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Work-Life Integration

PowerToFly's Second Annual Secret Snowflake

How Our Remote Team Celebrates The Holidays

Before coming to PowerToFly, the company holiday parties I attended were radically different. There were gift exchanges, catered lunches, champagne, and lots of awkward interactions between co-workers (my favorite part). Sure, this was fun and all, but at the end of the day, I felt like I was missing something, and to quote a seasonal favorite, the Grinch;

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!

At PowerToFly, we're a small remote team spanning 12 different countries. We have a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, and we all celebrate different holidays.

So, instead of your typical "office holiday party," we have a "Secret Snowflake," where each employee is randomly assigned another employee and donates $10 to a charity in their honor. This gives us the opportunity to learn more about our Secret Snowflakes and get to know their teammates at the same time, as we ask around to learn more about our Snowflakes' interests, hobbies, and passions. (And of course, to contribute to some great causes.)

We spent time getting to know people we don't typically interact with on a day-to-day basis, while discovering charities and foundations all over the globe! Because we're all in different timezones, "small talk" isn't something we usually get to do a lot of, so meetings like this, where we have the opportunity to learn more about each other, are really special.

To me, this blending of cultures, understanding what my teammates truly value, and contributing to causes we care about (everything from the environment to animals to people in need), means more than any gift or catered meal, and embodies the true spirit of the holidays!

This year, our team donated over $300 to 30 the charities listed below:

  1. International Rescue Committe
  2. Karama Organization for Women and Children's Development
  3. Dizzy Feet Foundation
  4. Mutt Rescue
  5. Edo State Women Association
  6. Animal Rescue Foundation of Louisiana
  7. Texas Humane Heroes
  8. Ukrainian Philanthropic Marketplace
  9. Help Animals India
  10. Comedy Cures
  11. Palestine Charity Team
  12. Uniendo Caminos
  13. Animal Rescue of the Rockies
  14. Wounded Nature
  15. Ukrainian Philanthropic Marketplace
  16. Gilda's Club
  17. New Beginning Animal Rescue
  18. Women Who Code Kyiv
  19. The Trevor Project
  20. Sumando Manos Foundation
  21. Razom
  22. Ecuador Children's Hope Organization
  23. LAPA
  24. International Street Dog Foundation
  25. The DREAM Project
  26. Basic Research and Development Society
  27. Ecologia - Youth Trust
  28. Karumbe
  29. Spirit of Children
  30. CASA of Cook County

From the team at PowerToFly, we wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday. See you in 2019!

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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

Agree?

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