Throughout her career as an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and director, Caytha Jentis has focused her attention on stories of interest to moms and women in general. In her latest project, the popular Amazon series The Other F Word,she shines her spotlight on midlife and the joys and pains that come with it. While the ‘F’ could stand for the word forty or fifty, it might just as well stand for fun or friendship or fearlessness.
The show humorously addresses the issues near and dear to women over forty who are, as a group, woefully neglected by the entertainment industry. Caytha’s main characters attempt to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the middle years with help from well-known actors like Judy Gold, Steve Guttenberg, and others.
I spoke with Caytha Jentis about the series and the difficulties she encountered launching it. Not surprisingly, she faced an uphill battle getting this project off the ground. Yet, her grit and determination paid off; to the benefit of fans around the world.
Caytha Jentis: I was looking for the next great story to tell. My two kids were getting older, and I said, “Wow, this is a really interesting chapter in life.” Parenting older children or becoming an empty nester wasn’t anything that was being covered episodically at that point. My children were coming of age, and I felt like I was, in a way, coming of age too.
JM: What reaction did you receive from your industry when you were pitching the show?
CJ: I just want to acknowledge that selling television is hard for everyone. Even Norman Lear had a tough time selling a show that dealt with older people. I was routinely told my idea was good, but I was pitching a tough demographic. I didn’t know what that meant at first. It’s code for, “Your characters are too old.”
The other thing I ran into was a perception that my demographic watches traditional television but they’re not on YouTube, and they’re not using digital content. It’s a fallacy that we don’t watch or can’t figure out how to stream Amazon.
JM: Why do Hollywood executives avoid series aimed at women over forty?
CJ: I had this profound realization that, in this industry, you are either prey or you’re put out to pasture. There is a little space for women like Sarah Jessica Parker or Reese Witherspoon who have broken through.
I don’t think it’s all entertainment’s fault, per se, but it’s just this larger thing. Advertisers don’t want their sexy Lexus next to a commercial about Depends. Besides, advertisers don’t think they need to court us. They think we will just buy regardless.
“In this industry, you are either prey or you’re put out to pasture.”
JM: Has it been difficult to find sponsors for your show?
CJ: No, but some brands stay away from my type of material. My characters sometimes swear and talk about sex toys. I want to tell my stories fearlessly. Many companies don’t respond to that.
JM: What kind of reception have you received from your audience?
CJ: I’ve been overwhelmed by it. The success has been huge. We have been able to reach nearly a million people. And you have to go directly to Amazon to watch the show, so it’s amazing to me. With a minimal marketing budget, we have been able to grab so many people.
I feel like our success is a success for all women in this pivoting and reinvention phase. If I can persevere with this impossible dream, then maybe I can inspire others.
JM: What type of show is The Other F Word and what topics do you cover?
CJ: I wouldn’t call it a comedy. It’s humorous, but it’s totally driven by drama. There are so many relevant themes going on. The four main characters deal with death and parenting and separation and health. It’s about change and transition.
JM: How has creating this show affected you?
CJ: I used to write to run away from my life. Then I began to look into my own world and experiences for material.
I have been so profoundly changed by the people I have met. It’s been a great place to be positive and open a dialogue. And many of the themes we cover are universal. All generations can connect with our stories.
JM: What advice would you give people who want to reinvent their career?
CJ: Do your homework. You need to have passion and fearlessness. Don’t be afraid to cry and get up and go for it again. It’s now or never.
When I was a little girl, I knew men made more money than women and almost always held higher positions too. It was a fact of life. In my neighborhood, fathers were the main breadwinners while mothers either stayed home or filled the financial gaps with part-time or temporary jobs. Full-time female workers were few and far between. Even rarer was the woman who managed to land a management position. I can count on one hand the females I knew with any legitimate professional power and influence. I can’t even imagine how small those numbers were for minority women at that time.
As I grew, I noticed a distinct change in the societal norm. If you’re older than thirty-five, you probably experienced the same dramatic shift. Moms either needed to or wanted to work. And with that, ladies began to find role models. Whether it was Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major American political party or famous business icons like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, girls finally had multiple women to emulate. In turn, we began to proclaim, “if she can do it, I can do it.” Anything was possible.
