Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why Aren't More Women in Top Leadership Roles?

Niagra Falls, on a business trip 

Driving home from Laramie, Wyoming last night after a Wyoming Cowgirls game (where they dominated 98-37 - a whole topic unto its own), I thought about leadership, women, and topics I could research for my dissertation to get people thinking in a new light.  Why am I not a leader today?  I had a couple of opportunities in the past three years, and I've turned both down because it wasn't right for my life, for my family's life.  In our company, you have limited chances to rise to the top.  If you aren't willing to move your family 2,000 miles away in the blink of an eye, you aren't taken seriously.  I took an interim HR manager job in Charlotte, North Carolina, for two months to cover a surgery a couple of years ago.  I excelled.  I received rave reviews, and three years later, I still talk to the wonderful people I worked with.  I was asked to stay, and it wasn't the right time, especially for my husband, who had just started his job with the same company two months prior.  Then this fall, I had the opportunity to be in the running for two HR manager jobs in the east.  After much reflection, I couldn't possibly take either, which would force my husband to find another job in this tepid economy, my daughters (who are already 3 hours away from me) to be even farther away from their mom, and the economics of selling a house we bought at the top of the demand-ridden market and buying on in a still-high market in the east.  

Do I regret my decisions?  No.  Do I lament them?  Sometimes, yes.  I started researching why women aren't in more leadership roles, despite the fact that we have, on average, more education and more people agility skills than men.  I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm not alone - work is not going to solely define me.  I am not spending 80+ hours a week for a company who will, at best, move me every two years for my 'development' (read:  their convenience).  While I would certainly love the power and money that comes from a promotion, and the change of scenery, my decisions are based on my husband, and his career, and my teen age daughters - and my own dreams and ambitions.  And I'm confident that my husband would base any of his career decisions on me and where I am going. And perhaps I just don't need the pressure of a high power job.  I love my life.  I work hard, I am respected (for the most part), and I can come home at the end of the day and not answer e-mails and phone calls, I can enjoy my husband, our house, our friends, our hobbies, and my pursuit of a Ph.D.  I've achieved all of that, and the best is yet to come.  

Does this mean that the women's revolution has stalled?  I don't believe so.  Rather, women are standing up and saying, yes, we are worthy, yes we CAN do this, but hell no, we don't want it.  We can contribute by being managers who don't spend hundreds of hours more in the office monthly, we can bring our skills and expertise to the party, but still go home and be a part of our own parties.  This is not a weakness.  This is a benefit to all human-kind that women can excel in top leadership positions, but can also choose to contribute in ways that are meaningful for themselves and their own lifestyles.  

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lettin' Our Hair Down

Tequila in Vegas!

So this week has been a tough one at work for both of us.  Pre-cursor to the "wolf moon" full moon - whatever that is?  We went out to dinner with friends, and then for karaoke.  We sang karaoke all night, the remedy to a full work week.  My husband is far better at singing than I am, but once I had a couple Gray Goose on the rocks, I sang really well!  (Well, in my own mind, which is the only thing that counts in karaoke.)  I had to 'rescue' some poor soul whose friends thought it would be funny to put him up to "Like a Virgin," I sang "Before He Cheats" with the girls, "My Humps" just for fun, and "Islands in the Stream" with my husband (which is our wedding song - started as a joke, and we just went with it - it's a song we sing the few times we've done karaoke).  

Okay, so this isn't really germane to leadership or my Ph.D., but well, maybe it is.  Sometimes you just need to let your hair down, dance like no one cares, sing like you are Dolly Parton, and laugh with good friends.  This is what makes a memory.    

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat Food - Real Food

Tapas Bar in Atlanta

I'm lucky enough to be home to watch the entire Oprah - and lucky enough that Michael Pollen, one of my personal heroes is featured today.  A couple of years ago I read his book, "An Eater's Manifesto" and it changed the way I look at food forever.  I've always loved food, let me make that clear.  My parents are both outstanding cooks and we grew up eating, well, pretty much real food.  (Let's clarify, for those of you who don't know, real food is unprocessed, you can pronounce every ingredient, and your great-grandmother would recognize it if you were shopping with her 80 years ago.  This is NOT a low-fat, low-cal, low-carb, whatever, regime, it is about taking back our food supply and declaring that Twinkies, Lean Cuisine, Pepsi, WonderBread, and GoGurt are not real food - I'd go on and on and on - just Google Michael Pollen, or better yet, read one of his amazing books and you'll be a believer.)

