Posts Tagged "career"

Unleash your power. Unleash your Talk.

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in women's health, Work/occupation | 6 comments

When you think ‘Bootcamp,’ you probably think fitness or the military, right? But what about a boot camp geared towards helping you grow professionally as a speaker, boost your self-confidence or develop new skills? All within the safety and support of two of your most trusted colleagues or friends? That’s what is so intriguing about my longtime friend Jill Foster’s Unleash Your Talk program.

I contacted Jill when I first heard about Unleash Your Talk, namely because I was so intrigued. And when we started to delve into exactly what it was, format resonated deeply — not only because of the deep respect I have for Jill and her skills — but also because it reflected on of my long time goals to encourage women to support one another.

No matter our age, situation, relationship status, creed, religion, or color we rely on our friendships and networks to raise us up and bring us out of the darkness into the light, to fully blossom, thrive and grow, to create, express and love.

  • Data from a study published in Psychological Review in 2000 suggests that women’s inherent response to stress is to ‘tend and befriend’ rather than ‘fight or flight;’ in other words, there is a biologically-defined strategy or pattern that involves caring for offspring, joining social groups, and gravitating towards friends under stressful circumstances. This is driven, at least in part, by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which coupled with endogenous opioids and other sex hormones, promotes maternal behavior as an alternative to the male-oriented fight and flee response.
  • Findings from the Nurses Health Study have also shown that friendships help prevent the development of physical impairment and facilitate a more joyful existence. What’s more, having a strong social network can lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve cholesterol levels.

The bottom line is that Mama Nature has provided us with a built-in prompt to maintain those ever important bonds. Our inherent tendency to nurture completes the picture. It appears that as women, we possess the strongest alternative strategy to aging in existence: our friends.

So, let’s get back to Unleash your Talk.  Jill has taken the premise of achieving long term gains in health and wellbeing, i.e. strengthening friendships and support networks and has applied the same philosophy to public speaking. Unleash Your Talk provides a means for women who want to explore new facets and avenues for growth in their professional lives to do so in an intimate, supportive environment. The ultimate goal is not only to identify your personal, professional beliefs that drive you but also to provide a strategy that allows you to share those skills with others in a meaningful fashion. And Jills says that whether or not participants select a four-hour or full-day intensive, they will achieve, at minimum, a stronger ability to assert and present themselves in a public setting,an approach to communicate persuasively in power situations (e.g. client/boss scenarios) and means to break through the barriers that keep them from achieving success, whatever that looks like (e.g. what if I look or sound imperfect?). The more intensive full day also includes three take-away speaker proposals, a video content/performance project and review, and ongoing access to a coach for 30 days.

For women in midlife, reentering the job force, changing careers or delving into more professional speaking roles can be paralyzing. I love that Jill has taken the basic tenets of health and wellness, i.e. support, caring for one another, trust and communication, and applied them to a strategy to empower and enable. When we think about it, most of us have one or two people we bounce ideas off of consistently, whether they are personally or professionally-oriented. Unleash Your Talk promotes the medical and social concept of trusted peers and utilizes this dynamic as a means to move us forward in a professional, structured capacity.

Jill says that “public speech is public power.” I would like to add that public speech is personally empowering and personal power.

Check out this recap of a bootcamp that Jill conducted a few weeks ago. Isn’t it time to unleash your power? And Unleash your Talk?


Based in the Washington, DC region, she is a speechwriter and delivery coach, helping people develop distinct message & voice as public speakers.

About Jill…

Cited by ForbesWoman as one of 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter, Jill Foster is principal of Live Your Talk. Based in the Washington, DC region, she is a speechwriter and delivery coach, helping people develop distinct message & voice as public speakers. Believing strong communities come from strong conversations (and public speaking skill) — Jill works with award-winning entrepreneurs, CEOs, and innovators makin’ it happen as public speakers — on stages likeTED and TEDxIgnite, plus a variety of keynotes around the globe. A social technology advocate, her work has been in conversation in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Guardian UK, Washingtonian Magazine, and a range of media outlets.

