As the technology side of marketing advances at an unprecedented rate, so should its tactics. Joining Dr. Diane Hamilton is one of the future builders in the marketing technology industry, Dan McCall, the CEO of Influitive. With 30 years of experience in technology, Dan takes his technical expertise, marketing, and business experience to build and strengthen Influitive’s online community and customer advocacy platform. Influitive is a human engagement platform that encourages customer engagement through recognition, rewards, and gamification. Join in as Dan explains more about what the company does and how they are pivoting amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
When the clamor for gender equality is at its strongest, the need for holistic education that empowers young women to succeed cannot be overemphasized. Marisa Porges, the eighth headmaster of The Baldwin School and author of What Girls Need, is one of the future builders that in this field. She speaks to Dr. Diane Hamilton to give us an overview of their school’s vision and educational philosophy. Marisa is an advocate of holistic girls’ education that combines essential elements such as resilience, adaptability, and courage to prepare them for success. She sees the innate predisposition of girls to solve problems collaboratively as a competitive advantage that will figure prominently in the future of work and the wider world. In an era of pandemics, climate change, economic inequality, and other issues that can only be solved collaboratively or not at all, this is no small endeavor.
We have Dan McCall and Marisa Porges here. Dan is the CEO at Influitive. He’s a past recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Marisa is the Headmaster at The Baldwin School and Author of What Girls Need.
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Future Builders And Marketing Technology With Dan McCall
I am here with Dan McCall who is the CEO of Influitive. He has more than 30 years of technology experience, starting his career in computer science and founded two companies including Guardent, which was acquired by VeriSign in 2004 and Virtual Computer acquired by Citrix in 2012. He’s working on a lot of things at Influitive I’m interested in. I’m excited to have him here. Welcome, Dan.
Thank you for having me, Diane. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
This will be fun. I know that you’re doing a lot of things differently like everybody else is during this pandemic. I am interested in some of the virtual ways you’re dealing with your company, but I want to hear more first about your background. I gave a little bit of background. I know that you’ve won prestigious awards for your work in the past Entrepreneur of the Year and different things. I want to know more of your background. What got you interested in running these and finding these companies? That’s a stressful thing to be a founder of a company and I want to get a little background first.
I started out in engineering way back in 1983 at a company that people don’t even remember called Wang Laboratories. It was a mini-computer company. I was writing compilers, which is a technical trait. In my world, I’ve moved 180 degrees on the scale of what I was doing to what I’m doing now. I always enjoyed the business aspect even when I was writing code and was curious about business. Ten years into my career, I flipped over. I got into product management at a company that was on a good track. Four years later, I was running worldwide marketing for a publicly-traded company called Shiva Corp.
I found my niche, if there is one, which is blending technology with business and the ability at least in my case was around communication and translating technical concepts into things that people could understand and understand the business value. That’s what I enjoy. I spent a lot of time in marketing. If somebody asked me, what do I consider myself? I do consider myself a marketeer. Influitive is in the MarTech industry. My career was all around infrastructure, software, and all the stuff that makes it all run. This was a natural fit for me to come over to MarTech because I’m selling to the people that I used to be. It’s been great so far. I’ve been at Influitive since then.
As you’re saying that, I was trying to think I was programming my calculus homework in Basic in 1983. I was working for IBM. I’m looking back of how much has changed and how much people have focused on different aspects of technology. My work in developing curiosity with companies, I found that one of the factors that keep people from being curious is technology. I found four things hold people back and sometimes it’s the over and underutilization of technology. I love that you focus on that. It’s an interesting thing to write about too in terms of marketing. I can remember before I left Forbes School as the Program Chair, I wrote this brand publishing course based on some of Forbes’ research of how challenging it is for CMOs to deal with all the technology out there. There are many providers and none of them are communicating. Is it getting better? It’s been years since I wrote that. Without having an advertising branch, part of your company, or somebody that’s solely dedicated to this, is it still frustrating to get your message out at scale and then manage the systems?
I was thinking back to my career and I talked about the challenges for marketeers and the over and underutilization of technology. It sounds like you and I started in tech. Marketing is a transferable skill, but the technology side of it can be difficult for people that are trained in marketing communications and things like that. The thing that would help my career more than anything was being good at PowerPoint. I could then do slides for all the executives. It was a mundane thing. It’s gotten worse in many ways. I don’t know any industry. There’s much venture capital in the world that any interest in industry or anything that looks like white space is heavily-invested. MarTech has no exceptions to that. There’s a report called The MarTech 5,000 and there are 7,000 companies in it. Finding your way through that and distinguishing what you do so that people understand it is the biggest challenge in our industry.
