I discovered Alexa von Tobel, founder of the financial planning startup LearnVest via a New York Times article (and accompanying video) in their Corner Office feature. In addition to content around Alexa’s story (she dropped out of Harvard Business School at the age of 25 to found her company), several threads of discussion throughout the article addressed the usefulness of owning one’s weaknesses while also capitalizing on strengths.
Adam Bryant posed the predictable gender question in the interview, framing it as a discussion of “headwinds” faced by women entrepreneurs in the financial industry. Alexa’s response fell into one particular “camp” in the multi-faceted “how do we now approach issues of gender in the 21st century” question. Which is why a discussion of Alexa is a beautiful segue into introducing my renewed engagement with this blog.
Some businesswomen, like Alexa, are simply too busy climbing the ladder and too determined to make the effort of recognizing (as it does require education and effort to recognize discrimination, it being so engrained) and confronting the subtle discriminations and hindrances. Others, more of the Sheryl Sandberg “lean in” variety, believe that making the effort of recognizing and confronting and adjusting behaviors and challenging institutionalized and/or structural practices is the way to best approach the problems that do, indeed, still lurk beneath the surfaces of everyday professional life for many women.
I waver between the two approaches, and likely, we need both approaches for women to eventually truly be universally perceived as equal with the effortless subconsciousness on the part of all that would mean true equality. I have a copy of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office next to my bed, but I’ve been too busy to read it…you know, preparing for grad school and working towards becoming a fully realized woman both personally and professionally. Maybe working to avoid upspeak or minimizing my accessories or making statements instead of asking questions when engaged in professional discourse will be the keys that turn some locks in my career. Or, maybe it will be that I ignore the issues and plow ahead through grad school in a male-dominated discipline and pretend that discrimination does not exist. But, ultimately, I think it is a balance of both.
For the couple hundred of you who follow this blog, you probably noticed that I abandoned the blog for over a year. I was tired of spending my time being the finger-pointer in our flawed system and instead wanted to work towards achieving a position of influence within it. Maybe I have made some progress, maybe not. But, nevertheless, I am hoping to move ahead…a little more cautiously on this second go around with a better balance. The priority will be to strive towards being a fully realized woman in this strange modern world, but I’ll point out what I encounter along the way. Neither grasping for straws nor crawling the inter webs for articles, outrage, or the latest hashtags, I’ll present what I find and what I’ve experienced and the stories of women who continue to inspire me.
Back to Alexa. When I investigated the LearnVest website, I discovered a really unique approach to financial planning that is a boon to women everywhere. She has numerous resources on saving, budgeting and investing – wherein I discovered the “What’s Your Mom Salary” tool. Yes! This is extremely important as the debate rages on about having it all or opting out. Economic independence, I have found, is absolutely foundational in any discussion of human rights. The power to own, earn, buy and sell is as basic a right as any and is inextricably linked to out higher pursuits of happiness and fulfillment. When society is able to at the very least quantify to economic worth of the time and efforts of the women who have chosen to stay home, it signals the beginning of what I hope is a new era of gender equality.
So, check out the tool…and I will see you again here soon!