Period Problems

Advice, Awkward Girl, Feminism

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(Click picture for link to article)

With this BBC article, I was inspired to write about the period.  Don’t run away yet!  I promise this will not be a gorey post.  Menstruation and the taboos surrounding it have been common topics recently among my friends and I.  The subject was most recently broached when discussing having our period at work, and the embarrassing feeling that comes along with having to walk to the bathroom with a tampon in our hand.  God forbid people might know we are on our period!  How did this generation of women become this way?

In a broader sense, women’s menstruation in India is stigmatized heavily.  So much so that they do not have access to proper sanitation.  Women’s rights in India are altogether a huge issue, however just this one basic need is not met partly due to the taboos surrounding it and a lack of education.  If we expect to be able to make a change on the other side of the world, it is important that those who are able around the world leads by example.

I’m glad to see women like Rupi Kaur, starting a conversation about the topic.  Women have had a period since the beginning of time, you’d think it would be a comfortable topic at this point.  I think a lack of education and communication, both in and outside of school, has lead societies around the world to create this awkward bubble around periods.  So I say to girlfriends, talk to your boyfriends about your period, to mothers, talk to your sons about periods, sisters, talk to your brothers.  Open communication is key.  On my part, I refuse to hide my tampon in my sleeve on my way to the bathroom.

-S

I would like a Madam President, please

Feminism, Politics

57% of adults are apathetic to the idea of having a woman president during their lifetime says this Pew Center research. This number scares me. Women’s rights are being challenged every day in the United States of America, land of the free. If women don’t have political power, who is going to help protect these rights? What scares me even more is that the same people taking away these freedoms don’t care if there is a woman president. I’m talking to you, Republican men. Why do only 16% of you care to have a woman president? It’s almost as if you don’t respect women.

If I live until the ripe old age of 85 and every subsequent president after Obama completes two terms, I have the potential to have eight more presidents in my life time. Statistically speaking, half the population is women so I should see four women presidents in my life. Historically speaking, none should be women and at the rate we are going I probably won’t see a woman president. We can’t let history continue to repeat itself. I want women to be represented in all leadership, not just as the President of the United States. Different problems could be solved with women in leadership. Don’t believe me? Watch this video that describes how diversity drives innovation.

I want women to be inspired to become leaders and make this world better. I was lucky enough to have Grandma always supporting women leaders and giving me awesome shirts like the one in the picture below. Don’t we want more people engaged in the political process? I believe a woman president would do that– and bring something refreshing to good ole U.S.A.

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3rd grade Jenna sporting the “Someday a woman will be president” t-shirt gifted by her grandmother

Diversity in Hollywood

Essay, Feminism, Gender

I am someone who gets invested in stories. I get sucked into books, especially series, and I recently realized I prefer this new age of television (ability to watch full seasons via Netflix, Hulu, etc) to movies. This new age of television has also brought a much needed touch of diversity with more and more lead characters, writers, and show runners who are not only Caucasian, middle-aged, men. Even though I am drawn to these new shows, cable television has definitely missed a few steps along the way.

Going through the current major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC), diversity is starting to take hold, but usually as an addition and very safe. The Mindy Project was lauded for featuring an female who is Indian as the lead, but most of the rest of the featured cast is a Caucasian boys club. Modern Family features a gay couple, but most of the cast, including the couple, are middle-class Caucasian. The Big Bang Theory shows off the stereotypical Caucasian (and Indian) “nerds” and the dumb-blonde Caucasian woman. It finally (sort-of, almost) got its act together when adding the smart, nerdy Caucasian women. I will give it props for showcasing a character who is (most likely) on the autism spectrum.

Some outliers include Fox’s Glee (in its last season) who tries to “champion the underdog” by showcasing characters who are transgender, bi-sexual, gay, disabled, etc. ABC’s Black-ish features a middle-class African-American family.  We also have a saving grace in Shonda Rhimes, whose series include Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy. They all have strong, female leads. They also feature ethnic and sexual orientation diversity. They definitely aren’t perfect, but I feel they are some of the only series where diversity is effortless.

Cable television isn’t perfect, nor does every show have to be a perfect depiction of diversity. But, I am now looking towards new television outlets to set the bar.The change from traditional cable networks to other content creators and providers has allowed for a more thoughtful and daring look at diversity. Maybe there is less red tape. Maybe they don’t have to rely on ad revenue. It is clear that they have more freedom to explore. Here are some quick examples of these shows:

– Transparent on Amazon: Transgender father, tackles gender identity. Female creator and producer who enacted a “transfirmative action program” that favors hiring transgender candidates over cisgender applicants. All the bathrooms on set are gender neutral.

