An Interview With Dr. Cristal Glangchai
Women hold almost 52% of all professional jobs, but in business women are only 25% of executive- and senior-level officials and managers and are only 6% of CEOs. Other professions are no better – in law, women are only 22% of partners and in academia, only 31% of full professors are women. In 2013, women only accounted for 6% of partners in venture capital firms. Does this imbalance of power hold the answer to why sexual harassment has been so rampant in the workplace? If more women held positions of power, would sexual harassment and gender discrimination be significantly reduced? How do we increase the number of female CEOs, law partners, and professors? I explored some of these issues and solutions with Dr. Cristal Glangchai, author of the recently published VentureGirls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow’s Leaders, CEO of VentureLab, teacher, and entrepreneurship expert.
Discrimination and Harassment Happen No Matter What Your Credentials Are
Dr. Glangchai has an impressive tech, science, and engineering background that stems from an egalitarian upbringing that her dad created for her and her sisters. Despite this, she has run into her fair share of gender discrimination and harassment. Dr. Glangchai grew frustrated and angry with what she saw: stereotypical requests for the only female engineer to get coffee and take notes, the self-doubt and intimidation she saw in her female university students compared to the male students, the absence of female tech CEOs, and being told “you don’t have enough gray hairs and we really don’t think a young girl like you can do this” when she sought to commercialize her graduate research to start a nanotechnology company.
Entrepreneurial Skills as a Solution
Despite being in the 21st century, nothing seemed to change, so Dr. Glangchai initiated her own solution at home with her 4-year old daughters. She started teaching her daughters entrepreneurial concepts that resulted in her daughters’ teachers noticing an increase in the girls’ class participation and willingness to explain lessons to other students. When she saw how effective the entrepreneurial concepts were for her daughters, she decided to found VentureLab and started writing VentureGirls so she could teach these skills to all girls and give them the confidence to pursue their passions.
It’s really about giving girls the confidence to believe in themselves and the ability to ignore the social pressures.”
She believes “we need to teach girls to be more adventurous like we do boys. We need to teach girls to brag about themselves.” While these may be small concepts, she adds that “it’s really building up this strength and confidence in our girls to pursue whatever they want to, but at the same time it’s showing our boys that everyone can do this and it’s not just about boys or girls.”
Awareness, Cultural Change, and Empowering Women and Girls
If the result of teaching a generation of girls these entrepreneurial concepts is more female leadership in business, what does that mean for our future work environments? Research shows that organizations that are male dominated, super hierarchical, and forgiving when it comes to bad behavior are more prone to sexual harassment and abuse. It is important to have female leaders because female leadership can help balance power within the organization and prevent hypermasculinity from taking over the organization’s culture.
Dr. Glangchai says that the increased awareness of sexual harassment and second-guessing women who come forward is beginning to change what companies will tolerate, with many already overcorrecting. However, she thinks “we’re going to get to an evening out point” and she believes that it has to be a cultural change. “We’re not going to solve it just with the awareness and the people who are already set in their ways are not going to change. For me, it’s a cultural revolution and it starts with our kids. And part of the goal of VentureGirls is to give girls the confidence to become leaders, but also teach boys that girls are equally capable.”
If you have been sexually harassed and discriminated against due to your gender, an important first step is to be confident about speaking up, tell the offender to stop the behavior, and report what happened to you. If your company has an employee handbook, it should say who you need to inform about the harassment or discrimination. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, you can learn more about your legal rights by consulting with an attorney.