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Menopause, an occupational hazard?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 in aging, women's health, work | 1 comment

Two years ago, I wrote about a UK-based study examining the challenges that women face while working through the transition. Among working women surveyed, a majority reported that the primary factors affecting their ability to function in their job were menopausal-related fatigue and insomnia. During an email exchange, the study’s author noted that “evidence suggests that some women do experience a lot of difficulty – largely tiredness – much of which can be resolved with sensible line management and flexible work. ” However, “as with any other long-term health condition, employees should feel empowered to discuss health conditions with their line manager/supervisor,  otherwise the latter are not in a position to help.” Not soon after, I wrote about a study examining how menopause affects occupational health specifically, with study findings showing that total work ability scores declined by almost a half a point for every one point on the total symptoms scale score.

Importantly, these results have finally been published and appear  in the March issue of Menopause. 

Let’s step back a moment.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “work ability,” it refers to a concept “built upon the balance between a person’s resources and her work demands” and can be used to “predict future impairment and duration of sickness absence.” Within the confines of this definition, it’s no surprise that by and large, women have higher raters of sickness absence than men; just look at the multitasker caretakers in your own circle of friends! Moreover, women that are in the age range most commonly associated with perimenopause and menopause, i.e. 44 to 60, also reportedly have the highest incidence of absence from work, begging the question, is menopause playing a role?

In case you missed the first post on this study, women were asked questions about individual and lifestyle factors that might influence work ability, e.g. BMI, physical activity, smoking status and education. Additionally, menopausal symptoms were measured and analyzed using a scientific scale, and a tool – the Work Ability Index – was employed to evaluate how well the 208 women participating in the study were able to currently perform work. The latter tool focused on work ability compared to best of a lifetime or current demands, impairment due to illness, how often they took sick days over a year’s time and what life was like in general, both at work and at home.

Overall, menopausal symptoms were negatively associated with work ability, in particular, physical symptoms (body aches, joint pain, numbness, feeling dizzy/faint),  psychological effects (irritability, feeling blue, anxiety, depression) and education level.  Moreover, both physical and psychological symptoms accounted for as much as 36.5% of the different results in work ability among women. Yet, vasomotor symptoms — hot flashes and night sweats — appeared to have little influence on the ability to work, most likely because in this particular set of women, vasomotor symptoms were reported as existing but not (yet) bothersome.

What was lacking in this particular assessment were women who worked outside health and social service industries, who might be engaged in jobs that are less strenuous and physically challenging. Indeed, even in the earlier study, the women were mostly civil servants, i.e. police officers. The researchers note that the group of women they followed may have also had easier access to self help and lifestyle interventions because of their occupational backgrounds, which could have also influenced outcomes. Still, it seems that on some level, symptoms influence work ability and contribute to absence from work. More troubling is the fact that it is well known that women who work appear to have better menopause quality of life.

In essence, we define ourselves, at least in part, by our work. And when we suffer, our work suffers. How do we bridge the gap between work, life and demands of the transition if those demands impact our quality of life in ways that we might not have previously considered? I don’t have any answers.  Do you?


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Wednesday Bubble: Are you invisible?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011 in aging, Inspiration | 6 comments

Early last year, I wrote a post for Women Grow Business based on an interview I had conducted with the incredible Author/Chef Mollie Katzen. Entitled “The Incredible Disappearing Woman: Lessons on Dealing with Ageism,” the post focused on ageism in our culture and the fact that as women age, they often undergo a culturally-driven disappearing act in both their personal and professional lives.

During our interview, Mollie discussed a five-step strategy to insure that women continue to matter, a strategy that is self-respectful, empowering and focuses on playing up one’s strengths without resorting to smoke and mirrors. Hence, I was a bit dismayed to run across a post on Talent Zoo the other day that addresses a similar theme but in less empowering vein. Mind you, I was not dismayed because of the topic but rather, because of the content, which for the most part, encourages women to play up their sexy and physical appearance while mostly ignoring their inner core. A few examples:

1) Expand your group of friends…by hanging out with people who with different perspectives.

That’s great advice, right? However, the author offers “because different perspectives will make you a more interesting person, and that’s sexy, which always gets noticed.” Hmmm, “sexy always gets noticed.”

2) Become friends “with a bit of lycra in your fabrics and dresses that need nothing more than a cool scarf to be a complete outfit.”

