Millennials Tracey Fu and Sri Navalpakam: We Need Mentorship and Community to Create Change
The two of us don’t fit the typical GenderAvenger demographic. We’re young Millennials who are still optimistic we’ll be represented in public dialogue as our careers mature — at least that’s what Gina Glantz let us know when we had a serendipitous encounter at an Upper West Side coffee shop — but we think we should be represented.
We’re two women of color trying to navigate a corporate world dominated by men. That’s why the GenderAvenger mission resonates with us — we very rarely, if at all, see our own identities reflected by those leading us, which we believe confirms that the system is broken.
Empowerment Is Necessary, But Not Sufficient
The horror stories we have both heard are the stories of the past, the days where women were outnumbered in nearly every aspect of professional and academic life. The cultural narrative around women’s representation in today’s media is radically different than what previous generations may have experienced. It is all about “empowerment” culture, that this is our time to shine and that we own our futures. We’re told through all forms of media, including self-help books and well-curated newsletters, that we should have all the confidence in the world and complete control of our own lives.
These days, we can see firsthand examples of women’s representation improving — our presence is increasing via the emergence of large movements, electoral campaigns, rallies, and momentum in the media — but here’s the kicker: One critical area where women’s representation isn’t improving by leaps and bounds is in the corporate world — in 2018, only 24 women (4.8%) were Fortune 500 company CEOs. Topline statistics about representation, terrible as they are, only tell part of the story — they don’t hit on what most women experience daily in conference rooms, speaker’s panels, and classrooms. If we could capture and visualize these everyday experiences, it would probably tell us something we don’t want to admit: representation hasn’t increased much at all in the last few decades. This is precisely why data-driven tools like the GA Tally have the potential to appeal to Millennials like us. It captures and contextualizes the everyday experiences and makes them relevant for this day and age. It reminds the two of us that there are stories that we need to bring to the forefront.
We Need the Mentorship of Older Generations
We’ve grown up in a different world than that of our mothers and their mothers, or that’s what we thought, but maybe we’re realizing that the pervasive sexism and misogyny of days past have only shifted to quieter forms. That’s not to say progress has not been made. For example, there are now professional sports organizations for women (though their compensation leaves room for improvement), whereas only men played professional sports in past generations. And the two of us walk into work every day knowing — in a way our immigrant mothers could never safely assume in a new country — that we will not experience blatant racism and sexism.
But the racism and sexism has not disappeared completely. It is still there — we know it can manifest in more subtle, insidious behaviors — and you may know they’re still there, too. You may feel it pressing up inside your chest when you look around a conference room and realize time and time again you could be the youngest in the room, and/or the only woman, and/or the only person of color, and the actual decision makers, the people who truly have the power in the room, are the older men.
This has certainly left the two of us contemplating what we took for granted, how much time we could have spent learning to shift representation, and how ill-equipped we were to even know where to start. We grew up in a (slightly) different world of empowerment culture, many of us have grown up without spending most of our formative years building up the sheer breadth of skills that older generations needed to hone in order to get and keep their seats at the table.
We need to learn from their triumphs, failures, and the many, many ambivalent in-betweens. We need a community greater than just ourselves to help us recognize if we are experiencing the same problems as those before us, just during a different time, and GenderAvenger can do that. In fact, it is that community that has the inherent ability to connect generations of women who are sick of not seeing themselves on the podium and not being heard over men.
Tracey Fu works in product at Mount Sinai Health System, focusing on developing insurance solutions that drive population health outcomes and has been in healthcare innovation since graduating from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She can also be found reading books, whipping up gnocchi or sketching portraits.
Sri Navalpakam currently drives sustainability initiatives after having been a brand marketer across various consumer brands at Unilever since graduating with a degree in business administration from the University of Michigan. She can be found in coffee shops drinking a dirty chai or taking care of her plant babies.