Author Archives: patriciagestoso

Building a Better Future: A Feminist Approach to Board Governance

A man and a woman sat in a sofa each of them holding a toddler.
Cathy Robinson, her daughters Macey (2) and Lilly (1) and partner Paddy Reid, father of Lilly. Centre for Homelessness – Portraiture. Image credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA. Source: Centre for Homelessness Impact Library.

I’m happy to write that recently I got my first board position. More precisely, I’ve been appointed trustee at the Booth Centre, a UK charity based in Manchester with the mission to bring about positive change in the lives of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and help them plan for and realise a better future.

This is a very important milestone for me, so I wanted to take the time to savour it whilst I share it with you 

  • Why did I join a board and you should do it too?
  • How did I get the role?
  • Why homelessness?

Let’s jump in!

Why did I join a board and you should join one too?

A board of directors must ensure that the company’s corporate governance policies incorporate corporate strategy, risk management, accountability, transparency, and ethical business practices.

Similarly, a board of trustees has overall responsibility and accountability for everything the charity does. Trustees are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their charity complies with charity law and any other legal requirements.

In summary, boards are key to ensuring that organisations deliver on their mission and strategy and do so taking into account the law and relevant regulations.

How does that look in practice? Many of you may be aware by now of the board drama going on at OpenAI — developers of the Generative AI tools ChatGPT and DALL.E – during the last week. They have a very particular structure — they are governed by a nonprofit and have a capped-profit model that’s meant to ensure their commitment to safety.

On Friday November 17, their board of directors fired the CEO, Sam Altman, then appointed a provisional CEO, then appointed another interim CEO, and then on Tuesday they reinstated Altman. All in less than 7 days. It’s still not clear what was the exact reason or who was (or were) the main instigators of the overhaul.

But the board also changed. Before last week, it was integrated by Greg Brockman (Chairman & President), Ilya Sutskever (Chief Scientist), and Sam Altman (CEO), and non-employees Adam D’Angelo (Quora CEO and ex-Facebook), Tasha McCauley (GeoSim Systems CEO), Helen Toner (Director of strategy and foundational research grants at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology).

After the reinstatement of Altman, only D’Angelo remains. Accompanied by two other members:

So, we have now the leading company developing Generative AI products with a board of 3 white men: two tech bros and a man who believes that women are genetically inferior in terms of science and engineering aptitudes compared to men.

What’s not to like?

All that, when we have evidence of the benefits of having women on boards. For example, a 2023 study of women and men directors at more than 200 publicly traded companies on the major stock exchanges in the U.S. and Europe. The results provide key insights on how the presence of women influences boards. First, it turns out that women directors come to board meetings well-prepared and concerned with accountability. Second, women are not shy about acknowledging when they don’t know something, are more willing to ask in-depth questions, and seek to get things on the table. As a result, the presence of women improves the quality of discussion. Finally, “ the presence of women seems to diminish the problem of “pluralistic ignorance” — when individuals in a group underestimate the extent to which others may share their concerns.”

And it’s not only about women’s representation. Basically, we need diverse boards that benefit from members with different identities and backgrounds to drive innovation and successfully tackle the complexity of challenges organisations endure nowadays.

Still, as we see with the case of OpenAI, we rather stick with the “boys club”.

That’s where you and I have a role to play.

How did I get the role?

It was actually only about four years ago that I began to think about broadening my impact by getting a board role. It has taken time, perseverance, and support to find this trustee position that aligns with my values:

  • The first time I even considered the idea of being on a board was during a presentation from Fiona Hathorn from Women on Boards at a women in tech conference prior to the pandemic. It was like a door to another world opened for me.
  • Then, I joined Women on Boards where I learned about board CVs, was coached on how to interview for board positions, and got me into the habit of perusing their weekly board position openings for 3 years.
  • In 2022, I attended a webinar where Hedwige Nuyens talked about how European Women on Boards (EWOB) had been working in Brussels to make a reality the European Union’s Directive that introduces a binding objective of at least 40% of board members of each gender by 2026. At that moment, I realised that being on a board was more than a milestone in my career progression, it was about gender equity in decision-making.
  • Next, I joined the EWOB’s C-Level Program. The content, the speakers, and the rest of the cohort were amazing. During 4 months I looked forward to every second Thursday to savour the energy of working with another 39 women leaders for 3 intense hours. I thoroughly enjoyed crafting the presentation about the metaverse and working on the case study of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Later on, I joined the EWOB partnership team where I helped to build partnerships with UK organisations such as the Institute of Directors (IoD) and spearheaded collaborations with initiatives such as Women in Risk and Control (WiRC).
  • During those years when I was keeping an eye on the advertised board roles, there were many people and groups that provided advice and, without maybe knowing it, kept me accountable for finding a board role in spite of the rejections along the way.
  • Finally, interviewing for the Booth Centre was a truly enjoyable experience. In addition to its purpose — which I’ll talk about in the next section — the interview process made me feel that my lived experience as an immigrant and my professional skills as an inclusion strategist were both valued by the organisation and would bring complementary perspectives to the organisation. As I wrote before, this truly made me feel welcome — not just “tolerated”. The upside for the organisation? That even if I hadn’t gotten the role, I’d still be thinking highly of them.

Why homelessness?

Some of you may be wondering the reason that I chose to be a trustee of a charity focused on homelessness and not one that supports women only. After all, I’ve been very vocal about my identity as a feminist. 

My answer is that tackling homelessness is a very feminist issue because, among other things, is about

  • Intersectionality
  • Solidarity
  • Tackling systemic problems
  • Identifying asymmetry of power
  • Human rights
  • Epistemic justice 

And homelessness is now in need of a feminist approach more than ever because

  • When we talk about inclusion, we often forget about homeless people. Moreover, we “classify” them as “people sleeping rough” which actually is not representative of the scale of the problem. Often, our stereotypical mental image of a homeless person is a white man in his 40s-50s to whom we attach labels such as alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. That’s not the full picture.
  • Whilst there are about 2,400 people in the UK sleeping rough on any given night, there are more than 83,000 households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness. This is called statutory homelessness.
  • But the problem is even bigger. There are people effectively homeless but neither visible nor in official homeless stats — e.g. severe overcrowding, concealed or sharing. It’s called hidden homelessness.
  • The economic crisis puts more people at risk of eviction.
  • It’s forecasted that artificial intelligence may have a big impact on the workforce. Those bearing the brunt of the layoffs may be less able to afford their house rent.
  • 40% of homeless women state domestic abuse as a contributory factor to their homelessness. Layoffs and financial distress are triggers of partner violence.
  • We hear our politicians talk about homelessness being a lifestyle choice, criminalising immigrants, and missing that homelessness is a symptom, not an illness. A symptom of a society that doesn’t “tolerate” what sees as “failure”. That blames those that fall through the cracks of the system, differ from the stereotype of what’s considered a “valuable contributor”, or are labelled as “broken” or “losers”. In summary, a society that it’s rather a group of individuals rather than a community of human beings that are interconnected.

As this was not enough, Generative AI is making it easier to reinforce our biased mental models. When asked to ‘describe a homeless person’ a Gen AI tool answered with the following:

“A homeless person looks disheveled, with grimy clothes and unkempt hair. They move from place to place with all their possessions, often scavenging from bins. Their faces show a certain amount of sadness and loneliness with a broken spirit that tells a story of a difficult journey. There is often a sense of hopelessness about them, a feeling of being lost and out of place.”

And images of homeless people produced by Generative AI tools when prompted to draw a ‘person experiencing homelessness’ often reproduce those harmful stereotypes: white men in their 40s-50s with long beards dressed in stained outdoor hiking jackets.

In summary, no shortage of angles that can benefit from a feminist framework!

Wrapping up

I hope by now I’ve convinced you that you can be part of the solution by aiming high — at the board level.

Some ways you can do that are

  • Applying for board and trustee positions.
  • If you work for a publicly traded company, you have access to a lot of information about the board. For example, who are their members, how much they are paid, or what resolutions they have taken. What does that tell you about who oversees the strategy of your company?
  • Check the makeup of the boards of the organisations you admire or of companies that create products you like and compare them with their values and mission statements around diversity and inclusion — do they walk the talk? If not, what can you do as a buyer?

BACK TO YOU: Will you step up to the challenge?

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Navigating Life as a Global Immigrant: A Humorous Perspective

A woman sitting on the floor next to a pile of suitcases.
Photo by mahdi chaghari on Unsplash.

This week is Thanksgiving in the US. As a person who has lived in six countries on 3 continents and moved house about 30 times, I’m deeply grateful to the countries and “locals” that have welcomed me through the years.

Of course, not all my experiences as an immigrant have been uplifting. I’ve had my share of frustrations and disappointments. And also, some laughs.

This week, I want to share an article I wrote for Certain Age Magazine that just got published. It’s called “Laughing at Stereotypes: An Immigrant’s Survival Guide”. In it, I offer 7 hard-earned gems of advice — plus a healthy dose of humour — for aspiring immigrants.

I hope it brings a smile to your face.

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Theft of the Mind: When Women’s Ideas Become Men’s Triumphs

Smiling woman with big mirror in nature. The mirror is in front of her body reflecting nature, so it's like she was transparent.
Photo by Kalpit Khatri.

Generative AI — and more precisely ChatGPT and text-to-image tools like Midjourney — have prompted a flurry of strikes and pushback from visual and writing professionals. And rightly so.

The reason? Book authors, painters, and screenwriters feel that’s unfair that tech companies earn money by creating tools based on scrapping their work result of many years spent learning their craft. All that without acknowledging intellectual property or providing financial compensation.

They say that this is “the first time in history” this has happened.

I dissent. This has been happening for centuries — to women. Let me explain.

There are three reasons that typically come up to explain why there haven’t been more women artists and scientists through the centuries:

  • Women have been too busy with children and house chores to dedicate time — and have the space — to scientific and artistic pursuits.
  • In many cultures, men have been priorised to go to school and university over women.
  • To avoid bias against their work, some women decided to publish their work under a male pen name or to disguise themselves as men

But there is a fourth cause. When women’s outstanding work has been credited to a man. So although the work itself may have won a Nobel prize or be showcased in museums, libraries, and galleries, it has been attributed to a man instead of the rightful female author.

​Hepeating​: When a man takes credit for what a woman already said

Let’s review some unsung sheroes of science and art.

Science and art — a land with no women?

Let’s start with science

What about art?

Not enough? Mother Jones has put together ​an insightful timeline of men getting credit for women’s accomplishments​. Some gems

  • In the 12th century, “Trota of Salerno” authors a gynecology handbook, On the Sufferings of Women. However, until the end of the last century, sholars falsely assumed Trota was a man.
  • In 1818, “Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein anonymously. Her husband pens the preface and people assume he was behind it.”
  • In 1859, “after 10 years working with engineers to design signal flares, Martha Coston is listed as “administratrix” on the patent. Her long-dead husband is listed as the inventor.”
  • In 1970, “forty-six female researchers sued the magazine Newsweek, alleging that male writers and editors took all the credit for their efforts”.

And the uncredited others

  • ​Healers and midwives ​— Women were the original healers, using herbs and remedies to cure alignments and help with deliveries, contraception, and abortion. As no good deed goes unpunished, a lot of them would end up burning at the stake. How much of our current medicine is based on those uncredited healers?
  • Brewers — From the earliest evidence of brewing (7000 BCE) until its commercialisation, ​women were the primary brewers on all inhabited continents​. But who do you picture in your mind when you think of a “brewer”?

Our gendered standards of excellence

Above I shared some examples of women’s extraordinary work stolen by others (or conveniently forgotten).

But the problem runs deeper because we’re educated to consider men’s contributions extraordinary whilst than of women’s ordinary.

  • Let’s take parenthood. A woman takes her children to school — it’s her job. A man takes his children to school — he’s a dedicated father and a beacon for other parents.
  • A woman leads a project — she’s organised. A man leads a project — he’s a project manager.
  • Women are “cooks” and men are “chefs”.

And the list goes on…

What to do differently?

Let’s start acknowledging good work by women — and I’m very intentional when I say “good” and not “stellar” work.

At the same time, let’s stop glorifying each little thing a man does. Is really setting up the washing machine such a big accomplishment?

But how to overcome millennia of indoctrination?

Five years ago, I published a post showcasing a ​6-min TED talk from Kristen Pressner​ where she explained a practical technique to double-check our gender biases. It’s called “Flip it to test it!”

It’s a very simple method: When in doubt, flip the gender and see how it lands.

In practice

  • Would you praise John for taking his children to school if instead was their mother, Jane?
  • Would you diminish the role of Rita leading a project as simply being “a good team player” if Mike had led the project instead?

In summary, let’s purposely acknowledge the good work of women around us. We cannot overdo it — we have centuries to catch up on.

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Insights from Four Women’s Conferences: The Value of Collective Female Wisdom

Four images: (1) Announcement of Patricia Gestoso’s talk “Automated out of work: AI’s impact on the female workforce” at the Women in Tech Festival, (2) Four British female politicians in a panel at the Fawcett Conference 2023, (3) Agenda of the Empowered to Lead Conference 2023, (4) Announcement of Patricia Gestoso’s talk “Seven Counterintuitive Secrets to a Thriving Career in Tech” at the Manchester Tech Festival.
Collage and photos by Patricia Gestoso.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the privilege to attend four different conferences focused on women and I’ve presented at two of them.

The topics discussed were as complex and rich as women’s lives: neurodiversity in the workplace, women in politics, childcare, artificial intelligence and the future of the female workforce, child labour, impossible goals and ambition, postpartum depression at work, career myths, women in tech, accessibility, quotas… and so many more.

The idea for this article came from my numerous “aha” moments during talks, panels, and conversations at those events. I wanted to share them broadly so others could benefit as well.

I hope you find those insights as inspiring, stimulating, and actionable as I did.

Fawcett Conference 2023

On October 14th, I attended the Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women Win Elections!

The keynote speakers and panels were excellent. The discussions were thought-provoking and space was held for people to voice their dissent. I especially appreciated listening to women politicians discuss feminist issues.

Below are some of my highlights

  • The need to find a space for feminist men.
  • It’s time for us to go outside our comfort zone.
  • “If men had the menopause, Trafalgar Square Fountain would be pouring oestrogen gel.”
  • If we want to talk about averages, the average voter is a woman. There are slightly more women than men (51% women) and they live longer.
  • Men-only decision-making is not legitimate, i.e. not democratic. Women make up the majority of individuals in the UK but the minority in decision-making. Overall, diversity is an issue of legitimacy.
  • The prison system for women forgets their children.
  • Challenging that anti-blackness/racism is not seen as a topic at the top of the agenda for the next election.
  • We believe “tradition matters” so things have gone backwards from the pandemic for women.
  • In Australia, the Labour Party enforced gender quotas within the party. That led to increasing women’s representation to 50%. The Conservative Party went for mentoring women — no quotas — and that only increased women’s participation to 30%.
  • There is a growing toxicity in X/Twitter against women. Toxic men’s content gets promoted. We need better regulation of social media.
  • More women vote but decide later in the game.
  • We cannot afford not to be bold with childcare. The ROI is one of the highest.
  • We need to treat childcare as infrastructure. 
  • There are more portraits of horses in parliament than of women.

Empowered to Lead Conference 2023

On Saturday 28th October, I attended the “Empowered to Lead” Conference 2023 organised by She leads for legacy — a community of individuals and organisations working together to reduce the barriers faced by Black female professionals aspiring for senior leadership and board level positions.

It was an amazing day! I didn’t stop all day: listening to inspiring role models, taking notes, and meeting great women.

Some of the highlights below

Sharon Amesu

3 Cs:

  • Cathedral thinking — Think big.
  • Courageous leadership — Be ambitious.
  • Command yourself — Have the discipline to do things even if you’re afraid.

Dr Tessy Ojo CBE

  • We ask people what they want to do only when they are children — that’s wrong. We need to learn and unlearn to take up the space we deserve.
  • Three nuggets of wisdom: Audacity/confidence, ambition, and creativity/curiosity.
  • Audacity— Every day we give permission to others to define us. Audacity is about being bold. Overconsultation kills your dream. It’s about going for it even if you feel fear.
  • Ambition — set impossible goals (Patricia’s note: I’m a huge fan of impossible goals. I started the year setting mine on the article Do you want to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equity in 2023? Embrace impossible goals)
  • Creativity & curiosity — takes discipline not to focus on the things that are already there. Embrace diverse thinking.
  • Question 1: What if you were the most audacious, the most ambitious, and the most creative?
  • Question 2: May you die empty? Would you have used all your internal resources?

Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE

  • Childhood lasts a lifetime. We need to tell children that they are worth it.
  • Over 250 children die from suicide a year.
  • When she arrived in the UK, there were signs with the text “No Irish, no dogs, no coloureds”.
  • After Brexit, a man pushed his trolley onto her and told her, “What are you still doing here?” She replied, “I’m here changing the world, what are you doing here?”
  • She was the first anchor-woman to appear pregnant on TV in the world.
  • “I pushed the ladder down for others.”
  • “The wise man forgives but doesn’t forget. If you don’t forgive you become a victim.”
  • ‘Black History Month should be the whole year’.
  • 3 Cs: Consideration, contentment (satisfaction), courage.
  • ‘Every disappointment is an appointment with something better’.

Jenny Garrett OBE

Rather than talking about “underrepresentation”, let’s talk about “underestimation”.

Nadine Benjamin MBE

  • What do you think you sound? Does how you sound support who you want to be?
  • You’re a queen. Show up for yourself.

Additionally, Sue Lightup shared details about the partnership between Queen Bee Coaching (QBC)  — an organisation for which I volunteer as a coach — and She Leads for Legacy (SLL).

Last year, QBC successfully worked with SLL as an ally, providing a cohort of 8 black women from the SLL network with individual coaching from QBC plus motivational leadership from SLL. 

At the conference, the application process for the second cohort was launched!

Women in Tech Festival

I delivered a keynote at this event on Tuesday 31st October. The topic was the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of the female workforce.

When I asked the 200+ attendees if they felt that the usage of AI would create or destroy jobs for them, I was surprised to see that the audience was overwhelmingly positive about the adoption of this technology.

Through my talk, I shared the myths we have about technology (our all-or-nothing mindset), what we know about the impact of AI on the workforce from workers whose experience is orchestrated by algorithms, and four different ways in which we can use AI to progress in our careers.

As I told the audience, the biggest threat to women’s work is not AI. It’s patriarchy feeling threatened by AI. And if you want to learn more about my views on the topic, go to my previous post Artificial intelligence’s impact on the future of the female workforce.

The talk was very well received and people approached me afterwards sharing how much the keynote had made them reflect on the impact of AI on the labour market. I also volunteered for mentoring sessions during the festival and all my on-the-fly mentees told me that the talk had provided them with a blueprint for how to make AI work for them.

I also collected gems of wisdom from other women’s interventions

  • Our workplaces worship the mythical “uber-productive” employee.
  • We must be willing to set boundaries around what we’re willing to do and what not.
  • It may be difficult to attract women to tech startups. One reason is that it’s riskier, so women may prefer to go to more established companies.
  • Workforce diversity is paramount to mitigate biases in generative AI tools.

I found the panel about quotas for women in leadership especially insightful

  • Targets vs quotas: “A target is an aspiration whilst a quota must be met”.
  • “Quotas shock the system but they work”.
  • Panelists shared evidence of how a more diverse leadership led to a more diverse offering and benefits for customers. 
  • For quotas to work is crucial to look at the data. Depending on the category, it may be difficult to get those data. You need to build trust — show that’s for a good purpose.
  • In law firms, you can have 60% of solicitors that are women but when you look at the partners is a different story — they are mostly men. 
  • A culture of presenteeism hurts women in the workplace. 
  • There are more CEOs in the UK FTSE 100 named Peter than women.
  • Organisations lose a lot of women through perimenopause and menopause because they don’t feel supported.

There was a very interesting panel on neurodiversity in the workplace 

  • Neurodivergent criteria have been developed using neurodivergent men as the standard so often they miss women. 
  • The stereotype is that if you have ADHD, you should do badly in your studies. For example, a woman struggled to get an ADHD diagnosis because she had completed a PhD.
  • Women mask neurodivergent behaviours better than men. Masking requires a lot of effort and it’s very taxing. 
  • We need more openness about neurodiversity in the workplace.

Manchester Tech Festival

On Wednesday 1st November, I delivered a talk in the Women in Tech & Tech for Good track at the Manchester Tech Festival.

The title of my talk was “Seven Counterintuitive Secrets to a Thriving Career in Tech” and the purpose was to share with the audience key learnings from my career in tech across 3 continents, spearheading several DEI initiatives in tech, coaching and mentoring women and people from underrepresented communities in tech, as well as writing a book about how women succeed in tech worldwide.

First, I debunked common beliefs such as that there is a simple solution to the lack of women in leadership positions in tech or that you need to be fixed to get to the top. Then, I presented 7 proven strategies to help the audience build a successful, resilient, and sustainable career in tech.

I got very positive feedback about the talk during the day and many women have reached out on social media since to share how they’ve already started applying some of the strategies.

Some takeaways from other talks:

I loved Becki Howarth’s interactive talk about allyship at work where she shared how you can be an ally in four different aspects:

  • Communication and decision-making — think about power dynamics, amplify others, don’t interrupt, and create a system that enables equal participation.
  • Calling out (everyday) sexism — use gender-neutral language, you don’t need to challenge directly, support the recipient (corridor conversations). 
  • Stuff around the edges of work — create space for people to connect organically, don’t pressure people to share, and rotate social responsibilities so everyone pulls their weight.
  • Taking on new opportunities — some people need more encouragement than others, and ask — don’t assume.

The talk of Lydia Hawthorn about postpartum depression in the workplace was both heartbreaking and inspiring. She provided true gems of wisdom:

  • Up to 15% of women will experience postpartum depression.
  • Talk about the possibility of postpartum depression before it happens.
  • Talk to your employer about flexible options.
  • Consider a parent-buddy scheme at work.
  • Coaching and therapy can be lifesaving.

Amelia Caffrey gave a very dynamic talk about how to use ChatGPT for coding. One of the most interesting aspects she brought up for me is that there is no more excuse to write inaccessible code. For example, you can add in the prompt the requisite that the code must be accessible for people using screen readers.

Finally, one of the most touching talks was from Eleanor Harry, Founder and CEO of HACE: Data Changing Child Labour. Their mission is to eradicate child labour in company supply chains.

There are 160 million children in child labour as of 2020. HACE is launching the Child Labour Index; the only quantitative metric in the world for child labour performance at a company level. Their scoring methodology is based on cutting-edge AI technologies, combined with HACE’s subject matter expertise. The expectation is the index provides the investor community with quantitative leverage to push for stronger company performance on child labour.

Eleanor’s talk was an inspiring example of what tech and AI for good look like.

Back to you

With so many men competing in the news, social media, and bookstores for your attention, how are you making sure you give other women’s wisdom the consideration it deserves?

Work with me — My special offer

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You have 55 days to the end of 2023. I dare you to

  • Leave behind the tiring to-do list imposed by society’s expectations.
  • Learn how to love who you truly are.
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For £875.00, we’ll dive into where you are now and the results you want to create, we’ll uncover the obstacles in your way, explore strategies to overcome them, and implement a plan.

