Pay parity for whom?

2248. Twenty-two forty-eight. A.D.

At the current pace, that’s the year American women will finally have pay parity with men.

Oh, you thought it was 2059? You were galled, because it’s still 42 years away? Well, hold your gall and ratchet it up, because it will be 107 years before black women have pay parity – and 231 years before Hispanic women do.

231 years. That’s 7 generations from now. 7 generations. Our great, great, great, great, great granddaughters might finally be paid fairly for their work.

Pause. Right now. How many of us can name our great, great, great, great, great grandmothers? We probably can’t, because 231 years was a long time ago. That’s the year Sacajawea was born. Davy Crockett died. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro premiered in Vienna. And it was still three years before we’d have our first US President. In case you’ve lost count, precisely 0 of the last 45 have been women.

231 years is unacceptable. Truth is, I don’t know if that even tells the whole story. But you get the point. When we talk about gender pay equity, we absolutely must include all women.

She’s not the f*ck!ng nanny.

Who didn’t giggle watching the live BBC video during which a man’s toddler and infant burst into his office and into social media fame? It was adorbs.

And yet…

Hands up if you leaped to the assumption that the super-shero who came stocking-foot skidding through the door after them was the nanny.

Me. I did. I went right there. Whether the idea originated in my head or was inferred from someone’s post, I neither noticed nor challenged a notion patently grounded in race. Asian woman running after small children? She must be the nanny.

I bought immediately into a stereotype I’ve seen play out many times against my wife. And our friends. And even when we travel, where it takes on different but familiar shades.

My wife is a badass. Today she designed her first t-shirt. She shouldn’t have to wear it, but she’s going to rock it. Yes, here in progressive Seattle. And in Florida and New York and all points in between.

And if you want one, she’ll make one for you, too.

No, she is not. But she will make you a shirt if you want one. Comment and we’ll get back to you.

Proceeds will fund her recovery from being married to a Florida cracker all these years.

10 Reasons To Resist The Clickhole

International Women’s Day was this week, and with it a social media crescendo of gratuitous shout outs to badass women everywhere.

Yay!

Past the midweek peak, a drip of residual cheers speckled my feeds. But mostly, within a day, it was back to the cacophony of critiques, criticisms, and insults masquerading as advice for business women.

You’ve seen them. Perhaps, in a moment of self-doubt, you’ve clicked on them.

10 Things Women Do Wrong in the Boardroom

10 Things Highly Successful Women Leaders Should Never Do

10 Things Women Leaders Need to Stop Doing

There are the things we do wrong when asking for a raise. The stupid things we do when negotiating a deal. How many ways can we fuck up when we’re in charge? Let the internet count the ways.

The truth is, there’s probably just one thing we should stop doing: reading crappy clickbait written to undermine our confidence. Leading is hard and it takes tremendous energy. If we’re going to spend some of that energy reading, let’s choose content with substance. Inspiration. Insight. Information. Think about our ROI. The 2-3 minutes we get sucked into that clickhole will either be a loss, a wash, or a win. So, let’s invest it wisely, and not waste it on infectious drivel that will eat away at our confidence and fester in our souls.

Here’s a very small, teeny tiny, tip of the iceberg list of all the things we’re doing right, just by nature of being in the lead.

1) We are curious.

2) We are courageous.

3) We are smart.

4) We are trailblazers.

5) We are unique.

6) We show up.

7) We dream big.

8) We are making an impact.

9) We can juggle.

10) We are inspiring someone.

So, back at it. Out of the clickhole and into the light, where we’re doing a damn fine job of leading, day after day.

 

 

Who’s got hustle?

I recently liked a tweet by a young tech startup founder I admire. It was late at night, he was still at the office, and he saluted the others burning the midnight oil as fellow hustlers.

I ate it up. That’s me, I thought. I’m such a hustler, too!

Standing in the hallway of my mostly empty building today, Saturday, I admired the fact that only my office lights were on. I snapped a pic and got ready to #HumbleBrag, Guess who’s got hustle?

Here’s why I didn’t.

