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!

What We’re Following – Books, Podcasts, Movies, and TV

woman wearing headphones while working on her laptop in the library

With so many fascinating things to read, listen to, and watch, we thought we’d share some we found intriguing lately. A partial roundup from the CFW team:

  • Books. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. “I read this in my book club, and it gave me an entirely new perspective on immigration from Mexico.” (Laura H.) Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. (Carolyn G.) Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Eerie how history repeats itself. (Laurie W.) Anne Grady’s Mind Over Moment and Amy Morin’s 13 Things Strong Women Do. (Amy C.) “Great reads for Mental Health Awareness month.”
  • Podcasts. Psychologist Alison Gopnick about ‘beginner’s mind’ on the Ezra Klein Show. (Carolyn G.) How to avoid raising entitled kids on Raising Good Humans with Dr. Aliza. (Wendy M.)
  • Movies/TV. Call the Midwife. “At its core it is about women helping women, and that’s what appeals to me most!” (Laura H.) Judas and the Black Messiah. “I’m a big fan of Daniel Kaluuya.” (Laurie W.) Nomadland, “Everyone should see this movie about the importance of varied perspectives and ‘home’ not being the same for everyone.” (Wendy M.)

More from the May 2021 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms Tagged |

Letting Go of Perfect With Hyundai’s Tiffany Stroupe

Tiffany Stroupe

Q: Why are you interested in embracing courage over perfectionism?

Perfectionism is overrated and tiring. I don’t know how I became a perfectionist but it was an exhausting habit and one I’m glad I’ve been able to ease away from. When I got real about accepting who I am… the good, the bad, the flaws and all, that was when I realized that it’s ok to just be me and not be perfect. I embrace and love that feeling of courage.

We all have courage in us and are motivated for different reasons, beliefs, and ideals. I find I’m more inclined to be courageous when it comes to communication because I feel that if we can talk about the facts and the emotions of things, then we can begin to understand each other and our needs. I embrace courage over perfectionism!

Q: What do you think the obstacles are that prevent women, in particular, from embracing courage over perfectionism?

There’s a lot of pressure within society and within our culture for women to be a certain way – perfect is one of them. Most magazine covers have airbrushed women on them and they often look perfect. There’s a standard that has been created that many people, including myself, have bought into by an industry that wants to stay in business so they continue to perpetuate that norm. It’s a weird vicious cycle. It benefits big business and degrades the image we have of what we should/could/would be.

What I love about 2021 is that many people are frustrated by the status quo and they are breaking down and modifying and redefining a lot of these norms. From the way people talk and dress, to the way people think and act. I love that the current message is often that there are many versions or ways of being, not just one. A woman can be many things and perfect doesn’t have to be one of them. I love seeing images and representations of courageous women. It’s empowering and is a very new thing in my lifetime. I don’t recall having so many courageous women doing so many amazing things all at the same time. I find that I am simultaneously intimidated, inspired, awed, and encouraged by it. It’s very exciting.

Q: What have you found helps women overcome those obstacles and find their courage?

My experience leading the women’s group at Hyundai taught me that there are a number of ways to overcome these obstacles. Having role models that represent someone much like themselves helps a lot. It’s also about women having opportunities to have a voice, which requires others (men and women alike) to support by listening and encouraging those women who many not normally speak up to have and use that voice. I would also say it helps to create opportunities for women to work on projects together, to hear each other’s voices, see each other, and support and be supported by each other. These three things were magical in creating strong and lasting bonds and a sense of camaraderie within our women’s group.

Q: If you were to share one story about a time in which you were challenged to embrace courage over perfectionism, what would it be?

There was a time I was driving down the 55 freeway (5 or 6 lanes in each direction) going about 45 mph and there were many, many cars around me. A motorcyclist was in the carpool lane next to me. There was a car in front of him and no exit from the carpool lane. At the same time that he had started to try to pass that car in front of him, the car decided to exit and didn’t see the motorcyclist. The car’s rear passenger side hit the front wheel of his motorcycle. The motorcycle was instantly on its side moving fast with sparks flying and the rider was rolling to an abrupt stop right in front of my car. I stepped on the brakes – hard. I couldn’t believe it. All the cars behind me must have seen it too and because they were all stopping quickly too. The rider was 10 inches from my front grill. I threw it in park and jumped out. I didn’t care what was right or perfect at that moment.

