Having worked as a woman in high tech for 32 years and rarely, if ever, encountering, or at least recognizing, any sort of discrimination, patronization, or hostility, I've been perplexed by all of the news reports, studies, and recent conversations about the obstacles women face in high tech careers. Until today.
During a thoughtful conversion with a new friend about what it's like to be a woman pursuing a high tech career, all of the information I've gathered over the last 57 years fell into place. Suddenly it made sense and felt profound. Maybe you've already figured things out. If not, read on.
When I entered the workforce in the mid-1980s, there were a lot of horror stories about the things women were enduring in the workplace.
One of my co-workers talked about having been selected to paricipate in a management program for high-potential new-hires with her previous employer. Participants were requierd to give a monthly presentation to a large group of managers. As a "joke", the managers lined the walls of the conference room with centerfold posters, which she encounted as she walked into the room to give her presentation for the first time. She ignored them and gave the presentation. The posters weren't there the next month. That was progress.
Another co-worker told about a time that a male colleague followed her into a storage room, closed the door behind them, and attempted to assualt her. She got away.
Just about every woman I know who is older than I am has a story ... or stories. My expectations were set early on, and I was on guard. For years.
The thing is, I didn't have any of those experiences. I don't remember people trying to embarass me or make me feel uncomfortable at work, and I was certainly never assaulted. From my perspective, there were no problems. The women before me had done the heavy lifting, they'd paved the way, and I was sincerly grateful for all they'd done so that my experiences were different. In fact, I almost always felt respected, supported, and encouraged to strive for more. I have been happily sharing my perspective with others for years; especially younger women.
In fact, many of my colleagues and friends have shared this message with the following generation. "Join us," we say. "Things have changed! You will be respected, accepted, and you will thrive."
So when the next generation does join us, it is with different expectations than we had when we entered the workplace. For them, the expectation is not only different, but higher. Much higher. The next generation of women arrives expecting to experience equality, encouragement, acceptance and more. They're not impressed when they avoid assaults or harassment.
They expect more. Much more. And I think they're going to get it.
An opportunity for parents in the USA, UK and Germany to help other working parents
An Invitation to Parents in the USA, UK and Germany to Participate in a Research Study About Employing Nannies in the Home
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are studying what parents who employ nannies and other domestic employees think about certain issues that come up when you have someone working in your home.
Do you employ a nanny or au pair to take care of your child(ren)? If so, the researchers would like to interview you for 30 minutes, and they'll provide you with a $25 honorarium if you participate.
If you're willing to participate, please call, text or email Julia Bernd directly (to maintain confidentiality) as follows:
-- Call/text Julia Bernd: +1-650-862-0509
-- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Facebook Private Message: julia.b.bernd
Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo recently added five new players to his team for the 2019-20 season. They stand 6'9", 6'8", 6'7", 6'2" and ... 5'8". This, of course, begs the question: What makes a 5'8" player compelling for Izzo, a Hall of Fame coach who has led eight teams to the Final Four? The answer is simple; the 5'8" player is his son, Steven.
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press published earlier this week and a WXYZ Sports video clip, Coach Izzo told Steven that if he made his private high school's basketball team during his senior year, there'd be a spot for him on the MSU basketball team as a walk-on. Steven earned a spot on the Lansing Catholic High School team last year, so Dad Izzo, true to his word, made room for him on the MSU team this year.
As you might imagine, Izzo's decision to add his son to the MSU team has generated a lot of chatter. And his response may resonate with many working parents; “I’ve given up 18 years of my life [working at MSU] and he’s given up 18 years of his life [not seeing much of his dad in the winter]" The Free Press article continues, "Izzo wanted to be clear this isn’t simply about time. By taking his son as a walk-on, he’ll get to teach and mentor his son the way he does his players."
Many working parents would probably appreciate the opportunity to bring their kids to work more often. Many of us would like to be able to spend more time showing our kids what we do everyday in the office, in the field, or wherever our work is done. Few of us have that opportunity, even though we also make sacrifices by putting in long hours, participating in late-night phone calls with colleagues living on the other side of the world, and sometimes traveling to locations that take us away from our kids for days or weeks on end. And most of us do it for a lot less than the $4M per year that Izzo is earning.
