The Women's Game of Business: Making Money, Doing Good, and Having Fun
Do you feel that you're working too hard to pay your landlord, your credit card bills, and Uncle Sam with never enough left over for you?
Do you dream of having more income, money in the bank, and time off to travel?
Are your closest friends your electronic devices?
Are other people raising your children?
Is it a miracle if you get a massage?
You're not alone. So many women I meet love helping and serving others, but too often they leave their own good out of the equation, don't charge enough for their services, and give too much away for free. They don't like selling, because they've been turned off by too many "hard sell" tactics themselves and don't want to do that. They don't count their money because they haven't been shown how financial statements can help them grow, and money isn't their primary objective anyway. They work too hard at too many tasks and don't take enough time off to nurture themselves.
Psychologically, it takes enormous strength of character to face the fear of financial insecurity that a majority of women live with. An article in the Los Angeles Times by Walter Hamilton in March 2013 noted that "almost half of American women fear becoming bag ladies, even many of those earning six-figure salaries." Although six in ten women reported that they were the primary breadwinners and 54 percent of them managed the household finances, 49 percent of women feared becoming a homeless creature pushing a shopping cart, according to a poll by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.
Of the women surveyed who made more than $200,000 per year, more than a quarter of them were tortured by this fear of destitution! Kristina Walker, one of my licensed Financial Stress Reduction coaches, calls this the "bag lady syndrome."
The article went on to state that even though the women felt that they had "more earning power than ever before" and "handled major investment decisions," they worried that "financial achievement alienates both men and other women." Forty-two percent said "financially independent women intimidate men and run the risk of ending up alone." Thirty-one percent said "those women are hard to relate to and don't have many friends."
Yikes. Talk about a catch-22! If you're not financially successful, you'll end up homeless on the street, and if you are, no one will like you? Somehow we have to navigate through these conflicts to find both financial and personal success in the life we want to lead.
After all, what good is having a lot of money if you can't take time off to enjoy it? What good is having great Internet relationships if you don't have any time for in-person relationships with the ones you love the most-your family and best friends? Who wants to miss seeing the world, enjoying a scrumptious dinner at the Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, skiing in Vail, sailing in San Francisco Bay, birding in Cancun, eating a twenty-five-dollar ice-cream cone in Rome, winning a poker tournament on a Card Player Cruise to the Caribbean, or reading a zillion books just for the pleasure of it?
It isn't just about having the money-you have to make travel a goal. I never traveled at all until I noticed I was wishing I had. Now I've had all the adventures listed above because I put them on my agenda-and then on my calendar-for the past thirty years. And you can too-I'll show you how in this book.
So what do women-and the men who love them-need to do to change the social dynamics and cultural expectations about men and women, work and money? When I read about a Social Security Administration report on the savings habits of Americans that said that 29 percent of Americans died before reaching age sixty-five, and then after retiring at age sixty-five, 33 percent of them were dead within two years, I decided I wasn't going to wait until I retired to have a great life. I scaled my own speaking/writing/workshop career to include large amounts of time off to play. I don't overbook. I want to see a lot of white space in my calendar every week, because I learned that I don't have creative ideas in the middle of a too-busy appointment calendar and a too-full to-do list. I have creative ideas when I'm hiking, napping, driving, meditating, or getting a massage-when there's peace and quiet and time to think strategically.
I fell into financial coaching when I owned a business management firm for twelve years. Listening to my customers' needs for money management advice, I saw that no matter what their job, business, or level of income, people were stressed about money. I created the Financial Stress Reduction workshops, which I've now been teaching for more than twenty years, to help guide them to a richer and more fulfilling life-at work and at home.
I've worked with many women-and men too-who, like me, want to create a life while they're creating a living. They know that if you join the rat race, you'll just end up becoming a rat. As someone said to me, "If they write the biography of your life in fourteen chapters, and thirteen of them are about work, it isn't going to have a happy ending."
If you want to play the game of "Who Has the Most Money," be my guest. But there's only one winner of that game, like in the Highlander movies and TV shows where "there can be only one." I always thought that premise was too stupid for words. Here were a bunch of immortals fighting and killing one another instead of banding together, toasting each other, and taking over the world.
What if they had instead channeled all that energy into making the world a better place for everyone? What if all the richest people in the world were doing that too? And I don't mean just donating to charity, but restructuring the game of business so more people benefit-not just women, but everyone?
Something is wrong with the game of business as it's currently being played. People are beginning to point out that the fracturing of the middle class and growing income inequality is a zero-sum game and is ultimately unsustainable. It's not okay that the richest eighty-five people have more money than the bottom half of humanity-3.5 billion people.
