154 Transcript: Women Helping Women Rise (with Layla Kasha)

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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast episode number 154. We're talking about women helping women to rise. And if you're a woman, this episode is for you.

Hey, friends, welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women, I am Dr. Jen Riday and I am so glad you're here. I am so glad that you listen and want to make your life better, you want to be more positive, you want to think more highly of yourself and teach your kids to do the same. Well, I'm so excited about this episode of women helping women to rise, not squashing each other down. I've said before, you know, a lot of women say that men keep women down, but many times, women keep women down and we need to shift that culture; we'll be talking about that today.

But first, I want to share a quick review from one of our reviewers who wrote, “This is one of my favorite podcasts, so upbeat, real, personal, and helpful, I love the interview format. One of my favorite things is hearing about guests’ morning routines and how they consciously start their day to set themselves up for happiness and vibrancy. This is helping me to be more vibrant and happy too,” and that is from Summersun621. Thank you so much for leaving that review. And everyone else, I love reviews, I read them, I love getting a feel for what you like. So please leave me one if you haven't done one already, and you can do that at jenriday.com/review.

Well, let's talk about our guest today, Layla Kasha. She gave an amazing TED talk last fall called ‘Bossing Up Together – Women Helping Women Rise Up’. And in that TED talk, she shares her story of being in the workplace, helping to teach one of her mentees, someone below her, everything she knew and only to have that woman stab her in the back. If you haven't seen this TED talk, you need to see it, it's amazing; again, it's called ‘Bossing Up Together – Women Helping Women Rise Up’. Well, several of my listeners and students contacted me and said, “Oh, you have to have her on the show,” so we have done it and I loved talking to her. She's definitely an empowered positive upbeat woman and she's all about the idea of helping to lift each other up. If you've ever had a woman, a mentor help you with something, maybe they taught you how to play the cello or someone taught you how to rock it in the boardroom, whatever it is, I know for me, I had a mentor, Cedele Crais, who taught me everything I know about human development and family studies in the parent-child relationships. I love that mentor-mentee relationship, and instead of trying to tear each other down because we don't feel good enough or backstab each other to get ahead or be catty and jealous and critical, we can let all that go simply by creating that foundation of knowing that we're awesome; and we talked all about this in this interview. You are going to love this, and without further ado, let's dive in.

My guest today is Layla Kasha and she's the vice president of a leading retailer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's passionate about helping and mentoring women to maximize their opportunities. Layla has worked in many environments and cultures over her career. She's built her own successful businesses and has insights on many of the issues that plague women executives and women who are working the path to the boardroom. Well, welcome to the show, Layla.

L: Thank you so much, Jen, I'm so excited to be here.

J: I want to tell everyone how I was connected with you, one of my Heal Your Heart students, Ann Jambor, found you and she had heard one of your TED talks and so she said, “Jen, you need to have Layla on your show.” So we connected and I'm super excited.

L: I'm super excited too and thank you. For anyone who did watch the TED, that was… was a really fun and scary thing to do and so anyone that I touched and that was helped, it is amazing to me that anyone even… even watched it (Laughs), it's pretty amazing so thank you for that.

J: Yeah. Well, tell us the name of your TED talk and what it's about; and I will link to that in the show notes by the way, but tell us about it.

L: So the TED was called ‘Bossing Up Together – Women Helping Women Rise Up’. You know, I've always really been driven in my career, and so for me coming out into the world, you know, in the 90s where I had heard all of these things about how women had carved the path and like I could go do anything. And I had an amazing dad who is actually from the Middle East and so it shouldn't quite surprise people that that wasn't really popular for his culture that his firstborn daughter would go to college and have a career and do all these things and not conform to what their culture is, but he was really a huge advocate for me. And so, for me, I really went out into the world after school and didn't really realize that there were going to be all these pitfalls and roadblocks put in front of me. I just kind of came out thinking, “Hey, they've paved the way,” right? We've heard all these things about the women's movement and how all these pioneers had done all these great things, but I was really shocked when I actually got out and the obstacles were coming from women and not men, and that really blew my mind. And so I felt really compelled to talk about how we can do better together; we can do better together.

J: Mm-hmm, mm hmm. Well, tell us the main story you shared in your TED talk; I find that fascinating.

L: Yeah. So my main story was that I had worked in several companies and I had worked for mostly women leaders. So when you look at women leaders in general and when you look at, for example, an executive map you see, 1 in 4 women are filling executive seats and 1 in 20 of the CEO seats are held by women, and predominantly those executive seats are HR and marketing. So I don't think it surprised anybody in my family that I ended up being a marketing person, I just always loved marketing. And so that's the road I was in, so because of that, I had a lot of female leaders. And, you know, I was really surprised that I had these, you know, women leaders I assumed would have other women working on really cool stuff and they'd be elevating each other and they'd be pulling each other up, and that was just never my experience. And so when I did get to be a boss, I had a team of women and I was really excited about doing this thing that I had never really happened for me, I'd never found that boss that I really wanted that could… you know, the kind of that girl power, that bossing up together, you never really had that. And so I invested a lot into these women that worked for me, and specifically in one woman who I really felt like was an ally and a partner and she stabbed me in the back and she did it so she could take my job, and it was heartbreaking and devastating; it was just devastating and I didn't know what to do with that. And I didn't expect it and it was the lowest moment not, only in my career, but probably in my life personally too. It was just really a heartbreaker because when you invest like that in somebody that you think is not just a work partner but is also a friend in real life and in your inner circle and somebody that you confide in and you share things with and then they turn around and twist things and create something that isn't there and it's enough for you to just lose everything, it's pretty devastating.