The fact that I am able to be in my office late at night or on a weekend is not a reflection of whether I have hustle. It’s a reflection of the fact that I don’t have young children at home. That I have a financial safety net which allows me to pour myself 100% into this risky venture. That I have a supportive partner taking the laboring oar of house chores again, and by the way, covering me on her health insurance plan. It may even be a reflection of the fact that I am a crappy spouse.

The fact that I was in the office today is a reflection of my privilege.

So, here’s my salute to all the entrepreneurs who spent this afternoon catching up on emails while in the stands of their kid’s baseball game, or putting the finishing touches on a pitch when their toddler finally went down for a nap, or reviewing that marketing plan while on their lunch break at their weekend job, or sketching out that new design while, yes, sitting on the toilet in the bathroom where they could just enjoy a little peace and quiet.

I see you, and damn, I admire you.

Oh, look. My privilege is showing.

The Tribe of Badassery

Perhaps you’ve noticed the world is falling apart.

No, I mean really. Shit. Is. Bad. We’re talking steaming heap of hottest year on record – white supremacist revival – disdain for the rule of law – misogynistapalooza, with a cold slimy side of inept egomaniacal blowhard with his gauche little fingers on the button kind of bad.

And perhaps you’re feeling the weight of it.

The call to resist. The urgency to act. The certainty that if you do not read just one more article, that if you miss one tweet or meme or post, fail to sign that petition or send that postcard, you will not have done your part.

Who could survive under such weight? No one. And that’s the point.

So while we’re resisting, here’s how we win: we thrive.

That idea you’ve been kicking around? Say it out loud to somebody else. Right now. Bring it to life.

That passion project you’ve been dabbling with? The one you’ve been tending to on the margins because it makes you happy? Make it your thing. Own it. Do it. Put it front and center.

The little enterprise you’ve been running? The one that deep down you know could be so much more? Make it so. Take that shit up a quantum notch.

Now is the time to surround yourself with creators. With believers and doers. With the get up – dress up – show up, pavement pounding, ass kicking name takers.

The tribe of badassery is growing stronger every day, and it’s calling your name. You won’t regret answering.

How do I know? I found my tribe, buzzing and electric, early on a cold Friday morning. What I hoped would be more than me sitting alone in the dark eating donuts and scribbling on my white board became the 250-member strong F Bomb Breakfast Club. This merry band of cussing collaborators has compelled me not just to endure the world as we currently know it, but to joyfully and obsessively reimagine it.

The business plan I once thought was too grand? The one I’ve barely mentioned, and apologized for or minimized when I did? It. Is. On. And in the immortal words of Eminem, “Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not.” I am all in, thanks to my tribe.

So, have you found yours?

5 Women to Watch

Looking for inspiration? Need a little somethin’ somethin’ to nudge you in the direction of your dreams? Check out these local purpose-driven entrepreneur lady bosses putting their passion into action.

Ariel Bangs, the badass, community-building, love-spreading chef behind Healthy Creations. Chef Ariel takes all of the pretenses out of healthy eating and dishes up fun, flavorful, life changing food empowerment and donuts. Really good donuts.

Chef Ariel Pic
Watch her this year: Open Flavorgasms Donut Shop and expand her youth culinary anthropology program, Taste International, to five schools while working to create healthy food connections between local farmers, local entrepreneurs and underserved communities through community partnerships.

Kristina Larry, doyenne of the courtroom, the Sassy Litigator, the Pre-nup Princess, the multi-talented, game changing attorney turning traditional law practice on its head to connect with every day clients as the unique humans that they are. A la carte services. Affordable rates. Free classes to empower clients. All with panache. Kristina is not your grandfather’s lawyer.

Kristina Larry pic
Watch her this year: “Because I’m going to take no prisoners.”

Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting, the dynamic duo of filmmakers behind InterChange Media. Creative and conscientious, their art house produces videos, commercials, PSAs, and documentaries that educate and inspire people to action.

Ting and Gomes pic
Watch them this year: Release a feature-length documentary about the ongoing collaborative partnerships between New Englanders, Southerners and Mexicans who are working together to prevent the extinction of an ancient sea turtle species.

Tara Morgan Mulvenon, the adaptive rowing and fitness coach behind Seize The Oar, which cultivates and celebrates the athlete within people of all abilities. Tara is a firecracker inside a sparkler, a visionary of boundless energy who will make you believe anything is possible, on or off the water.

