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‘Don’t try to “think like a man” or compromise yourself as a woman’, With Penny Bauder & Karen Jensen

Don’t try to “think like a man” or compromise yourself as a woman. I’ve seen women try to change their behavior, their clothes, their mannerisms, etc. to “fit in”. Don’t bother. It diminishes you, as a woman and as a human being, to do that. I don’t think it really works either. No job, under […]

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Don’t try to “think like a man” or compromise yourself as a woman. I’ve seen women try to change their behavior, their clothes, their mannerisms, etc. to “fit in”. Don’t bother. It diminishes you, as a woman and as a human being, to do that. I don’t think it really works either. No job, under any circumstances, is worth diminishing yourself over.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Jensen. Karen is the founder and President of Saaby Consulting Company (SCC), a certified woman-owned management consulting firm. Karen is an American entrepreneur, mentor and featured author, with over 20 years of progressive experience in the fields of Information and Emerging Technologies. At SCC, Karen and team design 3D blueprints for just-in-time enterprise architecture, cybersecurity-as-a-service and human capital solutions across the platforms of Government, Business and People. Karen is a champion of the 5th Industrial Revolution and has imagined the next generation blueprint for Everything Cities™, where smart technologies meet human solutions. (for more information on Everything Cities™, please visit SCC’s YouTube channel).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many entrepreneurs, when I started, I knew absolutely nothing about how to run and grow a business. Almost ten years ago, I took a breath and typed some version of “how to start a business” into a search engine. I’ve done deep dives into every avenue of that original search. Each one of those dives taught me more about the world of entrepreneurship, what it means to be an ethical leader and how I believe private enterprise needs to take a more active role in solving social problems.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

Expertise is a funny thing. I find that some people are hesitant to approach me or work with me sometimes because they have a perception that I will reject them in some way. That I’m “too big” to talk/work with them. That’s a real fear. When I started out, I had some pretty brutal feedback from “successful” business people — it’s not always a welcoming group. I never lose sight of the fact that I was once in that position and I try to give positive feedback, listen to ideas and be really encouraging to people who are just starting their journeys as entrepreneurs.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started out, I did my own quarterly filing of a type of tax returns. I had no idea what I was doing. I did them incorrectly every quarter for my first two years. At one point, I had to call the Internal Revenue Service. I’m pretty sure I was having a melt-down, thinking I was going to be raided by the IRS for filing the form incorrectly so many times. After a long pause, the IRS agent very nicely suggested that I might want to hire someone to help me. It was embarrassing and funny at the same time. That experience taught me to embrace my mistakes. I think so many potentially successful entrepreneurs give up early on in their business because they are afraid to make mistakes, or they are afraid of admitting to making mistakes. Surviving those mistakes gave me an incredible amount of confidence in moving forward.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re committed to Organic Profits™, a proprietary term we use. There’s a formal definition, but it’s really summed up by our philosophy that making money is a perfectly acceptable mission for a for-profit organization — you just don’t need to push anyone in front of a train to achieve that mission. How you make the money has just as much, if not more, importance than how much money you make.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now?

I’m working on a proprietary design called Everything Cities™. These cities are designed to leverage information and emerging technologies to solve human problems.

How do you think that will help people?

In the United States, there’s too much hype about the technologies for Smart Cities. And too much interest in only supporting them if they make gazillions of dollars for their creators. Pure technology has always been about making everyone’s lives better.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I don’t think any of us should be satisfied until we see population demographic representation in all fields, and in more senior management positions. It’s the only fair and equitable solution. We need to expand the curriculum in our earliest education practices to teach the contributions of all members of society. The stories and contributions of women and minorities need to be woven more densely into our educational platforms from very early on. We don’t need monthly designations or “exceptions” for women and minorities. It’s time to literally re-write the history we are teaching our children. It’s not the only solution, but it’s a start to the beginning of the end of “isms”, i.e. racism, sexism, etc.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

My experience is that men are perceived to be subject matter experts in STEM/Tech fields by virtue of their gender, while women always have to “prove” they are experts. And even when we prove it, we are “exceptions”. Many companies talk about Diversity and Inclusion, and even give themselves “best in class” awards for D&I. But we still aren’t seeing population demographic representation up the corporate and government ladders. Women are slightly more than 50% of the population (factfinder.census.gov) but we aren’t represented at anywhere close to 50% of senior management and C-suite level positions.