I've mentioned before that I hate fast food.  I eat it only under extreme duress (i.e. when we are on a 14-hour road trip that we conquer in one day and I don't want the battle with my husband - who actually does share this food passion of mine - but when you are trying to get to Cali in one day ... you make sacrifices!).  We have become a nation of cheap food and high health care costs - yes, that is the correlation, folks.  That Big Mac and fries, the Big Carl, whatever you can buy on wheels without getting out of your car are killing us ... KILLING US.  You can buy a fast food meal for sometimes less money than a healthy meal, that is what is wrong with America and our health care system. THAT right there, is the solution.  Do you see how this can become a revolution in my mind?

I live in the middle of nowhere, the produce section in our ONE grocery store is no where near to being fresh and delicious.  I shop at organic, whole foods stores whenever I am able to, but I make do.  I am willing to spend more on food, and I'm fortunate enough that I can.  The government has swept this entire 'agricultural' problem under the rug, succumbing to lobbyists, at the expense of our national health.

I love food, I'll say it again.  Real food.  This is the reason I cook every single night, I normally enjoy cooking anyway, but I feel better feeding my husband and me a meal that doesn't come from a box or a 3000-square foot, germ-infested joint.  Take today.  I had an all-day meeting that was at a local hotel (very nice hotel, very nice staff).  Breakfast ... powdered egg omelets, sausage, potatoes drenched in butter (okay, I'll admit, I had 2 sausage links and a small portion of potatoes, and I felt worse from having deviated from my soy milk, tea and nuts selection in the morning).  Lunch - fatty mexican food with tons of cheese, I am a non-cheese and egg eater because I have never enjoyed those foods.  I had a half-portion of rice and some salsa on a few chips.  Break times - chips, candy bars, muffins, danish rolls, then cookies, I didn't even have to fight the urge to eat these things.  I stopped eating desserts and processed sugars over a year ago, and don't miss them a bit.  If I do have half a cookie to satisfy the inner child, my digestive system revolts, so I've learned it isn't worth it.

I am so passionate about this topic.  We have to take back our food supply and stop poisoning ourselves with processed foods, mass animal feedlots, and fast foods.  We have a Farmer's Market for about 3 months here, I take full advantage, but I'm still at the mercy of our local grocery store during the winter months.  I embrace the slow food movement, the organically minded farmers (who are often too poor to get organic certifications but nonetheless do the right thing with their food).  Food is celebration, love, happiness ... put down the Taco Bell and make your own tacos, you'll be amazed at how much better they taste, and more importantly - how you feel.  Try it ...

Soapbox ... now stepping down.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Focus, Focus, Focus!

My husband's surprise birthday party last year ... we have so much fun at our house!

Do you ever have those days when you feel impossibly scattered and cannot imagine that someday you will find something truly worth focusing on?  The more I read, the more I realize how many ideas and ‘things’ are out there (not only that – the more mediocre ‘things’ I find).  How will I make my mark on the world of education/human resources – or for that matter, just make my mark on the world?  The last two weeks have been a blur of interviewing (which I’d mentioned previously is perhaps one of the most depressing tasks an HR professional can undertake during a recession), talent management (still trying to make the concepts fit together and be of benefit to our managers and employees), and school (which is fortunately stimulating enough to keep me working on the previous two items because in the future I won't have to work on said items).  

I surf the internet when I grow frustrated with work, hoping to find a research topic that needs more work, or something that sparks my interest and makes me want to create something new.  This afternoon I went through a path of online teaching and learning, trying to create my own website with Dreamweaver (which I’ve had for nearly 2 years and haven’t gotten past opening a template up and staring blankly at a language that might as well be Latin), and reading research submissions on teaching and learning online.  How do graduate students know which topics to pursue?  I know I’m not the first person to ask this question and I’m certain I’m not unique in my temporarily unfocused fog. 

