Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Growing up in Sweden, Eva Helen thought that men and women were afforded equal opportunities. Research for her college thesis called for a rude awakening, however, when she realized gender inequality remained prevalent. Allying herself with a sisterhood of passionate advocates for equality, Eva continued her journey of advocacy throughout her career as a tech startup founder.
Now in her Third Act, Eva looks forward to releasing her book this fall, Women in Tech, a Book for Guys. She is a firm believer in the importance of involving men in the fight for women’s rights, especially concerning advancement in the workplace. Since pre-tiring, she has successfully founded her company EQ Inspiration and led a series of workshops called “Women in Tech, an event for guys,” sharing a structured approach for men to advocate for and mentor women.
(04:11) First Act: A college thesis and sales in San Francisco
(07:52) Second Act: Tech startups with the husband
(14:12) Third Act: Bringing men into the conversation
(16:21) “I’m actually her mentor.”
(18:22) You don’t have to reach for an audience
(21:24) Where’s the fear coming from?
(25:32) Al vs. Cree
(33:24) Ineffective checklists
(36:35) Support someone standing alone
Listeners can connect with Eva on LinkedIn or visit her blog to read more of her insights. Keep an eye out for her book, Women in Tech, a Book for Guys, debuting in October.
To hear about more Third Act stories, subscribe to and follow the Third Act podcast at http://thirdactpodcast.com. And if you enjoyed listening, please leave a review at https://ratethispodcast.com/thirdact.
Liz Tinkham (00:14):
This is Liz Tinkham and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The Third Act begins when your script ends, but your show’s not finished. On today’s episode of Third Act, I talk with Eva Helen, the Constant Advocate. Growing up in Sweden, one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, Eva believed that opportunities were equal between men and women. Yet, when she interviewed major Swedish companies for her university thesis, she realized that women were behind men in the workplace. However, she found a passionate sisterhood of women advocating for equality. That passion stayed with her as she co-founded and ran several successful tech companies with her husband.
Liz Tinkham (01:05):
Since pre-tiring, Eva founded her company EQ Inspiration, leading several events, titled Women in Tech, an event for guys, in order to teach men how to advocate and mentor women. This fall, she publishes a book on the same topic called, Women in Tech, A Book for Guys. Eva strongly believes that inviting men into the conversation is the best way to improve the advancement of women in the workplace. On today’s episode, she talks about her early interest in advocacy, what it was like to work with her husband for 20 years, and her continued passion around creating a more equal workplace. Eva, welcome to the Third Act podcast. Great to have you.
Eva Helen (01:49):
Thank you for having me.
Liz Tinkham (01:50):
You’re just back from Europe, how was it over there? Everybody’s safe wearing masks. What are they doing?
Eva Helen (01:56):
Nobody’s wearing masks. Masks are kind of something that was never even really considered. I was in Sweden, where we know they took a little bit of a different approach there.
Liz Tinkham (02:06):
Oh right. What do you think? How did it go? What did people think there? I guess I should say.
Eva Helen (02:13):
It worked out really well for me because when I then go into the supermarket and wear my mask, which you know, is part of my habit nowadays, people just kind of like scattered. They just left me. So it was really nice. Usually I kind of elbow my way through stores when I go shopping and now I didn’t have to do that. They were just like holding the sides, like I had the plague. So it was very convenient, they all thought I was sick.
Liz Tinkham (02:42):
Oh my goodness. Okay well picking up on that, your first act is in Sweden. So you’re Swedish originally, were you’ve always been an advocate for women, writing your university thesis on a topic around advocacy for women. So I always think of the Nordic countries, and I’ve worked in some of them, as being a bit of a Nirvana for women, that they have more women, senior executives, they have better family leave, they have more women on boards. So, what prompted you to pick that topic?