J: Wow, yikes.

L: Yeah. So the easy thing would have been to go, “Well, I learned my lesson, I'll never do that again. I'll never invest in a woman because they're going to do… that's what they're going to do to me.” It would have been easy to do that, but I really thought about it and I really trust… I'm a gut person, I don't know if you're like that…

J: Yes.

L: … but I really… like, I really have always had a strong gut and I… it's very rarely led me down the wrong path. And when I got another job… because I did. I mean, you know, we all think we're never going to get out of whatever this bad thing that happens to us. We always think… for 5 minutes, I let myself think, “Okay, this is like the worst thing and I'm never going to recover.” And then, you know, hopefully you do what I often do which is, “Something… everything happens for a reason, something else is going to shake out and I'm going to figure this out.” And so, you know, I got another job and I inherited all new women.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And I didn't want to invest in them I was terrified, I mean, honestly terrified. And I really listened to my gut and I did the opposite of what… even my husband said to me, “Are you sure you want to do this again? Because I would hate to see this happen again.” I mean, we ended up having to move because the next opportunity came in another state, it was very, very disruptive for my personal life, for my work life, for my career, and you leave this gap on your resume and that's always… like you always hear that's like the worst thing ever especially, you know, when you're an ambitious person and you're trying to be driven and you're trying to take calculated risk. And so… but I did and it paid off in spades. It was an amazing experience and it really, really kind of put a fine point on the whole reason I think one of my life principles is to really help other women. I feel like it is our duty as leaders to put our hand back and pull up the next woman and give them a chance, because if we don't change what we're doing, if we're in constant competition in work, in personal life, if we're in constant competition, we cannot band together and do what needs to be done, and we're never going to change that story if we don't start doing that. And so, for me, it was one of those, “The change starts with me,” and, yes, I got burned, but everyone is not like that other person.

J: Right, right. Have you heard if she's heard your TED talk? That would be so interesting.


L: So I don't know if she has. That was an interesting… so I don't talk to her anymore and I don't really know anyone that talks to her anymore, but my suspicion is that she has seen it.

J: Yeah.

L: Because the circles are small and the world we live in, while it might feel very big and in a lot of cases is actually quite small, and so I would assume that she's seen it.

J: Wow.

L: And I think she knows exactly who she is and…

J: Oh my gosh, that's so awful. (Laughs)

L: I often get asked, “Hey, if you ever ran into her again, what would you say?”

J: Yeah, what would you say? Yeah.

L: I think, you know, I know what I really like what the hot-blooded Middle Eastern girl, the Chaldean girl wants to say, but I think really I would say, “Thank you,” because she changed my whole world. She thought she was doing something terrible…you know, it turned out that she had done this to three other women (only women), this was like her career plan, this was how she got ahead. Every single promotion that she had ever had was because she stabbed the woman ahead of her in the back and took the scene.

J: Wow.

L: So, for me, it's like she did a really bad thing, but I was able to see the positive in it and flip it around and made my life so much better. I mean, I can guarantee you I would not be talking to you today if she wouldn't have done that, I can guarantee you I would not be sitting in San Francisco in one of the leading retailers and one of the fastest-growing retailers in an executive seat if she wouldn't have done that. Because I was so happy where I was, I was so comfortable where I was, I would have never left, I would have never made the change ever.

J: Yeah, true.

L: And it's been years.

J: Ah, well, congrats on being able to forgive and see the good in that, you're following your own advice, everything happens for a reason, right?

L: Yep.

J: Well, when you say invest in other women, what does that exactly mean for you?

L: Well, I think it means different things to different people, but for what it means for me is, first, I want to start by saying this is not absent talent. The women that I work with and I help mentor and I help give a path to are talented, strong, smart women. So it's not saying, “Hey, let's just give every woman a hand up because they're women,” that's not what this is. This is very much using my time and my resource to help them get better, get smarter, see the strategy and the angle of how they can get where they want. Figure out first where they want to go and help them get there and be the person that can put their hand back and pull them up. So as an example, and I talked about this in my TED as well, the woman that came after that horrible heartbreak, the woman that I was on the fence about trusting/not trusting, “What do I do? What if she stabs me in the back? What if she does this? What if she does that?” is my best friend in the world now.

J: Aaw.

L: She is somebody that I would give my life, I'd lay my life down in front of and I'd also put it in her hands. And when I left my last… that job that she was at, and I had done so much, we had worked together for 4 years and we had done so much just bringing her in and showing her. Like I think one of the things women do in general because we're worried about our seat, we're worried about the people in the world that are going to stab us in the back is we choose not to share information with other people that are in the next position or the 2 positions down. We're scared to death to give them what we know because they're going to use that and take my job.

