Note to readers: this blog post is a prequel to the Kate Brodock (part 2) post that I wrote on 5/14/17. I asked Kate specific questions this time about how she got to where she is today and what she suggests for girls who want to grow into a successful tech career.
Trish: Greetings Kate! Thanks so much for being a P.I.N.K. Briefcase Shero! My first question is about what kind of a little girl you were. Can you share?
Kate: Of course! I was adventurous and active, friendly, but still an introvert (I am today still). This simply means I needed alone time, where I would read or go outside and be by myself. I remember exploring a lot, as we lived on a large piece of land in the country, and there weren’t a ton of kids around. I would do this with my brother or by myself. I liked school, and found myself somewhat natural at it. I did some sports, but I found myself to be less inclined to structure, and enjoyed some of the informal parts of sports, or getting outside the bounds. For instance, I was in the local Pony Club, but I always got bored with the lessons, and enjoyed the trail ride there much more!
Trish: Thank you Kate for sharing that about yourself. Was there anyone you admired as a role model when you were little?
Kate: Looking back, I really didn’t have a particular role model, nor did I really have a mentor. In my generation, that wasn’t talked about at all, and certainly not to the extent that it is now. Not even when I went to college. Self-motivation was expected. I feel that girls now should have a healthy combination of both of these. Self-motivation, struggle, and drive have to come from yourself first. But it can be an incredibly powerful enhancer to have someone who can recognize those traits and knows how to push them forward.
Additionally, there are a LOT of things to think about when you’re growing up, and having access to someone who can help navigate some of your thought processes a bit more could be helpful. Sometimes young adults have a hard time understanding how the things they do at that moment will impact (or not impact!) their future.
Trish: I totally agree with you. Having a role model is way more important now than it used to be. And since accomplished women are more recognized now, it’s easier to find one! Um speaking of role models, do you mind if I ask what parts of your education you use in your professional life?
Kate: Writing, 100%. And secondarily math. Both of those pop up in so many places, that I feel they’re simply crucial. I would then say that the thought processes that I learned in school are much more prominent in my life now than the subjects. For instance, learning how to effectively put together a logical argument. Learning how to construct a project from start to finish under a certain set of guidelines. Learning how to push through struggle comfortably. Learning how to practice and perfect things (I’m not a perfectionist though!). Learning how to work with others. These things ended up being the foundation for most of what I do today.
Trish: Naturally, I love your answer about the absolute importance of learning to write well. I agree with you 100%. Once you transitioned from school to the working world, what was your first job?
Kate: My first job out of college is what got me hooked on both tech and startups. I worked in a small tech transfer firm - a startup for startups - in an innovation center right outside of MIT in Cambridge MA. I was in a tech startup, I was surrounded by tech startups, and flanked by many amazing educational institutions right outside my door. I tried my hand at a large corporation “just to see” but it wasn’t for me! I also got myself involved in community organizations and programs.
Trish: Sounds like you started out small and kept learning to get where you are today. You must have experienced your fair share of sexism along the way. What do you think of the stereotype that successful career women are ‘hard-asses?’ Do you think that stereotype prohibits capable girls from achieving success?
Kate: I’ve learned that embracing some of our best “female” qualities is what’s actually taught me to be the best leader I can be, though there are areas where being a “hard-ass” does help. In terms of being confident, saying no, voicing your opinion, negotiating a salary or sticking up for yourself, channeling your inner hard-ass helps. But compassion and empathy are two qualities that women tend to have naturally that are very powerful in a career when “backed up” by being a hard-ass. It allows us to create well-functioning teams, listen to people around us (while remaining decisive when need be), and think holistically about the company.
Trish: Agreed. Finding that sweet spot between being a hard-ass (A.K.A. self-confidence) and a compassionate person is the goal―in the business world and in life. What about girls who want to have a family someday and a successful career? Can you do both?