Eva Helen (03:08):
Well, so there’s a lot of very, very good things in Sweden. You have, obviously the society is set up for both parents to work. That is how the whole Swedish system is built. People are both men and women, both parents are supposed to be working. That’s how the whole social security system has been built up. That means that they’ve extended that so that childcare is available for everybody. It’s not super expensive and the system, in that way, works. And so if you look out, everybody’s working, with a few exceptions, but when you look at top management, we still have the same issues there as we have in the United States. And even if there’s a lot more awareness and a lot more talking about getting more women to higher positions, perhaps than here, it’s still slow. And also we have to remember Sweden is a very small country, right? So there’s only that many positions in large corporations.
Liz Tinkham (04:07):
So did you see that as a university student? Sort of tell us a little bit about that thesis?
Eva Helen (04:11):
Well, it was interesting. I mean, I grew up in the seventies and eighties and it was very equal between boys and girls. I didn’t see any difference. And then when I started university and you go into that whole, let’s talk about what we can do to change the world, then I started to realize that men and women weren’t perhaps treated equally and that it was a lot more difficult for women in many ways in the workplace. So I actually did a lot of research and I interviewed a lot of the big companies in Sweden to try to figure out what their system was to promote women. And I also joined organizations that supported, not women’s rights, necessarily, but kind of women’s rights in the workplace. And then also worked at a company that recruited women for board positions and C-suite positions.
Eva Helen (04:59):
And it was just very eye-opening. It felt not really like I could relate to it a hundred percent, but I really love the passion in these women that were really fighting for this and working on it, and sharing their knowledge and talking to each other, and caring about each other. So it was like a sister community, which I never experienced before. And that was great. So that’s really what drove me to do my own research and come up with a piece at university that I still think today is pretty relevant actually.
Liz Tinkham (05:35):
Yeah. So, that sort of instilled some early advocacy in you in a sense?
Eva Helen (05:39):
Liz Tinkham (05:39):
So how did you end up in the United States? Because you’re now a resident of the United States.
Eva Helen (05:44):
I had, in my early teens, lived down in Italy, and I went to the American school there, which was an amazing eye-opening experience for me because I had the chance there to shine. I worked hard and was rewarded with high grades, which was really cool because we didn’t have that system in Sweden necessarily. And so when the time came to… It’s funny because I had been in the states in my late teens on a three-week trip with my parents and I became a vegetarian afterwards because I felt that there was way too much meat eating here. So I ended up becoming a vegetarian when I was 18, almost 19 years old after a trip to the United States and I didn’t necessarily like it very well. I mean you come in as a tourist so it’s different. But I was like, no, I don’t want to go back there. There’s too many other countries in the world to explore.
Eva Helen (06:35):
But when I was done with university, I really wanted to go far away for a multitude of reasons. But I was choosing between Sydney and San Francisco and the airplane ticket was cheaper to San Francisco. So that’s why I came here. And then I never left.
Liz Tinkham (06:55):
So what’d you end up doing when you got here?
Eva Helen (06:57):
So I worked with family for a little while, and then I started knocking on doors in Silicon Valley and I was reading back then, the San Jose Mercury News, looking at ads. And I started going to interviews and I did a few interviews and found a hardware company that said, sure, we’ll sponsor you with a visa because you have language skills that we want to bring in. And so I started doing international sales for this hardware company. So I worked towards European countries and I was really great. I was working with people from the old culture, the countries that I knew, I understood what they were expecting and what they wanted and at the same time, I got this great opportunity to learn about how business was done in the US.
Liz Tinkham (07:45):
Okay. And because your husband factors into this story, did you meet him during this period or how did you end up meeting him?
Eva Helen (07:52):
He was one of my distributors. He had actually just placed a big order for the Bulgarian National Television before he came over to San Jose. And I met him for the first time and it was really awkward and bizarre, the whole thing. We were super young, but we were supposed to be official and have a business meeting, but one thing led to the next and then he offered me a job shortly after and said, “You want to come and run sales? I’m just starting up a company here on the east coast.” Which was distribution from the beginning, but we actually built it up as a software company and then sold it to Autodesk a couple of years later.
