On October 18, 2017, Women in Innovation held their fourth panel discussion, entitled STEM leadership: Science and Technology.
This inspirational and educational event was hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Rye Brook, New York and documented by Rye TV. Deb Barker, Executive Director of Westchester, Hudson Valley and Connecticut Chapter of LLS welcomed the attending “Winnovators,” while co-founders Suzanna Keith and Grace Fedele moderated the evening’s empowering and important discussion.
Grace painted the directive with her introductory remarks, “Women in Innovation is a community organization, founded on International Women’s Day 2016, focused on elevating women who are pushing the boundaries of innovation and accelerating the pace of change across industries including, Technology, Digital Media, Advertising, Marketing, IT, Venture Capital, Entrepreneurship, Engineering and Science, Bio-Tech and Pharmacology.”
She continued, “our hope, as such, is to empower and educate women with the latest innovations in science and technology trends by hosting events that feature top speakers and great networking opportunities. We do this so that they can stay at the forefront of change in their fields. And today, we have the opportunity to have a conversation with some truly incredible women in STEM.”
Suzanna added that their goal is to get more women into the C-Suite—a term referring to titles of top senior executives which tend to start with the letter C, for Chief, such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO), also known as “C-level executives.” Women in Innovation is an organization designed to support and empower women in the field of science and technology. Gender gap topics such as equal pay are at the forefront of this discussion. Over 400 people signed up in their Meetup and Suzanna encouraged all attendees to use social media channels to further awareness of this organization. Then she added that all of the evening’s panelists have careers in science or technology—or careers that impact it.
Panelists included Arjan Eenkema van Dijk, Inspire Shift founder, who has an expertise in gender equality. Arjan affirmed the existing gender gap referencing the differing proportions of women versus men when it comes to promotions and the C-Suite. She then explained how women need to navigate the workforce bearing in mind an unconscious gender bias, which is in part, culturally created. “It’s a leadership issue more than a women’s issue, and we need to do a lot more awareness training and added diversity within companies to overcome the unconscious bias in the workplace.” She spoke of the importance of projecting personal power, and of having charisma and clarity.
Arjan underlined the importance of being bold, and mentioned how important the relationship between competence and confidence is today and how being up-to-date and relevant within the tech world is so crucial. She also emphasized the critical elements of interpersonal skills and building trust and respect. She talked about positive intelligence, which lets you live up to your potential, rather than getting bogged down with worry, which shuts down your pre-frontal cortex and stalls productivity. She also talked of the importance of the 4 C’s of career building: control, confidence, competence, and clarity.
Panelist Heather Cabot, co-author of Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Journalism School, former newscaster and an Angel investor wowed the audience with her dynamic personality and her words of wisdom about the tech-feminist movement. Heather explained, “my partner and I have sought to change the narrative with our book of how we see women in tech and to get away from that stereotype of a ‘hacker in a hoodie’ and to really show that there are women in the industry that have overcome sexism and have charted their own path. We compiled years of interviews in the writing of our book that underscore the secret sauce that empowered those women who have survived within the digital revolution world. Role modeling is so important in building people up. We can build the visibility gap of women in technology and the way for people to help this effort is to tell your stories and amplify your voices and own your expertise. This will help the next generation.”
Next up was Cheryl Einhorn, Creator of the Area Method and Author of Problem Solved, about Decision Making and founder of CSE consulting and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School. She attacks decision-making with a unique analytical perspective—think of that good ol’ pro and con list, but on steroids.
Cheryl described how her mom had graduated from medical school in 1967, so she “benefited from being raised by a trail blazer. Role models are so important. The heightened awareness of the issue is key. For example, in the Advanced Investment Research class that I teach, there were no women in the class, no now they are making a real effort to get women to register. I feel that we are at a wonderful moment for ourselves and for our daughters. I actually feel good about our future BECAUSE of the negative spotlight.”
Dr. Gwen Nichols, Chief Medical Officer of LLS added in her powerful two cents, “My biggest concern is that young women who are benefitting from fair and equal treatment in educational systems will be lulled into complacency about what happens once you leave school and enter the workforce. If we don’t talk to each other, support each other, congratulate and push each other forward then that 30 percent that thinks its OK that there are no women at the top, when we all started out together, well then…shame on us. The strength comes from us saying “I deserve this” and if you have to be twice as good for half as much, then the good news is, You Are! And that’s the message we need to tell young women.”