Kate: This is a really tough question. I want to say “don’t think about it, just do it when you want” but that’s assuming that our functioning workplaces are willing and then able to support this. Many companies do support family-building quite well, and more companies will be doing this by the time our next generations of women enter the workforce, but right now there are still a lot of companies that have poor policies, and force women to have to think about the timing or practicality of having a family.
However, with foresight, with making family a priority when you’re job hunting, and being open about these issues with your spouse and family, there are plenty of ways to make this a reality. This is a big topic of conversation right now, and it’s moving in the right direction. Personally, I don’t think you should ever be in a position where you need to choose between career or family, and the companies that realize this are the ones that truly support you as a person and a professional.
Trish: Listening to you talk affirms my belief that yes, with the proper support in place, it’s possible to have a successful career and raise confident, loving children. But, unfortunately, there are still people who consider women as inferior beings. What’s the best way to react to this?
Kate: For me, I’m not one to jump to public shaming or bashing. I feel that’s counterproductive. If the capacity is there to discuss with the brand what they’re doing, and identify whether there’s an opening for improvement, that seems like a more productive approach. The “opening for improvement” isn’t always there though - whether it means leadership and culture, desire to change, rigid policies - and at that point, a larger, more public stance could be taken. In our position as a company that has opportunities for brands to be in front of our audience in various ways, we do need to be extra cautious on this front, as we act as stewards of our community first, and that means filtering.
Trish: Yep unfortunately, there will ALWAYS be toxic people in the world. Again, I agree with you 100%―the key to dealing with them is to learn how to recognize them, look for opportunities for improvement, and continue prioritizing your own belief system. But wait, I thought the landscape for women in tech was improving.
Kate: It IS improving, but I still think we need to see more people walking the walk. The discussion has reached a point of real robustness, but the action that results from the discussion is largely left to be realized. This is actually the nexus at which Women 2.0 sits. We work to create actionable, scalable ways to close the gender gaps in tech. To us, this is the way to change the landscape.
Trish: I’m so glad the problem is finally being recognized and addressed. It seems like the tech industry, in particular, has a built-in bias towards women and their ability in technology. What if you don’t want to be a coder/engineer though. Can you still secure a spot in the tech industry?
Kate: Of course! I know enough coding to be dangerous, but I’m a marketer by trade. I do think it’s becoming increasingly more beneficial to know some development and data skills though, as companies are really becoming much more technologically driven, and that knowledge set will make you more relevant inside a tech-driven company. I will say though that the demand for good engineering talent is only increasing (and increasing quickly!) so it’s an excellent goal to become a coder/engineer. You will not be without a job.
Trish: Sounds like you don’t have to be a coder for your entire career (unless you want to!) but it’s definitely a good skill to have. Can you recommend a few specific resources for girls who want to get started now?
Kate: Girls Who Code, Girl Develop It, and Black Girls Code are three great organizations to learn and test out your skills.
There’s also been an increase in the number of interns available at the high school level. This is such a neat opportunity that I wish I had. If your school doesn’t have anything formal set up, try setting up your internship through your local network or your parents.
Lastly, and much more importantly, I worry that children are in a time period where all of their free time is hyper (hyper!) focused on college, career, academic success, extracurricular achievement - essentially all those things that make your resume look good - and they’re slowly, but surely, starting down the path of burnout. I can’t stress enough that free time is crucial to your development. Learning to be bored, or have unstructured time, or fiddling, or simply developing relationships with friends. What’s a good resource? Get in the slow lane.
Trish: What she said. 100%. Thanks Kate!
Kate Brodock is the CEO of Women 2.0 a large global company for women in technology and entrepreneurship. Women 2.0 was founded in April 2006 and is now the leading media brand for women in tech. Women 2.0 's mission is to build a future for tech hiring where gender is not a factor.