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Artificial intelligence’s impact on the future of female workforce

Portrait of a simulated middle-aged white woman against a black background. The scene is refracted in different ways by a fragmented glass grid. This grid is a visual metaphor for the way that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies can be used to simulate and reflect the human experience in unexpected ways. A distorted neural network diagram is overlaid, familiarising the viewer with the formal architecture of AI systems.
Image by Alan Warburton / © BBC / Better Images of AI / Virtual Human / CC-BY 4.0.

I was delighted to be interviewed by John Leonard at ​Computing​ – a source for end-user IT news, analysis and insight around the world – about my talk ​Automated out of work: AI’s impact on the female workforce​ at the Women in Tech Festival on Tuesday October 31st in London.

I reproduce below the interview. You’ll find at the end additional reflections framed as Q&A.


Patricia Gestoso, is an award-winning technologist and inclusion strategist with over 20 years of experience in digital transformation with a focus on client service, artificial intelligence, and inclusive and ethical design of technology and workplaces.

Patricia will be giving a talk about the impact of AI on the workplace and workers at the Women in Tech Festival in October. We do hope you’ll be able to join us.

In the meantime, we caught up with Patricia and asked her to give us a taster.

How did you become interested in the topic of AI?

As a Director of Support for a scientific and engineering software corporation, I see how AI helps our customers every day to accelerate drug discovery, clinical trials, and research on new materials.

On the flip side, as an inclusion strategist and collaborator on initiatives such as the ​Race and AI toolkit​ and ​Better Images of AI​, I’m also aware of the different ways in which AI helps encode and automate biases.

That’s the reason why in the last three years I’ve been actively fostering discussion about the benefits and challenges that AI brings to inclusion, equity, and sustainability on ​social media​ as well as through ​keynotes​ and ​articles​.

Your talk is titled: “Automated out of work: AI’s impact on the female workforce”. Are women likely to be disproportionately affected in the next wave of automation?

It’s important to take a step back and see where those predictions of women more likely to be negatively affected in the next wave of automation. They come from several assumptions.

First, that there are certain sectors that will be more impacted than others. Then, that the impact on those sectors will be negative on the less skilled workers, next that those workers are women, and finally, that people prefer to interact with machines than with humans.

On the flip side, we have other studies that tell us that the most impacted will be white-collar workers like software engineers – who are overwhelming men – or lawyers – where which gender is overrepresented depends on the practice area.

In case this was not contradictory enough, we’re also told that the roles that AI won’t displace will be those that are related to soft skills and studies show that women are great at those – collaboration, listening, and championing a common plan.

The reality is that when we see how’s already impacted by automation, it’s easy to argue that it’s mostly men. Workers at Amazon’s warehouses, Uber drivers, or Deliveroo riders. Their work is scheduled and constantly monitored by AI. Moreover, when we look at who’s raising the alarm about generative AI stealing their jobs right now, we see book authors, screenwriters, and actors. Again, professions that are far from failing in the “female job” category.

For me, talking about the next wave of automation disproportionately affecting women is to deflect from the reality that AI is already affecting the workforce dramatically right now. And it’s not fortuitous. It’s the old strategy of “divide and conquer”. By saying “it’ll be worse in the future and women’s jobs will be the most affected,” it aims to keep men quiet with the false premise that they should conform because their jobs are “safe”.

Are there ways that women and other underrepresented groups can harness the technology to their advantage to mitigate some of these scenarios? If so what do they need to do and where should they start?

I’ll go into more detail in my talk, but there are three obvious areas where women and underrepresented groups can harness technology to their advantage.

First, increasing their negotiation power. If we look at the industrial revolution, the disruption was massive. Loss of jobs, exhausting work schedules, child labour. What’s changed the game? Unions. This is no different now with Amazon workers and screenwriters. Social platforms and digital tools such as apps are powerful means to organise resistance.

Next, learning about AI. Ignoring new technology is not the answer because AI is not going away anytime soon. However, when I said learning, I’m not necessarily suggesting to become an AI software developer. I’m talking about following the major trends in AI, understanding how they impact your industry – what are the major risks and possible rewards – and getting involved in projects aimed at exploring the capabilities that AI can bring to your business.

Finally, discovering how AI can augment you as a professional. We see a lot in the media about the need to learn about how to work “for” or “with” AI. For me, the key is to learn how you can use AI tools to strengthen your capabilities.

Tech has a tendency to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the already rich and powerful. Is AI likely to continue or even exacerbate this tendency?

AI is already benefiting those who have privileges and disadvantaging those who face more challenges. The Race and AI toolkit mentioned previously showcases many examples where non-White people are consistently sidelined by AI in areas such as healthcare, education, and justice.

The reason? Garbage in, garbage out. We’re feeding AI data that is generated by narrow sectors of the population and that doesn’t reflect our diversity or values as a society.

Unfortunately, attempts to limit the reach of AI tools are seen as attempts to stop progress. No different than what happened to Luddites 200 years ago. The reality is that tech is playing to our FOMO – [fear of missing out] anxiety – telling us we either let AI run wild or we’ll miss out on new drugs and cure cancer. To me, that’s akin to saying, you either let fire run wild or you won’t have fire at all. We’ve survived because we decided that we’re happy to have fire to cook and heat ourselves but that if it goes to our curtains we’ll put it out. AI shouldn’t be treated differently.

Who do you hope to reach with your keynote at the Women in Tech Festival?

I hope my talk reassures those who are frightened that AI will take their jobs that they are not powerless. I also aim to provide actionable strategies to incorporate AI into their professional careers to those that are wondering how to jump on the AI bandwagon. Finally, I hope to reach out to those who are curious about exploring alternative futures to dystopia and utopia, where rather than humans in the loop, humans are in the driving seat and machines are in the loop.

Additional reflections on women, work, and AI

What are your concerns regarding how AI will affect the future of work for women?

The main one is deskilling. To understand the concept, it is useful to remember the Luddite movement that I mentioned above.

​The Luddites were British weavers and textile workers who objected to the increased use of mechanised manufacturing​ at the beginning of the 19th century.

Most were trained artisans who had spent years learning their craft, and they feared that unskilled machine operators were robbing them of their livelihood. As you see, their problem was not the technology in itself but the deskilling of workers.

And I could see how that may happen to women in the future. For example, those with university degrees in computing could be offered work as “prompt engineers” when they come back from maternity leave, with the resulting career and salary demotion. Or administrative professionals may get relegated to fact-checking and improving reports produced by generative AI applications, making their contribution “invisible”.

Is technology an enemy of women?

Technology has enabled women to get financially remunerated for their work. Consider the washing machine, tap water, and electricity. In places where those technologies are not available, women spend their days making up for it – typically for free.

The problem has always been that women have only been able to benefit from technology when it suited men.

For example, during the Industrial Revolution, women and children worked for less pay, which was very profitable for companies.

Women tended to receive between one-third to one-half of a man’s average salary. As the manufacturing industries began to grow, they would take advantage of these low average salaries amongst women and children. The ability to employ these women and children for little pay proved to be very beneficiary to these companies. Many industries exploited these people’s need for money, as they would turn a major profit in exchange for very cheap labor. Tasks such as printing, spinning, and other duties commonly learned at home were easy jobs to learn and were some of the most profitable.

Foundations of Western Culture course at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay​

As we can see, both the gender pay gap and genderisation of work were already at the core of the Industrial Revolution.

Another example is the tech sector. In the 1930s, women were hired to solve mathematical problems that were considered at the time as repetitive work. Some of those calculations were as complex as determining how to get a human into space and back. When computers took off in the 1960s women became the programmers while men focused on the hardware which was regarded as the most challenging work.

However, ​as programming gained status during the 1980s, men pushed women out of those jobs.​ That prompted a sharp increase in the salaries of software developers, institutionalising patriarchy and the gender pay gap.

The same with AI. We like to anthropomorphise artificial intelligence to deflect our responsibility. We say “AI will automate jobs” or “AI will replace people” but the reality is that those decisions are and will be taken by humans.

In summary, It’s not technology the enemy of women’s paid work but other human beings that see it as “a nice to have” and not deemed to be retributed as that of men. Human beings are also those who also decide that caregiving for family members is “not a job”.

The biggest threat to women’s work is not AI. It’s patriarchy feeling threatened by AI.

Patricia Gestoso

How to upend your life: Become an accidental caregiver

Close-up of two people holding their hands.
Photo by Thirdman.

This is the final article in a trilogy based on my summer holiday. Each piece marks an important milestone in my evolution as an activist for women’s rights and also as a person. The first one was about the invisibility of women in public spaces (Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women). The second one was about the visibility of harassment in the workplace.

This one comes full circle. It’s about the invisibility of a very specific kind of work: caregiving.

The invisibility of carework

On August 25th my family and I traveled from Malta, where we had spent one week of holiday, to Vigo, in the Northwest of Spain. My plan was to spend 10 additional vacation days with my parents and brother before coming back to the UK.

We had a fluid plan for the remaining days: Going to Porto one day, visiting my grandmother on her farm, going to Santiago de Compostela for shopping, celebrating my mother and sister-in-law birthday’s, and visiting some cool restaurants.

The next day, August 26th, my mother broke her hip whilst walking to Vigo downtown.

From there, it was all a roller-coaster. All comes in flashbacks

  • Going in the ambulance with my mother.
  • Waiting in the emergency ward for the doctors to confirm what my mother had sensed, she had a broken hip.
  • Learning how to help my mother whilst minimising hurting her.
  • Sleeping in a hospital care chair.
  • Trying to guess went my mother was suffering because of her tendency to put up with pain.
  • Going to the hospital cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the amount of work involved.

  • My research on the effect of COVID-19 on the unpaid work of women demonstrates the massive hidden work towards caring for the elderly and other family members.
  • My current research for the book How Women Succeed in Tech has confirmed the huge penalty imposed by eldercare on women. It’s typically not recognised in the workplace leave entitlements — like parental leave — or by the state, so women are left to shoulder the brunt of the care to reduce the financial burden even to the extent, in some cases, of being pushed to make the hard decision to not have children.
  • All my life, I’ve seen the women in my family – my grandmother and aunts – assume the care of their elders and sick husbands on top of their work. Without transition and, as expected, without retribution.

What did surprise me was the mental load of my conflicting emotions. Feeling

  • Guilty when thinking that I was not doing enough in my role as caregiver.
  • Selfish the nights I shifted turns with my father and I went to sleep at my brother’s house whilst he slept at the hospital.
  • Resentful and angry because after so many months and years of waiting for this reunion, I felt we didn’t deserve to spend it in the hospital. 
  • Sad when my mother would blame herself for “ruining” the holidays for everybody.
  • Inadequate for not knowing off the bat how to move the hospital bed or make work the pay-as-you-go TV.

What helped? Remembering my training as a life coach. Through self-coaching techniques.

  • I limited useless rumination. Early in the ordeal, I was able to pause and ask myself, “What is the true purpose of this holiday?”. I answered, “To be with my family”. From that moment, I decided that the whole incident had not detracted from the purpose of the trip and that from that point of view, the holiday was a success.
  • It also helped to reduce the tendency to give advice to others about what to think or feel. Instead, I was often able to shift into curiosity and spend more time listening and asking about their thoughts and feelings.
  • I put things into context. I asked myself, “If my mother were to break her hip anyway and I could be anywhere in the world, what would have been my choice?”. The answer was straightforward. It would be exactly as it happened.
  • I gave myself permission to name and process my emotions. Not only anger, disappointment, or sadness but also relief when my mother came back from the successful surgery and joy when I saw her walking the next day.

Coming back to the UK

I was not prepared for the exhaustion and mental fatigue that I experienced once back in Manchester. I guess that I thought that as soon as I’d be home, I’d resume my normal life. 

Nothing farther from the truth. I felt depleted mentally and physically. I had plenty of deadlines but my brain and body wanted to rest.

Then, I did something unusual for me, I pushed back on agreed deadlines.

I consider myself very dependable, so it was hard to share with people what happened and ask for more time to send an article, prepare a presentation, or record a video.

The good news was that everybody was very understanding. Deadlines were extended and I delivered the work. 

I felt relieved and thankful. 

Still, I thought, “What if this was a common occurrence?”, “Would the people around me have been so understanding?“

My learnings

Reading a book teaching how to drive a car is not the same as driving it. Watching a video about unconscious bias doesn’t mean that we stop being affected by stereotypes.

My research into unpaid caregiving opened my eyes to this invisible sink of women’s work. Through the data and the stories of women, I was able to quantify the effort not recognised, the time invested, the unearned money, and the lost career opportunities.

But this experience made it personal and urgent. Because in a world that still grapples with recognizing childcare as an infrastructure, eldercare is invisible, even if our societies get older and older.

Recently, I was at the feminist Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women Win Elections! Of course, support for mothers was at the top of the agenda from the early morning. And rightly so. 

What concerned me it’s that it was presented as “the” item to tackle, even if during the event it became clear that eldercare — among other challenges — needs to be addressed for women to present themselves as political candidates.

Then, why do we only focus on childcare? Because we continue to think of women as second-class citizens who have only the right to one “ask” at a time. And that is “childcare”.

However, this is not a contest. Chances are that as a woman you may become a “sandwich carer” at some point  — those who care for both sick, disabled, or older relatives and dependent children.

In 2019, the UK Office for National Statistics reported that sandwich carers (about 3% of the UK general population) were more likely to report symptoms of mental ill-health, feel less satisfied with life, and struggle financially compared with the general population. Moreover, the prevalence of mental ill-health increases with the amount of care given per week. 

In summary, asking our societies to recognise the multiple identities women can embody beyond motherhood is “too much”, so we keep invisibilizing and minimising our efforts. We think that by patiently staying in line and asking for one “favour” at a time we’ll get to the finish line of gender equality.

The problem is that by continuing what we’re doing, we’ll have to wait 300 years more to reach gender equality as per the UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The cure

I don’t want to die feeling that I’m the child of a lesser god. Do you?

We women need to stop conforming ourselves with less and demand much more from our partners, our families, our workplaces, our society, and our governments. 

We need to stop “being mindful” of the inflation, the NHS crisis, the strikes, the wars…

We need to stop believing that we need to be the adults in the room, the ones that are ready to make sacrifices for the common good, the half of the humanity that is expected to “shut up and do the work”.

Let’s be bold and put ourselves first. Because when women win, 8 billion people win.

Thanks for your support

When I started writing these three articles, I thought of them as three distinct episodes with the common thread of my holidays and women. I was surprised how “visibility” weaved into each of them naturally.

Allowing myself the time for this exploration has been liberating and, at the same time, constraining. Liberating because of the format but constraining because of my self-imposed commitment to both exploring the uncomfortable aspects of the topics as well as reflecting on the alternatives.

Thanks again for accompanying me along this trilogy. 

Work with me — My special offer

“What if the rest of this year is the best of this year?”

You have 75 days to the end of 2023. You can continue to do what you’re doing. But there is a different way.

  • What if you could master your mind so you could take your life and career to a whole new level?
  • What if you could learn how not to depend on others’ praise and criticism so you could feel worthy of love and success from the insight?
  • What if you could stop the habits that don’t serve you well and have a better work-life balance?

If that resonates with you, my 3-month 1:1 coaching program “Upwards and Onwards” is for you.

For £875.00, we’ll dive into where you are now and the results you want to create, we’ll uncover the obstacles in your way, explore strategies to overcome them, and implement a plan.

Contact me to explore how we can work together.

From the Bible to the Football Field: Harassment in the Workplace

Black and white photo of young man covering his face with his hands.
Photo by Santiago Sauceda González.

This week my article comes with a little delay because I spent the weekend in London attending the Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women win elections! and celebrating my birthday.

And now, back to the post.

As I mentioned last week, this is the second of a series of three articles based on my summer holiday. Each marks an important milestone in my evolution as an activist for women’s rights and also as a person. The first one was about the invisibility of women in public spaces (Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women). The focus of this one is on the visibility of harassment.


On August 20th I was on holiday in Malta with my family. I’m not a football fan but it was impossible to visit the webpage of a Spanish or English journal and ignore that the Women’s World Cup final was scheduled for that day between the two countries.

I didn’t watch the match but I kept checking the results as I was walking through the streets of La Valetta, Malta’s capital. And I was happy when I learned they had won. (To be honest, I would only have been mildly disappointed if England had won instead, after all, I’ve been living in the UK for 19 years).

Then, I read about the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) kissing one of the female Spanish football players during the medal presentation.

I couldn’t believe it. A kiss on the lips in front of everybody? The cameras broadcasting the event? It couldn’t be…

So I searched the image. And it was there. 

What happened next was textbook sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The abuser

Once his victim dared to express that she didn’t like the kiss, the president of the RFEF followed the typical pattern that a perpetrator of wrongdoing may display when confronted with their behaviour: Deny, Attack, and Reverse the Victim with the Offender, which is referred to by the acronym DARVO.

  • He denied that it was harassment.
  • He accused others of seeing harassment where there wasn’t.
  • He consistently refused it was his fault.
  • He claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt.

The cherry on the cake? The defense tactic that never dies: “I have daughters”.

How many times have we heard abusers claim that having daughters automatically rules out that they can be harassers, rapists, or murderers? 

What about the others?

  • The RFEP stood by their boss, even releasing a note that analysed the positions of the body of the female football player to imply she was the one kissing him.
  • On 25th August, the president addressed the RFEF in an in-person event. Instead of resigning, he complained of being the object of a manhunt and confirmed he’d continue in his role. The attendees applauded, including other top bosses of the RFEF and the coach of the female football team.
  • Hardly any male football teams denounced the issue and only a few male players supported the female footballer.
  • The UEFA, the FIFA, and many other federations closed their eyes as much as they could.
  • Even after the RFEF president resigned, the female players had to continue to exert pressure to get the reforms that they’d been asking for years.

Harassment has a long tradition

Is sexual harassment in the workplace new? And is it really hidden?

Before #MeToo, there was the American attorney and educator Anita Hill. In 1991, she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment when he was appointed to the US Supreme Court. Her testimony has been credited with raising awareness of workplace sexual harassment.

But almost a century ago, actresses Shirley Temple and Judy Garland had already endured sexual harassment in the workplace at the ages of 12 and 16, respectively. 

Before the 20th century, women were seen as “property” so rather than complaining about sexual harassment, their “owners” (fathers, husbands) asked compensation for “damaging goods”. Historian Ed Ayers shares an example in this interview: “There’s an 1858 case … the father sues his daughter’s employer — she’s 14 — for getting her pregnant, and thus losing her income when she has to quit and have the baby.”

In her book Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks opens our eyes to the sexual assault Black women underwent during slavery. It was either comply or be punished. 

Would you be surprised if I told you that we have records of sexual harassment in the workplace happening 3,000 years ago? The Book of Ruth in the Bible is dated around 1160 and 1100 BC. One of the pivotal moments in the Book is when Ruth becomes a gleaner in Boaz’s field. He instructs his workers not to molest her (Ruth 2: 7–9, 15–16). And whilst the Catholic Bible in English may leave doubts about what “molesting” means, the text was originally written in Hebrew and many Bible scholars have found sexual overtones in it

Basically, Boaz knew his workers were predators and he decided to spare Ruth by explicitly telling them not to molest her. How kind of him! What about other women? What about instead firing them?

Boys will be boys…

Willful blindness

Back to the football drama. 

This was not the first time the now ex-president of the RFEP was involved in a story of sex at work. In 2020, there was money expensed towards an off-site work event run in a cottage that he later referred to as a “ paella with girlfriends” and his uncle and ex-cabinet manager as an orgy.

Years ago, the Spanish female footballers had already reported that their coach forced them to keep the doors of their rooms open until midnight so he could check by himself that they were there. He also would check their bags when they were back from shopping and, if they went out, they should inform him where they were going and with whom.

Sounds familiar. When we look at #MeToo or the sexual harassment lawsuits at “tech bro” companies (Tesla, Uber, Google) they want us to believe that those things were happening behind doors, that only a few knew, that there was no evidence.

The reality is that in all cases

  • Evidence was there for everybody to see it all along but nobody cared.
  • That having visual evidence didn’t result in automatic sanctions to the perpetrators and restitution for the victim. Abusers were still given the benefit of the doubt and victims were badmouthed.

We have in Spanish the saying “No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.” There is a similar saying in English, “There’s none so blind as he who will not see.” There is a legal term for this

In law, willful blindness is when a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping themselves unaware of facts that would render them liable or implicated.


Stopping willful blindness towards sexual harassment in the workplace

I was in Malta when the story started. I went to Spain with my family where the drama was played on TV 24–7. I came back to the UK from holidays and it’s still ongoing.

Although the RFEF president finally resigned, the story is far from finished for the female player who endured the harassment. There are several lawsuits underway.

Once again we have proof that whilst women continue to be seen as second-class humans, no evidence would be enough to finish sexual harassment and gender violence. We’ll continue to excuse perpetrators and find a rationale to blame victims.

Whilst I like to believe that indeed #SeAcabo (the hashtag they used to protest and means “It’s finished”), the reality is that it isn’t. It’s not a matter of “visibility” or “awareness”. 

So, what’s the cure for wilful blindness to sexual harassment in the workplace? Forceful accountability.

How does that look in practice?

  • First and foremost, let’s look at the evidence.
  • Let’s stop finding comfort in justifying a 3,000-year status quo where sexual predators take advantage of the asymmetry of power in hierarchical work relationships.
  • Let’s stop finding exculpating rationales for the perpetrators.
  • Let’s stop placing the onus on the victims to shatter our biases about who’s credible and who isn’t. 

It’s a lie that eradicating sexual harassment at work is about the perpetrators and the victims. It’s about the workplace’s culture we all contribute to — what we decide to see, what we choose to ignore, and who we believe.

Which workplace culture are you supporting right now? Is it one of difficult conversations and zero-tolerance? Or is it one of being forgiving and forgetful?

I know which one I’m supporting. I won’t be a bystander. Will you?


Thanks for accompanying me on this journey. The final installment of this trilogy will focus on caregiving.

Work with me:  My special offer

You have 75 days to the end of 2023. You can continue to do what you’re doing if that’s serving you well.

But if you’re not reaching your goals in spite of overworking and overdelivering, there is a different way.

  • What if you could master your mind so you could take your life and career to a whole new level?
  • What if you could learn how not to depend on others’ praise and criticism so you could feel worthy of love and success from the inside?
  • What if you could stop the habits that don’t serve you well and have a better work-life balance?

If that resonates with you, my 3-month 1:1 coaching program “Upwards and Onwards” is for you.

For £875.00, we’ll dive into where you are now and the results you want to create; we’ll uncover the obstacles in your way and explore strategies to overcome them; and we’ll implement a plan to help you become your own version of success.

Contact me to explore how we can work together.

Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women

Potted bay laurel tree. In front, there is with a stone plaque in a podium with the text "In memory of the investigative journalist Daphe Caruana Galizia Born in Silema in 1964., assassinated on 16 October 2017 for seeking the truth May this simple bay laurel remind us of her wisdom, victory and triumph over darkness".
Monument to Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo by Patricia Gestoso.

I went on holiday in August with the very clear objective of spending time with my brother — who lives in Spain — and my parents — who live in Venezuela.