Eva Helen (08:31):
So it was an awesome start and it was very quick, everything. And we learned so much that then in 2000 we said, well should we do this again? And he said yeah, this is the kind of technology I want to build. And I said, oh okay, how long is it going to take? And he said, well, two, three years, but took 15 years before we were able to offload that one. So we were acquired by Citrix in 2015.
Liz Tinkham (08:59):
So you guys have a… I mean, it’s a really wonderful story that you and your husband were able to work together. I know my husband and I couldn’t do it. I think we’d kill each other. I mean, how did you make it work? What were some of the challenges and the sort of the great things about it?
Eva Helen (09:14):
Well, thanks for asking. So, first thing was that nobody knew. Obviously the people inside the company, everybody who worked directly with us, they knew about it, but customers, partners, business partners, all these people had, nobody had any idea that we were actually married.
Liz Tinkham (09:30):
Oh, you guys didn’t… Different last names.
Eva Helen (09:33):
Yeah. Different last names and very clear, like who did what? And obviously we have young children throughout the whole thing as well. So we never traveled at the same time. If we needed to be at the same trade show at the same time, we always made sure not to get on the same flight and things like that, just because we have all of our parents in Europe. So, in case something had happened. But on a day-to-day basis, apart from the fact that we never spoke about that we were a couple, because it was really none of nobody’s business. And if we had decided to go down the venture capital route, it would have been really hard to say, we’re married. Obviously at some point, when you go through a process like that and you need to disclose it.
Eva Helen (10:18):
And obviously the acquiring party, when we went down the alley with Citrix, of course we told them about it and so on. But day to day, there were very strict rules. Like we always ate dinner together as a family, we never talked about work during dinner. We always focused on what the kids had been doing during the day. I had scheduled time in my calendar between, depending on how old the kids were between like, 5:30 and eight o’clock when nobody could put in any meetings, I didn’t look at my phone. And that was the time that I spent with my kids every single day, because otherwise the catch up during the weekend was so insane. So I needed those. If I wasn’t on the road, I was on the road a lot. But if I wasn’t on the road, I would always be like religious about spending time with the kids.
Eva Helen (11:05):
And that didn’t mean that I got down on the floor and played with Legos, because that’s not me. But they would stand next to me and chop vegetables in the kitchen. We would hang out in the kitchen. We’d cook and do homework and talk and eat dinner and it worked. And then we had our other kind of rule was after eight o’clock, then we just sit down and work again. But during the weekends, one day on the weekend was for family only. So we wouldn’t see friends, we wouldn’t do anything, we wouldn’t work. We were like family either Saturday or Sunday, every weekend. So we camp, we did a lot of camping back then because our kids are spread pretty far apart, so that was a great activity to do and it really brought us back down to earth and gave us energy to get through another week. But yeah, it was hard. It was really hard times.
Liz Tinkham (11:53):
And then when you got acquired by Citrix, I think you were telling me that you felt as though up until that point that you and your husband had somewhat had been equal partners at work and been considered in the eyes of everybody else equal partners. But something changed at Citrix. Maybe tell us what happened there.
Eva Helen (12:10):
Yeah. So it was one of the opportunities I had to interview with the senior management over there and I said, well Monchil, that’s his name is. I said, he’s getting a VP position and the corner office and a dollar, and I’m getting a Senior Director title and not the corner office and 75 cents. What’s up with that?
Liz Tinkham (12:36):
Yeah. What’d they say?
Eva Helen (12:38):
Oh, you have to prove yourself.
Liz Tinkham (12:39):
Oh my goodness. Even though you and your husband were selling this company to them right?
Eva Helen (12:46):
And the thing is that now I laugh about it, but you have no idea how angry I was. I mean I was fuming.