Maybe a job where you can favor your children is something to aspire to. Maybe Izzo has earned the right to show some favoritism and reap this personal reward because of the results he's achieved. Maybe he'll be able to teach his son more on the court than is possible at the kitchen table. Maybe children of successful parents deserve special preferences. And maybe the other players will benefit from Steven's participation on the team.
Or maybe the lessons we take away from this story are as old as time: Family connections can make or break opportunies, it's often difficult to speak truth to power, and when coaches win, oversight weakens.
What do you think? What can working parents learn from this story?
It's 2019. As you know :) This fact is asserted because it's important to the story.
I'm on the planning committee for a small event. The committee is comprised of over ten people; all of us are women except one. We're all in our late 50s, and most of us have, or had, careers. We're professionals. We do a lot of our collaboration via email.
So it caught me off-guard when one person, the only man on the committee, made an out-of-the-blue reference to a woman's physical appearance, not one of our committee members, in one of his "reports" (sent via email). It was presented as a joke, but didn't seem funny. And ... it's 2019. Has he been following the news? What would it take for him to understand that women dislike these kinds of comments within this context? This guy has a spouse and kids. Would he have made the comment if his spouse or kids were on the committee? I doubt it.
Often the first to speak up, I've decided to hang back to see how others (who know him better) respond. To date, it's been nothing but crickets.
To the few people who haven't seen the memo: It's 2019, and when people are working together to accomplish a task, irrelevant comments about physical appearance aren't appreciated by most - at least among the people I know. It creates an awkward situation. And it leaves people with the impression that you're totally out of touch.
Is this a really big deal? No. Is this really surprising? Yes (at least for me). Having spent 32 years working in high tech, I'm happy to report that I didn't encounter many who seemed so out of touch with current expectations regarding respect.
If we want our daughters and sons to be treated fairly, and respected for their ideas, we need to model the behavior we hope they'll experience. Let's start doing that right now.
Review of the Netflix Limited Series
Some previous Working Parent Stories (like Heard, Seen, Validated, Believed and Kate's Doctors) have highlighted employees who do a great job, at least in part, because of something that has occurred in their personal lives. Sometimes that something is being a parent and sometimes that something aligns with a different personal experience.
The Netflix limited series Unbelievable is one of these stories. (It's based on a true story previously published in ProPublica.) While the first episode of the series is difficult to watch, the next episodes provide a bit of a respite for viewers so that we can focus less on the crimes and more on the investigations. And very quickly we're led to believe, probably not surprisingly, that different detectives attempt to solve crimes using different skills sets and different styles. The big question that looms while watching this series is whether or not there are consistently significant differences between the way men and women strive to solve sexual assault crimes against women.
Additionally, and maybe more importantly, the series leaves many of us asking ourselves some questions about our own attitudes toward the victims of sexual assault as well as those that perpetrate the crimes against them.
At Working Parent Stories, we talk a lot about why we think it's important for women to pursue careers with the same intensity as men. This series helps make that case.
Editor's note: When we started watching the series we assumed we'd complete the eight-episode series in about eight days. But it's pretty compelling, and we're struggling not to watch "just one more" each evening. Prepare to binge.
Submitted by Kimber Chin
In 2004, when I was only 34, I was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. My baby boy Josh was not even one and my Danigirl was three. I was shocked, and I was in disbelief. All those things I was waiting to do “later” suddenly felt like they might never happen. I was angry that I was suddenly out of time when I'd thought my life was just beginning. At home, I had two delightful kids and Houdi the wonder dog. At work, I was leading my first team and loving it. My team loved me back, and I just couldn’t believe that I, the healthy diet exercise freak, was sick.
After a few days of crying, I shifted into massive action mode. I threw myself into my chemo regimen. I went for dose dense treatments, I never missed a scheduled dose, and I tried everything they offered me including infusions, radiation, many surgeries, and more. I wore my "do rags" with style, and I kept thinking, “when I get better I’m gonna...” which I now recognize played a huge factor in my recovery; The power of intention. Now, I am a proud 15-year survivor thanks to so many. But that’s not the end of the story.