From that point of view, I’m happy to report that it was mission accomplished.

I also wanted to rest. So I thought I’d put my women’s rights activism aside during the vacation and have a lighthearted summer break.

That was a total failure.

I had little rest and it couldn’t park my activism. However, I learned a lot about myself, what’s important to me, and how central is my advocacy for women to the way I perceive the world and the legacy I want to leave behind. The fact that these events happened during my holiday allowed me to slow down enough to recognise why they triggered such intense emotions in me and give me time to process them.

Here is the first installment of three articles capturing three intense experiences related to women during my vacation. The first one is about the absence of real women from those symbols of power, remembrance, and cultural identity that we call monuments.


The holiday started when I met with my mother, brother, and sister-in-law in Malta to spend a week on the island. 

Before the pandemic, I had been there for a scuba diving vacation. It was a nice holiday but when I discovered that Malta was the only country in the EU where abortion was penalised, I told myself that I wouldn’t go back. Although in June this year the law was amended, it’s still very restrictive. For example, in cases of severe fetal malformation, incest, or rape women are still liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to three years.

Of course, that was until my family thought it was a good place for the holidays and, rather than pushing back, I decided to “park” my activism for a week.

But I couldn’t.

Very quickly, walking through the capital, Valetta, and visiting multiple towns in the islands of Malta and Gozo, I realised what to expect

  • Churches.
  • Nice streets and houses in yellowish bricks.
  • Statues of men, especially politicians.

A monument is a type of structure that was explicitly created to commemorate a person or event, or which has become relevant to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, due to its artistic, historical, political, technical or architectural importance.

Examples of monuments include statues, (war) memorials, historical buildings, archaeological sites, and cultural assets.

The word “monument” comes the Latin “monumentum“, derived from the word moneomonere (comparable to the Greek mnemosynon) which means ‘to remind’, ‘to advise’ or ‘to warn’.


Of course, with two notable — and expected —  exceptions

  • Religion —  Statues of the Virgin Mary, female saints and mystics…
  • Embodiment of an idea — e.g. Statues of women personifying independence. 

It hit me especially hard when I saw the monument to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Silema, journalist and anti-corruption activist, assassinated by a car bomb. It’s a bay laurel tree to “remind us of her wisdom, victory and triumph over darkness” (see image illustrating this article).

Again, women as the embodiment of ideas. I wanted so hard to see a statue of her.

Unfortunately, the lack of statues of real women is not only a problem in Malta

And it’s not only about statues

  • Only around 10% of streets and public spaces worldwide are named after women. The project only 8% brings awareness to the fact that in Barcelona (Spain) women-named streets only account for 8% of all public spaces, with most located outside the city center. On their interactive website, they also highlight that streets named after women are typically about 62 meters shorter than streets named after men.
  • And what about when we try to redress the imbalance? You either need sponsors to pay for it or you should expect public humiliation and threats to your physical integrity, as happened to Caroline Criado Perez when she dared to campaign to reinstate a woman on an English banknote.

As all the information was sinking in my head, I remembered watching a film as a child about the neutron bomb. Its premise was that those bombs could “kill people and spare buildings”. I can still see the black and white scenes portraying perfectly clean streets and buildings — no life at all.

I thought, if life was erased and only “infrastructure” remained and some aliens visited the planet Earth, what would they make out of our statues, streets, buildings, history books, museums, and banknotes? 

Monuments also play an important role in shaping our collective memory. They serve as tangible reminders of historical events and figures, helping to preserve our cultural heritage for future generations. 

Monuments of Victoria

Here comes my guess: Those aliens would conclude that female human beings never existed. That we were merely an imaginary artifact for men to get inspired, illustrate concepts, and express their ideas about beauty.

The remedy? To strive for being too much – we have so many centuries to catch up on! When in doubt, let’s remember bell hook’s words of wisdom and apply them to all domains

No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough. 

bell hooks

CALL TO ACTION: Let’s inundate the world with our ideas and our work. Because even if they are

  • Unfinished – we can decide that they’re finished for today.
  • Unpopular – what’s criticised one day can be a success the next.
  • Ignored – if we hide them, we’ll never know.

Let’s ensure we leave proof that we existed.


Dear Reader, 

This is the first time I’m delivering an article in three installments. It was not planned but today feels like the right thing to do. Thank you for your kindness, patience, and support as I make this experiment. The next one is on harassment.

Work with me

Contact me to explore how we can work together

90 days to the end of the year: Four strategies to achieve your 2023 goals

Image of an analog alarm clock with a picture of a girl superimposed giving the impression that she's trying to climb the numbers in the clock.
Image by ThePixelman from Pixabay.

Apologies to those of you who were expecting an article last week. Ten days ago my personal computer decided that it had given it all. I now have a new computer and I’m back to writing. Disaster adverted!

One of the things I was mulling over while I was sorting my computer was that from today, Sunday, October 1st, I have 3 months (roughly 90 days) left until the end of 2023

I was in shock first, thinking who stole my year. Then, I shifted to mentally assess how well I was doing with achieving my goals. I did that randomly, which, of course, triggered anxiety because my mind went straight to the things that I hadn’t accomplished. 

And finally, I calmed down.

I started by remembering all the things I’ve done and especially thanking my past self for writing a post before the summer compiling my achievements to date.

Next, I asked myself what were the top 3 things I wanted to accomplish before the end of the year.

Finally, the juicy question I want to share with you today: How do I get them? 

I came up with four different strategies that have helped in the past. I hope they work for you too.

Four ways to get what you want this year

#1 Ask for help

You may have been expecting something like “do a Google search”, “get a certificate”, “make a list” or any other satisfying way to proactively procrastinate. Don’t-you-dare.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and ask for help. In my experience, this is going to be especially difficult if you’re a giver. You’ll try to talk yourself out of it. Examples

“People are going to think I’m needy”.

“I cannot bother others with my problems”.

“Nobody can do this but me”.

Then, think about all the times you’ve helped people. Out of your goodwill, simply because you’re a kind person. Then, think that others are kind too.

And now it’s when it becomes uncomfortable for me because I’m going to do what I’m preaching…

HELP: I want to grow my coaching business so I’m looking for more clients. There are two ways people can work with me

One-on-one: I have two programs. The first focuses on becoming your own version of success The second is geared towards helping people who have experienced — or are experiencing  — hardships to move forward again and face life in a more healthy and sustainable way.

Last week I got a fantastic testimonial from somebody who finished one of the programs

I am happy that I’ve met Patricia in time. I am going through a career change period, which has become less frightening and more strategic.

She helped me see the patterns of how my mind is holding me back, and by the end of the coaching program, I noticed a shift in my self-confidence and resilience. In our sessions, we uncovered the root causes of my inaction, and solutions emerged naturally from her insightful questions. She also shared her wisdom and vision when I needed it.

She is passionate about coaching and empowering women and has all the necessary expertise to help. I enjoyed every session. Thank you, Patricia!

Alena Sheveleva, Research Fellow 

Group coaching: I’ve developed a 6-month program for people managers to give them tools to better handle the pressures of their work and move from stressed employees to satisfied professionals. The program is designed such that the managers can use the tools with their reports as well.

If you’re interested or you know somebody who may be, please connect with me.

Ufff. I did it. I asked for help.

#2 Be like a toddler

Through my years of being a coach and coaching others, a tool that comes up often is using our imaginary future self to help us unstuck ourselves.

Some examples

  • Write a letter to your future self.
  • Write yourself a letter from the future asking for advice.
  • Use visioning to meet with your future self.
  • Imagine yourself in 20 years receiving a prize, what will be your acceptance speech?

And so on.

They can be helpful to open ourselves to possibilities but they can also offer so many choices that we get trapped in analysis-paralysis limbo.

Also, sometimes it can be difficult to get inspired by a “version” of ourselves that we may not find particularly enticing.

For example, I found that some of my clients in their 60s and 70s are not super excited to ask for advice to their 80 or 90-year-old version of themselves. For some of them, it’s triggering since they wonder if they’d even be alive by then.

To prompt myself into action my trick is actually the reverse — what a toddler would do?

Because toddlers

1.- Have a great focus.

2.- Are very persistent.

3.- Make very clear what they want. .. and they are happy to let go of it if they find something better.

4.- They are open to experimenting with everything as “play”.

5.- They are extremely self-confident.

(6.- And they ask for help — see point #1 above)

So, when I’m stuck on inaction, rather than asking my future self for advice, I appeal to my “toddler energy” to get me moving.

Let me know in the comments how you’ll apply #ToddlerEnergy this week.

#3 Get a sponsor

I’ve been a mentor for years. Also, I’ve had many mentors. And as a woman tech, I’m reminded several days a week of the importance of mentors.

Let me tell you a secret: Get a sponsor.

Whilst a mentor is somebody who talks to you about their career and gives you advice based on their experiences, a sponsor is somebody who talks about you in rooms where you aren’t present (yet).

A sponsor

  • Makes introductions to people who can help you achieve your goals.
  • Recommends you to key stakeholders for projects, initiatives, and roles.
  • Uses their clout to help you to get what you want.

In summary, a sponsor actually puts themselves in the line for you — they vouch for you. 

Top tip: Unlike mentors, you cannot ask somebody to be a sponsor. You earn it. How do you know if somebody is your sponsor? 

Share with the person what you want to achieve and make an ask, for example, an introduction to somebody who they have told you can help you. If they are willing to do it, they believe in you — they are your sponsor. If they avoid committing to it, then you may want to explore if the person is more of a mentor only.

#4 Get a coach

After reading the title, some of you may be thinking that this is a rehash of point #1. It isn’t.

I’ve been a “consumer” of coaching since 2018. And it’s been life-changing. I’ve experimented with several coaching modalities — group, 1:1, Time to Think, The Model, Playing Big — and these are some of the things I achieved through coaching

  • Launching my website after talking myself out of it for 2 years.
  • Launching my business whilst keeping my full-time position at a tech company after shattering the limiting beliefs that I couldn’t have both.
  • Holding more space for my team to co-create solutions after realising that my value as a manager was not tied to “knowing more” than my direct reports.
  • Asking for more recognition at work whilst regaining a life-work balance.
  • Writing posts more regularly after learning how to calm down my perfectionist impulses.
  • Being more conscious about the manuals I have for others and how patriarchy influences my decisions.
  • Gaining awareness of when I’m catastrophising about a situation and reducing overwhelm caused by uncertainty.
  • Benefiting from a non-judgemental accountability partner.


In summary

  1. You have three months to the end of 2023.
  2. Decide on the top 3 things you want to accomplish before the end of the year (they can be less than 3 but no more).
  3. Try the strategies below
  • Ask for help
  • Be like a toddler
  • Get a sponsor 
  • Get a coach

Let me know in the comments how it goes.

Work with me

Contact me to explore how we can work together

Artificial Intelligence: A new weapon to colonise the Global South

3D-printed figures who work at a computer in an anonymous environment. They are anonymized, almost de-humanized.
Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Clickworker Abyss / CC-BY 4.0

The hype around idyllic tech workplaces that originated in Silicon Valley with tales of great pay, free food and Ping-Pong tables reaches a whole new level when we talk about artificial intelligence (AI). Tech companies that want to remain competitive court data-scientists and AI expert developers with six-figure salaries and perks that go from unlimited holidays, on-site gyms, and nap pods, to subsidising egg-freezing and IVF treatments. I am a director at a software company that develops AI applications so I have seen it firsthand. 

But I also spent 12 years in Venezuela so I am aware that AI workers there have very different stories to tell than their counterparts in the global North. And this North-South disparity in working conditions is repeated across the world and amplified to the point where in the South a large portion of them are gig workers on subsistence rates.

Image annotators

Take, for instance, the self-driven car industry. It seeks to substitute people at the wheel with algorithms that mimic human pattern recognition – yet it relies on intensive human labour.

Self-driven car algorithms need millions of high-quality images labelled by annotators – workers who assess and identify all the elements on each image. And the industry wants these annotated images at the lowest possible cost. Enter: annotators in the Global South. 

Annotators in Venezuela are paid an average of 90 cents an hour with some being paid as low as 11 cents/hour. The situation is similar for their counterparts in North Africa.

The injustice is not only about low pay but also in work conditions. Workers are under constant pressure because the data-labelling platforms have quota systems that remove annotators from projects if they fail to meet targets for the completion of tasks. The algorithms keep annotators bidding for new gigs day and night, because high-paying tasks may only last seconds on their screens before disappearing.

And annotators are not the only tech workers in the Global South making it possible for the Global North to reap the benefits of AI. 

Social media moderators

The impact of fake news on elections and conflicts has put pressure on tech big bosses to moderate social media content better. Their customary response has been to offer reassurances that they are working on improving the AI tools that parse content on their platforms. 

We frequently hear that AI algorithms can be deployed to remove the stream of depictions of violence and other disturbing content on the internet and social media. But algorithms can only do so much – platforms need human moderators to review content flagged by AI tools. So where do those people live and how much are they paid? 

Kenya is the headquarter of Facebook’s content moderation operation for sub-Saharan Africa. Its workers are paid as little as $1.50 an hour for watching deeply disturbing content, back-to-back.

Kenya is the headquarters of Facebook’s content moderation operation for sub-Saharan Africa. Its workers are paid as little as $1.50 an hour for watching deeply disturbing content, back-to-back, without the benefit of any “wellness” breaks or the right to unionise. Moreover, they have a 50-second target to make a decision on whether content should be taken down or not. Consistently taking longer to make the call leads to a dismissal.   

Still, moderation is not granted equally around the world. As the Mozilla Internet Health Report 2022 says: “although 90% of Facebook’s users live outside the US, only 13% of moderation hours were allocated to labelling and deleting misinformation in other countries in 2020.” And 11 out of the 12 countries leading the ranking of national Facebook audiences are part of the Global South. This is in line with prioritising user engagement over their safety.

Mining disasters

While AI is naturally associated with the virtual world, it is rooted in material objects: datacentres, servers, smartphones, and laptops. And these objects are dependent on materials that need to be taken from the earth with attendant risks to workers’ health, local communities, and the planet.

For example, cobalt is a critical component in every lithium-ion rechargeable battery used  in mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. The Democratic Republic of Congo provides 60% of the world’s cobalt supply which is mined by 40,000 children, according to UNICEF estimates. They are paid $1-2 for working up to 12 hours a day and inhaling toxic cobalt dust. 

Unfortunately, the Global North’s apathy towards tackling child labour in the cobalt supply chain means that electronic and car companies get away with maximising profit at the expense of risks to human rights and harm to miners related to their cobalt supply chain.

And one of the driest places on earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile, holds more than 40% of the world’s supply of lithium ore. Extracting lithium requires enormous quantities of water – some 2,500 litres for each kilo of the metal. As a result, freshwater is less accessible to the local communities, affecting farming and pastoral activities as well as harming the delicate ecosystem.

Guinea pigs

As well as taking advantage of lax protection of human rights and health to pick up cheap labour, tech companies look to the poor data privacy laws in the Global South to enable them to trial their AI products on people there.

Invasive AI applications are tested in Africa, taking advantage of the need for cash across the continent coupled with the low restrictions regarding data privacy. Examples include apps specialised in money lending – so-called Lendtechs. They use questionable methods such as collecting micro-behavioural data points to determine the credit-worthiness of the users in the region. 

Lack of regulation enables lenders to exploit the borrowers’ contacts on their phones to call their family and friends to prompt loan repayment.

Examples of such data points include: the number of selfies, games installed, and videos created and stored on phones, the typing and scrolling speed, or SMS data to build a credit score using proprietary and undisclosed algorithms. Lack of regulation enables lenders to exploit the borrowers’ contacts on their phones to call their family and friends to prompt loan repayment. Reports suggest that loan apps have plunged many Kenyans into deep debt and pushed some into divorce or suicide.

The human rights project, has mapped 20 AI schemes led by Latin American governments that were seen as likely to stigmatise and criminalise the most vulnerable people. Some of the applications – like predictive policing – have already been banned in some regions of the US and Europe. Numerous such initiatives are linked to Global North software companies.

Among the projects, two are especially creepy. First, the rollout of a tech application across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile that promises to forecast the likelihood of teenage pregnancy.

Among the projects, two are especially creepy. First, the rollout of a tech application across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile that promises to forecast the likelihood of teenage pregnancy based on data such as age, ethnicity, country of origin, disability, and whether the subject’s home had hot water in the bathroom. Second, a Minority Report-inspired model deployed in Chile to predict a person’s lifetime possibility of having a criminal career correlated with age, gender, weapons registered, and family members with a criminal record that reports 37% of false positives. 

The future is already there

We in the Global North might naturally consider the Global South to have only a marginal involvement in the use and development of AI. The reality is that the exploitation of the Global South is crucial for the Global North to harness the benefits of AI and even manufacture AI hardware. 

The South provides cheap labour, natural resources, and poorly-regulated access to populations on whom tech firms can test new algorithms and resell failed applications. 

The North-South chasm in digital economies was summed up elegantly in a 2003 Economist piece by novelist William Gibson, who foresaw the World Wide Web in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. “The future is already here,” he declared, adding, “it’s just not evenly distributed.”

In truth, the exploitation and harm that goes with the development of AI demonstrates that it’s not just the future that is with us, out of time; but also the inhumanity of the colonial past.

NOTE: This article was published in The Mint Magazine.

Work with me

Contact me to explore how we can work together

Why performative inclusion thrives? Because it’s a win-win billionaire industry

Torso of a woman in a blue suit covering her face with a big white square piece of cardboard that has drawn on it a happy face and a flower with the colours of the rainbow.
Collage by Patricia Gestoson from Images by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay and Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash.

I’m back after a hectic and unpredictable summer break. More about it soon.

In the meantime, I want to share with you an article that I published in the economics journal The Mint Magazine about the industrial complex behind diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives and who really gets the benefits. In it, I uncover the economic and strategic interests behind the “fixing women” programs, unconscious bias training, and allyship overload.

The great pretenders

In 2013, the then-chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, published her book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. It was a cultural phenomenon that prompted discussions about women and their professional ambitions as well as the additional barriers they had to surmount to get to the top compared to men

The book also reassured organisations that it was not their responsibility if they didn’t have enough women in leadership. It was the women’s fault. They were not leaning in, not putting themselves out for a promotion, they were not confident enough. As a consequence, the “fixing professional women” industry boomed. 

An indicator of this boom is the exponential growth in Google searches for imposter syndrome since 2015. Increasingly, workshops, programmes, and newsletters have been relentlessly targeting women in male-dominated sectors like tech and finance with the promise of giving them confidence as a means to reach leadership positions. A peek into the publishing industry proves that imposter syndrome has also colonised our bookstores in the last few years.  

However, unconfident women alone couldn’t explain the whiteness of executive and board teams. So training in unconscious bias came to the rescue. It was appealing to organisations because again it focused on individuals rather than on the organisation’s processes and culture. Moreover, it exculpated leaders too, who could blame their “primitive” brains for the inequities in the workplace.

Workshops, programmes, and newsletters have been relentlessly targeting women in male-dominated sectors like tech and finance with the promise of giving them confidence.

It was a marketing success. In 2017, McKinsey estimated the annual spending in the US on unconscious bias training at $8 billion. This despite researchers reporting in 2001 that training initiatives focused on changing employees’ attitudes and behaviours that reflected more subtle forms of discrimination and exclusion rarely led to the desired long-term changes.

Ironically, as most organisations made those trainings optional, the typical attendees were employees bearing the brunt of unconscious biases – women and people from underrepresented groups – which reinforced the obvious conclusion: unconscious bias training was a lovely ticking box for organisations because it was quantifiable in terms of money spent and number of events but let key stakeholders get out of jail free.

Unfortunately, it didn’t result in the effective diversity and inclusion game-changer that we were led to believe it would deliver. This was not a surprise since it rested on the premise that learning about unconscious bias and its impact on decision making was enough to solve it, while ignoring that by design, most of our mental processes are unconscious. Even Dr Daniel Kahneman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on heuristics and biases, has been vocal about his inability to keep his unconscious bias in check

Diversity training needed a revamp and the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 brought a revival of the word “allyship”. In 2021, named it the word of the year.

This “allyship continuum” is very attractive to organisations and leaders. First, it reinforces the lack of accountability at the senior level by equally distributing the responsibility of building inclusive organisations among all employees .

In the Global North, “allyship” and “allies’ are words that bring memories of the World Wars, being on the right side, and sacrifice. In the workplace, it has become an all-encompassing term for framing the interactions between a person in a position of privilege and a targeted person or group. From simply becoming aware of oppressive actions on less privileged groups, to deploying institutional change to tackle the discrimination of protected categories, all can be considered an act of allyship.

This “allyship continuum” is very attractive to organisations and leaders. First, it reinforces the lack of accountability at the senior level by equally distributing the responsibility of building inclusive organisations among all employees . Second, it’s self-congratulatory. Under a premise that we could summarise as “every little helps”, it enables us to embody the identity of an ally with minimal effort. Finally, it reiterates the belief that diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) are under-represented group problems that allies can help to mitigate from the margins.

And allyship training excels at marketing. Some of its promises are building empathy, addressing biases when they arise, and even helping those suffering the burden of discrimination to stop complaining about microaggressions and instead listen without getting defensive – a big relief to human resource departments.

But overpromising is not the only problem. Our obsession with rebranding all DEI strategies as allyship also waters down powerful initiatives by drowning them in a sea of sameness. For example, recently, the Mayor of London office announced that it is investing £1 million in an allyship training package available to every secondary school in London to educate and empower young Londoners to take a stand and help prevent violence against women and girls. The package – a teacher’s toolkit titled, Ending gender-based violence and abuse in young people’s relationships – doesn’t contain the words ally, allies, or allyship. Still, the mayor’s press office felt the need to rebrand it as allyship training. 

Regarding effectiveness, the key problem is that reported measures of success are typically based on people’s perceptions of themselves – or others. Research shows that men are worse allies than they think. For example, 77% of executive and c-suite males think that most men within their organisation are “active allies” or “public advocates” for gender equity but only 45% of women at that level agree. This gap in perception increases at lower management levels.

Is tackling imposter syndrome, reducing unconscious bias, or promoting allyship useless?

Would replacing allyship with a different word boost the commitment of employees and organisations to make workplaces more equitable? Suggestions abound: advocate, champion, co-conspirator, co-liberator – the list goes on. Moreover, is tackling imposter syndrome, reducing unconscious bias, or promoting allyship useless? I posit that they are mostly a distraction from tackling systemic inequalities at work and the responsibility of leaders to drive those changes. 

For example, whilst we throw money into addressing underrepresentation or making privileged employees feel good, the UK gender pay gap has increased by 3.8% from 2021 – black African, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani women earn, respectively, 26%, 28%, and 31% less than men and disabled employees earn a sixth less than non-disabled workers. And organisations dodge responsibility for the fact that 50% of women who take a tech role drop it by the age of 35 or that 20% of British businesses get away with lacking policies to support LGBT staff.

How do we move away from sympathy for the hardships of under-represented groups to embedding equity in organisations? How can we escape the trap of DEI-washing?

Organisations need to shift from the comfort of snapshot statistics such as annual diversity audits, to measure the progression of women and underrepresented groups through the ranks.

