Working Women Stuck In The Middle – What Would You Do?

source: artist: graur razvan ionut I read “Speaking While Female” in the NY Times today, and felt a mixture of recognition, relief, frustration, and depression. Recognition – the stories told were all too familiar. Relief – that it wasn’t just me. Frustration – that nobody else seems to have solved the problem either. And depression – because it doesn’t seem like this is a problem that is going to change within my lifetime.

There’s this example from the article, to start. Something very similar happened to me at a meeting, just within the last week (not for the first time, either):

When a woman speaks in a professional setting … either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea.

It’s pretty frustrating to experience. If it happens too often, it’s easy to become demoralized and think “Why bother?”.

And even more depressing was this:

When male employees contributed ideas that brought in new revenue, they got significantly higher performance evaluations. But female employees who spoke up with equally valuable ideas did not improve their managers’ perception of their performance. Also, the more the men spoke up, the more helpful their managers believed them to be. But when women spoke up more, there was no increase in their perceived helpfulness.

So what is a woman to do? Speak up and be punished for upsetting the established power dynamic, or stay silent and locked in the status quo? Talk about a no-win situation. It’s no wonder that a woman has to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man.

Some have suggested the way out is for more women to start their own businesses. When you’re the boss, after all, the power dynamic is in your favor. And that solution may work for some women, but it doesn’t solve the issue for existing organizations.

Some companies (like Google) are starting to implement processes to try to deflect this built-in bias, but it remains to be seen if those tactics will work.

In the meantime, we working women are stuck in the middle.

What would you do?

What People Get Wrong About Google Glass

Woman wearing Google Glass With the first wave of Google Glass out in the hands of Google I/O attendees and other early adopters, there’s been a lot of debate about the role of Glass in the future.

In the last few years, there’s been a big surge in wearable computing in the health and fitness field. And another one in smartphone apps that leverage the phone’s accelerometer, GPS, and gyroscope to bring the physical world closer to the online world.

Even casual joggers don’t think twice today about using a heart rate monitor when they’re exercising today. Fitness enthusiasts are tracking themselves 24 hours a day, sharing the data with their friends, and debating whether the Jawbone Up or the Fitbit Flex is the better monitoring tool. Using a smartphone app to get realtime turn-by-turn directions is table stakes. So why does Glass cause angst?

My colleague Christian Cantrell thinks the problem is the built-in camera, calling it “one of Glass’s biggest barriers to adoption” and I think he’s got a point.

By putting a camera right up by your face where everyone can see it, you’re raising awareness of the pervasiveness of cameras and video in ways that other forms of technology don’t. It’s not that Glass is all that much more invasive, it just feels that way.

It seems to me that a lot of the debate about the camera misses the point. Google Glass in its current form is quite likely not the shape of computing to come. The important thing about Glass is what it represents as a milepost along the path to the mainstreaming of wearable computing.

I’m eager to try out Glass at some point. But even more, I’m eagerly looking forward to what wearable computing will look like a few years from now – because I’m pretty sure it will owe a lot to Glass, even if it looks completely different.

Lessons From the Master: Making Learning More Fun

One of the benefits to working where I do is getting to learn from some amazing people while on the job. Last week, I had the great pleasure of hearing the inimitable Russell Brown share his thoughts on making learning fun.

If you don’t know who that is, this is Russell:

Russell Brown @ AdobeMAX
Russell Brown @ AdobeMAX

And what Russell is know for more than anything is his brilliant, funny, and engaging teaching style. So getting to hear him talk about how to do what he does is a real privilege. True to form, Russell showed up for the class in full Abe Lincoln regalia and proceeded to talk for the next 50 minutes with just a stack of paper and a screen projector (plus a few prizes) to help him out.

Amidst the schtick and the fun, I came away with some great ideas. I’ve boiled it down to three key takeaways, all closely interrelated:

Technology is a Crutch

Russell gave his session assisted only by a screen projector, and he did it to make a point. As great as all of today’s tools are, they’re just tools. Relying on them too much gets in the way of a good presentation, because learning is about a lot more than just pretty pictures on a screen. Really effective communication engages all the senses.

There’s also the secondary benefit that if you’re not overly dependent on technology, if for some reason you run into a technology fail (no wifi, laptop crash, forgot your dongle, etc) you’ll still be able to do your thing.

