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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Comments (Archived):

  1. BB

    love the image of bringing home the bacon and frying it up. For this blog I would add wrapping it around a piece of halibut with a white wine reduction…reading this post from a hotel room in florida…missing my kitchen and my family…excited to see where you go with this in January!

    1. Gotham Gal

      personally i am very excited to try your halibut!

  2. Yule Heibel

    Take a look at a recent article, The Psyche on Automatic, about the work of Amy Cuddy. Really interesting insights into how we see others/ how they see us. In a diagram (“How we see others”) there are four quadrants charted by oppositions (warm/ cold and competent/ incompetent). This creates 4 sectors, and people tend to have very specific feelings about each. Eg., warm/competent is admired; warm/incompetent is pitied; cold/competent is envied; and cold/incompetent is held in contempt.Turns out mothers in the work-force are typically perceived by others as warm/incompetent, while fathers are perceived as warm/competent. So we admire the dads (who get a “fatherhood bonus”) and (secretly?) pity the moms who get the “motherhood penalty” – which might explain the push many women make once the kids are fledged to get back into the career game (whereas when the kids are younger, they slog along just to get by). As the article explains:QUOTEOn the job, many studies have shown that working moms are seen as both significantly nicer—and significantly less competent—than working fathers or childless men and women. “We call this the ‘motherhood penalty,’ ” says Cuddy. “At the same time, fathers experience the ‘fatherhood bonus.’ They’re viewed as nicer than men without kids, but equally, if not more, competent. They’re seen as heroic: a breadwinner who goes to his kid’s soccer game once in a while. But in or out of the office, working mothers experience a fair bit of hostility from people who think they should be at home with their kids. Researchers have documented thousands of cases of motherhood discrimination; a mother being laid off might hear things like, ‘I know you wanted to be at home anyway.’ ”UNQUOTEWhat’s also fascinating is that feelings of envy provoke some pretty nasty strategies (people who are perceived as cold/ competent are envied). Sexual harassment is often NOT directed at the relatively powerless secretary with deep cleavage, but rather is an aggressive form of attack on competent successful career women who have positions of authority. That’s because envy can so easily take on a mean streak. Again, from the article:QUOTEHowever, there’s a far darker side to the cold/competent stereotype. “If you look at the groups that were targets of genocide, at least over the last century, they tend to be these groups” perceived as cold/competent, Cuddy says, citing qualitative evidence. (She has not collected data on the question.) “In times of economic instability, when the status quo is threatened, groups in this cluster are scapegoated—Jews in Germany, educated people in Cambodia, the Tutsi in Rwanda.” In general, she explains, this cluster “tends to contain high-status minority groups: they’re seen as having a good lot in life, but there’s some resentment toward them. ‘We respect you, there’s something you have that we like, but we kind of resent you for having it—and you’re not the majority.’ Asian-Americans, career women, and black professionals also tend to be perceived in the cold/competent quadrant.”For those seen as cold/competent, sexual harassment can become a form of what Cuddy calls “active harm.” “It’s very aggressive—it’s not about flirtation,” she explains. “The lay theory was that sexy women are the targets of sexual harassment—the sexy secretary who shows cleavage. But the actual targets tend to be women who are more masculine and very successful. It seems to be a form of active harm directed at a group that’s threatening—a way of ‘putting them in their place,’ or even expelling them from the environment.” UNQUOTEAnyway, sorry about the lengthy quotes, Joanne – I don’t want to hijack your blog – but it strikes me that Cuddy’s findings have a lot to say about what you got to hear about at the Spark Summit Conference. The cold/competent and warm/incompetent quadrants seem to influence girls, too, when they’re developing intellectually. We need to make sure that our growing girls know that it’s possible to be warm/competent, too: that they don’t have “choose” between warm/incompetent (making themselves appear dumber than they are so that the boys aren’t scared of them) and cold/competent (coming across as cold just because they are smarter than the boys). How often do girls hold back because they fear falling into the “bitch” (cold/competent) camp? Who doesn’t want to be loved (and valued)? But if men – fathers – can be warm/competent, isn’t it a no-brainer that women – mothers – can be, too? I guess at some level it’s about power, and whether we believe it’s going to make us more attractive …or less so.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Amazing data. At the event, a person who was watching through Live Steam typed in a question about women being perceived as a “bitch” because of their confidence. One of the women answered, I consider being called a “bitch” a compliment. What she basically said was “please, that is so ridiculous”. Maybe the next generation will be different….only time will tell.