“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” ― Brigham Young

It is nice to have the accessibility to vacate your role in life and just for a day or so become someone else. Well, or at least a former version of yourself. That is what happened to me over the weekend in High Point, NC. I got to be “Just Kim.” Do any of you remember Jack from Will and Grace doing his jazz hands expression around his face and proclaiming “JUST JACK!”? That is how I felt, lol!

Twice a year a traveling circus called the Internation Furniture Market moves its caravan into High Point, NC. For two weeks this sleepy little town becomes a bustling hub of people from all over the world buying and selling, looking and trending what is HOT in the world of home furnishing.

Now, you soon learn that “home furnishing” is a vast and expansive category. Not only is it the couch and chair, oh contrary. It is the fabric used to cover the cushion that sits on the sofa or if you are fancy pants, a Chesterfield sofa.

You also have to include the accent lamp, rug, credenza and coffee table book that is used to complete the room. It is every single aspect of what you would think of if you deconstructed every single room inside your home as well as the surrounding are outside. So, you can imagine how much that entails, can’t you? All I can say is that it is hands down the absolute best people watching place this former Santa girl (throwback title) has ever seen.

I love going there, and so I help my dear friend Ruth with her showroom party by catering all the food for the night. I know what you are asking, but it is so very confusing if you have not followed and kept up with the very bread crumbs I all my life. So, let’s do a small and quick refresher.

  • I worked for many years doing insurance and securities when James was young.
  • I “retired” when I had my daughter seven years ago to be a stay at home mom.
  • After six months of being at home cleaning every nook and cranny of my home, I realized I was not stay at home mom material. It is an incredibly noble profession, but one that I did not do well. I needed to do something that was outside my home, and it had to be something I could do with my daughter by my side. I wanted the best of both worlds. So, I started my custom Santa making business with my mother and sister. We showed at Market Square Suites for three years, and then I moved to showing with Ruth in her warehouse, thus beginning a beautiful friendship.
  • My daughter Ansley sadly grew and eventually started school. Purpose served. We closed the Santa Shop after six glorious years. However, the memories I have of that time will always be with me. What an incredible learning experience it was for my daughter as well. She got to see how exceptional a working relationship with a mother could be. She got to see her mom start a business from the ground up and make with her hands literally hundreds of Santas. Each custom built with love and special to the owners who fell in love with them.It is a memory that I hope she will always have and a belief that woman are capable of marvelous things.
  • I returned to the glorious world of finance as the resident Girl Friday of my current employer and truly could not be happier. I handle the marketing, the blogs (obviously) and have the client management responsibility. That means I get to talk and laugh and care for our clients; I get to be their “touch.” It is a tailor-made job for me. However, I can not say I do not miss the market and all of its static electricity it creates. Because I do, terribly.

Okay, so now you are all caught up. It was interesting to revisit the life I had for so long as a spectator. It also allows me to truly appreciate all the women I know and love doing their “Thang” at the market. Just like many other professions, the furnishing industry is a primarily a male dominated world. These amazing women, however, are owning it in their individual way. The reason you see so many women becoming industry leaders, in my opinion, is that they are hungrier and are working ten times harder.

One of my own personal hero’s would be Kay Lambeth of Tomlinson/Erwin-Lambeth Furniture. She is to many the daughter of the legendary force of nature Katharine “Kay” Lambeth who was a woman before her time in the home furnishings industry. She is to me, however, the very gracious lady that helped me design my invoices, establish my return policy, and begin this chapter of my life. She showcased our Santas when no one in High Point knew how to take this out of the nowhere girl with this strange idea to custom make Santa Clauses, much less show them at the furniture market. She was the person that convinced me that I could carry a booth at Market Square, and she is one of the many, if not the best I have ever met as far as an example of women in the industry.

