This year was filled with many unexpected things for me, professionally and personally. I started the year off in a role at a company I loved with an amazing team, but experienced what I thought was impossible: I wasn’t a good fit in that role. So I left and consulted for a hot second, thinking maybe that would be my path for a while, and then fell into a great opportunity at Mirakl which I’m happy to say is an amazing fit. I just didn’t realize 2 weeks into that new role I’d find out I was pregnant...and it wasn’t planned. Oopsies.
As we look to 2017 which is likely to have many unknowns, especially politically, I have a few wishes for Women in Tech to help us all fight the good fight. I wish you all a year filled with great success and accomplishment, professional and personal:
Take risks and make changes. I often refer to my career as my first baby. I’ve nurtured and cared for it, much in the way I do my children. For each new role I’ve taken, I’ve considered the long-term effects of that change. Sometimes to a fault, and I’ve overstayed in a role. I’ve spoken with many women who are unhappy, but afraid that leaving will reflect poorly on their resume. I shared those fears. And then I took a “resume risk” and landed in the perfect job for me. It was so hard to do, but I wouldn’t have what I do today without taking that risk. If you’re unhappy but not aggressively pursuing a job search, you’re allowing fear to cost you the opportunity of a lifetime.
Be more direct, and less defensive. I’ve always been direct, but the French are on another level. Something I’ve come accustomed to in my global role, which has me in France every 6-8 weeks. So pardon my French, but know the term “Sh*t sandwich”? It’s when you say something nice, then deliver difficult feedback, and then close with something nice again. It softens the blow - and it’s a popular management tactic in the US. The French don’t give a shit - they just go direct. It can be a bit of a culture shock, but then you realize honesty is the only thing that really matters. Your feelings don’t. And the progress in that realization is weight lifting. It has helped me be a much better manager. I still choose my words carefully, but I don’t buffer the feedback like I used to. I also am managing, day by day, to be less defensive when being spoken to more directly. Being direct, and being able to take direct feedback without offense, will be invaluable to establishing yourself as a leader and earning respect.
Own your role, and operate #likeaboss. One of the many things women suffer from in the workplace is being “soft.” We’re people pleasers, consensus builders, and office house workers. We ask people if what we’d like to do is ok, ask for feedback while we’re doing it, and manage to take notes at meetings and plan all office parties along the way. My advice to you is: Stop. It. When you’re constantly vetting your plans and ideas, or volunteering for office housework, you’re really just working against yourself. First, you’re opening the door to constant criticism. Think your CRO got to where he did by asking if his closing tactics were ok? Think your CEO got to where he did by building consensus on his org chart? F*ck no. They had a job and they did it. They made decisions and took risks. Every executive has failed more times than they can count. What they didn’t do: Go around tin cupping for people to support their ideas.
Expand your awareness of issues we face. Whether you’re a mom or not, it doesn’t matter. We’re all experiencing the same issues. What you shouldn’t do is waste time over analyzing situations to try and find sexism in them. What you should do is know what the issues really are, so you can easily spot & handle them. I bucket these issues into four discrete topics, which makes light work for knowing if there actually is an issue:
Money. I love money. And I need it. A lot of it. But I’m not going to crow about the wage gap - which statistically is sitting at women making 79 cents to every dollar men make. Before you go citing that you need a raise because of the wage gap, understand that there’s a lot more below that statistic. This great Freakonomics podcast “The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap” demystifies what’s behind an otherwise egregious stat. To provide an extremely high-level recap: Women and men in the same job largely make the same pay, but women tend to pursue lower paying jobs. For instance: Brain surgeons, female and male, make the same wage. OB-GYN doctors make less than brain surgeons, and the gender population in that role is mostly women. So the real issue? Lack of opportunity, or perceived opportunity, to take on higher paying roles. Often attached to the idea that women will need flexibility to work differently (Care for children, parents, etc.), women are in less of the professions that pay the most. And the “Time outs” they’ve had to take along their career for whatever family care comes up delay their ability to pursue more aggressive paths. What I’m trying to say here is: Don’t cry foul based on a stat you don’t understand. First, work to understand it, then advocate for yourself. You can easily research what an adequate wage is for your position. Ask for it. Repeatedly. If you don’t get it, move on. The more time you spend in a role that won’t adequately compensate you, the more money you’re losing.
Time. My time is valuable, and I only have enough to do an excellent job. That doesn’t mean I won’t pitch in and empty the dishwasher in the office if everyone else is doing it, but it does mean I won’t volunteer if no one else is. If there’s a moment where you feel your time is deemed less valuable than your male peers based on a task you’ve been given, you need to address it. If it’s not core to your job to handle that work, you need to make your peers aware you’re doing it once and not again until everyone else has had a turn. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have an excellent article, Madam C.E.O., Get me a coffee - which details the toll that doing office housework takes on women.
“Being a woman.” If there’s one “Smoking gun” left in the women’s arsenal of being able to know if something is sexist or not, it’s being excluded from an activity for being a woman. If there’s a high stakes business meeting on the golf course, a whiskey tasting, a steak + cigar outing, or at an *ahem* late night location in vegas, and you’re not invited… it’s because you’re a woman. Fight for your right to be where important discussions are being had. Fight for them to be in a place everyone can enjoy. This great Fast Company Article “The New Subtle Sexism Towards Being A Woman at Work” addresses how we’re in “gender bias” territory, instead of “gender discrimination.” Like I said - there are few blatant smoking guns… but there’s a lot of bias and it’s important to educate yourself.
Policy. So we have a new Commander in Chief rolling in, and 2 months post-election I still can’t bring myself to really share all of my thoughts on this. I do have a very real fear that his overt sexism will permeate the country and reverse progress that’s been made in the office. But what I have to rely on is the fact that policy exists to protect me from sexism. What doesn’t universally exist is policy around family leave. I’ve been fortunate to work for companies - twice - where I’ve been the first woman to need maternity leave, and extremely supportive policies have been put in place. But there are alway some details missed - what does it mean for annual reviews? Promotion/raise cycles? Bonus payout? Work with your employer to understand your rights. You may not always like the policy - but you first have to understand it. And if it seems unfair you should fight it.
Get involved any way you can. This year I participated as a mentor in an amazing program - Technovation - which gets middle & high school aged women involved in tech by developing apps. Plug: The 2017 session kicks off now - here’s where to find more info on critical dates. I also spoke on how to build a family-friendly startup, and wrote as much as I possibly could about being a Woman in tech. Those are the ways I continue to learn & contribute to the solution for equality in the tech workforce. We’re dealing with an issue that has and will continue to span many generations - so any effort you can participate in that helps a younger woman see her potential in tech will reap rewards. It’s an investment of your time to pave the way for future women to just have to worry about kicking ass at their jobs.
Bring men into the discussion. I’ve previously written “The Women In Tech Convo Needs More Men” and I mean it. The only reason I knew about that great Freakonomics podcast demystifying the wage gap is because my friend Colin sent it to me following another article I wrote. The problem? He didn’t feel ok commenting when I shared it on Facebook - because men are largely not supported in this discussion. That’s not ok. Keeping men out of this discussion does women an extreme disservice. Not only does it make a conversation about equality unequal, but men still hold the majority of leadership positions and are largely in charge of our promotion/raise potential. So invite your male friends and colleagues into the debate. Make it safe for men to express their opinions and ask questions. There’s genuine interest in understanding and helping, and we need to be inclusive.
Go get it in 2017!
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