If you have ever seen a Dove commercial featuring real women and their real bodies, curves and all, you have seen the advertising work of Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk.
In the mid 2000’s, as the Co-Chief Creative Officers of Ogilvy and Mather Toronto, it was their brain child to debunk the notion of stereotypical beauty by removing the photo retouching and doing away with the thin and tall stereotype of beauty. In doing so, Dove engaged women on the topic of beauty, confidence and strength and positioned themselves as a company who understood women with the intention of being the preferred brand of choice.
It is this type of bold, creative gumption that both women have tried to stay true to as they traversed successful jobs and life outside the office; especially navigating the worlds of motherhood and demanding careers. In fact, the title of this book, Darling, You Can’t Do Both, is a direct quote from Nancy’s then boss as he advised her that she shouldn’t have kids when she was in line for top job at her agency.
Rules are to be broken
"You don’t have to follow the old rules. You can bend them, break them, ignore them."
Kestin and Vonk wrote this book with the intention that it be a guide, a how-to, on breaking the rules in the work place that will allow women “to have a whole lot of both” of career and family. There are a dozen rules that the authors believe women should break:
- If you have a life, you’re not working hard enough.
- Gender bias is an issue of the past. Moving on, ladies.
- Mentoring is an act of charity. Good things come to those who wait.
- Nice girls don’t get in your face.
- Because you’re not worth it.
- I’ll do it myself, thanks.
- Darling, you can’t do both.
- Stay safe.
- Networking is for me.
- To win, you have to play the game.
- Ambition is a straight line to the top.
Let’s take a closer look at two of these rules and why they should be broken.
You are in the game, so you might as well play
"Yes, business is a game, but we believe women can redefine the rules…to play on our own terms."
Rules like crazy work hours that no one should be made to feel like they must keep, or a culture where displaying emotion immediately gets you a fast track to the door as you must not be strong enough to make it in this environment, facilitate the exodus of many women out of the game of business because they’re not willing or interested in abiding by these rules of the game.
As a participant in the game, you need to know the players on the team. Kestin and Vonk recommend that you do your homework and learn the lingo. It doesn’t even have to be sector specific, although that would be advantageous and smart; it is the language that your team members are speaking. An example is shared in the book of three women who decided to learn all they could about the game of baseball because that seemed to be what was the topic of discussion in the hallways and at lunch and they were never included. They knew nothing about this sport to start with but after their research they ended up winning the office baseball pool! Following this rather shocking event, they were included in different kinds of conversations. They had something to talk socially about; thus it created a relationship that hadn’t previously existed with the other team players. After all, the game is about relationships.
To play the game you need to bring your best to the table. And to be your best means being true to who you are. Sometimes that means asking the questions you know need to be asked. Realizing this may not be well received, but that it may lead to you leaving a company is something you need to come to terms with. Kestin and Vonk suggest that to be the best in the game you need to do the right thing, the thing that might be the most difficult, but in your heart of hearts you know to be right. You don’t want to get to the end of a good run at a company and look back and feel you compromised yourself. The reward in taking this approach is that you will develop a reputation as a thoughtful, challenging colleague and as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurel Ulrich said “well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Network without an agenda
"The best way to network is to do it authentically, organically, to show up without an ‘agenda,’ to meet new people for the genuine pleasure of the human connection."
The authors share that they believed networking wasn’t going to make any difference to their careers. In the early days they held to the adage that their work would speak for itself, that all they needed were results, creativity, and a work ethic that couldn’t be beat. They believed there was no need to network, that it was what insincere folks who lacked any real skill needed to do. But, what these talented women learned and want to share with us is that many women don’t understand the importance of networking and how to leverage it. It took being almost forced into attending a conference as a member of a panel of judges reviewing local ad agencies for it to occur to Nancy that “networking isn’t the tedious time-waster as I’d pegged it to be.”
Many women do not even bother to attend any sort of networking event for reasons that often come back to the view that it isn’t worth their time and they see no immediate benefit, but even more so because they feel it is a schmooze fest on the golf course. This perception of phony interactions with the purpose of blatant, verging on obnoxious, self promotion is what gives networking a bad rap. So what? You shouldn’t succumb to that rule or stereotype; you should make a point of attending and network on your own terms.
Attend. Even if you have to be dragged there, just attend. Then, once you are there, focus on meeting people for the pleasure of meeting people. Realize the point of networking is to develop long term relationships. It’s not about how many business cards you collect or hand out, “effective networking looks very little like the cliché that women find so off putting.” Rather it is a mutual giving/sharing/supporting relationship with focus on longevity.
I love the book’s subtitle: “And other noise to ignore on your way up.” It speaks to the confidence that women are on their way up in their careers. Ignoring the noise gives permission to professional women that it is ok, even a required strategy, to ignore some of the rules that were written for the workplace but not necessarily for women in the workplace. Just as the strikethrough the title implies, it isn’t true that you can’t have it all.