When it comes to occupying positions of leadership, women and those from marginalized backgrounds remain underrepresented – and continue to be faced with systemic challenges in advancing to these roles. In this video, I talk to CXO about the challenges faced by current and future leaders, what equity-led leadership really looks like, and how to enact meaningful change when it comes to gender and diversity in the workforce.
As my little brother said in a text, “Watched the whole thing. You’re a bad mofo.” Which is about as good as it gets in terms of sibling compliments about an academic presentation on a heady social justice topic. Even if you don’t understand the term “decolonization” and aren’t in the field of philanthropy, check it out. I promise you’ll learn a few new things that will inspire and challenge you! xoxoako
The Mentorship Paradox (and What this Means for Women’s Liberation)
Oprah is my mentor. And also Brené Brown. Whenever I am in a funk or facing down a fear, I turn to them to find the clarity and peace that I need most. They can be yours, too. All you need is one of their books, podcasts, or YouTube videos to directly access their wisdom.
I also have a wonderful relationship with my “inner mentor.” This lady is me, just 20 years older. Her kids are grown, she’s in the twilight of her career, and she gives the best advice ever. Stuff like, “Only do what brings you joy and allows you to drop the f-bomb,” which resulted in this Zoom talk show.
These types of mentors are important. They put us back in the driver’s seat of our lives by giving us the time and space to reflect. They help us hear our own voices that have been dismissed, quieted, and silenced over the years. Voices that are barely audible above the din of everyone else’s needs.
Women are taught early not to trust themselves. To question our feelings and seek external validation for everything. Little stuff like what to wear to an event to really big stuff like whether to apply for a new job or leave our spouse. Only we know the answer to these questions, but we ask others to tell us what to do.
So is it any wonder that many of us seek a mentor like a fairytale princess on the hunt for Prince Charming? If we just had a mentor, we would slay all of the dragons between us and our professional dreams. If we just had a mentor, we would know exactly what to do to live happily ever after.
But finding a mentor is tough when senior women are in short supply. For every four men in executive leadership roles, there is only one woman. And she’s busy. Further complicating matters is the backlash to #Metoo that’s left men more hesitant to mentor women.
Plus, others’ lived experiences and identities inevitably inform the advice they give. I’ve been encouraged by well-meaning white mentors to “fly below the radar,” which just isn’t an option for a brown woman whose very presence puts some people on edge. Not to mention the fact that I had to be a fighter jet my whole life, breaking the sound barrier just to make it in the room, so flying below the radar is antithetical to who I am.
In this week’s Zoom talk show, I’ll discuss the gifts and challenges of mentorship, share alternative mentoring models that work, and teach you how to slay your own dragons. You’ll get to meet your “inner mentor,” which is a concept based on the work of one of my other mentors, Tara Mohr.
Ready? Let’s go.
The Confidence Myth (and What This Means for Women’s Liberation)
I fell in love with Wonder Woman when I was six years old. She was a superhero made just for girls, and she was fabulous. My dad got me an autographed picture of her that we hung by my bed, and every night, I fantasized about having my own magical bracelets, truth-telling lasso, and invisible jet plane. Her strength and confidence were rarely seen in women, and they were the things that I most wanted to be someday when I grew up.
Fast forward 40 years, and she’s still the woman I hope to be someday. I have moments of strength, but that other quality – confidence – continues to elude me. I’m afraid to speak up in meetings, worried that I’ll sound stupid. I obsess over my emails, wondering if I’m writing too much or too little. And I’m deeply afraid that no one will show up for my talk show, so I think about cancelling it.
How confident we feel about something usually determines whether or not we’ll do it. We believe that if we don’t feel 100% confident, then we aren’t ready enough, good enough, or smart enough to take the risk. This is called the Confidence Myth, and it’s holding women back in ways big and small. From applying to a new job to launching a business, I’ve seen the Confidence Myth derail women’s ability to contribute to the world and pursue their dreams.
In this week’s Zoom talk show, we are going to debunk the Confidence Myth with research-based practices that don’t including telling women to act more like men. We’ll explore the common mistakes women make when trying to build their confidence and I’ll teach you how to do “confidence kegels” to strengthen your confidence over time.
Ready to get started? Grab your journal and let’s go.
It’s like a live blog post
Next week Thursday 11/5/20 at Noon EST to take our minds off the election, I’m launching “That’s What She Said?” a Zoom talk show featuring me and my smart friends (that’s you).
Join me for Episode 1: Why supermodels marry old dudes and what this means for women’s liberation.
Email me for the Zoom info at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t make the time? I’ll send you the recording.
An Unexpected Path to Mindfulness (And Why Women Like to Shop at Target)
Whenever I’m in a state of transition or change, I go on a spiritual quest of sorts. I might buy a copy of Real Simple magazine, its cover photo of an organized linen closet promising me everlasting peace and happiness.
Or I’ll go to Target to wander the aisles. Sniff candles with names like “calm.” Wonder if this or that would look pretty in my house, and then not buy anything. The experience of Target being all that I needed to feel bright and sparkly again.
