Every year since 1998, tech billionaires, wantrepreneurs and mega-corporations converge in Las Vegas to discuss all aspects of tech from beauty to virtual reality at the annual Consumer Electronic Show.
This year Nina Garcia, the Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine, moderated one of only two panels focused on women called "Global Dialogue of Connection and Support." The guests were Glory Cheung, chief brand officer at China's Huawei; Facebook's Vice President of Global Marketing Solution, Carolyn Everson and Robin Raskin, a longtime partner of the conference, an original protégé of Bill Gates and one of the first female coders. Garcia addressed the elephant in the room: that this year, of all years, i.e. in the midst of #metoo and #timesup CES Keynote speakers were all male. Thus a hashtag had surfaced similar to 2015 Oscar's: #cessomale. And it was. From Booth Babes to Robot Strippers it wasn't the most comfortable place for women present, as objectification seemed to override participation.
ELLE USA Editor-in-Chief Nina Garcia moderates panel at CES 2018. Photo Courtesy of CES
However, the panelists proposed their solutions for the keynote dilemma as well as increasing the numbers for women in STEM and Everson had the most concrete and doable actions of the panel--all delivered in such a contagious and upbeat way, the audience left feeling like we'd almost already won.
The room clapped when she stated: "Out of all years, this would not be the year to not attempt 50 percent representation. I think it just takes a commitment. The answer I won't accept is that it's hard. Because if we said it was hard, it would be hard to find black females to join your company, it would be hard to find U.S. Hispanic women to join your company at senior levels, it would be hard to find enough gender diversity around LGBTQ. Guess what, life's hard, we have to commit to it and get it done."
She introduced real-life solutions such as requiring sensitivity and anti-harassment training at Facebook, even for those attending a one off event. She also discussed mandatory unconscious bias training started by Sheryl Sandberg that is used in Facebook's review process. "During our review process we screen for words that are typically used in bias situations," Everson explained. "So if we see female reviews and the term aggressive is being used, or bossy, that gets flagged. It goes back to the manager and we ask them to go into more depth–what do you mean by that? Is it a bias—would you call a man bossy? And by the way we do it for men too," she said and also detailed Facebook's diversity focused approach to hiring and equal pay protocol.
"Even if you don't agree morally, it's good for business," she said about fighting ageism, sexism, racism, trans phobia, and classism at the tech workplace.
She also discussed getting young girls interested in STEM. "Computer science degrees for a long time have been stagnant around 18 percent for young girls. We have to get that up to 50 percent or more so you have a better pipeline, particularly on the engineering side." She said she's been advocating for coding to be considered a foreign language, and a requirement in schools, an interesting solution. Robin Raskin, who taught herself to code under the tutelage of Bill Gates agreed “I think we have to start super young," Raskin mentioned the Young Innovators to Watch program which is like a science fair on steroids, it sponsors high school students and their families to CES. This year, students presented projects which focused on cancer detection and amblyopia treatment. “If you don't have hope after seeing these kids," Raskin stated.
The global voice, Huawei Chief Brand Officer Glory Cheung discussed women's contribution to tech such having a woman's perspective on the CEO Richard Yu's keynote. She was the only woman in the room when they received news only a few hours earlier that changed the entire tone of the presentation. The men wanted to use logic, focus on the benefits and attributes of the new phone, and stick to business and moving forward, but Cheung suggested to Yu that he ditch his script and speak from his heart and express his feelings as a human being. He followed the advice and many called his Huawei keynote the best at the conference. Cheung says having women in decision-making positions makes sense because simply women know what other women want. She also used an example of a female designer creating earbuds that double as jewelry as an example of something an all male design team might not ever think of. She noted that China too was having a watershed moment for women that resulted in strong female role models the West had not heard of yet who nonetheless were inspiring young women and girls in Huawei's headquarters. She said the movement was rippling throughout the world as “digital feminism."
Elle's EIC and moderator Garcia began by addressing the fact that for women of color the uphill battle and silencing is ten-fold. “We don't have time to address each 'ism' one by one" so she suggested they tackle the issue as one. She addressed how she found herself in the position of moderating and gave simple words of advice to women, women-identified and gender non-binary folks everywhere: “Take every opportunity." That's what Robin Raskin did, when Bill Gates read her PC World article “How I Learned to Use a Computer to Save our Marriage" which paid her $25 and offered to teach her how to code.
The panelists discussed their favorite uses of tech, Huang said it was showing her son dinosaur videos on her Huawei using a projection beam while doing business at the same time. Everson talked about her favorite apps like Waze and Daily Plank. Raskin said she considered herself a translator for tech and was thrilled about the beauty tech display that year at CES.
The conference clearly answered the question about how to engage and represent women in tech. Many of the solutions, such as those Carolyn Everson mentioned, are available to the public. So, hopefully, there will be no excuses next year and the speakers at CES will be 50 percent female. The problem may be that STEM and tech, in particular, is not unappealing for women to work in, it was just unfriendly. The hopeful news is that while women hold just 24 percent of STEM jobs, they do make 35 percent more than women in non-STEM counterparts in the private sector, so here's to a future full of females in tech.
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."