It may seem obvious to you then that boosting employee morale is as easy as placing more women and minorities into influential positions. Well, you’re not alone. 2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of females on U.S. boards to 20% or more by the year 2020. Malli Gero, co-founder and president says, “research shows that gender diversity is good business and results in higher sales, greater corporate morale, and better return on investment for stakeholders.” Those are three seemingly compelling reasons for companies to hurry up and get with the program.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Sadly, diversity in the boardroom and upper management remains at what you might call a deplorable level. Globally, women hold between fifteen and eighteen percent of the available director positions, depending on which study or survey you read. This is partly because turnover on boards is low. The good news is that the numbers have been growing steadily, if not quickly, over the last decade.
Recent pressures from activists and investors have prompted boards to increase their number of minorities and females. The alternative is to face backlash and criticism from the media and other powerful groups if these changes are not made. Perhaps you’ve heard of organizations like the Forte Foundation, the Thirty Percent Coalition, and the Professional Diversity Network that are not only shining a much-needed light on this topic but providing resources to underrepresented professionals in an attempt to speed up the process of parity.
A Reason to Smile
Minorities and women are taking notice of the recent changes in corporate demographics. Research shows that role models have a positive effect on stigmatized and under-represented populations. Having someone to look up to in a company setting increases motivations, the number of goals set, and interest in advancement by those in lower positions. You might not be surprised by any of this, but it’s nice to have evidence for the obvious, right?
Additionally, businesses with relatively high percentages of female managers and board members tend to take on issues important to stigmatized groups. Corporate programs that spotlight and address equal pay, flexible work schedules, mentorship, and charitable contributions are increasingly popular. As a result, the future is looking a little brighter for us and will probably continue to do so.
Career expectations for women have certainly changed and grown over the past thirty years. Gone are the days when we put absolute limits on our professional potential. Big business is likely to continue boosting employee morale with improved representation of marginalized groups in positions of power. Do you think we are headed in the right direction? What other actions should corporate America take to ensure equality? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Truth be told, I’m a wee bit of a podcast junkie. Nothing’s better for me than listening to tricks of the trade or inspiring stories from people I identify with and trust. Playing an episode gives me the feeling of being a valued member of an exclusive group. I usually indulge this mild addiction when working out or walking my dog or running errands. Uplifting and efficient, no?
A majority of the shows I support are hosted by females because, as in most media, we are seriously underrepresented. A recent article in Forbes claims, “an estimated 70 percent of podcasts are hosted by men, and the male/female disparity overall is probably even greater.” So, in an effort to level the playing field, let’s give a little love to the ladies. Consider subscribing to these 15 motivational podcasts for women who love business:
Tiffany is a business coach to creative entrepreneurs and she may give you a verbal kick in the pants from time to time. She uses storytelling and interviews to inform and inspire you on your professional journey.
As an organization and productivity geek, I am compelled to tune into this show on a regular basis. Jordan produces new content weekly to help us overwhelmed entrepreneurs find success with tried and true methods.
This dynamic duo has launched and sold six companies together while maintaining a close friendship. They are uniquely qualified to give epic career and business advice. “So get a tumbler of vodka, a cup of coffee, or juice cleanse and let’s get started.”
This show has been named one of the “Top 25 business podcasts for entrepreneurs” by Entrepreneur.com. Beth discusses business life from an introvert’s perspective. She offers resources and advice to build self-confidence and reduce fear.
Gretchen is the bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before. Although I would not consider it a business podcast, her thought-provoking show provides advice to improve your outlook and overall attitude. That’s bound to help improve your professional life. Don’t you think?
Amy Jo interviews famous and not so famous people and asks them how they changed from a why notter to an action taker. She is no slouch in business either. She wrote the NY Times best-seller Renegades Write the Rules and was named the third most powerful woman on Twitter by Forbes.Yeah, not bad.
