400 and 2

‘I’ve got young children,’ recounted a slight teenager as he retold of a pleading woman’s request as he worked to untangle her from the rubble of last week’s garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza, Savar, Bangladesh.  400.  The number of workers, largely female, who won’t be returning to waiting children or siblings or spouses.  $37.  The average monthly wage that makes a difference there.   Great hopes relinquished all for another tee-shirt.  Great hope…despite tremendous personal risk. Continue reading…

Transition: Necessary Anxiety?

“I’ll probably head to the Caribbean with some friends,” remarked a recent college grad during a quick conversation we had over chips and dip at the graduation party of a mutual friend.  Imagine.  No responsibilities for a few weeks or a month.  Wow!  What would you do? Continue reading…

Engaging our hearts…

“We need you to be a part of this institution with all your heart,” said Dean Nitin Norhia, Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS), in his closing remarks for the W50 Conference last Friday in Boston, MA.  W50?  It was a two-day celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of women’s participation at HBS.  A dear friend of mine who looked puzzled when I told her about it asked, “that’s something to celebrate?”

Quirkiness aside I was intrigued by the Dean’s choice of words, ‘your heart.’   Earnest.  Simple. Powerful.  He sensed power enough in the connection with women’s hearts that he appealed to it.  Directly.   What else can benefit from that type of engagement?

At two years into transition I think transition is about having the confidence to listen to your heart.   What will make your heart sing?   The answer is highly personal.   To understand it requires a long journey full of ambiguity, isolation and energy.

In January I had the pleasure of spending the morning with a well-regarded researcher of gender studies at Babson College, a leafy hot bed for entrepreneurship just outside of Boston.   Thank you Research Jam for such wonderful access.   Or, did I always have it?

Anyway we talked about her observations on the transition that women go through when choosing entrepreneurship.  Her responses surprised me.

I asked about the triggers she sees when this transition occurs.  “The trigger is a ‘realization,’ a realization that living the dream is not just for only a few people,” she shared.   Sound familiar?

She also shared her view of transition’s characteristics.   Three I thought bordered on profound.  First, transition like entrepreneurship requires a self-created identity.  In entrepreneurs she observed that this skill set is highly developed.

A self-created identity.   Interesting.  If I’m honest I’ve had a more productive second year in transition than my first.  It might be because I’ve created a working hypothesis or draft identity that supports all my various experiments.  It goes something like this.  “I’m interested in women’s development.  This manifests itself in three ways….”   This is where I break and fill in my experiments, including Novofemina.   It’s nothing earth shattering but it serves as an umbrella under which I can align my various trials.

Thai Umbrella Maker

Thai Umbrella Maker

Her second characteristic…in transitioning to entrepreneurship women realize that they can create a business on topics that matter to them.  Climate change.  Nanotechnology.  Organic foods.  You name it.  As a side note this fact played out consistently in the responses to the Research Jam’s Online Survey.  Women shared example after example of businesses that were created out of all sorts of passions and events in their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Her final characteristic was ambiguity.  From my humble perspective this is the show stopper for many in transition.  Most women I know have so much going on – care of aging parents, paying off education debt, managing families, cultivating all sorts of relationships, work – they don’t have time to invest in ambiguity.

Allowing ambiguity to hang around for any period of time seems like a luxury.  Am I right?  Women need to wrestle with ambiguity quickly so that they can get on with the 25 other things they need to accomplish before lunch.

It’s funny.  A person I interviewed earlier this week also mentioned ambiguity.  She thought it was the great divider too.   A veteran of transition and a gracious mentor to others she thought that those willing to walk with ambiguity in transition yield a tremendous benefit.  To her ambiguity opens our hearts to surprisingly valuable views.  Those who don’t go there never see this potential nor benefit from its many gifts.

Before concluding my conversation with the gender research expert at Babson she mentioned data about the growing number of women choosing entrepreneurship.  Why is that I wondered out loud?

