The second part of the workshop I found to be a lot less useful in terms of learning about politics and the structure of things, but more useful in terms of personal interests - the keynote speaker in the afternoon was Chris Jahnke, who wrote The Well Spoken Woman, who gave an amazing presentation on how to present.
I'm not sure if it's just me being anxious about everything, but I've always wanted to be told what I should be doing with my body while I'm presenting - and that's never happened. In school, it's not a skill taught as part of general education - how to stand and how to gesture, how to put pauses into speeches. It's hard to write about this particular presentation - it was very visual and interactive, and I learned a lot from watching her and then analyzing all the speakers that she demonstrated and (unfortunately for them) all the speakers that followed her presentation. Essentially, be interesting, show emotions, be casual and relaxed (or pretend to be), be self-assured, and make sure your body language goes well with your message. To help yourself prepare, videotape your presentation, watch it and try to identify any verbal or physical tics. Also, practice. For every minute of presenting, prepare for an hour.
I, personally, am guilty of not practicing the presentation I just gave to defend the program I wrote. I jotted down an outline while I was waiting to speak, then winged the whole thing... and I feel really awful about giving what I consider to be a sub-standard presentation. I felt harried, flustered and wordless while I was trying to give convincing answers to questions that I was underprepared to answer - not prepared enough. The people in the audience tell me that it was fantastic - but remembering what I was doing (trying not to fall over because my legs were trembling, staring at my notes, death-grip on the podium), I really should have taken the time to really prepare and practice and knock their socks off. That's what Chris wrote in my copy of her book when I asked her to sign it - "knock their socks off!"
I've been reading her book ever since - I went to a low-key gathering my friends were having Saturday night (they were marathoning all of the HALO games), sat on their couch and read her book, almost cover to cover. It's full of great advice - this is how you should sit, this is the best way to project your voice, these are things you should wear. Never list more than three items at a time, because people can't remember more than about three concepts while absorbing new ideas. Lean forward while presenting or sitting or listening, to show interest, but don't be obnoxious. Watch what the people around you are doing and constantly evaluate what's going on and adapt your behaviour (that's actually my tip... that's how I've survived meetings with the Provost, the Boise State President, various VPs and other people that I admire and consider to be higher in the hierarchy than a grad student).
As for the rest of the workshop - after Chris' presentation, my head was so full of thinking about things that I barely absorbed anything else. I went to a breakout session on volunteering to sit on Boards of Things (which mostly encouraged me to never sit on Boards of Things because it sounds dreadfully boring and pretentious). I attended a panel session led by Amy Moll, who is the Interim Dean of Boise State University's College of Engineering, and who is also one of the more cheerful, relaxed and humorous engineers I think I've ever seen. She encourages everyone to talk to girls about math, and how it's not a bad thing to be good at math, and to encourage an interest in the sciences - I agree with her wholeheartedly. In the BSU Geosciences, nobody really cares that much about gender distribution, mostly because we're about 50/50, undergrads and grads. Faculty are a little heavier on the male side, but there's a good sprinkling of females about. But in Engineering... holy cow. I have some engineer friends that I was studying math with last year, and there were times where I was potentially the only female in the building. It says something when you visit twice and every engineering student knows your name, your major, your interests and would love to buy you lunch. More females in the hard sciences would really be fantastic.
Conclusions: it was a good workshop. A lot to chew on and think about for a while. I'm definitely interested in the politics side of things, and I think I can bring a lot to a table if I choose to sit at it. But that step... I'll take the "classic" women's way out of saying that I'll research it and talk about it with friends and family first... but I'll probably end up saying yes.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Well, I’ve been swamped with things to do lately – and a program that I’m developing for the University has hit a snag that has required me to have an emotional breakdown and then to fix the problem (which will now be an ongoing process). I haven’t really even made it through Chapter 3 of the Turmoil book, though I have still be doing outside activities that relate to that class.
Saturday, March 3, I attended an all-day workshop at the Concordia School of Law building in downtown Boise called “Go Lead Idaho” – meant to educate and empower women in the realm of politics, as well as to discuss why women need to be involved. I’m not really into the “I’m a woman so I’m special” thing, so this event was outside of my comfort zone (also I’m an introvert, and I knew going in that I would know next to nobody attending the workshop). I was also more interested in the “get involved in the political sphere” message than in the “women need to” part of that message – but a workshop aimed entirely at 150 professional women had very strong undercurrents of feminist messages (to be expected, though I didn’t think they would be as pervasive). As someone who is easily put off by strong feminist agendas… the presence of these kind of messages was borderline: they were present but not enough to make me discount the event. I was also under some kind of impression that workplace discrimination due to gender was no longer an issue (probably because, as a student and as a scientist, it isn’t really, because everything is about ability), and that is apparently not true at all.
The workshop began with a set of introductory-style remarks from Cheri Buckner-Webb, who is running for a spot on the Idaho Senate. Props to her! This state needs her down-to-earth personality and big stage presence. She warned that when doing something big, there are a lot of obstacles in the way, that they are there to be overcome, not to be an ending place (highly relevant to me at the moment, as my program has seemingly unsurmountable issues). Women in today’s society are socialized to non-confidence, to be compassionate and emotional, to fault. These are things that professional women that want to make a difference need to take into account, and to realize that all actions they take are likely viewed in the context of the successes and failures of women that acted previously (i.e. one women CEO ten years ago didn’t work out so well, so you, as a current women, won’t work out so well). Women need to “show up, stand up and speak up” to make themselves heard. Women have strengths of being able to network effectively while maintaining personal and professional integrity and finding enjoyment in the completion of their tasks, and that is something that every woman should be proud of.