Tell us what Influitive does for those who aren’t familiar.
We’re a human engagement platform. The way to think about that is we have these techniques that are built around recognition, rewards, gamification, and many of the things that were developed in the gaming industry. In the 2,000 era, we used those techniques to motivate people and engage people to do the things that you want them and you need them to do. It works on any group of individuals. We targeted at customers and advocacy so taking your best customers into a program where you get them to partner with you to help build a business but it works on anything. We use it internally for our employees and then when we talk about the event hub, it’s another example of how you can use this engagement platform to drive more activity and recognize and reward the things that you want people to do and need them to do at any point in time. That’s the basis of our business. For each segment that we’re involved in, we have methodologies and best practices that help someone use it in the right way.
That’s interesting because I work with advisory boards and we were talking about this. Somebody was asking me about how we can get them to go through this process as COVID scanning software to make sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I said, “You need to have this gamified to make sure that they get this reward.” You go through this stuff, I think people are used to that now because of technology. Do you think that there’s this need for this game since there’s this feeling of rewards?
A reward might be recognition but in all cases it’s interesting. When people think about rewards, they always think of monetary things, but there are many things out there that have nothing to do with money. It could be exclusive access to something. It could be technology, a parking spot, or anything. Those kinds of things, when you break it down into what’s valuable. What fits with my brand? That basis is a good thing because people want to be recognized for what they do and they want to thank you. I look at it as when we engage an advocate and let’s say they write a positive review for us.
We use our own product for ourselves, but our customers would do it the same way. The reward of saying thank you for that. It applies to anything. It applies to, “I wrote a nice review. I offered to be a reference for you. I did a case study for you because I like your company and what you’re about so I’m willing to help you.” That’s the core business with employees. In this civil unrest crisis, there are a lot of folks that wanted to do something about it. We used our internal points system which is used for things like, “I get t-shirts and swag and company stuff,” people like that. They took the same points and they donated them to charitable organizations. It’s an effective way to mobilize and enable people in mass to do things that are important to you.There is no reason for customer engagement to not work in a completely virtual environment. Click To Tweet
I see a lot of companies doing that with building curiosity in their culture. I bring that up because that’s what I deal with. Novartis, for example, they have 100 hours a year that they hope that their employees will read, research, do certain things and learn. They reward them for that. You’re mostly dealing with your customers. Are you dealing with employees?
Our mainstream business is around customers and customer advocacy. In the marketing world, we would sell to a customer marketing department where their goal is to get them. You’ve heard the phrase, “Your best prospect is your best customer.” What are the programs around your customers? It applies to anything. We have a dozen folks not even because we’re trying to sell it and use it internally with their employees. If you look at the customer experience market, almost everybody in that market which is around engagement has something around employees. It works with any group. This stuff that we’re looking at is, how can we support charities, offer them a free service, offer them three instances of our product to get donations and say thank you for it? Maybe referral of someone who might donate. Those things are all within the platform, but it’s around the methodologies and what’s the target. The messaging changes, but the technology and the underlying technique is the same.
It’s fun to keep up with what’s going on with technology. My daughter works for Tealium and she’d worked for FetchBack and some of them in the past. I get to live vicariously through that. When you see how things are changing and everybody’s worried about innovation taking over their jobs and all this stuff. I’m thinking back to working at IBM in 1985. That’s what they were saying back then. It’s going to take over. It’s a different story. It’s more dramatic the number of jobs that’ll be technology-enhanced, but there’s always going to be something else. We didn’t know social media managers would exist back then. It’s fun to talk about what has evolved in the marketing and computer world. You’re doing something I wanted to talk to you about. You launched something called Virtual EventHub. I wanted to know what that is and why you launched it.
That one came out of this COVID crisis. Part of what we do with our customers is we can use our platform. You think about an event, say a trade show or a customer event. You go there, you go to some location, maybe it’s 1 day, 2 days, something like that and a whole bunch of stuff happens. There are people buying through your attention and your time. There are a million things to do but it’s contained in that space of time. What we do is we bend that. Prior to the event, we get you into essentially a hub, but it’s a website where you can come into and you can learn about where you want to go, attend events, do things, and register for certain activities. All of this can be based on a reward system where you get points for engaging ahead of time and building up to an event. Maybe a couple of months in advance or a month in advance and then after an event, what happens are companies will send out a bunch of emails to people that got leads but it’s over. What our environment does is allow you to extend that conversation after the event. You can follow-up and you can continue to motivate people with these recognition reward programs.
