Women in Leadership: An open note to young women


Neha Jain, far right, with GLIDE Emerging Leaders interns volunteering at our Legacy Gala on 8/13.

Anger. Fear. Disbelief. Those are emotions I feel while gauging the current political climate. We live in a world where Hillary Clinton, a woman who has made mistakes and flip-flopped on critical social issues, may lose to a man who horrendously disrespects women, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. While I agree that both candidates are not our ideal presidential choices, is it really that hard to see which option is better? But regardless of your political leanings, it’s pretty obvious that if Clinton were a man, her path to the White House would be exponentially easier. I’m tired of hearing her being critiqued on her appearance, tone of voice and hairstyle because the main message it gives young women like myself is that if we want to be powerful one day, we must be perfect.

As an intern at GLIDE this summer, I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of female leadership here. Despite the discouraging political climate, the women at GLIDE never failed to inspire me. I set out to gain insight into their experiences and learn from some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met.

Being a woman in leadership means that our actions and decisions are scrutinized at a stricter level than our male counterparts. Superficial characteristics like our hair, clothes, makeup and tone affect how we are viewed in these positions. Juliet, the Chief Financial Officer for GLIDE notices a stark difference in how people respond to her when she straightens her hair. “For a long time I would straighten my hair because I knew I would get a more positive response. People think of curly hair as being unserious.”

Additionally, the topic of curly hair brings up the issue of prejudice towards black women wearing their hair naturally. Isabel Montilla, Director of Human Resources at GLIDE, noted, “There is a dominant white male culture which sets a standard of how to be in the world.” In order to be viewed more respectfully, women alter their appearance to meet those expectations.


Neha (bottom left) with Emerging Leaders Program Manager Isoke Femi (middle back) and the whole intern crew!

In addition to hairstyles, our clothing choices play a role in dictating how a powerful woman is perceived. Karen Oliveto, until recently GLIDE’s Senior Pastor and now the first openly gay bishop for the United Methodist Church, recently started buying clothes from the same designer Hillary Clinton uses, Nina McLemore. McLemore designs clothes specifically for high profile women with designs that communicate confidence. Oliveto noted that it has been shocking to see such a difference in public opinion towards her just through a change in clothing style. “All of a sudden people are saying, ‘Wow, you’re really profound and deep.’… Now, have I changed? No. Has what I’ve written changed? No. But how I’m presenting myself has.”

Furthermore, the pitch of our voices and the way we occupy space is critically examined. Karen Oliveto is skilled at addressing rooms filled with hundreds of people in a way that brings everyone together. But even her meticulous way of speaking backfired recently. Before addressing a large group of people, she stood up and spoke in order to project her voice. She was her big “GLIDE” self, and spoke with confidence and rhythm. The feedback she received was, “Karen, people thought you were egotistical for standing.”

Men, however, are praised when they are assertive and bold. A 2015 study by VitalSmarts found that women are rated twice as harshly as men for assertive qualities. Oliveto notes, “Just because I was trying to connect with people by taking charge of the environment, it was seen as a negative instead of a positive.” From a young age we’re taught to end a statement as a question. Women leaders that break out of this conditioning face repercussions that create a trade-off between success and likability.

In addition to the burden of being held to a different standard, GLIDE Co-Founder Janice Mirikitani explains how the societal messages women receive throughout their lives are counterproductive to creating strong leaders: “What represses us as women particularly is that we don’t believe in ourselves and we’ve been programmed to feel that we are more acceptable if we’re quiet and agreeable…and that is such a lie.” This creates a culture where women are reluctant to ask for a seat at the table and assert opinions that deviate from the popular view.


Neha Jain and Janice Mirikitani.

Janice Mirikitani advises, “We have to demand a seat at the table” and be assertive with our viewpoints. She talks about getting past our insecurities and speaking up, “even if you think it’s stupid, even if you think no one is going to listen.”

Dori Caminong, Head of Special Events, Civic and Social Innovation at GLIDE, also stresses the importance of making decisions fearlessly. “You don’t have control over other people’s perspectives,” she notes, “so why worry about that.”