J: Wow.

L: I think that's the biggest thing that women do is we hoard this information. And so, for me, it was, “Hey, I'm going to do this media buy. Do you want to learn how to do this?” and she would say, “Of course I would love to. No one has ever offered to show me because I've never done it.”

“Come in, sit down next to me, let's do it together.”

J: Wow.

L: “Hey, I'm going to negotiate this 10 million dollar contract, do you want to negotiate with me?” and she would say, “I've never done that before.” I'm like, “Great, just sit next to me, you can hear how we do it, and the next time, you can do it.” And it was more of just giving her information and giving her knowledge and giving her exposure and experience and visibility to things that she'd never done before, that when I took the next opportunity because I didn't get… I had applied to the next level in my job, and believe it or not, the woman at the last company or the company that I was at at this time was a woman and she chose to bring a man in instead of offering the position to me, which was totally her prerogative, but that told me I needed to move on, so I did. And this person that I'm talking about, the second chair as I used to call her my second chair, she was just devastated, she didn't want me to go, and I said, “Listen, this is your shot now.”

J: Wow.

L: It stinks to not think you're going to be working together forever and it was such a good thing, but this is now your opportunity and you take it and you are now going to put your hand back you're going to pull the next person up. And within three hours of me being out of my seat, she called me, hysterically crying, that she had an offer letter for my job.

J: Whoa!

L: And that’s… that’s what we had worked our whole… that whole 4 years together.

J: Yeah.

L: That's what we'd worked for was so that when I went to the next level, she was the natural next person.

J: Aww, that's so fantastic.

L: But that's what we should be working for.

J: Yeah.

L: It shouldn't be so out of the ordinary that that would be something that would stand out, it should be what we're always doing for each other.

J: What mentality do you feel like you had to have so that you could feel safe helping her? I mean, I feel like you had to shift to a place a lot of women don't shift into, maybe it's being vulnerable, maybe it's being okay with failing; I don't know.

L: I think… yeah, so my life principle, and I've always lived by it, is, “Fail forward, fail fast, and fail often.” Because I don't think if we're failing, we're trying, I think, “If I'm not failing, I'm bored,” that means I'm not doing anything new, anything different, but I also think you have to get to a place in your life where you… and this might be a little hokey, but I really believe that everything happens for a reason. And so if I feel like doing the right thing is going to get me burned like it did, then that's the way it was supposed to be, but I'm always going to do the right thing.

J: Ooh.

L: I'm always going to do the thing, even though it's hard, and my parents taught me that when I was little. The hard things are hard, but they're often the right things.

J: Oh yeah.

L: It's harder to invest in people when you're not quite sure, it's harder to trust that people are also going to then turn around and do the right thing. But you just have to be okay that, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.

J: Hmm, trust and, yeah, investing in the other people.

L: Yeah.

J: I think it’s… kind of it sounds like you're okay dancing in that fire. You know, you mentioned being okay with potentially being burned, but you're at least in the…

L: Yeah.

J: … fire and you're not just sitting back, getting too cold and doing nothing.

L: Yeah, I think if we don't embrace something we've never done, then if we're not uncomfortable, we're not going to expand and we're not going to do bigger things. I mean, that's the other thing, I always think back to that moment what I was stabbed in the back and I would still be sitting in that seat, and I would probably be doing the same exact thing I was doing however many, many, many years ago that was, I don't think I would have had that push; I would be a different person. It's hard to explain because it should be a really bad thing, but I think that sometimes you need a shove and sometimes you need, that door can't just be closed, it needs to be nailed shut…

J: Yeah, yeah.

L: … so you can't go back.

J: Yeah, but getting out of the comfort zone.

L: Mm-hmm.

J: So why do you think men find that to be easier than women, facing those fears and getting out of the comfortable place? I mean, that's a stereotype obviously, but there's some science to back that up as well. So…

L: There is science and there is a study and boy, I will tell you, for the TED, I read a lot of studies and they… there were often times where my husband would walk in and I'd be sobbing.

J: Aww.

L: And he'd say, “What is happening?” and I said, “I am reading a study that talks about how women would rather work for men and how when you look at a woman…” so here's an interesting factoid and I think this goes to your original question. So a woman will only apply to a job if she meets 100% of the requirements of the role. A man will apply to a job if he meets a mere 51%. So if he's 50% qualified, he's willing to roll the dice.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And a woman is not willing to take a risk unless she is sure that she's going to be 100% qualified. And, I mean, when you look at just men in general, they're raised… there's whole studies, there's a book out called ‘Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office.”

J: Ooh.