Kate's Journey to her Role as CEO of Women 2.0
In terms of work with women in tech, Kate had immediate influence in her first job out of undergrad when she worked for a small tech transfer company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The two founders were both strong, successful women who’d set up a company purposefully as female founders, and ran it with that in mind. Perhaps without realizing it at the time, this experience heavily influenced her understanding of the potential that women had as leaders. From there, she became involved in a global non-profit for women in technology and entrepreneurship for several years, and was very active in the discussion the space has had. Her role as leader of Women 2.0, which started as a grass-roots effort, was a natural fit.
How does Women 2.0 Help Women Get into Tech?
Tech is still a man's world. However, Women 2.0 is working hard to address that problem by providing access to supportive training, funding resources, career accelerators, technology products, and programs customized for girls and women who are looking to advance their professional goals in the technology world. Here are some specific resources:
Training that teaches women about technology without the influence of a male audience. https://women2.com/training/
Accelerators that equip women with the skills and confidence needed to level the playing field in their technology career. https://women2.com/accelerators/
Programs committed to helping qualified technical women https://women2.com/programs/
Products: Lane (beta) is a recruitment platform that connects ambitious, high-quality tech talent to workplaces that care about making their companies more successful through inclusion. https://women2.com/about-lane and https://lane.women2.com/
Funding: Investment funds that support women-involved ventures. https://women2.com/funding/
Advice for Girls Looking Towards a Professional Career in the Tech Industry
First, say 'yes' more. Even at the stage when women are browsing job openings, they disqualify themselves from positions because they think the position is too high for them. We can’t be doing this to ourselves. Know your skills and be confident in your ability to bring them to a job. Also, find a mentor and a sponsor - their advisement and support will make a big difference in your future.
An unfortunate reality is that women should be aware of what they’re up against - microsexism, pay gaps, unfavorable policies, etc - so that they can equip themselves to fight it. The classic situation of bringing a strategic idea to the table multiple times, only to be summarily ignored as a male colleague brings the same idea to the table a week later and is praised, still exists. Unconscious bias towards women is so ingrained in our society - that definitely needs to change.
And of course, most obviously, get in there, get your hands dirty, do the best work you can, and keep making progress. If you find yourself in a situation where that isn’t recognized, either make it recognized or consider another setting.
Women 2.0's future is getting brighter by the day. Efforts are already underway to launch Lane , an automated recruiting platform that matches open positions with tech talent. Lane was born out of Women 2.0's desire to offer a connection point between ambitious, high-quality tech talent and workplaces that care about making their companies more successful through inclusion.
Sally Ride was born in 1951 in Los Angeles, California. She attended high school at Westlake School for Girls. After high school, she went to Swarthmore College and Stanford University where she earned multiple degrees in Science and Liberal Arts. On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman to fly in space.
Passion at an Early Age
The elder child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce, Ride had one sibling, a younger sister named Karen. Her father was a political science professor and her mother was a counselor. Her parents encouraged Sally and her younger sister to study hard and do their best, but allowed the children the freedom to develop at their own pace.
When asked what her favorite subjects were in school, Ride said that she liked math, but was also very interested in astronomy and physical science. Her heroes were astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.
I didn't really decide that I wanted to be an astronaut for sure until the end of college. But even in elementary school and junior high, I was very interested in space and in the space program."
Professions for Women WERE Limited, but Times are Changing
Sally Ride applied to be an astronaut in 1977 when she was just 26 years old. It was the first time that women were invited to apply to the astronaut program.
Ride was a college student at the time and saw an advertisement in the student newspaper that NASA was looking for women astronauts. She was one of six women out of 8,000 to be selected to join the program.
Prior to her first space flight, she was subject to media attention because she was a woman. During a press conference, she was asked questions like, "Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?" and "Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?" Despite this and the historical significance of the mission, Ride insisted that she saw herself in only one way—as an astronaut
The struggle for women to transform their dreams into successful careers has changed. Sally Ride was one of many women who paved the way for a new generation of young girls to follow their dreams to be scientists or astronauts.
Even more encouraging, since the enormous success of the Women's March on January 21, 2017, global awareness of the heartbreaking difficulty of women to attain their goals has increased tremendously. It's finally our turn!