Beyond Kay, I met some amazing women like Carol Jolly, Ruth Olbrych, Dana Helms, Rhonda Jackson and the famous “Trim Queen” Jana Platina Phipps and so many talented, engaging and intelligent members of WithIt, an acronym for women in the home industries today. A group formed with a vision to help make the industry the best it could be, with the best leaders, male and female. The action plan included providing more women’s views points, opinions, dialogue and participation within the industry’s decision-making process all the way into the boardrooms. Their mission stated a clear vision to “provide leadership, networking, mentoring, scholarships, market events, and educational conferences.”

It is so invigorating to be around that sort of energy and vibe. That is what I miss most I think about being in the realm of the furniture market. The women I got to talk to and be around. The power that laid beyond the perfume, and the enlightened and educated words spoken from tinted lipsticked mouths. It was, and still is beautiful.

In many ways, I get the same sort of significant charge working here at Cannon Wealth Management. The furniture industry is not the only field that women are the smaller percentage. According to a 2015 Wall Street Journal report, only 23% of certified financial planner professionals are female. This statistic is not surprising to me, but sad. It isn’t that I feel that men cannot be sympathetic to a variable of situations, but I do believe they can be empathetic to them.  There is an “inside” and “outside” way of thinking when it comes to financial planning. Women have a deeper and often time more realistic view of the needs and obstacles that other women face in day to day challenges. That insight can be very useful when planning financial strategies. In the article one female professional commented that while she was good at numbers, “financial planning is not math.”

I totally agree with that statement. Just as I witnessed this past weekend at the furniture market, women are no longer in a set category. The glass ceiling may not be totally busted, but the gender walls are most certainly being knocked down. I see a whole new world of financial planning that involves small business owners that are looking for a way to run a successful business without totally ignoring the fact that they, themselves, are also employees of that business, and thus need to be compensated and paid fairly.

I see an increasing amount of female industry leaders that are so busy making sure they do not fall or get pushed off the corporate ladder that they may not have the same given set of opportunities a man may have to plan for retirement. Many of these women will work longer and harder for the same payouts that men will receive much earlier in their careers. Several of these women are also mother’s, and that presents an entirely new set of complexities. Professional jobs may start later for females who took time off to raise a family and are now getting back into their field. The question then becomes how much of the track do they have to make up? Are they recovering from a divorce they never expected where the husband’s 401k division and shared asset split is now what they consider their “retirement plan.”

Again, I am not saying that men cannot be sensitive to the financial needs of women in the industry, I work with several truly good men who value each and every client, but I wholeheartedly believe that women offer a more insightful and finely tuned sense of urgency and understanding to other women when it comes to planning their retirement needs and goals. That’s just a fact of life, things are vastly different. For example, I had to laugh just writing this long blog. When the editing tool Grammarly kept telling me, I was using the word “women” too often…it gave me a list of other words to use like ladies, females, girl, and so forth. Yet when it came to the overuse of  the word “men,” it merely gave me people. That was it. People.

I am not by any means a die hard feminist, but I do recognize that on a day to day basis in my own life, roles are defined and very different between genders. It comes down to whom you draw your energy from to maintain a feeling of equality. I mentioned to my friend Ruth that I only surround myself with good people, and I follow that tactic in every aspect of my life. I am proud to be working with Cindy Edwards and Carol Uselman in the job I have now. They share the same values and many of the same views as I do about the world as a whole. We make a good team, and they let me be and remain my airy fairy self, a divine attribute that the Santa Girl days brought out in me.

Grow where you are planted right? Make your blooms as fragrant and bright as you possibly can. Make a statement, fight for a cause and fight like a girl doing it! Lift each other up. Introduce, mingle and mend. I am so proud of my circles, each and every one of them. I am wiser because of the women in my life, and I truly appreciate that. It taught me to be the best you can be, and when you need help, ask for it just like I did with Kay Lambeth so many years ago. You may not change the world, but you can turn your little corner of it into something that will make someone’s life a little better. ~ Kimberly

For more on the article I referred to above, follow these links: