Whew! Busy August, Time for Some Catching Up on Women, Life and Work


Women, Marriage, Family

Starting the month of August, I had a goal of doubling my blog viewership over the month of July. I had written a post the last day of July that had some good traction, and then . . . I went silent for 5 weeks! Not exactly the way to double viewers. Needless to say, a lot happened in August: two trips to TX, a trip to SF, a week long trip to WI/MN to start a 4-month effort on a contract my company had just won, a wedding in which I was a bridesmaid, my own anniversary, and finally a trip to Vandenberg AFB to see the Delta IV Heavy launch. Yeah, that’s a lot.

I have quite a few articles folks have sent my way that I wanted to share to kickstart my writing again. Next, I’ll have some stories about getting your first major contract in your company, and about watching a launch in person.

Hot off the press is a NY Times article about a two-year real world experiment Harvard Business School did with the class of 2013 on gender equality. While some of the (more gossip-y?) parts of the article deals with issues of class, money, and the elite lifestyle that some are born in to, it brings up a lot of women leadership issues and the challenges associated with doing something about them (or not). Over the course of two years, HBS did things to encourage women to participate more in the classroom, focus more on coursework and less on the social scene, and increase the performance of female faculty. Some things ‘got better’, in terms of female students winning awards and female faculty rating. But both the faculty and the students, struggled with some things:


  • Were students being trained for situations that didn’t exist in the real world?
  • If a student spoke up, were they risking their social capital they worked so hard to build?
  • There are issues outside of the few years in business school – career choice, earning gaps, staying in the workforce – that the HBS effort didn’t address (as it wasn’t designed to do so)


A month off the press, also from the NYT, is a piece about women who wanted back in the career track after they made an active decision 10 or so years ago to take time off of it. This is a big, juicy article, with three detailed personal stories of women who took time away from their career by choice, and now for a variety of reasons (change in marital status, desire to have a career again, need for more money) are working to find their way back in. Coming fresh off the HBS gender equity article, I’m struck by a few common themes in the two articles: your network/social circles makes a difference in your ability to do what you want to do, your values and what is important to you changes over time, and no matter what happens in the 2 yrs of a MBA (or other professional program), what really matters is the years in life someone is or isn’t in the workforce, and how they are spending that time.

A former boss and mentor of mine sent me an article about a pioneering woman in aerospace and propulsion,Yvonne Brill, who passed away earlier this year. She was responsible for the design of on-orbit propulsion systems that are still being used today, and did so while raising three children with a husband who also had a career. One thing that struck me was that she said many of her accomplishments occurred after she was 40 – she took time to have and raise her kids, but was apparently very determined to find her way “in” when there were very few women doing the same thing.

A friend also sent me a few articles from Harvard Business Review that I thought were worth sharing. The first is that “Women Don’t Need to Lead Better Than Men. They Need to Lead Differently“. It’s written by Debora Spar, the current President of Barnard College (all women), and who had previously been a professor at HBS. She’s been in two ‘extreme’ environments (testosterone vs. estrogen driven), and she believes we need more women as leaders because they do see and do things differently. Funny – until I started pulling these together, I didn’t realize the Harvard ties these articles would have. The second was that the September issue of the Harvard Business Review has a large collection of articles to “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About Women in the Workplace“. There are about 15 articles, and I haven’t read them all. Most look to me like things I already know about women in the workplace (though I do read and think a lot about the topic), and it is a nice set of links on a broad range of things.

Let me know what you found interesting in these articles, and what you are interested in hearing and talking about more! And it feels good to be back.

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
This entry was posted in Ambition, Business, Education, Engineering, Entrepreneur, Family, Flexible, Mom, Networks, Resources, Technology, Women, Work and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Whew! Busy August, Time for Some Catching Up on Women, Life and Work

  1. Vivian says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on life and women. Interesting how so much can happen in such a short time and how we can absorb so much information.

  2. Vanita says:

    Marissa Mayer comes to mind when I think of women in leadership roles. Ranked #32 in Forbes top 100 women, she made some tough decisions when she first joined Yahoo which were not very well received. Still considered aloof and tough, I wonder if she will be better received if she relaxed a bit.

  3. Pingback: Padnos, Spar, Finerman: Taking Some Time to Learn From Those Further Along the Career/Life Path | Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Business, Technology and Leadership

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