“I used to walk into boardrooms telling myself, ‘I am Power Woman.’ I would masculinize myself, as opposed to showing up as my true self, because the messages I’d been given in my life told me I had to,” says Jeanette Schneider, Founder of LIV media, and celebrated author, speaker, and podcast host who recently closed the door on a two decade-long career as a senior vice president in the finance industry.
As eloquent as she is spunky, Schneider left her facade behind to become an outspoken advocate for women—challenging all to revolutionize the narratives they have been living by. Having survived a turbulent childhood, a disheartening stretch of infertility, and countless episodes of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, she developed an urgent desire to inspire change after birthing her daughter, Olivia, in 2011.
The venture into motherhood served as a gateway to a new calling—identifying and revealing all of the ways females have been programmed to move through life suffocating under the masks handed to them by society. She believes women often confine themselves to scripts that exist on a landscape of futile extremes. This often manifests as trying to stay small, or apologizing for their most passionate opinions, or competing furiously against other women, or cloaking themselves in a facade of masculinization in order to prove they are worthy of having a voice. Schneider is convinced women have forgotten the magnitude contained within their innate femininity. And she has authored a book, Lore: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future, released in the fall of 2018, in support of this philosophy.
“The things that make us inherently amazing as women—the way our biology is designed—makes us incredible leaders,” she says. “It’s funny that, over time, many of us have tried to divorce who we are because we think doing so will make us more powerful. Really, the exact opposite is true.”
She was raised in a patriarchal family—one drenched in conservative religious indoctrination, but with far too many skeletons shoved inside its closet. In an impoverished neighborhood of Tampa, Fla., crime and drugs dominated the streets where she dreamed and played. Once, when she was about 10 years old, she gazed out across her yard and onto her neighbor’s property. A young woman—a victim of sex trafficking—lay dead alongside the curb.
By day, she was popular among her peers at school—oozing with confidence and wit. By night, she burrowed herself into her bedroom with her journal and pen, not only avoiding the dangers that lurked outside, but the outbursts from her alcoholic mother and the oppressive religious messages from her minister father. Chaos and confusion brimmed the space between those walls. Writing became her sanctuary. She knew that, one day, she would turn her pain into her power.
“All of the messages I was fed as a child were negative towards women—in and outside of my home. My mother was drunk all of the time, and in many ways, I didn’t feel like I had a mother at all. I would do all of these things to try and get love from her, but there was never any affection there,” she says.
While fumbling her way through young adulthood, there was a confidence deep within her that was dying to be set free. Still, she had never been taught the safety of closeness, nor the significance of boundaries. Encroached by shame stories, she found herself in a string of stormy encounters and relationships, allowing men to disrespect her and toy with her in ways “they never should have been allowed to.” This created further calluses over her compassionate and tender nature—concealing the vulnerability that longed to come out of her, thereby isolating her from forming organic friendships with other women.
“I didn’t have a single example of an inspiring or powerful woman growing up, or of men who were in support of powerful women. I didn’t even know how to bond with other women. I thought I had to make men feel intimidated by me in order to take me seriously,” she says.
She found herself navigating through her 20s and 30s, thriving inside of Las Vegas’ finance industry. She was articulate, bright and easy on the eyes, and success in that realm came naturally to her. She met a man and got married, and when she decided it was time to cultivate a family of her own, that dream dangled painfully out of reach.
After a crushing attempt to conceive naturally, followed by five daunting rounds of IVF, she became pregnant with her daughter. Doctors told her she had a 10 percent chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. Her body defied those odds, and when she stared into her daughter’s face for the first time, her entire perspective on womanhood shifted. She became infused with a mandate to not only breathe life into her former self, but also to the girls and women who were searching for new breath as well. Determined to not only raise an empowered female and launch her into the next generation of womanhood, she would heal herself from the messages that the previous generations had shackled her with.
“I have seen the hyper-sexualization of women throughout my life, and I’ve realized that girls, unfortunately, start life at a deficit,” says Schneider. “We have this patriarchal belief system that we should compete for a man’s attention, that we should compete for security and jobs. It’s a part of our culture.”
Schneider says that, during her years in the finance industry, she found herself in far too many situations where men in her firm tried to sexualize her, making statements like, “Hey, I need you to wear something tight in order to close this deal.” Claiming to have lived out “The ‘Me Too’ movement times a thousand,” she says those unfortunate experiences afforded her insight into a spectrum of ways women try to be who men want them to be.
When she was absent from her firm for two months during maternity leave, she fell in love with her new role as a mother, while also growing more determined than ever to balance it with her professional aspirations. She wanted to be an example to her daughter that it could be done. Upon her return, a supervisor approached her, asking “How are we as a firm going to make up the revenue we lost while you were on maternity leave?” Outraged by his insensitivity, she scoffed at his brazenness, and offered up the clap-back of the century: “I just made a human; what are you going to do to make it up?”
