In the audio industry where women make up just 5 percent of the overall sector, Charity Hardwick is a boss. Since joining the executive team at Soundcast, Hardwick, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, has delivered on the company's goals of re-aligning both the go-to-market strategy and branding.
Through deep market analysis, Soundcast has worked to create consumer awareness for its range of weather-resistant portable audio products. Here, we sit down with Hardwick to find out more about what it's like being a woman in tech, and how she's setting the stage to take Soundcast into the future.
What attracted you to Soundcast?
Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Who we are, who we want to be. I grew up singing in church, listening to hip hop, everything from EDM to John Mayor. I'm a chameleon. Women are chameleons. I'm in this mood performing this function. What song is my inspiration? What song is going to make me walk into this business meeting and slay it?! When I really need a pick me up, I throw on a song.
You've explored several career paths, and served in the military. How did your background prepare you for your work?
I started my career in the 90's in the military. I joined the army because my parents had no money for college. I gained a lot of experience in operation management, but they didn't teach me enough. I started working for a high financier going to college, going part-time as a mom for 12 years. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was studying physics, with a strong empathy for women in sciences.
I was going on this journey where I couldn't figure out my purpose. By 2002, I'd done three associates worth of work. My mind was made up. I started foreclosure reality and worked on the big merger. That burnt me out. Then I had a head on car collision in New Zealand. I was in the hospital for several months reconstructing my leg, re-growing bone. It was physical obliteration and I was in a wheelchair for six months. I couldn't work 15 hours a day, so I went back to school. I wanted to be an executive in an advertising company. I spent three years going through physical therapy, double majoring in advertising and graphic design.
Then I moved into marine sporting goods, taking on outdoor products. Still, I had a passion for research, couldn't take my analytical background out of my soul. Coming into business strategy consulting was a combination of education and experience in journalism, physics, advertising, and graphic design. I went on to strategic business consulting. I never understood my path until looking back.
Out of that journey of not being afraid to explore and keep learning and changing my mind, came a unique position that I'm in right now: sciences, outdoors, distribution and repping.
What are some challenges you've overcome through your career?
Issues on issues on issues. Any women has dealt with 10 bucket loads of sexual discrimination. Then there's the less offensive, but still frustrating verbal disapproval. I was called abrasive through my twenties by men. I'm sorry is that code for “you're wrong?" Don't take that on. Take it as a sign that you are a strong voice in the workplace.
As women, we are conditioned to modulate. Women need to take negative experiences and ask, “What did this teach me?" Women tend to take on criticism personally. Strong women get more criticism than male counterparts.
Welcome negative critique. Just because someone gives me their opinion, doesn't mean I need to accept it. My truth is not your truth.
Being one of few women in your position, how did you succeed in tech?
By tactfully and strongly pushing my initiatives forward and by not giving up or differing. I am a thoughtful strategist. My decisions are never reckless. I gather information over time, so I never make a decision without substantial information behind it. I assert, “This is the decision we should make." It's because I've been informing myself. The only times I've failed is when I've second guessed myself.
Is career progress getting easier or harder for women in tech?
We all listen to music, but only 5 percent of women are in the music industry. It's gross. Men have been selling us everything. When you're coming up as women and girls in the past, even now, there's always this boys club. If you're going to be really successful, you need to be self-driven. It's myself, my dissatisfaction propelling me forward. You also have to build this wall as a woman in business. What I mean by that is I'm also an empathetic person. I have to consciously say to myself, “Alright. There's this line from business and personal. To preserve who I am at home and in my friendships, and to keep that separate from business, I intentionally allow myself the freedom to be empathetic and softer in my personal life.
How did you deal with mostly male boardrooms?
Women go into meetings and try to out macho the dudes. It doesn't matter what we do when we take that approach. We will always lose because it's fake. Instead of coming to the table with something disingenuous, why don't we come to the table with what's real?
My alternative? Femininity is a power. All the decisions we make lead back to that power. Men don't know what to make of it. Ego is one of men's greatest weaknesses because it's the most obvious thing in the room. When you understand how your dressing affects the meeting, that awareness affects how your meeting goes. Ask yourself, are you harnessing the power of your womanhood? When I get dressed in the morning, I ask myself, “Who am I meeting with? What's their religion? Background? Would this well-tailored pant suit keep their mouth shut longer?" Around men, perhaps I would wear something less threatening because, in his world, that's what you should look like. Make him see you're not trying to take his power. You're not trying to replace him.
One of my favorite things in the world… I go to a meeting and I'll sit there and I won't say a lot. I'll observe the temp of the meeting with powerful men from the eighties, and I'll keep my mouth shut. Two men start talking. They direct their questions to the other men in the room. Their assumption? Maybe I'm a secretary, or from marketing or merchandising. They all get talking. At some point, one of my teammates gets a question, and they turn to me. I can answer those questions confidently. I love the look on their face. The surprise.
I then see the look of respect on the men's faces. I take every interaction in these settings with one man at a time to show them a woman belongs here at the table. I want that future for my daughter.
With so few women to turn to through your career, what have you learned?
We are careful, thoughtful observers and thinkers. We can assess people's' needs. As a woman who's hungry and driven, there is an opportunity today, but it's not something that's assumed. As a woman, comfortable and confident, that's not my natural state. That's something I've worked hard to develop.
A woman shows up, there are things she's received accolades for. Being an admin, multitasking, being sensitive to feelings. In reality, those are the things that make a thoughtful leader. Assessing the needs of people you're working with is essential.
If I'm able to listen, and read people, I can assess their needs and place people in the right position with the opportunity to excel.
In this, women have a distinct advantage. When you understand your skill set with reasoning and rational, you don't have anything to prove. You've only got to prove it to yourself. There's an amount of need to prove myself. What can I achieve?
Tell me about what motherhood taught you about your role in business.
I have a son, and I worked hard for him, providing. But when I had my daughter, I looked into her eyes. That moment, everything changed. What kind of woman do I want her to be? Do I want her to sit in a meeting and take advice from some guy making more than her? Do I want her to sit through meetings run by men? Guys are intentionally putting together activities or bonding things at the exclusion of women. Do I want that for her?
What's next? Future plans?
Technology is changing. Availability of information coupled with changing technology and that accessibility makes it easier for women. As a company, we want to focus on that.
Forward thinking with the ability to understand needs of the company in the future. We are a global brand now. How do we best represent ourselves globally? We are mindful of cultures and diversity of people we're working with, with a proper understanding of market research. We listen to our customers. What do you need from us? Who are you? What's your name? I want for every woman, to find your sound track. Get that kick butt sound track to get you up on your low days.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."