He was hurt, laying in front of my car, and in danger of having someone else hit my car, which would have hit him too. I got him up and in the car quickly. He had a really big cut on his palm and was likely going to be bruised all over his body. He was very lucky. I drove him to the side of the road while two other motorists picked up his very messed up bike to move it off the freeway.

At that point, there were hundreds of cars now lined up on the freeway behind all of this. The police officer who took the report told me that what I did was an exception and that most people don’t ever try to help. I’m not going for the normal or for perfection. And, I didn’t care what anyone thought. It was the right thing to do. I couldn’t imagine being in that rider’s situation. My husband’s favorite part of the story is my shock in seeing that this rider wasn’t wearing any gloves brought out the maternal instinct in me. While driving this guy to the side of the road, he also got an ear full about how dumb it not to have gloves on. Ha ha. I hope he bought a pair of gloves that week.

Q: As someone who works in the world of customer feedback, how do you think customers think about this issue? In other words, recognizing that everyone and every business makes mistakes, do you think they are more forgiving when we are honest about them?

My personal feeling and believe is that there’s way more upside to being honest. As someone who works in customer feedback at Hyundai, I read verbatim responses from our Hyundai owners regularly. It’s hard for me to put into words the feelings I have when I read the responses. It’s probably a combination of relief, understanding, reassurance, surprise, and delight – all at the same time.

Regarding mistakes, owners often indicate that if the situation is explained to them by an employee who is transparent about what’s happening and that person provides options, that it’s something they can forgive. I believe that people are more forgiving when we’re honest. When we make mistakes, which is totally human, it’s about the recovery and the application of learning.

Tiffany Stroupe is Senior Group Manager, Customer Feedback at Hyundai Motor North America. Her career expertise has largely focused on the Customer Experience and ranges from strategy, planning, and operations, to marketing and market research.

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms

One Woman’s Crash Course in Virtual Networking

Cate Luzio

Cate Luzio worked in corporate America for 20 years when she decided she was ready to do something very different and become an entrepreneur.

Her dream was to create a networking space for professional women in New York City—and she did it, using her own money to create a 15,000-square foot space, complete with nursing rooms, a salon/beauty bar, fitness studio, and more.

In late 2018, she opened the doors to Luminary, a membership-based career and personal growth platform and collaboration hub for women.

One year later, Covid hit.

After already having to navigate what she said was the most significant new experience of being an entrepreneur—everything came down to her—she now faced the challenge of running a collaboration hub during a pandemic.

The silver lining, she said, was that she learned to innovate fast. The result: She turned Luminary into a global, inclusive collaboration hub, with both physical spaces and a robust digital platform that delivered more than 400 programs in 2020.

Along the way, she observed several things about women and networking that might help you as we continue to operate in a virtual world of work. Here are highlights from a recent conversation with the Conferences for Women:

Three Ways to Improve Your Networking

  1. Reframe your idea of it. “I think there has to be a mind-shift change around networking,” Luzio says. “Men don’t use term ‘networking.’ They just do it. They say: I’ve got to talk to this person. They tap into relationships.”
  2. As women, she adds, “we have to remove the mental barrier that networking is tough. All you are doing is creating a conversation, taking part in a discussion, building relationships. That’s what networking is—and doing it strategically.”
  1. Make the most of Zoom. “When you are on a Zoom call, it is the easiest time to connect. It is spoon-feeding you networking opportunities,” Luzio says. But many people don’t take advantage of them, she adds. To make the most of Zoom meetings, Luzio recommends two things:
    • Take a picture as soon as you see everyone’s name. Scroll through and take a screenshot, or use your phone and take a picture. Then go back, connect on LinkedIn, and say ‘We were in that session together. I’d love to connect.’ There’s instant rapport.”
    • Introduce yourself in live chats. “What is the harm?” says Luzio. “You’re not putting yourself out there verbally. Just say, ‘Here’s my website if you’re interested in connecting.'”
  1. Be prepared with an ask. “You always have to have an ask ready,” says Luzio. “Most people want to help. But telling people what you need is so important because people are busy, and they can’t read minds. So, don’t beat around the bush. The worst somebody can say is ‘I can’t help now.’ And then you can move onto the next person.”