In that moment, she not only divorced her limiting paradigm, but the guise that accompanied it— one she had labeled her “bitchy power suit.” She shed the fake glasses that she thought made her appear more serious and intimidating. She refused to manipulate her dress or armor her emotions in order to try and make men feel afraid of her. “I said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a mom, and I’m going to be an executive, and I’m going to wear a dress. I’m going to change the way the workplace looks before my daughter makes her way here, because this mindset is unacceptable.’
A few years later, in 2015, around the same time her marriage ended, she launched a snarky blog, LORE and little things, where she confessed her most frustrating issues as a woman. “I didn’t know what it was going to become; I just knew I was angry and that others were angry about the same things,” she says. Then, she started talking with a lot of her more successful friends who she felt the younger generation of women needed to connect with. She prompted them to write letters to their younger selves, then published them to her blog.
“There were these amazing women who all of these younger girls looked up to, and they were saying things like, ‘Hey, I’m a news anchor on a major network, but I have issues with self-esteem,’ and “Hey, I grew up without a dad, but look how I survived it.’” Schneider noticed that, as therapeutic as it was for the reader, it was powerfully cathartic for the writer.
As the letters continued to pour in, certain patterns and themes were flashing wildly at her, asking to light the way to uncovering deeper issues. She noticed there were chilling correlations between the way a woman’s mother forged a relationship with her body, and how that relationship was translated to her daughter’s body image. She noticed how gender dynamics in the home created certain dysfunctions and perversions in belief systems.
As her blog generated more buzz, she was approached by MGM Resorts to host a workshop at an annual women’s leadership conference. Schneider stood before 250 women gathered in that space, asking that they scrape through the most cavernous corners of themselves and stare boldly into the faces of the demons they had spent decades hiding from. When Schneider finished, it was another hour and a half before she made her way to the exit door. One after another, clusters of women approached her, aching to continue that realm of conversation, buzzing with realizations and overflowing like fountains of unleashed emotions. She knew she had a book in her midst. It was looming over her head, asking to be downloaded and delivered to the masses of women who were tired of being belittled, objectified, pacified and silenced.
Lore, a compilation of bold narratives that houses a treasure chest of self-examining exercises and visualizations, was born. Gorgeously written, the book challenges the reader to comb through the beliefs and behaviors that have made up the puzzle pieces of their lives. Each offers a prompt that those pieces be discarded in order to make room for more empowering ones.
“There is this whole idea, with women, that we are not perfect the way we are—that we have to dress for a certain result, or we have to modify our personalities in order to not be considered too emotional, too weak,” says Schneider. “There are the women who seem to apologize for taking up space—for the words that come out of their mouths. They may say things like, ‘I don’t want to seem like a bitch, but…’ or ‘I know you probably already know this, but…’ because they are not comfortable owning their own opinion. Then you have those who come across as cold or frigid because they feel like they have to strong-arm their way through life to be taken seriously. I want to change all of this. I want to show women that we can show up as our true selves, and we can be advocates for one another.”
There is a section in the book that Schneider calls “Deathbed Wishes.” It was created to help the reader make decisions in their lives based on a conversation they envision having with their dying selves. This was inspired by some of the final conversations Schneider had with her grandmother and grandfather. “I was with them right before they died. They got very crystal clear with me about one thing: nearly everything they once worried about and gave their energy to no longer mattered,” she says.
In various other sections, Schneider explores the importance of checking in with one’s gut, offering detailed tips for learning how to recognize the voice of one’s intuition, as well as how to develop a culture of what she calls “Purposeful Girl Talk.” The latter was sparked by a realization she had during an encounter with a friend. The two women had been close for more than a decade, and gave birth to their daughters within three weeks of the other. They had always shared everything—from their insecurities to their victories. One day, while hanging out together with their daughters, they were dissecting the state of their postpartum bodies. “We were shaming ourselves in solidarity,” says Schneider. “My friend said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve gained so much weight. Look, my thighs touch.’ All of the sudden, I paid attention to the fact that there were vulnerable ears listening to us.”
Schneider interrupted her friend’s sob story, saying, “We have to stop this.” From that day, the friends developed a pact that if one of them was talking negatively about herself, the other would intervene by saying something affirming—something that cut straight through the self-loathing. Schneider knew that it was important for her to lay an example of healthy women friendships for not only her daughter, but for the generation of girls her daughter would grow alongside of. “Otherwise,” she says, “We are teaching our daughters to shame their own bodies and look for flaws in their friends.”
Through the trajectory of her endeavors, which most recently includes the launch of her podcast, Gold, Schneider says her singular mission is to change the way not only women accept and support the truth of themselves, but accept and support the truth of each other. “I would love for us all to get to a place as a society where a woman can walk comfortably into a room and say, ‘I’m great at my job, and I want to be a mom, and I want to try for dozens of other things,’” says Schneider. ‘“And, guess what? I won’t apologize, or explain, or ask for permission to do any of it.’”