DF Gillian Caldwell Advises Women Students at the ML on Leadership, Pursuing Passions

By Lisa Katayama, 3 years ago

Director’s Fellow Gillian Caldwell hosted a coaching session for a group of women students at the Lab on Monday, November 4. Drawing on her 20 years of experience creating and running nonprofits, she offered advice on how to build self-confidence, visibility for your work and a peer support network here at the Lab, which is still predominantly male. In the pre-meeting survey, students asked questions about how to approach difficult discussions; self-advocate; deal with ambiguity; promote your work outside of the Lab; rally people to join your team for a new venture; and manage situations involving highly competitive people. When asked what their superpowers were, the students in the room used words like: sensitivity, organizing, listening, humor, and community-building.

Some key takeaways from the conversation included:

– Intuition can be very useful in helping us navigate this world, in addition to our rational mind.

– The POP model (Purpose-Outcomes-Process) is an effective tool for approaching any key meeting, conversation, or project.

– Confidence, love, and empathy are very important to challenging interventions. For example, when female students at the Lab find themselves confronting sexist remarks or discrimination, it is best to have a calm, rather than aggressive, conversation. Say, “I just want to offer you some perspectives on my experience of this” and take 100% accountability for how a comment or interaction made you feel and why. Coming from a place of mutual respect and clarity gives people room to be reflective without being defensive.

– Find your way to work that you are deeply passionate about. Are you really doing the work that you love to do and that you believe in? If so, some of your concerns about promoting it may dissipate.

– In building visibility for your work, be sure to connect with and promote other related work. In doing this, you build a network that looks to you for insight and possible collaborations.

 

Gillian also defined 7 core ingredients for success when building or leading an organization:

1. A clear and compelling mission and vision

2. A coherent strategy for planning and evaluating your impact over time

3. A focus on relationship building and partnerships

4. An effective communication and outreach network about the work

5. A solid informational management

6. Really dedicated staff and board

7. Sustainable sources of revenue

 

Thank you Gillian!