– Girls on HBO: Created, produced, directed, written, and starred by Lena Dunham. All four leads are female, not just sex focused a la Sex and the City.

-Orange is the New Black on Netflix: Mostly female cast in a woman’s prison. Tackles ethnic diversity, gender identity, sexuality, and represents people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

– Looking on HBO: Unfiltered view of 3 men’s lives who are gay in San Francisco.

This has got me thinking: maybe I am staying away from movies because it hasn’t transitioned as quickly as television. I have no interest in the fifth Transformers movie especially after watching the opening scene with Megan Fox in the sequel. I am clearly bored of the Spider Man reboots, every Iron Man, X-Men, Avengers, Wolverine, Thor, Hulk… wait there are still more Marvel movie franchises I haven’t listed? They must be making so much money… anyways, I digress. Where is the diversity? Reese Witherspoon started her own production company because Hollywood was lacking in movies with “clear, female voices”. Interestingly enough, most of my to-see movie list for the last year wouldn’t exist that company: Gone Girl and Wild.

It is your call Hollywood, how quickly are you going to catch up? I guess I am just going to continue sitting here, binge watching Netflix until you do.

I am woman, see me do all the dirty work

Feminism, Gender, Workplace

When I find myself  in a room full of women at work, I get uncomfortable. You may be thinking, “Jenna, what are you smoking? All you do is complain about there not being enough women in tech! You should be happy!” Au contraire, mon ami. When I find myself in these situations it means one thing: this meeting is about housework and no men showed up to the cleaning party.

There are certain tasks that are outside of normal “work” work which I classify as dirty work. For example, I helped plan numerous events last year which was executed by a v-team. We planned holiday events, cultural potlucks, outreach events, etc. Sounds like fun, but it is really all dirty work. The team was volunteer based and comprised of about 12 women and one man whose job was to cook the meat at the potluck. I am currently party of a diversity and inclusion v-team for all of IT (20k people) in my company and there are about 25 women and two men.  With the current diversity statistics in tech, this disparity just doesn’t make sense. What’s even more interesting is that this extra work isn’t helping women in the eyes of their colleagues. It doesn’t even help them get promoted. Women help more, but benefit less.

The number of meeting requests I send out, emails I compose for others, events I plan– it has almost become insulting. Why should someone with a bachelors degree be spending so much of their day finishing these tasks? Especially when my male counterparts don’t. I will admit that I am the reason this has happened. I volunteer to help. Someone has to do the job. Why is it then, that it is usually women?

Lies to stop teaching girls about sex

Feminism, Gender, Sex Ed

Recently I came across an article by Julianne Ross on mic.com called “17 lies we need to stop teaching girls about sex.” Immediately after reading it, I retweeted it with a “Yes!!!!!” Because, although we have come a long way in this country as far as sexual freedom goes, there are still unhealthy myths that make sex more fraught and confusing than it needs to be.

Here are some of my favorites from Julianne’s list, followed by some additions of my own.

1. Virginity exists. False. “There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.”

2. Hymens are a sign of virginity. False. “Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports.”

3. The first time is going to hurt — a lot. It doesn’t have to. “Maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.”

4. Too much sex will stretch you out. This is a tired, harmful myth that serves to make women feel guilty, used, and less-than if they have a lot of sex. “The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band,” and will expand as need be but will ultimately settle to its natural size.

Here are some more myths I think we should retire once and for all:

1. Boys have higher sex drives. The truth is, sex drive varies from person to person, regardless of gender. This lie not only makes girls feel shameful and different if they have a high sex drive, it also harms boys who feel they are not living up to expectations.

2. Girls don’t masturbate. The concept of young boys (and men) masturbating is seen as commonplace and is often joked about, while female masturbation is scarcely mentioned, as if it doesn’t exist. Sex education in schools should include information about self pleasure. Masturbation is healthy and natural, and kids should be told as much.

3. The end goal of sex is the man’s climax. Yeah, we get it, the biological purpose of sex is to reproduce. But since sex is about so much more than reproduction, why not focus on the woman’s climax as well? Why don’t we teach young people that the woman’s orgasm is as important as the man’s?

