From my book in progress, SHIFT: Stories and Strategies for a New Paradigm.
Please enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 12, the introduction to a segment of interviews with successful women entrepreneurs.
If you would like to see more, please read Shift – Excerpt 2, accessible from the link provided below or through the main drop-down menu or contact me for more pages.
TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
Picture a leader and who do you see? An article by Heather Murphy for the New York Times reported that a simple exercise adapted for a workshop for executives by Tina Kiefer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, revealed that both men and women almost always draw a picture of a man. The exercise has been used worldwide by psychologists with similar results.
Additionally, a study conducted by the Academy of Management Journal seems to confirm this bias and that recognition as a leader in the workplace is more difficult for women than for men. The study also confirmed that, “Even when a man and a woman were reading the same words off a script, only the man’s leadership potential was recognized.”
In an installment of Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour in May 2018, Mark Shields discussed the view of women in political office. “The presumption, the prejudice, that voters have had historically toward women candidates is, A. that they’re more honest than men, and B. that they’re more compassionate,” Shields said. But, he added, that people question a woman’s toughness in the political realm.
There’s no question that in 2018, women did very well at the polls. A poll taken at that time asked both parties if the country would we be better off with more women in office. According to Brooks, 36 percent of Republicans said they believed, yes, the country would be better off, in contrast to 83 percent of Democrats who did.
Every year, Vanity Fair magazine writes a segment called, The New Establishment, which is a ranking of the top power elite brokers and captains of industry. In 2017s installment, only 26 of the 100 listed names are women, and in four cases they are directly tied with a man, making only twenty-two women stand-alone, independent success stories.
Eleven of the twenty-six women are in the entertainment industry, i.e., Beyonce and Reese Witherspoon. In a new book published in 2017, Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, written by VICE reporter Claire L. Evans, a glossing over of important women innovators whose names we have never heard in the lexicon of technology was revealed.
The review cites major groundbreakers from largely unknown Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program during the Victorian Age to cyberpunk web designers of the 1990s. In fact, it goes on to state unequivocally that female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation.
How many of us have ever read or heard about Grace Hopper, the mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II? Are your children reading about her in any history books in school? And meet Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online.
There’s Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s, the article goes on to report. Names. Women’s names. We’ve never heard. It seems there are even more hidden figures in our past than we were aware of, many more, than the three women we “discovered” in the film Hidden Figures.
WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?
We witness this bias in a dramatization of facts in The Post, a 2017 film by Steven Spielberg which tells the story of the Washington Post newspaper, circa 1971, when publisher Katharine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee risked their careers to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. presidents.
As the movie opens, Graham, whose father Eugene Meyer was the original publisher of The Post, struggles to take over the reins from her deceased husband Phil, who had been in charge of the paper at the behest of her father. Katherine Graham, it should be noted, had worked at the paper for many years though it was her husband who inherited the role of publisher from her father.
Board members are loath to embrace her in the role and we witness her as an invisible entity in meetings and discussions regarding the paper’s future. She walks paces behind and is not seen — barely seen even in the frame of the scene — nor heard, nor acknowledged. Until she finds her voice in the midst of the massive go/no-go decision on whether or not to go to print on the breaking scandal. She emerges as a fearless leader with integrity, ethics and heart, possessive of a genuine commitment to doing the right thing.
Success stories are everywhere if you look around. In my neck of the woods, London Breed comes to mind. Breed became the first African American woman to be elected Mayor of San Francisco in 2018 and is currently still serving. She comes from humble beginnings, having grown up in public housing in the Western Addition, raised by her grandmother.
“No matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do,” Breed said on the steps of City Hall after her victory. She vowed to herself, and encourages others, to never let our circumstances determine our outcome in life. Hard work and determination count for something, after all. Even in the most male dominated sectors.
“I always say, be careful who you meet along the way because you never know, the person who was dumping your trash could be your manager,” said Gail Evans. She began her career in a part-time job as janitor at Eastman Kodak. She is now the global chief digital officer at Mercer, a global consulting firm. Evans says she lives her life by respecting everyone regardless of the role they play in the structure of a company.
She also advocates for being yourself, a lesson hard learned after years of seeking acceptance in the tech industry. These days, she believes it’s okay to be a strong African American woman in technology and proves it every day. Having worked through myriad obstacles to make it to a position of respected leadership, her core philosophy has not changed.
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO, there are over 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States representing the fastest growing segment of the economy. We must be doing something right, with aplomb, determination and efficiency, despite the odds.
As an advocacy group, NAWBO was founded in 1975 with the intention of opening doors for women entrepreneurs by transforming public policy and influencing opinion makers. It has grown from its beginnings, with just twelve DC based, women business owners meeting to share information, to a membership of over 5,000 women in sixty chapters nationwide, representing all sectors and stages of development.
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This is a brief excerpt from Chapter 12 of the book SHIFT: Stories and Strategies for a New Paradigm, © 2018, Mary Corbin. No reprints without permission.