Category Archives: Women

Ideas: Selling More Than Technology

# vacuum hoover tech

What if the vacuum cleaner salesmen did more than just suction up pet hairs?

What if there was a subliminal conversation?  Words of encouragement and a smile that hinted, “your time is more valuable, than you think”.

If a sales pitch is the purest form of Persuasive Speech, then it also has to be flattering.  As she watched him unload and pack up his machine, her mind would have wandered.   Demonstrations have that before-after effect.

Think, Prometheus returning with fire…

It’s likely that the first reaction to a flame was to reach out and touch it, but as any moth has discovered, a touch can be fatal.   So, the second more thought out reaction  to fire would’ve been to apply a “Best Use Practice” and not get burnt.

The vacuum cleaner was thought to be, just another fad; more for those with health issues, like breathing problems than the general population.  But then the vacuum cleaner did the one thing that all great technology does, it stayed.

Whisk!  The broom industry went into lower sales and poof, the carpet beater was gone!

Once the vacuum cleaner became affordable, the salesman became a welcome guest at every door.   He was a hero, with a simple gesture and a smile, no need of a sales pitch.   Technology had ignited a flame.

An added bonus was watching the salesman bend down to plug the vacuum cleaner in, to stand and turn it on.  Oh, what a treat that must’ve been, as he guided the vacuum cleaner across the dirty floor.   Surely, she must’ve smirked just a little, as a man did the proverbial “women’s work”.

Stuck in the carpet, were bits of dirt and shards of glass, just like her dreams.  Scattered long ago and deeply embedded in the carpet’s fiber.  So much so, that she had forgotten about them, until she saw the carpet become clean, its color returned.   She might’ve gasped a little to think of new uses of her free time, more vivid.

For days and weeks after the salesman had gone, she’d think back on the possibilities; of what she could achieve with the gift of time.  She shared her ideas with other women , at the window, shopping and back fence.  And if women can think alike, then they can raise their daughters with more education, so she’ll become a doctor, engineer and coder.  Maybe those vacuum cleaner salesmen hadn’t intended to, but they ended up selling more than a product, they sold her an idea.

Isn’t technology clever?  It completely changed the labor pool in a task driven society!

No gimmicks.  And eventually she’ll be paid equally.

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Filed under Coding, Consumers, Gender Equality, innovation, Vacuum cleaners, Women

Technology, My Superhero

# super tech

Heroes, where would we be without them?

Not every hero has a cape, or a super power.  We know this, because over millennium our heroes were depicted in mythology and in rituals without suits of armor. Their one common denominator was in assisting mankind to get along in this journey of life.  A task that continues to be plagued with perils, some self-imposed and others, calamities of nature.

The power then, as it is now, is “Hope”, embossed with faith and sprinkled with self-discovery, that each burden is itself an exercise of endurance. Strengthening not only our muscles, but our resolve that is then carried over from one generation to the next. As if determination and cooperation were progressive strands of DNA, adding meaning and validating life itself.

Our technology has done that, made it sweeter, by adding comforts and lifting us up, literally. Whether we’re in an elevator or on an airplane, technology has been that superhero and established our worthiness.

And our stories, passed along in the oral tradition or in written form help to further the legends. It’s the art of storytelling, embellishing the truth and creating the rite of passage and instilling the hopefulness “if he could do it, then she can too”.

Sitting around a camp fire further connects us with the ominous, while yes there is darkness there is also light.  That we have the ability to create fire. We must be thoughtful and mindful, because there is an inherent weakness to reckless behavior — which too often harms our development and the hero within.

The truth is, human development has not changed from ancient days to this one; not one iota…

So we need our storytelling to focus on other aspects of life, such as love and frailties.   We like our literature, from Chauncer to Shakespeare to depict our better more civilized selves with consequences.   These remain relevant from generation to generation, mostly because heroes aren’t limited by time or the imagination.

But we are.  Time is not our friend.

