Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Ups and Downs


My kitchen, the soul of my house ...

Widely known, I am not the keeper of the remote control, unless I am the only one in the house.  We are watching C-SPAN, a channel I wasn't even really sure we had, but let's face it, we have DirecTV, there are thousands of channels of which I'm not aware.  Is this the evening of a historical event of national health care, or yet another path that stops short?  I will not voice my opinion either way.  I am in awe of our elected officials, who can sit in one room and duke it out with one another for hours (did they take a dinner break, is my only question - since dinner is my favorite time of day!).  We have flipped back and forth for the past two hours and not a long break has yet been taken (the NCAA's are the other channel of choice, but so many bracket-busters have shot our chances at small gambling glory that even the most diehard of sports fans - my husband - has given to flipping the channels).  

Obviously I am procrastinating on my research paper, which has about 25 juried references, and about 30 pages thus far, but not a whole lot of solutions on how to empower women to propel the women's movement forward in business.  One glaring solution is to jump ship and become an entrepreneur, but women still face a daunting task in starting their own companies; customers, creditors, vendors - all still have bias against women.  And one's own business is hardly an answer to a better work-life balance.  This paper seems bleak, and I'm tired of bleakness.  I don't necessarily face a glass ceiling, except for the fact that I not mobile for a couple more years.  Hence the Ph.D., a way to gain more skills in one location.  I am surrounded by classmates, more specifically teammates, who don't want to contribute to our team projects, which is a concept I abhor.  One teammate has been invaluable, sharing the same morals and ethics as I.  The other two have only complained about their lack of involvement, and yet two weeks later, after I assured them that their voice is welcomed and appreciated, have yet to hear more from them.  The paper is due Thursday, and I won't send out another notice.  I'll edit and post again, and I know one teammate will respond.  At that point, we're turning it in.  I'm not baby-sitting graduate students when I pay to go to graduate school.  

So yet another down in this Ph.D. journey.  I started an online class last week about writing and publishing non-fiction books, if I can publish my own book and have success, no ... WHEN I publish my own book and have success I don't know what opportunities await me.  But I know they will be fantastic!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Paths We Travel

Can one ever grow tired of watching "Top Gun"?  Every time I find it on the DirecTV, I feel compelled to watch this brilliant piece of cinematic history, now over 25 years old.  Childhood favorites never rot in our memories.

It's been four years since I made a life-changing decision to move to an even-further-in-the-middle-of-nowhere place in Wyoming.  I am reflecting today on the leap of blind faith I took, and the fact that I turned down a job at Microsoft in Seattle to do so.  The company I joined, however, has treated me far beyond what I'd ever expected.  I got a Master's degree from a top tier university and am continuing on to get a Ph.D., all while working.  I have grown and developed my skills in ways I'd never imagined.  I get paid well, enough to pay my bills and travel and learn more.  Yet I'm still restless.  I want more, need more, and keep hounding myself in a relentless pursuit of development.  I would never have achieved what I have had I stayed at the hospital.  I have opportunities and chances beyond my wildest dreams, the hard part is having to balance the family decisions as well.

I can't be sad, though, for the path I've chosen has opened up windows of opportunity.  I stand at the precipice of greatness, all within my power to continue to do more.  Not bad for being 34 and sometimes optimistic.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Would You Do?

As promised, I am chronicling the ups AND downs of my Ph.D. program.  Halfway through the first semester I had a small meltdown this morning.  Let me explain ...

Group work is oddly a part of distance education.  I should do a study on how effective this method is, because in my three years of online experience, I can answer with a resounding negative.  Working in the "real" world, I have no problem with teamwork.  I do just fine.  Working with students who are not always as invested in school as they are as their jobs, I have had nothing but problems.  For the past three weeks my group has been working on a project together.  Two of us have contributed with thoughtful discussion, sound research and timely communication.  Two of us (actually two of them, not me) have not.  As my other teammate and I moved forward, not wanting to wait until the last minute and not devote proper time and attention to the project.  The other two chimed in, now 9 days later, and 2 weeks before the project is due, to complain that they felt left out.  Left out?  Really?  We used two forms of communication to reach them, e-mail and the discussion threads set up for this purpose.  We continually asked them for their input and suggestions, only to be ignored.  Now they feel left out?  

