Watch Out Little Lady

I self-identify as a woman in the tech/startup industry. I’ve run a collaborative workspace – spaces that tend to attract those with tech backgrounds. I’ve organized and facilitated multiple Startup Weekend events, a 54-hour frenzy of entrepreneurial learning that commonly results in a mobile or web-based minimum viable product. And I’m preparing to jump into a new role as a Project Manager for a digital strategy agency.

As a woman in the tech/startup world, I’m constantly being told it’s a man’s game. Watch out little lady! Your breasts and lack of an Adam’s apple are going to make it impossible to succeed!

Recently, Fast Company (my favorite publication) published an article titled ‘Practical Advice From Female Who Stand Out In A Sea of Dudes‘, providing guidance to combat this very problem. To summarize, female entrepreneurs should:

  • Speak up. As stated in the article, this means doing your homework, reading a lot and coming prepared with an ‘arsenal of information’.
  • Participate in pitch events so you can get practice and feedback. Concerned about tough questions? Practice ‘fielding zingers’.
  • Stand out. Leverage being in the minority.
  • Use your network.

Okay…clearly I’m missing something. Isn’t that what EVERY entrepreneur should be doing, regardless of their sex? With the exception of leveraging a minority position, all of this advice could just as easily be applied to an all male startup. Perhaps I’ve been sheltered, but no investor or Startup Weekend judge I’ve ever come across has let a male startup get away without knowing their stuff in a pitch just because they share the same chromosomes.

via http://textsfromhillaryclinton.tumblr.com/

It isn’t just the ridiculously common sense advice that gets me. It’s that somehow women need more hand holding then men when it comes to succeeding in the tech and startup spheres. I see so many female-centric learning environments claiming they’ll solve the lack of female programmers, scientists, CEO’s, etc, simply by keeping men out of the picture. What happens AFTER we learn all these skills from women and then have to work with men? A female-only environment simply isn’t reality.

I’ve worked in all-female environments. I’ve attend female-only meetups. What I’ve come to find is it isn’t the men discriminating against me as a woman in tech…it’s my fellow females. I get much more discouragement, odd glances, judging comments when I talk to women about what I do then men. I’m criticized for my choice, yes…CHOICE, of a career over children by other women who have chosen otherwise.

Don’t take my comments as denial of the problem. I absolutely want more women entrepreneurs, programmers, scientists, CEOs, etc. I want more woman leaders I can look up to. I just don’t think we should have to exclude men or make them the enemy to get there. Put simply ladies, JFDI.

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Combating Back-to-School Waste

Recently came across this article from Fast Co.Exist about back-to-school waste and the infographics are a bit crazy. All you have to do is walk into a Target a few weeks before start of school to see this type of waste in action. However, the article also points out consumers habits are changing – keeping spending down and looking for the best value. Here’s a few ideas on how parents and kids could lessen their school waste using lessons from the sharing economy.

Swapping

I know kids grow like crazy, so wearing the same clothes year-after-year is impossible. And I know there’s a fashion point of pride for kids not relegated to school uniforms.

English: The S.W.A.P. Team founder at a Take O...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

But what if the kids could trade with others their age? And what if by doing so, they were better able to understand the value of items, entrepreneurship and the impact of their waste?

Solution – a clothing swap for kids, planned by kids. Clothing swaps have seen a surge in the last few years, become high class events drawing hundreds of people. Unlike a rummage sale or swap meet, participants don’t pay for goods with cash. Instead, the clothes brought in are evaluated and the individual receives credit (tokens, tickets, etc) to use towards “purchasing” other items at the swap. By empowering kids to host their own booths and shop for their own clothes, they are more likely to take pride in their “purchases”. Less waste, less cost and the kids learn about the value of an item. It could even become a lesson in entrepreneurship, as kids can decorate their booths and learn how to advertise their goods.

Pinterest to the Rescue

Old doesn’t mean out of style. Thanks to sites like Pinterest, parents and kids have a resource to share ideas on reusing school supplies.

My personal favorite postings on Pinterest  are those related to clothes hacking. Even if you’re a sewing n00b (like myself), many of the projects are simple with clear directions. Take a look at my T-Shirt Projects board to see what I mean.

A quick search on Pinterest also provided some great links for bringing a new life to old school supplies.

From  wikihow – Reusing old school supplies

Mile Hi Mama – How to wash a backpack

School Lunch Waste

Your food is the best - Don't waste it - NARA ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This one is a bit tougher. I don’t know the reasons why food waste is more prevalent in schools, but I can take a guess based on my schooling.

Buffet lines — I remember reading in The Omnivore’s Dilemma about portion size change over the years. Research has shown that over the past 100 years, the average plate size has gone from 9-12 inches. Additionally, there have been studies proving cafeteria-style serving trays also make us load up with more food than we need. These factors have shown to cause increased food intake in adults, so I’d imagine the same would go for students, who are exposed to this type of food environment nearly every day.

I know it’s got to be damn near impossible to change school cafeterias. What if again we empowered kids? Encourage them to make their own lunches, therefore keeping costs down and waste. If their choosing to pack a favorite food wouldn’t they eat more of it?

There’s lots of opportunities out there to make back-to-school preparation just as fun and teach students a valuable lesson in sustainability at the same time. Based on the article, it seems parents may be ready for the change.

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Collaboration over Competition

When the Gangplank Video Studio was getting ready to open, we held a special open house just for industry folks. The goal was to explain our goals for the studio and how we think we could partner with their programs. But before we could get to those points, an owner of a professional video studio expressed his fear over our studio taking away from his business. Our “free” resources would undercut the need for creatives to purchase his services or rent his equipment. It was unfair competition in his mind.

Immediately I wanted to lash out. How could our one mid-level camera and wrinkled green screen be perceived as competition? Why couldn’t he see our training program as an opportunity to educate new talent, creating future employees and patrons for his business?

Then, a few weeks later, I found myself on the other side. When provided with a good idea by a volunteer, I shot down the suggestion with weak explanations because I felt anger at not doing a good enough job to recognize the solution myself. It was petty, small and came from a primal part of my brain instead of the reasonable one.

Study Group at UBC Library

Study Group at UBC Library (Photo credit: UBC Library)

Far too often, we leap to fear and frustration as opposed to finding the opportunity in a situation. Competition is embedded in our DNA and pervasive in society. We competed for food and resources. Now we compete for the best grades as a means of survival. It’s only natural when we finally do enter the working world, we act the same.

Did you ever participate in a study group or partner up with the smart kid in class for tutoring? In school, we all knew the best way to make it through to graduation was to help each other. So while competition kept us going, collaboration got us to the finish line.

I’ve had to pull myself back in during conversations to recognize when I’m letting competition overwhelm  and blind me to the opportunities. It’s really hard – I mean I’m reworking the pathways in my primal brain here. Approaching EVERY conversation like an opportunity has certainly helped and also made meetings a lot more fun.

No one says you’ll have to give up striving to be the best – but letting a few people help you get there and learn something too raises the tide for all ships.

 

 

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