There are so many remarkable women who have played crucial roles in defining the world we live in and have contributed to making it a better place, whether through politics, science, medicine, sports or other industries. However, it still astounds me that there are fewer women in computer science and technology than men and less women taking STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.
The Women of World event at EMC World is a celebration of inspirational women and a chance for women in technology to come together, to network and share experiences with like-minded individuals. I was fortunate enough to host the panel at Women of World this year and the panelists were three extremely inspiring and very unique women: Nina Tandon, CEO and co-founder of Epibone, a company that is literally growing human bone, Molly Fletcher, former sports agent who CNN described as the female “Jerry Maguire,” and Rosario Marin, former Treasurer of the United States. All three are also published authors.
Each woman clearly has her own very distinct area of expertise, – spanning the diverse fields of biotechnology, sports and politics – but they all shared the common thread of having blazed new trails in their industries, meeting challenges head-on and coming out triumphant.
Speaking to an audience of more than 240 female and male EMC World attendees, each described their own account of their journey to success. These often moving stories talked of facing fears, forgiveness of ones failings and reframing problems. They encouraged all of us to go out and do the same regardless of gender.
I couldn’t help asking Molly how she dealt with athletes in the male-dominated sporting world who balked at the thought of working with a female agent. Her secret was to always have something up her sleeve that they wouldn’t expect her to know – like a wealth of baseball stats. She used the information as a conversation starter in order to reframe the situation from being perceived as an outsider to positioning herself as an equal and valuable person at the table. All the panelists agreed that ‘reframing’ the situation is a very powerful tool and applies to the world of business and technology just as well.
Nina shared a poignant story about applying for a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The role of a Director at the MIT Media Lab seemed a far reach from her scientific/biomedical lab research background, but mentors in her life encouraged her to do it. She ended up being one of the top three candidates for the position. She wasn’t selected, but the experience opened her eyes to her true potential and taught a life lesson about mentally reframing her sense of self. Don’t let yourself be limited by parameters that don’t actually exist.
Similarly, Rosario encouraged the audience to aim high but also to give yourself a break. As she explained, everyone has done, regularly does, or will do something that doesn’t come out as expected and suddenly becomes their own worst critic, even a United States’ Treasurer. “We are our own worst critics. Learn to forgive yourself.”
When I asked Rosario how she dealt with other critics, she said “You know I just don’t care about them. Do what you need to do and what you think is right.” The response from the audience was audible – everyone clearly agreed.
Nina’s top tip was “Life is a marathon. Never forget the long view.” She explained that running and yoga can be a framework for understanding the world. “I ask myself, ‘what would I care about if I was 103?’” she said. This perspective ensures that she is minimizing the amount of regret in life.
While this event was initially an opportunity to simply bring more female voices into the conversation at EMC World, the advice that Nina, Molly, and Rosario shared goes far beyond gender. Inspiration comes in many forms and from many sources.