Liz Tinkham (12:52):
I know how angry you were. I’ve been there.
Eva Helen (12:54):
I was fuming. And I was like, so my husband, as the super diplomat and very cool guy he is, we quickly made the corner office into our joint office so that we can get to work together. And then we made my office into a coffee shop where we would invite other people from the company to come and have coffee with us. So we sorted the logistics situation out pretty quickly. And then we’ve always shared our money. So in the end it didn’t really matter, but it was a question of principle and I was pretty upset. But for our investors and shareholders and it was I was a board member at Sanbolic and it was really my responsibility to look out for them first and foremost and not to my own ego. But yeah, that was a hard blow.
Liz Tinkham (13:45):
I can’t imagine. So after Citrix, I assume you guys stayed there for a while, you retire. You’re living on the east coast at that point, is that correct?
Eva Helen (13:54):
No, we had been moved back to the West coast by Citrix. So we were already back in the Bay Area then.
Liz Tinkham (13:59):
What did you think about doing next? So you’ve had a couple of successful companies, you and your husband are still going strong, fortunately still married. What did you think you would do next at sort of that retirement or pre-tirement?
Eva Helen (14:12):
Well, like a lot of women I was in my mid forties. And I was like, okay, what do I want to do? Where do I want to contribute? Where can I make a difference? And so I started to kind of like put my sensors out. I connected with a lot of women’s organizations in the Bay Area. I got a lot of speaking engagements. A lot of people wanted to hear about a successful woman, entrepreneur. And it was amazing, fantastic groups of women that were meeting big and small groups and I did a lot of panels. And I found that, I really love to moderate panels.
Liz Tinkham (14:47):
I do too. It’s fun.
Eva Helen (14:49):
So great. And after a while, after going to all of these events, I was like, this is really bizarre how all these women are like so supportive of each other, but they’re no guys here because I came from the high-tech industry and they’re only men. So, I thought it was a little bit weird. So I started asking around and saying, if I organize something called Women in Tech, an event for guys, would you as a man, would you be interested in attending. And I got a lot of yeses, and I got a lot of yeses with disclaimers. Sure, if I have the time and so on. But said and done, I did. And I ran a series of events called, Women in Tech, events for guys, also went under the name, Mind the Gap, because there was the gap between genders, generations and business roles.
Eva Helen (15:36):
I ran mentoring events as well, which were phenomenal because when I was doing a lot of speaking engagements, a lot of women come to me and kind of seek my advice and I really wanted to help them all, but I couldn’t take on that many mentees. I typically have like three or four mentees running at the same time, always, because I think it’s so important to share, even if I don’t have factual knowledge, but I do have a way of… I’ve been around the block a couple of times, so I’m always happy to help other women that are going through difficult times, even if they’re not entrepreneurs per se. But anyway, so then I would get men into the room at the mentoring events to firsthand mentor these women. So I would rotate groups and then they would build connections.
Eva Helen (16:21):
And then I would present a more or less formal mentoring program that I said, you can follow this if you want to, because a lot of men feel safer if they know that there’s a formal structure around the mentoring program. And I always say that. Any company I talked to, anybody I work with, I always say do you have a mentoring program? If you don’t, you really don’t make it very, need to make it complex, but you should outline it so that the men feel like there’s a formality around it, that they don’t have to go home and defend why they’re talking about this other woman at work all the time, but rather say, “I’m actually her mentor.”
Liz Tinkham (16:58):
That could be a bit awkward at home, right?
Eva Helen (17:00):
More so than you would think.
Liz Tinkham (17:02):
Oh, I know. Yeah. I can imagine I can.
Eva Helen (17:05):
So let’s just make it a little bit easier for the guys who want to help. Anyway, so I did that. And then the key thing of my events was really to get a bunch of guys on stage and interview them live and in person about what they were actively doing to support women, either a woman on their team or their sister or their partner, or the whole team, or the culture of the organization. What were their engagements and what were they doing? And these stories were beautiful. And I thought, I need to interview more people and share this with a broader audience.
