Reports of Women Being Like Men are Greatly Exaggerated


I've been considered too globally-minded for the local market, too Italian at times for the US, too woman for operating in a man's world, whatever that means, and too Liberal Arts-schooled for being immersed in technology.

Not that any of that has slowed me down… it just means it takes longer for people to see me.

While technology is helping us notice how everything is connected, there is still so much to figure out. Especially in the nuances of execution, where innovation sits, unexplored. Consider, for example, what Marie Curie did after Henry Bequerel discovered that uranium salts emitted rays that resembled x-rays in 1896.

Using an electrometer her husband and brother invented, she demonstrated that the activity of the uranium compound, what she termed radiation, was not the outcome of some interaction of molecules, but must come from the atom itself. Which meant opening up other possibilities in the field.

Curie was acutely aware of needing to publish her discoveries to establish herself and her role in the field of chemistry. Even so, she was beaten in attention by Gerhard Schmidt, who had published his own finding in Berlin. From the Wikipedia entry:

[…] no one else in the world of physics had noticed what Skłodowska–Curie recorded in a sentence of her paper, describing how much greater were the activities of pitchblende and chalcolite compared to uranium itself.

Her initiative, her ability to see beyond the obvious, allowed for further discovery of the polonium and radium.

In an unusual decision, Marie Skłodowska–Curie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered.

Thanks to Curie not being territorial, researchers were encouraged to continue the exploration she had started. That is the best example I could find of starting an open source movement that helped technology greatly, before we even had technology the way we think about it today.

Reports of women being like men are greatly exaggerated

And the world doesn't need the kind of competition our differences have suggested in some environments, like the tech space.

I've been invited to present at Ignite Austin about my vision for women in tech in 2021. As I was thinking about an appropriate story to tell, I thought about Marie Curie and her discovery. The nuance the world almost missed, until she proved it and published her results.

She understood that publishing was key to being heard. She built on the work of her mentor and teacher. Then realized she had so much more to say and enrolled someone else — and generations after him — as collaborator to push the research further.

My mentors have helped me emerge and express myself by sharing their thinking frameworks with me, and encouraging me to push the boundaries.  We have reached such a level of complexity, that we could literally take turns mentoring each other. And indeed we must.

Technology makes the process of becoming connected minds easier.

We're so used to seeing the male role model of leadership that we totally miss what the female model looks like. You cannot expect someone to accept something they don't see, and thus understand. That starts with us — with women — making that realization. And being active in publishing their voice.

Tech 2021: uploading humanism

It's a lofty title. My vision for the future of women in tech is a vision for the future of tech. The Ignite format of 20 slides, each advancing every fifteen seconds, was a challenge until I looked at it as just a delivery mechanism, and my message as the atom, that will hopefully inspire further.

Here's the description I submitted:

OF COURSE there are women in tech, and their agenda is precisely the same as men.

The shift will occur when instead of thinking — and talking about — the inherently sexist idea of women (or men) in tech, we focus instead on the co-creation aspects. Think of that as the creative spirit, which traditionally is expressed in feminine poetic terms.

THAT is what we need. Balanced humanism is what we need as active agent in increasing the options, choices, and possibilities of others. That is what technology wants.

Hope to see you there tonight. Even if you may not see my abstract on the list. Somehow, my abstract was dropped from the ones being posted. I have a five minutes to make my case. My goal is two-fold:

  1. to inspire you
  2. to challenge myself

I'm sure I'll succeed on both counts. Hint on my talk: I never set out to become the most influential woman I could be. I set out to solve problems.


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