Perseverance and Success!
Ride has received numerous honors and awards and has written 5 science books for children. She also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students' fascination with science. She was inducted into both the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
After she left NASA, Ride continued to encourage girls to be interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She is one of many women who have paved the way for a new generation of young girls to achieve success!
Passion at an Early Age
Ruth Bader loved to read and learn. Her interest in the law started in grade school, when she wrote articles for her school newspaper about the Magna Carta, a document that represented the first step toward freedom in English-speaking lands. Bader continued her passion for the law at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she graduated with high honors.
While at Cornell she met Martin D. Ginsburg at age 17. She graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government on June 23, 1954. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class. Bader married Martin Ginsburg a month after her graduation from Cornell, and followed her new husband to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was stationed as an ROTC officer in the Army Reserve called up for active duty. At age 21, she worked for the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child. She gave birth to a daughter in 1955.
In fall 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of about 500. The Dean of Harvard Law reportedly asked the female law students, including Ginsburg, "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?" When her husband took a job in New York City, she transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review. In 1959 she earned her Bachelor of Laws at Columbia and tied for first in her class.
She tells us:
Generalizations about the 'way women are' and estimates of what is appropriate for most women no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”
More, when asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, Bader-Ginsburg famously responds:
When there are nine."
Professional Opportunities for Women WERE Limited
At the start of her legal career, Ginsburg faced difficulty finding employment being a wife, a mother, and Jewish. Rising through the ranks of a legal profession that was almost exclusively dominated by men was challenging. She tells us that after graduation from Columbia Law School in 1959, where she was at the top of her class, "there was not a single law firm in the city of New York that would give me a job."
The gender gap for female lawyers is improving, slowly, but it is improving. According to ABA statistics, women now account for roughly a third of all professionals in the legal field, a significant improvement over the last generation.
Bader-Ginsburg's contributions to the hopeful outlook for women in the judicial landscape are significant. Optimistically, progress will continue.
Perseverance and Success!
Since taking office, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has written thirty-five significant opinions (formal statements written by a judge), two important concurring (agreeing) opinions, and three selected dissenting (opposing) opinions. Ginsburg was seen as a stronger voice in favor of gender equality, the rights of workers, and the separation of church and state (the belief that neither the church nor the government should have any influence over the other) than many of the other judges on the Supreme Court. In 1999, she won the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.
As more and more women became judges throughout the country, Justice Ginsburg gave former president Carter credit for changing the judicial landscape for women forever. Appearing at a program entitled Woman and the Bench at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she said, "He appointed women in numbers such as there would be no going back." Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves equal credit for surviving and fighting through the discrimination of the past to help bring about change and pave the way for a new generation of women.
Note to readers: My original intent was to feature Venus Williams this week. Her passion as a young tennis player and as a successful adult champion is remarkable. Equally remarkable are her efforts to secure prize money amounts for women that are the same as men's. But in light of our current president's 3/27 executive order to repeal Obama-era protections for women workers, I decided to instead highlight Ruth Bader Ginsburg's historic rise to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg has a front-row voice to fight for legislation that will further women's civil rights, instead of sending them backward.
Passion at an Early Age
Amy Poehler had a loving, supportive childhood. Her parents say that as a young girl, Amy liked being the center of attention, making people laugh, and that she always dreamed of carving a niche for herself in the field of comedy and acting.
With the support of her parents, Amy had the privilege of growing fully into her natural abilities. She developed her affinity for improvisation during childhood and her high school years, but it wasn't until she attended Boston College and became a member of the college's improvisational comedy troupe, My Mother's Fleabag, that her passion for performance was officially ignited.
After college graduation she moved to Chicago in 1993 to pursue a professional career in comedy, joining the comedy theaters 'ImprovOlympics' and 'Second City,' which is where her friendship with Tina Fey began.
Amy is passionate about being who you are and not focusing on who you aren't.
Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier."
