Evanston native Aimee Cohen explains how to ‘Woman UP!’

Aimee Cohen, born and raised in Evanston, is a career expert, veteran speaker and author who believes women are too nice, trying too hard and way too perfectionist in their professional lives.

In her new book, “Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success,” (Morgan James Publishing, 2014) Cohen details the ways women — and men, too — limit their own career success. Now living in Denver, Cohen has run Cohen Career Consulting for 20 years. She recently visited her hometown and answered some questions about her book, available at Amazon.com and other online publishers.

Q. Can you tell me about your years in Evanston, how they helped you get to where you are now?

A. I am a proud Evanston native and multiple generations of my family are North Shore natives. Growing up in Evanston offered all the advantages of a big city with the livability of a small town. I lived two blocks from Lee Street beach and Evanston was such an easy city to navigate using public transportation. It definitely taught me how to be independent and self-reliant at an early age. Evanston is also an incredibly progressive and diverse community, and it helped shape all of us to be more tolerant, inclusive and accepting. There really wasn’t a “one-size-fits-all” type of mentality and it allowed me to build the independent life I wanted to live. And, with Northwestern and Evanston Township H.S. (along with other very good, unnamed North Shore high schools!), I was exposed to a strong emphasis on the importance of education and great learning opportunities.

Q. Do you come back to visit often? What do you enjoy about being here?

A. I come back to Evanston several times a year, and love the fact that my children even consider Evanston a “second home.” Denver is beautiful, but we don’t have a lot of water, so we spend a lot of time at the beach when we visit. Nothing like Evanston in the summertime! I’m also a die-hard Ravinia fan, and make a point of packing a picnic basket and sitting on the lawn regardless of who’s playing. I can’t talk about Evanston without talking about the food and, even though Buffalo Joe’s and Giordano’s pizza will always top my list, it’s exciting to see what a foodie town Evanston is becoming. Evanston has a vibrant, energetic feel from the shoreline to the downtown and into its great neighborhoods.

Q. About your book. How did you come up with these “7 deadly sins”? Where have you seen women suffering under the burden of these “sins”?

A. The “7 Deadly Sins” resulted from my experience as a career coach for more than 20 years. I have coached hundreds of professional women (and men) and noticed that the faces would change, but the issues and challenges remained the same. The sins represent a collective experience and reflect that we all sabotage ourselves in some way. In “Woman UP!,” I identify the seven most common self-sabotaging behaviors women commit that can kill their careers. I also share relatable, real-life stories from clients from every industry and at every professional level. There’s more good news…in addition to revealing my own guilty confessions, I also provide practical and action-oriented solutions to empower women to pull on their “big-girl panties” and take control of their careers.

Q. Why are these “sins” limited women? Aren’t boys taught to be nice people too? Why is it just women who carry these qualities into the workplace?

A. These “sins” are not limited to women. Suzanne Conrad, CEO of Iowa Donor Network, agrees when she said, “As I was reading Woman UP!, I decided that I would order a printed copy for every female in my organization. By the third chapter, I realized that everyone (including men!) needs to read this book.” In my professional experience, I have worked with many men who have taken my advice to heart and made significant changes in how they navigate their own careers. At the same time, I have a passion to help women succeed, to inspire and motivate them to look in the mirror and address their opportunities to improve.

Q. Which of these seven sins do you see as the most common? Which is the most dangerous to most women’s careers?

A. The most common and most destructive of the deadly sins is the Undervalue Epidemic. This is where women commit the disastrous “Triple D” — downplay, dismiss and diminish their value and accomplishments. Invisibility means dispensability in the workplace, and women find it extremely challenging to promote themselves and “toot their own horn” the way men do. This is true when it comes to negotiating for a new job, a raise, a promotion, or a seat in the boardroom. We unintentionally hold ourselves back and believe that a job well done will somehow magically be rewarded, when instead we should be actively promoting ourselves, increasing our visibility, and “tooting our own horn” on a regular basis.

Q. Do you see ways to promote a major attitude shift in American business that will allow women the same opportunities that men have to succeed?

A. While there are still challenges, the professional business industry provides more opportunities than ever to women and I want to equip them to capitalize on these opportunities. I want my teenage daughter and her generation’s young women to have confidence in their abilities and know how to step up and stand out in the crowd. A major shift in the U.S. requires high-profile women and men to partner to break down barriers, our educational institutions to equip young women and men with transferable and fundamental leadership skills, and our political/legal system to ensure equivalency of women and men in economic, health, and social structure.

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