Liz calls herself “your second-chance enthusiast and positive change facilitator.” I call her inspiring. She interviews women over forty who are transforming their middle years and pursuing their dreams. I can certainly relate!
I don’t know about you, but I’m more productive when I’m calm and collected. Mary helps me get there with her daily meditations. When I need a few mindful minutes, she is there to guide and enlighten me.
Laurie created this show to inspire and encourage side-hustlers and fledgling entrepreneurs. In weekly interviews, she speaks with dynamic businesspeople about their strategies, successes, and how they escaped the 9 to 5 rat race.
Aleen celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of women and minorities in technology. Her guests discuss news in S.T.E.M. as it pertains to groups who struggle to be heard and often face inequality in their fields.
This show was designed to motivate creatives to pursue their passions and overcome their fears. Every Monday a new courage maker shares her experiences and offers advice on how to get beyond the things that scare you.
As a mompreneur of five children (whoa), Kim has learned a few things about productivity and squeezing the most out of each moment. Her guests give you tips and strategies to set and achieve goals without feeling overwhelmed.
Amanda “is on a mission to help more women succeed and break into the entrepreneurial world.” Her guests give you the woman’s perspective on what it’s like to launch and nurture a business. With a new show each Monday, topics range from product creation to online marketing to mindset training.
Well, that’s my list of 15 Motivational Podcasts For Women Who Love Business. I’ve included some bigger names and a few lesser-known ladies from which to choose. What do you think? Did I forget to mention one of your favorite shows? Please let me know in the comment section below.
Cindy Gallop is an outspoken champion of women in the workforce. When she speaks, people in the corporate world sit up, take notice, and often cringe. She doesn’t care. As the chair of the U.S. branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, a global advertising agency, she was known to make waves in the male-dominated industry.
She has since utilized her considerable influence and experience to found the startups IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn. She also wrote a book on the latter, Make Love Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact On Human Behavior. Her 2009 TED talk on the topic has received almost two million views on YouTube. Here are 11 breathtaking Cindy Gallop quotes about equality that helped catapult her to celebrity status and become the business crush of thousands.
“I deplore the shying away that can go on, within women, from the term ‘feminist.’ I am, absolutely, all about being a feminist.”
“I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society – older women.”
“Women who play it the way the men do, play by the men’s rules, are seen as domineering, aggressive bitches.”
“I am all for the Lean In movement. But the Lean In movement is all about how women can win while working within the existing corporate structure and the existing system and the existing world of business. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to redesign it.”
“You’ll never own the future if you care what other people think.”
“I realized I was an attractive older woman who never wanted to settle down.”
“If I ran the world, I would find a way to bring the wealth of human good intentions and corporate good intentions together – to activate them collectively into shared action against shared objectives that produces shared hard, tangible results.”
“My personal cause and platform, if you like, is women’s rights and women’s issues.”
“Women challenge the status quo because we are never it.”
“Do you have a different point of view from the men? Say so! Do you see an all male environment in your agency? Call it out and do something about it!”
“I idolize every woman who has ever fought to make equality happen for all of us.”
So, what do you think of these provocative Cindy Gallop quotes? Does she go over the top or is she right on the money? I wrote an extensive post on the struggles of career women, including a bit of advice fromher.Check it out here. Whether you like her or not, Cindy is here to stay. Is she your business crush or do you have someone else in mind? Leave a comment below and let’s keep this conversation going.
To be honest, I don’t like the term ‘elevator speech.’ It sounds aggressive and triggers memories of cheesy, fictional salespeople like Joe Isuzu and Herb Tarlek. Can you imagine being trapped in a slow moving, metal box listening to a sales pitch from either of those guys? Ew! Though, if you’re not careful, that’s the experience you’ll give potential clients when you approach them. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point.
Your conversation with a new contact should develop into a natural give and take that moves the relationship forward. If you’ve been practicing a one-sided spiel in the mirror, hoping repetition will make you successful, ditch that pitch. It’s time to learn how to write an elevator speech that rocks.