For example, asking themselves how they can attract brilliant women in their 20s and keep them until they retire, and realising that’s much more than thinking about maternity leave. It involves mapping the journey of employees such as a neurodiverse, female software engineer until she becomes chief technical officer, or a black, nonbinary person joining as a junior sales manager and reaching vice president level. This will uncover blockers to accessing opportunities and career progression within the organisation and provide insights into the initiatives needed to overcome them. 

Individuals are not off the hook either. It’s paramount we teach people how to transgress boundaries such as gender, ethnicity, class, age, or disability to achieve the collective gift of freedom. Building inclusive and equitable workplaces is a practice, not a certificate.

As Aboriginal elder, activist and educator, Lilla Watson, said, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” 

QUIZ: Patriarchy and You

How much is patriarchy ruling your life and career?

We believe that we make choices based on logic and objective criteria.The reality is that the patriarchal rules embedded in our socialisation often decide for us.

This 3-minute quiz will tell you how much patriarchy impacts your life and career choices.

Mid-year review 2023: Savouring my DEI wins in a world not made for me

As an inclusion strategist, I always have the impression that I’m behind. The inspiring Audre Lorde – who defined herself as “black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, poet”- captured my feelings very well in the following quote:

“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.”

Audre Lorde

So much to do and so little time!

I also find it difficult to reflect on and savour my accomplishments. Although DEI and women in tech are topics where many people doing an amazing job, the progress is slow or sometimes akin to a Whac-A-Mole game, the moment you think an area is improving, then something else pops up.

For example, I was very glad to see that the Black Lives Matter movement had put DEI are the forefront and that many organisations were prioritising it. But the relief has lasted only for a while. With the redundancies in the tech sector and the inflation, the roles related to DEI are the first bearing the brunt of the layoffs.

Unlike in my corporate job, my “identity” as an inclusion strategist has much more fluid KPIs. Part is paid work and part is probono. It’s also a match-up of several areas: coaching, public speaking, and writing, to mention a few.

So, what’s enough? Is savouring successes a path to conformity? 


We are told that comparison and feedback make us better. That without criticism, we’ll all be slackers and underperformers.

And that’s reinforced every year when we commit to annual goals, KPIs, and scorecards. 

We’re told that we need to do more and better and that the path is to continuously measure ourselves against others — and surpass them. Only then, we can be sure we’re doing our best.

The problem that is not often discussed is how this drives dissatisfaction, frustration, and disappointment with ourselves.

“Comparison” comes often in my coaching sessions. Amazing individuals that create and deliver impactful work feel that they’re not enough when they measure themselves up against others — colleagues, family, friends, influences, and even random people on social media.

I tell them that I see comparison at three levels:

  1. Upward social comparison  — When we compare ourselves to those who we believe are better than us.
  2. Downward social comparison — When we compare ourselves to people who we believe are worse off than us.
  3. Comparison to ourselves — When we compare ourselves against a version of our persona.

Upward and downward comparisons typically provide either transitory self-esteem boost— e.g. I’m better than individual X — or in the long run, generate emotions like jealousy and envy — my career hasn’t progressed as fast as that of colleague Y.

But comparing to ourselves is not the panacea always. And that became clear to me last week.

Savouring our wins

I joined a journaling virtual session focused on mid-year reflection. It sounded harmless but I was dreading it — a little bit like when you know the medicine you’ll take is going to be bitter. 

My brain catastrophised about all the things on my “2023 to-do list” that I hadn’t accomplished yet. Still, I saw the value of joining the session because I thought it helped me focus and prioritise activities and tasks during the last part of the year.

In hindsight, I see that I went to the session thinking about comparing myself with an aspirational version of myself that I imagined on January 1st, 2023.

And that became clear during the first 10 min of the session. The facilitator asked us to focus on the past 6 months and think about what we were most proud of, what we had to celebrate. We were urged to look for all kinds of accomplishments and experiences — big and small.

Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded…

Audre Lorde

So, instead of comparing myself to that idealised version that I had set at the beginning of the year, I was asked to go back in time to January 1st, 2023 and compare myself to that version of Patricia.

And that did the trick. By comparing my current self with that of 6 months ago, I was able to see progress without judging myself. We were given less than 5 minutes but I couldn’t stop writing. 



I did my first podcast of the year! I was a guest on the podcast “Ophelia On Fire!”. In the episode, I talked about 

  • Self-worth vs Confidence
  • Confidence vs Competence
  • Strategies to avoid our feeling of confidence holding us back in our careers



  • After a 6-month training and passing two exams, I’ve got certified as a life coach by The Life Coach School.
  • Following my impossible goal for 2023 of coaching 50 women and underrepresented people to get the promotion they deserve, I’m happy to report that I’ve already coached 42 of them towards getting the professional recognition they merit.


I’m writing a book about “how women succeed in tech worldwide” for which we run a survey worldwide. Last June, we reached the milestone of 400 responses from women in tech living in 50+ countries.

If you’re a woman in tech, you can still share your experience by answering the 7-min survey here

Patriarchy instructs women to downplay our achievements, experiences, and skills. That’s why I find testimonials from clients a way to fight against that indoctrination. 

  • I created a page on my website to collect clients’ testimonials.
  • I was especially touched by four of the testimonials I received this year

Over 6 coaching sessions, Patricia’s empathetic approach enabled me to work through my difficulties and find new ways of approaching my work projects.

The dedication and commitment she brought to our sessions gave me the confidence and encouragement to identify what was holding me back and to find possible solutions. Her insights always kept me focussed on putting into action steps that would achieve results.

I gained enormously from my sessions with Patricia. Her experienced questioning guided me through a difficult period of transition from a career in the television industry to a new phase in my working life.

Bren Simson. TV director, author, local historian and guide

I participated in the Ada’s List coaching programme, a 6-month development programme for women and non-binary people in tech at Citizens Advice. We focused on leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion within technology and ways to develop your career. We shared insights and challenges, discussed different approaches and identified opportunities to learn and develop.

Sarah Gallacher, Product Manager, Citizens Advice

Patricia was able to look at my experience, and then where I was right now. It literally felt like she was weaving together different strands to then hone in exactly on career blocks and give me some ideas to move past them.

Her style was to ask questions rather than give me a simple a to-do list, I also liked the way I felt I could trust her professional experience. She knew what I was talking about from inside my chosen sector.

Ruth Westnidge, Software Engineer

Patricia joined our Feminist AI and Digital Policy Roundtable discussion in April and presented her view on “how do decolonize AI with feminism”. I am impressed with her deep insights from the various, socio-technological perspectives of AI that she backed up with professional and personal experiences. Highly recommended speaker!

Alexandra Wudel, Co-Founder & Geschäftsführerin FemAI GmbH | Political Advisor | Speaker | MBA

Back to the journaling session, the effect of writing this laundry list of accomplishments was cathartic

As for the rest of the session? The usual. We were told to come up with our list of priorities for the year, identify the barriers, and look for enablers.

My takeaway? Whilst comparing ourselves to our future selves can help us think big, it can also lead us to burnout and permanent dissatisfaction.

Back to you

Put a 5 min alarm on your phone and give yourself permission to pause and journal about all the things you’re proud of in the last 6 months.

And then, savour them.

“You are the one that you are looking for.”

Audre Lorde

Let me know in the comments what 2023 accomplishments and experiences you celebrating.

QUIZ: Patriarchy and You

How much is patriarchy ruling your life and career?

We believe that we make choices based on logic and objective criteria.The reality is that the patriarchal rules embedded in our socialisation often decide for us.

This 3-minute quiz will tell you how much patriarchy impacts your life and career choices.

Three takes on rethinking unpaid care for a better tomorrow

A woman with a sad expression looking at a $5 banknote on a table in front of her.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, many people told me that finally, we’d be able to cross out all the entrenched gender inequities in the workplace. Women leaving the workforce because of incompatibility with their caregiving duties, the gender pay gap, the lack of women in leadership positions…

The name of the magic bullet? Flexible and remote working.

My answer? That flexibility was not enough, as I demonstrated in the report I co-authored on the effect of COVID-19 on the unpaid work of professional women.

As I anticipated three years ago, hybrid working hasn’t delivered on its promise to bridge the chasm between caregiving and a thriving career.

Let’s run three thought experiments to put our current systems to the test. Are they serving us well? 

[Economics thought experiment #1] Childcare vs Caring for the neighbour’s children

Amy and John are neighbours. They know each other’s family and each has one baby and one toddler.

Experiment A

Given the high costs of caregiving, Amy and John decided to put their careers on hold for 3 years and instead care for their own children full-time.

During those three years, everybody around Amy and John considers they are unemployed. That includes

  • Their family and friends.
  • The International Labor Organisation (ILO), which considers persons employed as those “who worked for at least one hour for pay or profit in the short reference period.”

Experiment B

During three years, from Monday to Friday

  • Amy goes to John’s house and cares for John’s children for £1.
  • Conversely, John goes to Amy’s house and cares for Amy’s children for £1.

During those three years, everybody around Amy and John considers that they ARE employed. That includes

  • Their family and friends.
  • The International Labor Organisation (ILO).

Same results if we swap childcare with eldercare.

If a person provides unpaid care to her family, we refer to it as a “staying-at-home parent”. However, if they perform the same tasks for a salary, then they become “domestic workers”.

[Economics thought experiment #2] Maternity leave vs Gap year

Two people decide to take a year off.

  • Person #1 takes a year of maternity leave.
  • Person #2 takes a gap year to travel the world.

How are they perceived before they leave?

  • Person #1 is not committed to their career.
  • Person #2 wants to expand their horizons.

And when they are back to work?

  • Person #1 is considered in the #MommyTrack after a year of “inactivity”.
  • Person #2 has acquired valuable transferable leadership skills throughout a year of “life-changing experiences”.

[Economics thought experiment #3] Two-child benefit cap vs No cap

In the UK, child tax credits are capped to two children for children born after 6 April 2017. In practice

  • In practice, if your children are born before 6 April 2017, you get paid £545 (basic amount), and then up to £3,235 for each child. 
  • If one or more of your children were born on or after 6 April 2017, you could get £3,235 for up to 2 children. 
  • You’ll only get the £545 (basic amount) if at least one of your children was born before 6 April 2017.

What’s the rationale behind capping this outrageous sum of money for 2 children? Apparently, this should encourage parents of larger families to find a job or work more hours. 

Counterevidence #1 — “It has affected an estimated 1.5 million children, and research has shown that the policy has impoverished families rather than increasing employment. As many as one in four children in some of England and Wales’s poorest constituencies are in families left at least £3,000 poorer by the policy. It also found that in the most ethnically diverse communities, 14% of children were hit by the cap”.

Counterevidence #2 — China was often vilified for its one-child policy, which taxed families that dared to have more than one child.

The policy was enforced at the provincial level through contraception, abortion, and fines that were imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. Population and Family Planning Commissions existed at every level of government to raise awareness and carry out registration and inspection work.

The fine was a so-called “social maintenance fee”, the punishment for families with more than one child. According to the policy, families who violated the law created a burden on society. Therefore, social maintenance fees were to be used for the operation of the government.


Counterevidence #3 — “Abolishing the two-child limit would cost £1.3bn a year but lift 250,000 children out of poverty and a further 850,000 children out of deep poverty, say campaigners. Joseph Howes, chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said: “It is the most cost-effective way that this, or any future, government has of reducing the number of children living in poverty.””

The defense rests.

PS. We’re halfway into 2023. How do you feel about your goals?

Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.

Welcome, not just tolerate: Redefining relationships in the workplace

Grey wall with the text "Everyone is welcome" stamped on it.
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash.

I’ve been part of committees as well as advisory boards for several years on very varied topics: emerging tech, DEI, customer support, operations…

After some reflection, I recently decided that I wanted to broaden my impact and I started to apply for non-executive board positions.

It’s not been easy or quick because I’ve been very picky about the organisations I’m submitting my applications to. First and foremost, I want to be part of the board of an organisation connected with my values and the legacy I want to leave behind: Working towards building inclusive products, workplaces, and societies.

The feedback I’ve got so far on my applications it’s that my background is difficult to “put in a box”.

  • I’ve been working on software companies for 18+ years BUT not in the IT or software development departments. 
  • I’ve been part of the acquisition integration team operationalising the transfer of thousands of support tickets, accounts, and contacts, as well as creating standard operation procedures for support, onboarding thousands of customers and internal employees, and running support operations BUT technically I’m not in the operations department. 
  • I have countless proof of DEI advocacy — including spearheading diversity initiatives, writing, speaking, inclusive leadership programs, mentoring, and coaching — BUT I’m not in HR.

In summary, I’m not enough or — even trickier — I’m too original, as I was told in France when I applied for a job for which I fulfilled all the requirements but — guess what? — the fact that I had done my engineering and M.Sc. degree in Venezuela, my Computational Chemistry Ph.D. in Canada, and my post-doc in Greece meant for them that they couldn’t relate to me or my experience. Frightened by the difference I was bringing with me, they decided to go with a candidate from the same university that everybody else in the department.

But this week something different happened.

I met with the CEO of an organisation with several open board positions to learn more about them and check if my profile was of interest before submitting my application. The position description specifically asked for DEI expertise. 

At the meeting, the CEO described the organisation and I was in awe at their purpose and impact. Then, it was my turn to talk about my background. I told him about my different roles as Director of Support and Customer Operations, award-winning inclusion strategist, as well as a DEI board advisor for an NGO focusing on making AI work for everybody. 

We talked about the need to diversify their board members and that they wanted to operationalise DEI in their organisation. My brain began to talk me out of the position. I mentioned something along the lines of “I fully support the need to diversity your board and obviously I’m white” and “I’m an inclusion strategist but I don’t have an HR background”…

And then, the magic happened.

The CEO told me that they were recruiting for 3 positions — not one, as I thought — and that my experiences as an immigrant in different countries, my work in tech, and my DEI journey would bring a very unique perspective to the board. 

Suddenly, I experienced a shift.

From feeling that I needed to fit into boxes created by others — to be tolerated- I moved to feel welcome.

Welcoming users

This is not only about hiring people. It’s about customers too.

Some months ago, I was talking with an organisation that works towards ensuring that data and AI work for all people and society. They wanted my feedback about their website in the context of my hat of inclusion strategist.

I pointed out that the site didn’t comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) international standard. But that was only the beginning. 

For example, I told them about how there were no images showcasing people with disabilities, old people, or children on their website. I also mentioned the lack of pronouns and the signals that sends to users from the LBTQAI+ community. 

Once I finished with my high-level evaluation of their website, I waited for my interlocutor’s feedback:

“You mentioned visitors of the website feeling welcome. I never thought about a website in this way”.

And his face lighted up. I hadn’t realised until that moment that I used the word “welcome”. I’m glad I did.  

To welcome people, start with your own feelings

When we talk about DEI, we often talk about “managing” the feelings of the people that society puts in a low-status category: Women, LBTQAI+, disabled, old…

  • We should make them feel included
  • We should make them feel that they belong
  • We should make them feel…

But the reality is that we can only control our feelings. The idea of “making somebody else feel like they belong” is a nice construct but doesn’t reflect how our brain works.

We’re a “circumstance” in others’ lives. We’re their “environment”. Their thoughts about that environment are what make them feel included or excluded — that they belong or they are only tolerated.

What if instead of thinking about others’ feelings, we started by thinking about our thoughts and feelings?

In other words, when you have a new colleague, manager, direct report, neighbour, or family member, my challenge to you is to interrogate your thoughts about that person

For example, are you thinking?

  • “I need to make X, Y, and Y so the person doesn’t think I’m racist”
  • “I must watch what I say to avoid hurting the person’s feelings”
  • “I should say X, Y, and Z so the person knows I’m their ally”

and as a consequence, are you feeling?

  • Stressed
  • Judged
  • Inadequate

Instead, I offer you to “try” thoughts like

  • “I’m interested in what I can learn from this person”
  • “This person will be an asset to the organisation”
  • “As a manager, I can help this person to fulfill their potential”

And what feelings do those thoughts elicit? I can share how I feel when I “try” those thoughts with a person.

  • Curious
  • Interested
  • Energised

In summary, we should care about our own thoughts and feelings because they drive our actions.

If you feel “judged” because you think “I must watch what I say to avoid hurting the person’s feelings”, probably you will “send vibes” to the person about being hypervigilant, sound scripted, and you’ll minimise your contact with them.

On the other hand, if you feel energised because you think that you can help this person to fulfill their potential, chances are you’ll share your knowledge with them, introduce them to your networks, and assign them stretching projects that will lead them to promotions.

The bottom line

We put a lot of effort into discussing actions to affect others’ feelings of inclusion and belonging.

Instead, if we truly want to produce meaningful DEI progress, we should start with our own thoughts and feelings. Only then, we will move from tolerating to welcoming.

QUIZ: Patriarchy and You

How much is patriarchy ruling your life and career?

We believe that we make choices based on logic and objective criteria.

The reality is that the patriarchal rules embedded in our socialisation often decide for us.

This 3-minute quiz will tell you how much patriarchy impacts your life and career choices.


Patriarchy and pain: A match made in heaven

A rose stem with many thorns and a rose in the background.
Image by Cornell Frühauf from Pixabay.

How many times have we heard “No pain, no gain”? And variations such as “There is no free meal in the universe”? Or “Work is paid because, otherwise, you won’t do it”?

Patriarchy, many religions, and fathers of capitalism such as Adam Smith have inculcated in us that we’re here to suffer, that we’re inherently lazy, and that if we didn’t have pain, we would work.

When we believe we’re lazy without pain

I discovered how much the culture of pain had negatively impacted my life when I stumbled upon the words of the author Marian Keyes

What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. […] horrible things damage you. They don’t make you better, or wiser and stronger. Most of the time they hobble you a bit.”

Marian Keyes

I realised that, indeed, bad things hadn’t made me stronger. Moreover, I also became aware that none of those “lessons” had made me a better person, employee, or friend. We have created a mythology around “pain” that doesn’t serve us well as human beings. Instead, it entrenches the powers of oppression. When we believe we deserve pain:

  • We don’t ask for help: I coach, mentor, and sponsor women. Countless times, my suggestion of making a warm introduction to somebody that could help them — or suggesting that they reach out to somebody that could open doors for them — has been met with pushback such as “I don’t want to bother” or “I should be able to figure it out this by myself”.
  • We’re forced to look for “silver linings”: In Venezuela, we have a saying that conveys a similar meaning to silver linings — “When God closes a door, somewhere else opens a window”.

Fired from your job? In an abusive relationship? Lost a family member? Patriarchy doesn’t want us to dwell on it — it wants us to “suck it up” and continue producing as working bees. If you’re in pain because of tragedy around you, you’re simply not making enough effort to “find the silver lining”.

  • We believe that we deserve pain when we don’t conform to the stereotype. Recently, the UN published the Gender Social Norms Index 2023. 25% of respondents thought it is justified for a man to beat his wife. Society is also biased against women’s pain. We either neglect it — “It’s in your head”, we’re told — or we identify it as a mark of “sainthood” — when we worship “natural” births and shame women that opt for alternatives such as C-sections or pain relief.

The reality is that pain becomes handy to keep a tight rein on low-power groups. It indoctrinates us in the belief that being mistreated at work, gaslighted by our doctors, or deprived of control over our bodies is unchangeable — that we deserve it. We’re here to suffer, after all.

From shoulds to letting be easy

How does patriarchy enforce “Pain makes you stronger” or “No pain, no gain”? Through “shoulds”.

  • You should work until the work is finished.
  • You should be a perfect mother.
  • You shouldn’t let your personal life interfere with your professional career.
  • You should go to work even if you experience period pain.
  • You should prioritise motherhood.
  • You should…

What if we’d change a culture of systemic oppression that reinforces “shoulds” for a regenerative alternative of “letting be easy”?

  • We shouldn’t have “exponential growth” but make it easy to distribute the wealth we already have.
  • We shouldn’t have to conform to inflexible work norms but make it easy for employees to work in the way that suits them better.
  • We shouldn’t police women about what they can do with their bodies but make it easy for them to manage their sexual and reproductive health as they see fit.

BACK TO YOU: What “should” can you drop this week?

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10 Promotion secrets revealed: The poison of well-meaning advice

Suprised woman.
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay.

I’ve been a mentor for many years and I’ve had the privilege of receiving advice from fantastic mentors. 

But I’ve had also tons of bad career advice. Advice that has derailed my professional progression, robbed me of opportunities to stretch myself, and fostered patriarchal thinking.

The problem is that because it comes from well-meaning people around us, we’re conditioned by patriarchy to think others know better than us, and we’re trained to want to be liked — to “do as we’re told” — damaging our career in the process.

Here are my top 10 pieces of bad career advice and what to do instead so you save yourself time, energy, and frustration.

[Bad career advice #1] Women don’t help other women

This is patriarchal advice at its best. Are you really saying that 4 billion human beings won’t help their own group?

Yes, there have been some women that have hindered my progression or didn’t help me when it could have made a massive difference for me….


I’ve found many other women that have supported my career progression, made warm introductions, amplified my work, and highlighted my achievements and skills in rooms where I was not present. They have been my mentors, coaches, and sponsors.

What to do instead? If you’re a woman, connect two other women in your network that would benefit from knowing each other.

[Bad career advice #2] If you do a great job, you’ll be promoted

I have bad news for you: doing an impactful job that deserves a promotion is not enough to get promoted. That’s a sad truth that I’ve confirmed over and over throughout my career and from people that I’ve mentored, coached, and sponsored. It’s also well-documented in leadership books and articles.

There are multiple reasons for that. Some of them are:

  • Others may not be aware of your work.
  • They may be aware but don’t understand what it takes to deliver those results.
  • They may know about your work but don’t remember it at the promotion time.
  • Maybe only your manager knows about your achievements.
  • You deliver great value on key initiatives that are perceived as “one-offs”. That is, the value doesn’t fit the “typical” checkboxes for promotion.
  • Your work has reset the baseline of what people expect from you: You consistently deliver fantastic work so, by doing so in each project, you’re perceived as not doing anything “extraordinary” worth of a promotion.
  • You are perceived as a “commodity” worker: The business believes you won’t leave.

And there are many more.

What to do instead? Two actions you can start implementing right now to visibilise your great work:

1.- Record your wins — For example, create a “win folder” in your inbox to record your achievements, including those that appear “small”. That especially includes positive feedback from customers and colleagues. This information will be invaluable at the annual assessment time.

2.- Socialize your wins — Make your manager aware of your achievements… and everybody else that can support your promotion or may raise an objection about it. That includes your peers and especially other senior leaders in the organisation.

[Bad career advice #3] If you minimize your work, you’ll be more likeable and get promoted

Since I was little, I was taught by society to minimize and diminish myself and my contributions at each opportunity.

If they’d say “You’re intelligent”, the answer was “I work hard”.

To a professor telling me “Great work, Patricia”, I’d reply, “It was easy”.

Even to somebody praising how well a dress looked on me, I’d learned to reply “Really? It was not that expensive”.

And this pattern of diminishing my contributions and work continued through my early career. I felt the “right” answer to somebody acknowledging I had done great work was something like “It’s nothing”, “Anyone could have done it…”, or “Thanks but…”.

I also learn to caveat my comments with “I’m not an expert”, even if I was, because I internalised that otherwise I won’t be liked.

