Sometimes It Helps to Know a Big Fish

Updated insider information by Chellie Campbell, author of “The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction”

109-April 19

“A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back again when it begins to rain.”—Robert Frost

Sometimes, when you’re a little fish, you can get what you need by enlisting the support and help of a big fish.

After I graduated from college and got a job, I qualified to get my first credit card, a Bankamericard. (Those were the dark ages, before credit card companies found out how lucrative it was to give credit cards to students.) I used the card intermittently, and always made my payments on time. I had an excellent credit record.

When I got married three years later, I asked to have my husband’s name added to my card. They immediately asked for me to turn in my credit card, telling me that I had to reapply for credit with my husband. (I told you those were the dark ages.) I dutifully filled out another application, along with my husband.

They denied our application.

They denied it on the basis that he was a free-lance actor, therefore self-employed, therefore without verifiable income. We were angry, but didn’t know what we could do, until we saw a Bankamericard commercial on television, starring Dennis Weaver. Weaver, at the time, was the president of the Screen Actors Guild! Without further ado, we wrote a scathing letter to Mr. Weaver, telling him in no uncertain terms that we were very unhappy that the president of our union was supporting a company that denied credit to actors.

Within two days, we received a two-page letter from Dennis Weaver’s attorneys. Attached was a copy of the letter they had sent to the Bank of America demanding that this matter be rectified. The day after that, I received a call from the president of the Bank of America, asking me what he could do to make me happy. I said he could send me a Bankamericard. You can bet I had one the next day. I wrote thank you notes to him, to Dennis Weaver, and to his attorneys.

You can have right on your side, but it helps to have might on your side, too. Is there a place in your life where you see injustice? Can you do something about it? Will you alone have enough resources to get the job done? Or do you need to enlist the support of someone else?

Walk softly, but know a big fish.

Today’s Affirmation: “I have powerful supporters who help me accomplish great things!”

Dad took this dolphin photo in the 50s at Marineland

Dad took this dolphin photo in the 50s at Marineland

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, there weren’t any role models for what I wanted to do. In all of the families in my neighborhood, the moms were homemakers and the dads worked at an outside job. In those days, job ads were classified under “men wanted” and “women wanted” and the job descriptions were really different. Working women were secretaries, nurses, and teachers – not executives, doctors, or professional speakers. I believe I picked “acting” as a profession because it was as close as I could get to independent business owner. There was no woman I knew or even read about who owned a business.

I was lucky in one important respect – I was the oldest child of 3 girls, and research has shown that often in these family circumstances, the father will give more success-oriented instruction to the eldest daughter when there are no male children. My dad always encouraged me to be a winner, to get good grades, to be president of a club, the lead in the school play. Still, when I brought the boys home and beat them at ping-pong, Dad took me aside and said, “Let the boy win.” Too late, dad! I loved winning and being in charge of things and I wasn’t going to stop.

When I graduated from college in 1970, women’s lib was just getting started. “Equal pay for equal work” was the motto, and arguments were made for fair employment practices for all. The Civil Rights Act, Title VII and other legislation made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender. Overtly. But so much of it is subtle and pervasive that we don’t even see it, or when we do, we think it’s the natural order of things.

Part of the problem is that women just aren’t taught or encouraged to negotiate their salaries, ask for bonuses and promotions, or research exactly what their worth is in the marketplace. In school, you work hard on your assignments, turn in your work on time, obey the rules, and bingo! You get a pat on the head, a gold star, and an A. Try that at work and see what you get: a pat on the head, additional assignments, overtime without pay. And maybe a new title – but that would also be without a raise in pay. I’ve met so many women over the years who were angry and resentful over this “injustice”. No one ever told them that the game is played differently in the real world and that to succeed in business meant they had to develop new skils like promoting themselves, tooting their horns, and asking for what they wanted – loudly and more often. Ah. But the hitch was, if you did that, you were a bitch. The “bitch hitch” is what keeps women locked into submissive strategies that don’t work.

In the book, “Women Don’t Ask” by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, they outline some of the ways in which men still control the majority of the economic environments in which women live and work. Only 10.9% of the members of the boards of directors of Fortune 1000 companies are women. Although women own about 40% of all businesses in the US, they only receive 2.3% of the available equity capital needed for growth. Men get the other 97.7%.

As recently as 2001, 98% of child-care workers, 82% of elementary school teachers, 91% of nurses, 99% of secretaries, and 70% of social workers in the US were women. 87% of corporate officers of the 500 largest companies, 90% of all engineers, 98% of all construction workers, and 70% of all financial managers were men.

A 1999 study showed that the percentage of women used as experts in business and economic newscasts on the 3 major TV networks averaged 18%; only 31% of all business and economic news stories were filed by female correspondents, 11% of authors of business and economic news stories were women. Business Week financial articles about influential individuals focused on men 92% of the time.

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