I also start cooking, which is significant because I generally avoid making dinner (or anything for that matter) unless absolutely necessary. And even then, it might be a grilled cheese sandwich. I onced served that with a side of mini-carrots and my husband asked if “cafeteria food” was a new type of cuisine.
But when I’m in a state of transition or change, I suddenly want to make soup from scratch and bake an apple pie. Or I’ll decide that I am going to start canning homemade jam, even though I have no idea how to do it.
The prevailing theme for all of these mini-spiritual quests is around homemaking and caregiving. And while I engage in both to some degree, I’ve set them aside out of choice and necessity to engage in the world of work.
I’m too old to feel guilty about this. Like many working women, I almost died on that hill of “having it all,” so I have a well-deserved aversion to these traditional pursuits. Which makes it all the more perplexing that I move towards them during times of transition and change.
What is it about homemaking and caregiving that are so compelling when my world feels unstable?
I imagine some would say that I am getting back in touch with my true purpose in life, which is to be home with my kids. But I know better.
I am a horrible stay-at-home mother, having tried it during maternity leave. It took me all of two months to determine that people with degrees in early childhood development could, indeed, raise my children better than me.
I also only like to cook when I feel like it. As with most things, once it’s required and expected (and taken for granted), it becomes a chore. Especially at the end of the day when all I want to do is rest and reconnect with my family.
So it must be deeper than that. Something beyond the task itself or its meaning of home and family.
There’s a feeling of peace when I do these things. My mind stops chattering as much, my senses are engaged. It’s probably as close as I get to mindfulness, which is something I am just starting to explore.
My first foray into mindfulness was a disaster. My therapist at the time suggested I try taking a “non-purposeful walk” over my lunch hour.
Confused, I asked if I could do this while talking on my cellphone. (Nope.)
Then I asked if I could just walk realllly slowlllly to my next meeting. (Again, denied.)
Finally, I asked if I could at least drink a Starbucks while walking non-purposefully. In exasperation, she acquiesced.
I actually got a headache on my non-purposeful walk. I felt extremely self-conscious just wandering around randomly with a Starbucks in my hand.
And I wasn’t multitasking in my typical way, so I was acutely aware of my surroundings. All of which I found profoundly boring.
At my next session, she suggested I try drawing something without judgment. To just see an everyday object, sketch it on a piece of paper, and be done with it.
Five attempts at drawing a Kleenex box left me feeling frustrated and inept. How hard could it be to draw a box? (Apparently, very.) In exasperation, I crumpled up the paper and threw it away. I didn’t even recycle it, I was so mad at it.
So much for mindfulness.
Some years later, I’m a bit more evolved on my path. I can pull my mind back into the present moment when it starts spinning. I breathe deeply when I want to scream. I even meditate on occasion.
Even though it may seem strange to suggest that reading Real Simple magazine or walking through Target or cooking dinner are acts in mindfulness, they are for me.
Because when I am doing these things, I am more centered and present. I feel connected to myself and others. And I am at peace.
It’s as close to spiritual nirvana as I get.
What is it that makes you feel centered and present? Connected to yourself and others? Peaceful?
Maybe it’s watching a movie with your kids. Or walking your dog. Even organizing a linen closet with color-coded labels like Real Simple magazine can be a mindfulness practice.
Find those things and do them more.
As for me, I’ll be wandering the aisles of Target. Purposefully.
To Lie Fallow (Thoughts on Rest)
Pointing out of the car window, I ask my grandmother, “What crops are those?”
She explains how to tell the difference between wheat and corn. Shows me how sugar beets grow in clumps. And tells me why the bright faces of sunflowers move east to west, following the arc of the sun.
Every few miles, the landscape changes, and in a sudden shock of absence, the colors disappear.
Looking at the barren field, plowed and empty, I ask my grandmother why.
Were the crops dead? Did the farmer forget to plant?
“They’re resting the field,” she says, “Letting it lie fallow.”
Fallow [fal-oh] adjective
1. (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more
2. not in use; inactive
Some thirty years later, I sit at my computer, tired from the past year. My creativity feeling forced, my writing contrived. Blank and without ideas. I am tired. Stuck.
I need to go fallow.
To rest and pause. Replenish myself. Sit with the emptiness and wait for the rain, breathe in the air.
Ready myself for the next season, whenever that may be.
And when creativity stirs, let it grow. But only so much before tilling it back into the soil of my soul.
Women are like fields that never go fallow.
We plant, grow and harvest until there is nothing left. Or what grows lacks the vibrancy of true health.
Antonyms of fallow: active, busy, employed, going, industrious
So we’re tired. And frustrated and sad. Wondering where our energy, our day, our week, our lives have gone.
What if we tried lying fallow for a season? And what would that even look like?
Synonyms of fallow: idle, dormant, inert, neglected, quiet, resting
I am halfway through my post. Creativity stirred, and I have let it grow. But only so much.
Because now I will till it back into the soil of my soul.
I will lie fallow.