Women Kicking Ass
Our sold-out August Salon, Women Kicking Ass, served as a reminder that while women are enjoying unprecedented success in our community, many still experience gender (and racial) discrimination. A lot of intense topics were brought front and center. MOCA, TEDxJacksonville, and panelists curated a very safe, organized place for these issues to be shared and addressed.
— TEDxJAX (@TEDxJAX) August 25, 2016
Denise M. Reagan, director of communications from MOCA, opened up with how familiar she is with the reality that women are kicking ass see CONFRONTING THE CANVAS: WOMEN OF ABSTRACTION JUNE 4, 2016 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2016.
Reshma Saujani’s talk kicked off the evening. As Saujani reflected on the pressure of being perfect, there was an audible reaction from the audience—it was clear everyone could relate to what she was saying. Reshma is the founder of Girls Who Code. She has taken up the charge to socialize young girls to take risks and learn to program — two skills they need to move society forward. Reshma’s idea is: We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave. To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population, she says. “I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection.”
Our panel was then introduced by Sabeen Perwaiz, who served as the evening’s moderator. Sabeen is the Executive Producer & Co-Organizer of TEDxJacksonville, but she also has been involved with many organizations that support women such as PACE Center for Girls, Girl Leadership Program Specialist positions with Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, and Education initiatives; she currently works at the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.
Our Discussion leaders included:
Jennifer Chapman: Jennifer Chapman serves as the Director of Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments in Florida; she is also a serial entrepreneur.
Michelle Cook: Director of Personnel and Professional Standards at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Angie Nixon: Entrepreneur and author of Moxie Girl.
Nicole Thomas: Formerly Senior Vice President of Specialty Services at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Nicole Thomas has been named Hospital President of Baptist Medical Center South; she is the first female hospital president in Baptist Health’s 60-year history.
Reshma Saujani’s talk sparked conversations about how the panelists began their careers, Nicole Thomas, for example, wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, but her Grandma “let her know the healthcare field was for her.”
The panelists discussed how the “appearance of perfect” can sometimes stifle the ability to share openly. Chapman recalled a time when she was asked to speak publicly, with no advance warning, and then beat herself up on her delivery for two hours afterwards. Cook joked that when she first started in the field there were no women officers, so she had to wear a man’s uniform. Thomas observed that social media pressures people to “appear perfect, especially younger women,” and noted how she often has been mistaken for a receptionist or a nurse, but seldom a physician, let alone the hospital President. The panelists also talked about their biggest “failures,” and why a failure should be accepted as a learning lesson, “a way not to do something.” Chapman referred to them lovingly as “aha moments”.
Nixon discussed how empowering it can be to “change the filter” on how you view things. As an example, she talked about how her beautiful six-year-old daughter didn’t like her own hair or skin color, and wanted to change it. Recalling how she herself—and even her Grandmother—had experienced the same feelings, Nixon talked about how painful it was to see her daughter—her “mini me”—perpetuate the cycle of negative black self-image. She assured the room racism still exists.
— TEDxJAX (@TEDxJAX) August 25, 2016
So Nixon wrote a book that featured her daughter as a super hero. She took the afro puffs her daughter didn’t like and made them her superpower in the book Moxie Girl.
The next recorded talk focused on privilege, and how one’s own privilege can preclude you from realizing or acknowledging that sexism and racial discrimination exist. Michael Kimmel: Why gender equality is good for everyone- men included.
Yes, we all know it’s the right thing to do. But Michael Kimmel makes the surprising, funny, practical case for treating men and women equally in the workplace and at home. It’s not a zero-sum game, but a win-win that will result in more opportunity and more happiness for everybody.
Thomas noted that women are appointed to CEO positions at half the rate of men. Cook said female officers in the field comprise fewer than 14% of the police force. It’s not always the physical demands of the job that limit female participation. Female job candidates want to hear more about the policing experience, so Cook has created a job fair symposium to address their concerns and believes it will help increase equal employment opportunities.
Chapman acknowledged that, in Jacksonville, there is no shortage of help when starting businesses (Jax Chamber, One Spark, Co Work), but that time management and the priorities we have to balance are key factors in female business success. All of us need to learn how to break down the things that are most important. Chapman said she may not get to go to the park or watch TV (she’s never seen Orange is the New Black), but in return she gets to play a big part in the community.
The panel, and particularly Thomas, also touched on the importance of mentorship (peer level feedback/coaching) and sponsorship (superior level feedback/coaching). “After 15 years, I realized having results is not enough to be promoted,” said Thomas. “You need a sponsor—someone who is in the room that you are not in.” Building community by mentoring and sponsoring others is something we all can do. Be cognizant of the energy you are putting out, and what you are getting back from it.
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