In Sam Polk's article "For the Love of Money," published in the New York Times, he wrote, "In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million-and I was angry because it wasn't big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted."
When no one is satisfied unless they're number one, everybody is working way too hard. I'd rather play the game "Everybody Wins and Is Happy!"
Is it really bad for business to pay decent salaries to your employees? Or to give equal pay for equal work? Provide medical insurance? Give compassionate leave for family emergencies? Share some of your profits with your workers? Have generous overtime and vacation pay? If you can't do that and still make good money, you have a bad business plan.
The balance sheet I care about is the happiness balance sheet, and I know a lot of women who are with me on that. We want flexible work hours, time off to take care of family emergencies, time to raise children and nurture families, time for hobbies, music, theater, dancing, travel, and seeing the world. We want compliments, testimonials, acknowledgments. We want to work with people we like, in an atmosphere of encouragement, joy, and laughter. We want to do good, feel good, and be good. We want our workplace to be a garden, not a prison.
Yes, we want to make money too, but we need to have a sense of what "enough money" is. Not everyone's goal is to lead a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate. If you want that, fine-that's wonderful, go for it! I honor and respect those women who have risen to the top and taken a seat at the big tables, like Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
But that's not what I want. I just want a seat at my own small table-and at the poker table on my day off.
It took a while for me to figure that out. Early in my working life, I read a book called Games Mother Never Taught You by Betty Lehan Harragan, which opened my eyes to the fact that business was a game run by men, and women weren't clued in to its rules. To play it and win, we were admonished to learn to "play like a man" and play "hardball."
"Winning isn't everything-it's the only thing" was first said by UCLA Coach Henry Russell Sanders, but Vince Lombardi repeated it often. Like many women back in the day before Title IX, I wasn't very involved in sports. I needed to learn that men treated business as a game to win, and that "it wasn't personal, it was business."
But it hurt and it felt personal when someone interrupted me at a meeting, spoke louder and more forcefully, and then took credit for my idea. It felt personal when I wasn't offered a promotion or a chance to grow and younger men were promoted above me and other women at work. I felt shut out when the company coed softball games were discontinued and all the men in the company joined a male-only softball league with the CEO.
So I studied the game of business, and much of what I learned was useful and good: how to negotiate better pay, market and sell products and services, use the power of networking, work with difficult people, read financial statements, handle competition, speak in public, hire and supervise others. I learned that it was important to leverage your talents and create multiple streams of residual income.
But the way the game is currently being played, not enough people are winning it. Too many people get stuck in low-paying and minimum-wage jobs, and too many of them are women. Add to that the reality that the best decisions for the bottom line are not always the best decisions for people. Ford Motor Company executives in the late ‘60s infamously calculated that it would be cheaper to pay out legal damages than to spend the money to fix design flaws that caused the Pinto's gas tank to explode in collisions.
When eighty-five people are winning and 3.5 billion people are losing, the game is broken. Throughout history, when that kind of disparity becomes too great, eventually the huge mass of people on the bottom revolt. A key element in the French Revolution was the gathering of the women of Paris who couldn't buy bread for their families. They had had enough. They marched on Versailles, took the king and queen prisoner, and that was the beginning of the end of royalty in France. Louis XV saw it coming when he famously said, "Après moi, le déluge," but he didn't do anything to prevent it.
Of course I'm not suggesting that we're at that point-or at least, not here in the United States. There are a lot of revolutions happening around the world though, and at the bottom of it all is the economic disenfranchisement of huge swathes of people.
But I think we're ready to have a quiet revolution, one that changes the game, opens it to more players; where the rich aren't quite so rich and the poor aren't quite so poor, and most people are fat and happy in the middle. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said to David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times, "When so much of the purchasing power, so much of the economic gain, goes to the very top, there's simply not enough purchasing power in the rest of the economy."
When I mentioned these ideas to one of my writer friends, Linda Sivertsen, she said, "But the company is responsible to its shareholders and they won't be happy if the stock price goes down." I replied, "That's because they're coming from the old paradigm that money is the only thing that matters to stockholders. Let those stockholders of the old order sell their shares and go elsewhere. Let the marketing for the new stockholders, who give weight to other values in addition to money, commence!"
Two minutes later, she emailed me a link to an online report about how Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stood firm on their commitment to environmental initiatives and renewable energy sources. Certain conservative shareholders at a shareholders meeting argued that the company shouldn't be pursuing initiatives that didn't improve the company's bottom line. Cook responded that "we do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it." He said anyone who didn't agree should sell their shares and "get out of the stock."
I loved that! Big businesses can be conscious and game changing too. Change is coming, and women can help facilitate it.