The time from my remission to now has been a long road. Like PTSD and baby blues, I went through years of depression. I couldn’t believe I had fought so hard to live for what felt like a mediocre outcome. At home, things were not as joyful as I wanted. At work, I lost my team and was struggling to recapture a leadership role. My world felt small and not like the vision I'd fought to achieve. I had dreams, but I didn’t know how to define, or even pursue, them.
It turns out, to pursue my dreams I had to grow and become the kind of person who pursues dreams. I needed to erase thoughts that ran through my head and told me that I wasn’t enough. And because I didn’t have a lot of money, my path to "becoming" has turned out to be all the trainings and events I have attended as part of the many direct sales companies I have joined through the years. My sponsors and mentors in these companies have coached me, propped me up when I felt weak, held me accountable when I didn’t follow through on my commitments, and lit the flame that ignited ME.
So why did Kimber, the lifelong corporate employee with an MBA and an awesome day job, spend all weekend at a Color Street convention?
Simply put: Community. Development. Leadership. Dreams.
I witnessed women and men of all walks of life, of all races and of all education levels, experiencing financial success from the fruits of their labors. It’s so "American Dream" to me, that anyone with desire, no matter if they seem hirable or not, can start a business, lead a team, and coach others on to their own greatness. A good direct sales company provides an egalitarian platform around which people can systematically work on what matters to them, at the pace they chose, and in a way that works for them.
Ironically, as I’ve grown in leadership in direct sales, my corporate career has grown too. And It turns out you don't lose things like a team or time with your kids or opportunities in life. Instead, you gain things based on effort. How you show up anywhere is how you show up everywhere. My shift to conscious creator of my every day life has affected all areas of my being, and my joy level runs pretty high most days because I’m aligning my purpose with my goals. It turns out that to become a leader, I had to work on improving myself.
I love to lead teams. I love coaching and public speaking. I plan to leave a legacy of positivity; touching as many lives as I can, to find as many people as I can who are searching, and to help light their path, like the coaches and mentors that have lit the path for me.
So it’s not about selling nail polish, even though it IS pretty awesome polish! It’s actually about becoming who I need to become on the way to where I want to go, with a like-minded village of fellow seekers, in a bonafide company, within the context of a loving community like all of you.
Thanks for being in my community. I’m glad you’re here!
Recently, we went out for dinner and drinks with two other couples. We're all in our late fifties, and most of us are at slightly different places in our careers; the executive is still going full throttle, two of us retired about three years ago, one guy retired and is now jumping back into a demanding position after some time off, one woman left an executive position years ago to raise her children and takes on big projects from time to time, and the other hasn't worked outside the home since becoming a mother (many years ago).
I don't remember what we were talking about, but I distinctly remember when the executive said, "Women have a tough time with careers because they have to deal with that "pull" once they become moms. We men just don't have to deal with that." I was taken aback by his words. So of course I asked some questions. I asked how he came to that conclusion. I asked if he'd always felt like he'd given his children and his family all of the attention they deserved. I asked if he ever felt guilty as he had to make decisions about his time that pit his career interests against his family's interests. I suggested that maybe society's expectations of women and men played a bigger role in his perception than any inert "pull". I told him I just didn't buy it.
It's worth noting that these people are not old-school, stuck in their ways, traditional types. In many ways, maybe even most ways, they're very progressive. And yet, this high-level exec appears to have drawn some pretty significant conclusions based on a data point of one; his wife. And I think it's worth noting that even though their kids are grown and gone, she still isn't pursuing a career, so I'm not exactly sure what "pull" prevents her from pursuing a career now.
This is why we continue to advocate for women staying in the workforce - even when it's easier to walk away. Until men truly understand what it takes to be part of a dual career couple and manage personal responsibilities as an equal partner, the women who pursue careers with as much commitment as men will continue to face perspectives that are faulty at best and down right troublesome and hindering at times.
If we want our daughters to have the same career opportunities as our sons, we have to do the hard work of creating an environment that enables that.
Submitted by Ray Blessman
As a guy looking to make a career change and a parent of 20-somethings, the topic of job search techniques regularly pops up around our dinner table. Well as regularly as is possible given that the kids aren't actually at the dinner table all that often anymore.