L: It's a great book, and it's a great book because it talks about how we were raised to be polite and boys weren't. We were raised to not ask for things and boys weren't. We were raised in a certain way that then, when you go into a boardroom, is not conducive to a boardroom. It's not conducive to ask for a promotion, it's not conducive to negotiate your salary because you weren't trained… as a kid, you weren't raised to negotiate, you were raised to be polite and to look pretty and to do all these things, which are stereotypes, but it is so true. And I think about it and I think about the way that, when I was growing up, my dad owned his own business, he's an immigrant, he was an entrepreneur and we all worked in the business. From the time I was like 6 years old, I think I would go in there after school and like dust shelves and things. But he… when I was 15 years old, I'd be negotiating with him for different things for the store or when he had restaurants, all these different things. He was exposing me and teaching me like you would a boy, like how a boy is raised to be expected to do all these things and be expected to be the provider and be expected to stand up for themselves and be… and I think that is a huge part of what we have to break the mold on, and I think I had an advantage because my dad just never looked at me… I think he looked at it like, “I need to raise my kid the smartest way that I can, and I want her to know all these things for herself.” And I think that it's really hard because I think men are just raised to be like, “Yeah, I'm awesome!”

J: (Laughs)

L: “How do you not see that I’m awesome? I’m awesome!”

J: (Laughs)

L: And we’re just not going to do that. I was… it's just not something in our nature to walk in and say… I'm getting ready to do reviews for my team but it also means my review, I have to write my own self review for my boss. And I was sitting there writing it down and I'm like, “Oh god, I'm so full of myself,” but it's like…


L: … These are the things that you accomplished. And I still, even at this point when I know all these things and I've read and studied all these things, I still think in my own personal world, I write them down and I have to talk to myself off like, “No, no, no, this is what you're supposed to do. It's your review and you're supposed to say ‘Here are all the great things I did this year.’” Like…

J: Yeah, yeah.

L: … it’s okay to say that,” where men have zero problems saying, “Well, of course I did this, I'm awesome!”

J: Yeah!

L: Yeah!

J: Right.

L: Yep.

J: Do you have kids?

L: I don't.

J: Well, I'm asking because I'm curious if you had kids or you want to talk to the people out there listening who have kids, what do you think we need to do differently to help with this ability to face fears and do risky things and get out of the comfort zone?

L: I think… so I have nieces and nephews, lots of them, and lots of friends that have kids, and we actually talk about this a lot. I think that kids need to know it's okay to fail.

J: Yes.

L: I don't think that they know. I think they are terrified of failing; terrified. And I don't know if it's even worse than when I was growing up and you and I were growing up, I feel like it is.

J: It is.

L: I feel like there's no room for failure…

J: It is.

L: … there's no room for a B, there's no room to take a harder class because you might be challenged. Do you want to take the easy class so you have the 4.0 so you can get into that next school? And I just… I really that kids need to know it's okay to fail, because if we don't give them that, if we don't give them that sense of like working for something and failing and then dusting yourself off and moving on, we're in big trouble; it's going to be worse than it is now.

J: It's true. And I think just to expand on what you said, yes, there's more pressure because we have had this culture where you think, “Oh, kids need to read before kindergarten.”

L: Yeah.

J: “You can't fail,” but with social media, what I'm seeing in my teens is lack of social skills. They're afraid socially to do anything like, hey, ask a girl out or…

L: Yep.

J: … they have way less skills with all of those regular social interactions that are a bit risky.

L: Social media…job marketing is huge a component of social media, but I also think it is like one of the worst things ever because I just think the competition, especially for women to… with each other, man, is it… it's tough. Like, I just think we are all, you know, judging ourselves by everyone's highly curated best foot forward content and it's just not realistic. Like, the reality is, when I post a picture on social media, it took me probably 100 different tries to get that photo exactly the way I wanted it.

J: Uh-huh.

L: And then someone looks at it and goes, “Oh, her life is perfect and my life should be perfect too.”

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And I think the pressure with kids is even more because they don't have the same experience and knowledge base that we have when we grew up without it and we kind of grew up in a different way, they're just judging themselves by everything on social media and it's terrifying; it's just terrifying to me.

J: I agree.

L: Yeah, it’s tough.

J: I agree. Well, so before we turned on the recording, I was saying to you, you know, we were talking about where we were going with this interview and I said to you, “You know, in my experience, a lot of women say that men keep women down, but I believe women end up keeping women down more often than not.” What are your thoughts on that?

L: Well, I agree with you and I think it's counterintuitive to what we've been taught, right? It's counterintuitive to what we hear and we talk about, you know, girl power and all these things. And I think that women have always saw other women as competition, and I think in the 60s and 70s when they were fighting for equal rights and equal pay, they were banding together for a common cause, and we're not really fighting for a common cause anymore and it's kind of turned into this, “Well, if she gets it, then I won't get it so I need to keep her out.”

J: Mm-hmm.

L: “If I teach her, then she's going to take my job and then I'm going to be out in the cold. If I bring her along to this party, she's thinner than me and then the eyes are…” like, I just think we absolutely… I think men have really, in my experience and for my career, men have not been the horrible chauvinist that they've been painted to be, they've actually been my strongest advocates, they've been the ones that have given me breaks. I will honestly tell you the opening line of my Ted is 100% true and that opening line is, “Every single break in my career has come from a man,” every single one, Jen.

J: Wow.