Lately, I’ve realized how empowering a pair of eyeglasses can be, as time had weakened eyeball muscle and dried tissue.  My once keen eyesight strained to read my printed words, until Whoosh! Technology swooped in!  It did so without prejudice, bias or judgment.

My eyeglasses never once asked my gender, or my age or my race!  They just did the task they were created to do,  that is they assisted me in seeing the world again.   The images weren’t distorted and the outlines weren’t vague.  That’s what technology does!

I’m excited about Wearables and the Internet of Things, they’ll have tremendous power.  Even passé technology, those that came in with great anticipation and petered out, like Googleglass and Segway will have a great come back!

I’m reminded that a superhero doesn’t have to wear a cape, but if it fits..

Times have changed. We live in a world of logos, marketing and branding. There’s no veil that separates the contrasts between poverty and prosperity. No filter to block the wrong from the right, or the ego from overpowering the id.

We need our heroes, flying is highly desirable, but we’ll take walking ones. The every day kind of hero that looks like you, or me or she… Who sits and eats with us. Our heroes can be basketball’s slam dunkers, baseball’s home run sluggers, teachers or marathon runners.  They can be businessmen, religious men, Olympic swimmers, exotic dancers or cancer survivors.  (More of the latter please.)

The point is, we need heroes, because I’m growing old and I can’t fight all these bad guys by myself.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Google Glass, Google Glasses, tech, technology, Wearables, Women

Unplugged: The Power of a Washing Machine

# Tenement Laundry
What would be the fate of tens of thousands of women, if their washing machines were left unplugged? Or what if the washing machine hadn’t been invented?

Having power doesn’t make us powerful. And it seems, if we’re talking about electricity, using it may in fact, lead to us being powerless or nearly so.

Welcome to the digital world, where recharging cellphones and smart devices is as common as opening up a window to let fresh air in. No one looks sideways. In fact, it’s so common and relatable, that our apathy when someone mentions a dead cell battery is genuine.

From mega-watts to the kilo-watts. From our smart-cities to smart-homes. From our smart-devices to our cellphones. We are all bound to electricity. Our factories and businesses are increasing usage, from the “internet of things” to artificial intelligence (AI) to Clouds and virtual servers, all of these use and require, power. And we need more.

And that’s the other side, the flip side, where one is forced to think about life without power. We’d have to rethink our priorities, from lighting to cooling to where we lived. What need would the upper floors of a skyscraper have, if you had to always climb it’s stairs? And what about our washing machines?

Now that would tell quite a compelling story. The gift of time, both given and taken away. Women would return to the status of a laundress, those 19th century women who spent a day washing laundry, their own or someone else’s. Paid or unpaid, the work would be structured around childcare, because it took so long to complete.

Last month I had a little sampler, when my top load washing machine broke in mid-cycle. By mid, I mean once the washing machine filled with water, it broke. Getting the sopping wet sheets and clothes out of the machine was one part of the equation. It became an equation as I realized just how much of a task I had in front of me, when the bucket didn’t work. I transferred the load to a kid’s wagon, and made multiple trips to the upstairs bathroom. Once there, I sat on the edge of the tub wringing water out for what seemed to be days! My fingernails softened and broke, my hands ached and I lost my mind!

Which brings me back to our problem, that is we have power, but we’re not powerful. And it seems we’re getting weaker.

Technology has spoiled us with gadgets and machines that have improved our lives, but they’ve also lulled us into a false sense of security. With a soft hum of joules per second, the amperage of electricity has carried our load for us, but that’s not always going to be an option to keep our gadgets running and our smart devices powered up.

We’re going to have to look at new ways of doing the old things and let’s be clear, unplugging my washing machine is not an option.

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Filed under cellphone, gadget, solarpower, technology, Wearables, Wi-Fi, Women

Cellophane: An Unsung Technology

$ marceau and Printed_Circuit_Board_Wallpaper_bgv2

“Wow!”

And just like that, the art of pantomime gets us.

Our attention is snatched away and whatever we were purportedly doing– strolling along, roller blading or running, we stop to do an about face to our own reality, to watch his painted face.