As I mentioned in a previous story, Maybe the Kids Can Help, I'm at a stage in my career where I can pause and look around before landing my next gig. I've spent most of my career (so far) working for an employment firm, so I'm very familiar with the idea that finding your next position is all about networking. I'm also aware that fundamental shifts are occuring that may cause "old style" networking activties to play less of a role in future job searches as online networking opportunities become more sophisticated. Some recent trends are outlined in a a Fast Company article called "This is how you'll look for a job in 2019".
With this in mind, I set out see just how far I could get in my own job search by focusing exclusively on online processes. Had I needed to move fast, I'd have integrated traditional networking activities up-front, but I've got the luxury of time, a strong resume, and years of executive-level experience, and I wanted to see how far all that would take me ... online. I figured I might even land a great position in the process.
I set out on my quest to find a great position by completing the following activties:
Step 1: Update resume
Step 2: Submit scores of resumes and applications via online processes
(i.e. via company web sites, job boards, and email aggregators)
Step 3: Relax and wait for the interview opportunities to roll in (or may just sift through the offers?)
It's been a few months, so this seems like a good time to report on the intial results which are listed as follows:
While job search techniques may be shifting, they haven't shifted that much. Not long ago I read that about 85% of jobs are landed via networking. I could imagine that rate may be even higher for an experienced professional looking for an executive-level position (like me). As I look for opportunities to add value by integrating economic data based on market factors into business decisions, it's clearly going to take live conversations for a company to truly understand how these skills will drive business results.
I also know that a lot of these online processes exist to simply process applicants identified via traditional networking processes and to protect companies legally as they hire. Maybe they'll offer more than this someday, but they're not there yet.
So while my online job search experiment was entertaining and informative, I expect to be talking with a lot of friends and former colleagues over the next weeks and months. I know I have a lot to offer and a burning desire to add value in significant ways. At the same time, I'm reminded that not everyone has my network and not everyone may be lucky enough to have a network like yours. That's why I believe each of us has an obligation to seek out people who need a helping hand; a link into a network that could change their lives. (More about this is in the story Key Takeaway.)
In the meantime, I'll continue to advise my kids; it's all about the networking.
Those who want to dig deeper into my story may be interested to know ...
Pointer to an NPR story and video by Domenico Montanaro
Dual income couples are usually pretty good at juggling multiple roles. Couples who observed their parents doing the same thing may have a bit of an advantage over those who feel like they're breaking new ground.
This is why we're so impressed with Marty Ginsburg, the late husband of supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By all accounts, he was extremely supportive of his wife's career before it was the cool thing to do.
Last weekend NPR ran a story and posted a related video about Ruth and Marty, and the many unique ways Marty supported Ruth over the years. What a great example he set for those of us who want to be supportive spouses.
Reproduced with permission from Amanda Rose Adams
Some working parents spend most of their annual Paid Time Off in children’s hospitals, specialty clinics, and/or caring for medically fragile children.
To have a “day off” with your child and spend it in a children’s hospital the way others might visit a zoo or museum is still a paradox for me after more than sixteen years. It's a bit surreal.
This is a life where gratitude always outweighs resentment because what one has to lose is so substantial in contrast to what one must surrender. And yet, one does surrender certain experiences, expectations, and small hopes in exchange for the most extraordinary hope of all.
My son was in an MRI machine when I started typing this into my phone. While I sipped Chai tea I ran into his orthopedic surgeon who has been treating him since he was two years old. I also evaded eye contact with his former cardiologist.
In my working career, I strive to be the kind of person people WANT to work with. I can’t imagine coworkers would brand me difficult. As an increasingly senior employee, I mentor daily. I coach, and I work hard to help my junior co-workers grow and thrive. As a mother, my standards are higher, my patience shorter.
I was difficult for one doctor, asking too many questions, doing too much research. I was too much for him, and our communication wasn’t enough for me, so I found a new cardiologist for the second time in my son’s life. The first cardiologist we left was ill-suited to be supportive in light of the odds we faced in the beginning. Those odds were not in our favor, and neither was his bedside manner.
Sometimes the stakes and the decisions on our shoulders demand being difficult. As a woman, I have avoided being difficult in the workplace as such a label can stick in a bad way. As a mother, I don't care about my reputation, only the quality of care and outcome for my child and all other children who will pass his way.
I know caregivers of elderly parents can also relate to this. Siblings take care of disabled siblings. We are not alone. I see you too.