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Building A Better Female Leader: Alex’s Talk from Inbound, Boston 9/15

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STEPPING INTO STRONGER FEMALE LEADERSHIP

BY ALEXANDRA JAMIESON

Thanks. I was just telling everyone that I totally scrapped my talk, and this is the only slide that I’m going to be using. Yes! I like that I … I think of myself as the nice, juicy filling in between Brené Brown and Amy Schumer. While I’m going to be energetically speaking to the women in the audience, I am also speaking to and for the men in the audience. I love men. I have my man in the audience. Bob, my fiancé is here.

I want to talk about why women in leadership as an idea is important. What the problems are for more of us getting into leadership. How we can honor the feminine. I’m going to take you through some exercises, so you might want to put your stuff down. It’ll only take a minute for us to get to that point, but you’re going to be standing up, I warn you.

I was a professional vegan for quite a long time. Towards the beginning of my professional vegan-ism, which by the way, was the right choice. My body needed it. It healed me. It was fantastic. Then at the beginning of this adventure into food and healing, I met this guy … I picked him up in a bar, I’ll be honest. We fell in love, and we ended up making a movie together called Super Size Me. Did anybody see Super Size Me? Okay.

I was the vegan chef girlfriend in the background rolling her eyes as my then boyfriend ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month, and got very very sick. That movie allowed us … It was like lightening in a bottle. We went on Oprah. We went to the Oscars. It was fantastic. I became professionally vegan, and wrote 3 vegan cook books, and had this brand as a vegan expert. Work great for me in my mid 20s. Then I got to my mid 30s.

I don’t know if anybody told you this, but your body changes as you get older. I was also going through a divorce from said co-creator of Super Size Me. Had a little boy. A lot of stress. My body started to fall apart again. So this diet that had helped me in my mid 20s was now not working so well. My hormones were a disaster. I was exhausted, I was anemic, and I started craving meat. Yay! (laughs) Yes. We’ll have bacon later.

In marketing, I believe they call what happened next a “Shit Show.” Where I had to thank God for Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. t was literally my bible as I was going through this struggle, trying to come to terms with the fact that I was now secretly eating meat, and hocking my 3 vegan cook books. What I began to realize was that what I was hiding was a lot of food shame and body shame, that what I needed as a human being had changed, and that didn’t make me a bad person. I had to learn to listen to my body. This is where this whole next 8 minutes is going.

When we listen to our bodies, whether you’re male or female, or somewhere in between, or outside of, it doesn’t matter. Your body is what makes you you. When I talk about women in leadership, we have to address the weird gorilla elephant in the room. We’re talking about physical and chemical differences. Yes, the female body is what makes female leadership different, and sometimes complicated. We have to learn how to honor that, and listen to it.

I’m going to ask you all to stand up. As I talk with you, I want you all to do what I call the “Wonder Woman Pose.” The reason why we’re doing this … It works for men and for women. You just want your chest a little bit out, and your head a little bit raised. We’re going to do this for about 2 minutes. Why we’re doing this is because this is actually raising your testosterone. For women, that’s especially powerful. There’s a whole Ted Talk on this. I did not invent this, but I use it and I share it, with women especially.

When we’re in a leadership role, or trying to step into leadership, we have trouble with the balance between competence and confidence. We’re very competent. We know what we’re talking about. We’re smart, we’re skilled, we have tools, we have experience, but we don’t feel confident enough to interrupt. To say our opinion. To lead the charge. I recommend doing this “Wonder Woman” “Super Hero” pose, for a couple of minute before every meeting, before every tough conversation.

Skip directly to chapter 8 in my book, Women, Food, and Desire to talk more about this. It also helps with the female libido. Which I also believe is a very powerful aspect of being a female leader. It’s really acknowledging and honoring all aspects of who you are. All right, we’ve just hit 2 minutes. Perfect. Sit down. I wish I could do a spit test and show you all, and test your testosterone levels, and show you how powerful that was. Do that before you have your next meeting, before you have your next big conversation. You’re going to stand up again in a minute, so don’t get your notes out.

