By Serena Bidwell
“Who inspires you?”
“Who is your biggest role model?”
I can recall being asked these questions throughout elementary school, as they were often prompts to short writing assignments and generated conversations in young classrooms. Similar to many other students, I would frequently respond that my biggest role model was my mother, but, as I’ve gotten older, this has become truer and increasingly more apparent.
My mom is a surgeon scientist, an accomplished, determined, innovative woman in the medical field who devotes her time to both novel stem cell cancer research and relationships with patients through her clinical duties. Her job title alone is reason to admire her, but, recently, I’ve started to notice all the challenges she has had to face to get to where she is today, and these feats make me even prouder to call her my mom and inspiration.
When she attended medical school at Stanford, she was one of the few women in her program. Furthermore, men have held the majority of the administrative positions within her work institutions. She has had to negotiate her salary to match her male counterparts and has had difficult conversations regarding the expectations of female versus male faculty members. She has been called names in response to her assertive attitudes, and she has been rejected from positions because she “didn’t fit the image.” Yet, she found a way to persevere, to fight for her own workplace dreams, to create change.
My mother has navigated through obstacles in a once male-dominated field and now runs her own successful research lab at the renowned Cleveland Clinic. However, I can’t help but wonder if our generation will have to battle the same struggles she faced.
How much has our society truly changed? I would love to believe that we now live in a world where one’s gender or identity does not limit his or her success. But if women lead with the same passion, fortitude, and vigor as their male coworkers, will they be rewarded in the same way? Or will they be ridiculed for not demonstrating
By: Bharathi Ramachandran,
co-Chair Professional Development and Networking Committee
This summer I have been listening to a Forbes podcast, The Limit Does Not Exist: A Podcast for Human Venn Diagrams. It is hosted by Christina Wallace and Cate Scott who interview a professional (usually women) working in unique careers integrating both their STEM backgrounds and creative interests. I have enjoyed some great talks from the director of photography from Pixar and from the CEO of Penrose Studios, a virtual reality startup. This podcast is part of a series that Forbes announced earlier this year, focusing on millennial women interested in the world of start-ups and entrepreneurship. It is a unique venture hosted mostly for and by millennial women featuring leadership and entrepreneurial advice and stories.
I was most excited about this venture because it is time we started to promote more media featuring women in power and leadership and less as wives of popular men. As progressive as we have become by nominating our first female presidential candidate, there is still a misrepresentation of women in many other fields including tech and business. There was a recent article published on Newsweek titled “The Founding Fathers of the Silicon Valley” featuring well known names, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and other men. Yet, the women who played prominent roles in making that valley are never heard of.
Today, media plays a huge role in shaping perceptions, often negating outdated views on what qualities make a successful leader. But there is an opportunity to play a more positive role by helping break stereotypes, by portraying more women in leadership and by emphasizing the more collaborative skills that are increasingly important in today’s leaders. The ability to coordinate, collaborate and negotiate between various investors to come to useful agreement requires empathy, and the ability to listen to and put oneself in another person’s position. These attributes are key to real strategic thinking and are most often associated with women. It is time that media and entertainment represent this collective reality of who is leading and what leadership really means.
As the world realizes this shift in global balance and more women are coming forward for powerful leadership roles, it is time we reframe, rebrand, and sell an accurate picture of leaders and leadership to our young boys and girls.
By Dragana Spasevska
This presidential race has arguably been one of the most contentious with both Trump and Hillary Clinton getting high unfavorability ratings. For those who don’t like Hillary, many will say that she is playing the “Woman Card,” that her very identity as a woman would get her into the White House due to the symbolic meaning of having the first female president. The same argument occurred during the previous presidential race where Obama was accused of playing the “Black Card.” When I think of Hillary being a woman, I don’t usually view this as a positive characteristic in terms of her winning the presidency. In fact, I would say that running for office as a woman in a traditionally male role is incredibly challenging, and there’s evidence to show that in published media and public perceptions.
For example, in the Becker’s Hospital Review a couple months ago, I read about research from the Yale School of Management published in the Harvard Business Review, stating that women in generally male-dominated occupations face much higher criticism after making mistakes than men. Researchers presented study participants with a fictitious news story about a big city preparing for a major protest rally. In the scenario when the chief police officer was female and didn’t send enough police forces—which resulted in 25 people who were seriously injured—the participants gave a 10 percent lower rating than when the same chief police officer in the same scenario was a male. Researchers repeated similar studies for other traditionally male jobs like CEO and state Supreme Court chief justice. The only scenario in which male leaders were criticized more harshly for mistakes than women was when a man filled a role typically held by women — a male president of a women's college.
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that people find it easier to forgive a poor decision when the leader who makes it is in a gender-appropriate role. Unfortunately, men have much bigger territory in this regard than women. Whether in politics, finance, law, sports or the military, men dominate. For Hillary Clinton who has had her fair share of wins and losses holding office, it’s no surprise that her mistakes like the unsecured e-mail servers and Benghazi incidents have been scrutinized and judged so severely even amidst someone like Trump who clearly has had little political experience. Without diving deeply into whether Hillary really made egregious mistakes during her experience in politics, the fact that some will still judge her more harshly against an opponent who has neither held public office nor seems to have any humane thought-out plans for the United States, shows that gender biases may be proliferating our political processes as well. Next time we judge a female leader, we must ask ourselves, would I be saying the same thing if this was a male leader?
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