Maybe you’re saying, “I’m not in sales or a business owner; I don’t have to worry about selling myself to anyone.” Well, job interviews are the ultimate forms of self-advertisement. Convincing decision makers you’re the best candidate for a position is selling yourself. Heck, even first dates and social gatherings call for personal promotion. So, you might as well put some time and thought into your elevator speech, whether it’s for professional purposes or otherwise.
By the way, if the idea of speaking to total strangers makes you feel faint, check out this post on Overcoming Shyness.
First Things First
According to a study performed by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, you have a fraction of a second to make a first impression. That means your prospect is making several key assumptions before you open your mouth. Therefore, it’s imperative to give yourself an advantage by:
Smiling – It shows you’re welcoming and approachable
Making eye contact – People will perceive you as more intelligent and engaged
Dressing smartly – This communicates your level of confidence
Most people will ask what you do out of obligation. Don’t engage in premature spamification. Nobody likes that! Remember the Golden Rule here. Not everyone is open to hearing about you, your products, and your services. They may not want to know your company’s history or the reason you started your business, especially thirty seconds after meeting you. Guage the situation. Have a different version of your speech tailored to each type of audience and occasion. Networking events and interviews will obviously call for a more lengthy, overt elevator speech while casual meetings and social events require brevity and subtlety.
Pitch Perfect: The Components
The Introduction: You Had Me At ‘Hello’
Some call the beginning of an elevator speech ‘the hook.’ Why? That implies you’re a hunter and the other person is prey. It’s impossible for you to build a long-term, professional relationship based on the principle of winner and loser. It might seem like a minor detail, but your frame of mind is important.
You can opt to introduce yourself with only your name and title (yawn) or consider opening with an attention getter to captivate your audience. It could be a surprising statistic, an anecdote or a mysterious reference to boost interest. The objective is to encourage them to say, “Tell me more.”
For example, If your niche is businesswomen, You can surprise them with the results of a recent study by saying “Research at Stanford University has found that women who include ‘PTA member’ on their resumes are 79% less likely to be hired.” That’s a startling statement that will almost certainly get a response.
Offer A Solution To A Problem: I Built A Better Mousetrap
Now that you’ve piqued their curiosity, you should identify your niche, a problem that group has, and your unique solution(s). Keep it brief, focused, and simple. You might say, “I help women who want to re-enter the workforce identify and quickly start a career they love.” This will naturally encourage your prospects to ask, “How?” Then, you can get into a few details of your product or service. “My three step program does this by…”
Define Your Purpose: Inspire And Light A Fire
At this point, you should state the overall purpose of your company, career or product. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to mention why you do what you do. While what you offer is useful, why you offer it is compelling. Prospects are excited by a cause. “I was inspired to develop my service because I identified the need to…”
You may have heard of Simon Sinek, the author of the best-selling book Start With Why. Many of his popular Ted talks focus on the fierce customer loyalty Apple garners due to its purpose and core beliefs. It’s all about messaging.
Perhaps you’re asking, “If I’m supposed to start with the why, then how come it’s third on your list of elevator speech components?” Good question, smarty pants. It’s a tall order to dive into your purpose before you’ve properly introduced yourself. But, if you can figure out how to do that without seeming abrupt or awkward, go for it.
Call To Action: Keep That Ball Rolling
Well, you’ve managed to keep your contacts’ attention and bowl them over. Good job! Now you have to take this relationship to the next level. You should always offer your business card and encourage prospects to visit your site and email you. Truthfully, though, the odds of this happening are slim. Inquire if you can follow up the next day. Then the ball is in your court. Politely ask for a card or take down contact information. At the very least, get a company name and web address.
A Few Final Thoughts: The Loose Ends
In the end, it comes down to writing out your pitch and practicing until you can confidently communicate it to anyone at any time. Remember to move and speak naturally. Start by talking to the mirror if you must, but then move on to friends and family who will give you honest feedback on your performance. In no time at all, you’ll be impressing audiences with the perfect pitch.
Now you know how to write an elevator speech that rocks. I’d love to know how it works out or if you have any tips for the rest of us. Please feel free to share your advice or thoughts below in the comments section.