What would you suggest to address this?

As much as possible, remove criteria that identifies gender, race, age or other subjective characteristics from the hiring process. Why do organizations need to know what year you graduated college? Why do you need to Skype for an interview? There is no reputable science to support candidate selection based on visual criteria. We should stop using visual and other subjective standards to judge potential candidates.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?

The worst myth, I think, is that somehow, we don’t really belong in STEM or Tech positions and we are being “given” a place to satisfy a quota. There is still a very powerful culture in STEM/Tech that supports the premise that men are “better” than women in science, math and technology disciplines. Even though there is evidence that refutes that premise, the belief remains. More often than I like, I’m still the only woman at the table, especially in STEM/Tech leadership. I can’t tell you how many times someone has assumed that I will take notes for meetings, asked me if I brought any baked goods, asked me what my significant other thinks about my career choice, questioned my sexuality, etc. There still seems to be that one (or more) person(s) who are determined to make you uncomfortable. The more you respond to it, or try to refute it, the worse it gets. It can be discouraging.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Take the high road if at all possible. Along the journey towards success, there are going to be many challenges, and many people who will do pretty much anything to keep you from getting where you want to go — men and women. Stay focused on the end game. Too many times, I didn’t apply this advice and it cost me, both personally and professionally. It’s no piece of cake to feel insulted in your professional life or have a different standard applied to you than what is applied to everyone else. A couple of times, I let those insults get to me and responded in kind. It can be a career killer lol.

Commit to what is important. I have a pretty strict standard for office behavior, but sometimes you have to step out of rigid standards and connect with people in an appropriate and organic way. Everything at an office is not about who is in charge, it’s about solving the problem at hand. Most people start out wanting to make a contribution at their job. Over time, if their efforts aren’t rewarded and their ideas are ignored, they start to just show up. It’s hard to turn that around.

Don’t try to “think like a man” or compromise yourself as a woman. I’ve seen women try to change their behavior, their clothes, their mannerisms, etc. to “fit in”. Don’t bother. It diminishes you, as a woman and as a human being, to do that. I don’t think it really works either. No job, under any circumstances, is worth diminishing yourself over.

See a perspective other than your own. Leaders listen. Leaders watch. And leaders learn. Everyone has something to offer. Build trust with your team and you will be able to find out what each team member is really good at and help them develop that. Doing what you are good at makes you happier at work (usually).

Be confident. I believe most of us have everything we need to do well in life. But if you doubt yourself, very quickly, you can find yourself in a bad position or not where you want to be. Own who you are — people are drawn to leaders who are genuine and transparent. Set your goals, work on them, modify them when you need to but absolutely believe that YOU GOT THIS! It really is true that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Set standards and expectations, clearly communicate those standards and expectations, give people the tools to achieve those standards and expectations, then enforce them across the board, no exceptions.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Set standards and expectations, clearly communicate those standards and expectations, give people the tools to achieve those standards and expectations, then enforce them across the board, no exceptions.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have a great mentor who for some reason, lol, never doubts my success potential. That has given me so much confidence along the way. I still work with that mentor and he still feels the same way about my potential and my success. Having that person/mentor who is a constant throughout your journey is an incredible boost. As I’ve started mentoring other start-ups/entrepreneurs, I try to pass that unwavering belief and support on to them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That’s such a big question. I haven’t done as much good as I would like. I’m working on that.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see my Everything Cities™ concept become a reality. The social divide is growing. Emerging Technologies can provide a way to bridge that divide and make sure everyone has access to quality of life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Believe in yourself. I think I can trace every failure in my personal and my professional life to some manifestation of a failure to believe in myself.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez. They work very hard, they celebrate living well, but they also focus on giving back.

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