Professional Opportunities for Women WERE Limited, but Times are Changing
Despite her enormous talent and potential for success, the history of successful women in the field of comedy was not encouraging. It's common knowledge that female comedians have a much harder time being successful.
Poehler seems to have transcended the female comedian stereotype altogether. In addition to being an inordinately successful comedic actress, Poehler co-founded an organization called Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. The purpose of the organization is to foster female success in the professional world. Their tag line 'dedicated to helping young girls cultivate their authentic selves' says it all. Amy and her co-founder partner, producer Meredith Walker, have created an organization that emphasizes intelligence and imagination over 'fitting in.'
Perseverance and Success!
Amy Poehler has become one of television's top comediennes with the success of 'Parks and Recreation,' which aired from 2009 to 2015. For her work on the show, she has received multiple Emmy nominations as an actress, writer, and producer. In 2011, she landed on Time magazine's list of "100 Most Influential People." Poehler and Tina Fey also became a favorite comedy duo as regular hosts of the Golden Globes Awards, with the duo earning Emmy nods for their writing for the telecast. Among other awards, Poehler won an acting Golden Globe for her role on Parks and Recreation.
Like Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller before her, Amy Poehler seems to have successfully carved a niche for herself in an industry traditionally dominated by men. With her comedy partner Tina Fey, Amy has revolutionized the female comedy landscape and paved the way for a new generation of comedic actresses like Melissa McArthy, Kristin Wiig, and Kate McKinnon. Even better, her Smart Girls organization is paving the way for girls to succeed in many more traditionally male-dominated careers.
Passion at an Early Age
Alicia Keys began piano lessons at age 7. Her mother's insistence that her daughter stick with the instrument led Keys to attend Manhattan's prestigious Professional Performance Arts School, where she majored in choir. Having excelled academically, Keys was allowed to graduate at the age of 16.
While already attracting the attention of record company executives, a bidding war for her talents ensued. She was accepted to Columbia University on a full scholarship, but after a four-week stint, opted to drop out and devote herself fully to her music.
Her mother tells us how she encouraged Alicia's passion for music growing up:
Being a single parent, raising her in the city, I tried to give her every opportunity, just so she could find out what her muse was."
Professional Female Insecurities WERE Rampant, but Times are Changing
Despite her talent and potential for success, Keys admits to her lifelong struggles with insecurity. The singer shared that before starting work on her last album, she wrote a list of everything she was sick of, including females being 'brainwashed' into feeling like they must look skinny and perfect.
From a young age, Keys explains, she used to get a lot of attention from men because of her curvy figure. Echoing a feeling many women are unfortunately faced with, Keys recalls how men would catcall her on the streets of New York, which made her nervous to draw any more attention to herself than was necessary. So early on in her career, she started wearing long braids and baggy jeans, embracing a 'tomboy' style that allowed her to deflect unwanted advances.
While exploring the constant judgement faced by women, Keys penned the track, 'When A Girl Can’t Be Herself' and admits she started to feel like she was “not good enough for the world to see”.
On January 21, 2017, Keys and a lineup of celebrity activists participated in the Women's March on Washington. The March inspired sister marches all over the country and the world, and drew over half a million people to Washington, DC, where they demonstrated in support of women's rights and equality for all. In her address to the crowd, Keys said: "Let us continue to honor all that is beautiful about being feminine. We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited."
Perseverance and Success!
In 1999, Clive Davis, head of Arista Records, left the prominent record company where he worked to start J Records. Keys decided to follow Davis, who had engineered the careers of soul luminaries such as Aretha Franklin, to his new label. Unlike many of her pop-music contemporaries, the precocious Keys not only sings, but writes and produces her own music. At J Records, Keys found the freedom to complete her debut effort, which included material she had started work on years prior.
Clive Davis carefully orchestrated a media blitz before the release of Keys' first album, including a series of television and small venue appearances, including an appearance on Oprah the day before the album hit shelves. When it was finally released, Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor (2001), went platinum five times over. Critics roundly praised the album not only for its musical polish, but also for its lyric maturity. At the 2002 Grammy Awards, Keys took home awards for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist. She has been recognized as one of the most important soul singers of her generation.
