Inflection Point with Lauren Schiller ★★★★★
Readers, it’s time for a heart to heart. This is a long review with a personal twist.
Surprise, surprise, writing podcast reviews is not my day job: I am a woman engineer. One of the earliest memories I have of thinking that engineering might be a cool profession is a woman who worked at 3M coming to visit my elementary school who made tape for a living. My 11 or 12 year old self found it positively fascinating that you could put sticky stuff on one side, and the other side had a silky feel to it, and it didn’t stick together when you wound it into a roll. My mom was also a great STEM role model, she was a microbiologist and taught us a lot about microbes and biology as kids. As I got into high school I became more sure that I wanted to pursue engineering, so I did. I got a chemical engineering degree and set off bright eyed and bushy-tailed into the world of manufacturing.
Until that time, I don’t think I’d ever really thought about “making it” in a world that was not set up for me to succeed in. I grew up in a middle class suburb with enough to eat, plenty of home support, a good education system, and lots of hope for perceived opportunity. Privileged, and lucky, for sure. Even in college, I had a good network of other women thanks to the engineering sorority I helped start at my school, Phi Sigma Rho, and my professors and internship supervisors never treated women differently than men. I was confident I knew how to make my way in the work world.
But the first time a co-worker talked to me about his penis, looking for my innocent, 23-year-old reaction, a sparkle in his eyes as I became more and more uncomfortable, something shifted for me. I panicked. My stomach sank. My belief that Corporate America was fair was crushed when I went to human resources and they told me the only way they could help me was if I filed an official sexual harassment claim. I wasn’t a prude, I just wanted the guy to stop talking like that. I didn’t file a claim. Eventually I talked to the person myself, and our relationship was forever changed – of course. I felt like I did something wrong. It was a horrible experience and I felt very alone.
It dawned on me that I had chosen to go to work every day in a total man’s world, and I figured I could handle it. But I really wanted to make sure that women who came after me didn’t experience the same kind of crap. This was the early 2000s, and there were still plants with no women’s bathrooms, so logically, there were not a whole lot of women in power positions. Those who were had the pressured position of being the standard bearer and token women that everyone was compared to. The expectation was that you would fit in to the culture, because that’s who you saw getting promoted. Few who were different or diverse seemed to be “well thought of” and on the “high potential list” – critical for seeing a path forward in a company.
Not everyone is destined to become an executive, but the work culture was not set up for women, especially working mothers, to succeed. There was an expectation that people would work long hours, be on call, and be willing to take any job that was offered even if it meant a relocation (because so few people in power had dual income families). But I felt strongly that diversity was a good thing and I could offer that. I believed (and still do) that a diverse employee base that truly felt included would make a company the best it could be-the most productive, efficient, fun, thoughtful, and innovative business. With happy employees!
Most women have a strong desire to see that others have done something before them, so they know it’s possible. We need role models, because “having it all” and “leaning in” can seem like impossible things to manage especially if a woman is a working mother.
So I mentored the women who came after me and tried to make change. I spoke up. I got on a diversity committee and mentored interns. I got on as many interview panels as possible to try to bring in more diverse talent. I started a teleconference series where a man and a woman paired up to talk about their career paths and the skills they developed along the way. I got involved with a women’s network. And when I had a baby, one of my best friends and I got a formal nursing room installed at our office. It was second nature for me to fix and improve.
This drive to challenge the norm (and the resiliency one must have if you take that route) is something I have always known about myself, but listening to the podcast Inflection Point has really made me appreciate it. The tagline for the show is “conversations with women changing the status quo.” There was an episode on September 12th with Intel VP of Corporate Affairs Roz Hudnell which contained an a-ha moment for me. Hudnell talked about how she grew up learning from her mom and grandma that she should always speak up, that it was better to solve a problem than complain about it, and that had really stuck with her throughout her life.
This was my story. Here was someone who truly changed the status quo, which I’m so passionate about, and she grew up being told the same things as me. (I’m sure my Midwestern parents thought I was being wishy-washy, but I thanked them for raising me this way the next time I talked to them.) So it means I can do it … I have role models. I can effect change.
Inflection Point is full of these inspirational stories. The show started back in March 2015. Early episodes often have two guests in a single show, while more recent episodes usually feature just one guest. The episodes are usually about a half hour, and host Lauren Schiller interviews with a great pace and cadence. It never feels rushed, which I appreciate as a non-millenial. The production value is great – it’s a straight-up interview show with no bells and whistles needed.
Guests have ranged from famous activists (Gloria Steinem, Anne Marie Slaughter) to entertainers and artists (Annie Liebovitz, Sarah Silverman) to entrepreneurs (Dawn Lippert, Caterina Fake) and even world travelers (Alison Levine, Archel Bernard). Each of these guests is challenging the world they live in and making it better. They discuss what has driven their ambition, roadblocks they’ve encountered along the way, and where they think their field is headed in the future. Change is good. Diversity is good. Women should be celebrated for their unique contributions, and this podcast is all about celebrating those wins. The show never bashes men, it just highlights women.
I say this is my “spirit” podcast because I feel warm and hopeful when I listen to it. I identify with these women when they say they can’t sit on the couch and not change something. They are problem solvers. They may or may not be CEOs or foundation board presidents, but they are making a difference and that should be shared. The closer we come to equality, the more fearless women will become, and the more they’ll contribute to Corporate America. Check out Inflection Point, and you will be inspired to stand up and be heard.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (5 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (4 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (5 / 5)
Schiller asks insightful questions and there is a perfect balance of back and forth between her and the guests.
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
Humor (3 / 5)
Investigation (4 / 5)
Storytelling (4 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (5 / 5)
There are few podcasts that would rank higher on this scale than Inflection Point. I am so glad this show exists.
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
Start with These Episodes:
Roz Hudnell, Intel: Hudnell grew up being taught to speak up, to propose solutions instead of complain about the status quo. This is how she’s lived her entire life.
Morgan Shanahan, BuzzFeed Parents: An unexpected discussion about post-partum depression and how one successful woman has dealt with it.
Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code: A non-profit organization which helped young women create the awesome game “Tampon Run.”
Peggy Orenstein “Girls & Sex”: The author discusses how pop culture is influencing how girls grow up thinking about sex.
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Inflection Point with Lauren Schiller