Liz Tinkham (17:43):
And was it men in the audience at these events mostly?
Eva Helen (17:47):
I would have about between like, 55% of men. So women were invited and their ticket was a guy. So if women wanted to come, they had to bring a man along. But they were hugely helpful to get men in there. So they would bring maybe somebody from work or a business partner or their husband, if he also worked in tech or whatever it would be.
Liz Tinkham (18:14):
Was it hard to get the first one off the ground? Because were the guys kind of resistant like, why do I need to go to that?
Eva Helen (18:22):
No, it was funny. I was looking at pictures from my first event here, not too long ago. And I think I had, I probably had like 65% men at that event. But it was obviously a lot of friends. People that I had worked with it for. Because that’s the thing, when you’re starting something new, you always tend to think that you need to reach out to new audiences. But given that I’ve worked in tech for 20 years, I know a lot of people, and I can totally start there because they have known me in my previous roles and there’s a mutual amount of respect between us and so on. So if I say, this is what I’m doing now, and this is why, and this is how you can help. They’re like, oh okay, yeah that’s interesting. So you don’t have to reach that far. The idea of having the opportunity to do this podcast with you is fantastic because there’s some people that don’t know about me or never heard of me before that, that we will reach. But there’s also my old audience, so to speak.
Liz Tinkham (19:28):
So, how many of these events did you end up doing? Are they still going and what have you learned? What have you taken away from doing it?
Eva Helen (19:35):
Well, so I did… Like, I did the series and then I did a couple of right before COVID and then I haven’t done any since. But what I did after that was I kind of… I like to just do. So I pick up the phone and I started calling guys and saying, hey, would you be okay with me interviewing you? So I interviewed 60 men. I did hour long interviews. And I think there was only one guy who said, once we got on the phone, he’s like, I only have 30 minutes. I’m sorry, I only have 30 minutes. I said fine, let’s start. So we talked for 30 minutes and then he said, hold on. And then he said, “I’m sorry, I have to hang up.” I said “okay, that’s fine.” And then after five minutes, he called me back.
Eva Helen (20:21):
He said “This was a really great talk. I canceled my next meeting, I want to continue.” So we talked about their backgrounds, how they grew up, where they grew up. If they had everything from their family situation, if their mother would work or if she was in the home, we talked about bullying. We talked about like all the schooling. And then we talked about their kind of awareness of if there was any gender differences or discriminations and where they kind of discovered that things were not perhaps… Kind of like I did at college. All of a sudden I was like, whoa, things are actually not entirely equal between men and women. And when did their discovery come? And then we would talk about their workplace now and what it was like, and then their willingness to support women and minorities.
Eva Helen (21:14):
How willing were they? And are they, and if they are not, why? How come? Where’s the fear coming from? What’s the fear of, and things like that. And then we would talk about actual things they were doing. And one of the most interesting things was that, many of them would say, well, I’m not really doing anything to support women. And then as we would speak, I would be like, what about this? What about that? And then they would come up and share these stories and say, oh we were actually at this event and this woman who has been on my team, I felt like some guys were not talking to her in a nice way so I actually stepped in and stood by her side and showed her that I was there without really doing anything. And I said, “Well that was an act of support.” “Oh, okay.” “And then in the meeting room this woman, she was, I could see that she wanted to make herself heard.”
Eva Helen (22:11):
So I made a point of saying, so hold on for a second here, Liz wants to say something or what did Liz… What are you thinking Liz? Or what’s your reaction to this? Well, that’s an act of support. “Oh, I didn’t even think about that.” So, the fear factor is obviously a big one, so we need to kind of help the guys to get over that. But the other thing is also bringing their awareness to the things that they’re already doing and showing other men that there is something that each and every one of them can do.
Liz Tinkham (22:48):
What were they afraid of?
