Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Women and The World Economic Forum 2016: A World Far, Far Away

"Hey mister - look up! You're missing the best part..."

While selecting the image that would best capture my perspectives on this year's World Economic Forum, I came across this one showing a man with his head down and a fuzzy image of a woman walking by. That's how it feels sometimes - Women in Leadership are out front moving forward at a rapid pace yet some decision-makers may not see us because they're looking down (or backwards).

The World Economic Forum 2016 (#WEF) is now in the record books and there is much work to be done to continue building the world that a majority of us desire. As in years past I participated remotely, sometimes live streaming and sometimes through playbacks. Either way it was important for me to pay close attention to the state of our world as discussed by the best, the wealthiest, and the brightest through cutting-edge research, deliberate actions, and alarming foresight.

As expected WEF didn't disappoint with its long list of heads - Heads of State, Heads of Companies, Heads of Non-Profit Organizations, Heads of Research, Global Shapers, Young Global Leaders, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Celebrities, and many others totaling 2500 individuals. It was noted many times that the number of women in Davos ticked up only slightly from previous years to 18% this year. WEF organizers ensured that women were represented in sessions, at press conferences, and during panel discussions. Women were everywhere in Davos - except where they weren't in the world far, far away.


Since 2006, an extra quarter of a billion women have entered the labor force. And yet, the annual pay for women only now equals the amount men were earning TEN YEARS AGO

-World Economic Forum (Global Gender Gap Report 2015)


Women and The World Economic Forum 2016

By now we recognize familiar stats on Women in Leadership from CEOs to the workforce population at large. Research and resolution initiatives continue to let us know the challenges we face on gender parity and to a large degree the solutions that will help us to close the gaps. The will to transform our world continues to grow. 

So if we know what's happening and we know what to do about it, then...



This year one of the most exciting and effective discussions on gender parity occurred on the WEF main stage with Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Justin Trudeau, Zhang Xin, and Jonas Prising moderated by Lyse Doucet on Progress Towards Parity. In addition to setting the baseline with stats and historical context, the panelists pivoted to solutions - really great solutions.

Melinda Gates (Co-Founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) emphasized the crucial importance of health, planning, and role modeling. Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook, LeanIn.org) delivered insights on the toddler wage gap and cultural expectations. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada) highlighted women's frequently low expectations of themselves in politics and the need to step forward. Jonas Prising (CEO of Manpower) noted that women are more educated than men, resulting in "sub-optimization on a massive scale" when women aren't leveraged fully. Zhang Xin (Co-Founder and CEO SOHO China) shared reflections on a society where everyone worked and where women are seen as natural entrepreneurs. 


...goals are only wishes unless you have a plan

-Melinda Gates, Co-Founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Additionally there were questions from the audience on gender and race, gender and faith, and male engagement. Denise Bradley-Tyson (President of San Francisco Film Commission, Entrepreneur) added context on gender and race where stats are dismal across the board. Defined as "double-jeopardy", gender bias comes with an intense set of expectations that have to be realigned.


Denise Bradley-Tyson (President of San Francisco Film Commission, Entrepreneur)


This progressive panel weighed in heavily with 21st century mindsets about ways to change what ails us. Here's a short list of their recommendations to help bring gender parity closer to the here and now:

  • [1] Role model new expectations at home and at work
  • [2] Redistribute the workload at home and at work
  • [3] Secure sponsors versus mentors for career support
  • [4] Join support orgs and don't try to go it alone


So what's my plan?

My mornings often begin with journal entries followed by lots of research, reading, and sharing - lots of reading. Then I share what I've read with my daughter on the way to school. Our commute is quite long so we have lots of time to talk. Though she's still a preteen I want her to have benefit of extensive knowledge - and a plan. 

Sometimes she wishes I would just let the radio play (and I do - occasionally).

I share with her news about what's happening with the The Future of Jobs and how her life and contributions benefit the world. We talk about her vision for school, work, and family. We talk about why it's important for her to know how to code. We talk about STEM careers versus traditional careers - and why she must choose paths that are less traveled. We share tips about music, fashion, pop culture, entrepreneurship, and her friends...all the while I'm helping her to set expectations and plan her future.