Desperate outstretched fingers seem amphibian and web-like; pressed against a sheet of glass that isn’t there, tells a compelling story of anguish.   We empathize with his herculean effort to get from underneath the crushing weight.  And even though we know it’s simply air that holds him back, we cheer for his freedom!

The street artist treks up Mount Ceenomore, to hear nothing and say nothing in a magical show of humanity.  The myth of Sisyphus intrigues us, the daily grind is mesmerizing and so is the mime’s control over his agile limbs, taunt muscles and loose facial skin.  And his thorough command of silence that calls out to us, not to help but to simply share the experience.

Like a glass ceiling or an invisible box that only he can feel, processing…

The mime’s performance reminds me of how modular obstacles in life can actually be; easily moved and erected.  Constructed of short-comings, self-imposed lamentations and even by the most loving, a grandmother or doting father.

Harmless, ambiguous words that provide their own walls, that are systemic to a nation or a culture, that reiterates a woman’s role as a mother.  And leaves her to languish in a kitchen.

Small girls are given baby dolls and miniature tea sets, dressed up to mimic their mothers in some infused setting, a long ago time and place.  Where etiquette modified behavior and nods of approval were given each time she remembered to cross her legs at the ankle.

Stay clean and to be sweet…

Women do it to other women.  Discussed and served on a platter and covered with cellophane, used to preserve the female.  How her life should be, what she should do and old innuendos.  It may be too late for my generation to dismantle the invisible walls that shuttered off technical spaces, but I imagine a different existence for my daughters.

A digital world where we’re mindful of our words, that we don’t recreate a mime’s struggle of walls and elevator rides that don’t go up.  Where she’s paid more than chump change, pennies tossed into a basket for a million dollar act.

Someone asked me about my bucket list, I don’t have one.   If I did it wouldn’t be a list of things I wish to achieve in my lifetime, but rather a list of dreams I was told couldn’t come true, without ever having dreamt of them.

Like a mime on a street, as we stop and watch him, as he does nothing.

 

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Filed under Coding, Girls, Women

Technology Encourages Her

$ microphone

Free speech!

We all do it, not necessarily well and not always effectively, but we do it just the same.  It is, after all, one of the inalienable rights of our citizenship.

But who could have imagined the impact of technology, with the grand dame social media!  Gossip never had such a fabulous platform.

Even voices that were once stifled can now be heard, carried over mountains, through valleys and across rivers, oceans and flatlands.   Echoed reasoning from the past meet fresh rebuttals that finally lay to rest, time weary old arguments.  And all that once was, is no longer as it seems.  Spring risings aren’t always unfurled leaves limited by season; but can also be correctable injustices.

From the safety of a touch screen, or from behind a computer monitor, both the extrovert and the introvert are on equal footing, each explaining and being heard.  There’s an invisible swagger to keystrokes and finger swipes.   Technology has that affect, makes us all the same.

Our thoughts typed into an oblong word box limited to 140 characters and tossed onto the web like verbal signage.  Where it will be liked or unliked; followed or unfollowed by the whims of anonymous readership.  Such power!

And so now our words are being added to the English language, like one of the 1600 words that William Shakespeare added.  A mix of his flipped verbs added to our slang, bantered about in lively discussions that convey our deepest feelings ending with an emoji, as if it were a cherry topping.

Technology has set words free.  They’re strung together across cyberspace, wearing lipstick, fully clothed or naked; it doesn’t matter.  They’re being read like history.    In a letter dated March 31, 1776, when the Continental Congress was meeting to draw up the Declaration of Independence, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband,  “ In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would  Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”

Back then technology hadn’t invented the bullhorn or the microphone; there was no television, no radio and no internet.  No Marconi, and no Morse code, only her voice and a quill pen.  She spoke quietly and mostly went unheard.

It’s 2015 now, and March is Women’s History Month.  Here’s what having a voice looks like, I hope you’re listening.

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Filed under technology, Women

Gender Technology

$$ tv circuit She

“Hello, up there!”

From the ground looking up, technology looked completely incapable of bringing anything of value into our homes.

