3 Secrets That Will Make Millennial Women Successful Entrepreneurs

My USC graduate education culminated with a thesis to fulfill my requirements of earning my masters in communication management from the Annenberg School for Communications.

With an interest in the power found in women “leaning in”, and the capricious corporate and cultural environment bending in favor of women, I opted to write a research paper about my generation — millennials — and the rising pursuit of entrepreneurship among these women.

The Study: Brief Background

My study explored the rise in female entrepreneurship among the millennial generation. Millennials are identified as the generation following Generation X, or individuals born between the early to mid 1980s to the early 2000s. Within this period, the tech boom was rapidly growing, a presidential sex scandal left a nation in shock, the September 11th terrorist attacks transformed national security, and the job market was steady. Women cultural icons, sports champions and political heroes launched an incredible journey of empowerment for awe-inspiring girls growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. With more women leaders penetrating the business world, and as a result being thrust into the media limelight, millennial women are observing this sensation and taking note. Due to this phenomenon, I investigated the question: Do cultural and media representations of powerful, female leaders impact the interest or increase in female millennial entrepreneurship?

After interviewing seven female millennial entrepreneurs (including Pocket), and moderating two focus groups of female college students, the results led to an analysis of the inherent leadership abilities and drivers of entrepreneurship of some women with little regard to culture. Future research is suggested to further investigate the reasons why millennial women are comfortable with foregoing the standard, corporate career trek for the more risky, yet ultimately rewarding entrepreneurial route.

Below are three main secrets about the unique stance on female millennial entrepreneurs:

1. Female Millennial Entrepreneurs Already Have The “It” Quality

1-uA1r7ncQFJqg2tr3xsubqQDespite the changing corporate culture for women in the workplace, women pursuing entrepreneurship still face challenges. However, millennial women have a special quality about them that is unstoppable when pursuing their dreams. Millennial women are driven, determined, resourceful, and equipped with the tools to come out on top — these characteristics make up the “IT” factor. Those tools have been provided to them by their nurturing parents who assured them that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, and also the influence of the culture in which they grew up in — from the ‘90s pop music group, the Spice Girls, who embraced sexual power to the rise in female political figures and leaders. Millennial women have IT in them — a driving spark — to be phenomenal leaders and entrepreneurs shaping our society and the futures of women to come.

2. Take Advantage of Your Gender and Age

Age is also a factor that presents challenges for millennial women pursuing entrepreneurship. From earning a business loan to garnering the attention of VCs and investors, being a woman in this male-dominated field isn’t the sole issue. Age is often associated with less experience or irresponsibility, however despite the stigmas associated with young age, millennials have a lot of experience in what older generations may lack such as social media skills or a deep knowledge of the digital and tech space. You will be able to impress people even more with the experience beyond their expectations for your age.

Use your age, as a millennial, to your advantage when pursuing your entrepreneurial endeavors!

This article was originally written by Pocket Sun and appeared on Medium on July 14, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

Grace, Frankie, and The Body Images of Women

I remain a short, bulky woman with no waist and frizzy hair, while Jane Fonda is still a sex pot.

I’ve started watching Grace & Frankie (2015- ) on Netflix. If you not seen the series — which you should if you want to understand sexual preferences, aging, and how Lily Tomlin’s and Sam Waterston’s careers can continue well beyond their youths — you might try a few episodes.

That said, I am watching Grace & Frankie with pangs of envy, empathy, understanding, and a huge case of I’d better do something about this. I feel as though I’m back in high school, and the cheerleaders are winning the competition for the quarterbacks. Somehow, I want to enter the contest, but I have no idea how to do that.

You see, Jane Fonda is only three years older than I. We have both exercised wildly all our lives and eaten well, and we’ve both survived our hip replacements. But I don’t look like her.

Surprisingly, and most unfairly, after a lifetime of trying to imitate the Jane’s health habits, I remain a short, bulky woman with no waist and frizzy hair, while she is still a sex pot.

Fonda promotes her film Youth, Cannes, May 2015.
Fonda promotes her film Youth, Cannes, May 2015.

