You can fly higher when you stand on the shoulders of mighty women. Juliet Clark sits with Lesley Michaels, the Founder of Never Too Late Media and Women’s Strategic Alliance Expert. Lesley talks with Juliet about how a feminist is someone who truly believes in equality for everyone. One great way to achieve that is to align with each other. When we do so, we achieve equity. When we uplift each other in business, more women make it through. That is why Lesley wrote her book, On The Shoulders Of Mighty Women. It’s time for us to create an alliance among ourselves. Tune in!
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On The Shoulders Of Mighty Women With Lesley Michaels
We’re going to have one of our authors on. I predict that when this book comes out, it will be one of our biggest sellers ever. She has a huge audience and also some pretty friends in high places. Before we get started, I want you to remember to go over, if you haven’t already, and get your free subscription to Breakthrough Author Magazine. There are lots of tips and tricks. You can find that at BreakthroughAuthorMagazine.com.
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Our guest is Lesley Michaels and she was born to be a feminist. Her foundational ethos was shaped by her audacious paternal grandmother, who was a first-wave of feminist and a savvy businesswoman. At age twelve, she dreamed of creating a platform for bringing women together in alliance. Making notes about that dream, the following morning, she started on her path that would form her entire life. She came of age just as the second wave of feminism was becoming a significant American social movement.
At age sixteen, she struck out on her own for New York City in the heart of the cultural transformation, that was the zeitgeists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was later one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling in the old boy industry of oil and gas. The ruthless competitiveness of women she encountered in the corporate world was shocking and emotionally fracturing. The foreignness of their approach to other women after spending years among committed feminists convinced her to abandon the corporate world.
Shortly after, she was infected by a latent entrepreneurial spirit. Over the following years, she developed and sold several small businesses. Ownership gave her the refreshing freedom to choose how the business would be shaped. In each case, her staff was a multicultural representation of women. During the same period, she became a leader in the coaching industry. She has mentored Fortune 500 C-Suite executives, individuals in the financially privileged sector, and celebrities.
As a lifelong student of human behavior, she observed that the level of distress still experienced by women in corporate hemispheres is causing many to walk away. They are losing their dream and both industry and the world are losing leaders have tremendous merit. Developing effective solutions to pull back the veil on this dirty little secret ignited her commitment on The Shoulders of Mighty Women.
Throughout the years that followed her time in New York, she was a dedicated voice for bringing attention to the challenges, dehumanization, and legalized inequities developed upon members of marginalized communities. Consequently, the additional burden created by intersectional feminism as coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw was immediately apparent to Lesley as both a woman and a lesbian. Her body of unique life experiences has provided her with a firsthand understanding of the daily struggle faced by women of every race, culture, and sexual orientation.
On The Shoulders of Mighty Women is a tribute to the power and grace of those who came before and the ones who will follow, the warriors and the fallen. This book is one more way Lesley vamped to amplify the voice energy and experience-based understandings and compassion of women fighting for equality, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she facilitates virtual programs on topics raising from discovering personal freedom through self-trust to building strategic alliances of women. She also hosts a weekly podcast called Women We Should Know. This is going to be interesting.
Lesley, I read your bio, so everybody knows what’s going on with you. What got me about your bio is that you were in New York City in the ’80s. What was going on in Corporate America there? I wanted to start there because I want women who are going to read this book and to understand that breaking through the glass ceiling back then was like martial arts in a way. You’re fighting the system, men, and everybody.
I refer to that as by period of sailing through fences because I was kicked through them so many times. I was in New York in the ’70s during the period of the push for the Equal Rights Amendment. Out of the necessity to build a life, I went back to Middle America. That’s when I went into corporate oil and gas. It was two other women and me. One of them was in a different state and it was brutal. Even though there weren’t women in the company, there were women I had to deal with in other companies. The men were patronizing and a pain. After a while, when my P&Ls were out doing theirs, they left me alone.
