LEADING WITH KINDNESS IN A MAN’S WORLD: DIANE BOETTCHER, SECURITY & IT EXECUTIVE WITH MICROSOFT, AUTHOR & VETERAN – BASED IN SINGAPORE
Welcome to The Sisterhood Report. I am Kimberly Faith, your host. We are in a changing world, my sweet sisters, and it's such an exciting time. But I hear from a lot of you, you’d like to think about what all of these changes mean for you, for your life, and the life of women in general, but who has time? But the good news is, I've done the heavy lifting for you. And each episode of The Sisterhood Report, I sit down for a one-on-one conversation with a guest who is an influencer in their own way; and together we connect the dots. So, let me ask you, what if you could see the much larger story unfolding? What if you could learn new ways of thinking that could absolutely revolutionize the way you and other women see themselves, each other in the world? Well, the fact is that we can change the world one woman, one sister at a time. It starts with you and me. Right here, right now.
Kimberly Faith: (00:59)
I had the pleasure of meeting this next guest when we were both invited to be on the external faculty for Microsoft, a major transformation initiative that they were undertaking for the next two years. Diane Boettcher was currently working with Microsoft, but she is an expert in military operations, in IT and Chain Management. And she is currently a leader with the Navy res,erve and she's commanded a number of times including her tours in Afghanistan. And she also, when you speak with her, you cannot help but hear what she's doing to support women around the world. And that is why I invited Diane to this podcast because I thought she had an interesting perspective and definitely a passion; and especially coming from a military background, I think she dispels a lot of stereotypes that people sometimes have for that. So, tune in to hear from our guest today Dian Boettcher.
I would like to welcome my podcast guest today. I already told you about her in the bio. Diane, hello!
Diane Boettcher: (02:02)
Hi, Kim! How are you doing today?
Kimberly Faith: (02:04)
I'm doing great. I'm so thankful that you have taken the time to be able to do this, especially as you were dashing from one place to the other these days.
Diane Boettcher: (02:13)
Happy to do.
Kimberly Faith: (02:14)
You know as I was talking, sharing in the bio, there are lots of things about you, but when I first met you at a Microsoft program recently, I was certainly struck by your sincerity and your authenticity; and we quickly found out that we had a shared passion for women.
Diane Boettcher: (02:31)
Kimberly Faith: (02:34)
Where did that passion come from for you? I know, we have a couple of things we really want to talk about, but I was just curious, how did that emerge for you in your life?
Diane Boettcher: (02:42)
Well, so first of all, just, you know, gender identifying as a woman, right? And being in a place where it's just who I am and how I present and how I show up. I was very fortunate, was raised by a father who never saw any restrictions on what we could do as girls and as women. My mother was, you know, got her Ph.D. when I was in, I think it was in junior high when she finally, you know, passed the thesis and everything. So he was very supportive of her. And it was a time when you really did have to have the support of your husband if you wanted to go back to school and leave the home and go into the workplace. And he was always very supportive of her and her education and myself and my sisters and my brother about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to have our impact on the world. And so then, by joining the Navy relatively young, it became obvious that not everybody shared that view.
People felt that, you know, this was probably the most important thing about me and which I found interesting and a little bit strange. And so being able to be a force for other women, it was not something I consciously did, honestly, until some years later. I think as some women do. And, well as I did, I won't project as what I found to be true, is it's sometimes risky to be the woman supporting women's rights or supporting women's advocating for women.
Kimberly Faith: (04:23)
That’s very valid.
Diane Boettcher: (04:24)
You know, the rabble-rouser or the person that, you know, that I didn't want my brand to be the feminist, right? I wanted my brand to be, I can just do the job and I just happened to be a woman. And when I was, actually, it was pretty much when I made captain in the Navy, which is a fairly senior rank that I just said, you know, what are they going to do to me? You know, I've got a modicum of power, I've got a modicum of gravitas. I made it. Why not spend it, why note spend it for the elevation of other people, of other voices and particularly for women because there were challenges ,as I went along, that had specifically to do with my gender.