While you’re at it, since 40+ is obviously old and over the hill and subject to gravity, why not grab that Spanx and corset? Just sayin’.

3) “Innocently flirt.”

Flirting, the author says, makes others feel good about themselves and you should practice this even on people you don’t find especially attractive.

4) Be a real grownup in order to embrace “cool confidence.”

Okay, admittedly, I don’t even know what this one means.

5) “Work out with weights,” and, “lift a lot more than you think you can” since “nothing will get you fit faster and give you more body confidence than some muscle tone, and that means lifting real weights way past your comfort level.”

Wow. Just wow!

Let’s try this one again, shall we? Mollie-style:

From a social perspective:

  • Posture! The first sign of “older” is often stooped shoulders. Standing tall conveys confidence and strength. “Anyone who is not attracted to that is someone you don’t need in your life.”
  • Keep a focused gaze. “Looking sharp sharpens, Mollie explains. “Glazing over glazes you over.”
  • “A smile is the best and cheapest face lift. Especially when it is genuine; your smile, not theirs.”
  • Breathe deeply. Then speak. “When you do speak, let your voice come from your abdomen and be fueled by that deep breath.” (This isn’t easy, btw.)
  • “Don’t ask your sentences unless they are questions.” (Remember Valley Girl by Frank Zappa?)
  • “Try to find the love in all situations.” Mollie explains that in most cases, this needs to come from within. “Recognize that sometimes that love can take the form of putting up a boundary. Recognize also, that putting up that boundary can be cloaked in warmth and humor, even while you are being assertive.”  She adds that “true personal power can be a warming and loving representation.
  • Develop your own centeredness and use that for balance.

And, in business:

  • Stay centered in your “standard,” meaning you should anticipate what other’s need and provide it. The customer matters as much as you do.
  • Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Buck societal aversion to age by avoiding dogma and overcoming prejudice. Rather than giving in, evolve your business in ways that positions you for longevity.
  • Leverage your power to empower. The more that women are able to embrace and not tear down, play up one another’s strengths and share wisdom, the likelier the total universe of women is to be empowered and enabled.
  • Look in the mirror…often. This is what you look like at 40, 50, 60 and that image is not based on preconceived notions. In other words, the buck stops at your insecurity and no one elses’.

At the age of 40, I felt better than ever — more self assured, comfortable in my own skin and comfortable in my career. I hardly felt invisible. At the age of 50, I am realizing that I don’t care as much anymore, that I’ve worked hard to earn my rite of passage. And that in some ways, I look and feel better than ever.

Trust me, you don’t need the tricks to stay in the any game. Use your knowledge, self-worth and inner beauty to solidify, maintain and stay visible.

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Wednesday Bubble: “Age-appropriate” dress for women over 50?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2010 in appearance | 29 comments

Don’t know about you but I’m no dummy. Nor do I want to look like anyone else. So, when I ran across a post the other day claiming that women over 50 should be dressing age-appropiately, I just about lost it. Who’s a dummy?

In the author’s opinion:

  • Wearing jeans sends a message that you are trying to recapture one’s youth; even boot cut jeans are inappropriate.
  • Shorts shouldn’t be worn because they send a message that the woman over 50 is trying to look young and hip. Rather, capris are more age-appropriate and flattering.
  • Women over 50 should not wear tank tops in public.
  • Short skirts should not be worn by women over age 35. Rather, knee length is appropriate.

What planet is this woman living on? Moreover, what decade is she living in?

Women over 50 should wear what they feel comfortable wearing. Personally, I am not an advocate of tube tops (who is?), butt cracks, tummy rolls or writing across the ass. Yet, I feel that self-expression is just that — self expression — and I don’t want anyone telling me or anyone else what to wear when, where or how. Like many women my age, I work out regularly and am in great shape. I wear low-cut jeans, tank tops and shorts both at home and in public. I am not trying to make any statement other than this is me and this is how I feel comfortable.

When I think “fifty and older,” I think of Madonna, Meryl Streep and Lauren Hutton, women who have excelled at self-expression and breaking societal rules about age and appearance, rules that don’t apply equally to their male counterparts. When I think “fifty and older,” I think about forced invisibility in the workplace and in society and about ways to counter that. However, when I think “older than fifty,” I do not think old maid, marm, has-been, washed up, ancient or dead.