To get to a point where we feel confident in our own skin, Lillian Mark, Head of Security, expresses the significance of inner self-work. “Having the privilege to do self-transformative work gives me a third eye. I, as a woman, can sit in a room full of men and notice, ‘Oh, this is a room full of men. What is my experience right now? Do I feel like I have to show up differently?’” Lillian is able to neutrally evaluate situations, which allows her to lead with a level head and without bias.

Her advice to young women is to continuously question the voices that play in our minds. “Why is it even coming up? Trace your own training on how you’re taught to show up in the world.”

So to all my sisters out there who are asking themselves how they can rise to leadership roles despite these hurdles, let the inspiring leaders of GLIDE offer you advice and encouragement. These women have experienced the same prejudices that we may in the future. They are slowly but surely cracking the glass ceiling and creating a more equitable future. I am in awe of their strength and brilliance. I am thankful for their advice, perspectives and vulnerability. As I continue to find my path as a young woman, I will always carry the support and love that GLIDE has given me.

Neha Jain was a 2016 Emerging Leaders Intern in the GLIDE Women’s Center. She will be a junior this fall at UC Davis and is majoring in Economics.
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GLIDE Instagram
Join GLIDE at the SF @marchforourlives this Saturday to support young people in demanding #GunControlNow! We'll meet at GLIDE at noon and walk to Civic Center together. Where your GLIDE gear if you have it, and click the link in our profile to read more about why gun control is a priority advocacy issue at GLIDE.
#marchforourlives #parkland #enough #IWillMarch @momsdemand @bradybuzz @sfmagazine @sfchronicle @theonj3 @angelabrown17 @sf_interfaith Today, GLIDE Harm Reduction partnered with @sfaidsfound, SFDPH and SF Homeless Outreach Team to conduct a health care pop-up at a homeless encampment. It was a great community effort and the Harm Redux crew reports that the residents of the camp really appreciated that we were there for them. GLIDE provided HIV/Hep C Testing and counseling. In spite of the rain, 21 people used our testing services, and many more just came to us to talk about their drug use and receive harm reduction counseling.
We're grateful to this crew! Left to right: Paul Harkin, Amber Taylor, Bill Buehlman and Jason Norelli. #rainorshine #harmreduction #healthcareisahumanright #gettested #healthcareforall GLIDE Church invites you to stand up for smart, sensible gun control laws at the San Francisco March For Our Lives Rally on Saturday, March 24!
WHO: GLIDE Church. And YOU!
WHAT: SF March For Our Lives
WHERE: We will meet at GLIDE at noon and then walk over to Civic Center Plaza together as a group.
WHY: Our children should not have to live in fear of gun violence AT ALL, much less at school. Our teachers should not have to add "taking a bullet" to their job descriptions. We raise our voices in solidarity and demand a safer, more peaceful future for our children, our teachers and our country.
WHEN: Saturday, March 24. The rally starts at 1:00 pm, but we will meet at GLIDE at noon!
Additionally, we will make posters for the rally THIS SUNDAY on March 18 after the 11:00 am Celebration.
If you have any questions, please contact our beloved Rev. Angela Brown at abrown@glide.org
#ENOUGH #Guncontrol #gunsense #safeschools #parkland #columbine #LasVegas #marchforourlives  @womensmarch @womensmarchbayarea @momsdemand @gabbygiffords @100daysaction @bayresistance @glidefycc @kaye_foster @everytown On Wednesday, the children & teachers from GLIDE's Family, Youth & Childcare Center (FYCC) joined thousands of other students across the nation in the #NationalSchoolWalkout. Our FYCC teachers stress the importance of being community-minded thinkers and global citizens. Demanding #GunControlNow and safety in our schools is an important lesson for our kids, as well as a compassionate and powerful act of solidarity with the #Parklandhighschool students & all victims of school shootings.
Gun control is also a crucial advocacy issue for GLIDE — fighting for our children's education, well-being and their very lives is a direct application of our values and one of the most meaningful efforts to get involved in today.

Much love and support to FYCC and to all the young people across the country who raised their fists in defiance, resistance and mourning. We are with you.
@glidefycc @bayresistance @momsdemand @cityhallsf @100daysaction #keepchildrensafe #safeschools #banassaultweapons #forthekids #ENOUGH #rainorshine

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