Four, almost five years ago, Proposition 8, the great marriage equality debate, was raising a lot of dust around this country. And, at the time, getting married wasn’t really something I’d spent a lot of time thinking about, but I was struck by the fact that America, a country with such a tarnished civil rights record, could be repeating its mistakes so blatantly…
And this powerful awareness rolled in over me that I was a minority, and in my own home country, based on one facet of my character. I was legally and indisputably, a second-class citizen.
I was not an activist. I waved no flags in my own life. But I was plagued by this question: How could anyone vote to strip the rights of the vast variety of people that I knew, based on one element of their character? How could they say that we as a group were not as deserving of equal rights as somebody else?
Were we even a group? What group? And had these people even ever consciously met a victim of the discrimination? Did they know who they were voting against and what the impact was?
And then it occurred to me. Perhaps if they could look into the eyes of the people that they were casting into second-class citizenship, it might make it harder for them to do. It might give them pause.
Obviously, I couldn’t get 20 million people to the same dinner party, so I I figured out a way where I could introduce them to each other photographically — without any artifice, without any lighting, or any manipulation of any kind on my part. Because in a photograph, you can examine a lion’s whiskers without the fear of him ripping your face off.
For me, photography is not just about exposing film, it’s about exposing the viewer. To something new; a place they haven’t gone before; but — most importantly — to people they might be afraid of.
At TEDWomen in 2010, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg looked at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offered 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite in her talk, “Why we have too few women leaders.”
In the talk, she voices her concern over the worldwide lack of women in leadership roles — in corporate, political, and other social settings.
“The question is,” she says, “how are we going to fix this? How do we change these numbers at the top? How do we make this different? …What are the messages we need to tell ourselves? What are the messages we tell the women who work with and for us? What are the messages we tell our daughters?”
She addresses fear, self-doubt, work/life balance, and finding work that’s rewarding even after maternity leave. She questions traditional gender roles and perceptions of women leaders. She explains current setbacks and problems:
“Women systematically underestimate their own abilities,” she tells the audience. “If you test men and women, and you ask them questions on totally objective criteria like GPAs, men get it wrong slightly high, and women get it wrong slightly low..If you ask men why they did a good job, they’ll say, “I’m awesome. Obviously. Why are you even asking?” If you ask women why they did a good job, what they’ll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard. Why does this matter? Boy, it matters a lot because no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.
In response to Sheryl’s pointed challenge, we asked organizers of the upcoming TEDxWomen event — during which over 140 TEDx events will be hosted worldwide around the webcast of this year’s TEDxWomen anchor event in Washington D.C. — what advice they would give to women leaders. Here are some of their answers:
Re-imagine what leadership looks like, and make it your own.
—Nathalie Molina Niño, TEDxBarnardCollegeWomen, New York, NY
Be authentic. Authenticity is always the key to leadership success.
—Dafna Michaelson Jene, TEDxCrestmoorParkWomen, Denver, CO
Own your choices!
—Deb Gerardi Kemper, TEDxShanghaiWomen, Shanghai
Create your own girls’ clubs: investment, leadership, philanthropy, mentoring, specific interests. Link with others regionally. Scale out. Find ways to give away what you know to people who value you in original ways. Listen. Know yourself and be you.
—Kat Haber, TEDxHomerWomen, Homer, AK