Is it wrong that a graduate student looks forward to American Idol?  I'm not a teenager hoping to find her next 'puppy love' - just a burnt out HR person looking for pure entertainment that doesn't involve me making a difficult decision (maybe that's the appeal - the four judges NOT ME - are making the tough calls for once!!!!).  

Cheers!  I'm going to go have another glass of Merlot.  Why don't you do the same? 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Morning

Niagara falls, from the Canada side on a beautiful fall day

CBS Sunday Morning is perhaps the most interesting and inspirational television news show produced and delivered.  On the rare weekends we are home, my husband and I watch it in bed together, relishing a lazy Sunday morning.  He is out of town on a guys trip, and I find myself sleeping horribly without him.  I succumbed to the fact that I wasn't getting any more sleep, so I'm watching the show from the couch while I fold laundry (I know, exciting).

What strikes me about this show is that it so positive and uplifting.  Today they are featuring segments on sex addiction (is it really an addiction - or an excuse?  the debate goes on), a bookstore that carries only books by Winston Churchill, a tale of a singer with a beautiful voice and constant pain that doesn't end, and an account of Jean Simmons, who passed away this week.

The stories are thoughtful, and often not on any topic I'd ever consider 'interesting.' Yet the journalists write the stories and weave the tales that draw you in.  I feel more intelligent and happier after watching this show and knowing that these people exist in this world.  Maybe the allure of Sunday Morning is the fact that gossip and celebrity are not featured.  I am not sure how we have become a society so uninterested in our own lives that we hang on every tabloid account of 'Brangelina' (although I heard on the Today show this morning that they are divorcing), and are so desperate to know about the Gosselin's that we turn photographers and gossip columnists into stalkers of seemingly ordinary people.

Above all, Sunday Morning features people who are true leaders, in their own lives, and as role models to others.  The message that you should be yourself and shine in your own light ring true in this journalism.  If only more newscasts could be this positive.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leadership and Delegation

Grapes on the wine ... vineyard north of Atlanta

Tonight was my first conference call for the Ph.D. program.  I admit that I really don't like talking on the phone.  I have a hard time listening, my mind races so quickly and I drift off so easily, so this will be a challenge.  The topic is interesting, my classmates seem to be intelligent and fun, and my professor is one of the best.  The first week of class is always slow, so I have confidence the calls will pick up in the coming weeks and that I will develop better listening skills.

So, leadership ... our organization is working on making managers into less, well, managerial, and more leaders and champions of development.  Difficult road, teaching old dogs new tricks is the cliched analogy that comes to mind.  I'm thinking of how I can be a leader, in my individual contributor role at work, and at home.

I'm also thinking that I'm hungry and that my husband, who goes to the gym after work, while I stay home and study, pretend to use my home gym, make dinner, and take care of household duties, can't make dinner.  I tried to delegate dinner to him Tuesday night, after an evening of studying and answering discussion threads online, and found that I actually had to instruct him while preparing the rest of the dinner around him - while he looked up from trimming the chicken every three seconds at the basketball game, lest we never eat - or get food poisoning.  My husband is a self-proclaimed non-chef, the opposite of me.  We joked, when I went back to school to get my Master's degree, and then my Ph.D., that he'd have to pick up some slack at home, so he said, "Great, I can make dinner, what kind of cereal do you want?"  But it's not a joke, he cannot cook, at all.  And I cannot eat meals that are not prepared fresh - at all.

