Huntington Beach author Marilou Ryder urges women: ‘Don’t Forget Your Lipstick’

Huntington Beach author Marilou Ryder
Huntington Beach author Marilou Ryder recently released the nonfiction book, “Don’t Forget Your Lipstick, Girl: Sister to Sister Secrets for Gaining Confidence, Courage and Power.” She co-authored it with her sister, Jessica Thompson.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Marilou Ryder was conducting a workshop for school administrators in Sacramento when she witnessed something thought-provoking.

It was time to focus on mock interviews, and Ryder asked for volunteers. She said that all of the men in the class immediately raised their hands, but none of the women did.

“As I was flying home, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s a confidence thing,’” Ryder said. “The glass ceiling still exists, don’t get me wrong … but I truly believe, through the research I’ve done and the interviews, that for women it really centers on that confidence factor. It’s the ability to think that they’re not just a teacher, they’re not just a mother, that they can be anything they want to be.”

This experience was the genesis for the Huntington Beach author’s latest book, released in May. Ryder co-wrote “Don’t Forget Your Lipstick, Girl: Sister to Sister Secrets for Gaining Confidence, Courage and Power” with her sister Jessica Thompson, who lives in Naples, Fla.

The book focuses on helping women harness their inner strength. It’s a follow-up to last year’s “Don’t Forget Your Sweater, Girl: Sister to Sister Secrets for Aging with Purpose and Humor.”

Ryder, 70, is now a professor of doctoral studies at Brandman University and public speaker. She has written five books, including “The SeXX Factor,” which was published in 2003 and focuses on breaking the glass ceiling.

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At the time, that experience was personal for her, as she was rising through the ranks before becoming the first female superintendent of Central Unified School District in the Fresno area.

“In California, there’s approximately 1,000 school superintendents, and between 18%-22% of them are females,” Ryder said. “I didn’t know those stats when I was a teacher, but then as I went up the ranks of principal, assistant superintendent, I started to focus my research on it. It hasn’t changed in 100 years. It kind of became my passion. I developed this overarching mantra for myself, changing the conversation for women, and that’s where all of my books have come from.”

Ryder and Thompson’s latest self-help book has interviews with more than 80 women from all walks of life, including nine full-length interviews. There are also plenty of short mantras interspersed, called “Power Tips.”

“They’re all research-based tips, culled from probably 10 years of research,” Ryder said. “There’s tips on confidence, on communication, and a little bit of executive presence — things that women can do to gain influence at work. It also crosses over into people’s personal lives with their husbands, their spouses, significant others.”

“Dare to say ‘No,’ it’s liberating” and “Learn to substitute ‘Excuse me’ for ‘I’m sorry’” are a couple of examples of Power Tips within the book. There are also several illustrative drawings by Thompson.

At the end is a “final exam,” where women can answer 35 multiple-choice questions to see how empowered they are.

“We definitely still need to have a voice out there,” said Thompson, whose daughters Lindsay, 30, and Haley, 29, have fought for advancement in the financial and marketing industries, respectively. “We still need to encourage these women to seek confidence and courage, and become powerful in their own lives socially, in their own lifestyles and obviously in the work environment.

“It’s not like it was 50 years ago. It’s gotten a little bit better … but women still have to work twice as hard to be noticed.”

Ryder said she’s been pleased with the reviews for her book, which has all 12 of its ratings on Amazon as five stars. She has been unable to do much publicity due to the coronavirus; she was scheduled to speak at the L.A. Times Festival of Books before the event was postponed.

Relying on word of mouth is all right at this point for Ryder, who is married to a retired photographer, Del. She said she didn’t write the book for the money.

“My whole thing right now is getting women to the point where they can have the confidence and the courage to be able to get through that glass ceiling, or just to be empowered in their own personal lives,” she said.

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