Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace

Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace

by Mikaela Kiner


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Saying NO to the Workplace Status Quo: 13 Women Who Are Rewriting the Rules

If readers are not sure what a firebrand is, they’ll find out in Mikaela Kiner’s powerful first book. Women of all generations will nod in recognition at the stories of 13 professional women from diverse backgrounds and industries as they recount the career challenges they've faced and how they have overcome bias, sexism, and the power imbalance.

These women are role models, not just because they’ve been successful in their careers, but because they are mission driven and doing good in the world. They are whole people dealing with work, family, balance, confidence, and the need to stay motivated and strong.

Mikaela Kiner spent 15 years in HR leadership at Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, PopCap Games, and Redfin. In 2015 she founded Reverb, which helps companies create healthy, inclusive culture that engages and inspires employees.

Female Firebrands is an honest, modern, and solutions-oriented guide for dealing with situations working women know all too well: sexual harassment, not being taken seriously, and being talked over, passed over, underpaid, and underappreciated. Mid-career professional women will read this book and know they're not alone. Women earlier in their careers can save years of heartache and frustration by learning what's worked for women who came before them.

Chapter checklists provide invaluable to-do lists for women, men who want to be their advocates, and HR and business leaders as well. Readers will learn how to—

• Develop tools and techniques to stand and speak up on behalf of yourself and others when it’s both difficult and necessary

• Get better at recognizing “little indignities” you don’t have to tolerate

• Understand what it means to be an informed, empowered advocate for women

• Increase awareness of your own blind spots and biases so you can learn from them

• Recognize the role of privilege at work and how it can be used for positive change

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626346734
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 613,606
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Mikaela Kiner has an MS in Human Resources Management, is a certified executive coach, and is an experienced consultant. In 2015, Mikaela founded Reverb, a leading provider of innovative HR services for startups and growing companies in the Pacific Northwest. An HR leader for nearly twenty years, Kiner enjoys coaching leaders at all levels and helping companies build healthy, inclusive cultures. She's been quoted in Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal and The Muse, and is a member of the Forbes Human Resources Council. Mikaela is married to Henry, a musician, artist, and teacher. Their two children, Simon and Sidonie, are good at challenging the status quo and are a constant source of learning and laughter. She lives with her family in Seattle.

Read an Excerpt



"Every day I work with people who are not privileged, who are not entitled. As a person who has incredible privilege because of my class, education and the color of my skin, I am just constantly trying to think of how I can use those privileges to help others who don't have them."

Mar Smith Brettmann, PhD, founded Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). As a professor of philosophy, ethics, and religion for ten years at Fuller Theological Seminary, the University of the West Indies, and Whitworth University, she wrote and published articles about human rights, including "Jobs Must be Part of the Solution to Human Trafficking," "The Perfect Storm for Hotel Owners," and "Inhospitable to Human Trafficking."

During her research, she became increasingly concerned about the brutal exploitation of children, women, and impoverished laborers that takes place through human trafficking. As the founder and executive director of BEST, Mar now educates business leaders and provides them with tools to implement socially responsible strategies that prevent human trafficking. Mar is the author of the book Theories of Justice. She has a BA in business and economics from Wheaton College and a PhD in theology and ethics from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Mar resides in Seattle with her family. She loves to explore the outdoors by foot, kayak, bike, surfboard, or snowboard.


Fighting Traffickers and Giving Survivors a Voice

As you might expect from someone who started an organization to prevent human trafficking in the United States, Mar is compassionate, collaborative, selfless, and driven. With a small team and a working board, Mar has single-handedly grown BEST into the only organization of its kind. BEST works with businesses, hotel owners' associations, and other nonprofits to achieve comprehensive change in the trafficking space.

Mar left academia when she realized that even as professors, women were not treated as equals by their male colleagues. Mar realized the way people treated her in academia led to unfounded self-doubt, so she turned to authors such as George Eliot, Sue Monk Kidd, and Simone de Beauvoir to help her make sense of her experience.