This brings to mind my view of leadership, and how my role in my organization is probably well-placed.  I am a do-er.  I make things happen.  I love my job, I'm very good at my job, and I've never received anything less than a promotion, or a rare outstanding at each of my performance appraisals.  Being faced this fall with the possibility to be promoted to HR Manager, while knowing I could not move 1500 miles away at the moment, I realized that I might not make the best HR Manager right now.  I am not sure I know how to delegate, how to let go of tasks for which I'm responsible.  I see this in so many ineffective leaders, and I fear this in myself.  This will be something I work on if I want to be a manager/leader.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Composure and Gender

Our firepit in the Gazebo ... on a nice summer evening

So a manager I work with told me a story today about 'tossing papers.'  He was in a heated discussion with another manager, several years ago, and that manager, animated in his anger, tossed the papers from his hands.  At this point, he turned to me and said, "There's only one answer - what do you do here?"  I fumbled, because this is a manger a few levels above me - what the hell IS the right answer here (I might mention that my female boss did NOT answer the question and put me on the line to do it - which is another problem entirely that women do not always support their women cohorts).  I stated, "Well, I'd finish the conversation and pick up the papers when it's done."  EEEHHHHHH ... wrong answer, thanks for playing.  The answer is supposed to be - pick the papers up FIRST, thus making you less likely to punch the other guy's lights out.  Having some moxy, I fired back at him and asked him if he'd ever done this to a female.  He said he had not.  Challenging him further (again, a few levels above me  -gutsy, but he'd had conversations with me about speaking up more, here's the perfect time, careful what you wish for!), I explained my studies on gender, composure, and leadership and said that as a female, I'd never been so angry at someone at work that I wanted to "punch his/her lights out" and that women are much more likely to talk it through and not become so egotistically heated in the first place.

As a female, I've been taught composure, especially at work, lest you look meek or flighty.  This is ridiculous, I've concluded, after reading several accounts of women in leadership roles.  We are taught composure, but also connections.  In this situation, I'd feel better if I finished the conversation, valued the person, then picked up the papers, which most likely are of no consequence because I can reprint them at the touch of a "Control - P."  I walked away feeling that my point had not been made, and that as a young female I'd been dismissed because I could respect a connection and another point of view.  Likely he walked away feeling that HIS point had not been taken that people lose control and need to gain composure.

Perhaps I'm wrong ... but as I've mentioned, I work in HR.  I have, on average, a chance to lose my composure every given 10 minutes or so ... give or take on a good or bad day.  I have spoiled union brats who make tens of thousands more than other people in this country, with barely a high school education, telling me that I'm screwing them over (yes, I personally have that power), I have to tell people they don't have a job because they failed a health or drug screen, I discipline angry people who can't follow rules, and I occasionally have to terminate people who repeatedly or extremely do not follow the rules.  I get angry, of course I get angry.  But I keep it inside until 4:00, when I can get in the car and vent to my husband, come home, have a few glasses of wine and cook the stress away.  That's the way I, and many other women, roll.  We have no other choice.

At this point, I need to tell you that I'm not an angry anti-male feminist.  I have read so many accounts of women before me who shed blood, tears, sweat, their lives for justice - for me - for women everywhere, and I can't let that be for naught.  Women HAVE to be equal in the workplace.  And someone has to stand up and make it right.  I'm working on being that someone ....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Statistics and Such ...

 An attempt to keep my eyes open during a picture ... on a rooftop bar in Atlanta, mid-summer .. perfect night!!  Okay - there WAS wine involved ... for research on my sommelier certification, of course!

I love travel ... I love warm weather ... I love anywhere that isn't Wyoming during the long winter months!  This is the first week of classes, and okay, I'm loving every moment, the discussion threads, the assignments, the books, connecting with people who hold similar interests as I do ... I have meaning in my evening.

We just watched the Wyoming Cowgirls (University of Wyoming - my husband's & my undergrad alma mater) win over BYU, which is always the biggest of victories in a huge rivalry.  Ah, the stats, the three-pointers, the percentage at the 'charity stripe' and all those other cliches that sports talking heads use.  I held off on my guilty pleasure of American Idol, knowing my trusty DVR will take care of my husband's sports distractions (if you are a fellow Gen-X'er, you may remember trying to program a damn VCR, or even having to hit the "record & play" buttons on the first VCR's that weighed about a thousand pounds and top-loaded the $20 VCR tapes - assuming that everyone wanted to watch the same program in the same room ... ahhh, the good ol' days!).  Now, another Mountain West basketball game (men's - not Wyoming) is featured on the living room big screen.  Oh, of COURSE I want to watch American Idol, dear, after a day of working HR, I need the self-esteem boost and measures of laughter that I get from AI ... but I pitifully say, okay, watch another basketball game, that is NOT in HDTV.  When did I go from watching an old 25" that weighed 450 pounds to needing HDTV?  Who knows ... I know that watching trash reality TV is not necessarily good for me, but sometimes necessary to keep me in check!

