Tara Westover on How We Lead the Way Forward

Tara Westover Tara Westover, the best-selling author of Educated, reflected on how women lead the way forward—the theme of the 2020 Pennsylvania Conference for Women—and suggested it may begin with recognizing what we don't know so we are able to restore meaningful dialogue in these highly polarized times. "As the author of a book called Educated, I am supposed to know what it is like to know things, to be certain about things," Westover said. "But as I thought about this difficult period, I thought it is not so much about education and certainty and facts; it's not just about what we know but about what we don't know." Using her own experience as an example, she observed that she once thought "feminism" was a dirty word, had wrong and hurtful thoughts about race, and was homophobic. But education—and the opportunity to express her opinions, however objectionable they were -- allowed her to think through what she really believed, adding that many in our nation require that same opportunity now.

More excerpts from her talk follow:

  • "Sometimes I wonder if what has gone wrong with our political process is that we have forgotten what we don't know. We are so bombarded with caricatures of each other that we've started to think just because we know one thing about a person, we think we know everything we need to know about them."
  • "What we've forgotten maybe is the difference between ignorance and humility. It's OK not to know everything. And there are some situations where approaching it knowing what you don't know is probably the best thing you can do."
  • "I have to believe that it is worth arguing with people who disagree with you—even on really important issues. Even on important moral issues, things you feel strongly about. It is still worth arguing with those people and explaining your ideas. That is the original idea of what politics is: It's persuasion."
  • "And I have to believe in that because I was someone who at various points in my life was wrong about almost everything—things that now are really important to me, I had the opposite view when I was younger."
  • "I was raised in a household in which feminism was a dirty word. I don't think I ever said it aloud until I was in graduate school. I grew up with really strange ideas about race. And I was lucky enough to be able to be given the opportunity to change my mind and learn more and understand experiences that were different from mine."
  • "I was homophobic. I was raised with strange ideas about that. And strange is a euphemism. They were not correct, they were hurtful."
  • "I am grateful I was given the opportunity through the education system to learn more, to say my views no matter how objectionable they were, and be given a chance to think through what I really believed."
  • "So important as I think all of these issues are and as important as it is to stand up for people, I am so grateful I was given an opportunity to change."
To go forward as a country, she concluded, may mean we need to give more people a chance to change, to have a meaningful dialogue, and for us all to know the things we don't know.
About Tara Westover Tara Westover is the best-selling author of Educated, reflected on how women lead the way is the author of Educated, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 130 weeks. Born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho, she never attended school and, instead, spent her childhood working in her father's junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother—until, at 17, she decided to escape a violent older brother and isolated home life to carve out a new life for herself. She taught herself enough to get into college—having come to believe, as her parents taught her, that you can teach yourself anything better than someone else can teach it to you. Then she went on to graduate magna cum laude from Brigham Young University, earn a master's degree in philosophy, become a Harvard University fellow, and complete a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. The experience transformed her; and her brilliant telling of it has been inspiring millions. It has also been sparking important conversations, at a time when millions of young people are suddenly engaged in remote learning, about education, gender roles, and societal divisions and how we might overcome them.
Check out more highlights from the 2020 Virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women!

The Biggest Little Word to Ask Yourself Before Holding a Meeting

Priya Parker

Pre-COVID, nearly 3 out of 4 people considered meetings a waste of time, according to a Harvard Business Review study. And some of the most successful leaders in the world, such as Richard Branson, famously avoided them.

But now that many people are returning to the office, we have an opportunity to approach them differently by letting one big little word drive them.

That word is “Why?”

If you’re holding a meeting, think first: Why are you having it? What is the real purpose? If you are networking, ask yourself: Why are you? What is the outcome you desire?

This is the wise advice of Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, who argues that many gatherings in both our professional and personal lives are lackluster and unproductive. But they don’t have to be.

“The biggest mistake we make when we gather is we assume that the purpose of our coming together is obvious,” she says.