Where I had a real problem was with the women. The women were vicious and truly intentionally undermining. It was exhausting because I came from a life where I was raised by a suffragette. I hitchhiked to New York to be part of the Equal Rights Movement. I came from a feminist sensibility where women come together, align, and create great things together. I go into this corporate structure and these women were so infused with their own misogyny that it was brutal. That’s the word I have for it.
I’m going to share an experience I had male-wise, but I can relate that to what the females were going through back then. I’m not going to mention what company, but I was up for promotion. They walked me into the office when they announced who got the job and said, “You’re a beautiful woman. You’ll find yourself a rich husband. John over there is engaged and has to support a family.”
I was like, “Oh.” I can see why women were like that in the sense that here you are fighting patriarchy, but there aren’t many other women. It’s almost like everyone was the enemy in this. If you wanted to get through that black ceiling or that glass ceiling, you had to be as brutal as the men. There was no room for women back there. That’s what was going on. We didn’t understand that there was another way.
I do understand that it is fear of minimal real estate that created that mentality. I also understand that when we started to see women uplifting other women in business. That was the moment we saw a big shift. More women were making it through because it was women who were advocating for them. The women who were advocating for them were key to organizations. They were so brilliant in bringing such important initiatives to the table that they were heard. That doesn’t mean they were paid as much.
From the standpoint of advertising, all of the people on my team are men and I traveled with them. You can imagine there were lots of stories with that, too. Like, keeping your male team in line, but you’re absolutely right about that because once women got a clue and uplifting others and they weren’t there alone. It wasn’t that savage survival mission to do all of this with it. Tell me what possessed you to write the book about this? You’ve been teaching courses and doing this for a while. Why did you think it is the time to write this book?When women uplift each other in business, more women make it through. Click To Tweet
Everywhere I looked, whether it was Harvard Business Review, Forbes, or Psychology Today, I started to see a flood of articles and research documents on why we are having this absolute epidemic of woman-to-woman incivility in the workplace. It spoke to me of things I’d seen in every decade throughout my life. I’ve seen it grow and wane. At the same time that was happening, I was having women come to me as clients and they were destroyed. They had been chewed up and spit out by the women that were working with them.
They had lost a level of faith in themselves. They had also lost a level of faith in women’s ability to find a place in the higher levels in the work realm or the professional realm because of the viciousness that they were experiencing. They were gun shy. I felt like it was time. We’ve got to go to the next level of operating in an alliance. Look at where men have gotten with their secret handshake and they’re an all-boys club. It’s time for women to create an alliance among themselves and stop looking at the men and patriarchy. Men and patriarchy, I always say them separately because they are different things. Looking to men and patriarchy to support them, that’s not going to happen.
There are some wonderful men. I have great men friends, but let’s look at the majority. We’re not there yet. It felt like time to call out and invite women to start creating these alliances because I truly and sincerely believe in every cell of my being that when women begin to align, we can achieve equity. We are 50.52% of the population. More women are registered to vote than men. More women show up at the polls than men. When women start to align, then we can start to shift this where there is equality and equity. What’s most important is it doesn’t just benefit women.
This is what I liked about what happened. It pushed more women into entrepreneurship and owning their own business. They knew there was a better way to lead. What are your thoughts on that?
Harvard Business Review did a long exposé over several months about the number of senior women who are leaving and taking their professional collateral that they’ve spent decades building and going out there building businesses, non-profits, and all types of things. To the greatest degree, they’re hiring women.
I would agree with that. I got fed up with Corporate America in my early 40s. I was way before the curve on that, but that’s my client base. I want women whose kids are leaving, so they don’t have to worry. They can quit that job because they don’t have a kid in college that they have to be aware of. They’re saying, “I have all this expertise so I can start a business of my own.” If they’re like me, I was tired of the politics. I was tired of the games. I’m a straightforward person, so for me, that didn’t work anymore.
Women are starting to experience a sense of wanting to own something that is theirs, something they created to put all of their creativity and their ingenuity into creating something that looks, feels, and speaks like them. It’s a very exciting time in that regard.