Why should women-or men-continue to embrace the old masculine model of success? And why is it still not okay for men to embrace more traditionally feminine goals? Why can't the game of business itself change to become more user- and family-friendly, more conciliatory, share more of the wealth, be more fun?
Instead of waiting for women to learn how to become more aggressive and take a seat at the table, leaders should invite women to the table. Not all talent comes in an aggressive package. Many women don't want success if it comes with the high price tag corporate America puts on it. Lynne Twist, in her book The Soul of Money, writes about speaking to a high-level group of female executives at Microsoft whose average net worth was $10 million. Although they were proud of their successes and honors in the company, they regretted that they put their families second and didn't take vacations. For most of them, "their life was their computer screen," and they thought that "someday they would retire and live happily ever after."
As I heard Terry Cole-Whittaker put it so succinctly years ago, "Someday is not a day of the week." You can't go back and enjoy your kids' childhoods after you retire.
It's time for us to argue for a change in the rules.
The Woman's Game of Business
Women love to do good work that helps people. They often put that at the forefront of their intentions when choosing their professions. More women are starting businesses, becoming freelancers, and choosing companies to work for with flexible schedules to create businesses that are more congenial for the people who work in them. When I woke up to the fact that I could make up a new game, play by my own rules, and decide for myself what winning is, I invented my speaking/writing/teaching business and found joy-and money-in helping others find joy and money. I love my life!
But we need to make money too. We can't just focus on the joy of the work and helping others and leave earning a good living out of the equation. Women often think it's greedy to charge too much money and then end up not charging enough. If you don't earn enough to sustain yourself and your family, how much help can you give the world?
If you want more joy in your business and more love in your life, want to do more good for more people, have more time off to play and nurture your families, and make more money at the same time, this book is for you. Its focus is on mastering the tools for financial success that will enable you to have the richest experience possible in your business and your personal life.
This book will address many of the issues women face when trying to make money, do good, have fun, and live a balanced life. How do you handle the stress of a career? What if you're climbing the ladder of success and need to take risks to get there? What if you're asked to join a new start-up company for less pay than you make now? What if you're asked to start a new division at your current company, but it's experimental and might fail?
What if you work for yourself-or want to? How do you handle the stresses of creating your income from scratch? How do you face erratic income as cash flow rises and falls? How much should you invest in yourself and your business? How do you qualify for loans to expand your business in the hope that you can generate more customers? How do you take time off to be with your family, take vacations, and nurture yourself when you're afraid you'll lose business whenever you aren't there?
How do you deal with the financial stress of it all?
Yes, and while you're doing all of that, you have to deal with the bane of every working woman: society's expectations of what's appropriate and "feminine" for a woman, from styles of communication to styles of clothing. The school system betrays everyone by keeping them in the dark about how to make money, negotiate salaries, and ask for what they want. Men get the message from our culture. Women are trained to wait for the man to ask them to the dance, for a date, to get married.
In school, if you do good work, turn it in on time, and obey the rules, you get an A and a gold star. Women graduate to the workplace and think it is going to be the same-that they will automatically be rewarded for doing a good job. That the powers that be will notice their contributions and shower them with raises, bonuses, and perks. They resent it bitterly when they discover that's not how it works. If and when they figure out they have to be more aggressive and ask for what they want, they get lambasted for being too masculine, forward, or bitchy.
How do you get support and understanding from the men in your life who also have expectations about women's roles? Are they excited about your advancing at work or going out on your own? Are they happy to see you go back to school to learn a new career? Or are they worried sick that you're going out on a limb? Do they help you with the housework? Or do they see the value in paying for housekeepers and cleaning services? Do you ask them for permission to spend money-even expenses you deem necessary? Do you give them veto power over your business activities? Do they show pride in your accomplishments and brag about them to your friends?
When my first book, The Wealthy Spirit, was released, my family got together for dinner to celebrate. I was excited to show them the finished product that I had been working on for nearly four years. As I passed around copies of the book and they exclaimed how beautiful it was and how excited they were for me, I mentioned how helpful my wonderful agent, Lisa Hagan, had been. My dad perked up at that and said, "Agent! That would be a good job for you!"
Oh, dear, I thought. After all this time, he's still wishing I had a secure paycheck and a secure job.
Dad was a child of the Depression, and he had always been very supportive of my ventures-the Bank of Mom and Dad had helped me out a time or two when things got tough. That night I realized that I hadn't shared how good things had gotten and that I had been comfortably making a nice six-figure income for a number of years. So a week or two later, I purposefully mentioned that fact in a conversation, and he stopped short and looked at me with a smile of surprise and a lot of pride too. He never mentioned a job to me again.
