I was so excited to propose the idea of FACES in all of our StyleBlueprint cities back in 2011. Our new department, FACES, was going to highlight a woman in the community each Monday. We published five articles a week at the time, so 20% of our content would be dedicated to supporting women and shining a light on them, each and every week. Our team talked about the parameters: We would not simply choose the “obvious” women to interview. This would not become a “society” column or only a “women in high-powered positions” profile. It would be a wide array of women. From the very beginning, our intention was to ensure FACES represented diversity in race, age, and industry. We would steer away from politics and uncover great stories … showcase the women who make the fabric of our communities better places to live. And yes, FACES was only to highlight women. Believe me, we got some pushback on that.
So, after years of patting ourselves on the back for being a publication that champions women, I became more and more uneasy about one of the things we would internally say. It pains me now, thinking back.
We would laughingly say that anyone could be a FACE with a good story … as long as they didn’t nominate themselves. Ha ha ha! Our biggest filter into the “no” folder was a self-promoter. Oh, we were SO WRONG. We were keeping women in that “you’re not supposed to ask” box and even ensuring the tape was more secure. We were perpetuating the idea that the only way women could get recognized was by working hard and hoping that someone would notice, or perhaps being connected enough for someone to nominate you.
A few years ago, we changed this practice. We were part of the problem. We were a barrier to women, while simultaneously celebrating women — women who knew to keep their place and not ask for the spotlight. Why does it matter how we come across a great story? If a PR person were to pitch a FACE, doesn’t that mean that same woman was paying someone to promote her? Why was that okay, but if it actually came from the woman herself, it wasn’t?
I can’t believe we were so dense. And, we were cavalier in our denseness.
With age comes wisdom, and I’m sure there are still plenty of other blinders I wear with the luggage of culture that we all carry with us. But, the joy of this moment in time is the ability to question our own thoughts. Our inner dialogue. And, when we question them, we may realize that our attitude is right on. Or, we may realize that we need to change.
But, change is what we do as humans. We evolve and grow.
Today’s call-someone-out culture can be good and bad. It’s not my personality, so it makes me uncomfortable. But, what I really don’t like (usually) is when we find something from someone 20-30 years ago and attribute it to the person they are today. I’m not the same person I was at 35. My moral compass may be the same, but I’ve lived a whole lotta life in the past 13 years and learned a whole lotta lessons. I hope to continue to grow every decade of my life. I’m sure most people feel the same way. But, I do feel comfortable calling myself out.
We’ve all been taught to do this, right? Deflect attention. Deflect. Deflect. Yes, it’s deeply ingrained. It’s hard for me to stop as well.
As the COVID-19 fog starts to lift, I’m reminded of this time — this time when we would laugh and say it was only self-nominators that got rejected. It’s time we all re-examine the world around us. What attitudes do we want to continue to embrace from our pre-COVID selves, and which ones do we want to shed? I’m sure you are asking the same questions, as no one is leaving this place in time unchanged.
As we grapple with how to move forward from here, we’d love to hear your thoughts. They will inspire us. What is something that you’ve changed in the past year? How are you different? Please send us a few sentences on what you are leaving behind or embracing as you move forward. We’d love to include it in a future article and can include your name in whichever way you’d like. First and last name, first name only, or just a couple of initials.
Here’s to a better everyone and healthier attitudes for all! Think of it this way: By really digging in and shining more, your light allows others to shine as well.
What’s something I want to shine brightly about? Even with this public admission, I’m so happy that we have highlighted more than 1,800 women over the past 10 years across all of our StyleBlueprint markets. Early on, I had one guy ask me, “How do you come up with all these women? Don’t you run out of ideas?” I was dumbfounded and didn’t know how to reply. I believe I answered, “I guess it’s a good thing that so many amazing women exist, huh?”