Friday, March 09, 2007

From Consultant to Father

From CHEN PR Veep Randy Wambold...

Several of my colleagues and I were invited by our client Boston-Power to attend last night's Mass High Tech Women to Watch event. Boston-Power's CEO and founder Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud (at left) was there to be honored, along with nine other women, for her accomplishments in high tech. (The timing of the event was no coincidence; yesterday was International Women's Day.)

I went to the event thinking I was attending in my role as consultant to a client for whom our agency has much professional respect and personal affection. However, shortly after each of the ten honorees began speaking, I forgot I was there for a client and began listening as a father.

I have a 3 ½-year-old daughter. When she’s old enough to start concerning herself with them, I want her professional ambitions to be about what she loves to do, where her skills her, where she wants to focus her hard work. Not about her gender.

Clearly we’ve come a very long way in terms of women’s integration into the work force. The gentleman I sat next to last night, an MIT grad, pointed out to me that today’s MIT classes are 48% female. When he graduated only 25 years ago the percentage was 20%.

Yet in the world of science and technology in particular, and the larger business world in general, being a woman still presents special challenges. Dr. Lampe-Onnerud pointed out in her own acceptance speech, for example, that women occupy fewer board seats now than they did ten years ago.

I imagine each of the ten women who spoke at the event faced challenges in accomplishing their goals because they are female. Some of the honorees spoke explicitly and eloquently on the topic. One was told by an elementary school teacher, for example, “You’re pretty good at math – for a girl.”

But in their accomplishments these women aren’t just showing their own ability to overcome challenges. They’re improving the chances for today’s girls to be thought of as good at math. Period.

At 3 ½, my daughter is too young of course to understand any of this. And she’ll probably never meet any of last night’s honorees. But it struck me as I sat there listening to the honorees’ acceptance speeches that they are playing a role in making anything possible for her.
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On a lighter note, based on the acceptance speeches, it appears that a good sense of humor is a requirement to be a Woman to Watch. Here are a few of the funnier remarks from the evening, captured as best we could. Sorry we can't attribute these:

  • Regarding the ratio of women to men (1 female for every 7 males) at WPI when one of the recipients was attending -- and its effect on dating, the recipient and her friend...the only other female in her class -- joked: "The odds were good, but the goods were odd."
  • On the trials of balancing work and family: "You know it's something when your 7-year-old daughter gives up Indian take-out for lent."
  • And an especially endearing one: "I'd like to thank my husband, who thought I was a woman to watch long before anyone else was watching."

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