Stranger 60, Day 60 – Meet Kathleen, the “Mentor for Women”

Stranger 60, Day 60 - Meet Kathleen

I met today’s Stranger by wandering the rooms around Atlanta Tech Village again. In the large community room on the first floor, I happened to find a woman working pretty hard on her computer. In fact, when I interrupted her for this project, she asked me to come back as she was wrapping up something pretty difficult. She seemed like a strong person who was going to share something interesting, so I sat around outside waiting till she was finished. When I approached later, she was open to speaking, and thus, be today’s Stranger.

Meet Kathleen, “older than me”

Who are you?

“I’m a businesswoman. I’m a mentor at ATV. I mentor women. I’m passionate about mentoring women. That’s where I’m heading with my next step at this point. I’m shifting from an old step to a new step — a previous step to a new step.”

“I have been in business for all of my career — 30+ years. I’ve lived all over the world. I’ve worked with startups, and I’ve worked with more organized companies. MBA from Berkeley in Accounting. Undergraduate in French. I speak French, and I have studied Italian. I’ve lived in 17 states, at least. I’ve lived in India. I’ve lived in France. I’ve lived in Canada.” She thinks some more.”

“… that’s me!”

So you’re transferring from a previous step to a new step. Is there a reason for this?

“About a year and a half ago, I went to a venture capital forum. I was invited by a friend of mine who’s a VC. It was an introduction of startup companies who were presenting to this VC forum to get funding. I was stunned — truthfully stunned — and then very upset there were no women in the room. There was not one woman in any presenting software companies. Not one!”

“And in the audience of buyers, there were three women and the rest were men. I looked around, and I thought, ‘what the hell happened? What the hell happened for women?’ And I didn’t use the word ‘hell’. I just was so… it made me so upset. Out of that came a determination to work with women to improve their careers and be more successful in their careers. Help them address the issues that women face in the business world in a way that is very proactive and positive, and help them be more successful.”

“I view the business world as kind of a football field. There are a lot of different rules. A lot of different ways to dress. And a lot of ways to be, and that we just have to learn how to play the game and be more successful, and use the tools that we have… help the mentees create a better team.”

“Now, I just finished offering a course that is a follow-on to one I offered last year called, ‘Getting the Career You Want’. It’s four sessions. The sessions address the art of negotiation, owning your own power, the difference between the male brain and the female brain, and the particular gates that women have to check over in order to be successful. So it’s been actually quite exciting! And now I’m looking to doing that 100%!”

So many questions and thoughts running through my head at this point with Kathleen. I find what she’s doing fascinating. I wanted to ask a broad question — what are the top 2 or 3 or 5 things that you say to women right off the bat?

“It depends, but let’s say if I’m just meeting you and I shake your hand and you have a lousy handshake, if I can draw the woman aside and I tell the women she’s got a lousy handshake. The handshake and the first two seconds are the moments when most judgments are made. The handshake is very, very important. Many women do not know how to shake hands.”

Do you think that’s more true with women and men?

“Mostly women. Men tend to know better. But it doesn’t make any difference if men know better. I’m happy to teach a man how to shake hands, but my commitment is to teach women how to shake hands. So, I teach them how to shake hands. A lot of people pull their hands back. A lot of it’s got to do with being afraid of being crushed. Women tend to have smaller hands, and men sometimes don’t know their strength.”

“I actually did it the other day. Every single woman I meet who does not shake hands in a powerful fashion, I try to draw them aside and teach them how to shake hands. First thing I say.”

“Women apologize too much. Women are always saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ Cut the ‘I’m sorry’-ies out. So that’s the next thing. If I meet a woman who says, ‘I’m sorry’ too many times, I draw her aside, and say, ‘don’t say I’m sorry. It just weakens you. It weakens you in the conversation.’ I’m about teaching women how to be powerful in business. So that’s my second thing I say to women.”

“So one, shake hands. Two, I’m sorry. And…” She thinks about this one for a while. “It’s a corollary to ‘I’m sorry’. It’s over-explaining who we are.”

“There are lots of little things — how to stand powerfully. How to speak powerfully. How to accept praise. How to not diminish what it is you have — that’s called the imposter syndrome. There’s a lot of things that women do unconsciously. Truthfully, there’s a lot of things men do unconsciously as well. So the game really is to educate men as well as women. I’ve chosen my market to help women, but I think that if the women are helped, the men will be helped, too.”