Outstretched aluminum rods, like the arms of an umbrella’s skeleton were mounted and fastened on rooftops, so television signals could find their way into the living room.  It flowed along copper wires and quietly took over our lives.

It took less than 60 years for technology to completely shrink our world and go global, connecting us in ways vastly different from the box that allowed us to first watch a man land on the moon; an image that came across airwaves, like wings of a prayer, unseen.

We tuned into the same programs, at the same time and talked about the show for days.  We laughed at the same jokes, re-enacted parodies and fell in love with Lucy.

After a night of storms, people emerged and yelled out of windows that their television set now got a clearer channel, as though God and the wind had favored them. Particularly because their aerial antenna hadn’t been disturbed, they were spared of having to prop a ladder against the house and make adjustments. For better or worse, it was a marriage that required better positions to catch airwaves. Serious hi-tech stuff!

Responsive to either gender, equally manipulated and made to work or improved upon by a calloused hand of a man or the soft tender skin of a woman.

But back then, who knew that a girl could climb a ladder and make it picture perfect.  Norman Rockwell  had never depicted it that way in magazines. Instead she was dainty in her dress, with legs crossed properly at the ankles.

It took a long while, but now we know that technology has no gender bias. It favors neither pink nor blue; it’s ageless and doesn’t discriminate.

In fact, it encourages across the board collaboration and it’s empowering. Coding schools have opened doors to girls and to those who are impoverished, giving them amazing opportunities.  And in addition to that, an ecosystem has been created which shows gaps for skill sets needed to maintain the technology!

It’s more than we could’ve asked for, that a job shortage could actually bring about wage parity.  Imagine that, women being paid the same wages for the same work. We’re not there yet, but technology knows no gender.

 

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Filed under Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, Television, Women

Tech Befuddlement

$1 lathe

Befuddlement, it’s the perfect word for that moment, when you find yourself in the middle of the room, without the slightest idea of what you came to get, or do.

It’s a glitch, a processing error that creates a momentary lag in memory; an affliction that resembles aging.  And I absolutely hate it!

Embedded in the human experience are mishaps common to each of us, the stubbing of one’s toe and the bumping of one’s head, these events are surprises when they happen, but we’re never surprised that they can and do happen.   That is, if we’re alive, then it’s almost to be expected, as if we ourselves are characters in a Charlie Chaplin movie.

It’s not limited to any age group, it happens to children, but their response to the mishap seems quite contrary to the adult response.  And for this, I envy them.

I’ve watched them come tearing into a room, stop and look about and then dash back out; they seem oblivious that their round hands remain empty.  I’ve asked my daughters what they came for and they’ve simply shrugged their shoulders and replied, “I dunno.”  And that’s that, the end.

Just like that, they both lost a moment and dismissed it.  Yes, they’ve acknowledged that it happened, but they don’t succumb to it; don’t wonder if it’s the beginning of some horrible condition, like the early stages of dementia.

Because this sort of thing happens, it’s inevitable that we’ll walk empty handed into a room, then have no idea what we’ve come in for, or what we had to say or do, POOF!  The thought vanished.

Like life itself, we’re born and we learn to walk then run.  We start off with so much promise, and our ideas seem bright and then sometimes we settle, never fully grasping our best selves.  For love, for lack of money for whatever the reason, now irretrievably gone, like some whimsical vapor, it doesn’t matter.

And we grow older.  It’s not a bad thing, after all it is what it is, but we might need to start understanding that memory glitch.  Because technology might not have an answer.  So, just in case we arrive at the future and don’t know what we came for… let’s spin around and live life willy-nilly and not worry about it!

And let’s give it a name… “Whatchamacallit.”

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Filed under AARP, technology, Women

Bartering Technology for Cool Pink Lemonade

11 Lemonade Girls

What if Norman Rockwell’s America had been depicted differently?

What if little boys and little girls were treated equally, that they might pursue similar dreams, based on their aptitude; and not by what was in their diapers.  Maybe then, coding, and entrepreneurships wouldn’t be as male dominated as they are…

What if “Rosie”, the Riveter wasn’t just a wartime phenomenon, but was commonly seen in everyday life, as a woman no more extraordinary than the housewife attached by an apron string, by choice.