That works well. We have a bunch of customers using it. When COVID happened, I’d say a dozen of our customers called us up and they said, “How can you help us? We canceled our customer event, which you were going to support us with. How can you support us now?” It got us thinking like, “There’s no real reason that this engagement wouldn’t work in a completely virtual environment.” We were thinking about doing it for ourselves. We said, “We’re not going to try to make money off of this.” We’re going to go to our customers and say, “If you want to use our product pre and post event and integrate it with your event, we’ll give you an instance of it for it.” Normally, we charge them some amount of money. We said, “No, you can use it.” We spent more time around our consulting team coming up with services that would allow people to build this type of virtual event, translating as much as possible from a physical event in a short timeframe because they didn’t have a lot of time.
They could go from, “My event is canceled,” to something that feels engaging. At some point, you are on a video or you’re watching the video. That’s where the biggest challenges are so we can help that a little bit because we have some dynamic things like the ability to chat and ask questions. That’s where I think the industry has to improve because it isn’t the same when you can’t see the audience’s reaction or get that buzz that happens in a big room. It’s quiet. That’s something where we all have some work to do. I don’t think anybody’s nipped that one in the bud yet.
As far as being able to engage folks, that’s what we did. We offered it out to folks that we’re not working with now. There’s been a lot of interest in it. I’m amazed at how many folks have embraced the concept. We’re not going to go back to a purely physical event world. This stuff is here to stay. The reason I say that is the economics around it is compelling. The ability to get 10x, 20x the number of attendees is not going to be lost on people. For your case, I wonder how many more events you’ve gone to that you can go virtually versus physically.
Since I speak at a lot of them, it’s a lot different. Most of them, I was speaking at SHRM in front of 1,700 people in 2019. In April 2020, I had to cancel five events alone. It’s a tough time for speakers and people like me who are used to doing this. What are you doing for the speaker aspect? First of all, is this on the PC, Mac that they’re looking at this or on an app?
It’s on any device. We’re a SaaS-based application. We have a mobile version and we have a PC, Mac version or any web browser. That’s the primary interface. If you’re not a hybrid, you are a purely virtual event, there’s no reason to do it live. What I mean by that is you can air it live at a particular time and you can build up that expectation like a TV show would do. You don’t have to do it in one shot. If it didn’t go well or some speaker was nervous, do it again.
Have them sign-in later to answer the questions live. Is that right?
Exactly. In some ways, you’re going to get much more professional doing presentations. The industry has a long way to go to try to recreate the feel of a live event. What remains to be seen for me, we talk about return on investment is that people can go to a lot more things and you can engage a much broader audience but you’re doing it at a lower depth level. Whereas when you’re at an event, the person that’s attending, that’s why they’re there. They go to a lot more stuff than they do on a virtual world. At the same time, they’re going to a lot of stuff that they’re filling time with because they wanted to go to the session that was in the afternoon that’s why they’re there that day. In this world, they go to that session. They won’t go to the other ones. From an ROI standpoint, virtual events are going to win but it’s going to be interesting what’s lost with the fact that people can ala carte this stuff.
It’s funny because it reminds me of my discussion of what we do with education when we start removing some of the humanities. You’re losing the glue, you’re losing some of the things that hold it all together. When I spoke at International Project Management Week, they had me fly to New York to create the video. You’re at this event, it plays, and then I’m live to answer questions like what you’re saying. There are 50,000 people that had access to it at the time. The only thing I would say is it’s confusing because there are many events going on. It’s many different areas. How do you make that? Can you gamify that where they can get some reward because they did attend this one and this one? Normally, if you’re at a live event, you can’t go to both at the same time. That’s another advantage of having virtual.
You bring up a good point. I hadn’t thought about that. It may be more effective because when you do have two things at the same time, you go to both. A lot of companies when they’re doing these will put them up on their website and a private protected area or something where you can go and watch the sessions later. There’s an element of that, but the whole point is giving and rewarding points for people attending things, especially the things you want them to do. Let’s say a lot of customer conferences have training. I went to this training session. It’s great. There are your points. It’s going to make you more effective with the product that we’re selling or service that we’re using, in which case, you’re going to be a better customer. You’re a happier customer. You renew.With Influitive, you can take your best customers into a program where you can get them to partner with you to help build a business. Click To Tweet
We do a lot of B2B, SaaS software is our core market segment. What I’m describing is consistent across that base, which is good customers are the ones that know and are educated about what your product does and how to use it. They get more value out of it and you want to reward that behavior. If they’re doing things on the customer marketing side where they’re tweeting and they’re doing things that are complementary to you and they’re going to help build a buzz, it’s a way of saying thank you.