Kimberly Faith: (05:14)
Wow. I love the way you framed that, that's certainly powerful. And, before I asked you some of these other questions, I had laughed when you said you didn't want to be branded as a feminist. That word feminist is a loaded word.
Yeah, it sure is.
Yeah. Some people love it, some people don't. And the conversation I have with people is that if it's not a word that's comfortable for you, then come up with your own word. So, for me, I call myself a love warrior for humanity. That's what I'm out there doing when I'm inspiring women, that's my version of a feminist word. So, we can define it on our own. Just like you said you finally did.
Diane Boettcher: (05:48)
Yeah. And, I do; I do want to take that word back. Right. I do want us to be able to say, you know, being a feminist is not a negative thing. And I joke with my daughter sometimes, she's 13 now, and I said, you know, if your friends tell you that they're not feminists, ask them, is it the property rights? Is it being able to vote? Is it being able to be paid as much as men? Which part of feminism don't they like? They, you know, because I think we allow other people to define it for us. And if we can say, it's not about, we don't want to have, you know, back in the day, you know, in the '80s where a woman couldn't get a mortgage on her own unless she paid 50% down.
Kimberly Faith: (06:37)
Was that really only in the eighties?
Diane Boettcher: (06:39)
Yeah. The equal lending act was I believe in 1976, but it didn't actually filter down and be real. Right. I mean, there's this time when you write it and then there's the time for reality. And I will tell you, I mentioned my parents and it actually extends to my grandparents. My grandfather was an electrician and he built houses and he actually, one of the reasons I know this is one of his tenants, one of his customers, a woman he sold a house to, he ended up having to finance it for her because the bank wouldn’t grant her a loan, even though she was employed as a teacher and had an incredibly stable income, the bank refused. And he said, you know, yeah, I'll go ahead and do it. And Vani was grateful to him to the day she died that he was.
Kimberly Faith: (07:36)
Well, you know it's interesting you bring that up though, is that there's so many of us and so many certainly young women that we almost forget what it was like then. And so part of why I even launched this podcast was to kind of connect the dots that those things are still in our collective subconscious and we almost have to pull it out and look at it, and then make a conscious choice to go forward.
Diane Boettcher: (07:56)
Yes, yes, indeed.
Kimberly Faith: (07:59)
I'm glad you brought that up. So, I know that you do a lot of speaking, so whether it's what you do at Microsoft or whether it's your own company leading with kindness, you brought up two things that I thought were important and one of them I would like to have to focus on is what you talk about and you call Because We Are Women. Yeah. What does that mean?
Diane Boettcher: (08:17)
Yeah. I think sometimes we get caught up with our femininity or with our gender identification as a liability rather than as a source of power. And so Because We Are Women is about, we are successful, we're great leaders because we are women, not in spite of being women. And there's a lot of leadership advice or advice for women out there that tells a narrative that we have to emulate male behavior. So, whether it is, women apologize too much or women use the word just too much, or we do uptalk. Or we,
Kimberly Faith: (09:01)
Yeah. Or if we're too aggressive with how we're perceived.
Diane Boettcher: (09:04)
Or, or, or…Right? And the subtext to all of that advice is that the male behavior is right and good, and the standard. And in order to be successful, we have to conform to the masculine standard, rather than saying, you know the whole point of diversity is that we're different. The whole point of strength through diversity is that we're different. And so it feels ingenuous to invite women into this space, invite women into the organization, and then say, but she got to act like everybody else. Tears down that the actual virtue of the diversity. So, maybe women do apologize more than men, although frankly, the science on that is a little weak, but so what? So, what, if we apologize more than, you know what if girls apologize more than boys? So what? Why? Why is that not just, okay, that we’re different? Because, I think that narrative also runs a little bit like women aren't respected much in the workplace and then we say, women apologize more than men and we draw a causality that the reason women aren't respected in the workplace, it's not because of centuries of sexism. No, that can't be it. It's because they use this one particular word too much. And I get it. I get it, Kimberly. I get how really, how attractive the idea of control is, the idea that we can tear down centuries of sexism by simply not apologizing. That's really, really attractive. That's an alluring, it’s an illusion though.
