[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Kathy Lang is the IT Manager for the Environmental Services Department at the City of San José. She is responsible for daily technology operations and strategic planning for the department. Kathy has worked in technology for San José for over 20 years.
We the People
By Kathy Lang, City of San José, CA
For those that celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday! I am lucky to get this date to blog with you. I recently traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and while I was not there specifically for the historical sightseeing, I did manage to sneak in some time with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
I toured Independence Hall and saw the room where they gathered hundreds of years ago to debate and sign the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Is anyone else old enough to remember the old Schoolhouse Rock episode about the preamble to the Constitution? That song ran through my head as I walked around – “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…” I might have been humming it too. That would explain the strange looks I was getting from the other tourists! The tour guide told us this story that stuck with me long enough to make it into this blog today. He said that the Constitutional Convention included representatives from the 13 colonies – all who came with different opinions, experiences and objectives. After the draft was presented, there was much dissention and dissatisfaction among the delegates and no one wanted to sign it. Then Benjamin Franklin addressed the group talking about how the document is imperfect and even he didn’t approve of everything that was in it. However, it was exactly because everyone had contributed their own opinions and experiences that this might well be the most perfect version of the document they could achieve. He encouraged each member to “doubt a little of his own Infallibility.” Basically he said to trust each other, take a leap of faith and sign the document. Almost everyone did.
So why do I include this story? Let’s fast forward to today where we are discussing the issue of lack of women in top positions in government. It is certainly an issue of concern that the numbers haven’t changed significantly since 1984. But like those early colonials we all have different experiences, different backgrounds and different agendas. Together we can help each other reach the levels of greatness that we all desire – no matter where that level is. I, for one, am not aiming to reach that top chair before I retire. I’m not even sure I’m going to reach for the second chair no matter how appealing Karen Pinkos makes it seem!
I may not be interested in the top chair but I am passionate about discovering and mentoring future top executives. That’s how I think I can do my part to help the #13Percent issue – not by being one of the 13 but rather being one that helps others get there.
So here are four things I pledge to do to help myself and others.
1. Accept that I may be the most perfect version of myself that I can be at this time. I need to stop doubting that I have the ability to do something. I have proven to myself and others over and over that I can learn, adapt and grow. What did I know about leading a conference planning committee before I started? Not much but the process taught me a lot and now I’m ready to do it again and pass along my knowledge to others.
2. Take more thoughtful risks. Something may be a risk because you are unsure that there will be a positive outcome. Weigh the potential negative outcome against the potential positive outcome and decide whether or not to jump. In my opinion, even negative outcomes can have a positive effect because you have learned what NOT to do.
3. Pay it forward. There have been many role models and mentors that helped me out. Now it’s my turn to help others. Volunteer to mentor someone. Identify others in my organization that have potential and offer them support and assistance if they desire it.
4. Use my influence when and where I can. I am lucky to serve on boards where I get to create professional development events and networking opportunities. I joined local and national organizations where I can help influence activities. This year I have a unique opportunity to lead a session for emerging leaders at the ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle. The title of the session is, “Preparing for the Next Step” and it will feature two local government executives who rose to their positions in different ways. They will discuss what skills they feel are important to sharpen and how you can prepare to take the next step in your career.
Together we have an opportunity to move the needle forward. We can change the face of local government at all levels to better reflect our diversity. Like those early forefathers we need to embrace our differences and rely on each other to obtain our goal. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]