Eva Helen (22:50):
There is a variety of it. I guess the most extreme one that we’re all familiar with is that, people will look at them and think that they want something from a mentorship or that they want something from building a strong relationship with a woman at work, whereas they’re simply trying to give. So it’s really the misinterpretation by other men and women that stops men most of the time when they want to do something from doing something.
Liz Tinkham (23:24):
Oh, it’s really interesting. Okay. What are you going to do with all of it?
Eva Helen (23:32):
First, I took all the material and I had to break it down somehow. So I started looking for patterns, right? What could I see? What was the similarities between some of the different men and their activities and what they were doing? And so I was able to break it out into seven categories. So from about, a little bit more than 60 interviews, I was able to create seven character prototypes. And I define them as the top, and I call it a matrix. It’s like a ladder or matrix but the idea is that they’re categorized by the awareness that they have around equality or inequalities, and then their willingness to help, and what actions are they actually taking. And the top three character prototypes on this matrix are advocates. They are not afraid of sticking their necks out.
Eva Helen (24:32):
They are not afraid of speaking up on behalf of women. They are not afraid to address other men. And then the next category are the allies. And the allies are very, their willingness to help is very high and it’s higher than the actions that they’re actually taking. And there’s also a fear of being mistakenly accused or misinterpreted or something like that for the support that they’re giving women. And then at the bottom, I have the chauvinist who we know we’ve heard about him in different companies but he prefers the status quo. He doesn’t want things to change. He thinks that women can take over men’s places in the workplace and so on. And it was interesting to interview that guy, because I believe that there’s hope for everybody. My mother told me that there’s something good in everyone. So the key there was really to try to find their motivators.
Eva Helen (25:32):
What could make them interested enough in this topic to actually do something, to move to the next level up. So once I had created this seven categories, all I needed to do was to write down what that character prototype was doing so that the guy below him on the matrix could read about what the person above him was doing and do the same, and that way he graduates and climbs one step up on the matrix. And so, rather than throwing all men into a workshop and giving them one message and telling them all what to do, I can now, or we as women can say that guy is a, he’s like a creep. Okay. Do you think he has the ability to become an Al? Because all these characters have names obviously. Because Al is above Cree. Yes.
Eva Helen (26:24):
Okay, so what can we do? Okay, let’s go now to the book that I’m writing and see, what is Al actually doing? And then we read little samples and stories, because this is all based on the interviews. I’m not going to tell them what to do, I’m just sharing what Al is already doing. And then we as women can say, okay, I think this is at Cree. Let’s see what Al is doing and let’s suggest that to him. We’re not going to suggest that he goes and changes the culture inside the organization. We’re not going to suggest that he becomes a spokesperson or that he takes his own initiatives. But if he is like a Cree, that means that he’s very comfortable supporting women very close to him. Maybe an engineer he’s worked with for a long time or maybe it’s somebody at home. And now we’re encouraging him to make contact with another woman inside his organization and simply say, how can I help?
Liz Tinkham (27:20):
Got it. Okay. So, this is a way to continue to progress male mentoring of women throughout as they progress their careers and as they grow.
Eva Helen (27:33):
Exactly. And the idea is that it’s very common. The biggest groups in my experience are, you know how I said, there’s advocates on top and then there are the allies. The majority of them sit as allies. And they’re not opposed to helping, they want to help but they don’t know what to do.
Liz Tinkham (27:53):
Oh, got it. Okay.
Eva Helen (27:55):
And so by… And then they also say, well somebody else from HR is going to come in and sort this out and somebody else will fix this for us. And my message in the book is that if everyone, if every man does just a little bit more, it will actually significantly improve the situation for women and minorities at work.
Liz Tinkham (28:20):
And they don’t really have to take that big of an action to move up the ladder.
