I Got an M.A. in English: Some Things I Learned

This month I graduated with my Masters in English. I have been doing this for the past two years, studying part-time while working full-time. Even when I was tired from studying after work, I never complained because I knew I was lucky to be able to study what I love. However, it was not an easy path to get here. I dropped out of law school years before and felt like a total failure – even though I knew I was making the right choice. After years of work and life experience, I surprised myself by doing this program but I am glad I did. Image-1

Here are a few topics I loved exploring:

  1. What makes classic literature so classic? There is a lot of literary theory and we can mainly boil it down to there being a certain type of “taste” that society looks towards. In the end though, there are many books that are not “classics” but very well could have been. We may also  be surprised by the classics of tomorrow.
  2. There are many voices missing from literature. Namely, there is a lack of Black people and other races in literature. However, technology is leading the shift in addressing this. For instance, anyone can blog or tweet. However, so much more needs to be done to promote writing by people who do not fit a stereotypical profile.
  3. Massachusetts is a literary hub. I’m from MA and I have gone to school in MA but do you know what I have failed to appreciate all my life? Most of the famous writers in U.S. history are from here. I never appreciated this as much as I do now. You can complete any M.A. English program across the world and I guarantee you will be offered one American Literature class focused on our writers.
  4. There is an intersection between literature and coding. Yes, coding. As mentioned above, technology is taking the literary world by storm. Many scholars are using the online world to create digital spaces where scholarship on lesser known topics can exist, such as research on African American migration over the centuries. It has never been easier to share this type of research and due to the increased demand, many scholars adapt by learning code.

Of course, there is plenty more that was covered in my classes and these descriptions are barely the tip of the iceberg. Still, they were the topics that made me think the longest. By being engaged with these topics, I think it inspired me to think more creatively. It gave me more confidence while copywriting at work. Whether or not you have the opportunity to get a degree, I think working hard and always learning will help you get to where you want to be.

Holiday Reading: Body and Soul by Anita Roddick

After successfully finishing my second semester of grad school, and taking off time from work for the holidays, I wasted no time picking out books for holiday break! You would think (and I thought), because I am getting a Masters in English Literature, I would not want to only watch Netflix and sleep. Those things are happening too BUT my desire to read for pleasure has surged! A week prior to break, I went on Goodreads and did my research to pick out books via Interlibrary loan.

These were my picks: 
1) “Body and Soul: Profits with Principles – The Amazing Story of Anita Roddick & The Body Shop” by Anita Roddick

2) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

3) “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac with an Introduction by Harold Bloom

3) “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

4) “The Bettencourt Affair: The World’s Richest Woman and the Scandal that Rocked Paris” by Tom Sancton

5) “The Sun and Her Flowers” by Rupi Kaur (I actually purchased this off of Amazon because the wait list was so long. Can you imagine being 25 years old and #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List?)

Some of these are classics that you probably know of that I have not read yet. They are all diverse topics from business, poetry, and human evolution. There are genres that I love like nonfiction, but branching out is good for my soul.

In two days, I have read Anita Roddick’s book on the creation of The Body Shop, written in 1991. For those who haven’t heard of The Body Shop, they sell bath and skincare products, and are #1 in the world. They are famous for vigorously campaigning for social causes and using ingredients that come from fair trade. Anita Roddick was actually named Dame of the British Empire prior to her 2007 passing, for all of her contributions towards global welfare.

When I was 19 years old, I worked in my local The Body Shop store as an assistant store manager and it was one of the best jobs I ever had. Management was hands-on in their selling approach – which isn’t really about selling at all: it is about educating the customer about our core values, the benefits of the product, and about building rapport. We certainly weren’t taught to pressure people into buying or only making sales goals. I was lucky to work on a campaign aimed at remediating Safe Harbor Laws for victims of human trafficking, a massively successful petition with millions of signatures, presented to the United Nations.

After reading this book, it all makes sense as to why management at my store were so hand-on. Roddick cared about being as transparent as possible when discussing the products and never claiming that they did things that they didn’t – the 80’s were big on “anti-aging” and gimmicks, she discusses. Roddick wanted to provide natural skincare products without the hype.

Here are my favorite parts of the book:

  • The Body Shop NEVER paid for advertising and when a Harvard Business School professor predicted TBS would require a massive advertising campaign to make it in the U.S., they provided postcards in-store responding, “We will never hire anyone from Harvard Business School.”
  • Roddick never intended her store to become a worldwide brand. Her goal was to make 300 pounds a week for her initial store, so that she would be able to feed her two daughters while her husband was on a two-year horseback mission.
  • The business is co-owned by a man who owned a garage in the 1970’s and lent Roddick 4,000 pounds to open her second store with the stipulation that he would own half the company. Little did he know that by 1991, the business would grow to the hundreds of millions of pounds.
  • At one point, Roddick hired an anthropologist with the sole mission of finding tribes and groups in destitute need, to see if there was a possibility to trade with them. She was a firm believer in “Trade Not Aid,” because many times donations go to the people at the top of the social food chain, and not to the people who need aid the most. By utilizing fair trade practices in all TBS products, people are given fair wages for their labor.
  • TBS’s first partnership campaign was with Save the Whales, and this was the first time a nonprofit partnered with a commercial entity.
  • Roddick made a lot of mistakes but was able to quickly change by listening and adapting. For instance, TBS’s second campaign to stop acid rain initially flopped but they quickly changed the image for the posters to be less confusing.

If interested, you should try to find this book through your library or find it on Amazon. Even better, walk through your local The Body Shop store and ask the salesperson about the products. If the shop workers are anything like my team from way back when, you will begin to believe simple body creams can be magical!

Mind the (Wage) Gap: The Power of Corporate Sustainability

I’m lucky to work for a company that takes sustainability so seriously. I work for one of the largest conference organizers in the world and as you can image, the event industry creates waste. To combat this and other sustainability issues, my company engages in recycling programs, community engagement, women’s leadership events, and more.

Why take on such big initiatives? Simply put: 1) It helps the world; and 2) Being good is good for business. People like companies that care about the world!

In a 2015 Gallup survey of 1,527 random adults in America, they found out “the majority of people were three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business.” Caring about your customer’s perception of you is just one reason why a corporation should care about sustainability. A corporation tends to have more money/resources, so they can actually make an impact. A positive public perception is great but making an actual difference is much more important.

Social Sustainability – Is the wage gap that important?

wage gap
Photo: Mike Licht, Creative Commons

This Investopedia article breaks down sustainability into 3 pillars: 1.The environmental pillar; 2. the social pillar; and 3. the economic pillar. What is sometimes overlooked is how much the wage gap between men and women comes into play. I strongly recommend everyone to watch this Vox video on the gender gap (also below), if you aren’t too familiar why or how it occurs.

I’m sure many people have heard that women make around 70 cents for every dollar a man makes. What you don’t hear often though is closing this gap will allow the world to prosper. I was actually at an event at Harvard Business School back in December that demonstrated how worldwide equal pay would relieve the world of all debt! This would be an enormous feat, but it would have a positive effect on our worldwide economy. Experts at the World Economic Forum predict it could take 170 years to close this gap but that doesn’t mean that this issue should be set aside.

What projects is your business undertaking to promote social welfare, especially in terms of female equality?