I hate magic shows. I always have since I realized that many tricks only work because the magician creates a distraction. So on the rare occasion I stop the remote on a magic show I spend the whole time trying to watch for the smoke and mirrors.
(Yes, I know it’s probably more enjoyable to suspend disbelief but I have had to reserve that for motherhood.)
Over the last two weeks I have been astonished at the number of times the topic of women’s choices in the business world has come up and in a variety of situations. One person questioned my choice of a liberal arts degree instead of a business degree. One person recommended a book that posits women need to reconsider the decision to “give our children to other people to raise”. One person had to be disabused of the notion that my business partner was my husband. Another suggested that Tiger’s sexual partners should write letters to Elin Woods and apologize for their part in his indiscretion.
The first question came from someone I really like and respect. It took a week for me to give him a complete answer because I didn’t really have the answer. It was the context of the times. An Army recruiter told me there were very narrow choices for me if I really wanted them to pay for college. The newspaper divided up its help wanted ads into “men only” and “women only”. Many of my friends went to Bowling Green State University because it was the best place to get an education degree – perfect for a woman. I opted for University of Toledo for that reason. But business? No, that wasn’t really open to me. I bought into the distractions of the media.
Radical Housekeeping is the book making the rounds about how to get back to the basics in raising a family. I’m sorry. When I ever hear about the good old days I get faint. (See preceding paragraph.) But the notion that I enrolled my daughter in the finest preschool in this area so that someone else could raise her? Them’s fightin’ words! These books always come out when women take the lead in college enrollment, a very public figure makes a personal decision to devote more of her time to her family, there are more wives with jobs than husbands. The distracting message? You’re going to be judged on how your family works and let’s face it. You can’t have it all so maybe this book can make you feel better about your (crazy) decisions.
Not all women work with their husbands. Stop making that stupid assumption. I won’t work with someone who speaks only to my business partner in a meeting. Corollary to that: Women make 80% of all household decisions so to the person who told me that women rely on their husbands for all the financial planning – you’re in for an extreme lack of women in your practice. The distraction? The soft bigotry of low expectations.
I do not suggest women choose a life that includes trading sex for anything. That’s why God gave us brains and put them at the top of our bodies. On the other hand I really get that it can be very lucrative and there is an unending demand for it. (I am not talking here about the women who have been forced into this business through childhood sexual abuse, drugs, etc. This is an entirely different set of circumstances and I would never compare their horrible situations to women who choose it.) But seriously. Tiger Wood’s call girls and financially supported girlfriends should be held responsible for Tiger’s actions?
You have to be kidding.
This is the biggest distraction I have seen in forever. Tiger Woods, his entourage, the PGA community desperate to keep the big money coming in and members of the press who wanted access created the environment that kept this ridiculous behavior undercover for years. I’d bet my bottom dollar many of them helped procure women. But the easier thing to do? Distract their wives and girlfriends and mothers by blaming the women who caused Tiger’s downfall. Because if what’s good for Tiger is good for golf is good for them…well, you get where I’m going.
Why this extra long rant?
Distractions hurt businesses. Are you so focused on what’s urgent that you run out of time to do what’s important? Do you avoid feeling foolish by pretending you know how to read your P&L or balance sheet or just let the accountant tell you what it says once a year? Have you opted out of an entire customer segment because you don’t “get” Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, search optimization? Worst of all have you refused to consider, out of hand, potential clients because of old thinking?
Distractions are the justification for failure. Here’s the problem with that: The failure still feels mighty bad.