, a feminist and communications nerd whose been called black growing up, as in dark skinned, not of African decent.
It was meant as a mockery because fair complexion is believed to be the only beautiful complexion in Asia. Some think it’s because the notion that if you’re tanned it means you spend your day in rice fields instead of at home being catered to. Some think it’s because of centuries of white colonisation.
Whatever the cause is in the case of my culture, beauty standards can be vastly different in different eras and areas around the world. The one common denominator is that with beauty comes acceptance, access and benefit of the doubts.
Enter what we now call: pretty privilege.
Hands up if you think life is easier when you’re (regarded as) pretty 🙋🏽♀️
Beauty is such a complex thing to discuss. That’s why reading a story about this father who not only accepted his trans daughter but also now designs inclusive swimwear totally warmed my heart.
Enjoy the episode, ladies 🎉
What happened last week: Japan Sends Man to the moon G7 Women Empowerment Meeting 🤦🏽♀️
Yup, like the US, Japan has never elected a female head of state. Its parliament is made up of 90% men. Yet instead of signalling to the world that they are fixing gender parity they are doing exactly the opposite at exactly where they should not do it.
Sadly, this is a classic “story-of-my-life” moment that we experience in our lives. In year 2023 and in the First World War I have been invited to attend a women in technology themed webinar where all the speakers were male and it’s sponsored by a Big Tech, too. My public comment asking where the female speakers were was met with silence.
Good news from around the world
To wash off our palette from that last one, let’s all cheer for ultra-runner Jamie Aarons who has set a new woman’s time record for scaling all the mountains in Scotland higher than 3,000 feet (914m). The challenge saw her ascend 282 mountains, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times. NBD, right! Jamie, 43, said that her strategy included one-minute power naps. Whooot!
A message from a communications nerd:
👉 How can we get a buy-in?
The Financial Times reported a study that says “attractive women are 16% more likely to secure start-up funding”.
First knee-jerk reaction would be “are you kidding me?”
Then you’d say, “oh yeah, of course, bias!”
Knowing that, how might we, as a communicator, get a buy-in from our fellow biased human?
🍉 First be self aware that we all have biases. Here’s a useful list of cognitive biases you can check out that will help you navigate the room when you’re presenting (or interviewing or pitching or practically any type of blind date). Bring up the most suitable case that will help you establish your assertion in front of this particular crowd. Remember, not every evidence is a good exhibit.
🍉 Then deploy empathy towards the people in the room. Find common interest, something agreeable, shared values and goals then go from there. Sharing similar sense of humour can sway the room even if you forgot your mascara that day.
🍉 Keep the humility. Even though we know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know. 👻 My point is, with or without meeting the beauty standards, we can still win with our humble demeanour. The world have seen too many "arrogant tech bro energy” so be there as a breath of fresh air.
Featured Female Founder
If 20 years ago you tell me that a beauty pageant can (and will be) used as a platform to raise awareness for domestic abuse, I would have given you a 🤨side-eye. Yep, that was 2 decades ago when I did not know how powerful a personal brand can be 🦄 when used to make change.
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with former Miss Canada Globe who’s building exactly that! First, Shannelle Vogt produced and launched Fault Lines, her documentary about rebuilding life after leaving her abusive relationship. Now she is producing a pageant whereby women of all ages can compete and use the stage to speak up about their lived experiences and issues they care about.
Shannelle Vogt, Founder of Inspire Your Glow
That’s what SHE said:
Have you ever experienced any pushback and doubts from potential clients or sponsors?
Right, so something that, especially when it comes, it's actually more so the women that I get more pushback from. Not all of them because a lot of them are like, oh my gosh, you're doing such incredible things. But some of the women that I've gone to for sponsorship, they're like, you know pageantry. And so what I do is I actually share with them my documentary to allow them to get to know me more and the reason behind why it's important that I have this pageant because I want women to be empowered by using their voice.
There was one time last week, I was trying to go and get sponsors and one woman, she called me after and she's like, honestly, I wasn't interested at all. But once you sent me that documentary, now I know what you've been through.