As well as that softer and gentler side of the business, when I first started my own company, I have to go take some leadership classes and reinvent because the corporate structures are changing a lot because of women. Back when I was in it, there was a way you led and it wasn’t pretty.
What a lot of women are doing is forming collectives where they are supporting each other and bringing out their inherent talent, empathy, and creativity. I’m excited to see what the landscape of business is going to look like in a few years.
I am, too. It’s going to be much better because there is that empathy that goes along with being a woman. The thing is being tough enough not to get caught up in the drama and politics. There’s a lot of stuff there that happens in Corporate America that you can revise your own business to get rid of a lot of that stuff. Personally, that stuff wastes time, effort, and money inside of those Corporate America businesses.
There’s proof in the numbers. During the end of a pandemic, women-owned and women-operated businesses have shown more gains than the traditional and the big corporate businesses. We were out there kicking some butt.
We can attribute that to women being relationship builders. A lot of men are getting caught up in this click and handshake, and women get down to it and relationship-building builds trust.
It does. One of the things I talk about is to stop trying to do what the men do. There are wonderful studies that I share with women about how women were not constructed to network because we’re not fundamentally transactional. We’re relational. Instead of the traditional networking, go out and build relationships with these people you want to do business with and you will fly.
Another thing that is wonderful for me as I see women claiming more real estate in the professional market is that’s a small fraction of who we are. It’s going to have a trickledown effect. It’s going to have an effect on the amount of work we put into the family and what we start demanding of other people in the family. “I’m out there doing the thing. You have to pitch in,” and not being the sole provider of all emotional support whether you have a family of 3 or 30, and for all of that.When women begin to align, we can achieve equity. Click To Tweet
I’m laughing because my house was the place to gather for the kids. I would hear one of my kids whining about something. You could hear me from the kitchen going, “Life’s hard. Get over it. You’re alive. What’s your next thing?” All the other kids in the room would be like, “Your mom is so mean,” but I have very independent “how am I going to get around this obstacle” children because of that resiliency and, “How are you going to get around that problem?”
What women do well is that thought from raising families and all that about, “I’ve got this problem. How am I going to get around it, get it solved, and do everything else?” Women do that well. You’re right about that. We can also raise children who do that well. I don’t think dads do it as well as women do.
They don’t. For years, women weren’t thought to be tough enough to be good negotiators. Think about a woman who’s in a shop with a seventeen-year-old who is determined to wear a prom dress, cut down to the navel, who thinks the entire future of her life depends on it. Mom has to negotiate with her to get her to buy something else. Women are tough.
Mine wasn’t the prom dress. It was the booty shorts. I remember my mom’s war with me. I came home with a low-cut blouse when I went on a trip with grandma in Los Angeles. Grandma thought it was fine and my mom was standing there with her hands on her hips going, “Mom, you would have never let me wear that. What are you doing? Why are you saying yes and making me say no?”
It’s 25 years later. Mine was the dresses that were short enough that I had to be careful how I moved. It was the era.
The book is coming out on June 14th, 2022. What would you tell women about why they need this book?
Unlike most women’s books, this does not address one issue that women face. As women, we have been so compartmentalized by our lives, society, business, and marketers. I address women from a variety and a full spectrum of the issues we face, from unpaid labor to being the emotional rock for 35 people to business and also from the perspective of, “What is there to gain by moving into the alliance? What is there to gain by setting down the swords and the fear of being in the alliance because of having been kicked through the fences earlier?” I believe it’s tremendous.
You and I had a conversation where you busted a myth of mine. You older ladies out there, you’re trying to break through this glass ceiling in the ’80s, and then we get to the ’90s. I told you that I had disengaged from the feminist movement because of what we called feminazis back then. Bust that for us here. If you’re one of those people who think those were the women and you disengaged, Lesley is about to enlighten you.