What’s the problem with that? I’ll answer with another question: How are you going to build a case for your promotion if you keep minimizing your contribution during the year? You cannot spend 365 days deflecting every praise on your work and then pitch during the annual and mid-year reviews that you’ve done outstanding work.

What to do instead? When somebody compliments your work, simply reply “Thank you” or, even better, stress what was the most difficult part. E.g. “Thanks. It entailed non-negligible strategic thinking/collaboration among teams/risk-taking. I’m glad to hear the project/initiative/presentation met your high standards “.

[Bad career advice #4] Everybody knows you want to be promoted

Nope. The world doesn’t turn around you!

During my academic years, the path was very clear. I was studying Chemical Engineering to get a diploma in Engineering. The same with my Master, and Ph.D. in Computational Chemistry. I didn’t need to spell out my goals. They were clear to everybody and that made it easy for people to support me, mentor me, and coach me.

Then, during my post-doc, the goal was much more fluid. It was like being in limbo. People assumed I wanted to be a professor at university — that’s what everybody wanted in the lab but I was not sure anymore… And then I knew that I wanted to work for a commercial company. Still, because I didn’t tell anybody, none knew, and obviously they didn’t think to recommend me if a commercial opportunity came along.

I did get a position to work for a company in France after my post-doc but it was all on my own. I had to look for open positions and apply to them. No warm introductions or help to prepare the interviews. Still, my post-doc advisor was very supportive once I asked for a recommendation to finalise my hiring at that company… I wish I’d communicated to him my intentions earlier.

I learned my lesson. Since then, I’ve been transparent with my managers about my career goals and where I see the next step for me. This kind of conversation helped me to understand the gaps between my perception and theirs about my career ambitions.

What to do instead? Spell out exactly what you want. Do you want to be promoted? Do you believe you deserve it? Say it. Explicitly. Don’t simply say “I want to be promoted” but “I have now the skills, achievements, and experience to be promoted to Sr. Support Engineer”, “Operations Sr Manager” or “Principal Software Engineer”.

And if you haven’t started to discuss it with your manager, don’t leave it to the annual review. Bring it to your next 1:1 meeting!

[Bad career advice #5] If you go after a promotion, you may let other people down

At one point when I was looking for a job early in my career, I reached out to quite a lot of organisations with my CV. One of them replied that they wanted to hire me. The position was not starting until several months later but I was over the moon.
About a month later I got the previous message, I was contacted by another of the organisations to which I’d applied. They were also interested in my CV. What’s more, they were even a better opportunity than the one I had accepted.
I was torn. I didn’t want to let the first organisation down but it was such a good opportunity…
 I reached out to my only mentor at the time and she told me I should be cautious. I didn’t want to be known as somebody that was untrustworthy… Long story short, I declined the second offer.
 In the very long run, all went well with my first option but I regret that my decision was based on “not letting others down” and not on “this is the best choice for me”.
What to do instead? Every time your brain goes into the “I may be letting others down” rabbit hole, question if you’re letting yourself down instead. Also, I invite you to examine the long-term effect of your decision. In my story, the decision was life-changing for me — it affected my career path — whereas for my employers it would have been an inconvenience but definitely, it wouldn’t have changed the organisation.

Get the other 5 pieces of bad advice — and what to do instead — when you join my newsletter where I share fresh thinking about inclusion, tech, professional success & systemic change through a feminist lens. Sign here to receive the guide “10 Pieces of Bad Career Advice and What to Do Instead”.

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Unmasking patriarchal productive procrastination: Empower your professional path

Woman in a library carrying a stack of books.
Photo by cottonbro studio.

This week, I had amazing coaching conversations with my clients about their professional careers. 

A recurrent theme came up: The “evermore education” career trap — using courses, certifications, and programs as barriers to their own career progression.

This is part of what I call productive procrastination.

Productive procrastination

The Cambridge Dictionary defines procrastination as

the act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring

We associate procrastination with either doing what we call “nothing” — resting — or embarking on pleasurable tasks — watching TV, gaming, gardening— instead of doing the work we have decided we should be doing.

However, for my clients, a recurrent blocker in their career progress has not been bingeing on Netflix instead of searching for a job. It’s been doing something that on the surface appears to be aligned with their professional goal but that it’s procrastination in disguise.  

“Not All Speed Is Movement”

Toni Cade Bambara

I’m talking about the neverending cycle of “taking another course”, “reading another book”, and“mastering another tool” before applying for a new job, asking for a promotion, or launching a business.

In summary, you convince yourself that before any meaningful step towards progressing in your career, you must learn something that it’s going to take you a considerable amount of time AND that until you complete that step you cannot pursue your career goals.

Why you love productive procrastination

The reason productive procrastination is so efficient is that — unlike bingeing on Netflix — it makes us feel good. How?

  1. It gives us permission not to risk rejection; that is, not to engage with the person that actually can help us in our career progression: manager, recruiter, or sponsor.
  2. It allows us to delay our career progression “rationally” — instead of exploring the reasons why we’re resistant to have conversations about our career with key stakeholders, that 3-month course or 6-month program gives us the perfect alibi to “delay” those uncomfortable discussions for another 3 or 6 months.
  3. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — as we learn more, we discover other areas/topics/skills in which we’re not an expert. That enables our brain to come up with yet another“learning milestone” that we “absolutely need to master” before going back to our job search.
  4. We’re sure to please most of our friends, mentors, and loved ones. When we share with our network of supporters thoughts like “I learned today that it’s good I do course X before I launch my business” or “I’m going to pursue program Y towards my career change”, we — consciously or unconsciously — already know they are going to tell us things like “Great idea”, “I’m pleased you’re taking action”, “Sounds like the right next step”. You feel good, they feel good, and nothing changes.

Why do I say that productive procrastination is a patriarchal strategy?

Because whilst you are “happily busy” learning and perfecting, those with more privilege than you are 

  • Sending half-cooked CVs to recruiters.
  • Asking for warm introductions to hiring managers.
  • Launching a website with some typos.
  • Negotiating a pay rise.
  • Discussing their promotion with their managers.
  • Running a survey among their targeted customer group to get feedback on a business idea.

Moreover, productive procrastination reinforces the feeling of “not enoughness” that patriarchal structures feed to women and people from underrepresented groups since we’re born.

How else do you explain that in spite that there are more women than men with university degrees in Oceania, the Americas, and Europe, most leadership positions in those regions are in the hands of men?

How do you detect you’re a victim of productive procrastination?

Some clues that you’ve become a productive procrastinator

  • Overcomplicating — You keep adding courses/workshops/certificates to your to-do list of things you have decided you absolutely need to finish before starting to take action.
  • Endless polishing — When you look at your CV, website, or business idea, you tell yourself that you’ll need a ton of work to create/develop/improve them and you keep refining the draft versions for weeks, months, or years
  • Neverending sense of “not being enough” — Do you note a pattern of embarking on back-to-back certifications, even if you continue to promise yourself that this will be the last one?

How you get unstuck from productive procrastination

And here are some strategies to unhook you from productive procrastination:

  • Overcomplicating — what’s the minimum education or piece of work you need to start interacting with stakeholders in your career?
  • Endless polishing — When you look at your CV, what overwhelming evidence do you have that more polishing is needed before you send it?
  • Neverending sense of “not being enough” — Decide in advance what’s the minimum you need to “learn” and what’s the deadline. And then stick to it. 

BACK TO YOU: What’s one way you’ll stop productively procrastinating to block your career progression this week?

PS. I can help you to unblock your career 

Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.

Of the patriarchal value of time: Women’s unpaid work

A woman with an expression of overwhelm is surrounded by balls of different colours suspended in the air. She has her hands up like trying to protect herself from the balls.
Too many balls in the air? Photo by Zak Neilson on Unsplash.

I cannot recall how many times I’ve heard women saying that their problem is “time management”. They want to get coached on how they can finally can tick all the items off their to-do list and “don’t feel behind” anymore.

I’d love to tell you that I fix them, that I have a magic wand that makes them “less lazy”, “more focused”, and “better at prioritisation” — their words, not mine. But they’re not the ones that need fixing. 

The reality is that when we look in detail, the problem is somewhere else.

Patriarchal brainwashing

Our brains are rotten by patriarchal conditioning:

  • Women have been trained to people-please — As women, we’re “human doings” not “human bodies”, so our value resides on what we do for others. How does that work in practice? We’re taught that “good girls” don’t say no. In the end, the happiness of 4 billion on this planet depends on us making their lives easier.
  • We’ve been indoctrinated in the idea that “women are innate multitaskers” — which we often showcase with pride as an advantage over men. Really? And all that in spite of scientific evidence that our brain is made for processing tasks one after the other and not in parallel. Often, when we think we’re “multitasking”, we’re simply task-switching: spending 1 minute on one task, 1 on another, coming back to the first one, and so on. This is extremely taxing — and takes longer than performing the tasks sequentially — as task-switching has a cost for the brain that each time has to stop, remember where it was previously, and restart.
  • The mental model that our body shouldn’t be a hindrance — It’s up to us to catch up. Do you have menstrual cramps? Hot flashes? Excruciating pain from endometriosis? Heavy bleeding from fibroids? Or are you breastfeeding? Keep working and ensure you make up for the lost time so nobody can say that you’re not as reliable, hardworking, and valuable as your male colleagues.

Gendered tasks

Not all tasks are created equal:

  • The tasks bestowed upon women because… they’re women — Household, childcare, and eldercare simply “suit” our “natural” abilities.
  • The “give back” tasks — If you’re a professional woman, you’ll be expected to give uncountable hours of your time towards free mentoring, coaching, and inspirational speaking to younger women. The more successful you are, the more hours. In the meantime, the men around you will focus on their careers.
  • Women are the joker for any unexpected task — A child gets sick? You’re the mum. Catering didn’t arrive for the company happy hour? You’re the one to go to the supermarket and save the day. Your manager doesn’t have the time to onboard the new trainee? You’ll take one for the team.
  • The non-promotable tasks — Office housework, glue work, and weaponised incompetence. After all, women are inborn team players.
  • The tasks inherent to being “seen” as a professional woman — It’s a job in itself to dress professionally — get the perfect sartorial choice that exudes confidence, “good” taste, and feminity —  and look professionally —  makeup, nails, and hairdressing. However, not all women have the same experience… for some, it’s even worse. For example, Black women “professional” hairdressing is especially taxing. Countless number of hours and money towards straightening their hair to mitigate the discrimination they suffer against Eurocentric stereotypes around what “professional” looks like.

Living in a world that is not made for women

Our own resignation at the fact that some tasks will take us more time because we’re women:

  • Toilet queues — I bet that if I add up all the time I’ve spent queueing on public toilets during my life, it’d amount to at least half a year of my existence. And that’s even worse if you have children — it goes without saying that the burden is on you to take them to the toilet/changing room with you.
  • The duty of moving as fast as the slowest person in the room — Welcome to the misery of public transport: underground and train stations without lifts for when you take your old mother to the doctor, buses that require folding pushchairs, and toddlers with a mind of their own.
  • Getting the same pension as a White man — because of the gender pay gap and unequal pay, women should work longer if they want to cumulate the same pension pot that White men. Again, not all women are created equal. Ethnicity, disability, and LGBTQUIA+ identities have a compounding negative effect on the gender pay gap.
  • Maternity leave — no need to expand on the well-documented harm of the #MommyTrack to women’s career prospects.
  • Male medicine — Women are at the mercy of a healthcare system that doesn’t want them. The 4 billion women in the world are extremely inconvenient with their hormones. The solution so far has been to ignore women’s pain altogether, perpetually underfunding research on their illnesses and how the same health conditions affect them differently than men. As a consequence, when we go to the doctor, we never know if our symptoms will be addressed or will be diminished with an “it’s probably in your head” or if the medicines that we consume will come with terrible secondary effects — and even life risks — because they haven’t tested in women.
  • Women’s bodies don’t belong to them— They are units of production vulnerable to the whim of those who decide when and how they should get pregnant and how and when they become mothers.

Outrageous acts and everyday rebellions

Why seizing control of our time is important?

Because whilst we’re blaming ourselves for our lack of time management skills and spiralling towards burnout, our writing, painting, sculpting, researching, volunteering, and leading go to the back burner.

That’s the true reason that most best-selling authors, CEOs, artists, and researchers are White men. They are not smarter. They simply have more time to focus and work on their areas of interest. They also have a room of their own.

What do women do then? My answer comes in the form of the title of an excellent book by Gloria Steinem “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions”.

This week, I invite you to commit an outrageous act — or an everyday rebellion — against patriarchy. Some ideas

  • Intentionally dropping the ball on any of the gendered tasks mentioned above.
  • Taking a paid sick day because you feel unwell — even if you’re not dying.
  • Resting as a form of self-care.
  • Reading a book for pleasure whilst there is a pile of dishes in the sink or the laundry pile is looking at you.
  • Shutting up when your brain screams at you that you should volunteer to bring a birthday cake to the office, take the meeting’s minutes, or carpool the neighbours’ children to a party.
  • Ignoring the emails of that colleague that’s trying to make you do that non-promotable work for him.

BACK TO YOU: Email me — or comment below — about your plan to impose your own agenda on the patriarchy this week. 


Do you want to get rid of chapters in the “good girl” encyclopaedia that patriarchy has written for you? Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.

How patriarchy teaches you to talk yourself out of what you want

Patricia Gestoso delivering a talk in front of a screen that reads: Career vs Patriarchal version. Under career, there is a workflow that starts with goal, plan, people, implement, and ends with achieve. Under the patriarchal version, the workflow starts with play small, magnify obstables, do one test, judge ourselves, and ends with conform.

In May, I delivered a talk to the University of Manchester at the EDIA Colloquium “Women in Science, Industry and Academia”.

The title of the talk was How Patriarchy fosters your Perfectionism, Self-criticism and Self-doubt and what you can do about it”. To my surprise – and maybe yours – the title was not suggested by me but by the organisers of the event after reading my posts.

During the keynote, I shared with the audience how I talked myself out of launching my website focused on the intersection between technology and DEI for three years.

Reasons I gave myself:

Lack of role models: I hadn’t met yet anybody that worked in tech – I was senior manager of support at the time – and had a personal blog about diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Perfectionism: As a non-native English speaker, I catastrophised about the possibility to have a typo on the website or that my grammar may not be flawless.

Validation: The patriarchal structures had educated me that my worth was dependent on validation from others. I was concerned that people in my network and at work would see me as “less” for having a blog.

Credibility: I have a Ph.D. in Computational Chemistry but not in HR or DEI. At the time, I felt my lived experiences as well as my work advocating and spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives weren’t “enough” to grant me permission to write a blog about DEI.

How did I overcome all those obstacles? I’d love to tell you that I “cured” myself by repeating in my head “Fake it until you make it” or “Be confident”. But it was not the case.

I had to do the work against two powerful enemies.

The first was my brain, that’s wired for survival and hates anything new. My brain knows me well so it would always throw me “thoughts” to discourage me to pursue a stretching goal.

The second was patriarchy, which is an even mightier adversary. Through the years, it has built for me a big encyclopaedia called “Good girl rules for Patricia”.  In it, it’s carefully detailed the very few things I’m allowed to think, feel, and do and all the other things I can’t even dream about because “good girls don’t do that”.

Among the patriarchal rules that are extremely successful at minimising women and people from underrepresented groups is the idea of the “role model”. It’s the perfect self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take women in tech.

Society says “Women need more role models in STEM”. That causes women to think that they need a role model to have a career in tech. And if they don’t find it, they abandon the idea because “you can’t be what you cannot see”. Not only that, if you’re indeed a woman in tech that has succeeded, society imposes on you the “obligation” to act as a role model on top of your full-time job. This can go all the way from agreeing to be the company’s speaker at STEM events to sponsoring the female employee network. All that whilst the men around you prioritise their careers.

How convenient, isn’t it?

That’s the reason that I told the audience that instead they should cherish the opportunities when they don’t have a role model. That means they are creating original work. That means they are trailblazers!

Moreover, I invited them to think about being role models themselves and have impossible goals. In my case, I want to be a role model of what’s possible for an immigrant woman in tech.

In the end, I shared with the audience a tip and a quote

The tip is that you need to learn how to move whilst feeling fear. There is no “imposter syndrome” vaccine. Fear will always be there when you attempt greatness, when you disrupt the status quo. The trick is to acknowledge it and explore the techniques that will suit you to still go ahead in spite of the discomfort.

The quote is

“If someone is unhappy with your life, it shouldn’t be you”

Brooke Castillo, Life Coach School

BACK TO YOU: How are you talking yourself out of doing what you want?


Do you want to get rid of chapters in the “good girl” encyclopaedia that patriarchy has written for you? Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.

The hidden impact: How patriarchy’s emotional policing shapes our lives

Four emoticon balls portraying sadness, happiness, anger, and worry.
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay.

When I was a child my parents and teachers would label my emotions and try to regulate them. That’s what we all do with children when we tell them

“You shouldn’t be angry because you lost your book.”

“You should be happy because got a new backpack for school.”

“You look surprised when you opened the gift”.

Emotions are learned and they are not universal, as the neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett explains in her book 7 ½ Lessons about the brain.

Emotions and women

The problem is that half a century later I realised that people and society are still trying to regulate my emotions and label them.

As an example, recently, during a conversation with a male acquaintance and after disagreeing with his proposed solution to a problem, he told me that I was frustrated. I replied to him that I wasn’t frustrated, I simply had another opinion. He insisted with an “Oh, yes, you are frustrated, you are” to which I replied that he didn’t have any special powers to determine my emotions better than I did. An award silence followed…

So what emotions society “allows” me? Some of the emotions that are permitted and encouraged as a woman are modesty, empathy, solidarity, and love (maternal and romantic). Not because society cares about my well-being but because that’s expected to make others feel good.

Also, society is keen on me feeling guilt and shame so I can be sold diets, cosmetic surgery, makeup, etc.

What about the emotions that society determines that are “not ok” for me to feel? Some are rage, frustration, empowerment, pride, lust, and pleasure.

There are also feelings that we have collectively labeled as “feminine” such as intuition, which is despised because somehow we give it a magical quality and correlate it with bad choices. 

But is that true? Let’s check its definition in the dictionary 

“Intuition: An ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it, or a feeling that shows this ability.”

I’d argue that, based on that definition, all religious beliefs are intuitions. Where is the selfie of Moses with the burning bush? Or that picture showing Eve giving the apple to Adam?

Although finally intuition is getting traction in business, note that has been repackaged as a bridge between our emotions and intellect to make it palatable. From a Forbes article

“Intuition is unique in that it bridges the emotional reaction of instinct with the intellectual response of analysis. In other words, it combines feeling with thinking. It is balanced.

More specifically, intuition is built on our past experience, which is the richest source of wisdom.“

I feel now so much better about my intuition now that’s been mansplained to me!

And I’m not the only one whose emotions are policed.

For example, Black women are stereotyped as “angry”, Asians are “cold”, and elders as “cranky”.

In summary, “having” emotions is judged to be undesirable. And if you don’t believe me, please share an example when calling somebody “emotional” was said as praise.

Emotions and men

What about men? Their emotions are also policed.

If emotions are not seen as an innate or advantageous “feature”, the patriarchal rule mandates that men should downplay and stifle their emotions, although exceptions are made for lust, pride, and overconfidence.

The result? Men leading on the scoreboard of death by suicide and mental and physical violence.

But are emotions as undesirable as patriarchy wants us to believe?

What emotions really are

Actually, being emotional is an inherent quality of being human and having a brain.

In this insightful 9-min video, Dr. Feldman Barrett debunks the myth that “when the rational part of your brain wins you’re a moral, healthy person and when the emotional side of your brain wins, then you’re either immoral — because you didn’t try hard enough — or you’re mentally ill because you couldn’t control your emotions”.

She shares that emotions are the stories that your brain tells itself about what is going on inside your body in relation to what’s happening in the world.

Moreover, she explains that emotions “are primarily based on past experiences and the brain’s predictions of future events. This means that emotions aren’t merely reactions thrust upon us, but something we actively participate in creating. Barrett further posits that we can alter our brain’s predictive patterns by diversifying our experiences such as learning new things, watching films, or engaging in activities like acting that deviate from our routine. By doing this, we can shape the architecture of our future selves.”

Personally, I find it empowering to know that I’m the architect of my experience and that emotions are an asset to master rather than the handicap that patriarchy wants us to believe.

BACK TO YOU: Now that you know emotions are not something to be ashamed of — like patriarchy wanted us to believe — what will you do differently?


If you are ready to stop “feelings” happening to you and start using your emotions to achieve what you want on your own terms, book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your version of success.

The strange case of the kidney, the bully, and how my whiteness protects me from the algorithm

The illustration of a kidney overlaid by a continuous foreground of 0s and 1s.
Combination of images by OpenClipart-Vectors and  Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

Next Wednesday is my hospital appointment with the nephrologist — the medical specialist for kidney conditions. The last appointment was before the pandemic.

I’m dreading it. 

I keep telling myself that this is what I’ve been waiting for since the appointment was canceled a year ago at the last minute, that it was me who rang the NHS to ensure it’d be rescheduled.

I want to know how well my kidneys are working. 

And I don’t want to.

The truth is that I know what I want. I want to go and that the specialist tells me “Patricia, all the analyses look good. The tiny worsening we saw more than 3 years ago was an outlier. Of course, we should continue to monitor the kidney function but it looks stable. See you in a year”.

But the reality is that I won’t know the full answer on Wednesday. During the appointment, they’ll take samples but not all results will be available right away. I’ll have to wait until the next appointment — maybe in 6 months or 1 year — to know…

The backstory

Many years ago, a family member within my direct line died from kidney disease. We saw it as a random occurrence — the person had other serious health conditions.

That was until another member in my direct bloodline was diagnosed with kidney disease upon a routine ultrasound procedure more than a decade ago. This family member urged me to ask my doctors to check my kidneys.

I asked my GP, but she told me that there was no reason to look into it until I began to feel unwell. So reassuring.

Time forward to about 8 years ago when during an ultrasound procedure the technician detected cysts in my kidneys and liver. She didn’t say anything but within 24 hours I received a call from my GP asking me questions about my family history and told me he’d referred me to a nephrologist.

An MRI confirmed the cysts in my kidneys and then my check-ins started. First every 6 months and then every 12. There are a lot of unknowns about how cysts progress towards kidney failure. We do know that we don’t want the cysts to grow as the sections occupied by them are basically useless. And kidneys don’t regenerate like the liver.

So basically, it’s a “proxy” monitoring exercise. Typically, I meet with the doctor, they measure my blood pressure — very important since there is a correlation between blood pressure and cyst growth — and other markers in my urine and blood. I’ve been told that if those trends appear to go “the wrong direction” then I’ll have another MRI, medication, and we’ll take it from there.

Going to this wing of the hospital it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before in the healthcare system in the UK. They have the kindest staff. I’ve been in other sections of the hospital and the staff it’s nice but in nephrology, they are so patient and caring.

And you can understand why.

People arrive in wheelchairs and with oxygen masks covering their mouths. Some can barely walk. And in case we forget why are we there, we have posters exhorting visitors to donate kidneys.

What’s not to like?