And she's like, I know people that have gone through that and still aren't speaking up. So she's like, now I understand. Now I want to be a part of this because now I want to show my friend that she can stand up, you know, and have a better life.
It's a story about overcoming my story, domestic violence and what it took to, you know, move forward in life and not put the story behind me. I can put it behind me and move forward, but use that story as a tool to show people that no matter what you go through, you can create the life that you want to live because you are in control. You are the author, you are the scriptwriter, you are the shining star, and you are the main people.
Finish the sentence, when I’m king…
When I’m king, I will inspire those to speak up and use their voice. And I think the biggest thing that I would want to share as a king and to be able to give to the world would be the importance of what it means to create and have your own goals and not live by the standards of other people, but live by the standards of yourself.
How she’s done it 💅🏾: Indra Nooyi
I’ve been a fangirl of Indra Nooyi for years now, and I’d love to share these amazing things she did while she was CEO of PepsiCo. Something that, I would argue, only a female leader has the bandwidth for.
She wrote personal cards to her executives’ spouses and parents as a thank-you for their child (spouse) who has contributed specifically to the company. I so want to copy this idea!
She presented the board with the gender pay disparity and despite the pushback saying “oh get over it, it’s not that much” she persisted, fought and won it for the entire company.
She repurposed US$20 million of Pepsi’s advertising budget (NOT their charity budget) to launch Pepsi Refresh, a grant giving programme that promotes individual and institutions with impactful initiatives. This was the company’s marketing director, Ana Maria Izarabal’s idea. Indra went against any CFOs handbook because she wanted to do more for the community post-2008 crisis. It was case-studied in Harvard Business School as a bad move because PepsiCo lost its market share due to the downsize of the ad budget. But Indra’s only regret is to not continue with it regardless.
Here’s what we can learn from her:
How to sell an issue effectively: if you’re passionate about making a change in the company that isn’t yours then don’t express your emotional attachment to it (be it sustainability, health, human rights, etc) as a pet project. Instead, show how embracing your idea will be great for the company (revenue, reputation, retention, etc.).
While she embraces her mentors’, who happened to be white males, feedback on how to talk, convince and lead, she tells herself that she is goddamn competent!
She made sure she could afford her integrity. She and her successful husband live below their means. As millionaires, the live comfortably but not lavishly. She would rather keep what I’d call a “f*ck you money” to be able to stand her ground risking losing her job without a worry. Even when working in a massive corp like BCG she would still be wearing sari to work. Look:
Inspect her 🤖 gadget
Something to add to your tech stack: TidyCal
While we are all familiar (and I personally love) Calendly, I have a secret to tell you. There is a budget alternative to it: TidyCal 📆
It does the job and the US$29 payment is for a lifetime subscription. In this economy, a girl’s gotta take the deal! 💹
What to enjoy next week!
📕 The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power
Another great woman behind Barack Obama other than Michelle is Samantha. The Pulitzer-price winning war journalist shares her journey from being an immigrant nerd (ahem!) to becoming the youngest-ever US ambassador to the UN. Samantha by no means conforms to society’s expectation of beauty and she crushes it every time. Well she did share some failures in the book too. Have a read!
🎙️ I Weigh with Jameela Jamil
Someone who’s a model, tall, lean, etc etc could still be bullied and trolled on a daily basis. Just listen to her! She rejects Hollywood’s beauty standard talks about and laughs at the toxic diet culture, period pains and the lot with everyone from Jane Fonda to Greta Thunberg.
📺 The Dropout by Elizabeth Meriwether
I’m sure you’ve heard about the story how Elizabeth Holmes conned Silicon Valley so bad that it’s now even harder for female founders to get funded. This mini series is the dramatisation of how it all started. You kind of want to root for her but at the same time you can see how toxic she is since the get go.
That’s it. Thanks for reading.
One last thing ☝️ if you found this useful, help a sister out forward it to someone in your network. Plus, adding value to your network by sharing a link for them to subscribe will add to your good Karma abundantly! ✨