We also talk about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and which ones we want to focus on together and separately. It's hard to choose, but it's necessary in order for us to be most effective with our resources. Gender Equality (#5) is my choice and No Poverty (#1) is hers. Our plans are interwoven into our lives through the activities and organizations that we participate in or through the initiatives that we drive.

My plan-in-motion is to first set the example for my daughter and then to role model, support, and sponsor others as they build plans of their own. So far it's working...  



Leaders - what's your plan to help bring gender parity from a world far, far away to right here, right now?

Keep the conversation going with a like, a relevant comment, or a share.


Let's keep climbing!


Sunday, January 17, 2016

On Leadership and Legacies

Writing is part of my legacy. I can't explain it. I'm just compelled to write and I love it. Ask anyone who has ever worked alongside me and they'll tell you that I write - a lot!

When I don't write I feel like I'm missing out on something great. I'm at my keyboard now and it feels natural. I don't know where my writing will ultimately take me but I know that I want to leave behind a very long trail of relevant, exciting, insightful, and sometimes comical information while influencing my readers (I love saying "my readers") to learn something new or to take some new action. Writing is a form of creative and impactful expression that for me is like painting on a canvas.

I'm also a mom - an artist - a researcher - an engineer - a strategist - a veteran - a philanthropist - a board member - a friend - a counselor - a mentor - an entrepreneur - a manager - a 21st century leader... 

I'm lots of "things" and I have many different roles and talents as do most human beings. All of these roles and talents are part of my legacy which continues to be shaped with each passing day. Being a one-dimensional human isn't possible yet I get the feeling that we're expected to operate on a one-dimensional plane when it comes to careers (more on that topic in a future post). For now I'm focused on using my talents and skills to build a legacy that my mom would be proud of. She passed on when I was just 3 years old. 

I am my mother's legacy.

On Legacies...

Late last year I lost one of my closest "sisters" after her three year battle with cancer. Her death and the prospect of mine (eventually) are what make me ponder leadership and legacies. Even as I type the words about her death it doesn't seem real to me. I simply can't process that she's not on the planet anymore. Her legacy is very strong. 

She was the wind beneath my wings during my crucial early years as a first-time mom. Being the super-charged career woman that I was at the time, I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for her support and guidance. She was such a gift. For me her legacy is the love that we all felt when she doted on us - and her sons, and her husband, and her mom and siblings, and her grandchildren, and someday her future generations. She left us with a lot of love in our hearts. 

A legacy worthy of my sister-mom-friend.


Everyone must leave something behind when [s]he dies...It doesn't matter what you do so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away

- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


On Leadership...

This past week President Obama delivered his last State of the Union (SOTU) address. For me he made being president seem really cool - beyond the typical "I'm in charge of the world" complexity, seriousness, and reverence that the office warrants. Terms like POTUS, FLOTUS, and SCOTUS (and many others) became part of my dictionary. Perhaps those terms existed before but I wasn't aware of them. 

In the past the office of President of the United States seemed so far away - over there somewhere. While POTUS is still quite an exhaulted position, it now seems reachable via the American dream. A sense of humor, insatiable drive, and uncommon intelligence are just a few of the necessary traits for someone who becomes POTUS.

By the way - what will we call the husband of our first woman president?

First Gentleman of the United States is the official term. FGOTUS doesn't quite have a cool ring to it, but I'm sure we'll adjust.

President Obama's legacy and tenacity will be the stuff of legend as history turns on the spotlight though many people have mixed and highly charged feelings about him today. Future generations will reflect on the transformational nature of his leadership along with all of the monumental shifts that were happening in our world during his time in office. 

So many monumental shifts...


We live in a time of extraordinary change - change that's reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It's change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It's change that can broaden opportunity or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

-President Barack Obama, State of the Union 2016


No one can say with a straight face that they agree with everything that he did as president, but virtually everyone can acknowledge that he had one of the toughest jobs on the planet. I said "one of the toughest jobs" because being a mom is actually THE toughest job on the planet. 

On Leadership and Legacies...