Do you do any certificates involved in any of this? Everybody wants to have a certificate that prove that they’ve done whatever instead of a college degree. We’re going to be this certificate society soon. Where does that fall in any of this? Do you offer any of that?
What our platform would do is not create the certificate because if you have a certificate program and you probably already do. It’s something that I put on this training. We would present it to you, make you aware that you have it in this electronic format. All these virtual events are highly customizable. Everything from the brand to what’s going to happen to what are the things that they’re trying to accomplish. That’s where our consulting and services team come in and say, “How do we use this platform technology to create that experience that you’re looking for?” It’s a lot of art that goes with the science.
You’re looking at companies. I’d say the smaller companies are using Zoom or something else to do smaller get-togethers. You’re talking about chat and asking questions and some of those platforms can do some of that. How is yours different from what we use? I’m saying Zoom because a lot of people who maybe have smaller companies can visualize that.
That makes sense. We’re not a video streaming service. We partner with folks like ON24 or Webex. If the customer wants to use Zoom, we’ll figure out a way to integrate that into the solution. Let’s use an example of there was an event, it was live, and you were in our discussion forums. There’s the video that you can watch. If you’re using Zoom, that whole chat session is gone at the end of that video. Take that and then post it up to a webpage, but we’re there with the live event streaming. If somebody comes in later and they want to watch it at another time, they’ve got the whole context of the discussions that were going on before. That happens automatically as opposed to, “I’ve got to do this in two steps.” We’re integrating with those video platforms, but we’re also then maintaining that record in that context from the actual event.
I like it when the record is easy to follow. Have you ever done a tweet chat? My brain was completely blown from doing that. It’s brutal. Everybody’s chatting and talking at the same time. How do you get around that where it’s overwhelm?
I don’t think we’ve solved that problem. The bigger the audience, the bigger that problem gets. It happens at live events too. The presenter will throw up. When I was at Citrix, it happened all the time, they threw up #Whatever, some Citrix URL or something that they want you to tweet against. You got a bunch of marketing people monitoring the Twitterverse and it goes crazy. If you think about it in the context of there’s this conversation that’s happening in the Twitterverse that’s not happening in the audience. It’s this new thing. You wouldn’t sit there and talk amongst yourselves while there’s a presenter, but that’s essentially what you’re doing. It’s distracting. People are out. If they were talking the whole time, you’d be like, “Quiet.” That’s what happens if you try to monitor it and say, “Answer questions.” It’s difficult to do. It feels like you ran a marathon. I don’t think we have an answer to that but it’s a good problem to think about.
I remember doing it for SHRM in 2019. The gifts and the things and people spending much time with their posts. I’m thinking, “Is anybody listening to the conversation?” They’re all worried about which stuff they’re going to put in next.
They’re all looking down. How do you get them to look up?
It’s going to be an interesting way that this all progresses. There’s a need for this. It’s unfortunate that COVID has been the reason that we’ve seen much of a focus, but it’s going to open up a big world for a lot of people. We’ll see more virtual working situations, which I’m all a fan of. I’ve always loved working virtually. I think what you’re working on is important. Is there anything else that you’re working on that I didn’t ask you because I want to make sure? I think that what you’re doing at Influitive is interesting.
I’ve covered what we do and how we do it. I encourage people if they’re interested in this stuff is to go to our website. It’s Influitive.com. There are plenty of ways to engage with us. Here’s another one, we launched something called The Influitive Experience. Think of it as your prospect of hours or interest in what we do. You can get into this environment and you’re in our product. While you’re trying to learn about what we do, you’re experiencing it. It’s a quick thing. We don’t sell that as a solution now. When you want to engage people, in this case they’re not your customers, but they’re interested in you. You can offer them rewards, get them to learn things and get them to tell you things about themselves that help you qualify them as a potential buyer.
You can build a system around this. We just launched it and it’s cool. It took us an extra two months to launch it because what happens is when you throw something up there like that, you don’t know who the person is. People try to game the system. You’ve got to figure out, “What are the controls that you can bring people through so that you can identify that they’re real and not in there to grab the t-shirt or win a prop?” That’s a value. We figured it out for ourselves. As we get through this and we get more interest from our customers, that’s another one where it’s going back to the same thing. How do you engage people, get them to do things that they might not otherwise do using these techniques and then translate that back into a better ROI?
