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Cultivating female leaders begins at childhood – what we can do better

Every parent has a different style and theory as to raising their children, but girls are often raised to be independent, but that’s not exactly training for leadership. Here are some things we can do better as parents.

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Female leadership

Although the number of female leaders in the business world is dramatically higher than just forty short years ago, the C suite is still male dominated. There are two schools of thought on female leadership- (1) the business world is against women and we need to speak up to change this or it never will change or (2) women must fight for their position just like any other employee.

I’m a member of the second camp and I am personally annoyed when someone complains “there are not enough women speakers on that panel,” yet when you look at the applicants for the panel, there were no women who raised their hands. When people say “men are holding us down,” I think back to one of my first jobs out of college as the Marketing Director at a commercial real estate group, overseeing an entire division and being the only female at executive meetings – I didn’t feel held down and I didn’t get the job because of gender equality but because I was the most qualified candidate.

In conversation, some find my position to be callous, but I argue that it was ingrained in me at a very early age that I was fully equipped to be a leader and it never occurred to me when I entered the business world that I was at a disadvantage. This naivete has benefited me in amazing ways- I didn’t know I was supposed to be “held down” or that the glass ceiling applied to me, so I didn’t let it. My personality has come into question before as overly ambitious, competitive and enthusiastic, and some have claimed those are not very feminine traits. But who says this of me? Mostly women. What a shame that women have found me not to be womanly enough, a position that implies the glass ceiling applies to me- these are the same women that complain that a speaker panel doesn’t have women on it. So very hypocritical.

Ignoring the glass ceiling

Why did I have this inherent refusal to acknowledge the glass ceiling? I trace it back to my upbringing. My grandmother taught me to read before I ever started kindergarten and out of boredom the summer prior to kindergarten, I read the entire Nancy Drew series not because I was told to but because I had this new tool called reading and the only books in my grandparent’s house that looked interesting was that colorful set, so I got started. No one knew I read the series, I did it for me. When I started kindergarten, I was very frustrated that everyone was learning the alphabet and it was everything I could do just to sit still. Tradition was to stay on track with the public school system, but my family didn’t believe in the conventional thinking and allowed me to move forward at my own pace on my personal time.

My grandmother was also the den leader of the local Girl Scouts, Brownies and Blue Bird organization over the years, and when my time came to join, I was ready. I learned crafts, outdoor skills and how to work in a team as well as lead a team. The mission of the Girl Scouts is that the program “builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” While there are a lot more organizations available today to girls, especially those that encourage girls to be interested in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) careers, in the 80s, the Girl Scouts was the best/only program available in the small town I lived in.

I hated selling cookies as a Blue Bird, and although I was nowhere near shy with strangers, I felt like I was imposing. Why did I feel like that? My dad getting angry at telemarketers calling during dinner- I equated the two and knew inherently it was annoying. I was taught “sales skills” through the program, but I didn’t learn how to negotiate (there was no “buy a full case today and get 10% off”), how to read buyer signs or buyer psychology, rather we had a script to read from and it ended in a yes or no proposition. My grandmother passed away after a year of my being in the program, and I quit. I didn’t quit because our den leader was gone, but because the selling process was boring to me and I had better things to do with my time.

I learned early on how to prioritize my skills and decide what my passion was. I hated sales, so I stuck with writing and was a published poet by second grade (after skipping first grade), which has come in quite handy in my career. Most children don’t know what their passion is, and there is no one around to inspire them. I happened to come from a family of creatives, but engineers don’t think their job is interesting to a child, so they don’t share what they do with their children. Single parents don’t have time to sit down every day with their child and ask about their dreams and then actually go through with shaping them, that’s left to the public school system which barely scrapes by with education since they’re required to focus children on short term memorization for standardized testing.

What we can do better – three things

The three things we can do as a culture to cultivate leadership in women are as follows:

  1. Teach girls how to read earlier than public schools require. Let them enter imaginary worlds and learn about environments other than the one they already know. Reading is critical to the expansion of the mind. Even though I grew up in a small town, I was very well educated about the world by the time I entered it. Reading helps girls to be creative which is a key component to developing leadership skills and helps with problem solving.
  2. Help girls identify interests early and help them develop them into passions. I hated sales, but I was asked what I don’t hate and that was writing, so I pushed forward with what became my passion. Don’t force girls to stay in a program they don’t like, even if it helps them develop other skills. Skills and passion aren’t the same thing, and sometimes parents and teachers tell kids, “don’t doodle” and stifle their creativity and teach them to ignore their own passions which can limit their ability to lead later on in life.
  3. We must teach our daughters that the glass ceiling doesn’t apply to them and that they can lead no matter what society says. This allows girls to become entrepreneurs if they end up in a field that is not female friendly, or helps them to have the confidence to sit in an executive board room without feeling self conscious. Telling girls that they have to fight to get to the top gives them an inherent sense of self consciousness as if they don’t deserve a leadership role when they actually earn one. Teach girls to work hard and bust their butts on anything they pursue.

There are many more things we can do as Americans without having to reform the school system, an impossible undertaking. Business leaders are great independent of their gender, ethnicity, age or religion, and some day, our culture will not teach girls that from day one they are at a disadvantage because that is one of the biggest things holding so many women back.

Business Entrepreneur

Employers, rules to keep safe from COVID changed again

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) COVID-19 “close contact” definition has changed, and it affects employers and employees. Here’s what we know (for now).

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Masked people in meeting, but employers may find it hard to keep safe

If you are an employer, this information is a must know! Recently, the Centers for Disease Control has redefined the term of being in “close contact” with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This new definition is one that will affect all group settings. The workplace is one of them.

Previously, a “close contact” individual was someone who was within six-feet during a 15-minute period of a person who tested positive for the virus. Now, “close contact” still requires the “within six-feet distance” scenario but broadens the 15 minute window criteria.

The new definition states that someone doesn’t need to have 15 consecutive minutes of interaction with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19. A cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period can also consider someone as in “close contact”. And, everyone who is in close contact will still need to be tested for the virus and quarantine themselves.

This change goes hand in hand with a recent study published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study details that a facility employee at a male correctional facility in Vermont tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed case was reported to the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) on August 11, 2020.

The correctional officer came in contact with 6 inmates who had arrived from an out-of-state correctional facility on July 28. All the inmates were kept in a quarantine unit and tested for SARS-CoV-2 on that day. On July 29, all their tests came back positive. As a result, the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) and VDH conducted a contact tracing investigation.

During the correctional officer’s eight-hour shift, video surveillance footage showed he only had brief encounters with the inmates. Although they weren’t consecutive, the officer interacted with the inmates for about 17 minutes total. During all encounters, the officer wore a microfiber cloth mask, gown, and goggles. The inmates didn’t always wear a mask. Also, the officer didn’t have any other exposure to people with COVID-19 out of work and hadn’t traveled.

On August 4, the officer started showing COVID-19 symptoms. On August 5, he got tested, and a positive result returned on August 11. Data shows that one of the inmates transmitted the virus to the officer.

So, what does this all mean? The previous and current definition isn’t quite yet set in stone. There is so much more to learn about the virus.

The new “close contact” definition is much broader so people who didn’t fall in this category before, probably do now. If employees are in the office, it is inevitable that they will have some sort of interaction. And, even if coworkers only have a 5-minute long meeting, three 5-minute meetings will still count if there is a case of COVID-19 exposure.

Employees should be informed of these changes to better trace any unfortunate virus cases. And, employers with less than 500 employees who fall under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) will need to “provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19”.

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Business Entrepreneur

Streamline your collaboration and lighten your workload with Lyght

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Ventive is releasing a new collaboration tool that basically combines all your collaboration tools into one.

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Text "A vision brought to Lyght" on a bright background with lightbulb and people in collaboration.

Ventive is a custom software development agency based in Boise, Idaho. Launched in 2014, the startup combines design and engineering to build digital products that will help businesses grow. The company has worked with big names like Aston Martin, Cisco (Broadsoft), HP, Simplot, and Coleman Homes. It has even made the Inc. 5000 List for 3 years in a row. And, as with any business, it faces the same hurdles all small and big companies face: Finding the right tool to help take an idea and turn it into a reality.

In a blog post, Ventive Product Manager Jeff Wheadon wrote that the company has used a variety of tools like JIRA, Toggl, Trello, and Slack to streamline and collaborate on projects. Soon they realized there was not a single tool solution that could help them “go above and beyond for their clients”. So, Ventive decided it was “time to shine a new Lyght on team collaboration” by creating their own tool.

Lyght is an all-inclusive team collaboration tool that removes wasted time used to switch between different communication and management applications. It is designed to Make Work Simple. Make Work Flow.

In the tool, you can create a story for any project you want to build. These stories are designed for a smooth workflow, and you can collaborate with your team in each one. Conversation threads are visible in every story in real-time so everything is organized together. Tasks can be assigned by due dates and time budgets. You can even allocate a certain number of hours to a specific project so you can “determine bottlenecks in your team”.

You can also review the team’s time logs to gain insights on performance. A personalized dashboard lets you see recent activity and time spent across projects. Boards easily display the current state of each assignment. And, Backlogs let you organize and prioritize stories from your custom workflow.

Although Lyght started as an internal management tool for Ventive, the company isn’t just keeping the software for itself.

“After doing some additional market research, we found that there are many other companies across different industries looking for a similar tool that is lightweight and easy to use, yet robust enough to work with their own business processes,” wrote Jeff.

Since its creation, Lyght has gone through 3 iterations. Currently, the company is offering a private beta to entrepreneurs and teams. It plans on implementing the feedback it receives so the tool can “change and flow with the needs of the industry.” According to a Facebook post, Ventive is preparing for a public release of the software later this year.

Lyght brings together task management, collaboration, chat, and time tracking into a single solution. And, if you’d like to give it a try, you can schedule a demo on the company’s website.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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