Small Bytes: Women's Leadership
At NEW INC’s core, we aim to provide a safe space where a group of diverse and thoughtful minds can discuss and debate some of the toughest questions facing the world today and engage in a critical analysis of culture, technology, and commerce. We also hope to bring these discussions outside of our walls, to spread these ideas to a wider audience.
To that end, we’re excited to present the first in a series of articles we’re calling “Small Bytes.” They’re transcribed conversations between our members, inspired by the topics we hear being debated on a daily basis when no one thinks we’re listening.
The theme this first edition is: Being a Woman Leader in the Arts, Design, and Tech. Featuring NEW INC members:
Angeline Gragasin is a writer and filmmaker who tells stories about ecology, memory, and power. Her practice is grounded in experimentation, risk-taking, and critical inquiry — all of which inform her larger body of work.
Lisa Park is a performance artist who has recently been using biofeedback devices as a tool to investigate her inner states and emotional states. She integrates technology and performance to create intimate spaces in which she and her audience enter reflective, meditative states.
Annalisa Teachworth is a multimedia and performance artist as well as Founder and Creative Director of digital agency 4REAL. Through her various outlets, she works to facilitate a deeper relationship between culture and technology, through critical analysis and innovation.
Angeline: As women, do you feel that you have to split into two people, like you have two identities when you’re at work or at home? Do you feel like you have a dichotomy of identity because of your gender when you’re working?
Andrea: I would say maybe more of multiple personalities. In the art world, it’s a lot about feelings — how well do you get along with people? You have to charm them, and I think that what is expected of charming someone as a woman is completely different than charming them as a man. Getting your work out there is building relationships and networking. And sometimes that means that you have to be very feminine, you let that part out more. In other moments, you have to be this super technical person. Usually art handlers and technicians, people installing, are all male. So you have to be the woman doing the same kind of work that they do.
Lisa: I also have many different characteristics, and depending on location and circumstances they’ll change. I also notice that it is usually guys that’s doing the art handling, or even the curation. Working together, if I start to become more demanding, they often persist in that they’re right. So I try to be more persistent as well, try not to give up on my opinion.
Andrea: The keyword there is also demanding, because it’s how it’s being perceived. For a guy it’s perceived as ‘leading.’
Annalisa: Right, you just have vision! In these situations, you’re already interacting with people who have a lot of power and control in the first place. So they have expectations of certain ways people should treat them, or not. But to get back to the root of the question, it’s a really good thing to ask. I think yes, I have experienced this level of chameleon state in my life. Every human does, but women are often forced to act like being the person that another person wants us to be. And I struggle with that a lot. I try now, as I get older (it’s way easier) to be myself all the time. That kind of behavior of shifting is pretty dangerous.
Angeline: We’re almost rewarded for dishonesty. To conform to an ideal that is not authentic, and then to be rewarded for that. It’s hard to turn that down.
Andrea: A part of it is that, but do you think that it is also a response that is also more natural to women? Not the part about deceiving, but maybe there’s something that’s more gender specific about women trying to provide, or to give. To take care of the needs of others in a different way.
Angeline: Women are more empathic and cooperative, in general. We’ve evolved to develop those characteristics.
Annalisa: Yes, but it’s so instantaneous that the moment you pop out into the world, there are so many standards that society puts on you that tells you the way you’re supposed to behave.
Andrea: Totally, but I also mean in the way that sometimes it’s not only about what other people expect from you, but maybe you’re more inclined to be influenced by those expectations because it’s also in our nature to nurture. I’m saying because a lot of these complexities and clashes also have to do with understanding what is to do with the nature of a woman and the nature of a man.
Annalisa: Angeline, I want to hear your answer to the question!
Angeline: I’m definitely two different people, at work and not at work. Definitely. And it was so hard for me, being a young woman, when I was first starting out. Because not only was I disrespected for being a woman, but then on top of that to be young? You’re treated like a child. So I learned very quickly, especially being in Los Angeles at the time, to divorce myself in business interactions. I definitely constructed an alternate persona.
Annalisa: A superhero!
Angeline: It’s a suit that I put on and take off.
Annalisa: We’re forced to be in those sorts of positions. It’s hard to even conceive of yourself like, or feel comfortable being yourself, whatever that may be. Whatever gender I’m choosing, whatever I’m wearing. Because also there’s that whole thing where the way you look, the expectation to be beautiful, or not beautiful, but to be something. Why do I have to be something for people that I don’t even know? Why would I have to project myself in this way for strangers that don’t even mean anything? I honestly feel like all of these issues, they’re male issues as well. Because men feel these same weird things too, with each other. It’s about awareness for everyone. Or having conversations that further things, not just talking about “what kind of feminist are you” That word, even.
Angeline: My question isn’t even about whether you’re a feminist. It can be broken down into questions like “how do you choose to express your sexuality in a professional workplace? It’s about critical thinking and understanding how if at all does that have any bearing on the quality of your work. Perhaps none whatsoever! But there’s all this confusion that’s created by the media around those questions, so they’re not even questions anymore. They’re just taken for granted as standards and expectations.
Andrea: And labels.
Annalisa: Or the lack of context. The media doesn’t help, because that’s our thing. We need media now, so much, to get at anything out there in the world, for anyone to know about you, you need these machines to project you out there, and they just pull on the keywords “woman” “minority” whatever thing is going to be the most “controversial.”
Angeline: The most salient thing about a woman is that she’s a woman. About an artist, let’s say.
NEW INC: We keep touching on this - how do we escape this cycle? What do we do now?
Annalisa: It’s just having this conversation, now already all of our minds are changed. And the benefit, I wasn’t thinking about my fellow women at the office this morning! Sometimes I don’t think that there has to be some specific thing to do.
Lisa: Usually, to be honest, when I think of feminists or feminism, it’s still a question mark for me. I was studying art history, or reading an article, usually there’s a negative connotation to that. With that being said, it was pretty helpful having a conversation like this with a man, to see what their perspective on it is.
Angeline: I also thing inter-generationally is very important to include — other perspectives in the age range. Because a lot of the questions we have are unique to our generation. And a lot of them aren’t! So it’s important to get that perspective.
Andrea: I do think there is some value in seeing how a lot of arts organizations, mostly nonprofits, like NEW INC, are now managed by women. The fact that things are slowly balancing. It’s really good to have women in high roles in that too, because maybe that will conflict with the male way of doing things.
NEW INC: It’s in this article that we read before our talk today about women in position in the arts — the study found there are many at smaller institutions or nonprofits, but we see many fewer in positions of real power.
Angeline: That must be an indication of their value system. I think the closing line of that article pointed out that many women were not excited by the fact that they would be administering an empire. And they didn’t necessarily want to get behind that international corporate structure. A lot of women have been recruited for super powerful institutions, but that they refuse them to go to smaller places, and that’s an indication of trying to dismantle these larger corporate structures. It’s not that they don’t want women to be represented at that level, but it’s that they don’t want to perpetuate these institutional systems that have historically been oppressive to women and minorities. Why would they work on their behalf? They would rather start their own thing.
We would love to hear what you, our audience, has to contribute to this conversation! Whatever your gender, have you felt the need to differentiate certain aspects of your personality, professionally and privately? Have pressures changed the way you express your gender in your workplace? Let us know in the comments below, or via social media - we’re listening, and ready to engage in a conversation.
*This conversation is exerpted from a longer discussion