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Op/Ed

Instead of ‘leaning in,’ women leaders are opting to ‘lean out’

(EDITORIAL) Many women have tried to “lean in,” but as that sets many back, they’re opting to “lean out” and forge their own path.

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We’ve been reporting on how many of “truisms” about women in the workplace are actually myths. Women do ask for raises and try to negotiate – they just aren’t heard. Women do possess the qualities that our culture looks for in leaders – they simply aren’t seen as being “feminine” characteristics, and so are coded negatively.

One of the most pervasive of these gendered myths is the concept of “leaning in.” As famously defined by Sheryl Sandberg, the advice to “lean in” and volunteer for additional responsibilities at work implies that women aren’t already doing so. That’s false (and a harmful stereotype to perpetuate).

No matter the industry, women do lean in. The truth is they often aren’t given credit for it when they do.

It should come as no shock then that after “leaning in” and not receiving additional credit, better compensation, or increased recognition in their companies — many women and minorities are getting frustrated with trying to change a status quo that isn’t interested in changing. Instead they are opting to “lean out.”

They are simply leaving and creating opportunities elsewhere.

One example of someone opting to lean out is Allison Baum, recently profiled by Quartz. A VC professional, Baum tried leaning in at her company only to receive minimal appreciation. She attributes this lack of progress to the way that her corporation wasn’t set up to help women succeed.

The Guardian ran a shocking report last year about the negligence of many of society’s safety systems (like seat belts!) that failed. Literally. They failed to incorporate women’s bodies as part of their designs.

Eventually, Baum left and founded her own VC firm. Leaning out allowed her to not only create an opportunity for herself, but to in turn create more opportunities for women and other minorities in the tech field.

If you’re in a position of authority, or are in a position where you are thinking of how you can best build your company so that all your employees can succeed, let Baum’s story illustrate the restrictions of only thinking about business in a “traditional” fashion.

In order to encourage the diversity that you need to grow and thrive, the very fabric of your team or organization must be built with more than one image of success in mind.

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AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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LG Alexa internet of things

So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

The portable safe every conference goer must consider

(EDITORIAL) Going to conferences will fill your brain with new info, but are you distracted and an easy target? Probably. There’s a solution.

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masterlock portable safe

The madness that is the annual SXSW conference begins this week, and with it comes thousands of people, some of whom will be opportunistic criminals seeking to steal easy-to-grab items such as wallets and phones from unsuspecting attendees. But you can prepare yourself now so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience without worry.

In addition to practical advice such as writing down the serial numbers for all the electronic devices you’ll be toting around and installing tracking software on them, there are other simple ways to protect yourself — and your belongings — at conferences and conventions.

Of course, the simplest way to avoid one of the most common types of theft is to keep smaller items such as phones, keys and wallets on your person at all times. But for those instances when you need to be unencumbered — maybe you’re presenting to a packed conference room or boogying down on the dance floor — you might want to consider a portable, relatively inexpensive lockbox just big enough to fit your credit cards, cash, keys and phone.

The Master Lock 5900D is portable enough to lug around a conference all day, but heavy-duty enough to deter would-be thieves.

It’s important to remember that criminals and competitors see these large conferences as prime opportunities to steal — whether it’s information or your electronic devices. Threat Stack offered up several tips to keep you, your valuables and your business safe when attending conventions and conferences, including:

  • implementing strong passwords;
  • setting up auto-lock on all electronic devices;
  • avoiding unsecured public Wi-Fi networks;
  • being extremely careful about what you post on social media, especially photos;
  • and remaining hyper-aware of what you discuss about your business in public, where someone nearby could easily eavesdrop.

Of course, these security tips aren’t only for conferences and conventions. If you’re a serial coffee shop worker, the portable lock box can keep your smaller valuables safe during those inevitable bathroom breaks when there’s not a trustworthy person around to ask to “keep an eye on” your stuff.

And if you’re worried about bigger items such as your laptop, there are affordable security solutions for those, too.

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Op/Ed

The real reason women are overlooked? Leadership is seen as masculine

(EDITORIAL) We can tell women to “lean in,” or we can address what researchers point to as the real challenge – leadership is still seen as a masculine trait.

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leadership


Researcher Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic recently rejected the popular advice of “leaning in” for women* looking to scale the professional ladder. It’s not that women are unconsciously holding themselves back from leadership opportunities, as Sheryl Sandburg so famously theorized in her TED talk and subsequent book.

But, this advice only works for women aren’t actively pursuing higher roles and greater responsibilities.

The reality is more that even when women are advocating for themselves, they are less likely to be seen as having the qualities of a leader. This widespread gender bias isn’t news: Pantene and some partners even released a feel-good commercial that capitalized on calling out how assertive women are “bossy” and borderline competent men are seen as “the boss.”

As Chamorro-Premuzic explains, the fact that our culture has so closely adhered to the belief that these characteristics are “masculine” is more likely what holds high-performing women back. Even if they are better than their competition, even other women will often not evaluate them fairly because of how they have internalized our culture’s apparent blindness to women’s ability to be “the boss.”

But then, even some masculine-identifying or preforming people who are inferior in their technical skills could be afforded afforded many professional benefits because of the implicit bias we carry into business spaces that favors “masculine” traits. For example, “male-performing” assertive people may get credit for a quieter colleague’s work.

Where Chamorro-Premuzic’s editorial gets really interesting is when they reject the idea that women and other minorities need to over-compensate for their marginalization and try to join the good ol’ boys club.

He explains, “If our solution is to train women to emulate the behavior of men… we may end up increasing the representation of women in leadership without increasing the quality of our leaders. In this scenario, women will have to out-male males in order to advance in an inherently flawed system where bad guys (and gals) win. Unless our goal is to make it easier for incompetent women to succeed – much as it is for men – there is little to gain from this approach.”

As I’ve said before: Being a leader is a gender-neutral act, (spoiler: so are all actions!); the sooner that we can accept that coding behavior as “masculine” or “feminine” only serves to obscure people’s actual contributions, the better.

Removing these archaic labels allows the real competencies of professionals to be evaluated — for their benefit, and their organization’s benefit.

For now, organizations that make conscious efforts to level the playing field (like the National Association of Realtors’ restructure leading to half of their leadership team being women) are the primary answer as our culture shifts to a more aware environment.

*Though the referenced article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole

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