American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, just removed by his board, is renowned for removing his pants before a stroll around the factory floor. Or for just wearing a sock where one would expect his underpants to be, and for many other sexually-charged workplace antics. As a (presumably) heterosexual man with several sexual harassment complaints against him, this kind of behaviour from Dov is obviously not targeted at the males in his employ, but at the females.
Dov, a (presumably) proud Canadian, has blown off his behaviour as just “salty.” This is a sad, rather unusual, but ultimately not extreme example of the BS women must regularly tolerate in the course of trying to do their jobs. I’m not offering up any statistics, but if you ask the women around you, an unacceptably high proportion of them have experienced unwelcome behaviour from their male superiors, clients, co-workers and vendor partners along a continuum from suggestive text messages to creepy touching to physical grabbing and beyond.
How is a woman supposed to deal with these situations in a way that preserves her reputation – her brand, in other words? The answer is surprisingly not obvious. Some women are afraid that a swift verbal response, or even a measured physical one (a face-slap in answer to a grabbed body part, for example), might result in the woman being branded as “difficult” or as a “feminist.”
To these women, the deck appears to be stacked such that the person who needs to worry about reputational fallout from an ass-grabbing situation is, oddly, not the (male) grabber but the (female) grabbee.
Beyond the issue of harassment are a range of branding concerns for working women, including what constitutes appropriate business attire (or is there such a thing as inappropriate?), how to be feminine without being sexy (or is it OK, and even useful, to be sexy?) and how to act with confidence without being perceived as “a bitch.”
There has been alot of attention on the issue of female confidence recently, as epitomized by the bestselling book by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The Confidence Code – The Science and Art of Self-Assurance. The book’s central arguments are that female achievement is held back by their intrinsic lack of confidence compared to men, and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.
I believe that confidence is a very powerful point of leverage for women, or any other cohort, who want to get ahead in the world and feel good about it. It seems there is a connection between confidence and knowing how to address the above questions and many other related issues. In my quest for a unified definition of branding, I have offered up these two key variations, which together or separately could frame a discussion on branding for women:
Confidently shaping what people think of you in order to charge more money for your organization, product or service than you would otherwise be able to. (Cache #106)
The act of helping people achieve a deep understanding of the unique value you offer the world, validating your worth and helping you reach your highest emotional, intellectual, spiritual and financial potential. (Cache #111)
What do you think?
IN THE MEDIA: Andris Pone comment on WestJet, Tim Hortons, Lululemon, Indigo and more.
BOOK: Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter.