Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tapping the Wisdom that Surrounds You

It’s fun to ask readers of my book to share with me their “favorite story.” Recently, one reader emailed me saying, 

“The book has gotten even better as I get into the later chapters.  I'm enjoying the current area I'm reading which includes the stories of young women in Honduras, Iran, (sheesh!) and Greece.  I continue to be amazed at what the women have done when challenged by the events and situations that their lives presented to them.  These are truly amazing people.  I mean - really - who teaches themselves BASIC????"

"I think the best self-actualization in this book is the statement that the women “love learning.”  It's key to who they are and how they approach life." 

"From my perspective, one of my “fave” lines was the one about “If we are willing to make an effort towards a stranger, then they can instruct us.”  I so believe that, and I know it's a core belief of my husband as well.  He's always coming home from our grandson’s ballgames having approached a new person and learning something new about possibilities, places, and people."  

"These experiences instruct the reader in how women can find or create their power.  Believing that you are an amazing woman - in and of your own self - is a crucial concept that can benefit every woman and ensure that she achieves her ambitions."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Better to Light One Candle than to Curse the Darkness

The Girl Scouts’ 10th annual Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) event was held at the University of Kentucky (UK) this past Saturday, November 15, 2014. The event was organized by the Girl Scouts of Kentucky's Wilderness Road Council and was open to all Girl Scouts in Kentucky and surrounding states from 4th to 12th grade. Admission was only a $10 fee for children and $5 fee for adults.

          12 girls attended the Future Cities workshop – one of many hands-on workshops
          350 girls attended the event this year.[i]

To appreciate the challenge they are addressing:

Kentucky is
           49th in the nation in bachelor's degrees in science and engineering,
           47th in the number of scientists and engineers, and
           42nd in the number of high-tech jobs

Kentucky has
            1.4% (680,000) of the US total enrollment pre-K through 12 (49.7 million)
            1.3% (193,800) of the US total enrollment of 9th through 12th grade (14.7 million)
            - 2.0% growth rate annually in total enrollment vs. 5.2% for the US overall
            0.4% growth rate annually in 9th-12th grade enrollment vs. 2.7% for the US overall
            78.8% of Kentucky students have computers at home
            72.8% of Kentucky students have Internet access.

The Girl Scouts of Kentucky's Wilderness Road Council is just one of 112 Girl Scout councils nationwide. [ii] Kentucky Girls Scouts serve 21,700 girls (1% of the national total of 2,282,817 youth, with 883,521 adults as of 2011) in 68 counties in Kentucky, Southern Indiana, and Tennessee and 1 county in Ohio. 

In the US, 30,000 students take AP exams in computer science annually, but less than 20% of them are female (6,000).[iii]




[i] “Campus Event Urges Women into Science Careers” by Sophie Tapia
[iii] Barbara Ericson, the Director of Computing Outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech University. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Opt Out or Quit?

When did women first get the idea that it was okay to "opt out?" It is such a delicate phrase, isn't it? It almost suggests that women will just step out on the balcony, for just a moment, and watch life events go on without her. Then, at some indeterminate time in the future, women might possibly "opt back in" and pick up where they left off. Easy as pie! Not even break into a tiny bead of perspiration.

Guys call it something different, don't they? They call it "quitting," as in "taking your marbles and crawling back home." Quitting carries a very heavy stigma while opting out does not.  Quitting recognizes the reality that when you leave, there is a gaping, emotional hole left behind. Opting out, on the other hand, carries the promise of "I'll be right back. Save my place for me!"

The key consideration is the motivation behind the "leaving." Women say they are "opting out" to raise a family which actually can result in up to two decades of absence, depending upon the family size. Or women "opt out" to take care of elderly or ill family members. The length of time required, not to mention the emotional commitment, could be sizable. The risk of a non-return is significant given that both the individual and the marketplace inevitably will experience dramatic change in the intervening years.

Other women argue they "opt out" of the traditional male-oriented corporate world because they don't like the traditional male-oriented leadership style they encounter.  But, who have they left behind to change that command-and-control hierarchical structure? Are they realistically expecting to be able to "opt back in?"

The difference between "opting out" and "quitting" is the mental frame of mind that the individual brings to the decision. That mental attitude is the juggernaut with which women must come to terms, if they are to navigate this transition successfully.  Women must recognize that, when you decide to leave, then you leave. Nothing stays the same after you've left a company or a job. You are naive if you believe you can come back and find that things have not changed. You have changed by your departure. The entity you left will have crafted itself around others in your absence.  Others will fill the vacuum you created by your decision to leave.

When guys use the term "quit," they recognize the finality of the change. They mentally pack away the previous status and turn their heads, hearts, and spirits toward the new endeavor. They mentally bring no baggage with them. That means they have created an empty slate on which they can write their new story, a new career, a re-invented life. That means they bring no false hope that their prior role will promise them anything. They pursue their new vision, unencumbered by the past. Only the future calls them.

Women will argue that "somebody should" hold a place for them for after they return from the family duties, just as veterans get promised a place to return after their service to their country. If we are realistic, neither promise serves the individual well. Each person is strongly redefined by their experience. We might better focus on building a growth-oriented economy with enough room and innovation to accommodate re-entry after major transitions.

But growth-oriented economies require that every person we educate become a productive contributor to that growth, one way or another. If we provide top tier education to both women and men, we need them to return something or to re-invest in future growth. How they accomplish that is infinitely variable. 

Some talented women understand the requirements of creating new enterprises that foster alternative strategies for career-pathing.  I've had the honor of interviewing many of those women leaders and have been introduced to many more.  There are women who are crafting another vision for the future. They have pushed their ship out to sea, leaving the security of the safe harbor behind, ready to take on new and exciting challenges.

"Opting out" does not quite cut it. In reality, it is just another way of "quitting."