I write this after a decent amount of thought, and I’m hoping this comes across in the spirit I’ve intended.
For 2019, I’ve made a decision to take a break from speaking engagements that focus topically on women, women in startups, investing in women, women as leaders, and the rest. This includes speaking or moderating events that may not be topically focused on women but are part of something called a “women’s track.” My initial plan is to take a one-year hiatus and see how I feel about it after that. I’ll reconsider at the start of 2020.
First, I want to be clear on a few things:
I want to share some of my reasons for this decision:
I think my energy for the topic AS a topic is low. Elizabeth Kraus and I were very public about our worry that we would only be asked to talk about women after co-founding MergeLane (we talked about that on an episode of my Real Leaders Podcast). That hasn’t been exclusively the case, but the shift toward this topic as a percentage of the asks I receive has been dramatic. It’s probably 80%. That’s fair, but after talking ABOUT this topic for four years, my energy isn’t as high as it once was. I don’t feel I have as much new insight to share, and I know there are a LOT of amazing people — men and women — who have more to contribute than I do.
As a function of the above, I miss talking about other things that interest me a great deal. For example, at the moment, my work around Conscious Leadership and our Leadership Camps is lighting me up. I teach this work to men, women, and anyone who wants to engage around it.
Another factor is that I want to be increasing my learning curve during the times I set aside to attend, moderate or speak at events. When I am in contexts related to topics I’m less accustomed to hearing about, I get to learn more, and I like that feeling.
For me, right now, the approach of creating women’s subject matter, women’s tracks, women’s awards, and women-only events is feeling less effective than creating events where men and women are squarely confronting big topics together. I feel this way even in the context of typical “women’s leadership” issues. To me, it seems real “parity” depends on men and women sitting side-by-side and addressing areas where the ratio or the behaviors or the understandings are out of whack. This is my rationale for excluding “women’s track” events. My sense is that naming something a track with “women” in the title often means fewer men show up for the conversations. I want to be in conversations that include all of us. At least for now.
Honestly, I don’t feel “right” about any of this. I can easily see the opposites of my stories that I’ve shared. I’m just making a decision for myself, and I’m just making it for right now.
I made this decision a few months ago but have stalled on sharing it. After making it, I was scanning my phone email inbox and saw a preview subject of an email from the wonderful J.P. O’Brien of BlackLab Sports . The subject snip said “Panel at Boulder Startup Week - wo”. I saw that “wo” and thought “ah, heck, it must be a women’s event, and I’m not going to like saying no to J.P.” When I looked at the email in earnest, the subject read “ would you be willing to moderate a panel on the Adventure Track.” I thought “Adventure Track, I am not a subject-matter expert on Adventure companies.” But to moderate? And learn from my panelists as I make the session spicy and interesting. COUNT ME IN!
Here’s the thing. When I embrace my many areas of interest, those ARE women-centered activities. When I stand for causes I care about, that IS women-centered advocacy. Reducing myself, or any woman, to women-defined topics runs the risk of undermining our breadth and richness as humans. It is for this reason that I’m choosing not just to DO this a new way but to TALK ABOUT it too. I want to embrace my range -- my intersectionality -- as a “woman in leadership.” And I’d love for you to do that too, whatever that means for you.
I want to toss in three other opinions/preferences:
If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them. Your feedback is gold. And, if you want to be someone to whom I refer requests on which I’m holding off for now, let me know that too.
Rapid-fire explanations without curiosity or engagement often feel like dressed-up defensiveness. I’m not terribly game to build a relationship with someone who feels defensive from the start.
I’ve made a decision to take a break from speaking engagements that focus topically on women, women in startups, investing in women, women as leaders, and the rest. This includes events that may not be topically focused on women but are part of something called a “women’s track.” Here's why.
It has been a great few weeks for the MergeLane fund. When people ask us what our criteria are for investments, we always talk about team as the distant number one priority. I wanted to share this recent, wonderful interchange with TomboyX after a great week for them:
How the media (and more) judges emotion in leadership differently between men and women, and the costs of those judgments.
Dennis Adsit of Adsum Insights guest blogs about turning your one-on-ones from pedestrian checklist run-throughs to opportunities for connection and growth.
Our co-founder Sue Heilbronner shared her thoughts on the best mentor/advisor question she’s ever been asked