I can’t wait to check that out. This was much fun, Dan. Thank you for being on the show.
Thank you. This has been a lot of fun for me too. I look forward to keeping our conversations going in the future.
Holistic Girls’ Education With Marisa Porges
I am here with Marisa Porges, the 8th Headmaster of The Baldwin School, a 130-year-old all-girls school outside of Philadelphia renowned for academic excellence and for preparing girls to be leaders and changemakers. Prior to joining Baldwin in 2016, she served in the Obama White House as a Senior Policy Advisor on Cybersecurity at the National Economic Council. She’s also got a book and it’s called What Girls Need. It’s nice to have you here, Marisa.
Thank you for having me, Diane. It’s a pleasure to be here.
You’re welcome. I was looking forward to this. You have an interesting background. Give me a little background before we get into what you deal with in terms of helping women and girls. You’ve traveled to Afghanistan, Middle East, Southeast Asia. I was looking at some of the stuff you did for your research and writing on terrorism and counter-terrorism. How did you get from where you were as a kid to that to talking to girls?
It’s been a fun adventure. I’m fortunate to have had varied experiences in and out of the military and with soldiers and sailors overseas. In the government and now lately, leading an all-girls school. When I was young, I myself went to the school that I now lead. It was the place that gave me the foundation and the skills that I needed later. In retrospect, I realized some of the things I didn’t need, which is part of the stories of the book too. It gave me the foundation of the skills and the ways of thinking that I think that all young women and women in general need. It set the stage for lots of interesting travel and impactful work I hope in the national security sphere, but now the impactful work that I’ve had lately which is leading the school that I’m now at.
I imagine that your experience has been fascinating. What you were talking about is important about what girls get and what they don’t get in their education. You said there were some things you missed and some things you wish you had. I want to get into that. I also want to know what it was like to serve in the Obama White House or any White House administration would be fascinating to me. How did you get that job? What was that like?As a woman and as a leader, it is important to continue working on the gaps where you wish you could do better. Click To Tweet
It was a big point in my career when you work in the national security sphere and in government and then end up at the White House at some point was a true honor. I served under both the Bush and Obama administrations as a civil servant. I was fortunate to work in various spaces handling counter-terrorism. When I left to get my PhD and did a lot of work in Afghanistan and overseas on counter-terrorism issues, I had the opportunity to step back into government as a White House fellow at the end of the second Obama administration. It was a unique opportunity that allowed me to be in the room for conversations about cybersecurity, internet accessibility, and interesting critical issues at the macro level. It was also those times where we collect the stories that you’ll have for the rest of your life. Those are stories that are also in the book.
Each part of the book has tales from my time flying for the Navy, my time in the White House, my time working here at the school, and overseas in Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of the story. Those are the moments when you both see where your strengths are as a leader and as a colleague and elsewhere. Also, the gaps by the things that you wish you were a little better at or things that you could do differently. It’s important as a leader and as a woman to be able to continue working on those things.
I saw that you were a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and you’re talking about having your PhD. I remember when I went through my PhD program and working as a Doctoral Chair, we teach people to look for the gaps in the literature. What hasn’t happened? What do we need to work on? I’m curious, what was your dissertation?
My research was based on work I had started when I was in government. Later, it continued in the field when I used to look at what inspired individuals, young men and women, to join terrorist groups? At the time, it was mostly focused on Al-Qaeda, but also looking at other terrorist organizations overseas. What we as communities and as government could do to deradicalize, help people disengage from being active, engaged terrorists. I would travel to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Singapore, and Indonesia looking at programs that communities have set up to try to dissuade individuals from being active members of Al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.
That’s a change to go from doing that to working with young girls to help them nurture their innate skills to have a competitive advantage in the workforce. How do you make that switch and why did you?
I teach a leadership seminar here at school and I tell them or those who ask what are the things I’ve always looked for. I think the things that make work interesting are the people you work with, the mission you have, and then having impact. It’s both fun and impactful. You get to apply a lot of the things I’ve seen elsewhere in a new context. It’s about leading organizations and making sure that we can have impact. I’m fortunate to have amazing educators, teachers, faculty, and staff here at the school who can deliver the academic programs and co-curricular things we need for the girls. I can help them with the vision it takes to make sure we prepare the next generation. It’s more that macro leadership that I’m looking at. It goes to the core of some of the skills that we need to make sure we’re teaching our young women. Adaptability is one of them. This idea that you can take your skills in one place and apply them in a totally different area. That’s a critical skill for particularly the young generation who’s upcoming. In some ways, a combination of all the things I taught in the book or how I transitioned from the world of national security to the world of education.