Consider a wedding, for example. The purpose may seem obvious: to get married. But you can go to City Hall for that, as she points out. So, to design a meaningful gathering, you need to think about your real purpose of having a public event. Answering that can take your attention off planning the details and more on creating an experience.

The same holds for a staff meeting.

“So often, we inherit a form, and we try to perfect the form,” she says. “We forget to ask, ‘Why do these people need each other, and for what purpose? How might you bring people together, based on that?'”

Drawing on her experience as a facilitator, she recommends: “Don’t worry so much about shaping things. Shape people. Shape the psychology of a group.”

A New Approach to Networking

In Colorado, two entrepreneurs regularly attended a networking event that never seemed to lead to anything, Parker said. So, after considering their why—or what they wanted to get out of meeting other people—they came up with a novel approach called The House of Genius.

They bring together a group of 15-18 wide-ranging minds and three business presenters once a month.First, the three presenters share their business and a key problem they face in a rapid-fire fashion. Next,eachattendee offers questions, insights, suggestions, or introductions that may assist the presenter.The “genius,” they say, is in the collaboration.

“I love this example in part,” says Parker, “because networking, which is a meaningful connection around a shared purpose, is an outcome. It’s not the form.”

It all began with asking: “What is our purpose? And what is a form that can help us get there?”

Priya Parker spoke at the 2020 Texas Conference for Women. This article is based on her session: “Let’s Get Together, How to Gather Even When We Are Apart.” You can learn more about Priya Parker’s work on her website.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Goals & Priorities

How Civility Literally Pays: Tips from Christine Porath

Christine Porath

After graduating college, Christine Porath thought she had landed her dream job as an intern for the world’s largest sports management and marketing firm.

The only problem: It was a toxic work environment.

That’s when she asked herself a career-making question: What are the objective costs of a toxic work environment, and what are the real benefits of one that helps people thrive?

Based on 20 years of research, she says: “I’ve learned that our small interactions with people every day affect our energy level. As a result, they affect our performance, our organization’s performance, and ultimately the impact that you and the organization will have on society.”

“We hold people down by making them feel small, excluded, insulted, belittled. Now, of course, we don’t necessarily mean to do this,” she says. But people can feel it in ways that run the gamut from being insulted in front of people, to someone withholding information, to someone not acknowledging you, to someone being on their phone the whole time that you’re speaking to them.

“Research bears out how this tends to just chip away at us and our well-being and our sense of identity,” she says. And especially for women, it can lead to really negative health consequences and emotional distress.

Another cost: If you’re working in teams, incivility will cause teammates to shut down and not share their good ideas. It also causes people to be less likely to help others—specifically, three times less likely.

In short, she says: “We lose out on people’s contributions. Incivility also hijacks focus, performance, and creativity.”

How to Demonstrate Civility

Research shows that the single most important behavior for demonstrating civility is respect. In addition, it causes people to be 55 percent more engaged in their work.

More civil people are also twice as likely to be seen as leaders. They are more liked and trusted.

So how do you, as a leader, demonstrate that respect for others is at the heart of civility?

“It’s important that we connect first and then lead,” says Porath. “Use warmth first. You want to set that tone because warmth is primary. People judge you first on warmth.”

Interested in testing how civil you are? Porath encourages a little objectivity since we notoriously miss how our behavior affects others. So, you might ask a few friends. Or, try the assessment on her website.

Christine Porath spoke at the Conferences for Women breakout session, Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for Life. Listen to the session.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Success & Leadership

How to Be an Inclusive Communicator: 10 Tips from Vernā Myers

Vernā Myers

Communication is easy—if you’re talking to yourself, says Vernā Myers, bestselling author, TED speaker, and Vice President for Inclusion Strategy at Netflix.

But when it involves other people, it can be a good deal less easy—especially for those seeking to be inclusive communicators.

