#1 THE PIES
It all started with pie crusts and pie charts. I was reading article after article about moms who opt-out of their Big Corporate Jobs and throw themselves into the role of Stay At Home Mom. On the other hand, Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDWomen 2010 video went viral among a driven, Ivy League alumnae set so we all heard about the importance of “leaning in” and “not leaving until you leave.” As I moved around my circles, I spoke with people who aspire to serve the perfect pie crust. I spoke with people who aspire to present the perfect pie chart. I am neither. I am both. I work. I have kids. I’m a wife. I run a household with my husband.
Where can we hear about the people who want to have fulfilling jobs and be engaged parents, home makers, and partners? Why are we still talking about the labor force in terms of a 9-to-5 workday with a full-time homemaker? Is everyone too busy trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Why not change the system?
On one side, you hear from those who advocate the unquestioning glory of making the perfect pie crust and on the other side are people going on and on about the unequivocal thrill of making and presenting the best pie charts in corporate boardrooms. These extremes did not match the reality that I saw in the Far West Village of New York City. I’d worked in lots of different places: starting TV stations in Ukraine, launching businesses in Corporate America, and now running my own boutique consulting firm.
Constructive conversations are difficult to have because so many emotional buttons are pushed on both sides: stay-at-home-parents vs. professional parents. Neither side is talking enough about how we can contribute to the economy by providing high-quality part-time work or by consuming high-quality part-time work.
#2 THE EVENT
As I was thinking about pies: crusts and charts, I got an email from TED. The email was for TEDxWomen. It hit a nerve. I saw a link to apply for a license and host an event around the livestream. Perfect. It was late at night. The kids were asleep. I was ready to zone out with some lightweight reading. I hesitated a split second, and then clicked.
The form looked pretty straightforward. I filled it out and described what I did, why I was interested, how to find me and I hit submit. From there on out, the logistics fell into place.
Checklists from the TEDxWomen organizers were clear. Hyperlinks worked. I pulled together the event in between other projects: clients, kids, household.
The people who came to the event were fascinating. I knew about a third, I met the rest. They learned about the event through TEDx or through friends of friends. We watched the first session: RESILIENCE. At various points of the talks, people laughed out loud, cried, and nodded knowingly. Once the session wrapped, we put the chairs in a circle and each person introduced herself. Ages varied from late-20′s to mid-50s, experiences varied, perspectives varied yet everyone spoke about searching out to do something different or something more. Ideas worth spreading.
People stuck around and swapped ideas over lunch. One participant wrote up an idea for a business model I hadn’t considered before: women in their 20′s could match up with women in their 40′s and time-share a start-up. Another participant came to celebrate her birthday with two of her oldest friends.
#3 THE NEXT THING
Hosting the TEDxWestVillageWomen event was a terrific jolt for me personally. It focused my thinking about the labor model and gender roles. Putting together the event pulled me into the TEDx community. I am now planning an event around TED2012. I’ve cast a wider net. Men as well as women will participate. We are figuring out which talks to stream. Maryann and Elisa, the owners of the restaurant, Bistro de la Gare have contributed their space again. I know some ideas will be shared.
New York City is dense. Each day we have hundreds of interesting lectures, discussions, and meet ups. I already belong to a variety of communities and groups. As a TEDx organizer I am able to bring together people from a wide range of groups into one room for some terrific conversation. I’m looking forward to keeping it going.
For me, that makes for an interesting blend of the best of what pie crusts and pie charts have to offer.