The bully

I’m very protective of my direct reports’ time. Through my years working in customer service, I’ve realised that one of the reasons why most people in my team work in support is because they like to help people. All people.

That means not only paying customers but also colleagues. The new salesperson that doesn’t understand the differences between our licensing options. The pre-sales that needs help preparing the proof of concept. The services specialist that cannot install our software on their machine. The R&D person that wants to check a fix for a bug. The product manager that wants feedback on a new capability. And the list goes on… And curiously, all of them “just need 5 minutes”.

When you have people working for you that are so dedicated, my job is not about pushing them to work but rather helping them prioritise the tasks and play the bad cop as needed.

And it appears to be working. Although some appear to not appreciate it.

On Friday, I received an email request for my team’s time. The person asked me for one person in my team to help with an internal activity and told me to read an attached long email trail for details. Which I dutifully did.

Within the email body, this same person had written

“Then I’ll ask Patricia, which will be like asking her to donate a kidney.”

The sentence felt like a blow to my solar plexus and it travelled to my brain like a river of gasoline in flames. And stayed there for a long while.

I was upset because it was highly unprofessional. But I won’t lie, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have had the same impact if the person referenced another part of my body — my lungs, my bone marrow, my cornea.

I prefaced my reply to the email trail — which already had included a third colleague — the following

Thanks for sharing this email trail. I especially appreciate the reference

Then I’ll ask Patricia, which will be like asking her to donate a kidney.

My family carries a genetic mutation that may cause kidney disease and members of our family have died without the benefit of a donated kidney. As indeed I carry such a mutation, I cannot donate my kidneys.

I waited all afternoon for an apology that never came.

The other person copied in the email trail didn’t mention it either and continued the email exchange without any reference to the bully’s remarks about kidney donations or my reply to it.

How the whiteness of my kidneys protects me from AI

When my brain goes into “Why me?” or “Would have been better not to know?” I tell myself that there are two pieces of good news

First, so far, my kidney function appears to be “normal” within some variations. Moreover, the other direct family member that has the same condition is in good health upon controlling their blood pressure with daily medication. So far, my blood pressure has always been perfect.

The other good news? I’m not Black.

A couple of years ago, I learned about the race-correction applied to algorithms deciding on kidney transplants in the US.

What’s the race-correction? In simple terms, it’s the calculating of a result that takes into account race. It is commonly used in medical algorithms in several specialties, including cardiology, nephrology, urology, obstetrics, endocrinology, oncology, and respiratory medicine.

In practical terms, that means that people identified — by themselves or their doctors — as “Black” receive different medical treatments, typically underestimating their pain or their need for medical attention. And whilst there is no scientific base for such a correction, it has negatively impacted African Americans waiting for a kidney donor.

In this 14-minute TED MED talk, social justice advocate and law scholar Dorothy Roberts explains how race-based medicine is bad medicine. Even today, many doctors still use race as a medical shortcut; they make important medical decisions based on a patient’s skin colour instead of medical observation and measurement.

Going back to kidneys, because of the race-correction, Black patients that have the same kidney function have been ranked with lower priority in the transplant list.

And it’s not only as receivers of a kidney, but as donors. As per Wikipedia

“The Kidney Donor Risk Index (KDRI), the United States’ official kidney allocation index, was developed in 2014. Race is among the factors used to predict the success of a kidney graft, with Black donors’ kidneys often thought to perform worse than kidneys from other donors. Being Black results in a demarcation as a less preferable donor by the KDRI. This creates a snowball effect, with fewer kidneys from Black donors in the system. In turn, Black people in need of kidney donations are affected. Black people already face longer wait times than people of other races in need of kidney transplants. Black people are more likely to receive a kidney transplant from a Black donor, according to recent studies. This lack of resources can exacerbate the already lengthy wait times.”

There have been recent studies looking into the impact of this race-correction on kidney transplantation and recalculating the KDRI with and without the race-correction. They reassure us that removing the correction doesn’t have a “substantial overall impact on the transplantation system” because the number of Black donors that moved into the category of higher risk of organ nonuse was countered by the number of non-Black donors moving to that category as well as the KDPI represents the percentiles relative to all other donors.

This is how I see this statistical result: We’re using data to talk ourselves out of the inequities we perpetuate.

First, if you’re Black person in need of a kidney transplant or you want to donate yours, how this “overall impact” assessment is expected to reassure you as individual human being?

Second, the race-correction not only lacks biological meaning but “perpetuates race as a biological variable, rather than a social construct, contributing to inequities and healthcare disparities”

And what about the UK?

First, in the UK, people of Black ethnicity with chronic kidney disease are at higher risk of kidney failure.

On 25th August 2021, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a chronic kidney disease (CKD) guideline update that removed the recommendation to adjust for Black ethnicity when estimating how well a patient’s kidneys are working; a change that will prevent overestimation of kidney function in people from Black ethnic groups and enable early treatment for chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Let’s pause on the date. August 2021. That is, less than 2 years ago.

And whilst we may find relief in this change. The game is not over.

It’s not over for all those patients whose kidney condition worsened unnecessarily because they were treated as if their kidneys were working better than they were actually performing.

It’s not over for the families that have lost relatives to kidney disease because they didn’t receive the transplant that they deserved.

And finally, it’ll never be over for Black people because the data we have is biased against Black patients and donors. That data will live forever in the form of databases, algorithms, and predictive tools.


This post has been in the making for about 2 years since I discovered the race-correction. I think I struggled to write it because I didn’t want it to be another article about bias and AI that we forget.

They say that our brains remember stories better than other kinds of information. 

I hope that by disclosing my chronic kidney disease condition you’ll remember the inequities in healthcare and how pervasive they are. Not only about kidneys, the race-correction is used in other healthcare areas. For example, in the Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) calculator, “the developers found that Black and Hispanic women were less likely to have a successful VBAC than White women, so they included correctors that reduce the projected likelihood of success for women classified as Black or Hispanic”.

As this excellent open access article in The Lancet clearly showcases, we urgently need to advocate for anti-racist medicine. Now that you know,don’t allow yourself to unlearn it.

As for the bully, through writing this article over the weekend and talking to my coach I have reached a decision on what to do next. 

I won’t remain a bystander.

PS. You want more for your life…

The good news is that your brain is the greatest tool at your disposal. If you can master your mind, you can take your life and career to a whole new level.

Are you ready to bet on yourself and unleash your full potential? Book a free strategy call with me where we’ll discuss where you are, where you want to go, and if coaching it’s the right next step for you. No strings attached.

The emotional fatigue of being an immigrant

I’m an expert on being an immigrant. Overall, I’ve moved house more than 30 times over three continents and half a century.

I started my life as an immigrant when I was less than I year old. My first birthday was in Madrid, where my parents had moved from Galicia, the Spanish region where I was born. And then it was to different distrusters in Barcelona, then back to Galicia, then to Venezuela – where I lived in La Victoria, Maracay, and Caracas. Then, to Quebec (Canada), Patras (Greece), Lyon (France), and finally the UK, first in Cambridge and now in Manchester.

Recently, a dear fellow coach invited me to her podcast focused on immigrant women. She asked me to share with her three topics I’d like to discuss in the episode.

The first that came to my mind is the emotional toll of being an immigrant.

What do I mean by “emotional toll”?

Let me share my checklist of what others expect from me as an immigrant:

  • I’m a scapegoat for the failures of the country I live in: from lack of well-paid jobs to crumbling healthcare.
  • I’m perceived as an indistinguishable member of the “mass” of about 300 million people in the world that we call immigrants. For example, I forgot how many times I was told I was Mexican in Canada even if I repeatedly said I came from Venezuela. I’ve also been told that being Spanish and Italian is the same (scoop! We aren’t!).
  • We believe that women and non-binary people should have the same rights as men, people of colour the same rights as white people, and disabled people the same rigths as able people… but nobody thinks that as an immigrant I should have the same rights as nationals.
  • I should not have control over my own rights – that’s why I’m expressly excluded from national elections.
  • I should endeavour every day to demonstrate that I’m worth it. How? By consistently providing evidence that I’m more useful than the locals since I’m liable for “stealing their jobs”.
  • I must live with the uncertainty that a government can make me transition from being a legal immigrant to an illegal allien on a whim. I’ve already have that t-shirt.
  • I should be willing to justify why I’m in a country as many times as required by locals that ask. From the plummer doing a repair in my house to a work colleague that’s curious.
  • I must carefully decide on what I’m allowed to share my opinion, otherwise, I risk being at the receiving end of the “if you don’t like it, go home’ threat.
  • I’m expected to frequently convey how thankful I’m to be allowed to live in a country, as I was a visitor rather than the active contributor I am.
  • I’m also expected to respectfully go back “home” – wherever that is – once I’m not “productive” anymore.
  • I should answer the same curious questions about me – my accent, my country of origin, where my family is… – over and over and look unflappable.
  • I should embrace being patronised because of my country of origin. Often, when people know that I was brought up in Venezuela, they ask me if we have cars or computers. Imagine their surprise when I tell them that in the 80s I already had a car and a computer!
  • I should conform to and confirm the stereotypes. Spanish? Ah, sunny weather,  paella, bullfighting, and flamenco. I come from Galicia, where it rains all the time, our typical dish is octopus, we don’t do bullfighting, and our music has Celtic origins – we even have bagpipes.
  • I must remain calm when my expertise and my academic background are minimised. I still remember when working in France a coworker that had a technical degree, which takes 2 years to complete, told me that he felt that his studies were comparable to my foreign academic background at that moment – Chemical engineering bachelor (5 years), M.Sc. (2 years), Ph.D Computational chemistry (5 years), postdoctoral fellowship (18 months).
  • I’m always under the suspicion of stealing, hiding, or taking advantage of something. As such, I should expect to abide by all regulations and checkings that locals don’t undergo.
  • I graciously should accommodate locals’ preferences about me. For example, how they pronounce my name, substitute it with their nickname of preference, or choose to transcribe it in their alphabet.
  • I must look relaxed and cooperative no matter how vexing is the situation, even when that involves microaggressions and macroaggressions. I’ll always remember how people in the university I studied at in Venezuela used to tell me as a compliment: “Patricia, you’re very intelligent for a Galician”. All that because of the jokes they make in Venezuela about Galician people being stupid.
  • I need to understand that getting a passport from the country I live in doesn’t make me a “true” national. First, that citizenship can be stripped out of me at any time. Then, locals won’t allow me to feel one of them.
  • And finally, I need to come to terms with the fact that I’ll be treated as an immigrant in my own country of birth. I’ve already been refused twice medical attention in a hospital in Spain because somehow I don’t qualify. What’s more, as part of the Spanish immigrant group that votes in the elections remotely, I’ve been blamed by my compatriots that do live in the country to swing the elections without having a clue. I’ve also been told that I don’t have the right to express my opinion about Spanish politics because “I don’t leave there”.

BACK TO YOU: What do you think it will take to give immigrants the same respect and rights that we give to locals? 

Motherhood and the patriarchy: How society profits from judging women without children

I don’t have children. That has always appeared to be a problem for many people around me. They have

  • Tried to justify it: For example, indirectly trying to get a reason out of me or make one up by throwing at me versions of “Not everybody can have children”, “There are so many IVF treatments that fail”, “Adoption is not for everyone”.
  • Judged me: I still remember the father of a colleague at work that after a brief intro directly asked me if I had children. When I said no, he announced that I was the “kind of woman” that prioritised her career.
  • Kept track of my fertility timeline: As I was getting older, countless times I received reminders from those around me that “I was running out of time” to have children.
  • Reminded me that it’s my duty: For years, I was told/suggested/demanded that I should provide continuity to our bloodline.
  • Called me selfish: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told that women that don’t have children “only think about themselves”.
  • Diminished my pain: As I wrote in the article Levels of pain, often doctors have disregarded my pain because they judged that either it was not comparable to birth pain or I should endure it because it was somehow related to not having children.
  • Assumed that I don’t have other responsibilities: Others have thrown at me pearls of wisdom such as “it should be great to be so carefree” or “you must have plenty of free time”.

But that’s not only people, it’s also how I was socialised:

  • The Bible — I was raised Catholic — is a constant reminder that pious women’s obligation is to breed more souls.
  • Typically, wicked female characters in children’s stories — like witches and stepmothers- don’t have children.
  • We are indoctrinated in the belief that motherhood is selfless and birthing is the experience that makes you “a real woman”.
  • When we assume women should have children, we imply there is something wrong with women without children and we should fix them through advice and coercion.
  • We believe that women need a reason to not have children. We play with terms such as childless and childfree that are centred on the word “child” to categorise those women.
  • Abortion bans are easy to justify.
  • We believe that “no children” means no caring duties. For society, family caregivers don’t exist and therefore often they are not supported financially or otherwise by governments. 
  • We sugarcoat motherhood, so we don’t create the space to discuss issues like post-partum depression, miscarriage, lack of childcare support, or the professional penalty to have children.

What if instead, we thought that women that don’t have children

  • Have reflected on the fact that we’re already 8 billion on the planet and that not having children is a good remedy for overpopulation.
  • Have exerted their rights over their bodies.
  • Know what they want.
  • Don’t need your or anybody’s permission, blessing, or pity.
  • Have caregiving and financial duties that — although may not involve children – involve parents, siblings, and other family members that have physical or mental disabilities, cannot live on their own, or don’t have the financial means to support themselves.
  • They may still like children, just they don’t want to have their own.

Bottom line

My challenge to you is that the next time you learn a woman doesn’t have children instead of feeling pity, disdain, or empathy, you shift to respect.

PS. Are you stuck on your career?

You know that career conversations with your manager are key to professional growth but you struggle to get to the task. You procrastinate and wait for your manager to do the work.

If you want to interrupt the cycle, join us on May 22nd for a week where I’ll coach you to write a powerful career assessment and how to have a career conversation that gets you to the next level.

How to integrate quitting your job into your career success strategy

Text that reads both as "Don't quit it" and "Do it".
Photo by Leeloo Thefirst.

Work is currently designed for an idealised version of a White young single man with no care responsibilities.

And it goes beyond the scheduling constraints of a “full-time job” – 40 hours/week, 9 to 5 straight hours, and the Monday to Friday working week. From what we consider “looking professional” all the way to the expectations of having to be always on just in case the business needs us or even setting the office temperature, which was developed back in the 1960s through an analysis of the resting weight of a 154lb (69kg) 40-year-old man.

It’s not a surprise that women and people from underrepresented groups feel they don’t “fit in”.

And it goes beyond dress codes and schedules. We’re expected to put up with microaggressions, weaponised incompetence, office work, and harassment, to mention a few.

However, rather than questioning the current state of affairs, patriarchy has trained us to think that we’re the problem and it’s upon us to either fix it – for example, through championing DEI initiatives – or simply toughen up.

In addition to the mental load to either fit in or fix the system, the problem with that kind of indoctrination is that assumes that quitting a job is not a valid option. It’s seen as a failure rather than a choice. And that hurts our career and diminishes our leverage.

How do I know? Because I’ve done so.

My quitting story

After finishing my master in chemical engineering in Venezuela, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. abroad. At the time, I wanted to become a professor at the university and I felt that was the best next step.

The problem? I didn’t have the money to pay for 5 years of living abroad and expensive tuition fees. One of my master’s advisors came up with a solution: There was a professor in Canada that was looking for a Ph.D. student and he could pay me a minimum wage – enough to live.

Our email interactions hinted some worrying signals about him not being an easy person to work for but I was so keen on the opportunity – I kept telling myself that was “the only” chance available to me – that I decided to take it and go to Canada.

I should have listened to my gut feeling. He was a bully. I was the only woman in the lab but we all suffered harassment and discrimination at different levels. One of the people even died from suicide.

How was he able to pull it off? We were all on a student visa. Pushing back, denouncing him, or leaving the lab meant to have to go home empty-handed. In one word, fail.

I kept telling myself that if I was able to cope, it’d be worth it. I got really good at diminishing in my mind all the things that were wrong with my boss’s behaviour and minimising myself such as not bringing out the worst of his character.

Moreover, most people around me that knew about his behaviour empathised with me but also reminded me that quitting would mean “losing” the time I’d already spent on my Ph.D.

To cut a long story short, after 1 year and 4 months, I quit. When I announced it to him, he told me that he’d publish my work without my name, which he did it. He tried to make me change my mind with threats and nice words.

It didn’t work. I left and I moved to another lab where I thrived. The difference was that now I had a great advisor that supported me rather than put me down. I wrote 5 papers and completed my Ph.D. in 4.5 years.

What about the others in my first lab? They stayed. And they all told me that they regretted it.

From my side, I didn’t regret going to another lab and start again my Ph.D. That previous experience was not a waste of time. It helped me to know that I have non-negotiables at work like respect, mental wellbeing, and appreciation.

I learned from that experience that it was paramount that I integrated quitting into my career strategy.

But how to do it?

Coaching tool: decisions ahead of time

One of the reasons that makes it so hard to quit is that we only consider it when we have the feeling that we’ve run out of “other” options. That means we’re not in a very generative state. We feel exhausted, defeated, or angry, to mention a few typical emotions.

What’s more, we feel disappointed with ourselves for allowing the situation to reach such a low point. Typically the reason it’s that we’ve experienced the boiling frog syndrome.

The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.


How to avoid finishing like the frog? Or wait until you’re burnt out to jump out of the boiling water?

I recommend a coaching technique called “decision ahead of time”. In brief, plan how you’ll think, feel, and act in advance of certain triggers appearing.

How does that work in practice?

List your non-negotiables at work. That can be about the culture, the perks, your promotion aspirations, your schedule, your participation in projects, your salary expectations, and so on.

Then, decide in advance what changes in those areas will give you hints that you may want to leave, how leaving would look like, and how that would integrate into your career strategy.

In those terms, quitting doesn’t look like a failure but as part of a plan. It’s framed as a healthy way to avoid burnout and practice setting boundaries.

If not quitting, what are you doing about your career?

The boiling frog syndrome is so seductive that can make us forget our career by focusing on our current job.

How do we know if we’re trapped in our own version of the boiling frog syndrome?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know where you’re and what you want out of your career?
  • Have you delegated to your manager, CEO, or organisation your professional ambitions?
  • Are you hoping to finally get promoted but you don’t have a clear commitment from your manager about what you need to get it or when it’ll happen?
  • Do you keep talking yourself out of your promotion aspirations, telling yourself that it could be worse?

If after reading the questions above you feel you’re ready to jump out of the boiling water, join me for the Joyful Career Promotion Week later this month.

Let me tell you more about it.

20+ page workbook1.- Step-by-step guide to writing your 2023 mid-year career review.
2.- Examples of framing the promotion conversation with your manager.
3.- Insights into how to tackle the common pushback from your manager about discussing your next promotion
Three one-hour group virtual coaching calls via Zoom1.- Get coached on your mid-year self-assessment review and specific career progression goals.
2.- Learn from others getting coached about their promotion challenges.
 Live pop-up private online community groupGet asynchronous feedback about your written mid-year assessment, the promotion conversation with your manager, and career progression.

When? Mon-Wed-Fri May 22-26, 2023 – 12.00 BST | 13.00 CEST

If you’ve been thinking about working with me, this is the perfect opportunity to get introduced to the power of career coaching with a very small investment.

I look forward to working with you on making your career aspirations a reality!

Are You Falling for Weaponised Incompetence at Work? Here’s How to Stop

Senior Caucasian man holding a blank empty banner covering his mouth with a hand, looking shocked and afraid because of a mistake.
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash.

I’ve written in the past about how women – especially non-White women – are expected to do the office housework: Those administrative tasks that are important for the business to keep moving but that are undervalued and not likely to result in a promotion.

And last week I learned that office housework has an ally: Weaponised incompetence.


Weaponised incompetence or “strategic incompetence” as it’s sometimes called ― is the act of faking incompetence at any one task (though usually an unpleasant one) to get out of doing it.”


  • Your partner claims they are “not good” at household chores so you do them.
  • Your family says that they are rubbish at planning, so you get stuck with organising family gatherings.
  • Your roommate consistently does a poor job at cleaning the toilet so you step in and do it yourself.

But it’s also alive and well in the workplace.

How do you identify weaponised incompetence at the workplace?

By the task

They are typically mundane tasks or activities perceived as low-value – taking the minutes, planning office events, handling conflict among colleagues, or soothing unhappy customers.

By what they tell you

  • You’re praised by how well you do the task, e.g. “You’re naturally good at taking notes during the meetings”.
  • They make you responsible for their faked incompetence and delegate the task to you, e.g. ” Remember last time how bad it was when I did it? You’re so much better than me at this”.
  • They say they don’t know how to do it, e.g. “It’s so difficult to update the Excel spreadsheet with the new leads”.

By what they do

Some strategies to deal with weaponised incompetence

  • Recognise you’ve been manipulated.
  • Communicate the patterns you’ve noticed.
  • Set boundaries AND STICK TO THEM.
  • Leave them on their own to figure things out
  • Coach them through doing the task themselves.
  • Take the opportunity to start a discussion about how valuable is the task, who should be doing it, and how it should be rewarded.

Are you a “perpetrator” of weaponised incompetence?

It’s also important that women – and people belonging to other protected categories – check if we are using weaponised incompetence against other people. For example, as I mentioned above, non-White women are expected to do more office housework than White women.

We, White women, need to step up and help break the cycle rather than reinforce it.

The first step is awareness.

  1. Look at the low-value tasks you convince yourself “you’re not to be good at” or that you don’t want to learn.
  2. Reflect on the reasons why you don’t want to learn to do them or why you think you’re not good at them.

Next, think about to whom you deflect that task.

  1. Is it always the same person?
  2. Is there a reason why the task shouldn’t be rotated among other people?

If it’s always the same person and the task is not core to the person’s role, step up and break the cycle of weaponised incompetence.

Final reflections

During an insightful discussion, Rose Cartolari challenged the use of weaponised incompetence as an expression that may further the divide between the giver and the receiver of the action. Instead, she offered the less violent and loaded term learned helplessness for reflection.

The American Psychological Association defines learned helplessness as “a phenomenon in which repeated exposure to uncontrollable stressors results in individuals failing to use any control options that may later become available. Essentially, individuals are said to learn that they lack behavioral control over environmental events, which, in turn, undermines the motivation to make changes or attempt to alter situations”.

I wonder if a term like strategic helplessness could be used instead of weaponised incompetence. I love to get your feedback on the comments on this expression.

BACK TO YOU: What do you do when co-workers use weaponised incompetence to get you to do low-value/unpromotable tasks?

A gift from me to you

Are you interested in discussing how setting boundaries can help you achieve your professional and personal goals?

Then book a free strategy session with me.

“Am I Making Sense?” – Language and Power Dynamics in Meetings

A photo of a woman surrounded by overlayed question marks looking doubtful.
Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay.

As I non-native English speaker, I was puzzled by women finishing their sentences with “Am I making sense?”. I finally understood the reason.

Although I’d been fluent in English for many years before, it was not until I moved to the UK that I lived in a place where English was the native language by default. (Yes, I’d lived in Canada for 5 years but it was in Quebec City, where most people have French as their mother tongue).

Back to my life in the UK, I remember being intrigued by how women – and only women – would finish their interventions in meetings with “Am I making sense?”.