I can be a decent listener, capable of encouragement and guidance. But, sometimes, it becomes evident that my role in a conversation is not that of a problem solver, but of a sounding board. Uh-oh! That’s when my thoughts drift, and I must mentally resist the urge to retreat to my ‘happy place.’ It’s not a lack of compassion that compels me to disengage, but an unclear understanding of the other person’s expectations. What’s my role in this situation? Admittedly, I’m more comfortable rolling up my sleeves and finding a solution than offering comfort or lending an ear. I’d have made a lousy bartender.
This familiar scenario played out for me recently. A young career woman confided to me her professional woes, and I began to cringe mentally. As she spoke of office politics and dilemmas, I realized she was committing the same work-related sins I had in years past. Her penance will likely be fewer opportunities for advancement and less money than her peers. Was I supposed to offer counsel or merely listen? Perhaps I should have posed that question, but I didn’t. She didn’t solicit input and I didn’t volunteer it.
Now I can’t help but wonder if I let her down. As a more mature person, I could have offered to mentor her. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it was clear she needed assistance and might have learned from my years in business. Although, in my defense, nothing is more eye-roll worthy than unsolicited advice. I didn’t want to be thatperson.
Still, I do want to pass on what I have learned through experience, research, and advice from the older career women in my life. Missteps can be avoided if a person is made aware of sins that can halt her career or trap her in the purgatory of middle management. By the way, my use of the word sins is soaked in sarcasm, if you hadn’t noticed. I don’t believe women are behaving immorally or poorly at work! Saying that, it’s time to get on with it. These are, in my judgment, 7 of the deadliest sins of the struggling career woman:
1. Perfectionism: Can I Have Another Eraser?
Ah, my Achilles’ heel. I regularly fight the overwhelming temptation to commit this sin. You can read more about my epic struggles with perfection and anxiety here. I am a master at consistently tweaking or delaying projects because they need to be precise.
I used to consider this trait a virtue. As if it were noble and I should highlight it on my resume as one of my top skills. More often, it has worn me down and stressed me out. You can’t receive a negative review if your work is flawless, right? Exhausting.
Perfectionism is ultimately a productivity killer and results in procrastination. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says, “Trying to do it all and expecting that it can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.” Accept your flaws and move forward in spite of them.
2. Humility: Aw, Shucks
Let’s face it; females are taught to be nurturing and supportive from the time they can crawl. Society encourages cooperation and teamwork from little girls while flaunting and exhibitionism are discouraged. As a result, women have difficulty boasting or taking credit for achievements.
For example, the college diploma I worked so hard to attain is mounted, not so prominently, on the wall behind my office door. Why? I didn’t want to seem like a braggart. Palm meet forehead! Maybe it’s time to display that diploma on my front door with flashing arrows pointing to it. Okay, maybe I’ll hang it above my desk where everyone can see it. Yeah, I earned that.
Not surprisingly, women often claim to have been lucky in their careers rather than duly rewarded for performance. This is the exact opposite of how men feel about their success. Recently, the American Political Science Association released the results of a study called Gender Inequality and Deliberative Participation. In it, the authors asserted, “Women, who tend not to be as self-promoting or even as boastful as men will, are often promoted for past and proven experience rather than the belief in their potential.”
That makes climbing the corporate ladder tougher for us. If you are going to successfully compete for the top jobs, be bold. Get comfy with tooting your own horn.
3. Immobility: Your Tree Roots are Showing
Nobody expects to work for an employer for decades anymore. Corporations are sold, layoffs happen, companies move. Some people do manage to keep their jobs in spite of all the changes. But what are they sacrificing?
The reluctance to leave a stable position for a new one every few years could be hurting women in certain work environments. If you look up after thirty-six months on the job and there aren’t more women in middle and upper management than the day you started, it might be time to exit, stage left.
According to aLinkedIn survey of over 4,000 women who recently changed jobs, their top reasons for leaving were “concern for the lack of advancement opportunity” and “dissatisfaction with the work environment/culture.” These women were demanding opportunity and voting with their feet. Don’t be afraid to move on.