Last up was Lucie Guernsey, Managing Director at Woodland Bay Capital Managing Director, who had a no-nonsense way about her, stating, “I’m a banker for 35 years. Women were only clerks back when I started, but I joined the training program to enter the entertainment and media world. I think this whole woe is me regarding sexual harassment—is our problem, not the men’s problems. The men will always come after you, whether they are 5 or 50, and it’s your decision to take it or not.”
And then she added, “I didn’t feel that glass ceiling because I was specialized and I went after that. That’s what you have to do. Go after what you want and don’t let people trudge you down.”
Two questions in particular stood out in the final Q&A.
1) What advice do you have to women to be more encouraged in STEM?
Heather Cabot responded, “We are living in a tech-enabled world so we need to become more literate, through online courses and such. Understanding how things work and how they are built, as well as knowing the lingo is key to going far, no matter what industry you are in. Get out of your comfort zone! Men will apply for a job if meet 3 of 10 criteria, women will only apply if they meet 9. That’s a problem—guys are applying for it and we should too! We suffer from putting ourselves down and imposter syndrome and ‘am I really good enough?’ The truth is that the guys are asking for the promotion, for the job and we should too.”
Cheryl addresses the question by referencing her book in how it’s important to “work with and through ambiguity, identifying assumptions and evidence and perspective-building. She explained, “in making decisions, we all come with mental shortcuts but we are laden with them too, we are all flawed thinkers, for example we might think we are better than average drivers, and we tend to have the planning fallacy (underestimating the time to complete a task).”
Then she added, “When faced with high stakes decisions we must understand and counteract all of those flawed thinking pitfalls and cognitive biases. What we really need is a collaborative backbone, and it’s uniquely feminine. We need a way to step into the incentives and motives of others so that we can let that mirror back on us so that we can assess our own assumptions and judgments and have an opportunity to solve our problems holistically.”
Dr. Gwen then responded by saying that “there are some fundamental things that we need to look at in how we raise women and what we teach them about what’s nice and that asking for what you know in your heart you deserve can be seen as being not nice. We need to look at ourselves and believe that we are deserving. We need to accept our own strengths before we can expect others to believe it. We need to change our idea of deserving and accept our own strengths. I hear my mom say: “you did very well on that, but don’t want to seem like you are boasting.” The more we can see our our own inhibitions and not teach that to the next generation the more successful we will be.”
Arjan added, “yes, it’s all about confidence and clarity—this is who I am, these are my strengths and accomplishments and we are all perfectly imperfect and that’s OK! We need to teach our children to be bold, not perfect.”
Lucie added that there are no more glass ceilings in the entertainment industry. The studios used to control what films were put out there, but today if you have money you can call yourself an actress and put a film out. The film industry is getting more funding from private money, away from the big banks.
2) What is the added value of Women in Innovation? Is it networking, inspiration, or the collaborative process?
Lucie explained, “Dialogue is the real added value. Tracking change in technology in our chosen fields is one of the most important things in life, because if you miss that technology change then you will miss out on taking advantage of it, no matter if you are male or female.”
And Heather noted, “we saw in our interviews that there is evidence and real truth behind the idea of a sisterhood and the shine theory, meaning that those who are in the tech world really do abide by a code to help each other out. By pulling each other up and pushing each other forward, we shine more ourselves.” I was lucky to attend the Grace Hopper celebration of women in computing, and the takeaway message from that was about helping each other. And more specifically, women who share meaningful volunteering experiences bond and are more likely to help each other out. When I shine you shine—successful women surround themselves with other successful women. The new school of thought is ‘let’s help each other,’ replacing the old school theory of ‘every woman for themselves.’
Suzanna Keith concluded the evening by announcing that the next event will be an International Women’s Day event in March 2018 at the Rye Arts Center, and then at Bryn Mawr College in June 2018. She also mentioned it will be even more interactive next time.
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