Sick of Women’s Confidence’ Yet? The Truth Behind All the Women’s Empowerment Books.

By Kathy Korman Frey

Sometimes, I get the sense a women’s empowerment book comes out and we’ll interpret it as follows:

“I need to be that person, and I’m really just glorified pond scum until I Lean In, Thrive, or otherwise do all the things this person did to become a superhero…holding a Red Bull a private jet.”

Devil’s Advocate Time: Can we not handle the truth?


There are TONS of rah rah guru books out there bossing us around. But when it comes to womens’ empowerment books, some of the criticism is Kevlar-worthy. Why such a hot issue? Can we not handle the truth?


We Can Handle It, But, Our Truth Gets A Little More “Real” If You Know What I Mean

Here is my hypothesis I humbly share after being involved in the women’s leadership area for a number of years…and after being an elder caregiver, a caregiver of children, a worker bee, and a CEO:

1. It hits a nerve when one hears “You’re not doing it right” – or “Do it this way” – when you’re already up to your ears (fill in: Calls to the insurance company because mom has broken her hip, calls to the school nurse because one of your kids barfed, and you already know you “should” be running gunning for xyz promotion or you “should” be attending that networking group).

2. Women are caught in “The More Bubble.”

Yes, things are changing. But, short of cloning…right now women are:

  • Still primary caregivers for kids in US
  • Still primary caregivers for elders in US
  • Still primary housework “doers”
  • Are half the workforce.
  • Have unprecedented career opportunities at all levels. While they may not be what we ideally want, the arrow is pointing up.

Data Nerds: Please see fascinating Hot Mommas Project Women’s Business Fact Sheet for these facts, and more.

P.s. I have not even TOUCHED the wage gap, sexism, and other basic civil rights issues that come up every time a book comes out. That is a whole post in and of itself, and massive groups – mainly policy and political – take on these issues.

Can You Handle the Truth?

T$R$U$T$H The Juice: Women = Dinero

P.s. I really think this section should be sponsored by KE$HA

So why do we even care about all this stuff? Why should anyone care if women are confident, successful, yada yada? I ask this question to my class all the time. It’s the question everyone wants to know. Some are afraid to ask so I just put it out there.


images-4This is why: Women = money. Sure, it’s great to be a nice person and do the right thing for half the population. But, let’s be honest: It might require change. And change costs money! This argument is a little sad, but, it means you might be able to win with the person who has missed this meeting for the last decade! Money is a big motivator…for companies, for countries, etc. One of the best facts nay sayers and ambassadors alike can share in common is the money women generate in the economy.

  • Women make 80-85% of household purchasing decisions.
  • Companies that promote women on a formal executive track are more profitable.
  • Where countries invest in women entrepreneurs, GDP increases.
  • Please see sources on Hot Mommas Project Fact Sheet

The New Success, Fart Jokes, et al

The corner office was the definition of success 20 years ago. Now we have a generation that’s cool with a laptop, a set of headphones, and a chair (I see a vision of 1-800-chiropractor springing up all over the nation in 20 years – but that’s a tangent).

Success differs for everyone. What was right for someone else, may not be right for you.

I am relatively clear on my definition of success and in no way shape or form do I feel I need to gene splice myself into Sheryl Sandberg. Aside from being incredibly painful, she was not asking us to do that. She was taking time to share some, if I may say, pretty awesome tips. When I walk into a situation with a good sense of self, I am able to read a book, hear a lecture, etc and the takeaways fall into two categories: “This applies to me (or my students)” or “This does NOT apply to me (or my students).”

TRUTH? I feel most vulnerable when I have NOT defined who I am, or what I want, then am served up with a bunch of “to dos” or “you shoulds”…like some late-bloomer Mommy issue. News flash: We’re EVERYTHING…to EVERYONE. This could lead to a minor identity crisis of sorts.