L: I couldn’t point to one break, one promotion, one cool project, one breakout thing that I did that came from a woman saying, “Hey, I think you should have this job. I think you should have this promotion. I think you should work on this super cool project,” my experience has been completely opposite of that. And so I agree with you, I think women hurt women more in the workplace than men do. I read studies that talked about how women would prefer to work for men, even women leaders themselves prefer male bosses; and there's a reason for that.

J: Yeah, what is that reason? I have a suspicion, but…

L: I mean, I think the reason is that we've always been held down by other women and we've never gotten a chance, and so therefore we'd prefer to work for a man because they will at least give us a shot. I think men tend to not…. this is going to sound super stereotypical, and I'm speaking specifically from my experience. The male bosses that I have had, they operate in a different way. They're clear, they're direct, there's not a lot of fluff there and they cut to the chase, and when you make a mistake, they go, “Okay, you made a mistake, let's not do that again.” With a woman, it is just constant competition and they tend to hang on to those mistakes and bring them back on you later on.

J: Yeah, that’s funny. (Laughs)

L: Seriously, I had a boss once that she pinned up something that I had like a flyer that I had done and I… it wasn't wrong, it just wasn't the way she wanted it. Now, she never took the time to actually proof it or look at it, she pinned it up in the department and brought everyone over and kept circling it and saying, “This missed a mark, this missed a mark, this…” like who does that?

J: Oh, man, that’s terrible.

L: I have never had a boss, a male boss, do something like that. They might say, “Oh, this isn't how I would have done it, but it's done,” and they kind of move on to the next thing. So, I mean, I don't know, what's your thought on that? I'm curious to hear what your thought is on that.

J: Well, I'm thinking about women and men just in general life.

L: Yeah.

J: I feel like women are more critical.

L: Yes.

J: (Laughs)

L: So you just had a really concise way of saying what I just…


L: I think they are. I think our expectations are sometimes unrealistic for ourselves.

J: Yeah.

L: That also plays into other… other women, right? I mean, we always want to lose that last 5 pounds, we always want to have our outfit look just so. We want to always have our kids be just perfect in a certain way. And I don't… I don't think men look at it that way.

J: Well, and I'm trying to analyze why and I'll be thinking about this for weeks now.

L: (Laughs)

J: But, you know, maybe it's because… and this is wild speculation, but maybe because as a gender, women historically have had no power and have had so many fewer choices that, you know, we just keep… I don't know, maybe we feel small ourselves and then everyone else around us becomes a mirror and we find their flaws because we still haven't yet, as a gender, learn to see just how amazing we are, you know, accept ourselves and love ourselves.

L: That's right! And I think the whole thing is (and I talked about this in the TED too), at the end of the day, it's only about one thing, you're awesome.

J: Yeah. (Laughs)

L: That's it. It shouldn't matter if you're a man or a woman, it shouldn't matter if… if you're this age or that, it just should be about you being awesome. It shouldn't matter… any of this the rest of the stuff is just nonsense, and we do this to ourselves. We pile on as women… and I think that's the biggest takeaway is we have enough going on, we should not be piling on ourselves. Like, the office politics, the gossiping, the backstabbing, the body shaming, the shaming in general… like, it serves no purpose. And it is one of the biggest damaging things that I think that women do to each other. Forget about keeping each other out of jobs and, you know, one boss can affect so many people, but that vicious cycle of gossip and talking and cutting each other down constantly is widespread and it is a huge contributor to why this doesn't work.

J: Right.

L: I think that starts, you know, mean girls become meaner women.

J: Yes, it's true, yeah. You mentioned your dad was amazing, how was your mom?

L: My mom was great! My mom was tough. I mean, she was a tough cookie, and I also had the added benefit of my paternal grandmother was also a huge part of raising us. I had 2 really strong women that really highlighted what it could be. My mom worked out of the home and my grandmother was in the home with us. My mom was alongside my dad every step of the way helping him build his businesses, she was a key factor and a lot of the things that they accomplished together. They've been married for 48 years, they're amazing, they're both amazing people. I always think though, my mom is American and my dad is from Iraq and we were raised in that culture like we spoke Chaldean first. We're Christian, we're Catholic Arabic, which is a unique thing, but we were raised in that culture. And so my cousins all had arranged ma… not all, majority, had arranged marriages, I was the first girl to go to college; it was a big shift. And so a lot of this, I always look at my dad and think it would have been really easy for him to just go with the flow and do what everyone else expected him to do. And so that's why I talk about my dad a lot is because my mom grew up in America, she was born here, you know what I mean? She didn't really… it's not such a departure for her to have raised a strong chick.

J: Right, right. (Laughs)

L: But for my dad, to me, it's noteworthy.

J: It is.

L: Like, my mom's a tough chick and she raised a tough chick…

J: Right, right.

L: …. not surprising. But my dad, that's another story.

J: Yeah, that's really, really cool. I mean, you could write a book about that.

L: (Laughs) Well, I keep telling him he should write a book, but he is very much like, “No, I'm just going to hang out here and do my thing,” and he's retired now and…

J: Yeah.

L: Yeah, so…

J: Yeah.

L: … he should write a book.

J: Your parents both knew you were awesome, you now know you’re awesome…

L: (Laughs) I don’t know about that but.