"Reading feminist thought and feminist theory helped me realize that it wasn't me who was doing anything wrong. When things weren't going right, I was always internalizing the belief that it was my fault; that I wasn't good enough. But the women around me, and the feminist thinkers I was reading, helped me to see what was happening more clearly." Mar knew she had a choice to make, and she opted to leave academia and make a future where she would be valued for who she was, while making a difference in the world. In 2012, she founded BEST.

BEST's mission includes working with businesses, corporations, and hotel owners' associations to create policies and training that reduce the incidence of trafficking in order to make the world safer for women and other marginalized groups. Businesses are key to preventing trafficking. Research shows that the peak time for buying sex online is 2:00 p.m. — in the middle of the workday. The highest percentages of men arrested for buying sex from underage girls are employed in the retail, transportation, manufacturing, IT, and construction industries.

BEST's online and in-person training for employers includes a list of websites for companies to block in order to stop their employees from buying sex online. BEST also offers resources to help companies create anti-trafficking policies. Most trafficking victims are "bought" in hotels, so BEST teaches hotel owners and employees that trafficking is not acceptable. Hotel employees learn how to identify and report trafficking, and staff are taught to implement specific best practices that prevent the sexual exploitation of children and women in hotels and motels.

Mar has the awareness and humility that allows her to work effectively with survivors of trafficking, who are predominantly women, and disproportionately women of color. While working in academia, Mar taught herself to speak up in order to be heard. "I spent so much time trying to find my voice. So, I want to have my voice all the time. And I want to speak my voice boldly all the time, because I spent so much time feeling like I had lost it; like it was being minimized by the people around me." When Mar goes into a situation with survivors, she quiets her voice. She makes room for theirs.




"I don't really care what other people are doing. I'm just going to be the best at what I do. I'm the first to say I don't belong; I'm an outlier. It's funny ... sometimes, when we talk about authenticity, I think it's just the stupidest thing. I really do, because I don't understand how else you would be."

Teri Citterman coaches CEOs and senior executives who lead companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s, including Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Lockheed Martin, Virginia Mason Medical Center, WeWork, Regence Healthcare, University of Washington Medicine, Bill & Melinda Gates Investments, and Microsoft. Her latest book, From the CEO's Perspective, provides a peek into the thinking of today's top CEOs. For twenty years, Teri has provided advice and thought leadership on internal and external communications and how to leverage power and influence. She is an award-winning writer, a regular contributor to Forbes, a sought-after speaker, and a thought cultivator for "The CEO's Perspective," a leadership forum. Teri's favorite places to explore are cemeteries because they hold the stories and history of a community. Her life's motto is "Who's going to stop me!"


An Authentic Outlier

I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of people want to be Teri when they grow up. Her intense, direct style makes her the perfect coach for CEOs. Teri hosts a CEO forum that's always sold out, bringing together the Pacific Northwest's most influential leaders with timely topics including purpose-driven leadership, building diverse companies, and the obligation of CEOs to speak up on social issues. By engaging senior leaders in conversations about inclusion and social justice, Teri encourages her audience to take on these issues in the workplace. Her panelists demonstrate both compassion and vulnerability — key leadership traits that many executives still hide behind a polished façade. The CEOs Teri brings on stage role-model what we need from the next generation of business leaders to create mission-driven organizations where people can safely bring their whole selves to work.

With no young children and as the stepmother to a teenage son, Teri has the freedom to be selfish with her time. Her favorite kind of relaxation includes reading books about leadership. Teri describes herself as "an outlier but not an outcast." She's fiercely independent and states unapologetically that her company and family are her first priorities. If she's going to take time away from what she loves most, it needs to be time well spent where she can make a difference. Unlike many women I meet, Teri has little difficulty saying no. In fact, she's made it a goal to check her generosity by trying to say yes more often when she's asked to help others. We can all learn from Teri's commitment to prioritize herself and her work without feeling guilty.