Eva Helen (28:24):
No, that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to take any time. They don’t have to think about it very hard. I mean, a little introspection and reflection is always healthy for everyone, but I’m not expecting that guys… Like one of my interviews he’s in the book. He sort of says, “Well, I don’t wake up every morning thinking about, okay, so how can I support women and minorities today? But if you call me or somebody from HR or any organization calls and says, hey, do you have two hours a month that you can give to women? We’d like you to come and talk about your role or maybe if you’ve hired a woman come and talk about that. Yeah, absolutely.”
Liz Tinkham (29:05):
Right so that’s an easy move for him. So is that what your company EQ Inspiration is doing?
Eva Helen (29:12):
Yes. So first and foremost, I’m trying to get the book out. I think it’s a couple of months out. I’m saying October right now.
Liz Tinkham (29:19):
And what will the title be?
Eva Helen (29:20):
Women in Tech, a Book for Guys.
Liz Tinkham (29:23):
There you go. I love that. All right.
Eva Helen (29:25):
And so the idea is to get the book out, we’re putting final touches on the design right now, and then it’s going to be printed and then it’s going to be available shortly. It’s imminent now. It’s so close, yet so far away. And this is the interesting thing. When you’ve run a software company for so many years, you know the drill, you know the annual, the regimen, what you have to go through and your budgeting, and your finances, and the operations, and the processes, and this sale. I know all of that, but writing a book and getting a book out has been a significant challenge.
Liz Tinkham (30:03):
Yeah. We’ve had a few other authors on this and they’ve all said the exact same thing. Really hard, really hard. In addition to the mentoring and thinking about your history of being a software entrepreneur and running companies, what else do you think needs to change in tech in order for women to continue to progress up and be 50/50 in a lot of ways? I always say, I was like, well the addressable space, it should reflect the addressable, like what the addressable population is. And there’s more than 50% women and more than 50% women are graduating college. So we don’t have even close to that in top positions, in management, particularly in tech companies.
Eva Helen (30:47):
So, you were asking what is EQ Inspiration and what is that I’m doing with it? One thing is coaching men and speaking to them directly and not kind of holding back and saying maybe you should, but rather saying, you really need to get a woman into this position because it’s really important for numerous reasons. But financially first and foremost, for your business results, for your innovation, for your creativity, for everything that you’re trying to achieve with your company, you need to have a diverse workforce and leadership team. And you can’t get women into your organization unless you have women at the leadership level, because they all look up and they want to know what’s up above, how can I get to the top? And if they don’t see anybody who looks like them, then they’re not going to do anything.
Eva Helen (31:36):
And yes, I’m a white woman. And I recognize how much more difficult it is for many minorities and for women of color and for the Latinas and for our black women and so on. I recognize that, and I need to make space and make sure that I include them in everything that I’m doing as well. And I know it’s hard and it’s a really huge advantage to be a white woman and recognizing that, because the way that the privileges that I have in relation to women of color is very similar to what white men have in relation to white women. And so I can see it from both sides. So everything that I’m instructing and telling white men to do, I’m telling myself to do when it comes to relationships with women from other minorities. And so we can’t forget about anybody.
Eva Helen (32:30):
So to go back to the EQ Inspiration portion, coaching men one-on-one, really pointing it out, that’s one thing. Speaking engagements, obviously specifically for tech conferences, is really important because there I get an opportunity to speak directly with the men. And is it uncomfortable? Yes, very uncomfortable. But I do it anyway, because I figured if somebody pays attention and so far, I’ve never been to a tech conference that hasn’t led to the next conference or to the next discussion or to multiple men reaching out and saying, hey, I really heard what you were saying. I’m trying to promote this woman. How can I get her promoted? She doesn’t want to. Well, if you want to talk about it, so then we talk about it a little bit and give them some tips.
Liz Tinkham (33:19):
Since you’ve been doing this, have things changed for the better? I mean, what have you seen?