Leadership is a tough job and few have the stamina that it takes to hold up under such extreme pressure. Many people fold when they get a negative critique from a friend or from a boss. Imagine getting critiqued by the entire planet for every move you make - and still being required to do your job. How many of us would simply walk away? It takes a special kind of energy to be POTUS.

He didn't invent climate change, but he took action along with 190 countries at COP21 in Paris. He didn't invent the need for comprehensive healthcare, but he took action to move a new reality forward for millions of uninsured Americans. He didn't invent coding, but he shined the spotlight on the economic necessity of gaining coding skills for 21st century viability. He's not a veteran of the U.S. military, but he is the Commander-in-Chief who helped to refocus the nation's attention on the highest price paid by women and men in uniform. He didn't create unequal pay for equal work, but he helped to redirect the trajectory of pay equity through executive action. The list goes on.

For me President Obama's legacy is about helping people - all kinds of regular and exceptional people.

On Managing Leadership and Legacies...

Shaping legacies of leadership take time and perseverance. Thanks to the Internet, social platforms, and countless tools and innovations, opportunities for documenting legacies is now easier than ever. I've seen several social profiles of friends that I know have passed on and it's comforting to know that there is a living record of their time on earth beyond the memories of family, friends, and colleagues. While most of the random chatter on social platforms doesn't quite rise to the level of "legacy", it is part of the dust that we leave behind so our presence out here should be carefully managed.

At this stage in my life and work, leadership and legacy are my focus - and I'll continue expand and refine my roles and use my talents however possible while building a legacy that my future generations can be proud of.

Leaders - what will be your legacy?

Thanks for dropping by to read my latest article. It's part of my legacy.

If you like this article and want to read more, support it with a like, a comment, or a share.


Let's keep climbing!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Women's Leadership Continues to Transform Our World

As the 2016 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting approaches during the week of January 20 - 23 in Davos, Switzerland the spotlight will undoubtedly be shown on women's leadership around the world - how far we've come, what's happening now, who's doing what, and how far we have to go to achieve gender parity. This will be my third year of remote "active" participation in sessions that for me have become mandatory. This year's agenda will focus on Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

At WEF some of the world's best minds will showcase the latest research, resources, actions, and innovations while opening pathways for discussions and dissenting opinions. I've read articles from various sources who decry the "closed" nature of the meetings and I simply don't understand their challenges. I have all of the access I need and I don't have to travel to Switzerland in mid-winter to participate - at least not yet. Lead on WEF!

Leading up to WEF Annual Meetings, there are local, regional, and global communities, open forums, and events that one can participate in depending on interests and focus areas such as Civil Society, Academic Networks, Technology Pioneers, Strategic Partners, Women Leaders and Gender Parity, and many more. Detailed reports are posted in wide-ranging categories by year, type, region, and topic. Whatever pieces of knowledge that one has a desire to grasp - it's at your fingertips.

Women's Leadership Around the Globe

While reflecting on women's leadership for this article, I had one of my favorite Beyonce songs playing in the background for extra emphasis. "Who run the world? Girls!" - an empowering message for sure. Since 100% of humans come to the planet via women who were once girls, who can argue with Queen Bey?! 

Yet some still try...

...we're smart enough to make these millions - strong enough to bear the children then get back to business...


The impact of women's leadership around the globe is undisputed by the facts though statistically speaking numbers are still challenging. Research and ten years of data have made it possible for all to see the situation that we've gotten ourselves into by holding back the capabilities of half of the human population. Highlights from the Global Gender Gap Report 2015 show areas of concern and areas of progress in economy, education, politics, and health.



Ten years of measuring the global gender gap has helped us understand how lack of progress is damaging global economic growth, and given us insights into how practical measures can support growth and improve the quality of life for women worldwide

- World Economic Forum (Global Gender Gap Report 2015)


Businesses with more women in leadership positions do better in the marketplace - undisputed. Institutions of higher learning are graduating more women at all levels - undisputed. The rate of households headed by women is increasing - undisputed. Medical breakthroughs for women by women are accelerating - undisputed. Women's entrepreneurship is growing at unprecedented levels - undisputed. 

Who run the world? Girls!