Make It Fun

“Any presentation can be a success if you can get your audience to laugh three times” – Russell attributed this quote to our co-founder Chuck Geschke. It goes beyond just getting people to laugh, though. It’s about keeping them relaxed, engaged in the moment, and open to learning. There’s always the risk that you’ll take it too far and people will have so much fun they’ll forget to learn something, but since most of us are not Russell Brown, the risk is far higher that you’ll just bore everyone and lose them that way.

This is especially true today, when it takes just a few seconds to switch focus from a boring presentation to an unending stream of email, twitter, Facebook, news, and more. Make it fun and they’ll keep their phones in their pockets and their attention on the topic.

Get Interactive

Using interactive and analog components not only keeps people engaged, but it gives them a goal to aim for and increases how well they retain information. Russell talked a lot about how he brings in real-world components to his training classes, so that there’s a tangible result to their digital efforts at the end of the day.

This is where technology is not a crutch, but a great addition to learning. How much more engaging is it to not only create a design, but to imprint it onto an actual teapot that you can take home at the end of the day? Wouldn’t that inspire you to try harder in class?

Image credit: Cindy Li

Ultimately, all of this serves the goal of getting people to remember more of the lessons you just taught them.

The last takeaway Russell shared was to know your audience. Ninja cutouts hanging from the ceiling and a crazy costume might not go over so well if you’re presenting to a room full of lawyers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your session. Just do it in a way that will work for your audience.

So how are you going to make YOUR next presentation more fun?

Facebook: A New Google or a new AOL?

As the dawn of Facebook as a publicly-traded company breaks, a few thoughts amidst all the hype.

It’s the beginning of a whole new chapter for Facebook, and I’m not so sure that their road will be as smooth as some have predicted. Robert Scoble, for example, thinks Facebook could be a trillion dollar company in five years.

Well, it could happen. But for Facebook to continue that kind of trajectory, they’re going to need to sustain a huge amount of growth. There’s only a few options that will get them there at that kind of scale. The most obvious are either successfully ramping up their number of users, or successfully ramping up revenue per user.

New markets, and loads of new users in those markets, are possible. China’s problematic, but India is certainly in play, as well as plenty of other nations. Can one social network can serve the needs and interests of so many different cultures? I have my doubts, but it could happen if Facebook invests enough brainpower into internationalization and localization of their site. (Hint: content translation is the start, not the end, of that journey).

If they can’t grow revenue enough through new members, then there’s always the path of extracting more revenue from the userbase. Which means either more advertising or finding things that users are going to be willing to pay Facebook for. This is where things get more problematic. For one thing, there’s only so much advertising users are willing to put up with. And while I’m sure Facebook would love to do more with Facebook Credits, to date they haven’t had much success on that front.

And there’s one other thing to consider when it comes to advertising. Competition. Facebook isn’t the only game in town when it comes to digital dollars. Google is right up there as well.

Advertisers now have more choices for where to direct their digital dollars – which means Facebook (and Google for that matter) will have to do more work to get and keep those advertisers. The news that GM is dropping all Facebook advertising is a clear sign that they are not going to be able to just sit back and collect cash.

It’s great for those of us in marketing. Not so great for Google and Facebook’s profit margins.

And this is where Google has an advantage over Facebook. Advertising is their cash cow, but they have had time to grow and diversify in ways that Facebook hasn’t. As big a success as Facebook is, they’re much more of a one-trick pony than Google.

Facebook is going to have a huge IPO and a great run in the near term, no question about it. But there’s still a long road before them, and no guarantees. Remember that AOL was once valued at $160+ billion. Where it is today?

Dear Blogger

Dear Blogger,

I get it. Really, I do. It’s a tough world out there and your personal brand won’t build itself. You need to be aggressive about building out your customer base. Upselling opportunities are important, and there’s no better time to do it than when a prospect is engaged with your content.

But here’s a very important point to remember: when the VERY FIRST thing someone sees when they come to your website is a full-page takeover with a marketing message, it is not smart marketing. It is greedy and short sighted.

You were smart enough to create content that someone recommended – that’s how I came to your site. Stay smart and let that content do its job before you ask a visitor to engage with you more deeply.

I’m seeing aggressive takeovers on page load happen more and more these days. Maybe you think that “the other sites are doing it” and that you should too, but please, don’t. It just make you look like you care more about me as a sales prospect than anything else.


The visitor who just left your site thinking worse, not better, of you.