Eva Helen (33:24):
Yeah. Yes and no. I mean, five years ago when I started with this, we didn’t have diversity and inclusion officers. We didn’t have software tools that could do culture reviews inside companies that included diversity and inclusion questions. We didn’t have hiring agencies that focus on women and minorities. We didn’t have a discussion to the level that we have right now. Like if you don’t have this stuff organized, the other companies are going like, well, they’re going to fail. So it has, yes, it has… The discussion in itself has become a norm. There’s still too many activities that are just seen as like a checkbox. Okay, we have a DI officer, check. We have these workshops, check. Okay, we do sexual harassment training, check. But the personal engagement is much greater than it was, but it still needs to become even greater.
Liz Tinkham (34:39):
One of the things I’ve seen because I teach at the University of Washington is that the men in my class, and as the years have progressed over the five years or six years I’ve taught, I think those students have become much more aware and it’s like a good sign. And so I have more women in my class, but the men in the class tend to be considerate, understanding of all of this. And as I’ve gotten people who are younger as the newer classes come in, they seem to be even more aware. So, something’s going on that I think at least I see from a young person’s perspective, that’s improving. And hopefully that will reflect itself into the workforce over time.
Eva Helen (35:20):
No, absolutely. And I think in my book I have one guy who’s talking about, or actually a couple that are sort of saying, if you want to shape the men, you need to do it early on. But And so if they’re not able to hire a woman or a person of color for a specific position, at least they can look for these qualities in the man that they’re hiring, so that as they’re grooming them to become leaders, they already have some of these qualities from their college days or from their homes or from even earlier on and so on. Absolutely.
Liz Tinkham (36:00):
So, how do you recommend that our male and female listeners, so people who are listening to this, how do they get involved in the type of conversations that you’re having, other than read your book?
Eva Helen (36:12):
Yeah. So today I just dropped my kid off at surf camp and I said, well, so which version of yourself are you going to be today? And he said, well, I’m going to be nice. And I said, well, do you want to expand on that a little bit? And he said, well, I mean, if I see anybody who’s standing alone, I’m going to ask them if they want to go in the water together with me.
Eva Helen (36:35):
And if somebody is like really obnoxious towards the coaches, then I’m going to like tell them to cool off a little bit. And if I see that the coaches, because I know that the coaches have been doing this all summer and this is like their last week. If I see that they’re having trouble with a kid, then I’m going to say I’m happy to help. I said, dude, you got it. You got it. That’s right. So that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman or a kid or whatever, you can always step in. You can always help out. You can always mediate. You can always ask, what can I do to help? And always, always, if there’s somebody standing alone, you need to walk up to them and talk to them.
Liz Tinkham (37:28):
Yeah, that’s a great point. So Eva, I thought about naming this podcast, “I’m not done yet” because I feel like I’m not done with stuff, and clear, you’re not either. What else is in your future? What aren’t you done with yet?
Eva Helen (37:39):
Well next thing is, now as the kids are getting older and I’ve spent the past four or five years spending a lot of time with them, which I’d never had the opportunity to do when they were little. I was like I said, always on the road and it was all time management was my life and now I’ve been able to be with them as teenagers and preteens for a while. And it’s been absolutely phenomenal. But I think it’s time for me to focus a little bit more on my own self fulfillment. And I don’t mean just yoga and skiing and meditation, but possibly getting more involved on boards or something like that because like I said, I have a lot of experience in a lot of different areas and the combination of business. And then this diversity and inclusion work is fairly uncommon still. So I’m planting seeds here and there and we’ll see where it takes me.
Liz Tinkham (38:40):
Oh great. Well, thank you so much for your time and talking about your absolute advocacy, both across men and women for women in technology. And we look forward to the book, we’ll put it in the show notes, Women in Tech, a Book for Men. I love that. And hope to have you back again.
Eva Helen (38:56):
Thank you so much, Liz. I really appreciate it.
Liz Tinkham (39:01):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest, who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.