• mind the gap

    Jane WurwandThat’s what we say in the UK when stepping on and off the tube (train). But the gap that I really “mind” these days, in the American sense, meaning that it vexes me, is the gap dividing men and women globally in terms of gender equality.

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report has just been published. The news in some cases is good; some countries, like the USA and Sri Lanka, have risen in the rankings. Others, like France — quelle horreur! — have dropped.

    The report studies and analyzes 114 countries on the basis of key issues:

    • Economics (salaries, access to skilled employment)
    • Educational attainment
    • Political representation in decision-making structures
    • Health and survival

    At the top of the list: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden. Great places to be a woman, providing you have a good pair of boots and a nice bulky sweater or two. Some are quick to point out that these Nordic economies are “rich” by world standards. True, but this study demonstrates that wealth is more accurately defined as equally divided assets and opportunities, not mere endowments alone.

    This all gets back to why I attended the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), and why Dermalogica has founded FITE. There is an unmistakable correlation between gender equality and a country’s prosperity and economic viability. Countries that don’t place value upon female human capital (I won’t name names, but, oh, you know who you are) are wasting an immeasurable resource: women’s talents and skills. Some of these countries possess tremendous wealth, but it stays in the hands of a very few men. These untapped talents and skills can generate a significant competitive advantage in the world market. So, in practical terms, it’s not just bad karma: it’s bad business.

    These ideas were on my mind when I was recently interviewed on television (please look for it!), during the closing session of the CGI. As the attendees and I began to go our separate ways, lots of people asked me for a sound-byte to capture what I hope to achieve with FITE.

    What I said: I want Dermalogica to be instantly associated in the minds of consumers with putting 25,000 of the world’s women into business for themselves, much the way M.A.C. is known for championing HIV/AIDS prevention and survival.

    But here’s my new question: do we as women place limits upon ourselves, and what we are willing to achieve?

    Let’s talk.

  • Breaking Bad (News)

    OH, BEHAVE! Keeping Manners In Mind

    by Annet King

    We all dread taking the responsibility for directly making someone else feel bad. This would make us feel bad about ourselves; we want to believe that we are “nice people”. So, often we take a passive approach, and try to let silence speak for itself.

    But keeping people hanging is rude—more rude than being honest. For instance, all of my friends know that I don’t do Friday nights out. This is because by Friday, I am exhausted, and will just be grumpy and no fun to be with if I push myself over the line. So, if I receive a social invitation for a Friday night, I tell the truth—that I can’t make it, but that I would love to get together another time. I think that people appreciate knowing this, and it’s better than saying I “might” attend or join in, when I know perfectly well that I will not.

    Sparing people’s feelings is indeed part of etiquette, but so is honesty. When there is something to be said, we must find ways to say it which are not brutal, but get the job done.

    • Don’t couch it in a lot of lawyer-ish back-story or preamble.

    • Don’t editorialize or moralize about why or how you’ve reached your current decision.

    • And don’t condescend with parental platitudes like, “This hurts me more than it hurts you”, because chances are, it doesn’t.

    • Don’t apologize until, or unless, they burst into tears, in which case, keep it short (just offering a box of tissues may be sufficient).

    Tell the truth. Tell it simply, briefly. Don’t go on and on. This applies in every medium: face-to-face, hard-copy letter, email, phone message, phone conversation.

    I do think it’s best to add a bit of warmth and humanity when you can. If possible, balance a painful truth with something more positive. This is not lying, but it is making the truth a bit more bearable. You might say:

    “Terribly sorry, but pomegranate juice will not come out of white linen. But it’s a lovely color, as indelible stains go.”

    “That’s a nice dress, but I prefer how the other one fits you.”

    “We truly appreciate your interest in the company, but we have selected another candidate for the position.”

    “Honestly, this relationship isn’t working for me, but it’s been nice. Best of luck!”

    It takes guts to tell someone something that they don’t want to hear. It takes the skill of a butterfly-surgeon to do so without absolutely smashing their self-esteem to smithereens. But saying nothing is the coward’s way out. And cowardice is rude.

  • Spare The Rod? Oh, Spare Me!

    OH, BEHAVE! Keeping Manners In Mind
    by Annet King

    Is it okay for me to bring my little one along with me for my appointment?
    Frankly, I’d prefer if you brought your dog.
    Okay, now before I am vilified as a child-hater, let me just say that I’m a dog-lover. There is a distinction.

    Is it rude for a client to bring a child to a professional appointment? Potentially, it is. This is because there are often other paying customers in the business at any given time. And many of them are there, frankly, to escape the patter of little feet for a blessed hour or two.