All Fonda has to do is tie a scarf around her neck, and she looks 35. There aren’t enough scarves in the world to give me her look. (Lest you forget, filmmaker Nora Ephron wrote eloquently about the aging woman’s neck.)

Let’s put this in perspective. As one of Grace & Frankie’s episodes points out, people our age are routinely dying. A healthy person, I have everything to be grateful for — a large network of intelligent and loving friends, a large extended family, and five unconditionally loving dogs. I also have men with whom I dine and have conversations, and a man with whom I live.

But deeply ingrained in my 1950’s sensibility is the dictum that women’s attractiveness to men is the end-all and be-all of life. For instance, my mother told me to put lipstick on before I took the garbage out because “you’ll never know who you’ll meet.” As well, my father instructed me not to wear a girdle because men liked women whose butts jiggled. Even then it was all about the bass/base.

This attitude is so deeply rooted in my identity that I can’t give it up. Neither could my mother. She continued to dye her gray hair blonde (me, too) into her 80s, and only Alzheimer’s could allow her to grow white.

This is the part about Netflix’s Grace & Frankie that is not funny. At least not for me.

This article was originally written by francine hardaway and appeared on Medium on May 24, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

Serena Williams Is So Much Better Than You Think

Every time Serena Williams plays tennis the red, white, and blue is beside her name, yet she’s overlooked and under-celebrated.

The United States women’s soccer team just put an American flag cloak over the US’s disdain for soccer and made millions cheer their brilliance. The story of the tournament predictably became #Merica, but it sh/could’ve been female athletes providing quality entertainment through athletic achievement. The story sh/could’ve also been the many brilliant personal stories of the athletes who are now household names. Many of whom are interesting, courageous, and oh yeah, gay. Still, through ticker tape parades on opposing coasts the overwhelming story was #Merica. This wouldn’t necessarily be all that wrong…if it were consistent.

Every time Serena Williams plays tennis the red, white, and blue is beside her name, yet she’s overlooked and under-celebrated. It’s becoming more and more obvious that something is wrong with you if you can’t enjoy her and her story.

There is no more rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, work-your-way-to-the-top story than that of the Williams sisters. #Merica loves to believe that our chief export is our brand of determination, will, gut, grit, strength, and stubbornness. Mind you, nothing is more any of that than taking your two African-American daughters to tennis courts in Compton, California in the 80s with the expectation that they’ll not only be something, they’ll be something we’ve never seen before.

1-MMoCN_1jwCKtvelSJPwW3QSerena Williams winning her 21st grand slam title is something nearly impossible to put into perspective. In this era of peak athleticism and talent scouting, nobody should have been able to evolve with the sport to approach nearly two decades of dominance — let alone someone well into their 30s. The sport just wasn’t built for that.

Tennis is cruel, and frequently downright evil. It demands that athleticism, technique, strategy, and skill are balanced proportionately prior to every strike of the ball. Mis-calibrating in either department can, and usually does, result in failure. Impressive athleticism can become ultimately inconsequential — rely too heavily on superior athleticism and more skilled players will trick you into running baseline suicides for their amusement. On the other hand, skew too heavily on technique and your perfectly executed poorly read shots will lead to embarrassing passing shots.

The goal of tennis isn’t perfection, it’s to generate more winners than errors. Basically the sport of tennis tells you that you will fail; the aim is to make your opponent fail more, or at the very least, at more inconvenient moments.

That’s why it’s so much fun to watch Serena Williams wrangle this three-headed beast into submission, wrap a leash around it, and crip walk down the street beside it.

All athletes included, male or female, Serena Williams is one of the most fearless competitors we have ever seen. When she decides she’s not losing, she doesn’t lose. Sounds simple and cliche — it’s neither. Nothing about watching Serena’s fight looks simple and nothing about it is commonplace.

This article was originally written by ndré carlisle and appeared on Medium on June 5, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

Women Who Demand, and Command, Center Stage

Celebrating women on the edge, singing or playing their own work

The Cuban rapper Telmary Diaz cuts an unusual figure in the music world.

