Tag Archives: Women

Go ahead and stir the pot! Being provocative and disagreeing to move the conversation forward

This morning, I was on a panel at BIO International Convention in San Francisco to discuss what digital health technologies can learn from the experience of personalized medicine. I was invited to participate with esteemed colleagues (all female, by the way!) representing various aspects of the health care technology sector: physician, investor, data and evidence analyst, and payer strategist (yours truly).

We were well prepared going into the panel session, with multiple conference calls to coordinate on who will share what, and which case studies were relevant and insightful. I was excited to participate in this collaborative session, and I was looking forward to engaging audience members.

In fact, the content was so engaging that I admit I totally went off-script. When you are passionate about ensuring people take away important lessons from the panel, sometimes you just have to move off the softball content into provocative territory.

If it means I get pegged as the Debbie Downer, so be it.

If it means I provide the perspective of unpopular stakeholders, those who are often used as scapegoats, so be it.

If it means telling people what they don’t want to hear, so be it.

I’ve done my job.

The session was fantastic, and my fellow panelists were gracious and inclusive. But I admit that I am most proud of challenging assumptions, exposing inherent flaws in the system, and moving us away from what others should do to what we can do.


An evolution of feelings about Clinton becoming the ultimate executive mom

I’m sorting out how I feel about Hillary Clinton being the presumptive Democratic nominee. After all, if she wins the general election, she will be the Executive Mom.

I supported her with my whole heart in 2008. I cried when she lost the nomination then. I still voted for Obama, but a part of me – along with many other women at the time – felt a loss so deep, so crushing, that there were no words of comfort. We simply had to process our grief in order to move on.

Move on, I did. Over the past eight years, my priorities shifted. Back in 2008, I felt strongly that a there was value in a milestone for the sake of it being a milestone. Someone has to be the first so that it’s no longer “a thing” – even if Clinton did a terrible job in the Oval, we’ve got to get to a place in this country where a woman in the Oval is not a novelty. Get past the oohs and ahhs, for good or for bad, so that the next woman running can have the luxury of her sex being a non-issue. Hillary Clinton was my milestone-for-the-sake-of-being-a-milestone. And I felt she would actually be a good President, not terrible at all.

Now, eight years later, I don’t see the Presidency as a framework for gender politics. There is something that matters to me more, and that is the dwindling middle class, and the unobstructed finance policies allowing corporations to take advantage of Americans. Over the last eight years, both Hillary Clinton and President Obama have sorely disappointed me – no, failed me. I have little confidence that President Obama will take anything but a continued cowardly stance against Wall Street in the golden years of his Presidency, and I have little confidence a President Clinton will do any differently.

As a business woman, I feel that their their weak regulations (weak regulations at best, complete inaction at worst) is short sighted and not in the best interest of my daughter over the course of her lifetime – which is to say, is not in the best interest of the longer- term future of this country. And I am really concerned about how hawkish she seems. Will she so readily decide to send in troops to wherever there is some conflict? Isn’t that how we got into our current mess in the first place?

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren spoke to me, and continue to speak to me, about this all-important issue. They hear me; I hear them. And that, as I’ve learned, is communication.

It doesn’t escape my notice that perhaps it is precisely because Clinton got as far as she did in 2008, and is now the presumptive nominee in 2016, that I even have the luxury of dissecting the issues to the point that I can say, “I wanted Sanders instead,” that she was, in effect, my desired milestone after all.

I am a tumult of emotion because so much is viewed through the lens of motherhood now. It was enough to want better for other people’s children, or just on principle alone, but I can no longer escape the call of every decision I make being one for the good and betterment of my own kid’s life.

I chose Sanders in the primary, I did. But I reconcile my mixed feelings about Clinton by voting for her in November – a powerful thing that I’ll be able to tell my daughter someday – and working tirelessly to hold Clinton, a fellow mom, a fellow executive, accountable to all of our democratic ideals.

Update 06/17/16: I read a very interesting and provocative piece that sheds different light, which can be found here https://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/everybody-talking-bout-heaven-aint-going-there/

Female executives: Avoid being that Queen Bee!

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee – WSJ

The term “queen bee syndrome” was coined in the 1970s, following a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan—Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Carol Tavris—who examined promotion rates and the impact of the women’s movement on the workplace. In a 1974 article in Psychology Today, they presented their findings, based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in that magazine and Redbook. They found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. This occurred, they argued, largely because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.

This is infuriating to me for two reasons (just two?!):

(1) It’s lonely at the top. There’s nothing worse I can think of than being a female executive and not having a single other female executive around. My message to the Queen Bee: You think “you’ve arrived”? Until there are MANY women in positions of executive leadership, you will never know if you’re just a token, and I’m not sure how gratifying it is to have that word implied in your high-brow title.

(2) There is SO MUCH WORK to be done! Couldn’t you use a little help? I know I need all the help I can get. If others aren’t valuing women’s contributions to my company, my industry, my environment, you bet I sure as hell am because I refuse to be a slave to this “I’ve arrived” mentality of constantly proving that I deserve to be here by doing it ALL. No way, that’s not the way it goes. At the executive level, you’re responsible for making sure it all gets done, but not necessarily responsible for doing it all yourself. Where would that leave you? Burnt out, ineffective, perhaps unable to also prioritize family? Well that sounds like a bum deal to me. Why would you put yourself in that position? You’re setting yourself up to fail.

Helping other female colleagues up the ladder when deserved is such a better way of being a contributor, reinforcing your leadership potential, establishing your role as a mentor, and being effective in the workplace. A Queen Bee doesn’t break the glass ceiling; Queen Bees don’t even realize that the ceiling might have been opened for them and then perhaps closed right behind them by male executives. Don’t be fooled. You want to take credit for breaking that glass ceiling? Take all the worker bees with you and collectively smash it!

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As a side note, studies trace this concept of keeping your fellow female down to middle school and high school bullying. Now more than ever, the topic of bullying and its ill effects if unaddressed are making headlines. As parents, as educators, and as responsible community members and leaders, this is just another reason that we’ve got to nip that in the bud.