Why had I neglected to mention my financial success before that? I was more comfortable asking him for advice about problems than bragging about my success, but that didn't give him a balanced picture of my business. I had to shift my thinking about that before I could change my conversations with my father.
So when I embarked upon writing this new book for women in business, I wanted to share tips for interacting with all the people in their lives, as well as strategies for financial success.
And maybe, while women and men work to change the game of business and our culture from one of competition and winner-take-all to one of consensus and everybody wins, we can give our attention and value to the creation of wealth beyond money. We can create richer, fuller, happier workplaces that benefit everyone.
Conscious Businesses Are Changing the Rules
It's already shifting. Some individuals and corporations are refocusing their business strategies, giving more benefits and higher salaries and bonuses, requiring less travel and fewer hours, implementing more family-friendly policies, and creating happier and more user-friendly workplaces.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu changed their policies to be more female-friendly to retain their female employees but found that men took advantage of the flexible work arrangements and less travel requirements and were happier too. Tom's Shoes donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. They send their executives on "giving trips" to donate shoes that have been customized for the terrain of the country they're in. Jill Waters, marketing director for Right At Home, a company that provides in-home care and assistance, shared with me that her boss, Tammy Weddle, allows her to volunteer up to eight hours of company time a week "because she believes in giving back to the community she serves." From the decision to donate 1 percent of sales to progressive environmental groups to giving his employees flextime, Yvon Chouinard's philosophy for Patagonia in Let My People Go Surfing helps his customers, his employees, and the world.
The Shine Law Firm of Australia is proactive at hiring female attorneys. Simon Morrison, the managing director, told me that they discovered that the women they hired were better at mediation and litigation than the men, so it became a profitable business strategy for them to figure out what women wanted in the workplace. When the single women got married and started having children, they didn't want to work as many hours, so the firm designed flexible work hours to suit them. They also released a generous parental program, which included a significant contribution toward the cost of child care.
Jodie Willey protested when they asked her to become the CEO of the company. She was planning to start a family, she told them. "So what?" they answered. "If you need more time off for that, you can have it." She accepted the position and told me the atmosphere of the company was one that creates confidence, rewards and recognizes competence, and helps women grow professionally and personally.
Let's make that the new standard in the marketplace.
We need men and women to combine their strengths to change the way "business as usual" is done, to share the load and share the rewards. Yes, let us be proud of our bottom lines, but let us be equally proud of how we produced them, that we did so in an enlightened way, serving our employees, associates, partners, children, families, and communities, as well as our customers and stockholders.
In early 2014, Maria Shriver, in partnership with the Center for American Progress, released The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink in which she outlined some of the causes of the fact that nearly a third of all women in America are living on the brink of poverty. The main reason, she writes, is that the American political, economic, social, religious, and cultural systems have not caught up with the reality of women's lives.
Today, only 20 percent of American families have a male breadwinner and a female homemaker. According to a Pew Research Center report, 28 percent of American children are being raised by stay-at-home mothers. That figure was 48 percent in 1970. "What women need now is a country that supports the reality of women's dual roles as by far the majority of the nation's caregivers and breadwinners," Shriver says in the report. Raising the standard of living benefits the entire community.
Let's all work together to redefine success so it isn't just about the money, fame, glory, stock price, fast cars, beautiful companions, and the race to be number one. Let success be measured by how much good you do in the world, how much compassion you have for others, how happy and fulfilled your employees are, how happy and fulfilled your families are, and how much great work you're able to do in just thirty to forty hours a week.
More women are making that choice today, starting businesses, becoming freelancers, and doing great work in the world on their own terms. They are creating a living but creating a life at the same time, successfully and happily, with time for their families, travel, play, enjoyment, and giving back. They have values and vision. What they need more is a voice.
I want to help women celebrate that they are creating a more user-friendly kind of business. That each one of them going it alone is not really alone but part of a larger collective of people who think business should always be ethical, fair, and rewarding to both their customers and themselves.
I'm advocating not only a woman-friendly workplace, but also a people-friendly workplace. Many men want these values too. Working together, enlightened businesses can create a world where everyone has enough. Instead of "winner take all," we can create a world where "winner shares all" and everybody wins.
It begins with you-your inspiration, your commitment to excellence, your desire to help others through your chosen profession. When you're happy and fulfilled and prosperous, you are an example to all the women around you who want those things too. They are looking to you for the answers regarding how to have them.
Live your dream, go for your goals, and take plenty of time off to love your family and friends. You can stop worrying about becoming a bag lady. You can have a wonderful life and plenty of time and money with which to live it. I want to watch you do it, and I wrote this book to help you get there.
You are the change we all want to see in the world and you can do it!