4. Birth control doesn’t work all that well. Scare tactics are so 20th century. Can we move on now? While it is important for kids to know that birth control is fallible, the focus should be on maximizing its efficiency — not telling kids abstinence is the only way to go. Both boys and girls should be motivated to use birth control as responsibly as possible, rather than being convinced it doesn’t work and opting out of it entirely.

5. Sex is a big, scary, life-changing decision. Sex is not a one-way escalator you can’t get off. It is a decision that young people should feel good about if they do it responsibly and with someone they trust. And once they start, nothing is forcing them to keep going. If you have a breakup or decide sex isn’t for you or you’re not ready yet, you can put it aside until it feels right.

~

Let’s remove the guilt and shame from sex and help everyone have safe, smart, and satisfying experiences.

Did you have sex ed in school? What were you taught?

-L

(Again, here is the original article that inspired this post.)

Will Tech Work for Mothers?

Feminism, Workplace

If you were not previously aware, there is a diversity problem in the tech field. In my workplace, this problem is beginning to be discussed by our leadership, but I don’t always find it constructive. At an organization meeting, the VP of my org said that they were looking at our diversity metrics and decided they need to focus their efforts on improving the diversity of their interview pool. I wanted to stand up and yell “That’s great and all– but how are you going to keep the diversity that is already here?”  Next time I won’t be a coward. What they need to understand is that this problem has two parts:

1. Attracting diversity

2. Preserving diversity

We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t finding its way into tech. We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t staying. What may be more interesting is learning why diversity stays in tech. Especially when we look at one of the top groups in tech to leave: Mothers.

I read an article today, “The women who ‘make it’ in tech”, which discusses research surrounding women with families and why they are still in the tech field. What they found sheds light onto why female mothers stay in the tech field.

16% indicated they have a spouse or partner in a similar or more lucrative career

84% indicated they are the breadwinner in their family

30% of breadwinners indicated that they have a stay-at-home spouse or partner

When these women talk about their careers, it isn’t with pride. The breadwinning mothers “talk about their earning power with obligation.”  Just looking at this research you could say that one of the largest contributing factor to mothers staying in tech is they need to support their family. The job itself isn’t enough to keep mothers who do not need the additional income to stay.

The article also mentions some institutionalized problems. How many times have I heard in design reviews that it needs to be “so simple your mother can use it.”  Not only is this condescending and sexist but it is “illustrative of how inhospitable industry’s work climate can be to motherhood.”  As a woman two years into her career in tech (without a family of my own), it makes me wonder how long my career in tech will last. It doesn’t look like the odds are ever in my favor.

Does the GOP actually care about children?

Feminism, Politics, Sex Ed

The US Congress came back in session earlier this month, and ever since I have seen one article shared again and again on social media feeds. The headline of this article reads:

Congress Introduces A National Abortion Ban On Its Very First Day Back

Quick recap: the bill bans all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on “scientific” claims that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks (this “science” has been refuted by the Journal of the American Medical Association).

After reading about how Rep. Trent Franks (R, Arizona) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R, Tennessee) sponsored this legislation to protect “innocent and defenseless children,” I’d had enough. In my mind, GOP politicians care eversomuch about children inside the womb, but once they’re out they believe they can fend for themselves.

Let’s examine how much Rep. Franks and Rep. Blackburn actually care about children, shall we?

Trophy Husbands and Power Couples

Feminism, Quick Read

I dislike nothing more than when someone is introduced as “The Wife of [put the name of super influential, rich man here].” Imagine Hillary Clinton being introduced at a large event as “Former President Bill Clinton’s wife.” Feel free to mention that they are married, but her reigning achievement was not marrying him.

This leads me to the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood who is now [surprisingly] off the market and who now has a new moniker, “trophy husband.” Perhaps the funniest joke made by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes was at his expense:

“George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin this year. Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight . . . her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”

George Clooney has obviously done great things in his career, including activism, but it is refreshing to see people recognize Amal for her work, not just being the woman who married George Clooney. You don’t become a “power couple” when only half of the couple is successful.

Speaking of trophy husbands, we can even talk about the recent marriage of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tasha McCauley. Shortly after the marriage, NY Magazine cleverly headlined an article about his marriage saying “Former Robotics CEO Marries Trophy Boyfriend Joseph Gordon-Levitt.” Granted they didn’t name Tasha, but I can appreciate their humor and their jab at society always putting Hollywood celebrities on pedestals.