Cate Luzio will join Malcolm Gladwell, 5-time bestseller; Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race; Thomas Friedman, 3-time Pulitzer Prize winner; and Rana Foroohar, CNN analyst at the National Workplace Summit on May 6, 2021.

Presented by the Conferences for Women
May 6, 2021

2021 National Workplace Summit logo

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So, You Want to Talk About Race? A Conversation with Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo, author of The New York Times bestseller, So You Want to Talk About Race, spoke recently with the Conferences for Women about the difficulties of talking about race with people we are close to, how to maintain a sense of urgency about addressing racial injustice, and more.

Excerpts from the conversation, lightly edited for brevity and clarity, appear below:

Q: You’ve said that many of your white friends were uncomfortable when you first started writing and talking about race. But many other people who you did not know reached out to you. Do you think it is more difficult to discuss race, across racial lines, with people to whom we are close?

Ijeoma Oluo: It’s incredibly difficult to talk with people we are close to about race. As a society, we have put expectations on people of color to bridge whatever gap we have in our relationships.

You see it in TV shows. People of color are always taking blows to remain close. It is expected in intimate relationships, work relationships, close friendships.

The problem then is when you are having a conversation about race, you are setting that aside. And when you don’t live up to that expectation, let go of the agreement, there is a question: Does our relationship still stand?

Often it doesn’t, at least at first. People of color know this. You try it once or twice and see how it ends up. There is always something fraught about it. By your mid-20s, you know it is incredibly difficult.

Many white people don’t get why things are changing. They don’t get the inherent expectations. They don’t get asked to leave part of themselves at the door.

Q: With all the serious issues our nation is dealing with, what are your thoughts about how people can best maintain a sense of urgency around addressing race this year?

IO: It’s vital to look at the workspace and say: How is it someone can be promoted and not advance equity for the team? How is it someone can be culturally incompetent and have a leadership position? How is it someone can celebrate a productive year when none of your customers are people of color? We need to start looking at all of that.

It’s also really, really important to recognize that there is intrinsic value in the lived experiences of people of color that stands alone in the workspace—it’s not just that they are people of color. It is that they have unique skills because they are people of color that need to be valued.

Q: Are you more or less optimistic about the state of race relations than when you wrote your book? And if you were writing it now, would you change anything?

IO: I have the same level of optimism I have always had. I’m a natural optimist but in a really practical way—not like everything will be great. I was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, who taught me about the ability to be perpetually heartbroken by human beings.

I have the ability to be heartbroken because I am open to it. Every year I say it could be different, and I work toward that. Because it’s not different doesn’t mean it won’t be someday.

Ijeoma Oluo will join Malcolm Gladwell, five-time bestseller; Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner; and Rana Foroohar, CNN analyst at the National Workplace Summit on May 6, 2021.

Presented by the Conferences for Women
May 6, 2021

2021 National Workplace Summit logo

More from the April 2021 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Tagged , |

Reader Responses from Women’s History Month Poll: Women You’d Like to Take to Lunch

For Women’s History Month, we asked: Which women from history would you most like to take to lunch? Many of you suggested a wide range of women from performers to changemakers to spiritual leaders. Highlights appear below, slightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Josephine Baker. She lived out her values and principles with courage and with dignity. I admire her spirit in the face of adversity over time and continents. From childhood, she could survive and thrive, which led her to places where she created and optimized opportunities. She took risks and developed instincts and networks that were supportive. She sang, danced, became an international star based in Paris, a spy for France, and then surrounded herself with a large family of orphans that she adopted. She also visited people in the hospital to lift their spirits when she got older. She is a badass and an inspiration. Rob O’Dwyer, MA

Octavia E. Butler. I have been influenced by her stories but also her devotion to telling the stories she found were missing in the genre. She was known as a shy woman but found her voice and used it to embody the story of Black women. I started reading Butler’s work in the early 1990’s. Octavia Butler seemed to get me and write stories that I could parse for months, stories that stayed with me for decades, stories that I reread periodically to see what else I could get from them. Her writing style is beautiful and fluid. I would like to talk about the courage it took to write those stories at a time when she was the only Black female author writing science fiction, and she was definitely the only author with Black female protagonists in speculative fiction settings. In reality, I think I would just gush like the fangirl I am if I ever had the chance to talk with her at length but I can dream. Sue Hawkins