I had a slight panic at the thought that I'd really need statistics in my Ph.D. journey, but then re-read an educational research text from a class a few semesters ago and realize I have enough knowledge to make me dangerous - and most importantly, effective!  Not to mention that I thrive on Mike & Mike in the morning and their endless stats, wondering 'how do I get this job'?  I could live in Connecticut (lobster, fresh seafood every day - hell yeah!).  I could sum up hundreds of meaningless stats on how one player has only had 12 catches each January since 2005, but only if the temperature is between 35-40 degrees.  I geek out at these stats, so I think I'm going to be just fine.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sensory Overload

Looking out at the Bellagio on a Sunny Day in Vegas

So I had a severe case of "the Mondays" today.  I spent all weekend reading parts of seven different books for my classes, plus two books for pleasure.  Maybe that's not the best approach.  I'm accustomed to reading a few books at a time, but this may have been too much.  After a challenging day at work, I find myself trying hard to concentrate on the new episode of "24" which I don't particularly care for, because the same plot happens every hour - or every weekly show - Jack Bauer turns his back on his work, a terrorist organization blows up, and the government needs his services; someone gets shot and killed, another person gets framed, and someone is working from "the inside."  I do like the fact that Cherry Jones is the president - very woman identified.  But, my husband loves the show, and I love the comfort of being in the same space as he is after a long day, and making snide comments about the Taco Bell Diet, or the Applebee's 'low-cal' menu advertisements.  However, I can't concentrate on my books ... so again, this blog serves as a respite from really thinking too hard!  

I really have to get out of Wyoming soon.  The drudgery of the cold, the rural isolation is slowly sapping my sanity.  I wasn't at all creative with dinner tonight, which is one of the best parts of my day.  Wyoming Winter ... not for the faint of heart, especially since it lasts about 9 months of the year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Word on Cooking ...

I am convinced that if we made and ate more pot-stickers that we'd be a happier species.  Am I the only one???  Okay, so I bought the gyoza wrappers, I am a self-professed chef and believe in making as much as I can from scratch, but living at 6300 feet poses problems on the cooking/baking front (okay - a feeble excuse, but really quite valid if you've had to do it).  Preparing the filling - ground pork, green onions, Sambal Obleek (watch out - this ingredient is Hot and Spicy!), soy sauce - filling the wrappers and sealing them carefully ... ahhh, serenity.  I normally steam them for about 15 minutes (high desert - remember, takes longer to boil water and cook everything), but tonight I tried something new, I fried them in canola oil for a few minutes, then added chicken stock and steamed them for another 5 or so minutes.  Divine ... delicious ... I'm still happy while they are swimming in my stomach!

We rarely - RARELY - have lazy weekends.  In fact, prior to New Year's Eve, we had traveled 18 weeks in a row (sports, weddings, vacation, work  - I ought not complain because my life is really pretty great), but the past three weekends at home have been a treat.  I've been reading my Ph.D. books like crazy and loving every moment, while nestled into my "cozy corner" of our sectional couch, watching football (just the exciting moments), and stopping to create something fabulous in my kitchen.

I read Ellen Langer's Mindfulness, which is a great concept, but a pretty boring read.  I also have two other books of hers, more recent, in the queue.  Let's hope they are more stimulating.  Reading various books on leadership - ethics, women, and E.Q. - is enlightening.  I am excited to share my thoughts with my fellow classmates.

Gearing up for a busy and hectic week at work -interviewing (inarguably one of my least favorite activities, especially in the desperate economic times of our country) and talent management, which might be okay, except that the managers I interview are all white males in their late 50's and 60's, thus making me feel somehow inadequate, even though I know deep inside that I am intelligent and can contribute.  But, this is a but a stepping stone to a life more enlightened and enriched, one where I can live on the beach, write powerful non-fiction books, and empower others through teaching online, this is my dream ... that, and making pot-stickers regularly to nourish my body and soul.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where Do I Start?