Here’s to the rise of the power couple and challenging social norms! Let’s celebrate every person for their achievements, not just who they married.

One last thing, can the next POTUS be female, please? I have many reasons why I request this, but one of them is being that if she is married, I can end the life-long question of what you would call her husband. FMOTUS (First Man of the US)? FGOTUS (First Gentleman of the US)? Or even FLOTUS (First Lord of the US)? It is 2015 and I still don’t know the answer.

The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for a Promotion

Awkward Girl, Feminism, Tech Industry, Workplace

Guys, I did it! I had a “mature, working girl” moment: I asked for a promotion! Well, I actually didn’t really ask… this is what really happened when I met with my manager and why I wish it did not happen.

Me: “So before we finish, I was told to make sure you received an email about the process for recommending a college-hire for a promotion.”

Manager: “Oh, I didn’t know that you wanted a promotion, you have never brought it up before.”

Me: “Oh, well… I think they sent that email because…”

Manager: “If you want a promotion, we should have been talking about this and you should have come to me with your career profile and how you compare to the next level…”

Me: “but I don’t really know…”

Manager: “So the next time we meet, we can start talking about this again. But make sure you have that all figured out…”

Me: “Oh. Okay. See you next time.”

Please learn from my mistake. Never utter the words “promotion,” “raise,” or “bonus” without being prepared to back it up. Even if you aren’t even thinking about asking for one, always be ready. My employer has career profiles for every level that lists out core competencies. If I was doing it right, I should have reviewed my current level and how I compare to the next level every month. If you do want a promotion, start conversations early and go to your manager saying “I want to start working towards the next level, let’s begin talking about how I can get there.”

My fellow How to Pee in the Woods writer, Lauren, has a similarly mortifying story.

I work on a small team at a small company. When I started there were three people doing my job. They both left, so I was stuck doing the job of three workers. When it became clear that my company was not planning to hire replacements for my team members, my family and friends all encouraged me (read: nagged endlessly) to ask for a raise. After all, I was doing three times the work I had signed on for.

So I sat down with my manager and said it would be great if I could be compensated for all the extra work I was doing. I thought it was pretty self explanatory.

Manager: “So… You want a raise. Does that mean you want a promotion?”

Me: “Not necessarily. I just think since I am doing a lot more work now than I was when I signed on, it would be nice to see my salary reflect that.”

Manager: “We don’t have the resources to give you a raise right now. We can talk about this again next year when review time comes around.”

Now, maybe I could have been more specific about my accomplishments. I’m sure I could have gone about it better. But a female friend of mine at a different company did the same thing, only she was prepared with a list of things she had accomplished. She got the same answer: Not right now. Maybe during review time.

All this to say, be prepared to brag about your accomplishments, and be prepared for rejection.

Side note: The above friend and I both have boyfriends who asked for a raise (not during their yearly review), and both of their requests were granted. As women, it’s typically harder for us to ask for what we deserve, and I’m hoping it was just our lack of confidence and preparedness that led to our rejection and not something worse (*cough* institutionalized sexism). At any rate, all we can do is offer our stories and advice to other women in the workforce and hope we all learn something. -L

Every employer is different, but the key here is to be prepared to brag, and remember: if you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.

For a more step-by-step guide, check out PayScale’s guide to salary negotiation which also works for asking for a raise and a promotion.

Please learn from our mistakes and go get that promotion or raise! — J

The One Where it was Hard to Fit in at Work

Feminism, Quick Read, Tech Industry, Workplace

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Do you remember “The One Where Rachel Smokes”? It is the episode of Friends where Rachel starts a new job at Ralph Lauren and all the important decisions are made on smoke breaks. Rachel tries to pick up the habit to feel included and the group insists she doesn’t join, saying they didn’t want to drag her down with them.

As a woman in the tech field, this can happen to you a lot. I even joined a Fantasy Football League to feel included (I won the league, by the way)! However, sometimes I have to remember to reflect on my own actions and see if they are fueling inclusion.

Only planning outings to bars? Some people aren’t 21 or they don’t care to drink!
Lots of active events coming up? Many people have reasons they can’t participate in sports.
Every morning do you get coffee with the same coworker? Ask someone new to join you!

You can’t make everyone happy but you can make them feel included! – J

Looks like I’m not the only one who feels this way! I thoroughly enjoyed this article about a man who challenged himself to not only ask men to drinks after work.