Teri has fought for fair pay by negotiating every job offer she ever received. If pay wasn't negotiable, she would ask for more vacation time. She intentionally negotiates after the so-called "best and final" offer and feels good about getting what she deserves. She's learned to fight for respect at work, having been faced with derogatory remarks from coworkers. "I'm pretty cavalier, because I've heard people talk about Jews, not knowing I'm Jewish. I remember someone saying, 'If there were any Jews in the room, I would know.' I didn't have the courage to say anything."

After that incident, Teri made sure she was prepared to speak up. When a coworker made a lewd remark, she told him, "I'm going to let you take that back. You have twenty seconds." Being ready to respond empowered Teri, and she wants to pass that on to younger women. When Teri mentors early career women, she makes sure they too are ready to respond to sexist remarks. It's an unfortunate reality, but Teri addresses this head-on so young women won't be caught off guard if they are hit on or disparaged at work.

When she realized that coaching CEOs was her passion, Teri had to overcome her own impostor syndrome in order to turn her passion into her life's work. She questioned herself, thinking, "Why would a CEO want to be coached by me? What qualifications do I have to coach a CEO?" She considered coaching leaders at other levels, but she cares deeply about the challenges that CEOs face, and knew she had the skills to make them more effective. "Doing anything else felt complicated, so I just had to own it. I just had to say, 'This is what I do,' and believe it. I had to figure out what my fear was and overcome that." As an introvert, making a bold statement like this felt incredibly risky. How did Teri overcome her fears? She started coaching CEOs — simple as that. She later wrote a book called From the CEO's Perspective to establish herself publicly as an expert in her field.




"I came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-one. I was delighted, because I was like, 'Oh! That's what's wrong with me. I mean, that's what's right with me.' You know, you do things to look the way your mother from Mississippi wants you to look, or you do things to make a career change, or to strive for a particular accomplishment. That means you have to change how you look and how you present."

Fran Dunaway likes to call herself the accidental entrepreneur. In 2013, she had a great life as a partner in a media strategies firm with big budgets and lots of vacation time. That free time led her and her wife, Naomi Gonzalez, to start a side business — because they wanted some cool button-down shirts! They picked the name TomboyX because they thought it was cute, and because the word "tomboy" opens the door to conversations about being whoever it is you want to be. When the name started to resonate with women and girls around the world, they knew they had an instant brand. Today, TomboyX has refocused solely into the underwear/loungewear market. Their message has hit home. Because people of all shapes and sizes want to unite behind a brand that stands for the values they share, TomboyX is thriving.


Making People Comfortable in Their Own Skin

Fran is active nationwide in the LGBTQIA+ community. Her company, TomboyX, which she started with wife Naomi Gonzalez, is an inspiring and innovative underwear brand that embraces gender fluidity through its myriad styles. I am inspired by Fran and Naomi's grit as two female founders who are unapologetically themselves. I love the ethos Fran has imbued into her company to own that you are cool however you are, and that you deserve to feel unapologetically good in your own skin, every day.

As a startup founder, Fran faced her share of challenges. Many founders struggle to make a living while getting a new business off the ground. When both partners are invested in the business, as Fran and Naomi are, things can get tricky. More than once she feared they wouldn't make it. They went without a salary for two years. At one point, another company launched in the Northwest with similar products and a significantly bigger marketing budget.

Fran and Naomi were getting multitudes of requests to make boxer briefs for women, and so they did some research and found that no one else was making those products. Rather than compete, they decided to step further into the white space of an unfulfilled need, thus finding the hero product around which to build a great brand.

Rather than getting angry, which is unproductive, Fran says they took the high road, and this became the impetus for their evolution into an underwear company. Fran is not only confident that TomboyX will win in this category, she believes strongly that brands emulate their founders. If that's the case, and I believe it is, then TomboyX has nothing to fear.