4. Inauthenticity: You Big Phony!
This sin drives me crazy. Are we supposed to be real or fake it till we make it? Either way, many of us frequently feel like frauds and fear we will be found out at any moment. I can just picture the blogger police barging in and seizing my laptop right now.
This prevalent anxiety has a name. Back in the late 70s, it was dubbed the Imposter Phenomenon by psychology Professor Pauline Rose Clance. The premise was that women suffered from this so-called syndrome because they could not easily accept praise or compliments and thought themselves unworthy of status and position.
It may offer some comfort to know, recent studies have shown that men often endure this same insecurity. They simply don’t talk about it as frequently. Women seem far more likely to acknowledge and discuss their feelings of self-doubt. But, just how much that openness damages women’s careers in comparison to men’s is not yet known. As a precaution, be careful who you confess your fears to at work. They could be seen as weaknesses.
5. Autonomy: I’ll Do it Myself, Thank You
What has feminism taught us over the years? I’m not talking about bra burning. That’s a bad thing. I’m referring to self-reliance. That’s a good thing. We are every bit as capable as men, after all. But, are we sacrificing the critical skills of asking for help and delegating tasks all for the sake of independence?
Martine Van den Poel, executive coach at INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, surveyed fifty-one certified executive coaches to determine if women had a more difficult time delegating than men. She also asked what ‘blocking factors’ kept women from assigning responsibilities to subordinates.
While 51% of these coaches felt men and women had similar challenges with delegating, 41% felt women had a ‘bigger’ or even ‘much bigger’ struggle with appointing duties to others. Based on their experiences, the experts determined men and women had different reasons for resisting the task. A high sense of personal responsibility and a fear of failure were the top two blocking factors for women. A need for control and the feeling they could perform a task more quickly were the leading reasons men avoided delegation.
The bottom line is, poor leaders micromanage. Great leaders reduce overload and empower others by entrusting important duties to them. Learn to let go.
Even when women are involved in high-level decision making, we don’t speak up enough. In part, because we are often outnumbered by men. Researchers at BYU and Princeton found women speak 25% less than men do when they are in a collaborative group assigned to solving a problem. Interestingly, this divide was virtually eliminated when the group was instructed to vote on a solution based on a unanimous decision rather than majority rule.
Companies could change how they come to big decisions by making it a consensus-building process and not an up or down vote. I’ll just drop in a reference to ‘when pigs fly’ or ‘a snowball’s chance’ on that happening soon. Cindy Gallop, a former ad exec and brazen advocate for women in business points out, “You can’t be satisfied with just a seat at the table; you have to actively participate in the conversation.” You must be willing to speak up, even when you are in the minority.
7. Complacency: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Please
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Women are not complacent! How can I suggest otherwise? While it’s true they typically start a new position with the same level of excitement and career expectations as men; women can experience a drop in aspirations by more than sixty percent in as little as two years.
According to a study of over 1000 men and women conducted by Bain & Company, the professional ambition of males examined held steady after twenty-four months while it plummeted for females. Why the erosion of enthusiasm? The ladies questioned didn’t feel their bosses supported or were aware of their goals.
The solution to this problem is two-fold. First, management must make more of an effort to engage female employees and acknowledge their ambitions. Honestly, though, no woman in her right mind would expect corporate change to come quick enough. By the time your boss gets around to asking you where you see yourself in five years, your answer might be “In a retirement village in Miami.”
Second, and more importantly, you must be vocal about your short and long-term goals. Schedule a sit down with a supervisor or discuss your aspirations during an annual review. It could open new doors.
So, that’s my list of the 7 deadliest sins of the struggling career woman. Obviously, corporate America has to implement major changes to level the playing field for us. However, my hope is that these tips compel you to evaluate your work situation and perhaps, alter the behaviors that could be holding you back from an amazing professional life. What sins did I leave off the list? Let me know in the comment section below.
Life is better when we lift each other up.
I'm Jen Monks. A small business strategist, a serial entrepreneur, and a steadfast optimist devoted to helping women over 40 create and grow profitable businesses within a community they love.