Culture 10 May 2018
After twenty years as a woman in STEM, Catherine Barba knows a thing or two about diversity and inclusion.
The French native, who has been based in New York since 2015, is running her third Women In Innovation Forum this May 21st, and touts this year will push beyond the gender aspect that its predecessors have focused so heavily on. “My event is evolving from women to diversity," she notes. This year's one-day forum will center on how a culture of diversity, whether ethnic, sex, age or otherwise, will benefit not only STEM in the future, but the entire workforce.
Her familiarity with this necessity of inclusion stems way back to when she was beginning her entrepreneurial journey as a young woman in an extremely male-dominated industry. The dot-com boom was just beginning, and Barba had to go out of her way to get a seat at the table. While that same industry has since opened itself up to more women, tech sector pay gaps remain to be some of the worst in the world, and seeing little to no advancement in recent years.
It was in this knowledge that Barba, now a serial entrepreneur and investor, launched the first W.IN. forum in 2016. “I've heard the statistics, it's like 2.2 percent of [VC funding] going to women. That's crazy!" she emphasizes, knowing the uphill battle these female entrepreneurs are facing in order to make it here. “Here, there are very, very few female investors," she comments, making it difficult for burgeoning female talent, because male investors, “tend to invest in people like them."
"Fear is a very, very bad advisor, Don't do things out of fear, because when you fear something you can't think, it blocks everything."
-Catherine Barba[thb_image full_width="true" alignment="center" image="9774" img_size="full"]
This is something Barba counteracts daily when female entrepreneurs present her with their decks. Having started her first business in 2001, Barba now invests in digital retail among other projects, and recommends that when women set out on their entrepreneurial journey and are looking for investment, to start with female investors first, not because it will guarantee them funding, but because they will be more receptive to providing feedback.
"Whenever I receive a deck from a woman entrepreneur, I read it, and I take the time to give feedback," she says. "Whether it's negative or not, I think it's useful, it makes them feel valued."
While feedback will certainly help any female entrepreneur on the path to funding, Barba notes that there is also a collective responsibility from everyone, including the media, to get these stories told so representation and thus imitation can occur. "It's hard to be what you haven't seen before," she comments. "If we highlight those kind of women who show us the way, and tell younger generations, 'you belong here.' Well I guess more and more girls will go that way." She uses the major impact her daughter's computer science teacher is having on her school life as a small example of this, but one that will have a lasting impression on both her daughter's future and all girls in the class that might have previously shied away from the male-concentrated field. "I'm very grateful that she has that female teacher and [that] she's so good," says Barba.
"We have to take this to the next level, we have to go beyond gender. I'm not sure it's a good thing to do events, by women, for women,"
Catherine Barba. “There are less female entrepreneurs, less female investors, but I am very optimistic about the future."
This year the forum won't simply be focusing on girls and women however, with Barba realizing that to completely welcome innovation and inclusion, the workforce must be as diverse as it can possibly be, and that indeed goes beyond gender gap.
"We are at a tipping point today,"
-Catherine Barba“The last few years, I was very much supporting and promoting women, women in tech, women in business, women entrepreneurs, but I think that now we have to take this to the next level because of what happened last year with #metoo and everything," she notes. "I think we can all agree that things have to change, now we have to include men in the conversation and we have to think broader and think of diversity, difference of gender, age, culture, ethnicity."
In light of this, the dynamic of the event has shifted, in order to move away from the traditional focus of a 'woman's conference' to incorporate a larger audience and a bigger message. "The theme this year is 'Diversity powers innovation," says the CEO. "Diversity increases our ability to innovate. If we surround ourselves with people who are different, that's the only way to survive and [feed] the innovation economy."
Speakers this year include a broad range of talent from across the traditional sectors like Beauty, Fashion, Finance, Politics, Media, and newer frontiers like Blockchain and AI, and indeed are representative of the diversity Barba is pushing for. "They are women, or people of color, or people who are actually different kind of leaders," she comments. "When you see them and they share their learnings with you, you [will] understand that you too can make it, and that's the main message."
Having personally hand-picked the speakers for this year's line-up, Barba is assured of their lasting impression on the audience. A quick skim of their titles and profiles prove a different tone and nature to the litany of conferences that head up New York's stages every year. Executives and personalities from all walks of life and different sectors are to be seen, from the President of Vera Wang, to a research scientist from Facebook's AI lab, to multicultural media leaders and beyond. And what's perhaps the forum's most enticing bait, is that it's all neatly packed into a one-day spectacle. Barba knows we're very busy.
The 2018 W.IN. forum will take place on May 21th at Parsons New School. You can find the agenda and a list of the speakers here. Register here for discounted rate with code SPECIALOFFERSWAAY for 60% off.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.