I can’t possibly know the challenges other women face; I will however attempt to share mine in the hopes that (a) they might be helpful to someone else and (b) maybe in time we can all share, aggregate and form meaningful changes.
(1) Taking space to innovate and create something new is not only risky it is very expensive. The expense comes in the form of your earnings at this critical time. To clear your mind means you have to stop doing other things that were paying you well and devote lots of time to unpaid conceptual thinking that no one will pay you for. When you are 42, like I am, in your prime earning years and with kids you help support, this is a very stressful and risky endeavor. I won’t even call it an opportunity cost; it is an earnings cost. This is true for women and men, but as women have a statistically much more difficult time with re-entry to a comparable job after exiting a strong job, the danger is more acute.
(2) Keeping your skills of-the-moment is also expensive in terms of TIME. It is really tempting to just want to keep learning on your own, through the web, through reading, through doing, through some professional development. However, I think it’s imperative to go through more rigorous learning constantly, things like the 8 Weeks of Awesome at Techstars, and conferences at the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship, #TwitterDrive, courses with colleagues like the Data Mining course at CU Boulder, and online courses with entities like lynda.com. You have to be a Learning Machine as Brad Feld calls it. Each of these is time consuming in terms of driving to them, showing up, fitting it into your already busy life, making time to focus and create. My partner and husband, Kurt, is extremely supportive. I can’t even imagine what it would be like without having someone there to back you up. Time is precious and scarce for each of us. Again this is true for men. However, women are often juggling caring for their children and aging parents as well as their own careers.
(3) Letting go of perfectionism
I’m not talking about doing things well or doing things accurately. I am talking about needing to do everything to the Nth degree. Last night, at an NCWIT lecture Lucy Sanders mentioned the data that show women will apply to a job when they have 50 of the 50 required skills while men will apply when they have 20. At my son’s school, the gifted curriculum tries to help kids overcome that perfectionism. It’s a quality of many highly gifted & talented individuals, not just women. I think it’s linked to intelligence. You can see how things could be done and so you set out to do it. You just can’t spread that level of detail out to all aspects of your life. Not enough hours in the day.
(4) Embracing your kickass ability to generate ideas
When I was 18, I bought this book called Help for Women Who Do Too Much. Kurt hilariously pointed out that there are likely no books entitled “Help for Men Who Do Too Much.” I realize now that this was me trying to “fix it” instead of understanding my ability to generate ideas.