First of all, feminazi is a term that was brought up by men. Let’s start with the fact that was the patriarchy labeling all women who had the audacity to say we deserve equality. Women picked it up as a reference to other women who were being brutal. Those women are not feminists. They are seeding and emanating internalized misogyny. They are vehicles of the patriarchs.
I was going to say, “The term was well-deserved,” but this is what you’re busting. They were behaving in a way that is not congruent with how we want this to be viewed.
A feminist is someone who truly believes in equality for everyone. Here’s a tiny little piece of data. In 1871, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed. It gave all people equal rights, except back in those days, people meant men. Women did not get the vote until 1920 and were still not given equal equity and equality at any level.
Feminism is about saying, “We contribute more than half to this society. We deserve to receive at least equal to our contribution and to be respected for our contribution.” That’s all it is. In fact, most of the feminist organizations around the country have an arm for men because so many men are becoming involved in uplifting women. A great myth that was going around in the late ’70s is if you’re a feminist, you have to be a lesbian. No, it is not a recruiting service.
Are you saying you’d get recruited to be lesbian?
That’s a whole different topic and no. By putting that label on there, they were able to disparage two different groups of women. Women on the whole plus this subset of women, we’re not that. We’re women out there saying, “We deserve equality. We want that now because we want it for our daughters and granddaughters.” Part of feminism is also understanding that it’s not just women that benefit.A feminist is someone who truly believes in equality for everyone. Click To Tweet
A lot of these women I was speaking of are CEOs and big leaders that have left and are building their own companies. Many of those who still have children at home have husbands retiring and taking care of the kids. These husbands are reporting how incredibly fulfilling it is. They did not know everything they were missing. Not only do the husbands benefit, but the kids as well. Now, the kids have real hands-on male role models. It’s a lot, but all of that is feminism. It’s being fair.
I agree with that. I’m a morning person. I had a different business before I owned this company, but that was my time in the morning before the kids got up. I had that hour or two and the kids got up, off to school. I went to work until they got off. I grew up with a working mother. It was so different from the lifestyle that she had.
When I was a female athlete, my parents could never come to my games because they had to work. I never missed one of my kids’ games or one of those things at school. I had a schedule where I could pretty much do it all. I can imagine that men love that as well being able to rearrange everything to do that because it is bonding with your kids.
Men are loving it. We have been talking about unpaid labor for so long because they’re also understanding that although they love it, they don’t want to change it. It is hard work.
When I quit my last real job, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I got two weeks into it and I started my own business. I was like, “I hate my children.” What I hated was when we got a nanny when I started my own business, so I could balance and have the housework done for me and a little bit of help getting the kids ready to school in the morning and picking them up.
My poor nanny would come home and say, “The other mothers don’t want anything to do with me. They want to talk to you.” I was like, “If I have one more conversation about the color of my child’s poop, I’m going to kill them.” I don’t mean to be shallow and condescending about it, but it was only two weeks and I was dying. It is hard work.
Here’s the other part of it, when you talk about this unpaid labor, it pays you in different ways. It’s not like, “You don’t get money, but you get to know your kids well. You get to know the teachers well,” which is important, knowing what’s going on in the schools. You get to know sports, to do all these things with them that you wouldn’t have otherwise. At the end of the day, you have to think about, “What’s that more important thing, is it money, which we all need, or is it that bonding which you’re never going to get again?” Those kids are only going to be small once.
You survived it for a whole two weeks.
It’s hard, but luckily, when I started that business, I was able to structure my time, so I wasn’t with them 24/7, although summers were chaos. I tried to work, but it’s hard with kids at home. There’s risk and reward with all of that. Sometimes when we talk about that unpaid labor, we don’t think there are benefits that are pretty amazing, too.
However, I’ve got to push back on that. What about the women who are doing all that unpaid labor, the uber-successful husband falls in love with the secretary, and when he leaves, the woman has nothing because he is an attorney or he has great attorneys? There’s a disparity point that we can’t continue to overlook.
