Five Ways Women Leaders are Driving and Defining Beauty
Last week, I had the privilege of moderating a lively discussion panel on The Evolution of Fashion, Beauty and Art for CreativeDrive’s Women’s Empowerment Series. Our live online panel brought together content creators and brands who share a common purpose: creating connections and evoking emotion through their work. While these women have very different backgrounds and perspectives working in the same industry, they soon discovered they have a lot in common, sharing similar thoughts about what fear, failure, success, and beauty mean for women. Talking to these women, I realized that if we can release guilt about our imperfections and shortcomings, we can free ourselves to succeed- we can have amazing careers, be great parents (or choose not to be parents), be healthy, and accomplish the goals we set. While there were so many great points made, here are five main takeaways from our no holds barred conversation.
Challenge the Status Quo and Never Stop
As much as traditional gender roles are eroding in TV shows, books, movies, and other forms of media, they haven’t disappeared. Women still need to indicate their marital status on identification forms, loan applications, snail mail, and in some cases, digital correspondence. We’re still forced to choose a label: “Miss,” “Mrs.” or “Ms.” whereas men don’t an equivalent label that reveals anything about their personal lives. Liz Greenberg, VP of Ecommerce of the Moret Group talked openly about her childhood. Liz’s mom was an executive in the international banking and IT world, and her father was a stay- at-home dad at a time when this relationship dynamic was still new. Although it was out of the box at the time, this alternative upbringing helped shape Liz into who she is today. I believe we need more women like Liz and her mother to continue challenging traditional expectations and family structures to breakdown more divisive gender stereotypes. Being a successful woman is being adaptable and fearless in the face of uncertainty and continuously evaluating the high expectations we set for ourselves. It’s also realizing you can’t do it all to defy status quo (if that’s what you’re driven by). After all, we’re only human.
You Don´t Have to be Perfect – So Why are we So Hard on Ourselves?
On some level of another, we’re probably all guilty of striving for perfection. Failing to recognize that perfection is unattainable partly because it’s a highly subjective illusion. One of the panelists, artist and filmmaker Liza Voloshin, captured this perfectly when she described how society pressures women to feel small and take a backseat to men. “Women are expected to be quiet and not make their presence known.” “I’ve never heard a man say I’m not really sure if I belong here in this room.” She also emphasized how important it is for women to develop both their masculine and feminine sides to cultivate confidence and become the best version of themselves- it’s something that she’s working on every day and has inspired me to do the same.
Is Beauty a Size O?
We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by images of “flawless” women, so it’s hard not to feel self-conscious or develop
hang-ups. In response to the recent ban of “Size 0” model bans from some brands, Danielle Redman, an IMG model and influencer said, it’s not necessarily the right approach to solving the issues plaguing the industry because a ban is exclusive. Rules aren’t going to change the mass aesthetic or people’s attitudes; embracing all forms of beauty and having bold and honest conversations are the things that will challenge the leading narrative and create the shift toward diversity and inclusion. Another theme that emerged when we were defining beauty, is that beauty isn’t just about having a “pretty” face or a “hot” body; it’s about women accepting their reality and recognizing that imperfections are beautiful. Stephanie Seliskar, a street style photographer and Creative Director of John Varvatos believes that beauty is all about attitude. “It’s about how you let your personality shine through; in a way you find beautiful.” Many of the panelists also felt that fashion and beauty images should empower women feel better about themselves by becoming more inclusive and fun.
Is Commercialized Feminism Ok?
Historically feminism wasn’t positioned for the benefit of corporations, which I was surprised to discover that many of the women on the panel felt that commercialized feminism is a key to changing the prevailing norms about beauty. Valerie Fischel, Executive Director, Creative Content from Clinique, said that brands risk a backlash when they challenge traditional beauty standards, but she also believes that the negativity will subside because controversy encourages conversation, spreads awareness, and helps change people’s minds. She feels that the fashion and beauty industry should take smart risks and present feminism in new and interesting ways to inspire other industries and to appeal to the audiences of today. Audrey Nizen, the recent Global Brand Director of C&A Global and Adjunct Professor at NYU, added, “I’m not tired of it [Feminism]. We need more of it.” And Liz Greenberg captured the potential of commercialized feminism when she called it a force capable of challenging existing gender norms by raising awareness and bringing women’s issues to the forefront of people’s daily experiences.
“Nice is not a sign of weakness.” Valerie Fischel emphasized that point when she described her personal journey of how being kind to others helped her make connections and achieve success at a young age.
Audrey Nizen expanded on that by saying fearlessness is the foundation on which kindness, honesty, and success are built. However, being kind shouldn’t be confused with people-pleasing; being nice means thinking of others and working with others to achieve success. It comes from a place of self-mastery, empowering us women to be agents of change in our lives and in the world. What I loved most (about?) is what women do best: take on multiple roles seamlessly, especially embodying and owning our traditional and future maternal roles of supporting one another and sharing advice. When one of the audience members asked the women about how they keep their mental health in check in a fast-paced industry, they openly shared their strategies for keeping calm, cool, and collected.
Stephanie said that she was getting a little less sleep being five months pregnant, but despite that, she tries to stay active, go out with friends, and make plans so that she’s not stuck at work every night. Liza added, “having a toolkit, friends, running, exercise, having something to fall back on during stressful times,” is the key to succeeding in work and in life. It was nice to hear women support and encourage each other, and share their wisdom instead of trying
Studies have proven that women are far more likely than men to talk through their problems, which is why we should have more open and honest conversations to pave the way for the next generation of amazing women. I look forward to our next panel and continuing the conversation with all of you. Opinions are welcome!