“It’s not common in a macho society like Cuba that you have a female rapper,” she says. “It’s always, ‘Girls go to the back to do vocals and dance.’” Make no mistake, Telmary does vocals and dances, but she’s up front. And being up front puts her on the edge.

As the award-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom showed, women’s place in music was often in the back — doing harmony vocals and dancing. But this edition of the Soundcheck Stream, called “Women On The Edge,” celebrates women who demand, and command, center stage.

Now, this is not a particularly novel idea. Ancient Chinese iconography shows that women were featured musicians in the royal courts, and once Europeans stopped castrating boys so they could grow up to sing really high notes, the world’s opera stages opened up to women. The early and mid 20th century was full of great pop and jazz singers from the distaff side as well.

But something has changed in the past few decades, and that’s what we’re hoping to illustrate with “Women On The Edge.”

Why So Many Straight Women Watch Lesbian Porn

For many women, same-sex porn provides an opportunity to imagine what it might be like to be with another woman, even if they consider themselves on the strictly heterosexual.

Over the years, Karen, 35, has established exactly what she likes when it comes to online porn. Three or four times a week, she goes in search of new videos in some of her favorite categories — Big breast play. Squirting. Lesbian. When she spoke to The Huffington Post, Karen had recently watched a video that hit all of her sweet spots: two women who didn’t have “perky, fake boobs,” but instead looked real, like they could be moms. They were in bed, kissing and fondling each other.

“It was nice,” said Karen. “Sensual.”

“I gravitate to what gets me going quicker,” she continued, “which is girl-on-girl.”

But Karen is straight.

There is little good data on how many self-identified straight women regularly watch woman-on-woman porn, but what evidence is available suggests Karen is hardly alone. A 2014 report from the free porn site Pornhub in collaboration with Buzzfeed, for example, revealed that “lesbian” was far and away the top viewed category among its female users, as well as the top search term — and women were 445 percent more likely than men to search for “girl on girl.” Though the survey relied on Google analytic demographic stats and therefore did not capture users’ sexual orientation, the overwhelming popularity of those terms hints at a lot of straight women getting off on same-sex porn. So does the marked uptick in searches for “lesbian seduces straight girl,” which increased by 328 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to PornHub’s internal data.

And sex experts agree.

“The statistic thrown around now is that 1 in 3 adult users of porn are female,” sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson told The Huffington Post. “Though there is no way to say what percentage of that 1 in 3 are straight women looking for lesbian porn, the numbers are too high for it to be just gay women. Straight women are looking at lesbian porn.”

The industry appears to be taking notice. PornHub estimates that 7 percent of its videos are in the lesbian category, making it the site’s most popular category overall, Corey Price, the site’s vice president explained in an e-mail to The Huffington Post.

“While we don’t want to speculate on how this interest [from straight women] has changed and shaped the industry,” Price wrote, “we have noticed our content partners have been uploading more lesbian content than ever before.”

For many women, same-sex porn provides an opportunity to imagine what it might be like to be with another woman, even if they consider themselves on the strictly heterosexual end of the Kinsey scale. For them, lesbian pornography — which for purposes of this article simply refers to porn starring two or more women, not porn that is necessarily geared toward lesbian or bisexual women or even features actors who identify as queer themselves — is purely a fantasy, not a desire they want to act on.

“There’s this disinhibiting factor of the Internet,” Resnick Anderson explained. “People feel so free to explore things they would not necessarily want to do in real life, but that might be compelling to look at or learn from.”

Vickie, 46, says that’s the case for her. She has never been intimate with a woman in real life, nor has she ever given it much thought, though she considers lesbian porn her “get-off choice” and watches it three or four times a month, often with her husband. She has a clear physical type she seeks out — women with thin or medium bodies and long hair. “I like fingernails,” she said.

But Vickie has never encountered a woman in real life for whom she has felt any kind of sexual attraction.

“Lesbian porn is just much more fantasy-based,” she said.