Uh-oh ... this blog is now becoming a main source to procrastination!  I have three syllabi with assignments laid out, all my books sitting beside me, and I don't know where to start!

I'll get there, I really will.  First I have to finish cleaning up from the party last night, watch "He's Just Not That Into You" for the 27th time, flip through Julie Powell's new book Cleaving, and take out the garbage.  I really will start reading and working on assignments soon!  Maybe I am suddenly afraid that I won't succeed?

Nawwww, I know that's not true.  Okay, I will get started.  After the movie ....

A While Later ....
Ha!  I did my first assignment for Web Design & Management, which was tricker than expected, but simple once I figured it out.  Create my own website ... of course, it took me half an hour to read through the instructions and syllabus and understand this new language.  I consider myself to be computer savvy, and most people in my office call me before they call IT to help them navigate computer issues, but learning website design is going to be a whole challenge on its own.  But I conquered the first step.  Ah, small amount of pride is felt in my heart!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens ...

Okay, so a few of my favorite things:

  • Going to Paso Robles, California in February to visit our friends and tour wineries all weekend (and getting to sample wines right in the barrel at different life stages)
  • Hosting a party at my house and cooking all afternoon
  • Getting syllabi for my classes starting next week

Well, the first one is probably a favorite for many people - who doesn't love California, drinking wine in the morning, afternoon, and evening, eating fresh organic food, and relaxing in the sunshine?  No one is unhappy in wine country.  Enough said.

Hosting a party - okay, I know that makes some people queasy, but to me, nothing is better than having friends in our house, feeding them delicious food and libations until they burst, talking and laughing well into the night.  I love my house, and I never sweat the fact that it is not squeaky clean (like my mom & grandma keep theirs), but it is comfortable and everyone always has a good time.  By the way, I'm not a recipe cook, I fare far better to use a recipe as a springboard, but go my own way.  Today I decided to tackle Julia Child's (my personal hero) Boeuf Bourguignon (yeah, I had to Google the spelling).  Well, I made a few modifications, like corn starch instead of flour, because a celiac is on the guest list and I am sensitive to people's food allergies (having my own food aversions - like cheese and eggs), and I more than doubled the recipe, since there will be 12 of us, but so far, the smell is out of this world.  It took me an hour and a half to assemble the main part of the delicious beef, red wine, vegetable stew.  It will spend 3 hours baking in its own gloriousness, then another hour to finish up.  But I fear not, cooking is one of the most relaxing things I can think of!

Let's hop to the syllabi part ... I was delighted, almost giddy, when I downloaded the syllabi, schedules, and supporting information from the online learning site for my 3 Ph.D. classes, combing through the assignments, logging them into a big spreadsheet that helps keep me organized on due dates, and reveling in the fact that once again, I will have something more meaningful than watching American Idol to occupy my evenings in this cold winter high desert rural area in which I currently live and work.  I'm feeling a little geeked out, but I am going to embrace what I love to do.  No longer will I be ashamed that I cannot snow ski, hunt, or sit in the snow.  Here I go!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Reading ...

I kid you not ... I have 22 books flanking my relaxed state of existence on our huge sectional sofa (books that need to be temporarily relocated for tomorrow nights' party - I love hosting parties, so my books are often relegated to one side of our unexpectedly large living room).  Books I have ordered from, some for my Ph.D. class, some for my own enlightenment (beyond the Ph.D.), some for history, a couple for cooking and wine (my true passion), and a few delicious non-fiction entertainment books.  What is it about books that makes me so passionate?  I'm glad I have a passion, let me say, because for years I wondered what was wrong with me!  People in Wyoming snow-ski (too cold and too dangerous for my taste), hunt (seriously not my thing, I don't care for wild game, getting up early and camping in the cold), bowl (too smoky), run (again, not coordinated enough and not blessed with great joints) ... I have to accept that my passion is reading, writing, researching and learning.  School starts on Tuesday, and I could not be happier.

