The Katastrophic Thoughts I’ve Had Lately

I’ve been writing a lot lately, just not here. So here’s a brief update on what sort of Katastrophic Thoughts I’ve been having lately:

Early in September I wrote an article for Fast Company about a study of the language differences in men and women’s performance reviews. It was really popular and I was asked to speak about it on a morning news show in Canada.

That same study led a woman to write a piece for the New York Times (a month later). Disappointingly she took the view that since women are criticized so unfairly, the solution is that they should learn how to take criticism better. I respectfully disagreed and wrote my first every Letter to the Editor. It wasn’t published, but you can read it here:

Tara Mohr’s article about women and criticism touched on some valid points about how women receive “overreactive, shaming and inappropriately personal criticism” disproportionally to men.

But her article – like many others about women in the workplace – drew a discouraging conclusion: that both blatant and unconscious sexism should be dealt with by telling women that they need to change the way they think or behave, rather than those who judge women discriminately and inappropriately.

She says that women need to retrain our minds to expect and accept that distinctive work and innovative thinking will draw critics.

Why not instead retrain people like those 71 managers who critique women’s character rather than their ideas?

Mohr acknowledges that the system is broken, but her solution that women should learn to roll with the punches rather than hold those with biased views accountable is disheartening.

Should both men and women learn to persevere with our great ideas even in the face of criticism? Absolutely. But women shouldn’t have to accept that our ideas won’t be heard because critics are too busy judging the tone of our voice.

Later in September I spoke on a panel about women in leadership in Chicago at the American Society of News Editor’s conference. After, I was interviewed by a grad student at my former college (Columbia College Chicago), here is the article she wrote about the panel. After that panel I was asked to be a member of the U.S. Speaker Program for the State Department, more info on that here.

Many people were inspired by Emma Watson’s speech on feminism at the UN in September, and while many of us have been saying the same things for a while now, it’s encouraging that these ideas are getting such a big platform. But I’ve been frustrated recently that so much that’s written about men and feminism is just about “raising awareness” without any concrete  actions while women are met with a barrage of “you need to act this way” rhetoric. So earlier this week I tired to help move the conversation forward by suggesting 5 Practical Things Men Can Do For Gender Equality At Work

I’m also working to start a live chat series around issues of inequality and diversity. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Finally, since my fiction writing always seems to fall by the wayside I signed up for a 10-week Fiction writing class that started earlier this month. I am still planning Issue #2 of Katastrophic Thoughts (the print edition), but work on it has slowed in the name of short story writing in the last couple of weeks. (issue #1 is still available, btw. Email if you’d like a copy).

More soon. Here’s to a happy, productive and thought provoking fall!



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