What if after the war she was promoted to CEO and we saw that image as well.  What dreams might her daughters and grandchildren have and how might they have lived, seeing themselves depicted equally?

That’s what I think. And I’m only thinking that way now, because this past August my idea was accepted and then advanced to phase two of the YouNoodle competition, Verizon’s Powerful Answers.  And as I moved along in the competition, the portion which I found most difficult was entrepreneurial, because I had no training in that area.  So I did my research and pushed forward, but it did sit with me and ultimately, my idea was passed on.

That’s what encouragement or lack of encouragement does, it can sit and become a burden, one that vexes you, or it can inspire you to rise and push, that you might become your greater self.  I call it a lemonade stance!  Taking life’s lemons and bartering them for a chance to live your life, your way!

Sometimes, we do it to ourselves, because it might be easier to create our own club, rather than knock on the door of his club.  But we need to remember that separate is never equal.

And being comfortable to speak, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be heard; because we’ve effectively made it easier to be ignored, as a group huddled to one side of society.

I’m not a history revisionist, but if I were… we’d all know the wives of the great men of America.  Her story, the wife’s story would be motivational, for surely she had a story, as we all do and must.

Of the five men who have been credited with making America one of the most affluent and influential countries in the world, we know very little of their wives.   Try looking them up, there’s very limited information about them and it’s not simply because of the times, but society that has historically and effectively stifled them.

In tribute…

Laura Celestia Spelman, Abolitionist, Philanthropist and teacher married John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) who she met in an accounting class.

Sophie Johnson married Cornelius Vanderbilt (Railroad) and ran the Bellona House, a hotel for weary travelers of her husband’s steamships.

Clara Bryant married Henry Ford (Automobile) and along with gardening was a business supporter in her husband’s business deals, that included convincing him to sign off on a Union contract.

Frances Tracy (2nd wife) married J.P. Morgan (Financier).  She preferred the quiet of the suburbs and home.

Louise Whitfield married Andrew Carnegie (Steel) and was a philanthropist.  She said it best:  “I am the unknown wife of a somewhat well-known businessman.”

But it’s wintertime in New England, a wonderful time for white fluffy snow that appeals to our aesthetic sensibilities.  A good time to pause and ponder life’s inequities, and like snow, thaw ideas that then nourish future minds, and grow so a child might become her greater-self and he might know of her.

Let’s begin by bartering life’s lemons for lemonade; to build lemonade stands.  So we can pass along tech advice, while we sip on cool pink lemonade and reimagine stories of what a damsel in distress looks like.

Cheers!

 

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Filed under AARP, Coding, Entrepreneurship, Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, Women

A Girl’s Journey Into The Next Lifetime

1a glassceiling

Truth is, long before finger swipes across a touch screen, I believed that cable technology would set girls free of gender limits.   That data was without bias and that even a glass ceiling had upside.

By looking up through it, one might pause and see one’s own image, and take stock of one’s progress… where you’ve been and how much further you might go.  And that assessment in a lifetime, if not yours would propel the next woman, if not now then in the next generation.

Women think like that, with interloped arms that both link them together, and allow them to stretch and reach into the future.  In some piggyback fashion, one generation steadily improves upon the next.   That’s how Boston’s cable training program came into being, female activists who themselves had passed their prime, haggled with city officials and politicians to create opportunities for young women like myself, that we could have a chance at gender equality.

First we became linesmen, as the city needed aerial distribution cables to feed neighborhoods, using lashing machines to pull lengths of cable through easements.   If you continued training, you might become an installer and then a technician.

But there were few positions available for women and departments were limited to how many women they could hire.  I was in the service department, with only three slots available:   one female installer, one female technician and one female engineer.

The manager didn’t hesitate to mince words, literally and figuratively, “It’s out of my hands.  There’s no more to be done.”  and the worse statement of all, “Don’t make me regret the hire.”

