The Sum — The Meaning of This Week By Gloria Feldt
Issue 7/July 14, 2017
“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.” — Warren Bennis.
Welcome to The Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt
My word of the week is CODE: As in Cracking the code, Learning to code, and Rewriting the code
Cracking the Code
How much do we love this news of the week? The #WonderWoman movie is doing better at the box office over the longer haul — not just opening week — than any superhero movie in 15 years. The world is truly ready for her/us. That’s what cracking the code is all about.
Aside from the pop culture value of the movie, what really interests me is the role model value to crack the code of cultural gender stereotypes that have for so long defined women in limiting and self-limiting ways. Wonder Woman isn’t perfect on that score but certainly comes close enough that girls and women around the world are embracing the character as never before. And men and boys too, as it turns out. I saw a kindergarten teacher’s list of things that happened in her class during the week after the film’s release. They included an Iron Man obsessed boy asking his mother for a Wonder Woman lunchbox, and seven girls deciding that that since they all wanted to be Wonder Woman they would be Amazons at recess and not fight each other but work together to fight evil.
Seeing women in powerful, responsible roles of all kinds helps bit by bit to normalize the idea of leadership gender parity and power sharing. And it gives both girls and boys ideas about roles they can play in real life as well as at recess.
Cracking the code of the insidious implicit biases that remain in the workforce isn’t easy but let’s give some kudos to companies like Pinterest that found that to make diversity work, they must be very explicit about their goals, talk about their reasons and results repeatedly, broaden their pool of candidates by hiring smart people from related fields who could be trained to take on their needed technical roles, and demonstrating with transparent metrics that all kinds of diversity, including age, gender, and culture, makes hiring more efficient not less.
Hear the C-r-a-c-k?
Learning to Code
On Take The Lead’s July 12 Virtual Happy Hour, I had the inestimable pleasure of interviewing three women who are not just telling us how to crack the code, they are teaching all of us how to do it or some aspect of it.
- Like Adda Birnir, founder of Skillcrush, whose online coding school has prepared over 250,000 women for well-paying jobs in the tech industries. Adda is so infectiously passionate about coding that you might well be moved to sign up immediately.
- Like Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, they’re teaching women and men more about female STEM role models like Ada Lovelace who have so often been written out of history. Poke around their website for fascinating information about this amazing woman without whom Steve Jobs might never have been able to invent the Apple computer, and about how to get involved in your community with activities that help teach women young and old about their historical role models. Because if you can see it you can be it.
- Like Heather Cabot, journalist and co-author with Samantha Walravens of the newly published GeekGirlRising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking up the Tech World. I predict this book will be a game changer for how we all think about women and STEM from a business perspective. With an engaging narrative, the book covers the stories of women like Kathryn Finney, founder and managing director of digitalundivided and BIG Incubator, Natalie Villalobos, head of global programs, women techmakers at Google who is working inside the corporate world as well as those who invest in women led tech companies. She includes one of my all-time favorite stories, that of Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of the engineering toys especially designed with girls in mind, GoldieBlox. If you’re not already buying GoldieBlox for every girl from age 4 through middle school on your shopping list, please start now.
Rewriting the Code
In so many ways large and small, we must rewrite the code in our heads about gender stereotypes that no longer serve us, if indeed they ever did. This week’s Sum would be incomplete without recognizing Sheila Michaels, who wielding nothing more than “two consonants and a period,” as reported in The New York Times, changed the customary honorific for women to Ms. What a relief that was, to be known as a human female rather than by our marital status.
Women’s perceived competency drops when they are being perceived as forceful, because that breaks their gender stereotype and triggers our implicit biases. So I loved executive coach Kathy Caprino’s blog in Forbes.com. She references the Behavioral Science Guys implicit bias video I use in my leadership development trainings and she interviews them. They have so many helpful insights about the data and how to overcome implicit bias. I highly recommend them as a resource for rewriting the code.
Props to Garnet News for sharing this review of a book wonderfully titled Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the new research that’s rewriting the story, by British science journalist Angela Saini that debunks science on the differences between men and women. I’m so there. Let’s talk more about this in future Sums. I foam at the mouth at those who say men and women are just hardwired differently so relax and enjoy it.
My friend Tiffany Dufu is rewriting the code on expectations for women as employees, mothers, and spouses in her new book Drop the Ball. Check it out.
And then there is the rewriting of the Congressional dress code, but frankly, that’s too silly even to discuss here — as Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ) demonstrated just gorgeously.
Have a great week! And send tips to @GloriaFeldt for things you want me to cover in future weeks’ “Sum.”