What was challenging for me changing my brand in full view of the world, saying, “Hey guys, I’m no longer vegan.” and watching half of my newsletter list unsubscribe, and having thousands of people flame me online. Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of negative comments. Death threats, because I was now eating meat to help heal my physical imbalances.

It’s very challenging for us to be authentic when, as women, our number 1 secret shame, as Brené Brown pointed out yesterday, is body and appearance shame. This helps up ameliorate that a little bit. But how do we begin to actually listen to our bodies, and feel that authenticity, as Bruno was so beautifully pointing out. How do we listen? How do we be authentic? How do you hear this inside what’s going on, when we women, one of our strengths is also our Achilles heel?

We’re so good at figuring out what everybody else needs. We are psychic … Well, we think we’re psychic. Sometimes we are, and sometimes we’re just mind reading and going crazy places, but we read the energy of a room so well. We know what other people need before they know it themselves, but all of that gets in the way of us hearing our own truth. I want to take you through another exercise. Go ahead and stand up again.

We’re going a little bit more saucy. I want you to put your hands on your hips. We’re just going to do a little figure 8 with your hips. This is just loosening up this part of your body. I know, you guys are having to turn sideways. I appreciate you playing al- It’s okay. You’re doing great. Looks good. We tend to hold a lot of tension right here. We suck it in, we don’t want anything flapping over the side of anywhere. But there’s so much happening in here, especially in the female body. It’s your digestive system. It’s your emotional brain. Your gut brain has as many neurotransmitters as the brain in your head does.

When we are tight there, when we have this scourge of digestive issues … IBS, gluten intolerance, leaky gut … We have so much stress here, we need to start loosening this part of our body up, and stop hating and holding in our physical self so much. Helping to loosen up that physical shame that Brené Brown was talking about, it really takes getting into your body. All right, go ahead and sit down again. Thank you for playing along.

How can we consistently check in with ourselves, check in with our bodies? Listening to our cravings might actually be one avenue into it. That’s what I go into further into this … Again, Women, Food, and Desire, it’s the book, it’s in the book store, go get it, it’s awesome. There you go. Listening to our bodies is actually done by listening to your cravings. What does your body want?

Brené talks about this again in her new book, Rising Strong. I feel like I’m hocking her book more than I am mine. That’s okay. She talks about learning to sit with your emotions. Sit with your physical self. As a way of being authentic. How do you do that? How do you sit with and listen to … I’ve tried meditation. Believe me, I’m not that good at it. Sitting in silence just makes me crazy, but I can listen to what my body is asking for. That’s why I take people through a lot of physical exercises, and I talk about play and pleasure a lot.

We humans learn when we play. When we take the judgement out of it, it’s about having fun and being engaged, and seeing what happens next. It’s like one big improv class. When you can be physically in your body, and listen to yourself, loosen up your gut a bit, and really hear what your physical self is saying. A gut feeling about someone, nervous knots about something, butterflies in your stomach. That’s all information. That’s all ways that your body is talking to you. Again, the feminine in leadership has been downplayed. Emotion in leadership, listening to yourself, which is your body, has been downplayed and set aside.

I think that it’s time that we start listening more to that, and honoring our cravings, and following our desires. Even if it’s for chocolate. Even if it’s for the mocha frappa-latta-chino at 3:00 every day. Whatever it is that you want, get curious. Ask, “What is my body wanting right now? Am I having an emotion? Am I nervous?” There seems to be no place for that in business, in marketing. But marketing is about story, right? It’s about authenticity. We have to be able to do that for ourselves first, if we’re going to be able to do that for the company, or the product that we represent.

I think as marketers, as sales people, it’s our responsibility to be solid in ourselves, and honor what it is that we need, so that we can honestly come to someone and say, “This is what I believe. This is what I want. Do you want to engage with me about this?” And they believe you when you’ve done that work … When you’ve done that inquiry. You’re way more attractive and interesting to be with and talk with, and develop a relationship with when you have that confidence … When you have that play and sass in your energy. People respond to it. I’m so glad to have had a chance to talk with you all. Thank you so much.

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