Ironically, being a female in a traditionally male job made passersby think that they could easily do your job!  We, women were constantly reminded of just how replaceable we were.   Sometimes that was enough motivation for me to dig my steel gaffs into the meat of the city’s telephone poles, climb up, do the work and to keep my job.

But I’ve known glass ceilings.  I’ve touched them, and was somehow comforted by their coolness on my fingertips.  Back then the cable industry was in its infancy and male co-workers, less qualified than I were quickly promoted and dispatched beyond grade, a reminder of how frail my position with the company was and it had been predetermined just how successful I would be; it tapered off at 35 feet, the exact height of a telephone pole.

Not even New England’s cold winters and snow blizzards could get me to stop climbing poles.   Especially during the Spring and summer months, when active equipment would need to be upgraded and whole neighborhoods would be without cable.   It was then that people cheered to see a technician’s truck.  I’d work and get the cable back on and it was a little heroic at times, or so it seemed.

Fathers would take their daughters by the hand and walk them across the street, where they’d wait for me to climb down from the pole.  Or they’d yell up and wave; then ask if I needed water.   On quiet days, when things had slowed, I’d hang around after the job was done.   Sometimes they’d invite me to speak to small groups at the YMCA or the Boys/Girls Clubs.  It was unscripted and impromptu, like hope itself.

I’d let them touch my gaffs and run their round hands across the leather linesmen belt.  The big metal D- loop and clasp would clang noisily, and I’d smile and hold it high.  Grand posturing, like a boxer before a championship bout.

I too, had grown up in the city.  And there I stood in my linesmen boots, living proof that a city gal could climb up from poverty on a telephone pole; it seemed noble.  And they seemed to see other possibilities for themselves, if not in this generation well then surely in the next.

 

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Filed under cable, Gender, Gender Equality, tech, technology, Telecommunications, Television, Women

Readers of Code

world book 9

I like that people are reading. For a long while it seemed that people had stopped reading, but now thanks in part to social media, people are reading more, albeit snippets of information.

Still, these easy readers, Tweets, status updates and likes, have created a renewed readership, with links to blogs and articles, that have been written by real writers. Technology, it seems is getting people to read!

Once upon a time, I was an avid reader. Not voracious, but still very much on top of things. I read any genre and was always on the lookout for new writers. It seemed that I had more leisure time, and I was a fast reader, able to enjoy a quick read as well as a long casual one.

Books you see, are my friends. They stay up with me when I can’t sleep, whispering to me about new ideas, old innuendos and faraway places right here on earth. Books lean against the wall, or sit patiently on the table, stacked and ready for my retreat into them, away from reality.

I like to savor what I read. Let the words swirl around inside my head. Discover new thoughts, evoke emotions that softly touch or ruffle up against the edges of a memory. All mine. If left to my own vices, I’d sit with a nice glass of chardonnay and read a whole book; a book a day, as if it were an elixir, ah …

Unfortunately, I have fewer hours to read. But I make time to visit the library and I browse local bookstores. Because I like the way a book feels in my hands, as much as I like the smooth feel of my iPad, which replaced my 1st generation Kindle.

And in addition to that, I’ve been learning code. I’m a big advocate that all girls should learn code, and wasn’t I once a girl?

So, I signed up for an Edx course, purchased a few books and started to run programs on a computer. (And here, dear reader is where I must add a disclosure: “I’m not a computer geek, not a rocket scientist and not a genius and not a programmer.”) I’m a student in the world of variables and integers.

Anyway, yesterday I curled up with my book, my laptop and executed a C program in terminal with Gedit. It was mind-boggling, as I started to believe, that if you read it, you can understand and do it. And to that end, I’m learning.

I created a social message about girls coding in MIT’s Scratch website; it allows you to code with blocks. (For giggles, here is my project, click the green flag Girls Jump.)

I like that people are reading again. Technology it seems, does require us to think and it’s making us readers of code. And that’s a good thing.

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, Code, Coding, Gender, Girls, social media, tech, technology, Twitter, Women