Spark Summit Conference

-2 Women, women, women…and girl power.  That seems to be on the radar these days not only in tech but all over the place.  My head is spinning. 

This past week I went to see my husband get interviewed by Rachel Sklar discussing how to Change the Ratio.  Love that name. 

On the other hand I am also involved with a conference in January that focuses on Women Entrepreneurs and Investors which I am really excited about.  Showcasing a variety of people, men and women (mostly women) who have created interesting properties from an idea.

Then I went to the Spark Summit Conference on Friday, hosted by Hunter College.  The event was mostly academia focused on sexualization protest: action, resistance, knowledge.  The day was focused around different panels and workshops pertaining to supporting womens well being.

I didn't love the prominent scientists panels in hindsight.  They each shared their latest research findings about the sexualization of girls in our culture.  How young girls see themselves after looking at certain pictures such as athletes who are made to look sexual vs in their true environment doing sports.  Barbie's sexuality who has the perfect body which is completely unattainable including her molding feet that always fit into a high heeled shoe.  A lot of their findings I found just confirmed most things that I fundamentally think I knew. 

My favorite panel was Girls Activitists Speak Out.  Shelby Knox moderated a panel of young feminists (per se ) and what they are doing to feel confident, sexual and smart.  These women ranged from 18-24.  The constant theme was that our generations conscious groups are accessible on Twitter, Tumbler and through blogging.  They are using the Internet as their platform to create communities.  As one person said, "I would not be as strong as I am without the Internet". 

Best part was going to a cocktail party after the event and meeting Gloria Steinem.  She is so beautiful and -1 articulate that it isn't surprising she led an entire generation to speak out for women's rights.

Then Sunday there is an article in the New York Times called "Calling Mr. Mom" by Lisa Belkin.  Belkin writes that women are actually already empowered in the workplace and she sites a variety of statistics.  Her theory is that until men change, like women have changed when it comes to the workplace and balancing the act between family and work life, nothing will change.  Empowering women must focus on men too.  Men's expectations for themselves must change in order for everything to change. 

In Sweden, the policies have forced men to change.  They are giving a certain amount of Daddy leave that they lose if they don't take it.  Now 80% of Swedish men take that time.  In essence, forcing men to be part of the whole family picture. 

What is interesting is most women entrepreneurs start their businesses as second careers around 40-60 years of age.  Many of these women have higher degrees of education and on their second career decide they'd rather work for themselves.  Hard to compete against 22 year old men sitting in a room hammering out ideas doing laundry on occasion and not having the same financial needs as a 40 year old woman including fewer responsibilities.  Not having enough women entrepreneurs in any industry is not as simple as providing mentoring and funding particularly when you look at the statistics.

So what is in store for the next generation of feminists?  Will they never get off the ramp even when raising a family?  Will they start their own businesses at an earlier age?  Will they be able to do it all such as bring home and bacon and fry it up in a pan?  I certainly don't know the answers but I do know that there are many more choices available now than there was even 10 years ago.  There are also many more women in the tech industry getting back in the game at a later stage who have some terrific ideas that will be funded because they are great ideas not because they are women.  Going under the theory which is show me a good idea, someone will be interested in funding you. 

This is a multi-layered topic that I am thrilled to part of.  Not sure there are any simple answers but hearing many women at all ages roar is part of the ever changing cultural shift that we witnessing right now.  Where it ends up, who knows but my gut tells me that I should pay attention to the four women on the panel at the Spark Conference on Friday.  Their youth and confidence was exhilerating. 


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