Why? Because, it didn’t make sense to me that very confident women – at least they looked that way to me – would ask that question after sharing their opinion in a concise and assertive manner.

And I began to find explanations for it.

1.- For women confident in their ideasConfident women are a hard pill to swallow in leadership. We expect women to be “collaborative” – e.g. take the notes, be the admin for the team, do the glue work – not be assertive or confident.

How do women tackle the bias against confident women?

“Playing” dumb. By downplaying what they are saying, they’re hoping to not look threatening and get others’ buy-in (or mansplaining).

2.- For women concerned that their ideas may be too much – These women have picked up that their organisations and peers like to congratulate themselves on doing exactly the same things over and over and they won’t support rocking the status quo. In the past, those women have proposed a visionary project, an innovative idea, or a transformational initiative and it has been rejected for being too much.

How do women tackle the bias against their ideas?

They downplay their ideas by presenting them as a “thought” with the hope they’ll stick this time around.

3.- For women concerned that their ideas may be too little – Society has indoctrinated women that perfection is expected from them, with no margin for error. Those women don’t believe they have permission to express their opinions because they judge their ideas as not strategic” enough, “visionary” enough, or “fully formed”.

How do women tackle their bias against their own ideas not being “good enough”?

They share their opinions with the caveat “Am I making sense?” in the hope that the feedback they receive it’s not too harsh.

My take

In the past, hearing a woman saying “Am I making sense?” used to upset me.

Now, I salute all those women that use “Am I making sense?” as a way to overcome the patriarchal constraints imposed on us.

I’d still prefer those women experiment with other ways to connect with their audience and instead use alternatives such as

  • “comments?”
  • “any questions?”
  • “I’m curious about what’s your feedback.”

BACK TO YOU: What’s your take?


Are you tired of patriarchy, stereotypes, and cultural norms creating obstacles to achieving our goals?

Then book a free strategy session with me.

Beyond Cosmetic Changes: The Truth About DEI Efforts

Hiker walking on a flimsy line bridge between two boulders. There is a cartoon thought callout coming from the hiker with the text "Every little helps..." .
Photo by filllvlad adapted by Patricia Gestoso.

I’m so tired of messages downplaying the effort that takes to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace!

If all that it takes is minuscule steps, why aren’t we there yet?

Some examples

  • A couple of months ago, I received an email from an organisation specialised in recruiting for tech and sales jobs entitled “10 small (but mighty) tactics to reach your DEI goals”.
  • Last week, on LinkedIn a Global Head of DEI posted “It is often in the seemingly small moments and tiny gestures that inclusive leadership shows up.”
  • Even Entrepreneur let us off the hook for being DEI slackers and tells us that “starting with a bite-sized approach is the key to authentically weaving diversity, equity and inclusion into the culture of your business”.

Personally, it feels like they’ve borrowed Tesco’s motto “Every little helps”.

Can you imagine companies using the same approach for revenue, marketing, or customer support?

  • To investors: “10 small (but mighty) tactics to reach your revenue goals“.
  • To the board: “It is often the seemingly small marketing events and tiny social media campaigns that bring big business.”
  • To dissatisfied customers: “Starting with a bite-sized approach is the key to delivering outstanding customer support”.

Is really so easy?

No, it’s not. But I understand why that language is used.

Those messages suggesting that tiny DEI steps can have a massive impact on the quality of the workplace culture or that “simple” steps can increase the diversity of your workforce are targeted to an audience of

  • DEI sceptics.
  • Those that benefit from the current status quo.
  • Those that feel DEI is a zero-sum game.
  • Leaders that want to believe that some cosmetic actions will make their Great Place to Work ratings soar.
  • Organisations that feel the pressure to “show” DEI commitment without seeing the business case.

That is, the goal is to appease those that resist change telling them that they won’t need to do a lot, it won’t cost too much money, and business processes won’t have to be modified in the hope that those naysayers don’t block DEI initiatives.

What’s wrong with “tiny” DEI steps?

“When you make success look easy, you attract people who want easy success.”

Kris Plachy

When we say that small changes are enough to create valuable DEI change

  • We diminish the value of the work DEI professionals deliver.
  • We demoralise DEI champions and employee resource groups that see their efforts minimised.
  • We belittle the experience of those excluded.
  • We justify the lack of investment.
  • We assume no radical changes are needed in the organisation.
  • We outsource the responsibility for the organisation DEI to individuals.  

Finally, by downplaying the effort required to deliver change, we implicitly remove the systemic angle that is at the core of DEI practices.

What to do instead

DEI initiatives are not different than any other strategic programmes: What you get is proportional to the effort you put in.

Treat DEI as the serious matter that it is.

Rather than softening the effort required

  • Lead with the benefits to have a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.
  • Caution against the risks of working in a homogenous, exclusionary, and unfair organisation.
  • Highlight that DEI issues are systemic and there is no room for bystanders. If you abstain to work towards bringing the system to health, you are reinforcing the current status. 

Patriarchy & Your goals

Are you tired of patriarchy, stereotypes, and cultural norms creating obstacles to achieving our goals?

Then book a free strategy session with me.

How to advance equity in the workplace? Embrace legacy

Photo of the Giza pyramid complex with the word "legacy" overlayed.
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay adapted by Patricia Gestoso.

At the end of March, I attended the women in tech conference #ReframeWIT2023 in Manchester. During one of the sessions, they asked us to reflect on purpose-driven work. More specifically, what was our purpose.

The woman next to me shared that she’d always found it difficult to think in terms of purpose: Too fluffy, too aspirational, too “marketing-ish”.

So I let her into my secret. Ditch purpose and instead focus on legacy.

The face of my conversation partner illuminated. She just had the same revelation that I had when, years ago, this amazing gem of wisdom was shared with me by one of my mentors.

As my interlocutor at the conference, at the time I was disenchanted by the overuse of the word purpose. During the last decade, Simon Sinek’s TED talk How great leaders inspire action triggered an epidemic of organisations rewriting their websites to state their purpose, their “why”.

And the trend is still going strong. By now, everyone has got the memo that organisations’ why – aka purpose – should sound groundbreaking, grandiose, awe-inspiring…

Let’s check some

“Our purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport.


“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”


“We reimagine the way the world moves for the better.”


Because there is a tacit understanding that purpose is aspirational – a far away North Star – there was no metric or timeline attached to it. Moreover, often the greater the purpose, the more disappointing the actual results in terms of contribution to planet and people.

It was discussing this gap with my mentor that she shared her focus on her legacy as a North Star.

And that was my AHA moment. Why?

Whereas purpose relies on wishful thinking, legacy prompts you to action.

Your mind transports you into the future, where you can look backwards and ask yourself

“How can you prove that you’ve been a good ancestor?”

Legacy helps us close the gap between intent and impact.

Unfortunately, because we focus on asking organisations what’s their purpose rather than their legacy, they get away with bland commitments to sustainability, employees’ rights, and – of course – diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Shell’s purpose is to power progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions. 


Legacy and I

I’ve often talked about my awaking to digital accessibility. In the article Unlocking change with ethical and inclusive design, I described how I learned the hard way the gap between my purpose to be a diversity and inclusion advocate and my legacy.

 […] in December 2018, six months after launching my website on diversity and inclusion in tech, an expert in disability asked me if it was accessible and pointed me to the post 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment on the site Life of A Blind Girl . Reading the article was transformative. It made clear to me that, irrespective of my intention — promoting diversity and inclusion — my impact was the opposite: I’d been potentially frustrating and excluding from my website the millions of people with visual impairments that use screen-readers. All by not using simple and low effort practices such as adding alternative text to the imagines.

So what’s the legacy I’m working towards? What am I aiming for?

First, I want to be an example of what’s possible for an immigrant non-native English speaker woman in tech.

Second, I want to help embed diversity, inclusion, and equity in organisations so that those values cascade to workplaces and products. To make this more actionable, I’ve split it in two.

At the individual level, help release women and underrepresented groups’ capacity so they get into positions of leadership and unleash inclusive workplaces and products.

At the organisational level, help leaders leverage diversity into their business strategy so they can boost innovation, attract and retain talent, be prepared to manage a diverse workforce, and be an example of inclusive leadership.

BACK TO YOU: What are you and your organisation doing right now that will make you mighty ancestors for future generations?

Personal invitation

I’m running again the free online session How to move from self-criticism into inner wisdom on Wednesday April 26, 2023 at 10.30 PDT | 13.30 EDT | 18.30 BST | 19.30 CEST.

Last time, we had an insightful conversation about how workplaces reinforce self-criticism and what we can do when they block our career aspirations.

This is what you’ll learn:

  • How I moved from being stuck in my career in tech to thriving as a technologist, award-winning inclusion strategist, life and career coach, writer, and international public speaker.
  • Three real examples of how tapping into inner wisdom has helped women and non-binary people in tech to reframe confidence to achieve their goals.
  • Understanding how the patriarchy, stereotypes, and cultural norms put obstacles to achieving our goals and promote self-criticism, self-doubt, and analysis paralysis.
  • ​​A framework to move from self-criticism to inner wisdom.

Sign up today to make sure you don’t miss it.

Childbirth pain: Ignored, revered, and deserved

In her article article “At long last, some recognition of the pain after childbirth. Why is women’s suffering so ignored?” published in The Guardian on March 17th, Agnes Arnold-Forster brings the much-needed awareness about how pregnancy and childbirth pain is diminished and ignored by society under the premise that is natural.

She also mentions how that’s been the case for centuries: “The routine diminishing of pain in pregnancy and childbirth has a long history. For centuries, reproduction was seen as women’s divine and natural purpose. As the theologian Martin Luther said in the 16th century: ‘If women become tired, even die, it does not matter. Let them die in childbirth. That’s what they are there for.'”

I posit that there are also other two complementary angles that make the pain during pregnancy and childbirth such an explosive issue to address: Reverence and deservingness.

Last year, I wrote the article Levels of Pain about the world’s contempt for women’s pain. In it, I highlighted how – unlike other kinds of female pain – childbirth pain is often revered. Society sees it as yet another painful rite of passage for women, who are expected to embrace it and feel proud of it.

As an example, I shared the case of a relative of mine who, after enduring an exhausting and painful 23 hours of labour with her first baby, she decided to be sedated during the childbirth of the second. The carers at the hospital didn’t miss the opportunity to reprimand her whilst breastfeeding her newborn for “being selfish and only thinking about herself” for choosing anaesthesia over “natural” birth even if she delivered a healthy 4.35 kg baby boy.

In the article, I also draw attention to the fact not all groups of women have the same experiences. Notably, pregnant Black women and women with disabilities. Their pain and needs are often diminished with negative repercussions for their physical and mental wellbeing.

As Stephanie H. Murray points out in her article describing her epidural ordeal, nobody questions a woman getting anesthesia to get a tooth extracted but everybody has an opinion if that same woman decides to get pain relief during labour: ” these conversations made me wonder why society treats labor pains with such reverence. The questions of whether and how to relieve them are subject to deliberation and scrutiny that would seem absurd under any other circumstances. I certainly didn’t consider forgoing anesthesia when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. And no one asked me about it either.”

And then, there is deservingness.

For more than 2 millennia, the book of Genesis has taught billions of Christians and Jews that women deserve childbirth pain because of Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3:16): ‘To the woman he said: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.”’

Moreover, for some religions like Catholicism, this punishment through labour pain is so central to women’s experience that they have explicitly asserted that the Virgin Mary was spared of it as a consequence of her immaculate conception.

No wonder medicine prefers to stay away and let pregnant women suffer.

Personal invitation

We often read that there are no more women in leadership because women are less confident.

But what’s confidence? Why does it matter? And what can we do something about it?

I’m running the webinar From inner criticism to inner wisdom on Wednesday, April 26th at 18.30 BST. I’ll share

  • My journey with my feeling of confidence.
  • Common myths about how to “cure” our insecurities.
  • How we can leverage our inner wisdom to achieve our professional and personal goals feeling lighter, supported, and proud of ourselves.

Join me on Wednesday April 26th at 10.30 am PDT 1.30pm EDT 18.30 BST 19.30 CEST to learn how to develop a healthy relationship with your feeling of confidence.

What women leaders want: A fresh perspective on retention strategies

Bar chart with the title "if you considered leaving the workforce in 2022, which of the following would make you more likely to stay?". Feeling more valued is at the top with 74%, increased pay second with 60%, and promotion to a higher level of responsibility is the third with 41%.
Results from Chief’s Make Work Work survey.

I’m so tired of bland business advice about how to retain women in leadership positions

  • Talk about the purpose.
  • Given them flexibility.
  • Build an inclusive workplace.

Why bland? Because it’s not a strategy, it’s the minimum.

That’s why it was so refreshing to read Chief‘s article “What women leaders really want at work

Chief’s “Make Work Work” survey of 847 Chief Members, all of whom are women at the VP level or above and who collectively manage $220 billion of the U.S. economy found that – surprise, surprise – there’s a massive disconnect between what companies think women want at work versus what they actually want. To be honest, that’s not a big surprise for me. Already in 2019, I wrote about the disconnect between HR and millennial women on the top reasons why those women leave companies.

So, what’s at the top of the wishlist for those 847 female leaders? In other words, if they considered leaving the workforce in 2022, which would make them more likely to stay?

Feeling more valued – Recently, I read in a community of women in tech a post from a female VP that is routinely expected to play the “secretary” for the exec team: Writing minutes, sending reminders… How valued do you think she feels?

Increased pay – Who would have guessed that women want to be paid as much as White men?

Promotion to a higher level of responsibility – Another shocker! I was sure women don’t care about promotions…

What retain women executives? In order of priority

1.     Power

2.     Money

Is that so different that what male leaders want?

Quiet quitting and rusting-out

So what happens to those that remain in their jobs and don’t get what they want?

In the last six months, there’s been a lot of chatter about quiet quitting. As per Forbes, “burned-out or unsatisfied employees put forth the least amount of effort possible to keep their paychecks”. Whilst for some this is a euphemism for lazy workers, others have made the case that quiet quitting can also be understood as refusing to be a workaholic and instead strictly delivering the work that matches your role and remuneration. But it’s not the only option.

Last week, I learned a new word rust-out: the condition of being chronically under-stimulated, uninspired, and unsatisfied at work

In an article in Stylist, Sharon Peake mentions that “rust-out is also more likely to affect women than men due to the unique workplace barriers that women experience, such as the double burden of paid and unpaid (domestic) work. This often leads highly capable and experienced women to return to work part-time, working at a lower level of responsibility after maternity leave, or even opting out of the workforce.” Moreover, “it can cause employees to ‘doom loop’. that is, repeat unhelpful stories about ourselves.”

In my post Join the conversation: How has mansplaining impacted your life? I mentioned the importance of having words to explain and validate our experiences.

I can finally name the experience of all those fantastic women that started with me in tech years ago and that were given unappealing part-time jobs when they came back from maternity leave, without access to the plumb assignments that lead to career progression.

Their organisations had condemned them to rust out in their jobs.

Calling Out Racial Prejudice: Adultification of Black Children and Infantilisation of White Tech Bros in the Media

Portray of a White millennial man in a hoodie hidding the lower part of his face with a plain white blank full face mask that he holsd on his left hand.
Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay.

In her newsletter from Feb 4, Molly White highlights how we adultify Black children – a form of racial prejudice where children of minority groups, typically Black children, are treated by adults as being more mature than they actually are – whereas we infantilise adult tech bros.

In my talks and articles, I’ve discussed at large how we have one measure for physical goods and another for tech applications. For example, we demand that Pharmas go through a thorough FDA approval before bringing to the market new drugs but we don’t require any control over apps that claim to identify dermatological conditions based on 3 images of your skin.

This applies to people too.

The adultification of Black children comes in many forms. From calling them “young women” or “young men” even if they are younger than 10, all the way to enduring body searches such as in the case of Child Q – a 15-year-old that was strip-searched at school – higher rates of punishment in schools, and harsher sentences from judges.

White highlights in her article how we see the opposite effect with White white-collar tech criminals. The press infantilizes them, making them appear as naughty boys rather than adult offenders.

As an example, she looks at Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), FTX CEO, who happens to be 30. SBF was charged in December with eight criminal counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and he’s been released on a $250 million bail arrangement. He’s been referred to by the press as

“a child playing a game with other people’s cash”

“the boy king”

“boyish tech tycoon”

And he’s not the only one.

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Adam Neumann… all were about thirty or older when they had notorious encounters with justice. Still, the media helped to portray them as “genius children” and they got a benevolent “tech boys will be boys”.

Let’s stand up against the maturity bias that infantilises White tech bros and adultifies Black children.

Let’s call out the media that decides who’s an adult and who’s a child irrespective of the legislation.

#AdultificationBlackChildren #MaturityBias #InfantilisationWhiteTechBros

Join the conversation: How has mansplaining impacted your life?

Cartoon of a woman absorbed looking at a man that is telling her "Let me explain..."
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay  adapted by Patricia Gestoso.

By now, the term mansplaining – to explain something to a woman in a condescending manner that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic – has become mainstream. It was even incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018.

It’s also a kind of “inside joke” among women. Our bosses, peers, and even direct reports “mansplain us”. Our family and friends too…

Sometimes we just sigh.

Sometimes we try to “kindly” point out to the mansplainer that we know better than them.

Sometimes we fight back, like the time that during an evaluation of scholarships for funding,  I had a disagreement with another juror regarding a research proposal to develop new tools for materials molecular simulation.

I found the proposal weak, partly because not enough details were given about the methodology that was to be implemented. One of the other evaluators countered that he had found the proposal outstanding. When I pointed to him the list of “holes” in the proposal, he retorted that although he was no expert in modelling he insisted the proposal was excellent. I replied that – unlike him – I was an expert on that kind of materials modelling so that my feedback should prevail.

And even last week, I was mansplained when I shared among colleagues that I was writing a book about how women succeed in tech. I mentioned that I was collecting answers to my short survey asking those women what has made them stay and what they need to thrive in the next 5 years. One of them – whom I’d never met before – volunteered that this was not the right focus for the book. He shared that instead I should write about how STEM is taught in the schools…

Even The Economist has found use for the word in their article The battle for internet search: “ChatGPT often gets things wrong. It has been likened to a mansplainer: supremely confident in its answers, regardless of their accuracy”.

But mansplaining can be life-threatening too, as Rebecca Solnit – who inspired the word with her essay Men explain things to me – wrote in The Guardian last week.

Mansplaining occurs too when

  • The police explain to us that the partner violence we experience is not rape.
  • When doctors explain to us that our pain is imaginary rather than uncovering that it’s caused by endometriosis.
  • When we denounce sexist, ageist, racist, or ableist practices in the workplace and we’re told that it’s only banter.

Mansplaining and epistemic injustice

At the root of mansplaining there is a bigger issue: Who we believe is credible.

In the end, what we believe is conditioned by who’s the messenger. Is it a White male in a coat or a Black trans woman? A Venezuelan immigrant single mother or a wealthy Indian man that studied at Oxford?

Dr. Miranda Fricker – a Professor of Philosophy at New York University – coined the term epistemic injustice, the concept of an injustice done against someone “specifically in their capacity as a knower”.

There are two kinds of epistemic injustice.

Testimonial injustice is when somebody is not believed because of their identity. Like when women are mansplained about their pain being imaginary because they are women.

Hermeneutical injustice is when somebody’s experiences are not understood so they are minimised or diminished. For example, before the term was introduced, the experience of being mansplained had already existed for centuries. However, as there wasn’t a word for it, it was difficult to recognise it as a particular form of patronising women and even for women to discuss the experience among themselves.

How to counter epistemic justice?

We need to get bolder at sharing our experiences of injustice, even we don’t have a name.

As I mentioned in my post What words do we need to invent to embed systemic change?, we must give ourselves permission to create and discard words to be able to build new futures.

And that also includes creating words to describe our experiences. For example,

  • The constant state of alert that we immigrants experience because the laws of the countries we live in can unexpectedly change affecting our right to work and live in the country.
  • The sense of dread people from older generations experience when they go to a job interview and they feel they need to reassure the prospective hiring manager that they won’t steal their job.
  • When your boss boasts about being a female ally because he has a daughter but doesn’t do anything to advance gender equity in the workplace.

BACK TO YOU: How has mansplaining impacted your life? Let me know in the comments.

Do you want to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equity in 2023? Embrace impossible goals

Message pinned with three pushpins to a whiteboard that reads "Nothing is impossible only improbable".
Image by Davie Bicker from Pixabay

(5 min read)

Happy New Year 2023! I wish this year brings you professional and personal success.

This post is inspired by a great conversation I had with my lovely mother-in-law this morning. She’s a fantastic woman that — as myself — is ambitious. Unlike myself, she didn’t have the support of her parents to attend university or to do any other kind of studies after secondary school. But her brother did have that opportunity. The reason? He’s a man, she’s a woman.

The same happened to my grandmother, an extremely brilliant woman. Her only brother was sent to pursue further studies after he finished school. Neither my grandmother nor any of her 3 sisters were given that opportunity.

Until this point, hopefully, none of this surprises you no matter where you live in the world.

So what made that conversation relevant? My mother-in-law told me that believes that things will continue to improve steadily for women in the next years and that they cannot be speeded up.

When I reiterated that I don’t want things to improve “steadily” for women and people of underrepresented groups but that I want them to improve “dramatically”, she reminded me of all the progress achieved for women’s rights since she was young. As proof, she compared what happened to her professional ambitions with her great expectations for the professional future of her 10-year-old granddaughter — who happens to be my goddaughter.

She also conveyed to me that she believed that I was being unreasonable. After all, it has taken centuries to get where we are now regarding women rights.

I used two arguments to support that (a) we need to upend the status quo now, (b) that it’s possible to deliver that change in an extremely short time.

Why we need to upend the status quo now

My mother-in-law told that whilst none of the two of us would see equality in our lifetime, my goddaughter would because

  • She’s intelligent.
  • She’s ambitious.

My reply? As Dame Stephanie Shirley, my head is flat from so many people stopping me from my ambitions and creating artificial ceilings for my career.

I told her that her granddaughter may be very talented and determined and still have bosses that won’t promote her because

If that wasn’t enough, I told her that the UN estimates that it will take more than 150 years to reach gender equality.

To be more precise, only four months ago — on September 7th, 2022- the UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released the report Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022 that forecast that at the current rate of progress, it will take up to

  • 286 years to close gender gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws.
  • 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace.
  • At least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.

That is, we’ll have to wait three centuries to achieve full gender equality!

After that, my mother-in-law was more willing to see the urgency for change but she was adamant that systems cannot be toppled on a whim.

Why systems of oppression can be knocked down swiftly

If there is a useful learning we can get from the covid-19 pandemic is that extremely fast change is possible.

Within a year

  • Three vaccines were developed.
  • In many countries, people were house-bounded and were required to use masks when stepping outside their homes.
  • Many employees worked from their homes even when previously they had been told it was impossible.
  • Millions of people without previous medical training learned about pandemics, how to perform covid-19 tests, or what a coronavirus looks like.

All that with the support of many democratic countries and billions of dollars.

What does that tell us about change? That dramatic change at a worldwide level is possible when that change becomes our priority.

Moving from SMART goals to impossible goals

I’m currently finalising my certification as a life coach. One of the topics covered is how to set goals and develop a plan to achieve them.