Highlights of women's global leadership must always recognize Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai for her work on girl's and children's education, German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her strong humanitarian leadership, and Melinda Gates for her outstanding contributions to advancements in health for women, girls, and infants. 

Here are a few (very few) worthy highlights on Women's Leadership Around the Globe.









These women and so many more are moving the dials of progress in positive directions for the common good. All are incredibly impressive and are a few of the most influential people on the planet. Be inspired!

Women leaders around the world - while you're creating some of the coolest innovations or handling some of the most difficult breakthroughs in technology, business, society, or elsewhere -

Keep Calm and Lead On!

Who would you add to the list? Share your insights by commenting, liking, or sharing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

21st Century Leadership in the "Liminal Space"

Beyond Stephen Hawking's World Economic Forum speech, one of the most fascinating bits of knowledge that I acquired in 2015 came through Dr. Jedidah Isler, a Yale Astrophysicist. For her award-winning study of supermassive black holes, Dr. Isler was awarded a PhD from Yale in the fall of 2014 - and she is the only African-American female astrophysicist in Yale's 312 year history. She is quite rare.

Dr. Isler may be more rare than the supermassive black holes that she studies and she proved it by delivering an insightful and very necessary message in her latest TED Talk. She opened up about the subject of "liminal space" - better known as the intersection between things. I listened intently because I was learning something new.


Great things happen at intersections. In fact, I would argue that some of the most interesting things of the human experience occur at the intersections, in the liminal space...the space in between. There's freedom in that in-between, freedom to create from the indefiniteness of not-quite-here, not-quite-there, a new self-definition
- Dr. Jedidah Isler, Yale Astrophysicist


During liminal periods across all dimensions certainty becomes increasingly uncertain until a new level of certainty is re-established. Likewise what was once known may dissolve into new levels of unknowns until something new emerges. Individuals who love to explore and innovate will find the unknowns intriguing while others who love certainty will become increasingly uncomfortable.

Does this sound like where we are today?


… [liminal space] is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.  It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing
 -Richard Rohr, Roman Catholic OFM and Author


Collectively we're in the "liminal space" where uncertainty lives. We're at the intersection of things - between international and trans-national, between established cultures and social network tribes, straddling ideologies and ideas, between injustice and social justice, jobless growth and social entrepreneurship, and many more opposing dimensions. A small sample of "liminal space" dimensions are captured in the diagram.

What dimensions would you add to the list?



2016 promises to be another year in 21st century "liminal space" - somewhere between here and there - "somewhere". 

It can be difficult to find meaningful anchors while the "terrible cloud of unknowing" is upon us. Yet that's exactly what 21st century leaders must do. Leaders must hold on and find new norms while inspiring others to do the same.

While in the "liminal space" - limit the time you spend with people who limit their thinking; for surely people who limit their thinking will also try to limit yours
-Lillian Gregory, The Institute for Human and Leadership Excellence


What does 21st Century Leadership look like in the "liminal space"?

Individuals who have already adopted 21st century paradigms of leadership will find it easier to hold on in the "liminal space". Holding on is not the same as standing still. There are always new definitions to write, new visions to clarify, new people to meet, new places to explore, new innovations to create, new strategies to develop, and new legacies to build. 

While leadership in general is both art and science, 21st century leadership in the "liminal space" is simultaneously uncertain and intriguing. There are few simple formulas left to follow and the best is yet to come - so let's roll up our sleeves and keep moving forward.


Simple Formula for 21st Century Leadership in the "Liminal Space"

  • [Step 1]  Treat your mind and body with respect
  • [Step 2]  Feed your mind daily with meaningful content
  • [Step 3]  Align yourself with growth-minded individuals
  • [Step 4]  Redefine or refine your vision and clarify your purpose
  • [Step 5]  Hold on to your vision and your purpose - execute daily
  • [Step 6]  Build and leverage your social capital
  • [Step 7]  Reach out, support, and inspire others

These steps along with I-Core Principles help me to navigate the "liminal space".

Do you have a comparable formula or list of guiding principles? If so I'd love to hear all about it. Share your insights by commenting, liking, or sharing. 


Happy New Year - and let's keep climbing!