When I had my real estate business, we saw that over and over. A house had to be sold and a new one bought for a girlfriend. The one I loved the most was when I sat down with a soon-to-be-divorced couple with a house that was worth $500,000 and they’d say, “We both need $300,000 to start our new lives.” Good luck with that. There was a lot, but I do agree with that as well. Sometimes you get a controlling spouse, too, who wants everything. At the end of the day, there’s this point to where people will go outside of that. They want things so badly that they don’t take into consideration how it’s affecting the kids. That’s a good reason to be very bonded to your kids.
Lesley, this has been really good. I’m sure you and I will have many more conversations. We have diverging views. If you guys haven’t figured it out, Lesley’s very liberal while I’m pretty conservative. What I love about our conversations is that they are always a conversation. They are never a name-calling escapade, which I see so much in the world. There are problems being solved and other sides of a story being seen. I wish there were more of that going on in public these days, instead of all the fighting. She and I could solve some big world problems together.
We could take it on. That is what is important about alliances. You’re going to have liberal, conservative, independent, progressive women and all of these viewpoints. If women, particularly those who are relationship-oriented, can sit down and bring all those perspectives together, have conversations, and hear the other person and be able to say, “I hadn’t thought of it that way before,” that’s where the big solutions come.Big solutions come from sitting down and bringing different perspectives together. Click To Tweet
Brokering deals and things that work together. You’re going to have to give up a little, I’m going to have to give a little, but there’s something in the middle that works for most people. Everybody’s going to want the book, but where can we find you? The book will be on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, everywhere, so you can find it anywhere.
You can find me at LesleyMichaels.com.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks for having me. It was fun.
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About Lesley Michaels
Lesley Michaels was born to feminism. Her foundational ethos was shaped by her audacious paternal grandmother who was a 1st wave feminist and savvy businesswoman. At age 12 Lesley dreamed of creating a platform for bringing women together in alliance. Making notes about that dream the following morning started her on a path that would inform Lesley’s entire life. She came of age just as 2nd wave feminism was becoming a significant American social movement. At age 16 she struck out on her own for NYC and the heart of the cultural transformation that was the zeitgeist of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
She was later one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling in the “old boy” industry of oil and gas. The ruthless competitiveness of the women she encountered in the corporate world was shocking and emotionally fracturing. The foreignness of their approach to other women after spending years among committed feminists convinced Lesley to abandon the corporate world. Shortly after she was infected by a latent entrepreneurial spirit. Over the following years Lesley developed and sold several small businesses. Ownership gave her the refreshing freedom to choose how the business would be shaped. In each case her staff was a multicultural representation of women.
During this same period, she became a leader in the coaching industry. Lesley has mentored Fortune 500 C-Suite executives, individuals within the financially privileged sector, and celebrities. A lifelong dedicated student of human behavior, Lesley observed that the level of distress still experienced by women in corporate hemispheres is causing many to walk away. They are losing their dream and both industry and the world are losing leaders of tremendous merit. Developing effective solutions to pull back the veil of this dirty little secret ignited
Lesley’s commitment to On the Shoulders of Mighty Women. Throughout the years that followed her time in New York, Lesley was a dedicated voice for bringing attention to the challenges, dehumanization, and legalized inequities delivered upon members of marginalized communities. Consequently, the additional burden created by Intersectional Feminism, as coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, was immediately apparent to Lesley, as both a woman and lesbian.
Lesley’s body of unique life experiences have provided her with a first-hand understanding of the daily struggles faced by women of every race, culture, and sexual orientation. On the Shoulders of Mighty Women is a tribute to the power and grace of those who came before and the ones who will follow, the warriors and the fallen. This book is one more way Lesley found to amplify the voice, energy, experience-based understandings and compassion of women fighting for equality, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Lesley currently lives in Taos, NM where she facilitates Virtual Programs on topics ranging from Discovering Personal Freedom Through Self-Trust to Building Strategic Alliances of Women. She also hosts the weekly podcast; Women We Should Know