J: … but I think that's what makes you unique, you know you're awesome, and I know you don't like me saying that; that makes you probably uncomfortable.


J: But you know what I’m saying. You know you're awesome, and because you're secure enough in yourself, then you can invest in the other women. You don't have to be catty and competitive and backbiting and all of that icky stuff.

L: Yes.

J: So I think really the key is women must rise up together, but they start doing that with loving themselves, truly knowing that they're awesome by themselves, you know, it starts with each individual.

L: I totally agree with that. That is a great way to caption what we just talked about; I think that's right. I think you have to trust yourself and you have to love yourself, and if you don't, that's where you have to start. Forget about trying to go up the ladder and help other women, you got to help yourself first.

J: Mm-hmm, exactly.

L: Secure your… what do they say on the airplane? Secure your…

J: Oxygen mask.

L: … oxygen mask before you secure anyone else’s.

J: Yes, exactly. Well, let's have a very quick break for our sponsor and then hear about some of your favorite things.

Alright, welcome back, everyone. I'm talking with Layla Kasha today and we're talking about how women should know they're awesome…


J: … but now we're going to talk about a few of your favorite things, Layla. What would you say has been the high point of your life? We talked about your low point with the backbiting, awful backstabbing woman (Laughs)…

L: Yeah. (Laughs)

J: … who you thank and love, but what's your high point so far?

L: Man, that's a hard one. It's a hard one because I feel like, you know, I always say to people, “I'm really lucky,” but I also know that I work really hard. I think my high point has to be then meeting my husband… I met my husband later in life, we got married when I was 40.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And he's amazing. I don't have a day that I don't laugh, he is truly a partner. And so he's kind of the high point of my life, meeting him, getting to know him, having my relationship with him, and also I would say my parents recently moved in with me about 3 months ago and it's been a blast (Laughs). And that might not be a high point and some people's lives, but for me, it's a really good high point.

J: And your husband's cool with it?

L: Yeah! They're like… my dad and my husband are like best friends, it's so strange. (Laughs)

J: That’s awesome.

L: It’s awesome, yeah, it's great.

J: So just paint that picture really quick. I know a lot of women, by the time they hit their late 30s, if they're not married or have a partner, they are completely freaked out. So what was that like to wait for the perfect guy then finally you find him?

L: So I would say… and my sister did a similar thing. So I actually was divorced.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: So I got married younger, it was a mistake, a big one.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And I was smart enough to get out. And then I waited a really long time and…

J: Yeah.

L: … I think that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have 2.5 kids and have 2 cars.

J: (Laughs) Yeah.

L: And, you know what I mean? Have all the stuff, and I think it's very, very important to be good with yourself. And so, for me, meeting somebody that fit into my life and that was such… he was so amazing that I wanted to change what I was already doing.

J: Wow.

L: That was important. And my sister did a similar thing. My sister’s first marriage, she didn't get married till she was almost 40, she got married at 38, I think, and had her son at 40; he's turning 4 next month. And so it's, you know, I think there's a lot of pressure on us to do all these things by certain milestones, and I just don't think that that helps anyone because we make bad choices when we feel pressured.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And that was… you know, my sister was like, “I learned from you because you felt like you had to do all these things in a certain time and that didn't work out,” and, you know, you know. I remember telling my sister, “I stood at the back of that church and I knew it was wrong, and I did it anyway because I felt like I had to.”

J: Yeah.

L: And so, you know, it's one of those moments where you're like, “Ugh, I wish I would have been strong enough back then,” I was so young but I wish I would've been strong enough back then to say, “This isn't right for me.” So I think it's important to know yourself.

J: Yeah, and I think that's a part of the movement, you know, the women rising movement where we're not just looking at these social expectations, these ‘shoulds’, but with that addition of learning to love ourselves, we're learning to listen to how we feel and realize, “Oh, we have this amazing intuitive power, we don't need those ‘shoulds’ because we can do it from the inside out,” exactly.

L: And I think, you know, what's interesting? And I will tell you one of the things that we made a decision on, my husband and I, is we don't have kids and we decided that. That wasn't like, “Oh, we waited too late, we missed the boat,” we made a decision not to.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And I think that is becoming more… like we knew that I love kids, I love my nieces and nephews, it was not for me because I wanted a career. And we wanted… we've been together for 12 years now, we're madly in love 12 years later, we are crazy in love, we spend as much time together as possible, that was enough for us.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: And we made a decision not to have kids. And I think there have been people that have told me to my face, “That's very selfish.”

J: Oh!

L: And I think… oh yeah! And I think…

J: Women keeping women down, I'm telling you.

L: Yeah, it was women.

J: (Laughs)

L: It was a woman. I will say, I think that it's okay to not conform, it's okay to make the right decision for you. And it's also okay for people to share their opinion and it's okay for you to say, “Well, that's your opinion.”

J: Yes.

L: “Good,” like, you know what I mean? I just… I think we all get wrapped up in all of the, “We're supposed to have all of these things and we're supposed to do all of these things and we're supposed to follow all these rules,” and I think it's okay to know yourself and to make a decision and then to be okay in that decision.