Fran describes what happened when she and Naomi first realized that TomboyX was resonating with a wide audience. "We saw an opportunity to address an unmet market of people that were so excited that there was finally a brand that saw them and recognized them. It became a responsibility." She goes on to talk about what the brand means to her and to society. "I think the TomboyX brand is on the pulse of a cultural change. It's not a trend, it's a new way of thinking and living and being in the world. A lot of that is around women's empowerment, but also societal norms around gender, and how much that's been hammered into us." Fran says, "It's just clothing, after all. Shouldn't you be comfortable?"

In January 2019, TomboyX won the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Business of the Year Award. (GSBA describes itself as the largest LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce in North America.) "As the company's growth has ballooned over the past six years, taking in $5.4 million of revenue in 2017, its tenets of body-positivity and empowerment have remained steady."

Once a put-down for girls who weren't considered feminine enough, I asked Fran what was behind their choice of names. "We chose TomboyX because we thought it was a cute name for a company and it was available to trademark. We both identified as tomboys when we were kids and feel like that spirit is still a big part of who we are. And yes, we wanted to reclaim it in a way that was ours." Here are their definitions of "tomboy":

1. An energetic, sometimes boisterous girl.

2. A girl who dresses and sometimes behaves the way boys are expected to.

3. A girl or a woman who DGAF about definitions 1 and 2.

4. A woman who is utterly, completely, and unapologetically herself and who is not afraid to stand up, stand out, be heard, be seen. On her terms.

5. A woman or a person who expresses and dresses herself in a way that feels authentic to her without worrying about what other people might say.

6. Is damn ok with who they are.

7. Not a phase.

8. You?

9. Me.




"I don't have a medium setting of caring. I just don't. If I am going to be true to myself and continue to give my heart, soul, and time to a professional endeavor, then I'm going to do it for something that I care about — something that I truly, truly, truly care about."

Leslie Feinzaig is the founder and CEO of the Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a grassroots network of high-growth startup founders and CEOs dedicated to helping each other succeed. What started as an informal online group has grown more than ten times in just over a year, bringing together hundreds of female founders from across North America. In 2016, Leslie launched Venture Kits, kids' games that develop leadership skills through play. Her one-of-a-kind, inspirational concept quickly garnered critical acclaim and a feature on the Today show "Parents." Prior to Venture Kits and FFA, Leslie held product leadership roles in prominent tech companies including Julep, Big Fish Games, and Microsoft. Leslie was named to the Puget Sound Business Journal's 40 Under 40, Seattle magazine's Most Influential People, and Forbes's 100 Most Powerful Women from Central America and the Caribbean. Leslie has a BSc from the London School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, and now lives in Seattle with her husband, their three-year-old daughter Dora and three-week-old daughter Ruth.


Excerpted from "Female Firebrands"
by .
Copyright © 2020 Mikaela Kiner.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction: The Career of a Lifetime 1

Part 1 Face-To-Face with the Firebrands

1 Mar Brettmann, Executive Director at BEST: Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking 21

2 Teri Citterman, Executive Performance Coach and Author of From the CEO's Perspective 25

3 Fran Dunaway, CEO/Co-Founder, TomboyX 29

4 Leslie Feinzaig, Founder and CEO, Female Founders Alliance 33

5 Cheryl Ingram, CEO and Founder, Diverse City and Inclusology 37

6 Christy Johnson, CEO and Founder, Artemis Connection 41

7 Erin Jones, Education Champion, Social Justice Advocate, Educator, and Public Speaker 45

8 Heather Lewis, Government Affairs Manager, Rover.com 49

9 Emily Parkhurst, Publisher and Market President, Puget Sound Business Journal 53

10 Tet Salva, Founder, Mom Warrior™ 57

11 Mala Singh, Chief People Officer, Electronic Arts 61

12 Kieran Snyder, CEO, Textio 65

13 Ruchika Tulshyan, Founder, Candour, and Author of The Diversity Advantage 69

Part 2 Firebrands Go Face-To-Face with the Issues

14 Privilege in the Workplace 75

15 #MeToo 117

16 Send the Elevator Back Down! 149

17 #MomToo 179

18 Every Little Step Matters 203

Glossary 207

Female Firebrands Free Online Resources 219

About the Author 221

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