“Many are disenchanted with the environment from where they came.  They see it as their only avenue forward.”

Coincidentally I heard this as well at the W50.  “Women seek entrepreneurship as a form of escape,” remarked HBS Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the W50 Conference last week.   Long time readers will recall that I didn’t really enjoy her book, Confidence, in spite of its awesome title.

What an interesting theme…both thought leaders were onto escape.   How do you respond if overtime you aren’t listened to in the work environment or in other environments where you contribute ?    Escape sounds so negative.  Is it simply another trigger to create?  Creating something that can leverage the fullness of our potential.

I’m a bit critical of a Dean who appeals to hearts of women and the minds of the other gender.  But I’ll suspend that conclusion for the more productive……I believe that women get really engaged when they are passionate about something.

Transition in large part is about having the confidence to listen to our hearts.  Make no mistake….it isn’t a solitary introspective activity.  It requires reaching out to new people and challenging new experiences.  Each of these activities needs a common denominator…..your heart has to be in it.  Where is yours these days?

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Passion vs. Success: At Odds?

“So you’re a stay at home mom?  summarized a grad school mate of mine during a phone conversation at the holidays.  I was surprised at his characterization.  I’d just spent a few minutes telling him about the meaningful work I’m involved in…funding female-led start-ups, a healthcare board role, authoring a blog & researching a topic I care deeply about.   Was he listening?  Ok, it may be a bit of an exaggeration to say he listened.   Did he try?   Can success cloud one’s ability to hear? Continue reading…

The Online Job Search Fake

“I got scared reading that article,” shared a friend who happened to read Monday’s Boston Globe’s front page article, “Time is not on their side.” (The Boston Globe, 3/25/2013, A1, Woolhouse)  The article featured vignettes of three unemployed men who have been seeking employment for > 2 years.  “Did you see the age bracket? 45 and older.”  She was referring to a sobering statistic profiled in the article, “the number of people 45 and older who have been jobless for more than one year has quadrupled since 2007.”   For those in transition is this trend cause for alarm or time for some innovate thinking? Continue reading…

The Awareness Anchor

“The transition opened up my awareness of the other things that I value in my life that I refuse to give up,” said an impassioned participant in a recent Research Jam Focus Group.    She initiated a transition after > 20 years in a prestigious position requiring mental agility and non-stop 12 hour days.  On the eve of starting a new job she was channeling awareness as an anchor.   The real question seemed..would awareness be enough to maintain connection to the broader self she’d met through her transition?  Would it be for you? Continue reading…

A simple handshake?

“The justices shake each other’s hand. That’s just what they do each time…It just- it’s meaningful, and I’m glad the court does that,” said Sandra Day O’Connor during her interview with NPR’s Terry Gross (‘Out Of Order’ At The Court: O’Connor On Being The First Female Justice, March 5, 2013).  Chief Justice Melville Fuller started this custom in the late 1800’s saying that “it shows that harmony of aims, if not views, is the court’s guiding principle.”  O’Connor concurred.   It introduced a harmony.  Aligned members.  I wonder if a handshake is a metaphor for transition? Continue reading…


“His contact info is on the sheet I gave you,” said Susie Q., a flighty woman who sat across from me in a meeting yesterday.   She previously chaired a major event in our community, a STEM celebration for children and their families.  STEM for those untouched by the K-12 education arena stands for science, technology, engineering and math.  It’s all the rage.  This year I hold the lofty honor of event chair.  “Give him a call,” she intoned.   Continue reading…

What role….money?

“A lot of it comes down to the money,” shared a seasoned business leader from the executive outplacement arena.  I turned to him for some expert advice under the auspices of the Research Jam.  I wondered how to categorize people in transition?    From his perch folks in transition fall into three buckets: those who want to explore a dramatic life or career shift; those who simply wish to replicate their prior selves; and those who want to leverage their life or professional experiences to try something new or entrepreneurial.   What about a common underlying issue?  You guessed it.  Money. Continue reading…