Kimberly Faith: (11:00)
It is an illusion and it's a much larger picture.
Diane Boettcher: (11:05)
Yes, yes. Yep.
Kimberly Faith: (11:08)
Podcast, as an expert in system thinking, I've actually mapped out what happened in the past 100 years showing that we're still carrying that and what we need to do for the next 100 years because I'm trying to take a collective approach.
Diane Boettcher: (11:20)
Kimberly Faith: (11:21)
The world has been defined through the lens of HIStory for quite some time now. So, I liked what you were talking about because we are women, because when we actually allow ourselves to see through our lens, HERstory, I find that it naturally leads to OURstory because that's how we're wired. So, what does life look like when a woman steps into that? When she says, I'm not looking through that lens and I'm bringing these gifts. That's what you're talking about.
Diane Boettcher: (11:44)
Yeah, absolutely! And some of the gifts, and it's been born out by research now, Harvard Business Review has done some, some research women bring, um, a better communication style. They're more collaborative. They're actually interestingly enough, more results-driven. And I think, what's really fascinating about that piece is, I think, the story I tell myself about women, the fact that women are more results-driven tends to be for me, is can we not talk about me being a woman because I delivered the numbers. And you know, you can have a lot of energy about the fact that I'm the only woman in the room, or you can have a lot of energy about how I'm the first blah, blah, blah. However, I deliver the profit. I deliver the numbers. I deliver the outcome that we're being objectively measured on. So, we can take my gender out of the conversation because I've got the hard results.
Kimberly Faith: (12:42)
That's a very good point. I know that you said that you coach a lot of women, you've spoken at a lot of conferences, coach a lot of women, you even do some volunteer work for the Girl Scouts. So, what do we do to move further upstream with these kinds of thoughts and bring awareness to not becoming trapped by the old narrative?
Diane Boettcher: (13:01)
Yeah. Well, I do think we have to start as girls. You know, and as young women understanding the power of the diversity, right? And not just how we talk about things, but how we talk about diversity inclusiveness. So, for example, with my girl scouts, one of the things that we talk about around body image is, we don't, we could spend a lot of time talking about what society is doing. Instead, what myself and the other leaders, which includes some of our dads, some of our male leaders; because our male allies are such an important part of the conversation; is we talk about what's, you know, I'll say things like, you know, one of my favorite parts of my body is how tall I am. I love being tall. What's the favorite part of your body, right? Like, what's your strength and what's your superpower? And giving people permission to say, this is what I like about myself, which is not always what girls get acculturated to be able to say. So, creating those spaces to allow them to have those conversations is really important.
Kimberly Faith: (14:12)
I love that perspective. And I'm really curious, you are very, you know, and men are such an important part of that conversation. So, in this world where we tend to, the world wants us to be polarized and you know, stay over there. I see that the power is when we're working together. That men and women work together. What kind of insight do you have?
Diane Boettcher: (14:34)
Well, in addition to being a mother of a daughter, I'm a mother of sons, right? I have no interest in leaving men out of our future. I think that the strength is in the power of the team, the collective. One of the things I think we need to start thinking about is, we use sports analogies a lot. And I think that's one of our challenges is because it becomes very adversarial. In a game, there's a winner and there's a loser. And in a lot of games that I play with my kids, both board games and online games, they're what we call co-op games or cooperative games. So, a lot of people have seen the movie Jumanji, right? Jumanji is a co-op game. The five characters in the game are not competing against each other. They're competing against the game and they work best when they use their complementary skills and all of them are working together to beat the game.
