Last night was the SVForum Tech Women program I organized for February. The topic: ‘Using Technology to Improve the World’. [I was going to call it ‘Using Technology to Save the World’- but thought that sounded too over-the-top; isn’t that telling…..]. The panelists were 4 women who have started and/or are heavily involved with non-profits that use technology for social good. They are: Jen Pahlka of CodeforAmerica, Mona Motwani of Spark, Jill Finlayson working on Striking Poverty and URB.im, and Celestine Takatsuno of SocialCodingf4Good (a project at Benetech). Each of these women has an impressive background in terms of education, experience, and accomplishments. All of them are doing remarkable things using technology for good. And almost every one of them expressed feeling lucky to be on the same panel as the others because the others were… better.
I can relate to that experience, having been on panels where I felt flattered to be associated the other presenters. The most memorable was Women@the Frontier. Looking at the other honorees, I felt they were far more accomplished than me. They, in turn, admitted to feeling the same way. I don’t remember whether or not any of us said something about these self-evaluative feelings publicly during the program but it was a sense we all shared.
How often do men on a panel consider that they are fortunate to be sharing the platform with the other participants? I suspect that few men bother comparing themselves to the others. If they did, they would be less likely to put themselves down. If a man did compare himself in a way that made him feel ‘less than’, how likely is it that he would actually say it to the audience? Very unlikely.
This is just one more example of how women are hard on themselves. We tend to be self-reflective, observing ourselves with very dark (definitely not rose-colored) glasses. The internal judge tells us stories about how we are not as good as the other person, we don’t measure up to that ultra high standard. No wonder we don’t feel confident.
Can you tell that confidence (or lack of) is a topic that intrigues me? It’s an obstacle that gets in the way of women being innovators and leaders. Solution, hopefully, to follow soon.