Monday, February 15, 2016

Carly Fiorina Is the Poster Child for Sexism In America

The Carly Fiorina I Knew And Loved back in 2007
Now that Carly Fiorina has suspended her quest for the White House, I am compelled to let y'all know that until she ran for president, I was a huge fan. As a woman and ferocious leader, I followed Ms. Fiorina's career as she ascended in the tech field as it coincided with my own corporate journey. I ate up any and all stories of women defying corporate norms and Carly certainly fit the bill. I even had the blessing and pleasure to meet her at the Willowcreek Association's Global Leadership Summit over the years as she had participated after being on the faculty for the first time in 2007.

The fact that a women this brilliant has never had another shot at CEO at a Fortune 500 company tells us all we need to know about sexism in America. Again, I do not want to talk at all about her run for the GOP nomination for president. I just want to talk about how she got one shot at CEO and that's it.

That would never happen to a man. Surely, men fail at leadership at some point in their careers. The difference is they don't usually have to pay for it the rest of their lives. Since her forced resignation from HP in 2005, she has yet been given another chance to lead. Sure, she's battled and won a fight with cancer, buried a child and run unsuccessfully for the US Senate and President but she has not been offered another chance to lead a company and I find that very telling.

You may argue, "she wasn't very good"  or "She ran that company in the ground" and my response is so what. Many men do the same and get lots of chances to redeem themselves in new environments with different tools. The fact that this woman who led one of our country's most successful tech companies during a tremendous time of change and innovation in the sector has never been tapped again tells us all we need to know about how Corporate America treats its smart, fierce women leaders. And I know this first hand after a 19 year career there before I started my business.

We have to do better. The real reason Carly Fiorina has been lost in politics the last few years is because Corporate America gave her the collective finger after the HP debacle and won't allow her to move on beyond her mistakes. And she made many. But she deserved another chance. Her peers got 'em.

And while I think her journey took her places politically I can never support, I will staunchly defend her business record and say that she is a picture of what needs to change in Corporate America.

Monday, February 8, 2016

3 Reasons My Normally Beyonce Ambivalent Self Is Here For Her Today

Beyonce and her Black Panther Inspired Back Up Dancers at Super Bowl 50
This year's hangover from Super Bowl 50 has nothing to do with food or drink. America is hung over from the halftime show that starred Coldplay featuring Beyonce and Bruno Mars.

Specifically, the Beyonce performance coming on the coat tails of the new single and video, Formation, that she dropped Saturday on Super Bowl eve.

In her Michael Jackson inspired outfit and with her Black Panther inspired back up dancers, she made a statement that many are not feeling the day after. Former New York Mayor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rudy Guiliani led the Fox News onslaught Monday morning following numerous Twitter rants overnight. Many in my feed were on both sides of the battle lines - there was the pro-Bey folks who loved every second, every message and were spilling their love from the night before. There were also the folks who could not stand the very sight of her in yet another no pants performance.

What surprised me the most were the folks I know both Black and White who privately messaged me to inquire about my enthusiasm and support for Beyonce's Formation video and subsequent Super Bowl 50 performance. I cannot tell you how many text and private message conversations I had about Bey in the last few days. Because I am a woman of influence and inquiring minds want to know, let me give you the top 3 reasons I am here for Beyonce in her latest iteration:

The Business Savvy Mind of Beyonce Blows Me Away

I am not a Beyonce fan. Nor have I been a hater of Beyonce. I did not ever truly understand the hype but I've never actively talked against her. I may own one or two songs that were on Grammy compilations.  I have been ambivalent at best to the whole Beyonce mystique. But what I have observed over the last 36 months, from a Black business woman's perspective is pure magic. She has used her influence to change the way records, singles and videos are promoted and many have followed her lead. She's figured out how to have all of the WORLD talking about her for the last 48 hours and that will most certainly impact her bottom line when she does drop the album to accompany the Formation single. Her talents are many and even the liabilities she's turned into positives. She utilizes social media to build and drive her brand like no other and again, as an entrepreneur, I'm taking notes. Make no mistake. Using your Super Bowl cameo to drop the dates on your new world tour without a new album takes chops. Big ones.

Using Her Influence In Her Own Way

The number one point I was challenged on was,  would I want my daughter to follow the lyrics of her Formation song/video.  My answer to that is a flat out no. But not for the reasons you think. I say no because my daughter has many many things influencing her none of which are the experiences Beyonce describes in her song. I grew up with some exposure to those references and can relate to them to a certain degree but my daughter is not and that is ok. The second point was about the statements of the video and then the performance. Using imagery from the Katrina disaster. Black Panther back up dancers. REALLY? I see her referencing those things to keep focus on issues facing the Black community today. It has been a very exhausting time to be Black in America for a while. And with folks always commentating on Black celebrities and how they should or should not use their influence, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. She's damned because she did. And I don't agree. I am glad Beyonce is a Black woman in America with a choice for how she tells her story. Listen to the lyrics of Formation. She vividly recollects on a Black southern experience that has clearly impacted her and even as she's ascended to the upper echelons of our nation's wealth, she has not forgotten her roots and wanted to remind us. This weekend. On a world stage. No argument from me. Even if her story is very different from mine.

There is No One Black American Narrative

Do I love the blond braids and Red Lobster reference in her song? No. Hell no. It is not my experience as a Black woman. But I am not here to police the narrative she is pushing. "I am disgusted by what she pushes and it's everything that is wrong with Black America" was a quote in two different private discussions I've had in the last 48 hours. A quote. From Black people and White people I know and I had to reject it. Not because I don't agree. Believe me, I get their contempt. I am so very sensitive to "the narrative" and it does bother me some that we keep perpetuating many of the narratives that have hurt us. But again, that is not my call. Just as I am furious when people attempt to tell me I'm not "Black enough" or shit like "Black people don't eat candy corn," I do not and cannot do the same to other Black folks' narratives. So what if I can't related personally to many of the references that Beyonce speaks of - my military veteran aged (read older than most of my friends with their baby boomer/Black Panther influenced parents)  dad taught me so differently, Yeah, I do have hot sauce in my purse but that's about it.  Big hairy deal. Beyonce's Black is hers and mine is mine. Does it irk me that hers is more universally accepted than mine? HELL YEAH. Everyday. But I will not condemn nor criticize her for having a stage and using it to tell her story, her way. I do it every chance I get. And trust me, my stages are getting bigger by the day.

So I AM here for Beyonce in this moment. She's is using her business mind, her influence and her story to make waves and drive discussion. That is what I do every single day.

Deal with it.