Ageism is a slippery slope and it’s time that women stop being told that they are supposed to act and dress a certain way based on decade old myths. Seriously, wake up. This is the 21st Century.  And in this century, fifty is the NEW, well, fifty.

I’ve got a message for the author: self expression is important, no matter one’s age. Let’s put aside the “should’s” and bring women out of the dark ages.

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Working through the transition? Or is the transition working you?

Posted by on Jul 9, 2010 in menopause, Work/occupation | 2 comments

I ran across an interesting study examining how work affects menopause and visa versa. Initiated two years ago by Professor Amanda Griffiths of the Institute of Work, Health & Organizations at the University of Nottingham in the UK, the study aims to identify challenges that women face while working through their transition and also help raise employer awareness.

I contacted Professor Griffiths to learn more . Although she is still compiling her final data (culled from 900 women, ages 40+), she did share some interim nuggets that are pretty interesting.

The fact that menopause, or more specifically menopausal symptoms might affect life quality and work is not a novel idea. Numerous studies have shown that hot flashes in particular can significantly impact daily activities, especially when they are severe. In turn, hot flashes, night sweats and hormonal swings can significantly affect sleep and coping mechanisms. Hence it’s not surprising that among an initial group of 941 female police officers surveyed*, most agreed that the primary factors affecting their ability to function in their job were fatigue and insomnia. Nevertheless,  about 2/3rds said that they wouldn’t or didn’t disclose the fact that they were going through menopause to their managers, either because their managers were men, were younger (and therefore unlikely to understand or have much empathy) or because they felt embarrassed. This point of view only changed if the symptoms were so obvious that they felt they had to explain, if they felt that their ability to cope with their symptoms was less than stellar, if their performance was somehow being affected by their symptoms or if they felt the need to justify a change in their behavior at work.  However, I was heartened to read that many of the women felt comfortable sharing their experience with other colleagues who were similarly in the midst of menopause or had already gone through it.

Griffiths reports that a clear majority of women surveyed that expectations of their physical capacities did not change as they aged. Yet, less than half believed that their contributions were valued as much as their younger peers.

When asked what changes they’d like to see in their jobs to ease their way through the transition and challenges of growing older, most pointed out greater flexibility in working hours (e.g. flex time, no night shifts or since this was a police force, shifting from the front line to a desk job), access to workplace-focused health promotion, such as regular check ups and fitness program), improved awareness among managers of health-related changes in midlife and improvements in the physical working environment.

Griffiths says that more recently, she and her colleagues have surveyed women from all walks of career life, including education, administration and journalism and the final write-up of the study** will include these opinions as well. However, based on our correspondence, it appears that the difficulties that women face in the workplace during the transition are fairly universal. She explains that menopause is ‘taboo’ yet happens to 50% of workforce (I imagine that this number will only continue to grow as the population ages and we are forced due to economic constraints, to work well into retirement years.) “Evidence suggests that some women do experience a lot of difficulty – largely tiredness – much of which can be resolved with sensible line management and flexible work,” says Griffiths. However, “as with any other long-term health condition, employees should feel empowered to discuss health conditions with their line manager/supervisor,  otherwise the latter are not in a position to help.”

Isn’t it time for change? Rather than let the transition work us, shouldn’t we be looking for empowering ways to work through it? In the early days of this blog, I wrote that science has confirmed what women have known all along: social support networks are one of the strongest weapons we have against the aging process. Griffiths’ research confirms that by engaging female peers who are going through similar experiences, we have a stronger experience overall. Yet, she also points out very clearly that men need to be brought into the equation as well. The only way to foster understanding is to share and educate, right?

The research shows that women want their managers to be more aware the menopause doesn’t simply affect their personal lives but also their occupational health. Although sharing may be risky, we really need to ask ourselves how much we are risking by allowing the transition to work us. Time for change, don’t you think?

*The initial research was funded by the British Association of Women in Policing. **Dr. Griffiths’ larger study is funded by the British Occupational Health Foundation.

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