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What Would Make You Set Your Life Aside for a Year?

What compelled me to do it? I just set everything I was doing aside to write: You Can’t Fix What You Can’t See: An Eye-Opening Toolkit to Cultivate Gender Harmony in Business. A lot of people have asked me: Why’d you do it? You might think there was a simple answer, but it didn’t turn out that way for me.

I spent many many years in Tech – and I must say, have thoroughly enjoyed the work I’ve done. For the most part, it has been challenging and stimulating. Can you imagine building the equivalent of a nuclear power plant – by increasing the licensed power level of many existing nuclear plants. I have managed Product Managers and helped them to position their products and services to maximize value in the eyes of their customers. Leading a multitude of R&D programs and guiding teams on how to really extract the needs of clients for complex services with many stakeholders was very rewarding. I have taught strategic sales and helped companies to bridge the gaps between their silos by showing them how to combine products and services to offer more value to customers. Once they start collaborating, then they can start to collectively design new products, taking you to places you may not have seen before.


Along the way, I have helped a lot of people, groups, and organizations learn to get out of their own way. With all that, the hardest challenges are not technology-based but are instead people-based. Being a keen student of neuroscience and psychology and have always been curious about why people do what they do. As an undergrad, I got the credits for a minor in psychology, except, I was told, you can’t get a minor unless your major is also in the same school. With my major in Engineering, there was no way to get a minor from the school of Arts & Sciences. It didn’t matter I used the knowledge anyway. In fact, I’ve done that throughout my career. Dabbling in new areas has always brought me rich insights that often, I’ve able to use to drive to commercialization.


Since I’ve been in tech my entire career, I’ve often been the only woman in the room. Early in my career, as a stretch assignment, I was asked to co-lead a diversity council and began to watch how women were treated differently than men. Witnessing many women falling by the way-side was startling to me. They left jobs and companies, many changed careers entirely. And I always thought, how can you leave a job you love? The answer is, of

course, they couldn’t continue to live their lives in a position where they were not listened to, valued, or respected. They weren’t getting the same things everyone else was: opportunities to grow, additional training and skill development, special projects that stretch you in new directions, access to the leadership team, mentoring, and sponsorship.


You see, after graduation, I ended up with an extraordinarily inclusive boss, way before we even knew what that term really meant. We both moved around the company as our careers progressed and he hired me five times. I don’t think I realized how important his influence was on my early career (and many others’) until writing and delivering part of his eulogy two years ago. A part of my success was because I got an extra boost at the beginning of my career. That allowed me to plow through the many many awful things that I was forced to endure as a woman living in a man’s business world. Most women are not as lucky.


Now, I look at the young people graduating from college, and we don’t have anywhere near enough engineers or computer scientists to fill the technical jobs in this country. The gap is huge. The need is there and yet we are still not changing how we are treating women, so that they would want to enter these fields. 50% of the women who graduate with a technology degree, leave their industry and field about ten years later. 50% - that’s just crazy.


I have three boys. They will marry one day, hopefully. I want my kids and their partners to live in a different world, a better world, than the one I came of age in. I could not live with myself knowing that I knew ways to change the tide for these young people, and yet chose not to do anything. That’s why I wrote: You Can’t Fix What You Can’t See: An Eye-Opening Toolkit to Cultivate Gender Harmony in Business.


My goal is simple: Change the business world so that we are all on a level-playing field.

Want to join me? Read the book – there are lots of tools you can use. Speak up. Step In. Sign up. We must be the change we want to see. Let’s pass on a better working world to the next generation. We owe them that. We owe it to ourselves.




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© 2020 by Karen F. Cornwell