    Different skin care centers, spas and salons have differing policies regarding whether or not children are permitted. When clients defy these policies – and the excuses are endless, starting with the classic “I couldn’t find a sitter”—this could be considered the very essence of rudeness. When the facility does permit children, both client and the professional team must take care that the experience of other patrons is not compromised. Now, that would really be rude!

    And, I feel that unless the facility has a fully-staffed professional child care service, where the little ones may safely be deposited for an hour or so, the front desk staff then have to do the honors of entertaining little Jenny. The Mother herself can’t really “be here now”, as the bumper sticker says especially when doing downward dog on the table getting a full leg and bikin wax. Bringing the kid into the room around wax pots and microcurrent also not a safe option. Distraction will diminish the experience. If it’s a 10-minute brow tidy, it’s no big deal. But wondering whether your little darlings are getting into mischief for 60 to 90 minutes really makes mum’s visit more stress than bliss—and may really tick off other clients in the process.

    Back in the bad old days, proper people said that children were to be seen, not heard. These days, with ear-buds, texting, Droid and all the rest, utter silence among smaller people is possible, but this is a sad, wasted opportunity. Kids are insular enough these days; in fact, I honestly believe that their isolation leads to a distinct generational rudeness.

    If clients are permitted to bring kids to your facility, then my advice is to encourage them to bring two, or even three. Because any skin care center worth its microfoliant has an interactive Skin Bar, where dabbing, poking, patting, smearing and splashing in the name of healthy skin are not only tolerated, but encouraged. Sort of a combination of finger-painting and icing cupcakes with your bare hands. And since we’re talking about skin care products, nothing breaks, nothing stains, and it all rinses off, fresh and lovely, with warm water and a dry towel.
    This presumes that your skin care center has stepped up their game with what we call the Skin Bar, where customers perch on bar stools, pin their hair back, enjoy an array of products presented on trays, sushi-style, and clean up with cotton swabs and personal steamers.

    But here’s the thing – once the kids hit the Skin Bar, they’ll never want to leave.

  • saved by the bell

    Jane WurwandIt is a fact that domestic violence crosses all economic, social and cultural boundaries. Rich people do it. Poor people do it. People in-between do it, too.

    But here’s the thing: poor people have the fewest options for self-defense.

    When we say domestic violence, we are talking about battering, and all forms of physical and psychic terrorism. Women and children comprise the vast majority of those who are at the receiving-end of domestic violence.

    Women and children who have independent resources – cab fare, a bus-token, a credit card, a cell phone — may be able to get into a safe place where they can tell somebody and call for help, or simply get away. Women and children, and especially women with small children, living in poverty, have little choice but to stay. This is true even in American cities. There are urban areas of our own country where the police are notoriously slow to show — because they’re scared!

    This was the key topic during the Girls’ and Women’s breakout session during the CGI — there were 50 breakout rooms, and in our group of 12 or so people, I sat next to Jennifer Buffet (Warren’s daughter-in-law: see blog dated October 15) along with Marguerite Margolies, who is Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law. Both women are Dermalogica fans, as I discovered when I gave them my card!

    Mallika Dutt, from India, spoke about a public service campaign underway in her country that confronts domestic violence — President Clinton had also mentioned it during the opening plenary. It’s called “Bell Bajao” or “Ring the Bell.” If someone hears sounds coming from a neighbor’s home that suggests violence, they go to the door and ring the doorbell. This action interrupts the violence, and chances are that the perpetrator is aware of the campaign, and may stop. Check it out at — India

    Would this work in America? I’m not so sure. The fact that it is working in India is relevant, though.

    The entire discussion raises interesting and disturbing links between domestic violence, especially violence perpetrated by men against women, and poverty, and war. This unholy trinity absolutely dictates life in the developing world. This realization was one of the key “Aha!” moments we had when deciding to form FITE: to give disempowered women ways out. Physical safety, and mental security from the threat of violence, are the first steps toward creating personal, professional and economic stability.

    We’ve all seen the astonishing photographs of Bibi Aisha, an Afghani 14-year old whose nose was cut off by her husband and his brother as punishment when Aisha fled her marriage from her Taliban-fighter spouse. As a side note, Aisha’s father had delivered her into this marriage in exchange for a bride-price which paid off his debts. We’ve all heard the phrase “using women as chattel.” In case you’ve ever wondered, this is exactly what it means.

    I also just read that according to Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence, the “Democratic Republic” (I cannot resist putting those words in bitter quotation-marks) of Congo is the rape-capital of the world. For a taste of brutality more barbaric than most of us can easily imagine, just Google “Congo rape” or words to that effect, and have a read.

    Sexual violence, which often takes the form of domestic violence within families, is epidemic worldwide. It’s also happening right down the street from you and me. Just listen. And if you hear something, ring the bell (or at least call 911).