J: You know, and that's exactly it. When you don't know how to listen to your intuition or your heart, then you have no guiding principles, then you have to listen to those ‘shoulds’ because you don't know what's right or wrong.

L: Yeah.

J: But that's what's given me the confidence to do everything that I do is I know it's right, I know it, you know?

L: Yeah.

J: Because you feel it there.

L: And you trust yourself and you have faith that you're being led the right way, and that's how I live my life.

J: And, you know what else? From that energy, I have no way I could judge another person because I trust that they listened to their intuition. Like…

L: Right.

J: … you chose to have no kids, that's awesome because you listen to your intuition, that's right for you, you know?

L: Right!

J: Then you don't need the rules people's, yeah, yeah, that's so cool.

L: My parents are still, “Ugh.” The jury's out on that one for them.


L: I keep telling them, “My brother and my sister have kids like go… you have grandkids, you don't need me.”

J: Yeah. Well, speaking of your parents, I think it's really cool they're moving in, that's something that doesn't really match all the social norms in the US, you know?

L: Yeah.

J: So where did that come from?

L: So I will say, in my culture, my dad's culture, it's not that unusual. So when I was talking about my paternal grandmother, she moved from Iraq to the States when I was 30 days old.

J: Oh, wow.

L: And she lived with us until she passed away.

J: Okay.

L: She lived in my house, my parents’ house, I think about a year before she passed away, they ended up… she had got dementia. But she lived with my parents for 40 years probably, I mean, that was just normal. You take care of your… your elders in that culture.

J: Yeah, aww, love it.

L: And so, for me, my dad is next to my husband, the closest person… like my dad is my… I call my dad every day, before he moved here, before he moved in with us, I called him every day, I text him all the time. We talk about everything, like he's just my… my person.

J: Aww.

L: And so, for me, my parents were getting older, they're living in another state, which I hated. My dad and I would always talk about how much we hated the fact that we were in different states and it just wasn't… like, he would drive by the house once a day and drop off… my dad's a chef so he would like make something and then leave it in my refrigerator, you know, like…

J: Oh my gosh! He's so amazing!

L: Yeah! He's amazing, or I would go by their house after work and have tea…

J: Ah, lucky.

L: … after work almost every day. And so, for us, it was just this real gap. And I have an awesome husband, you know, we talked about it and he said, “I think your parents should just move in here and it'll be fine, and if it's not then we'll figure it out, but I think it'll be fine.”

J: Yeah.

L: And so our culture is just we’re raised to take care of our parents and it's not that unusual for most Chaldeans to have their parents in the house with them. And so for us, it was like this is… I felt really strongly that I wanted to do that, and luckily, my husband is super easygoing and gets along great with my folks and so it's been really good.

J: Oh, that's so good. Did you grow up part of your life over in Iraq?

L: No, I was born here.

J: Here, in the U.S., okay.

L: It's just that more my dad culture kind of…

J: Dominated. (Laughs)

L: … because my grandmother was in the home… yeah, my grandmother was in the home and so we spoke their language first.

J: Okay.

L: I went to kindergarten not speaking a word of English.

J: Really?

L: Yeah, and my mother understands every word that we say but she doesn't speak the language, so it's an interesting dynamic. So when my grandmother would talk, she knew every single thing that she was saying, but she never got to the point where she spoke the language but she'd be able to respond in other ways. And then so, yeah, we just kind of grew up in that, we grew up as that was the primary culture, and being American and living in America was kind of secondary. So we grew up with a lot of the social cues and being raised in that culture.

J: Yeah.

L: So things like I've never been to a sleepover, that was not done in our culture, I never was allowed to go to that. So…

J: Wow!

L: … you know, think like that.

J: Does your dad speak English? Yeah.

L: Oh yeah, my dad speaks 5 languages, yeah.

J: So your mom and dad can at least… were able to communicate.

L: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

J: Yeah, okay.

L: My dad came here in the 60s on a scholarship to get his master's so he was… he spoke English when he got here. And back in Iraq, you start learning English at 6 years old.

J: Really?

L: Yeah, they’re bilingual going through school so they learn English and Arabic and Chaldean is broken Arabic, and then also Latin is part of the curriculum for Catholic Arabic schools. They don't really exist now, that was back in the 50s and 60s because, you know, with all the war and stuff, a lot of the schools have been closed, there's a lot of turmoil there and so…

J: Yeah.

L: … it's not the same as it was back when my dad was growing up. But the reason my grandmother didn't speak English is because they didn't educate women there.

J: Oh.

L: They went to school until they learned how to count to 10 and write their name and then they went…

J: Aww.

L: Yeah. So my grandmother never… and she never learned English, which is so weird to me, she never learned English, but she was amazing woman. So different cultures, it's interesting.

J: Wow, you've had such a fascinating life, I love it.

L: (Laughs)

J: Well, let's talk about your morning routine. I bet it's totally powerhouse; or maybe it's not.


L: So this is funny because I really have a very like regular routine…

J: Mm-hmm.

L: … but I love to hit snooze, which is so not…

J: (Laughs)

L: Like, I'm such a go… a doer and a… like, I do so much, but I love the snooze.