Tara Morgan Mulvenon pic
Watch her this year: Turn a part-time passion into a full-time thriving business of inclusive fitness and wellness.

Now it’s your turn. What passion will you put into action this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Presumption of Incompetence

Ever walk into a firing squad of questions meant to disabuse you of the notion you’re worthy of where you are standing? Been on the receiving end of an eye roll, shade, wink, or head pat telling you it’s cute you want to sit at the grown ups’ table?

I am not the first, nor the best, person to write about this. Check out Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia.

But I’ve been hearing about it a lot in my discussions with female founders.

The sheer exhaustion women of color feel every time someone is surprised by their success. The wasted energy women expend just to arrive at the same starting place in a conversation as a similarly situated male. The indignity of being made to answer questions said male was not asked, and never would be.

It appears the presumption of incompetence is pervasive across industries and across stages of organizational life cycle. From pitching your idea to planning your exit, the male dominated business world is certain you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Here are a few ways you say you’ve responded:

I just bit my tongue and told them what they wanted to hear.

I took a giant swig of bourbon.

I left the room and burst into tears.

I got in the elevator and burst into tears.

I waited until I got home, then burst into tears.

I told them to fuck off. I didn’t get [the deal].

I mean, these are all perfectly human responses. But lord do they take a toll. What if we did these three things instead, whenever possible?

Presume competence in each other. While women are most often the ones presumed incompetent, men aren’t the only ones doing the presuming. Our own internal bias is often at play, triggering responses we need to check. So, let’s check that, every time.

Shut it down when we see it, especially when we’re in a position of power. When another woman enters our professional space and we recognize the all too familiar doubt about her abilities, speak up. “Obviously Ana is an expert on this matter, so how about we take the condescension down a notch and let her present her findings.”

Name it when we feel it, when we can afford to walk away. We can’t always, of course, but when we can, there’s great power in naming it right there on the spot. “The nature and tone of your questions seem to be driving at a presumed incompetence, and I’d like to understand where that’s coming from. If you have reason to doubt me, let’s pause here address it.”

What strategies have you deployed? What super powers have helped you hurtle over this particular [time wasting, soul sucking, ridiculous, I can’t believe it is 2017 and we have to talk about this] barrier?

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. OMG I’m sorry.

To err is human. To err twice, in the same legally executed document, must therefore be super human.

Allow me then to don my cape for a little foray into M&As – Mistakes and Apologies.

Everybody makes mistakes. Typos. Mispronounced names. Prematurely sent emails. That we are susceptible to them doesn’t say much about us. How we respond, on the other hand, speaks volumes.

In my experience as a female, which is limited admittedly to 46 years and 318 days, mistakes made in a professional setting can feel enormous. Paralyzing. The dread that accompanies a business blunder can pale in proportion to the mistake itself. Why? Because I’m waiting to be found out as a fraud.

There are exceptions to every rule. Not every woman experiences this, and not everyone who experiences this is a woman. But I’m comfortable asserting this is a phenomena with which many women in business are familiar.

We mess up. We’re mortified. We lead with apology and follow with explanation. Only then do we get around to fixing it. And still we sometimes trip into a spiral of shame and self-doubt. We obsess.

I must be the only idiot to have made such a mistake.

Now they’ll think I’m sloppy. Careless. Dumb.

Oh my god, they will know I’m actually dumb. How on earth have I skated so far for so long?

What if it’s true, that I’m only here because I’m a woman? Am I even qualified?

I’d say we do it to ourselves, except that, of course, the seed of doubt was planted by someone else. We simply watered it and nourished it and protected it fiercely so it could flourish.

Let’s not do that anymore. To ourselves or each other.

I want off this particular crazy train.

New plan:

Assess it. Did anyone die? Is someone’s life, liberty, or property in imminent danger? If the answer to any of these is yes, ring all the alarms. Otherwise, take a breath and move on.

Own it. Do not cover. Tell whomever needs to know. Apologize for the inconvenience or harm, but spare others the groveling.

Fix it. Without delay.