For other women, the appeal of lesbian porn is a little bit more complicated, allowing them to express a part of their sexual identity that would otherwise remain locked. Karen, for example, has questioned her own sexuality at various points in her life, particularly in her early 20s. She now identifies as straight, but says she would be open to experimenting with women in real life — if she weren’t too timid. Same-sex porn helps her virtually scratch that itch.

“I’ve never experimented, but I think about it,” Karen said. “I think I’m so nervous and shy when it comes to that, I’d probably never follow-through.”

This article was originally written by Catherine Pearson and appeared on Medium on July 10, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

Why I Don’t Like Being a “Female Role Model”

I’m happy to help, but I’ll be happiest when the world doesn’t need female role models anymore.

When I was six, I had a furious argument with my best friend. We were playing superheroes, and I said I was going to be Superman. “You can’t be Superman, because you’re a girl,” she retorted. “You have to be Supergirl.” I was indignant and genuinely perplexed. I honestly didn’t understand why being a girl meant I couldn’t be Superman. And it wasn’t just because we were playing make-believe. I distinctly remember believing I could be Superman. I imagined growing up and turning into Superman. I was sure I could grow up and be anything.

Now that I am a woman in the male-dominated profession of mathematics, I see that this sort of belief is not a given among girls and young women. I have female students who tell me that they wanted to be an engineer or an architect, but their parents said that girls “can’t do that.” And yet when I was young I saw no obstacle to doing anything a man could do, even being Superman.

It’s not so much that I particularly believed girls could do anything boys could do; it just didn’t occur to me to think otherwise. One reason for this is that my parents had slightly gender-reversed roles from the traditional ones. My mother worked in the city. She would get up early and commute to work, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, and she would get home only just in time for dinner. My father was a doctor and worked much nearer to home with more flexible hours. So he was the one who took us to school, arrived home from work earlier in the evening, did the grocery shopping, and often prepared dinner. When I started kindergarten, I was aware that everyone else had a Mommy dropping them off while I had a Daddy, but it didn’t bother me. I was much more aware of being the sole Asian in a class of white children (this was rural England in the 1980s), especially because the other children talked about it all the time.

It’s possible that being the only Asian in a room full of white people for years prepared me quite well for being the only woman in a room full of men in later life. I stopped noticing being “alien,” as I’ve never really known what it’s like to fit in.

I attended all girls’ schools. With no boys around, there was no peer pressure or expectation that “girls do this” and “boys do that.” Some girls liked playing with My Little Pony at break time; others liked climbing through the copious bushes that surrounded our school. I definitely preferred the bushes. In high school, we had to choose three or four subjects to specialize in (known as A-levels in the UK system). Plenty of girls chose math and science. Thinking back now, it’s funny to imagine a class full of girls who have chosen physics. But at the time, we thought nothing of it.

I have one sister but no brothers, so there was no opportunity for gender divides at home. My sister liked pink; I liked blue. Our aunts and uncles studiously gave us presents coded in pink and blue respectively for years, far longer than our preferences really held. As it happens, we both specialized in math and science.

Our parents are both scientific, which certainly contributed to our scientific inclinations. But my biggest influence was my mother, who casually introduced me to fascinating mathematical ideas when I was very young. She used the language of logic naturally, emphasized the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions, impressed upon us the law of diminishing returns. For me, it was never a question of whether a woman could be good at mathematics. My mother was, and I knew I was.

In a way I did have female role models, as so many of the figures of authority or respect in my life were female. There was my headmistress, in addition to all my teachers in elementary school. There was my piano teacher, who was my most important influence outside my family. There was my older sister, who always achieved great things. And growing up in England, we had a female prime minister and a Queen. It’s not that I wanted to be a head of state or head of a school, but it gave me the general impression that women could do anything.

I had my first inkling that the world may not be so rosy when the head of math at my high school started expressing doubts about my abilities. When I wanted to apply to the University of Cambridge to study math, she suggested I apply to a girls’ college because I might not get in if I had to compete against boys. When I got into a mixed Cambridge college, she warned me that when I got there, I would discover that all the boys were better than me.

This article was originally written by Dr Eugenia Cheng and appeared on Medium on July 7, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.