My definition/recipe for success is some drive, doing what I love, a dash of special sauce and fulfilling my purpose, a lot of humor, some little rascals making fart jokes, one big handsome one – making fart jokes, two dogs, a nice home environment, and a killer support network. Of course there are all sorts of plans, measurements, and color-coded calendars in the middle of that. Did I mention the bullwhip? Okay okay, just kidding.

What’s your definition of success?


Kathy Korman Frey is the founder and CEO of the Hot Mommas Project, the world’s largest womens’ case study library – the research for which is headquartered at the George Washington University where Frey teaches Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. The Hot Mommas Project classes creates opportunities for scalable mentoring and increases confidence up to 200% in a semester and 66% in a three hour workshop. Stay tuned for the Hot Mommas Project virtual campus, launching soon.

7 thoughts on “Sick of Women’s Confidence’ Yet? The Truth Behind All the Women’s Empowerment Books.

  • Great comment on Twitter from Patti B Johnson – thanks!

    Patti Johnson ‏@PattiBJohnson 10h
    @ChiefHotMomma Hi, Kathy! We are too friendly w/”should”. Agree on “who cares?” Yes-Biz needs to keep at it. Def translates to $. Like!

  • You know I go back and forth on this issue a lot. What is success now? It’s different from when I was younger. I have always wanted to be a writer, Mom & philanthropist.

    The plan was to a- cultivate an at-home comfortable living so I could be with my kids constantly, on some kind of residual income. (also? Nannies) b- be awesome at giving money away and c- write every day.

    I guess one and a half out of three isn’t bad, given that I’m probably only halfway through my natural life span. I may not be able to have kids, which I am still coping with- but these days, it isn’t as soul-crushing as it was 15 years ago.

    The thing that I really wonder about is whether we’re off track in terms of employment justice. I’d rather make the American workplace more fair to both genders, especially as parents, than play into the existing notion that we should work ourselves to death around the outdated model of the corporate structure.

    • Even within the genders there is a divide among those with kids and without. I remember on a Washington Post digital chat after an article, one of the first questions to me was: “Parents get to leave early to pick up kids and I have to stay here working.” We’re in the “Crazy Time” of workplace change – trying to find the right answer. Some companies, and entrepreneurs especially, are going to get there first. These will be the models to follow. Tinu, the model you have set up is great. People want to know about this. Tips, what works, what doesn’t. Hoteling and co-working spaces are something I really keep my eye on closely!

  • The thing I always have a problem with on this topic is that my husband is actually the primary caregiver and does most of the housework. He also lifts heavy objects and can install a beautiful hardwood floor.

    The way society treats men who are primary caregivers is even worse than how they treat women. And women are as dismissive as men are. It’s no secret I’m a card-carrying feminist, and I fight for the end of the wage gap, among many other issues. But we can’t change expectations if we treat people who are NOT falling into traditional gender roles like there’s something wrong with them.

    /steps off soapbox

    • This is a great point Amy. My point was mainly from the “there aren’t more hours in the day” standpoint but you’re addressing another issue which is how caregivers are valued and treated. We’ve bought our own marketing which is: “Caregiving isn’t important” or said another way, “If you’re not generating income you’re not as valuable.” I’m sensing here also, there is an element of plain old social awkwardness at a level you’d think we’d be over after high school.

      • This story also from Amy Vernon of Facebook ” I thought it worth mentioning some of my thoughts here: As the wife of a stay-at-home dad, if women don’t start treating men who are taking on some of the traditional women’s roles as they would like to be treated themselves, it’s going to take a lot longer for these things to change.

        The only women who’d speak to him when he used to take the boys to the park when they were toddlers were the nannies. None of the moms would speak to him.”

  • Thanks to Barbara Greene @emoticomma for this on Twitter:

    @emoticomma: @ChiefHotMomma @Tinu You’re welcome. A lot of astute points in your analysis. My own thought is the development of a career … a lot of small dots and large breakthroughs needing to be connected. It’s never as easy as just leaning in, etc.

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