Cheri Buckner-Webb was followed by Debbie Walsh, who traveled here from New Jersey, where she set up a center to encourage women to run for office, successfully influencing the percentages of women holding office within her state. She gave a list of issues for women that are in the political sphere:
1. There are few women in politics. There is a common misconception that by the elevation of a few women to high-profile positions (i.e., Condoleezza Rice), the problem of women in politics has been solved. In reality, only 17% of Congress is female (51% of the population is), 24% of nationwide state legislators are female, and only 6 (out of 50) state governors are female (I’m proud to come from Washington, who has had a woman governor for a while). In the worldwide list of countries, the US has less women in office than most other countries. Including Iraq, where WE mandated that 25% of their parliament must be female. While not even meeting that requirement ourselves. The #1 country for female participation in government is Rwanda.
2. Women tend towards being quiet and internalizing problems. “We’ve all been the only woman in the room” – we need to stand up and say something. This was related to Title IX and health research – “women are not smaller versions of men”
3. Women are traditionally the main caretakers of the family. Politics or upper level management doesn’t really leave lot of time for family or organizing family-like issues, like grocery shopping. The work/life balance is extremely hard to balance. Some women in politics have commented that they “wish they had a wife” as a support system.
4. Women are intrinsically better at fundraising – for other people. It’s a lot harder to justify raising money for yourself… but you’re not taking a vacation with this money, you’re using it to better serve those who have given you money to run for office.
5. Women tend to have a lack of confidence in themselves when asked to perform outside of a comfort area or outside of a trained skill set. The example was looking for new members for the Asparagus Board in NJ – men, when called and asked, would say, “Well, I don’t know anything about asparagus, but sure! When’s the next meeting?” while women would answer the phone and say, “Well, I cook asparagus all the time, but I don’t know a lot about the growth cycle or the scientific research… let me do some research and talk to some friends and family about this and call you back.”
6. There is a lot of negativity in politics. Accomplishments are expected and basically invisible, while small faults are magnified all out of proportion. The level of the discussion is uncomfortably negative, so women tend to find other solutions to their problems (other than being involved). When women run for office, it’s usually in response to a policy issue… there’s a saying: “Men run to be somebody. Women run to do something.”
7. Women tend to aim low, and thus reap low rewards. Must aim high to get a high return on investment.
Take home point – women have a lot of passion, and it takes a lot of passion to change the system. “If you are not at the table… you’re probably on the menu”.
The next part of my notes from the day is jumbled – there were two panels: one about values and value statements (where the consensus is that you need to be true to yourself but most people don’t write down and codify their system of belief), and one about networking and how to do it well. It was a little harder to extract the take home points from these panels, but I’ve provided a bullet list of what I got:
- · Politics is like a game of 3D chess where you aren’t sure about what the pieces are, how they move or who’s turn it is.
- · A company’s values statement should be aimed at increasing the morale, productivity and profit of the company
- · When you are in office, remember that you are a public servant first, not a politician
- · What are you concerned about? Focus on those things first, because that’s what you’re passionate about.
- · Remember that your focus while you’re in a position of authority isn’t really you – it’s other people. If you help other people first, they’ll help you later.
- · Who is in your network? Everyone you know: people in your class at school, people at the gym, people in clubs with you, people that you’re friends with on social media
- · How do I expand my network? Be risky. Going to a party and only talking with the other two people you know isn’t risky. Find commonalities with other people that are where you are.
- · People appreciate handwritten notes. Take the time. It pays off.
- · 60-80% of all jobs nowadays are gotten through social networking.
- · Even if you’re naturally an introvert, make an effort to be an extrovert every once in a while. Find the other person at the party that looks distinctly uncomfortable and be friends.
- o Consider trying to help out at an event – oftentimes being in a position of service will create known boundaries that you can exist within while still meeting new people
- · How to overcome perceived insincerity (being projected)? Just be sincere and show an interest.
- · Icebreaker questions: Why are you here at this event? How did you get started doing what you do? What do you do?
The panel on work/life balance was next, which really caught my attention (you can tell when you look at my notes, because there are like four pages from this one panel). I, personally, have an issue with balancing work and school and being social and doing life things (like groceries), so I have a vested interest in learning how do manage this stuff before I go so far off kilter I can’t get back.
This panel was really aimed at mothers with children and married people, but there are a few universal truths. Focus on what’s most important to you. What do you want in the future for your happiness? Do that first. Be wary of the internet – it’s enabled 24/7 instant communication. Sometimes being able to send a work-email at 3 am is a boon, sometimes it’s a trap for becoming a workaholic. “To a hammer… everything looks like a nail.”
Things everyone should consider (via Forbes.com and translated from my notes):
- Identify Priorities
- Audit youself personally and professionally to align yourself with your priorities
- Have a support system (family, friends, neighbors… etc)
- Communicate. With everyone. About relevant topics. Husband, kids, employer
- Use technology appropriately
- Telework if possible if you’re feeling crunched
- Set realistic timeframes for goals
- Make sure you ask for help when you need it
Learn about workplace value systems before you take the job – you and your employer should have similar ideas about expectations (theirs of you and you of them) in terms of work/life balance and how issues should be resolved.
Be accountable and authentic. Authenticity is key to not burning out. Be real to yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for things.
Your workplace should be flexible. Everyone around you has a vested interest in making sure you are happy and productive, and they should be accommodating (if they aren’t… look elsewhere for employment). Humans aren’t just an expense to the company… they are it’s only asset. Flexibility engenders loyalty from employees.
Beware of social media. It’s a La Brea tar pit for time. But it can also be highly useful.
Every business began as someone’s dream. Buy into it if you can.
Make sure you own up to your mistakes – and learn from them.
Remember that people are people are people. Everyone is a human and a person and exists outside of work.
/concludes morning session
at 3:27 PM