Alicia Keys is one of many women who have paved the way for a new generation of young girls to follow their dreams to unlimited success.
Passion at an Early Age
Born Judith Sussman in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1938, Blume was born the only daughter of a dentist and a homemaker. She was able to make up for the lack of creativity growing up by expending her creative passion through an array of activities that included piano and dance lessons. She especially enjoyed reading and writing stories.
I spent most of my childhood making up stories inside of my head."
Judy continued her passion for reading and writing through high school and then earned her bachelor's degree in teaching from New York University. It wasn't until she was married and her own children began pre-school that she started her writing career.
Female Professions WERE Limited, but Times are Changing
When Judy told her adult friends that she wanted to be a writer, they told her "You've always been such a dreamer!" Some even discouraged her by saying "Do you know what the odds are, especially for women? Do you know how many would-be writers there are out there?" And some were actually angry. "What makes you think you can write?"
Since the enormous success of the Women's March on January 21, 2017, global awareness of the heartbreaking plight of capable girls to attain their goals has increased tremendously. It's finally our turn!
Perseverance and Success!
After years of rejections from would-be publishers, it wasn't until her book 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' was published in 1970, that Judy was firmly established as a leading voice for younger readers. Her book focuses on a girl who wonders about the pending arrival of her period and her parents' competing faiths. Blume channeled her own experiences from pre-adolescence to write an endearing, honest coming-of-age story. Judy Blume was finally a famous author.
Throughout her successful career, Blume has consistently advocated for organizations that support intellectual freedom. All of her efforts go into helping protect the freedom to read. Her passion!
J.K. Rowling's long road to success from a little girl with a passion for writing fairy tales to a successful professional author was littered with rejections and detours. But she endured and ultimately succeeded by always returning to what she loved most - writing.
Passion at an Early Age
Born Joanne Rowling in Gloucestire, England in 1965, J.K. Rowling was introduced to reading and writing by her mother Anne, who read many, many books to Joanne and her younger sister Dianne. By the time she was five, Joanne could retell every single book almost by heart. She wrote her first story, a fairy tale, when she was just six years old, and narrated it to her younger sister.
Joanne was a shy child. At school, she realized that her favorite subject was the English language and reading. Her classmates remember her as an unsociable and secretive girl, who lived in a world of fantasy and was always writing something in her notebook. But she had several teachers who encouraged her to write and who read her stories out loud to her classmates. Joanne recalls:
The pride I felt at my work read out to other students was a very big deal to me. You never forget the teachers who said to you,
Female Professions WERE Limited, but Times are Changing
Upon entering college, Rowling's parents wanted her to focus her studies on French and then build a career as a bilingual secretary. But according to Rowling's memories, she was doing little school work, preferring instead to read Dickens and Tolkien. Eventually, she did what was necessary to graduate with a diploma of Bachelor of Arts in French and Classics, moved to London, and changed several jobs.
Soon she worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International, but she knew that it did not fit her. Writing remained her true passion. In the years that followed university graduation, Rowling taught English in Portugal, got married, divorced, and became a single parent.
Since the enormous success of the Women's March on January 21, 2017, global awareness of the heartbreaking plight of capable women to attain their goals has increased exponentially. It's finally our turn!
Perseverance and Success!
The idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry "came fully formed" into Rowling's mind while on a four-hour delayed train trip. She immediately wrote down her ideas in the form of an outline. It wasn't until years after she wrote her outline that she was able to finish writing the book.
The next hurdle was getting her book published. At the time (early 1990s), success for women professionals was possible, but definitely not probable. She sent her manuscript to one potential publisher after another, told repeatedly that it wouldn't sell. Finally, the 8-year-old daughter of a potential publisher read the first few chapters and begged to read more. The rest is history.
J.K. Rowling paved the way for a new generation of girls to achieve success!