I have no tolerance for laziness and excuses.  We cannot use the "I'm just so busy" excuse any longer.  I work full-time, 40-50 hours a week, in fact, I am taking 3 3-credit graduate-level courses online, and I have a family and home to care for, and my own hobbies and interests, as most people do.  If you want to play in the grown-up world, you'd better be prepared to make some sacrifices, which these two teammates have not done.  If you don't want to pull your weight, fine, I'll do the work so that it gets done to my standards.  But when you start complaining, especially to the professor, that you feel left out because you CHOOSE not to log on to the discussion threads for over a week, I have nothing but stern consternation and rabid disgust for you.  However, today I was the bigger person.  I assured these missing-in-action teammates that they should still contribute and that we were not trying to exclude them.  I wanted to let it go.  I really did.  I also know that unless by some grace of good fortune they are washed out of a program they are not intellectually or emotionally capable of completing, that I may have to work with them in the next four years.  

However, this is something that I will add to a course evaluation, and I abide by the rule that if something is wrong, I need to tell the instructor before I write it on an evaluation.  I fear that she will think I'm being pedantic and aggressive, so I merely told my side, asking her not to solve the problem but rather to hear my side.  I know far too well about the 'squeaky wheel' adage.  

What would you do when faced with a situation you need to exert influence over but actually have very little influence?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Women and Leadership ... continued

As I continued research for my professional paper, which I hope will eventually become my dissertation, I am coming to some theories about women and leadership.  And those theories are - no two cases are alike.  I've read the about the feminist revolution and how women decades, centuries before me fought bravely and selflessly to advance women's rights.  Am I doing them a disservice if I don't take the fruits of their labors and fight for my own role as a leader?  What happens when women just don't feel like fitting into the "man's" world to succeed?  And are we seeing a new revolution in women's rights as we march firmly into the 21st century?

I don't necessarily feel like I'm held back at work because of my gender.  I've been given many great opportunities to grow and develop.  Yet I long for the independence of my own business (yet to be determined what that is).

I feel like I've taken a step back, not a step forward, while starting this Ph.D. program.  I'm frustrated with one of my classes because of the group work.  I certainly don't mind playing with others and I do find value in learning from people, but when my grade depends on it, and my team mates don't prioritize school the why I do, I want to shut down.  I have to balance being a leader and getting the work done with being the aggressive bitch who constantly pushes to get her way and get the papers done ahead of schedule and to higher standards.  Quite frankly, I do not like this role.  I love school, I love research and learning, but group work with people scattered across the country is testing my every last nerve.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Women

A hunting/fishing trip (that was hard on my civilization-starved soul) - I was the only one who killed anything!

After spending 2 1/2 hours trying to find the link to my favorite journal database this morning so I could gather more articles on women and leadership, I succumbed to the girl movies.  I had wisely DVR'd "The Women" in anticipation of a long weekend at home alone.  (Yes, I realize the movie is two years old, I don't get out much.)  The movie was strongly woman-identified, women with powerful careers, who ended up not needing men, as well as the older generation woman who grew up to realize that she never accomplished anything on her own.  At the end of the movie, watching the credits, I realized - there were no men shown in the movie.  None.  Not the husbands, not the bosses, not men on the street, there weren't even any little boys in the movie, until the baby boy born at the end.  And I didn't even realize it until I read the credits.  Brilliant.  I think it's a bold statement to have a movie all about women that focuses ON women and relationships.  

Is the power shifting?  Have women 'arrived'?  I think there are strong role models out there for women, but we still have a long way to go before equity prevails.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Musicals

Winery in Paso Robles, CA on a beautiful February day

We're weaning ourselves off of American Idol.  I love Ellen DeGeneres, but even she cannot save this sinking grease-fire of a ship.  Instead, we are watching West Side Story on TCM.  Don't you think if people watched, and believed in the magic of musicals, we'd all be a happier people?  Who's with me?  Even the rumbles on West Side Story seem benign to the horrors endured by people around the world today.  

I started reading Greg Mortenson's Stones into School, making education - especially for girls - paramount in a world riddled with bombs and war in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  I wish I could do great things like Oprah, Mortenson, or Kristoff, or Friedman, visiting the most desolate of our world's populations and making a difference.  I'm terrified to travel to these third world countries, especially as a woman after reading the horrifying accounts of rape and violence so prevalent amongst the most uneducated, self-righteous wings.  I want to make a difference somehow, and I hope that idea will spring into my mind soon.  

Musicals do make a statement though ... Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera - all versions of Romeo and Juliet.  A Chorus Line, just good inspirational viewing. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original) ... please, this is happiness, folks.  Annie, people can make a difference outside their family tree.  Les Miserables, poverty versus good and evil.  Miss Saigon, a political war statement.  I could go on and on about the merits of musicals.  If you have satellite radio, listen to the Broadway channel someday - without judgement or preconceived notions, and tell me you don't want to sing along (even if you are not an avid musical fan, you will recognize Ethel Merman, or the cast from Oklahoma - all embedded in pop culture), because musicals are happiness, even when they convey a sad message.  We can learn from musicals ... I'm telling you ...