So, if we can stop thinking about men and women as adversaries trying to beat each other, but that we're all in this together. Life is a co-op game. Life is a cooperative game and we can all win. We can all be successful. For example, we think about diversity and inclusion and sometimes, you know, our male allies get a little worried that, well, we're promoting diversity. Does that mean I'm not going to get promoted? And what we should be thinking about, not about how many seats do each of us get at the table. But how do we make the table bigger? How do we make the conversation longer and larger, so that we all can have a voice, that we all can have an input.
Kimberly Faith: (16:32)
You are spot-on, Diane. Truly, and I'm doing some current research right now. I was talking with some other folks when I was at Microsoft, but I'm asked, I have a hypothesis that I think that we as a society are trapped by Darwinism, which in the simplest term is survival of the fittest. And it does drive that the winner and loser game. So, I liked that title of the whole thing, life is a co-op game. That's powerful.
Diane Boettcher: (16:57)
Kimberly Faith: (16:59)
That is powerful. Now I know that you also have had many conversations with women who do end up being the only woman in the room, like you did for a large part of your career. So, let's talk a little bit about that. How can you possibly reframe that to make that a powerful place to be and not necessarily an intimidating one?
Diane Boettcher: (17:19)
Yeah. Well, it's funny is, I sometimes think that that's in my past. Although, just last month I was at a meeting and I was the only woman in the room. I was the senior Microsoft person in the room. The only woman in the room. It's interesting how often it still comes up. What I will tell you, though, is what I've tried to shift my frame is to stop thinking of myself as being the only woman and start thinking of myself as being the first one. So, it's not about, you know, I'm in a bad position, but I'm in a great position. I'm in a position where I can open the door for other women, I can prop them and I can tear the door off. I could maybe blow the walls away, you know, and really expand the conversation. And you know, I think a lot about when I'm to go hiking with my girl scouts. I think a lot about the phrase being a trailblazer, right? And when we're the first, that trailblazer just doesn't go first. A trailblazer leaves blazes. That's what it means. Appalachian Trail. It's a white rectangle and that tells you the path, that tells you the way to go. And if you're going to be the first, you can leave blazes, you can turn around and help other people in. You can leave, like leave the markers, give the advice, provide the leadership, provide the partnership, support others. And even if they're not in the room, you can say, you know, I was talking with my colleague, Susan, the other day and she had this great insight.
Kimberly Faith: (19:08)
Ah, that's a great way.
Diane Boettcher: (19:10)
Without physically bringing her into the room.
Kimberly Faith: (19:14)
Okay, that's a great way and that's a good way for us to all think about, to begin to reframe it. So what do you do? So sure enough, you and I are much farther on our path and I am sensitive to women who are still undergoing their transformation because when you do break through that, you and I know, the world opens and you can't go back to being that other person. But when we were that, and you did have people who are saying, oh, you're being too much of this, or you know, you're being too aggressive, to of this. I have women in my training classes that will say, well, what do you do when a man says it's your handshake? You know, then you have a heavy handshake or a tight grip. I say, “thank you – smart guy you are”. And move on. So, how do we encourage women to realize that that is an old narrative and we're hearing some of those things from people? It's the old way that they saw them, and you, those of us that are right now straddled between the past and the future, we're going to understand, we need to kind of look at that, acknowledge it, see it, don't let it stop us and then move forward. So, how have you done that?
Diane Boettcher: (20:15)
So, particularly if it is overt sexism, I tend to like to respond with humor because I believe in my heart of hearts that most people are not trying to be sexist. They're not there to diminish us. They're not trying to diminish anybody. Maybe, they're trying to make a connection or maybe they got surprised and so that, you know, they're a little of kilter. And so, I think responding with humor, for example, if somebody cusses in a meeting, if somebody swears, and then they'll turn to me, the only woman in the room and say, oh, I'm so sorry. And, to which I'll tend to respond. It's okay. I have HBO. Right? So to say, you know, I do really think that this is the first time that I've heard that word, that you've damaged my ears somehow. And that's something that I don't hear.