That was a great segue for me. What can I do as a man to make sure that I respect women? There’s things unconscious that I don’t know that I do.

“Implicit bias is an issue for all of us. In a business, never interrupt women. Men are great interrupters. Men interrupt a lot, and women will defer to an interruption. So to be mindful of your conversational techniques with women would be probably be a really great thing to start to adopt.” Good feedback.

“And the other thing, and my favorite second topic is the male brain and female brain — that’s a fascinating topic! That’s a topic I would like to speak to men and women about. So much of what it is that’s going on with us in this… our modern times are one gazillionth of our history as human beings. Our history of human beings has determined the development of our brains. The development of our brain targets certain types of drives and behaviors that are unique to men vs. unique to women — these are broad statements. Every brain is different, but in general. You know how they say women are better communicators. Women are better multi-taskers. Men think they’re good multi-taskers, but they’re not. And it’s because they’re genetics are about going out and killing the thing and bringing it home. So they do that in business, but we’re in a modern culture now. Cultures change, but the genetics haven’t changed. I think it’s a useful conversation for men to understand that when women want to plan deeply, it’s kind of the way their brains are organized. It’s like that ‘ready, aim, fire’ — men, it’s ‘fire, aim, ready’. Women are ‘ready’, ‘aim, fire’. Men are not that. It’s a really interesting thing to think about. The more we understand that in our business interactions, then I think we have a higher percentage of things going well.”

“The other thing you can do if you’re in a sales organization, make sure you’ve got a lot of women there. If you have more women, the odds are — well, it’s proven. The statistics show that your company’s going to be more successful by having more women in positions of power, not just women there just for the sake of having women.”

If you lost all the people closest to you, what would you have? What would you still have? (Thanks to Mark, Stranger 59)

“What’s inside me.”

She continues, “I’d be devastated and sad, but I would be enough for me. I’d be sad, but I’d be enough for me. I wouldn’t lose me.”

“Good question, actually… really good question.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

She initially asked, “What is one thing you’re doing to change the world?” However, she amended that to ask, “What are you doing to pay it forward?”

Kathleen then shares, “My mission and intention is to forever change the trajectory of the career of every person I work with. That is my commitment to the person — to forever change their trajectory in their career. That’s my intention. That’s my mission, and that’s my purpose. Intention drives everything. You have to have an intention before you do anything. It’s really important for me to have that set.” She shares how she’s been 100% successful in that regard with everyone she’s worked with — women and men.

After the handshake.

Speaking to Kathleen was great. I appreciated learning about how she helps women. I am an Advisor/ have advised several woman entrepreneurs/ women-led startups. In fact, the “I’m sorry” notice was something I have spoken to several women (and men) about. What else was enlightening for me was hearing her advice to me as a man. Interruptions is actually something I’ve heard about from someone, too. I’m not sure if I read it in a book or in a blog post or what, but I remember this very clearly. I also remember and know that I do interrupt people today. Though, I think I do it with men and women all the same… which is not good, period.

I did comment earlier to her that at my company, presently, we do not have any women. It’s not that we haven’t had women in the past (marketers, product management, developer intern). We just don’t have any at the moment, but we’re still a young startup. And honestly, I also have not seen a women’s sales resume cross my desk. She did pick up on this — “no female resume cross my desk”, and perhaps it was my miscommunication to say it like I did because it’s not that I was only looking for resumes that had “male” checked. Instead, resumes just come to my inbox or via LinkedIn, and they’re all men for sales. We talked about this, and she pointed the dearth of female sales professionals (and indeed, those in tech) to marketing campaigns 40 years ago when Apple introduced the personal computer — all marketed at men, and thus, the female technical jobs declined. So now, women are 40 years behind, as she points out.

There’s a lot to this, and I was so curious about her thoughts between men and women brains, and how to be more conscious of implicit biases. However, I had to run, and this was not going to be a 60 Minutes interview. However, it was a great beginning to, hopefully, many fruitful conversations down the road.

Meet Kathleen. No longer a Stranger.

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] you would like to learn more entertaining things about me, please check out this interview from Daryl Lu. He was interviewing 100 Stranger in 100 Days. Needless to say, we are no longer […]

  2. […] a gong being struck. It’s calling to attention how I’m interacting with others. Like Kathleen, the Women’s Mentor (Stranger 60) who shared how men tend to interrupt women. I want to say I don’t, but her explicitly […]

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