I’ve had Ross Thornley and Mike Raven on my show. They’ve created AQai which is an Adaptability Quotient Index, which I find it’s interesting to talk about adaptability because my index is to work with people to develop curiosity. Curiosity is such a huge skill as is adaptability in young men and women. Having worked as an MBA Program Chair at Forbes and different things that I’ve done, it’s something that we don’t focus enough on as far as the soft skills, the critical thinking skills, the different adaptability, and curiosity. All these things that we’re talking about. Why do you think they get overlooked in education?
In some ways it’s because the research, at least in the social science field, is getting to the point of closely looking at it and analyzing adaptability as a core function. We think of IQ as innate intelligence as something we all look at. I know you’re well-aware from your research of EQ, their Emotional Quotient. The idea of adaptability being something that is both measurable and trainable is a relatively recent concept. The research out there shows that we’re now starting to look at it in a way that recognizes the importance and then you figure out how to build that muscle as adults but also in kids. It speaks a lot of the things that we do elsewhere. It’s that idea of how you develop risk-takers, how you develop resilience. Particularly for young women, how you train young girls to not worry about being a perfectionist and try new things. Those are all core to being adaptable. It’s shifting our focus a little bit in terms of how we piece those skills together to develop what I would call the Muscles of Adaptability.
Another behavioral skill I look at a lot is perception. I know you navigate and prepare these young girls to face gender bias in the workplace and all that. As we talk about biases, I think it’s critical that we recognize that our reality could be different from somebody else’s reality. How do you deal with gender bias when you’re talking to these young people?
I think of it in two ways. One is exactly perspective-taking. This idea that we have to consider the perspective of the other and that can be handled everything through encouraging reading fiction books where you encourage both boys and girls and to take the perspective of the protagonist. Someone who’s different than themselves and say, “What does that look like? What did that feel like?” It could be looking at it through the lens of service work. A lot of young people are encouraged to do and I think that’s front and center in terms of how we think about other people. I do think that is part of this idea of shifting your perspective to the other. For women in particular and girls, not through my lens, it then leads to this idea of, “With this new perspective, how does gender bias come into play?” The fact that it’s 2020 and yet we still have both overt and more subtle ways that gender bias plays into your every day.
Even from the sheer fact of seemingly random but important one that most office buildings, the temperatures are set by age-old algorithms that accommodate the core temperature of men, not women. For all those women who are reading and thinking, “I’m always cold at the office and have to put a scarf around my shoulders.” It’s because, in general, offices are set for men, not women. That’s one of many. Everything from how the clothes we wear at work to the ideas that despite the number of women graduating with higher ed degrees, leadership positions at a lot of universities that are companies are still, by and large, research shows held by men. At macro and micro levels, we still have to be conscious of gender bias. You then go back to that perspective-taking you talked about and say, “Let’s take on the other perspective and figure out, should we do things differently to accommodate the other?”
As you’re bringing that up and thinking all the things that drove me crazy. Business casual is one of them because it’s been for men to be able to wear a polo shirt and Dockers or jeans, whatever it is that they can feel comfortable. In women, they don’t have anything that’s comfortable that falls into that category if you’re setting up business casual. I hate that because we end up having to be as uncomfortable. Don’t you think?Women’s natural leadership skills are going to become more impactful and critical to the future of work. Click To Tweet
It’s a different lens. For many years, decisions were made by those in charge. It historically had been men and that’s changing now. Women have to take an invisible, “What do we want to see different?” It’s particularly impactful now in our COVID reality we’re all in when many of us are working from home. The reality of balancing work and life as a woman who is in a leadership position and has a family at home, not disco but the baby that fortunately isn’t crying in the background. What decisions are we making to accommodate women in a different way? Work dresses is one of them. I know a lot of companies in particular thinking differently about that. It’s everything from how we set our day, what the expectations are for returning email and for flexibility of work. For the younger generation, that’s going to become more and more impactful and critical in the future of work. It’s an area where meaning into women’s natural leadership skills, things that come naturally to young girls will be our competitive advantage, I would argue.