So here are 12 tips from Myers that can help:

  1. Being an inclusive communicator is not a mistake-free process. Connecting is not about perfection. It’s about connection. If you are creating inclusion, you also have to be in the game of embarrassment and vulnerability. But it is also rich with opportunity and relationship and perspective expanding.
  2. Be open and ask open-ended questions. For example, don’t ask, “Are you from Asia?” Instead, try: “Tell me more about your background and experience.” Or: “Let me share who I am and then invite you to share who you are.”
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Treat people as individuals. You want to know that they have group identities. You want to know that they have certain proclivities or customs or cultures and so forth. But you don’t want to assume that each individual is some stereotypical representation of their group.
  4. Stop pretending that you know. One of the most inclusive skills is to assume you don’t know everything, to become humble and thoughtful about where your blind spots are.
  5. Apologize when you make mistakes and don’t use them as an excuse not to engage further.
  6. Small moves matter. Say hello, smile at them. Say thank you, especially to the people who are not the ones who are above you. And get people’s names right. Work on it. It makes a difference.
  7. Expand your dance card. “Diversity is about being invited to the party; inclusion is about being asked to dance,” says Myers. So look around the dance floor and see who’s on the wall and invite them to the middle of the floor.
  8. Learn unthreatening ways to solicit views. For example, what do you think about this? How could we do this differently?
  9. Share information about how to access resources. That’s the only way that you can make sure that your biases are not corrupting your decisions.
  10. Know your own culture and the culture of others. When you do this work to be inclusive around communication, you’re saying: What are the specific cultural lenses that I have, and how have they shaped the world for me and my interpretation of others? So, you’ve got to say, what is my culture telling me about the way I’m communicating and the way other people communicate?
  11. That means to get everyone to participate, you might need to use a variety of strategies, recognizing that some people will speak, but only if you ask them; some people want to know that you’re going to ask them to speak; some people will always find it terrifying; and some people might want to communicate by email after a meeting.

Vernā Myers spoke at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in the session: Inclusive Communication: How to Go from Well-Meaning to Well-Doing. Listen to the entire session.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Communication Skills, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Four Simple Ways to Beat Burnout

burned out business woman asleep at desk

Students in the popular Yale University course, The Science of Well-Being, came to class one day and were handed a flyer that said:

“Today’s lecture is about time affluence. To teach you what that is, I’m going to gift you some. There’s no class today.” Their professor Laurie Santos also gave them a list of positive activities they could fill their free time with rather than go to the library and study.

“What was amazing,” she recalls, “was how the students reacted. A lot of the students spontaneously hugged me or one of the TA’s.”

Time affluence—or the feeling of having enough time—is about elusive these days as the quest for work-life balance. As the news tells us, people feel more burned out than ever.

But here’s some good news: “One of the great things that the research on happiness teaches us is that the simple hacks that you can do to bump up your well-being don’t take that much time,” says Santos.

So here are four simple ways to beat burnout and enjoy more time affluence.