Kimberly Faith: (21:21)
Sure. Humor as a deflection tool. What do you say? What do you say to the women? So, for women, when they're in these, some of these kinds of positions, how do they just push through that they can use humor?
Diane Boettcher: (21:32)
I think humor is the best thing. And, look at them all with love in your heart. I mean, they don't mean it. I think if we look at it, and we can get to the point where we're a little bit like the beat puppy, right? Where like every movement we're like, oh, that's sexism, oh, that's, oh that's sexism, oh, that's sexism. And you know, if you go elephant hunting, you're going to find ...
Kimberly Faith: (22:01)
What we seek.
Diane Boettcher: (22:02)
Right! In the clouds, you're going to see them in your oatmeal. You're going to see elephants everywhere. If you think that you are being inundated with sexism, I assure you that it will happen. They're not all elephants. There will be, I mean, don't get me wrong, right? I mean there's, that's real stuff in the workplace and things that are egregious need to be reported because here's the thing, I mean the really mean stuff, right? The overt sexual, you know, the sexual harassment, obviously. Overt sexism, mean and demeaning things that are not just, hey, that's a tight handshake, right? That, to me, is just somebody being stupid. It's not malicious. When the maliciousness comes out, I guarantee you, and I tell the women all the time, this is not the first time the guy ever said it. Nobody wakes up, you know, they're 35 years old and they wake up one morning and they're like, oh, I think I'm going to say something sexist today. And they've never done it before. That's not how this works.
Kimberly Faith: (23:06)
That's a deeply held belief. That is a deeply held belief. And so address that. But I hear what you're saying, but I wanted to go back to what you said is that we actually have the power to respond with love in our heart because as we get ready to finish this podcast, that's what I wanted to focus on. I'm convinced that hope for humanity is trapped in the hearts of women and that when we learn how to allow that to come out more, so I don't want to lose that. So, can we kind of end on that thought? Why did you say that? It's obvious, it's a personal philosophy.
Diane Boettcher: (23:34)
Yeah. Because I think that that is part of it is science, right? Well, people mirror our behavior. If I approach somebody with love in my heart, that activates the love in their heart, right? That activates, they call them to mirror neurons. And if you behave in a specific way, it actually triggers similar behavior in a person back to you. So, and I've seen it play out. It's reciprocity, it's a reflection, it works. It's, it feels warm and fuzzy. It feels like it's telling you what. But yeah, that's why I call it leading with kindness. When we lead with kindness, it's a little bit of double meaning it's, you know, I lead with kindness, but also the first thing, the first action should be kindness. The first response that we should have should be kindness. You don't know what other people are going through. You don't know what narrative got them to the point where they felt it necessary to say something mean and hurtful to you. So, if you can muster it up in you to respond with kindness, you know, the odds are...
Kimberly Faith: (24:45)
That is great power. Well, and I think that's especially fascinating coming from you, a woman who has a history in the military who was in the IT industry. Okay. I mean, so, that was why I didn't want to lose that. I think that's really one of our silent superpowers, is we can actually lead the way and showing others how we can lead with love and kindness. Diane, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. I know this is just the start of our long journey together and a shared passion. I appreciate you and I appreciate what you do for the world.
Diane Boettcher: (25:15)
Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate you as well. Thank you. This has been fun.
I hope you found this edition of the sisterhood report thought-provoking and inspiring. Please know the role you play in the collective story that is unfolding is powerful. The world needs you. Yes, you, Y O U and everything that you have to offer. Thanks for joining us today. As always, you can find my book, Your Lion Inside on Amazon, 1-800-CEO-READ and all eBook sites. It has been truly my privilege to serve you today, my sweet sisters. Until next time.