It’s different. Even working out of my house, the time I want to spend getting ready to get on video calls when a guy has a shaved head and goes, “Let’s drop a call.” The reality of what women go through, which is self-imposed to some extent. I think that it’s a different time and bias and the gender differences don’t get talked about enough. That’s great that you’re focusing on that. I also like that you’re talking about collaboration. I’ve had Amy Edmondson from Harvard on my show talking on her TED Talk on the Chilean mining disaster and how they used curiosity to develop this collaborative problem-solving ability to save all these people that were buried under the rock was important. You talk about cultivating collaborative problem-solving skills. How do you implement that? How do you teach that? Is that something that you’re working on with the young women?
It’s something that we’re conscious about in terms of how we build our program and how we develop our lesson plans. It is a new concept in most schools. It’s something that parents should be conscious of, but also we as working adults need to be conscious of with our teams to whatever team you’re working on in your own work environment. One quick aside is it’s interesting when they’ve done research around the world and it shows that girls, when you test for collaborative problem solving, when you give young teenage girls problems that aren’t to be felt individually and has to be felt for other people. Girls are naturally predisposed to do better at those problems than others. It has a little bit to do with social norms around how we communicate with each other, how we take perspective that empathize and our approach to group norms and group problems.
When we think about the problems we’re all facing, not at work, but the wider world whether it’s COVID or climate change or economic inequality, these macro things that affect all of us. Those will be the problems that our young children need to help on and kids now and those will be by and large all collaborative in nature when we problem solve. Back to your original question. How do you teach it? I think it’s being conscious of bringing it front and center when you’re thinking of what problem you or your kids are facing. It’s something like asking the question who are you working on that with? What did they say? What ideas do they bring to the table? It’s not about what your daughter or son is doing in science class. It’s about what is she doing with her lab partner? What did the lab partner bring to the table that you want to make sure is part of the conversation?
The more we bring that into the conversation, the more our kids realize it’s important. Some of it’s talking about it that they practice. Some of it is modeling it in our own daily life and even bringing your children into the problems that you might be facing little ones. There’s one story in the book about one of our girls and she learned it from her mom who always asks in the car for help finding wherever they’re headed. It sounds silly but she learned, “I’m supposed to help solve the problem. Let’s figure it out.” She gets out the app, she gets out her phone. She figures out how to direct her mom into whatever they’re trying to find. Over time when I had talked about it, she was like, “No. It’s something I do now.” There’s a problem for the family and if it sounds silly to the little one.
I love the curiosity aspect of asking these questions, getting them involved, letting kids know their opinion and their insights are important. I work on a board for LeaderKid Academy. We were talking about emotional intelligence as I research for my dissertation. It’s an important part of the soft skills arena to focus on this stuff in the K-12. That’s what they do there. How high it is your school go level-wise?
It gets pre-K-12. From about four years old all the way to grade twelve before college.
You say you went to school there. How did that prepare you compared to other people when you went to high school? Did you go to a traditional high school or did you go to an all-girls high school too?
I was here for middle school and high school. It goes all the way through grade twelve, the senior year. There’s a lot of research that shows how all-girls environments prepare young women differently than coed environments in terms of helping them feel confident in speaking up and speaking out, taking a seat at the table, and asserting themselves. How it helps them lean into STEM fields, in particular. There’s research that shows that girls who attend single-sex, all-girls’ high schools are more likely to go into computer science, math, and engineering. I myself majored in Applied Physics in college before I went a different direction for grad school. Even the fact that when I was a kid here at school, my childhood dream was to fly jets off aircraft carriers for the military. It was before that was allowed and I hadn’t even realized that my dream was not legal because at the time women weren’t allowed to fly in combat.
By the time I graduated college, it was something you could do and sure enough I did because it was a confidence and self-assuredness that I think young women need more than anything. Remember those moments when you wish you had a little more hutzpah or that little more lean in and speak out. It’s something that by the nature of the space and what and how we teach our girls, they get when they graduate. I’m proud of that aspect of what we do here in particular.
I’ve talked to my husband about this because he went to an all-boys school. I’ve never done that. It’s got to be different. Did you get to socialize with men at all or boys at that age and at certain events? How does it work exactly when you’re in all-girls?
This is where the reality is particularly these days with all the kids do after school events, things on the weekend, and summer programs. There are plenty of opportunities to both do programs with. We have a brother school or other area schools or social events and stuff like that. There are many opportunities for those moments, but when it comes to the core academics, the thing that our girls will tell you is they want that space to be theirs. They love the fact that in math class or science class or history class, the person who will always speak up will be one of their classmates who’s going to be a girl. One person who’s going to be the leader in front who’s going to be the most outspoken is always going to be another young woman. It gives them a sense of can do that is important. There’s research that demonstrates that girls around the age of 5 and 6 start to opt out of things that are labeled and games for smart kids or things that require you leaning in.