I commented to my husband tonight that I simply MUST go to some kind of cooking school because I am so uninspired in the kitchen of late, which is one of my strengths and loves.  He commented that I would be busy enough taking 9 credit hours of Ph.D. work next week.  I still don't think the work will push me to my limits, though.  I am confident that I will get everything done to exceed my own expectations ... with a small caveat that I feel like I should have a nagging feeling that I will meet my match soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the Movies - Women as Leaders

As I gleefully made dinner in my kitchen (favorite room in the house, other than the bedroom), I watched "Baby Boom" on my new flat-screen TV (Christmas present from my wonderful husband).  This movie has to be what, 1987 (thanks!).  Over 20 years ago!  Diane Keaton ends up giving up a potential partnership in a law firm when she adopts her cousin's abandoned baby and finds she cannot balance the extreme workload of a woman lawyer - while she sees men with families (or without) leapfrog over her.  She ends up moving to the country, starting a profitable business for which she has a passion, and meeting a man who is not threatened by a woman who can take charge.

Then I got to thinking about the movies I watched & loved growing up, the female leaders that inspired me and let me know that it was okay to pave your own way:

St. Elmo's Fire (1985) - Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham - all made it possible to finish college and find her own career, even when it meant choosing career over men.

Top Gun (1986) - Kelly McGillis as a top-secret clearance teacher in a man's military world, excellent!

Beaches (1988) - Barbara Hershey as an attorney and single mom who learns how to let go and be more like the free-spirited, whimsical Bette Midler

A League of Their Own (1992) - Women playing a man's sport during a time when women were relegated to the kitchen?  Surely, you jest (I jest - and you can stop calling me Shirley).  Women were every bit as good - and profitable - as the boys.  Strong women characters stepping up when there was a need.

Sex & the City (1998 - 2004 episodes, 2008 movie) - The culmination of decades of women making it on their own, this series and movie exemplify women who aren't afraid to have ambition and success.

I know I will think of a hundred other movies that I loved growing up - and you will too - that weren't on this immediate list from my recent memory.  The point is, we've got role models - we just have to continue believing we can make every bit as much of a contribution.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Enlightened Power

Switching topics ... reading Enlightened Power: How Women are Transforming the Practice of Leadership (because I simply cannot read just one book at a time), I am inspired by the women who have paved the way for me to occupy a position of a professional, with potential for leadership and a Ph.D.  This is something that rarely happened in my mother's lifetime, and even more rarely in my grandmothers' lifetimes.  My mom worked at home, nurturing my dad, my sister and I, and encouraging us to be our best.  I often wonder how lonely that life was, even though she always has seem so fulfilled.  My dad's mom had to find gainful employment, as a widowed women, in the early 1970's and took on one of the few professions women had access to - nursing.  I can appreciate my ancestry and I look forward to the future for me, and my own daughters, who, in theory, should no longer be bound by a glass ceiling.

I still feel a glass ceiling exists, echoed by the concepts presented in Enlightened Power, even though research has proved, time and again, that women who occupy positions of power benefit their companies in profits and satisfaction for all employees.  I'm not a 'raging feminist' - rather an equal opportunist, who believes women deserve the same shot that men have enjoyed since the relative birth of humankind.  In the field of manufacturing and mining, where men are the dominant force, I strive to help women rise to power, so we can help be leaders of all those under us.  Mining, engineering, science are traditionally male-dominated fields, thus exhibited by the 90% male workforce at my plant and mine site.  In my position as an HR professional and talent management keeper, I need to put women in the forefront, and encourage our bright women engineers to grow and develop to positions of power, for the good of all.

