How these ‘Female Firebrands’ are challenging and changing the culture of the modern workplace

Mikaela Kiner, author of the new book, Female Firebrands, is founder and CEO of Reverb Consulting.

How can we create modern workplaces where everyone can thrive?

That’s one of the questions at the heart of the new book, Female Firebrands, by human resources professional Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Reverb Consulting. “Female Firebrands” profiles 13 women from a variety of backgrounds, exploring the realities of the modern workplace through their eyes and experiences.

The book details the many obstacles they face, but also the steps they’re taking to overcome them, along with efforts by colleagues, mentors, advocates and leaders to help remove barriers. The tech industry plays a central role, with anecdotes and examples from Microsoft, Google and other companies.

“We talk about workplace culture, and sometimes we don’t notice what’s going on around us,” Kiner said. “We’re like the frog in the water and the water’s warming up. At least for me, personally, the water hit that temperature where I really had to look around and take stock of these issues.”

Emily Parkhurst. (PSBJ Photo)

The result is a guidebook, in effect, with insights and practical tips not only for women and underrepresented minorities but for men and others seeking to create more diverse, inclusive and effective workplaces. The book includes chapters on key issues such as privilege in the workplace, the #metoo movement, and issues for working moms, with takeaways for people in a variety of different roles in the workplace.

On this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, we’re joined by Kiner and two of the “firebrands” from the book, Ruchika Tulshyan, author of The Diversity Advantage and the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy firm; and Emily Parkhurst, president and publisher of the Puget Sound Business Journal in Seattle. 

While many of these issues have been discussed for many years, the book focuses on new solutions and insights.

Parkhurst said she is seeing some signs of change. She told the story of going to lunch with a female intern last summer: “Usually in those kinds of conversations, the interns will ask me, ‘You’re a woman in a position of power. Tell me about how you got there?’ At no point was that a question. It was an assumption that that was a place that she could eventually end up.”

Ruchika Tulshyan. (Credit: Jovelle Tamayo)

One key, Tulshyan said, is for people in positions of privilege and power to start “stepping up and stepping in,” and not just stand by as passive allies.

“The advice here isn’t necessarily to women to do better. It is for others in the room, our allies, our advocates, people with privilege who have a platform, who have influence, to take a moment and really understand some of the vulnerabilities that we’ve shared in the book,” Tulshyan said. “I really hope this conversation continues to happen, and we continue to find solutions together. It’s not just women leading it.”

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