It’s a little bit of social norms that play in terms of what’s considered cool for girls or feminine versus masculine. It’s an under implicit bias that comes out early on. When you’re in a single-sex environment, there’s not that reality. This is all for our girls and the space is theirs to own and learn to love learning. It’s a fun thing to see in action and I get to see it now from our youngest girls all the way up. Every woman isn’t going to have the chance to have those opportunities. We can still learn lessons about how we want to be whether we’re providing space for that for our daughters, nieces, young women in our life, for us as adults, or for our colleagues who are women. The book talks about how you train yourself and negotiate better, how you communicate differently, how you use your voice in different ways. Those are all things that we as women can continually think about doing.
In my research for curiosity, we found the same thing. With creativity, both around age five, we start to see the peak and then it declines. It would be interesting to see if curiosity was any different in an all-girl environment. In general, I have the overall figures. At age five, we’re peaking. You’ve probably seen Sir Ken Robinson‘s TED Talk, and George Land‘s talk. Both of them talk about creativity more but it’s the same thing. You peak at that age and then all of a sudden everything declines. In my research with curiosity, I found the four things that hold people back from being curious. That’s fear, assumptions are the voice in their head, technology, over and underutilization of it, and environment. School comes into that environmental aspect. Teachers tell what they can and cannot answer sometimes in class or your parents of whether they ask you to find a way on the map or not. I know that we’re seeing a lot of focus on bias and getting women on different things. Even California at the getting more women on boards and board seats but then you talk to people and they go, “What we want to see is somebody who has former C-level experience.”
All the things they’ve limited it down to, then you only could get a guy because that’s all that’s left. They want diversity, but then they don’t have the pool to pick from. It’s going to be interesting to see how some of these things change. How we can develop women and children to have these skills. Everything that you’re working on is fascinating. I think a lot of people could learn a lot from your book. It’s What Girls Need. You want to tell me a little bit about how they can find your book and find you and learn more?
The book is out and if you go to my website MarisaPorges.com, there is plenty of information there about the book, but also about other research that went into the lessons in the book as well as other writings and things I’ve done on gender and leadership. What we need to give our kids to prepare for the future of the workforce in the world. I look forward to having people check it out and continuing the conversation.
This is great and timely. I’m glad you were able to join me on the show. It was nice to talk to you, Marisa. Thank you.
Thank you, Diane. It was a pleasure.
I’d like to thank both Dan and Marisa for being my guests. We get many great guests. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. I would love to hear what you like from the show. Also, if you’re interested in more information about Cracking The Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index, you can find it all there as well. I hope you enjoyed this episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- What Girls Need
- Virtual EventHub
- Ross Thornley and Mike Raven – previous episode
- Amy Edmondson – previous episode
- The Baldwin School
- Sir Ken Robinson – TED Talk
- George Land – TED Talk
- Cracking The Curiosity Code
- Curiosity Code Index
About Dan McCall
Dan McCall is the CEO of Influitive. Dan is a 30+ year technology veteran who started his career in computer science and compiler writing before finding his calling in marketing and business/operations. Previously, Dan co-founded two companies, including Guardent (acquired by Verisign in 2004) and Virtual Computer (acquired by Citrix in 2012). Dan has held executive positions in marketing, product management, corporate development, and engineering at four publicly-traded companies, and is a former recipient of the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. At Influitive, Dan seeks to apply his blend of technical expertise, marketing, and business experience to help build and strengthen Influitive’s online community and customer advocacy platform. He is an avid proponent of customers and customer success with a goal to refine product/market fit, create repeatable sales and marketing processes, build and motivate great teams, and delight Influitive’s customers.
About Marisa Porges
Marisa Porges is the eighth headmaster of The Baldwin School, a 130-year-old all-girls school outside of Philadelphia renowned for academic excellence and for preparing girls to be leaders and changemakers. Prior to joining Baldwin in 2016, she served in the Obama White House as a senior policy advisor on cybersecurity at the National Economic Council, was a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she traveled extensively in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia conducting independent research and writing on terrorism, counterterrorism, and efforts to counter violent extremism, and serves as a counterterrorism policy advisor in the Departments of the Treasury and Defense. She is the author of What Girls Need.
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