Monthly Archives: May 2014

#YesAllWomen and #notallmen

I haven’t really been paying a lot of attention to the #YesAllWomen thing, because I’ve experienced these things myself. I know what it’s about and I appreciate and agree with the “campaign”, if it can be called that. The #notallmen response to #YesAllWomen puts me in mind of a personal anecdote that may reveal to you why that response is missing the point (though I wouldn’t be surprised if a faction of women-supporters had made all men out to be horrible jerkwads…I’ll condone it as a response to a vicious faction). I really think that the fair-minded men should be totally on board with this campaign! We like those guys.  And there’s a fantastic way for them to participate in making their workplaces more fair-minded.

Once upon a time…

Two geeky ladies and two geeky dudes were having a friendly chat. We women had started to talk about what to wear at work, and how our clothing choices actually change coworker reactions (how much they listen to us, how much they talk down to us, etc), even when we’ve been working there for 6+ months. We’re in different professions, so while we were clicking on the commonalities, we were trying to narrow in on the differences in our personal experiences. We weren’t vehement, vicious, or bitter about any of it, just curiously considering “what makes this tick?” Thus we each shared several anecdotes or summaries about different types of situations and outfits.

The men listened to our discussion. One asked a few questions. At the end, the other man simply said “I don’t believe that.” In four words he rejected dozens of data points from two perspectives and 30 minutes of conversation. I suddenly found him far less interesting to hang out with.

Perhaps this man doesn’t treat female coworkers differently based on their attire. But apparently he is unwilling to accept data that contradict his mental model of how the world works. He definitely would not see it if someone ELSE treated female coworkers differently based on their attire. Would he be oblivious to others treating women differently simply because they are women? Maybe not, but a surprising number of men are.

How fair-minded men can help

The #YesAllWomen “campaign” is trying to make people see that this happening to all of us very frequently! And it’s important for men to realize that we’re not accusing every single man of treating us poorly because we are female; but we are accusing most of them of either not paying attention or not speaking up when others treat us poorly. It happens so often that people get used to it or just tired of it and we don’t always notice and speak up ourselves. It’s important to make the fair-minded men aware of it. Not only can they speak up in our presence and change how things work while we’re around, but some can speak up behind the scenes in meetings of all-male managers and improve how we’re treated in ways we can’t testify to directly.

Soraya Chemaly wrote a great article about a month ago about the 10 words every girl should learn:

“Stop interrupting me.”

“I just said that.”

“No explanation needed.”

Let’s turn these same phrases into ammo for the men who notice someone else (male or female) treating a woman as inferior at work.  But let’s pretend you don’t want to sound terse and unfriendly; after all, that particular instance of maltreatment may just be the speaker having a bad day.  And you want to help out without damaging your own career.

If she is interrupted, interrupt back:

“Excuse me, but I’d like to hear the rest of what she had to say before we move on.”

If someone repeats her idea later as though it is brand new:

“It sounds like you and [her name] are on the same page!”

If someone is going through an eye-rolling explanation for a woman you know to be well-informed on that point:

“Pardon me, but I know she’s well-informed in this area.  We could save some time by skipping the explanation.”

On startups and hiring

Genius Hiring Feedback

How you know your recent hiring decision was genius:

  • Your “urgent tasks” list is dramatically reduced to the point where you can start working on “things that need to be done soon”.  And all the tasks you transferred to the new hire are getting done.
  • You find yourself with a little bit of “free” time to step back and look at the big picture.  Especially as you approach release, it’s so easy to get mired in details!
  • You find yourself with a little bit of “free” time to work on the pieces that will really differentiate your product or service.  It’s easy to let these slack a bit, because the competition isn’t providing them at all, but at the same time it’s important to make sure they really stand out!

Wishlist hires

I have been the only full-time, committed person on this project.  As such, there are many people I have grown to appreciate even more since founding this startup.  Everyone who works in/as:

  • Operations
  • Infrastructure
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • CEO
  • committed tech minions

These people are all amazing, and while I can do a passable junior-to-intermediate level job at all these things, my life is greatly improved when experienced professionals do them and I can focus on my areas of expertise and passion.  But it can be difficult to identify the next role to hire that will clear up my time to work on other things.  This is complicated by some challenges that are unique, in my experience, to this experience.

Startup hiring challenges

First, my employees are all consultants.  Actually, technically, I’m a consultant!  For my cofounder’s umbrella corporation, until we spin off.  That means the people I hire are relatively independent of each other, even if I occasionally put two of them in contact for a collaboration.  I’ve managed and integrated the work of a half dozen people before, but it’s a very different experience with a lot more integration work when they’re all functionally independent.

Second, I have to think carefully about how long it will take me to get them up to speed for these tasks.  If it will consume too much of my time, and I’m not guaranteed to have a long-term contract with the hire, it’s a no go.

Third, if the work I want them to do can’t be cut off from others’ work very easily, I don’t want to hire someone new to do that.  I might be able to grow someone into an integration role, but it’s best for me to oversee that until I have confidence in the employee.

Fourth, if it’s work I’ve been hired to do in the past, and I don’t mind it, it can be difficult to give it up to someone else.  After all, I may be better and faster at it, and I don’t need to be brought up to speed.  But in reality, I spend easily half my time coordinating everything, and the rest of my time is better spent on tasks I can’t reasonably dole out to anyone else.

Celebrate good decisions

You get the idea.  There are a lot of considerations, and identifying the most appropriate new hire is complicated.  I recently hired a developer to do some of the more separable integration, improvement, and bugfix tasks for me.  Best decision I could have made.  It’s exhilarating to have all three of those genius hiring feedback items within two weeks of a new hire!

A few good reads


A visualization of some good relationship advice.

Good relationship advice (some of it for non-romantic relationships too), presented as wedding vows.

Good advice on how to care for someone with depression.

Some excellent advice on picking a life partner.

The value of a smile in networking.


Data and visualization

A fabulous list of spurious correlations, to make you giggle over the fact that correlation is not causation.  There’s even an RSS feed!

Visage is trying to automate the boring parts of infographic design.

Isomer, a new isometric graphics library for HTML5.


Quantified Self, Productivity, Personal Health

Who needs a hack?  The straightforward way to get things done.

The top ten things we track.

African Hunter-Gatherers have different gut microbes.