“It's no accident that the countries that have enjoyed an economic take off have been those that educated girls and then gave them the autonomy to move to the cities to find work.”
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn takes this thesis and spins it into a book full of both sadness and hope. The idea that women need an education might not revolutionary in the United States but in other parts of the world, it is a constant battle. I believe that one of the best ways to make use of the education we have access to here in the US is to learn more about those who do not have such luxuries and know what we can do to make a difference. Education and economic opportunity is, for many women, an escape from dangerous situations and ultimately it is the way for nations to move forward and nurture local talent. Reading this book will show you the gritty details of why and how this transformation must occur.
This content may be better suited to high-school readers, because it deals with some serious situations.
“There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
When I first started reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg, I thought the book was going to focus on “how to have it all”. Instead I was able to read real stories and experiences of women in the workforce, told from the point of view of a highly experienced and savvy business woman. It was enlightening and it showed me important actions to take and thoughts I could change to continue moving forward in my career.
My favorite of many excellent quotes was, “Women need to shift from thinking "I'm not ready to do that" to thinking "I want to do that- and I'll learn by doing it.” I took that to advice to heart and it’s helped me throughout my career.
“My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”
Bossypants by Tina Fey is first and foremost a completely hilarious book. Tina Fey, veteran of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, is a comedy genius and points her humorous criticism often at the treatment of women in American pop culture. In this book, she covers such wild topics as her own childhood, the treatment she has received as a female comedian, motherhood, and running a business in New York City. It’s as funny as it is enlightening and it just might teach you something about being a woman in the world. Incidentally, this might also be better for high-school age students.
“Do not fall for the lie that ambition is counter to femininity….Trust yourself. Confidence is infectious and builds momentum. Share your faith in yourself. You’ll be surprised how quickly others will come to have faith in it.”
Off the Sidelines by Kirsten Gillibrand is one of my favorite books. The book provides an overview of Gillibrand’s life, how she transitioned from her law career to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, her move to the U.S. Senate and how she created a work life balance. Mixed into the book are pieces of career advice highlighted by Gillibrand’s specific experiences.
One of these pieces of advice was to always speak up, and always ask questions, “I always know my ask, and I always raise my hand when the president comes to our caucus meetings. There are plenty of times I’d rather blend into the crowd and not add a mount of stress to my life, but I know how much speaking up matters.”
So, “... let’s stop talking about ‘having it all’ and start talking about the very real challenges of ‘doing it all’.”
Gina Watts is the Information Coordinator at FIRST in Texas, specializing in communication, information management, and grant outreach. Prior to joining FIRST in Texas, Gina was an assistant at the A. Frank Smith Library Center, where she worked in special collections and interlibrary loan. Originally from Los Angeles, Gina graduated from Southwestern University with a BA in Communication Studies. Outside of work, she spends her time swing dancing, travelling, and writing.
Renee Becker-Blau is the Executive Director for IndianaFIRST and has been involved with FIRST robotics since 2003. She began as a member of FRC team 1675 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and continued her involvement in college by founding GO FIRST, a FIRST alumni student group. After graduating from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Scientific and Technical Communications, Renee became the FIRST Senior Mentor of Minnesota before moving to Indiana in August of 2013 to become a FIRST AmeriCorp VISTA to work on creating capacity building programs. She became Executive Director of IndianaFIRST in September of 2014 and managed the Indiana transition to the District Model of competition.