Pema Chodron. She has helped so many people find their way and improve their lives. She has a great life story. She comes across as warm and personable in her public talks. And if worst came to worst—just sitting in silence with Pema Chodron would probably be as amazing in its way as having a good long chat with her. Jessica Holland

Amelia Earhart. I did a report on her when I was in elementary school. I had to dress up and present it to the class. Back then, I just thought she had accomplished something pretty great. I didn’t even think about the fact that she was a woman doing this. Now, as an adult, I think about what I didn’t know then. How truly amazing her accomplishments were when you consider she was a woman in a male-dominated profession, at a time in history when she was probably among very few women in the entire world attempting this. And of course, I’d like to know what happened to her. Sandra Faust-Mesropian

Queen Esther. She was prepared to lay down her life to help save her people by asking for an audience with the king. In those days, anyone not summoned by the king would be executed for doing so unless the king held out his scepter. Her whole story is a wonderful chapter in the life of the Jewish people and a remarkable testimony of how one woman changed the course of history. Carolyn Pfeiffer, PA

Kasturba Gandhi. Kasturba Gandhi was supported her husband [Mahatma] and lived the ideals of nonviolence and peaceful non–cooperation against the British Empire. She rallied the women to join the movement while encouraging indigenous economic means. Lo and behold, these methods led to independence from the British. Bela Pathak, NJ

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I am sure that RBG is a popular choice, but she symbolizes so much for me as a woman. She was strong in character and broke the glass ceiling long before it was a thing. She stood by her convictions, faced gender inequality head-on, and persevered. She took care of her husband when he was sick. She went to class for him, took notes, continued her classes, and cared for her young daughter. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, she successfully argued several landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court, where she was eventually called to serve. Even while aging and being sick, she continued to work out every day and sit on the Supreme Court. I cried the day she passed away. I felt like I had lost one of our greatest advocates, and it truly broke my heart. I try to remain inspired and remember what she fought for. Being quiet is being complicit, and I hope that is never me. My Mom is another woman of unbelievable strength and character. She is famous to me, and I would invite her to sit at the table with Ruth and me. Jocelyn Rineer, NJ

Ada Lovelace. Working in I.T., and specifically information security, I think her analytical mind and her life experiences would be so interesting to learn about! And, to give her an update on all we have accomplished since she wrote the first algorithm! Tina Schmidt

Rosa Parks. If it were possible and I had the opportunity to take one woman from history to lunch, it would be, of course, Rosa Parks. I really don’t know much about her other than what is publicly known by everyone. I would like to know what she was feeling and what was going on in her mind. Vivian Bowles

Chef Lena Richard. Not a lot of national attention is given to Lena, but she broke barriers. I would ask her about her time in Boston, where she attended a culinary school founded by Fannie Farmer. We would discuss how Boston was different culturally from New Orleans but still the same. As she had to get each of her classmates to write a letter stating they agreed to let her attend classes. We would talk about her founding her cooking school in New Orleans and some of her famous students, including Leah, Chose of Dookie Chase Restaurant. I would ask where I could get a copy of her cookbook (New Orleans Cookbook) and how it came to be that she had a cooking show in the 1940s in New Orleans that was televised. By the way, she would cook the lunch, and I would clean the kitchen. Maricia D C Johns, TX

Mother Teresa. It would be Mother Teresa for me to have an opportunity to feel her unconditional love. I would know how that feels to let me want to pass the feeling onto others. For love is an act of kindness that can only make the world bloom more love. “Let us all meet each other with a smile as the smile is the beginning of love” is one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa. Another is: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. The more I see the chaos of the world and wanting to figure out ways to solve issues, the deeper I feel I fall into the hole. Let’s maybe switch gears and focus on love instead of issues. Love, to me, is a universal law; it can dissolve issues and melt everything into more love. Yihsing Pan, PA

Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman refused to ignore the fire and light that lived in her. Well-knowing that she could be killed at any moment for her actions, she continued to follow her life’s mission and purpose, leading hundreds of thousands of slaves to freedom. Harriet Tubman represented the type of “hard-headedness” and “good trouble” that could only be poured into one’s unrelenting spirit by the wholly Divine himself. How did she find the courage to push on despite “man’s” law? How did she know who she could and could not trust? How did she first realize her life’s mission and figure out the first steps to take to set her precarious, life-long success in motion? These are the things I would ask. LeKisha McKinley

More from the April 2021 Newsletter

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