Another issue highlighted in this book was the fact that women worldwide are subject to horrors that Western women often do not know (a topic that Oprah Winfrey has taken on, as well as Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn have studied and written about).  Kristoff and WuDunn's Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide inspired me to lend to women half-way across the world in the form of micro-loans, and I am sponsoring a rape victim in Africa for only $12 a month.  Research study upon research study shows that when women earn money and gain power, they are able to save for their own education and that of their children's (whereas men who earn money are likely to spend it on beer and frivolous expenditures that do not benefit humankind). When women are educated, economies are lifted to heights not known under strictly-men regimes.  How can we ignore half of our society, as we have done for centuries?  We cannot - is the answer.  Lifting women to power and leadership helps all of the world.  This is not about eliminating male power and domination, it is about equality and economic success for the entire planet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

For the Love of Books

Because the temperature hovers near zero in Wyoming today, I chose to remember this perfect sunset in California on our annual trip to visit friends in beautiful, idyllic wine country. I am also burying my nose in books.

Having no desire to set foot into the frozen tundra, I finished Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and began Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, which was a pleasant surprise waiting at home for me last night, along with the four other books for my Ph.D. program.

I have always loved books. My first memories were reading Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop to my younger sister, listening to my parents read me Maurice Sendak's wildly brilliant Where the Wild Things Are, and going to our small local library for story hour.  I cherished books from the time I first remembered having them.  As I grew up, I would devour pre-teen novels until the wee hours of the morning, thinking nothing of getting up, going to school and not being sleepy all day.    Then books became an escape when my early adult years disappointed me, and eventually a way out of the darkness.

Now books are a vehicle to a more enriched and enlightened life.  I have developed a fondness for non-fiction, and I really can't explain why.  I started with chefographies, with my love of all things food and wine, moved into social science (Malcolm Gladwell, Nassim Nicholas Taleb), and then into world causes (Kristoff's Half the Sky).  Learning how others live, love, and long inspires me.

Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat is, so far, an excellent read, a stir-fry of cultures globalizing into a world of possibility.  I steadfastly refuse to get a Kindle, or any other electronic reading device, because I love the feel of books, the smell of them, the thrill of having a box of books delivered to my doorstep, and the comfort of having books surrounding me in the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, my office.  I am not sure exactly when I embraced my grandfather's disdain of technology moving too fast, but in this case, I must admit - he's right!  I read newspapers online, I'd love to read them over breakfast, but we leave too early for work to be able to read a newspaper (not to mention that our local papers are nothing but unabashed amateur attempts at fledgling journalism), but I can't make the leap to online books.  Books are like friends, and while we are digitizing even our friends and relationships, I will hold onto my books with a loving, but firm and feisty, grasp.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Less than two weeks until I start my classes. Why am I so excited and restless? The hundreds of pages of theory, the models with squares and arrows, staying up late to write another paper and check another dozen journal articles ... that's why!

More accurately, I believe the reinforcement I get from interacting with a forum of people who share my passion and professors who stretch me to learn more, research more, and think more critically drives me more than most things in my life.

For now, I'll settle back and read this week's bit of non-fiction, Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project."

Surf's up in San Diego on a beautiful sunny fall day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Have I Done?

Serendipitously, while in the midst of an agonizing decision between a big promotion to a city on the east coast, one I knew I could not take now, I stumbled upon a Ph.D. program in Education and Human Resources from Colorado State University, where I'd just earned my Master's degree. The thought of leaving the rural barren desert tundra (I, a water-lover, living most of my life in a western landlocked square state) for a city of culture, endless restaurants of merit, and possibilities of which I can't possibly dream made me blissfully happy. My family, with different circumstances and in different places in life for the moment, did not share my enthusiasm.

Starting my Ph.D. is a way for me to buy a few more years for them to accept my desire to live more adventurously outside the lonely and limiting state of Wyoming, while gaining more marketable skills for myself and thus avoiding the woe is me trap, under which I knew I'd eventually rest if left in a limbic mode.

I am registered to take three classes, starting in just two weeks, two of which I've already read the textbooks, and the third have books on the way, thanks to the saving grace of (because living 200 miles away from the nearest Barnes & Noble or any bookstore of stature can be very isolating). I am standing on the precipice of a lot of work, all of which I don't fully realize (being able to over-estimate my ability to get any job done that I set out to do), all while continuing to work full-time in human resources.

This blog will chronicle my journey, the ups, and I'm guessing, the many downs, of pursuing a terminal academic degree in a specialized concentration. I'm up for the challenge, though, and believe I can make important advances in my field of study.