  1. Schedule free time. Make it real. And make it sacred.
  2. “We often think that it’s going to be impossible to carve out blocks in our calendar—that time affluence just can’t work for us,” says Santos. “But the fact is that most of us never try. What would it look like if you just today, for [this month and next] just carve out blocks that will be protected?”
  3. Even the idea of doing this makes some people feel a little anxious. But the reality is once you get some free time, you feel like you have more time.
  4. “What we’re learning from the research is that when we’re feeling time-famished, it’s like we’re starving, and so you don’t pick the right kinds of foods,” says Santos. “You’re just like in a really bad state. Whereas if you just gift yourself some time, things can get better. So, gift yourself some. Put it in the calendar. Make it sacred.”
  1. Make time for gratitude.
  2. “This is something we all hear. It’s on Oprah all the time, but we forget how powerful it can be,” says Santos. “There are many cases where our minds kind of lied to us about what makes us happy, and this is one of them. It turns out that the simple act of taking a moment like this to experience what you’re grateful for can be powerful.”
  3. One specific exercise Santos recommends is writing a gratitude letter to someone you care about and then giving it to them. “It turns out,” she says, “that this act of writing a letter of gratitude can boost your well-being for over 30 days.”
  1. Do something nice for someone.
  2. Doing something nice for someone else, especially when you’re in the throes of burnout, may feel counterintuitive, but research shows it can help more than doing something nice for yourself.
  3. “You want to buy yourself a latte or a cupcake or get a quick massage. It turns out that the act of gifting that to someone else can boost your well-being more than you expect,” says Santos.
  1. Watch your mindset.
  2. “The Buddhists talk about when you’re facing something that feels stressful not to hit yourself with what they call the second arrow,” says Santos. “The first arrow is that deadline that comes for your book or a breakup or something bad that happens in your life or traffic or whatever.
  3. “That’s not something you can control, but what you can have complete control over is your reaction to it, and that’s the second arrow. You don’t have to freak out about the traffic. You could reframe it and say, ‘Oh, I got an extra six minutes; I’ll throw on my favorite six-minute song on Spotify.’

Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and head of Silliman College, spoke at the 2018 Massachusetts Conference for Women. Listen to her entire session, “Time Saving Hacks to Boss Up & Beat Burnout.”

Posted in Speaker Articles, Health & Wellness

3 Hacks to Slay Perfectionism – Before It Slays You

Asian business woman relaxing at desk with arms behind head

If you’re like many of us, you may secretly cherish your perfectionism, because it means you have high standards, right? You may also feel it is essential to success.

But the research shows some more significant downsides: It won’t make you happy. It doesn’t make you better at your job. Plus, the stress of it can steal years of your life.

And the last thing we need these days is more stress. So here are three simple hacks to help you get the perfectionism demon under control.

  1. Put healthy things on your to-do list.
  2. “One of the things that I have found helpful for me as a perfectionist and as someone who lives for the high that I get in crossing something off my to-do list is to put healthy things on my list. So, if I have a day planner that has eight lines on it for a day, I don’t use all eight lines for work things. At least two or three of those lines need to be for things that feed my soul and feed my energy and energize me, like walk the dog, take a shower. I mean, take a shower. It’s a dumb thing to put on a list, but it’s also awesome.”
  3. Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink and the forthcoming Bomb Shelter.
  4. And it’s not just an awesome idea; there’s research that backs up why that works. It’s known as the progress principle, Emilie Aries, author of Bossed Up: A Grown Woman’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together.
  5. “The simple act of giving yourself the sensation of forward-momentum is inherently motivating. So, it’s kind of like getting a punch card for a free car wash after ten car washes with two holes already punched in it. There’s social science that shows, if you give yourself the sensation of a head start, you’re more likely to come back and punch the rest of those cards.
  1. Decide what you get a “B” in so you can Ace what is most meaningful.
  2. If the past year or two or three taught us anything, it’s that we can’t do it all and do it perfectly. So, simplify your ambitions with a little dose of realism from the outset. Or, as Aries puts it: Proactively choose what you want to deprioritize.
  3. “There’s a big difference between proactively saying “I’m aiming for a B in my fitness right now, so I can get an A in finishing my book v. I’m trying to go to the gym four times a week and finish my manuscript,” she says. The second is more likely to lead you to feel like a failure in the end. The first gives you a fighting chance at succeeding at what is most important.
  1. Have a mantra.
  2. “The thing I always love to say is something I learned from my producer and cameraman on a show that I do for Nashville Public Television called “The Word on Words,” where I interview other writers,” says Philpott. “When I mess up and get really stiff and robotic because there’s a camera on me and I’m talking in this weird voice, he will lean out from behind his camera and say, ‘Try it again, more like you.’

Mary Laura Philpott and Emilie Aries spoke at the Texas Conference for Women in 2019. This article is based on their session. Listen to their full session, “The Happy Perfectionist: Managing the Trap.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Health & Wellness