Learn from it. Retrace my steps without judgment. Can I spot what I did wrong? Or missed? If I can see a way to do it differently next time – I’ll savor that experience. I happen to know it’s richer than business school.

Move on.

And with that, I’m moving on from yesterday’s super human double error and hanging up my cape.

How do you handle mistakes?

Disrupt This

Disrupt. Leverage. Pivot.

How about we start saying what we mean?

As a fundraising consultant and teacher, I used to beat my head on my desk reviewing funding proposals loaded with every. effing. buzzword. some nonprofit thought would make them seem relevant. Commitments of sustainability and leverage. Promises to be impactful and transformational. Big words, meant to convey big ideas, but not necessarily translating to big results.

One problem is that overusing overused words tends to make one disappear into the crowd rather than stand out from it.

Standing out matters.

Charitable fundraising is a competitive blood sport. Actually, mere survival in the nonprofit sector is an endeavor not for the faint of heart. (Check out Vu Le’s analogy to The Hunger Games in his terribly named but wonderfully witty blog, Nonprofit With Balls).

Saying what you really mean, what you actually intend to do, toward what end, is so much more persuasive than squeezing in a term du jour. Your organization’s survival depends on it.

Entrepreneurs, it turns out, are just as guilty of lazy word choice.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “disrupt” and “pivot” just in the last 30 days, I’d be able to invest in you all. Generously. If I had to give back a dollar for every time I used one of these words in the last 30 days, I’d be right back to wishing you well.

I think we use these words to build our street cred. To prove we’re reading the most important blogs and watching the right TED talks. That’s all fine and great. We’re human. We need validation now and then.

But I’m hungry to dig deeper. I am more interested in your vision and what you’re doing to advance it in the marketplace of ideas. I am intrigued by outsiders. Rule breakers. Feather rufflers. What distinguishes you from the flock?

Let’s bollix the worst of 2016 business jargon and start saying what we mean. In our own words. We have so many to choose from.

What words will you banish in 2017?

What makes us brave?

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? The next bravest thing you’ll do?

I am a sucker for resolutions, Mondays, New Years, the first of the month, the first of anything. I believe strongly in new beginnings, second chances, even a Mulligan or two.

With the clock winding down on 2016 and a spanking clean slate ahead of me for 2017, I’m in a highly excited state of What-if and Why-not!? I feel a dose of gumption coming on.

Of course, there can be a fine line between bravery and hubris. Like when you ignore every instinct in your body and all outward signs that you’re about to do something really, really dangerous, and plunge forward obliviously because you simply don’t believe harm can befall you.

Having survived hitchhiking alone throughout the North American west, a few endurance races for which I was criminally unprepared, and some recreational activities we need not discuss, it’s safe to say I’m older, wiser, and decidedly more boring. Well, at least I’m older and more boring.

Bravery has a different meaning for me now. It requires comprehension of the risk, and a conscious decision to forge ahead.

I’m not too proud to claim these recent acts of bravery:

Six years ago I started law school at age 40, at night, while working a full time executive job. Now I’ve walked away from a comfortable career because I had this burning vision and desire to grow in new directions, and signed a lease on an office to make that vision of a femme-powered, badass business law firm a reality.

Last year I accepted an invitation to speak on a panel in front a room full of strangers about my experience as a birth mother. I knew that it would be different than standing on a stage and sharing something from my professional experience. It cracked me open to a state of raw vulnerability I had not imagined. I made an ass of myself ugly crying and hurling snot at the poor, horrified adoptive parents in the front row. I would say yes again to the opportunity but I don’t expect to be asked.

This fall I accepted an invitation to be the alumni speaker at my law school’s graduation, to be among the first to address newly minted attorneys entering the profession at this historic time of defiance against the rule of law. I’ll know soon whether anyone throws rotten eggs at me.

Will I be brave in 2017? I hope so.

I’m looking forward to keeping my commitments, surrounding myself with doyennes of all kind, preparing for races, and lots and lots of learning. And one last thing: staying vulnerable. Got a question? Looking for encouragement to take a leap? Ask me anything. I’ll do my best to share candidly, even painfully. Except maybe about some of those unnamed recreational activities. Those will stay in the vault.

How about you? What acts of bravery will you conquer next year?