J: Me too. (Laughs)

L: So I'll hit snooze a few time, but I tend to blast… I have a playlist on my phone that's called girl power and it's a lot of these like ‘Champion’ by Carrie Underwood and so all these like high power, high energy songs, and I blast it and I… I get ready and I'm out for the day. I have probably 3 cups of coffee while I’m doing that.


L: But it's snoozes and then like I have a playlist that I have to hear in the morning that gets me psyched up for my day.

J: Nice, that's awesome. What's your favorite book?

L: The book I'm reading right now that I'm really in love with is the Candace Cameron-Bure book that's called ‘Kind Is the New Classy’.

J: Hmm, yeah, I haven't read that one.

L: It's really good. I don't know if you do this, do you do this? I read 2 books at the same time.

J: I sometimes read 8 books at the same time. (Laughs)

L: Yeah, so I have like… I'm always reading these books that are like either business books or like work-related or heavy topic books, and then I'll always have a book that's like the throwaway books, that's like just turn my brain off; kind of like a soap opera.

J: Yeah.

L: (Laughs) Like you ever watch… just turn on a soap opera to turn your brain off? I do that too.

J: Yeah, yeah.

L: But it's ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.

J: Oh yeah.

L: They… I think they just made it into a movie, but that book is really funny and it doesn't… it's got a lot of fashion in it, which I'm a big fashion junkie.

J: (Laughs).

L: If you catch me most Saturdays, I’m reading InStyle or Harper's Bazaar, one of those like clothes and shoes that I could never afford, and I love them, I love reading those magazines. So I like to have a book that's like kind of a throwaway book.

J: Mm-hmm, yeah, just to get your mind off…

L: Yeah.

J: What does it mean for you to be a vibrant happy woman?

L: I think it means waking up every day excited for the day, and not waking up every day dreading.

J: Ooh.


L: That's what it means to me. I wake up and I'm genuinely excited for what's coming today, and if I get to the point where I wake up and I'm not excited, I know it's time to change something.

J: Wow. What's the last thing you had to change?

L: My last job.

J: Ooh.

L: Yeah.

J: Are you waking up excited these days?

L: Yes, I am. I am in a place that I'm supported, my ideas are heard, I'm doing the best work of my life from a professional side at this place and I am absolutely… I wake up every single day beyond excited to get into the office and work with my team and put out something new today that's going to make a difference. So, yeah, I'm really excited right now.

J: Nice. Well, let's have a challenge from you to everyone listening and then we'll say goodbye.

L: Alright. I would like to challenge everyone listening to put their hand back and help a woman. And it doesn't matter if you work or you don't work, there's a woman in your life that needs help and I challenge you to do that because it really will help them to see the positive side of life. And for it to come from a woman will make such a huge impact, I think that's what I would challenge everyone to do is to really find that woman in your life that needs a helping hand, and whatever that is, do it.

J: Yes, do it, help each other rise.

L: Help each other rise.

J: Yeah.

L: You'll feel so good after you do it too, it's just such a great feeling.

J: Yes, and there's that connection piece that we're all missing in this digital age, which is worth it; so worth it. (Laughs)

L: Yeah.

J: Well, Layla, this is awesome. Everyone, check out Layla's TED talk, we'll have a link on the show notes page at jenriday.com/154. Thank you so much from you in the show, Layla.

L: Thank you so much for having me, it was a blast talking to you.

J: Take care.

L: Thanks, you too. Bye-bye.

J: So there you have it, the amazing Layla Kasha shared her story of, you know, being stabbed in the back but choosing to continue to trust and make herself vulnerable and invest in other women. It’s so important that we do this collectively, that we rise together as women. I believe that we as women have a massive, beautiful, amazing capacity for good and light, and frankly, I believe it's women who will improve and save our world. Now, that's not to say there aren't so many amazing men doing the same thing, but we as women haven't yet tapped into our full power as a gender across this planet. So what can we do about that? Well, I want to challenge you to take Layla's challenge and reach back and help another woman to rise, teach her what you know, praise her, show her how to take care of herself, tell her about the Vibrant Happy Women podcast; maybe that will help. But do what you can to plant those seeds and help other women rise, help other women to become a light for our planet, for our communities, for our families; ah, it's such a beautiful topic. Well, I'm going to be back later this week with a Happy Bit, but I was thinking about Happy Bits, I kind of think it would be fun if each of you listening would submit a question for me to answer on a future Happy Bit, ask me anything. Maybe you want to ask me about sex, and I hope you don't, but if you want to, fine, I'll try. Maybe want to ask me about something weird from my childhood. Maybe you want to ask me what my brothers are like; ask me anything. Kind of like a truth or dare thing where you would be sitting around with a bunch of girls and ask each other questions. So I'll give you a hint, I know someone's going to ask this, my first boyfriend was named Mike Armstrong; so there you go, question number one answered (Laughs). So ask a good question, submit those to me at podcast@jenriday.com; podcast@jenriday.com. I cannot wait to hear what you ask, it's going to be fun; I will be answering those on a future Happy Bit. Well, it's been a blast, I will see you again soon, and until then, make it a vibrant and happy week. Take care.