After 20+ years working for corporations, I’m very well acquainted with SMART goals. This is how you set annual objectives, 5-year plans, and roll out new initiatives.

This is how it works: You pick the objective/deliverable/goal and you ensure that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound; hence the acronym SMART.

And that’s how you get things done in organisations.

So I was very surprised that in the coaching certification they taught us how to set and achieve impossible goals.

That is, a goal that is so extremely bold that you don’t know how to achieve it. Yet.

What’s the value of impossible goals:

  • They remove limiting beliefs you didn’t know you had about what you can achieve.
  • It enables you to embrace uncertainty.
  • You allow yourself to entertain the idea that you can learn on-the-fly what will take you to achieve that impossible goal.

Case studies: Impossible goals to advance DEI

Imagine that Mahatma Gandhi, Emmeline Pankhurst, Nelson Mandela, or Florence Nightingale had used SMART goals instead of impossible goals to achieve the kind of changes they led.

And I’m sure a lot of people tried to “knock some sense” into their heads — told them that the transformations they were pursuing were foolish, unreasonable, unattainable.

What if they had complied?

What if they had said “Yes, you’re right. This is not a SMART goal”? Or “Indeed. I don’t know exactly how to achieve independence, get the vote for women, end apartheid, or found modern nursing, so I better stop until I figure it all out.

Maybe we’d still be grappling with those issues…

My 2023 impossible goal

In 2022, I coached five women and nonbinary people that got promoted.
In 2023, my impossible goal is to coach another 50 women and underrepresented people to get the promotion they deserve!

Is it a SMART goal? No.

Do I know exactly how to achieve it? No.

Will not knowing how to achieve it stop me from trying? No.

Is it worth it? Absolutely yes!

What am I doing towards achieving my impossible goal? I’m running again the Joyful Annual Career Assessment Week in February, after the sucess of the first edition in January. This is a one-week event from February 13th to February 17th where I help women and people from underrepresented groups get a clear picture of their professional accomplishments in 2022, tell their career story in a compelling manner, and be ready to discuss their career aspirations for 2023 and beyond.

“Patricia talks about how to frame our accomplishments without seeming arrogant, declare our desires in the professional sphere, and get managerial support for them, and learn about how to advance, despite upbring that may teach us to downplay our skills and contributions. It is amazing!

I wish I had learned this in my 20s- my career path would have been different, and I would have known the invisible rules, so that I could advance in the way I wanted to!”

VHA, Director, Business Development

BACK TO YOU: What’s your impossible goal in 2023?

Let me know in the comments!

Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate.

#ChatGPT or how artificial intelligence lures us into being a cog in the machine

An illustration of six interlocking cogs, each one including a portrait of a man or a woman of a different ethnicity.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Recently, my mentor, friend, and role model Suzanne Noble tagged me on a LinkedIn post about ChatGPT, the last tech miracle that promises to impersonate humans and steal their job.

OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT, claim that the artificial intelligence tool “interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

Here is Suzanne’s LinkedIn post

John Spencer Williams asked #chatgpt to write a LinkedIn post in the style of an influencer, and I thought it was so fun, so I decided to do the same. I fed it my background, and it immediately assumed I was a man… so it is far from perfect and possibly, sexist.

What are your thoughts Patricia Gestoso-Souto ◆ Inclusive Innovation?

Suzanne Noble

Below is the text Suzanne write in the AI application

“I have been self-employed for over 35 years. I have made over £1.4m and had a company go into liquidation. Despite growing up in a middle-class home, with two parents who were both working for corporations I decided to take the entrepreneurial path. I have been featured in national newspapers like The Time, The Telegraph, the Guardian, and in Forbes and in books about entrepreneurship. Now I help people to set up their own business. Write a post about me in the style of a Linkedin Influencer.”

Then, ChatGPT produced four paragraphs. The first one started as

“Meet John Doe, a successful entrepreneur who has been self-employed…”

Once the prompt stopped moving, Suzanne wrote

“My name is Suzanne and I’m a woman. Write again.”

Again, the tool complied and produced a similar text, this time starting by

“Meet Suzanne, a successful entrepreneur and business woman…”

She tagged me because the text generated by ChatGPT assumed that the bio was for a man – Joe Doe. Who else could be the “default” entrepreneur? Suzanne knowns that I’m deeply interested in exposing how emerging technologies reinforce and automate bias and prejudice. Moreover, this comes only some months after the release of free artificial intelligence tools that generate new images from text prompts and that inspired me to write my second fiction short story.

Back to ChatGPT, whilst assuming gender was the most obvious bias, unfortunately, it was not the only one. Upon perusing both “Influencer bios” (available in the original post), I spotted other differences. For example:

  • Ability to generate money: In Joe Doe’s bio, the second sentence is “With a record of making over £1.4m and growing a company from the ground up…”. That information – which appears to prominently in his bio – never appears in Suzanne’s.
  • Though-leadership: Whilst you can “learn the ins and outs of starting a company” from Joe, Suzanne only offers “valuable advice and support”.
  • Bias beyond gender: The name chosen for the man – Joe Doe – reflects a stereotypical American view of the world, after all, it’s a placeholder name used in legal action and cases when the true identity of a man is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons in the United States and Canada. Why not using Monsieur X or Juan Pérez, French and Latin-American alternatives to John Doe?

After reading both bios, who will you hire/interview/invite as a thought-leader in the topic of entrepreneurship?

Beyond bias: Why does our infatuation with AI matter?

Still, bias is not the only problem with those miracle tech tools. Here are a handful more for reflection:

  • The impunity of technology to infringe intellectual copyright – Those AI tools are built from images and text issued from public databases and/or data scrapped from internet, without acknowledgement – and more importantly monetary compensation – to their authors. We’re told that it’s too complicated to retrace attribution so we should suck it up. So I wonder, what about the people without writing or painting talent or skills that are now getting the benefit of thousands of hours of other people’s craft for free?
  • The reinforcement of a mindless quest for productivity – Those applications are marketed as tech helping us to “be more productive”. But, who benefits from that productivity? It would appear than more than a century later, scientific management is still well and thriving. In the name of efficiency, this management theory asserted that every manufacturing process could be deconstructed in smallest task which accomplishment could be perfected, including “calculations of exactly how much time it takes a man to do a particular task, or his rate of work”. AI hype profits from this obsession with products and services divorced from values and from how they are produced.
  • The hindrance of innovation – If anyone can be paid and rewarded by producing average writing or painting build on profiteering from the work of creators that have invested in mastering their craft, what is the incentive for future innovators?

By focusing on the productivity mirage AI offer us, we are condemning ourselves to stifle our individuality and creativity.

DEI in the press

For reflection

Women are getting angrier. An annual poll by Gallup suggests that women, on average worldwide, have been getting angrier over the past 10 years. Maybe winter is finally coming for the patriarchy?

A boost of energy

From the wheelchair-using Black Panther to the ‘cripple suffragette’ – this article showcases 10 heroes of the disabled rights movement.

News from me

 In 2022, I coached 5 women and nonbinary people that got promoted.
 In 2023, my goal is to coach another 50 to get the promotion they deserve!
What am I doing towards achieving my goal? I’m running again the Joyful Annual Career Assessment Week in February, after the sucess of the first edition in January. This is a one-week event from February 13th to February 17th where I help women and people from underrepresented groups get a clear picture of their professional accomplishments in 2022, tell their career story in a compelling manner, and be ready to discuss their career aspirations for 2023 and beyond.

You’ll get:

  1. 20+ page workbook to walk you through the steps to write your 2022 career review.
  2. live pop-up private online community group from Monday 13th to Friday 17th February where you can get feedback on your assessment and support.
  3. Access to three one-hour group virtual coaching calls via Zoom during the week.


“Patricia talks about how to frame our accomplishments without seeming arrogant, declare our desires in the professional sphere, and get managerial support for them, and learn about how to advance, despite upbring that may teach us to downplay our skills and contributions. It is amazing!

I wish I had learned this in my 20s- my career path would have been different, and I would have known the invisible rules, so that I could advance in the way I wanted to!”

VHA, Director, Business Development

 Benefits others have gotten from working with me:
 –  Get a clear picture of your professional accomplishments in 2022 as well as the skills and experiences gained.
 –  Ability to tell your career story in a compelling manner that it’s also true to yourself.
 –  Feel ready to have meaningful conversations about your career aspirations in 2023 and beyond.
Come and join us!

As I mentioned on a previous post, I’m writing a book about how women succeed in tech and the first step has been to gather feedback from women in tech about your/their experiences at work via this short survey.

The response has been great – we already have over 200 richly-detailed responses, from women in tech from startups to multinationals, of all ages and career levels, in 33 countries.

Women in tech clearly share a lot of common success-boosting experiences (“active sponsorship at work and women’s tech communities outside work have made all the difference”) and some enduring challenges (“if I draw on my strengths of collaboration and adaptation, I get dismissed as ‘unstrategic’, but if I’m authoritative and decisive, I’m labelled ‘disruptive’ or ‘antagonistic’ – my male peers get very different reactions”). They are also creating new words to describe their experiences (“often times your suggestions/ideas are ‘he-peated’ in order to get the job done”)

Now one ask: Could you get 2 more women in your tech network to complete the survey before year end?

What do I mean by “Women in Tech”? Women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance, CXO) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions in other sectors (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…).

Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate

How to move diversity, inclusion and equity forwards three articles at the time

I feel I’ve been neglicting the readers of my blog, that is, YOU, this year.

On the bright side, I have continued to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in organisations, technology, and workplaces through opinion articles and fiction.

I’m delighted to share with you that my writing has been featured in three magazines in the last three months.

Artificial Intelligence and the Global South

Scattered white plastic figures resembling humans sitting at tables in front of laptops. The white background makes their environment look bleak.
Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Clickworker Abyss / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

In September, the economics e-magazine The Mint published my article How artificial intelligence is recolonising the Global South.

In the 5-min piece, I discuss how the Global North exploits poverty and weak laws in the South to accelerate its digital transformation.

Have you ever asked yourself:

  • Who moderates our social media?
  • Who annotates the images for our self-driving cars?
  • Who extracts the metals needed for our smartphones?
  • In which populations AI algorithms are tested?

Being accountable for the books we read

A computer-generated photographic style image showing piles of distorted books with some surreal landscape features in the immediate foreground, such as a kind of beach and games board. The books merge into each other in an impressionistic, digitally blurred way, and rising out of them and taking up the main part of the image is a huge undefined concrete structure topped with more books and folders that get bigger as they go up.
jbustterr / Better Images of AI / A monument surrounded by piles of books / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

In October, Certain Age Magazine published The DEI Booklist: Five books to think and act differently, where I reflect on the fact that whom we read matters as much as what we read.

In the article, I review 5 books:

  • Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly
  • Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  • Data Feminism by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
  • Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence by Kate Crawford

I also share how I overcame the inertia of only reading books written by White, able, American, heterosexual cis-men.

Scoop: It took two years!

Using short fiction to get people talking about emerging technology

Black and white photographs  of the faces of White people scattered across a white background and grouped by similarity.
Philipp Schmitt & AT&T Laboratories Cambridge / Better Images of AI / Data flock (faces) / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

Last week, the Medium magazine The Lark published my second short fictional story, The Life of Data Podcast. As in the previous one – The GraduationI’ve used future fiction to question the interplay between humans and technology, specifically AI.

Have you ever thought what happens to your photos circulating on social media? That’s what I did in this 10-min short fictional story.

In a nutshell, I imagined what the data from the digital portrait of a Black schoolgirl woud share about how it moves inside our phones, computers, and networks if it was invited to speak on a podcast.

How does the story resonate with you?

And the cherry on the cake

In August 2022, I was featured in the Computer Weekly 2022 longlist of the most influential women in UK tech.

Each year, Computer Weekly publishes the longlist of all of the women put forward to be considered for its list of the top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech.

And I was nominated!

Looking at the names of the other 600 women in the UK that were nominated as well was such a boost of energy! Among them, I’ve found great role models, IT leaders, community builders, and amazing raising stars.

One thing that I love in the list is that not only women in software development were nominated, dispelling the myth that tech is only about coding. Tech is so much more! Women investors, CEOs, COOs, non-tech founders…

If you’re unsure if there is a place for you in tech, please have a look at the list and get inspired. We’re waiting for you!

As I mentioned on a previous post, I’m writing a book and I need your help!

I’d be immensely grateful if you could complete and/or share with your network of women in tech this short survey about your/their experiences at work.

What do I mean by “Women in Tech”? Women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance, CXO) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions in other sectors (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…).

Whilst the survey is anonymous, you’ll have the option to get involved in the project before submitting the form. Thanks for your support!

Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate!

Library of missing datasets: Are you being digitally excluded?

A file cabinet with four drawers, one of them is opened and empty. At the right of the file cabinet, there is the sentence “whose data are we missing?” with an arrow pointing to the empty drawer.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay  adapted by Patricia Gestoso.

(7 min read)

Data protection and privacy regulations like GDPR, the pervasiveness of social media, and the boom of artificial intelligence have prompted debates among academic, governmental, commercial, and non-profit organisations about our rights to own our data and how that data is used to sell us stuff and surveil us. These discussions often forget whose and which data are we missing.

My research on the effect of covid-19 on the unpaid work of professional women made me painfully aware of the gap between intent and impact when we talk about collecting data. The dataset that constitutes the basis of the report came from 1,300+ responses from mostly White women to a survey. We had relied on snowballing – our network – to get more women to answer the survey. Unsurprisingly, our network looked like us!

This mishap prompted my interest in the harms of missing or incomplete datasets – both in general and in the case of children.

Recently, a found somebody that has made a great job at using art to bring awareness to the topic of missing datasets.

The Library of Missing Datasets

Mimi Ọnụọha is a Nigerian-American artist and researcher whose work highlights the social relationships and power dynamics behind data collection.

She has created a Library of Missing Datasets. In her words

“Missing data sets” are my term for the blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated. My interest in them stems from the observation that within many spaces where large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. Unsurprisingly, this lack of data typically correlates with issues affecting those who are most vulnerable in that context.

Mimi Onuoha

Why should we care? Onuoha believes that “what we ignore reveals more than what we give our attention to. It’s in these things that we find cultural and colloquial hints of what is deemed important. Spots that we’ve left blank to reveal our hidden social biases and indifferences.”

She compiles a list of missing or incomplete datasets. Some examples are:

  • People excluded from public housing because of criminal records.
  • Trans people killed or injured in instances of hate crime (note: existing records are notably unreliable or incomplete).
  • Poverty and employment statistics that include people who are behind bars.
  • Muslim mosques/communities surveilled by the FBI/CIA.
  • Mobility for older adults with physical disabilities or cognitive impairments.
  • Undocumented immigrants currently incarcerated and/or underpaid.
  • Firm statistics on how often police arrest women for making false rape reports.

Onuoha has created a version 2.0, where she focused on blackness. She says “Black folks are both over-collected and under-represented in American datasets, featuring strongly as objects of collection but rarely as subjects with agency over collection, ownership, and power.

I found very thought-provoking the images of the file cabinets with the drawers open showing the tagged empty folders. You can check them yourself the initial project and the 2.0 version.

Some of the datasets I’m missing or existing records are incomplete

  • Women that have not been promoted in spite of having all the requirements because of bias.
  • Disabled people that have been discriminated against by hiring algorithms.
  • People that have unfairly been denied work permits and residence visas.
  • Children with long covid.
  • LBTQ+ people that fear coming out because of backlash.
  • People in Venezuela that have endured “express” kidnapping.

Back to you

  • Which datasets are you missing?
  • Which datasets are missing you?

Before I go

For reflection

Diversity is not the magic bullet to fix inequity. For those still doubting it, in this edition of The Flock with Jennifer Crichton newsletter, Gemma Doswell reflects on the relative broad gender and ethnic diversity of the candidates for the Tory leadership in the UK and how we assume that it automatically should translate into advocacy for their visible identities.

A boost of energy

Mastercard now links all employee bonuses to ESG goals!

In 2021, the company introduced a compensation model for executives tied to three main Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance priorities: carbon neutrality, financial inclusion, and gender pay parity. This year they have rolled the scheme out to all employees globally.

News from me

Early this year, I went to Edinburgh to deliver a workshop at the Scottish AI Summit called Goodbye shiny robots & glowing brains: Why Better Images of AI matter. This is in the context of my work as Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at We and AI and my participation in the Better Images of AI project.

The workshop was delivered both in-person and online with Tania Duarte, Co-Founder and CEO of We and AI, and Tristan Ferne, executive producer at BBC Research & Development. You can watch it on the summit’s website.

Do you prefer a podcast? You can listen to Tania and me discussing with Steph Wright why better images of AI matter and the reasons we need trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive AI on this episode of Scotland’s AI Strategy podcast, Turing’s Triple Helix.

As I mentioned on a previous post, I’m writing a book and I need your help!

[ASK] I’d be immensely grateful if you could complete and/or share with your network of women in tech this short survey about your/their experiences at work.

What do I mean by “Women in Tech”? Women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance, CXO) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions in other sectors (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…).

Whilst the survey is anonymous, you’ll have the option to get involved in the project before submitting the form. Thanks for your support!

Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate!

The luxury of overconfidence when you have privilege

Chart showing the comparison between UK men's and women's confidence about beating several animals in a fight unarmed. The highest confidence is for beating a rat with 77% men vs 57% women, and the lowest is for a Gorilla, 2% men vs 1% women.
Chart from YouGov UK.  

(5 min read)

As a woman in tech, every day I’m reminded that my problem is a lack of confidence. I’m constantly showered with newsletters, offers of webinars and coaching, as well as articles telling me that confidence is a fix-all from the gender pay gap to solving the shortage of women in CXO roles.

All that in spite that there is no correlation between confidence and effective leadership! When I mention this fact, most people look puzzled. I don’t know why. It’s not like we have a “confid-ometer” that enables us to correlate our leaders’ confidence to the success of their initiatives.

What’s more, I’m adamant that our economic, political, and social problems are often rooted in overconfident leaders. If in doubt, only look at how the overconfidence of some political leaders has resulted in disastrous outcomes on the flight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish they could have been much less confident and more humble to follow the advice of others that actually know better.

Still, people are resistant. It’s so easy to attribute to self-doubt the lack of CEOs that are disabled, non-White, or self-identify as women…

Early this year, Caroline Perez Criado’s newsletter came to help me! She shared the results of a survey by YouGov on Which animals could Britons beat in a fight?

Guess what? The results show that 28% men vs 9% women think they could beat “unarmed” an eagle in a fight. Gets better, 12% of men vs 2% of women think they could beat a King Cobra, again, unarmed! By the way, in the same article there is also a reference to the US study and how compares with the UK. Priceless!

We can continue to assume that because some people think they can beat a cobra, they can actually beat it. Or, we can confront the myth that confidence is a predictor of effective leadership.

What should we care?

I’ve been coaching and mentoring for years university students, direct reports, peers, clients… And confidence is a topic that comes often. “If I were more confident… ” People talk about it as it was an unreachable superpower such as being invisible or capable to fly.

Confidence is simply about how we feel about a decision. If we feel good, we tell ourselves that we’re confident. When we feel bad or unsure, we lack confidence. So far, so good.

The problem is that we assume that this particular feeling is a good predictor of success. And it’s not. This delusion has even a name!

The Dunning-Kruger effect is “a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, expertise, or experience regarding a certain type of a task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge. Some researchers also include in their definition the opposite effect for high performers: their tendency to underestimate their skills”.

A chart of confidence vs competence with the title “Dunning-Kruger effect”. The curve starts a zero confidence and competence. Then, it increases rapidly in confidence and very little in competence to drop very quickly in confidence as competence increases. Then, the curve continues to increase slowly in confidence and compentence until it reaches a plateau. The plateau is lower in confidence than the peak reached previously.
Confidence vs competence: The Dunning-Krugger effect (Patricia Gestoso).

Moreover, we reverence so much confidence that we have made it a key prerequisite to be considered for any meaningful progression in our careers. I cannot recall how many times I’ve heard hiring manager justify their choice of candidate because the person “looked” confident, even if the other candidate had a superior CV.

What if Instead of pushing people to do power poses to boost their confidence, we demanded our overconfident leaders to demonstrate with data and facts the bases of their confidence in their strategy?

What if hiring managers asked candidates to share the evidence supporting their level of confidence rather than assumed it correlates with their competence?

Let’s stop fixing women and underrepresented groups’ confidence. Our problem is not confidence but overconfidence.

Before I go

For reflection

In this 4-min article, Mary Fashik – a queer disabled woman of color – and Corie Walsh – a White disabled woman with wealth privilege – share the regular erasure, oppression, and disrespect they experience as disabled women. They also discuss how the pandemic was a missed opportunity for the world to learn some of the lessons the disabled community has long known like “collective care is the way forward”.

A boost of energy

On International Women’s Day, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, issued a posthumous apology for the “historical injustice” of witch hunts. From 1563 to 1736, an estimated 4,000 people in Scotland were accused of witchcraft, of which about 80% were women. “These women were targeted because they were vulnerable, some of them owned land that others – usually men – wanted access to, or they were unmarried or widowed, or they looked or spoke or acted differently.”[reference] Two-thirds of those accused were executed.

For comparison, during the worldwide famous trials of Salem, 200 people were accused and 14 women and 5 men were hanged.

News from me

I’m writing a book and I need your help!

As some of you know, my DEI work was prompted by my dismay at realizing in 2015 that fantastic women that had started with me had either quit tech tired of fighting over and over the same battles or given unappealing jobs when they came back from maternity leave – I don’t have children myself.

Unfortunately, little has changed. Seven years later, still, more than 40% of women that start in tech leave the sector.

So, this year I decided to write a book about how women succeed in tech worldwide. There are great books written about this topic focused on US corporations. I also believe we can learn a lot by casting a wider net. My first step? Asking those women what has made them stay and what they need to thrive in the next 5 years.

[ASK] I’d be immensely grateful if you could complete and/or share with your network of women in tech this short survey about your/their experiences at work.

What do I mean by “Women in Tech”? Women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance, CXO) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions in other sectors (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…).

Whilst the survey is anonymous, you’ll have the option to get involved in the project before submitting the form.

Thanks for your support!

Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate!

13 Books to think differently about technology, business, and inclusion

People in a bookstore reading books sat in either comfortable seats or a bean bag chair.
Image from Pixabay by LubosHouska.

In 2021 I read 38 books. Following from my CuriousMindsDiversePeople Challenge, I kept track of the diversity of authors and topics. For example, 25 of the authors self-identified as women, 14 were non-US authors, 4 discussed disability and 11 LBTQ+ topics.

Below are my personal highlights from 13 of them that made me think differently about data, artificial intelligence, design, sustainability, feminism, pleasure, and God. I’m listing them in the order I read them.

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem. If you are a feminist and somehow feel guilty that all the books on the topic depress you, I thoroughly recommend this book as audio, since Steinem herself narrates most of it. It’s a collage of articles written at different points in her life about walking the talk on feminism and women’s rights and the importance of challenging both the small and the big oppressions. All that is delivered with wit. A huge bonus!

The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success by Carol Sanford. In 2020, I learned about the concept of regenerative as an “upgrade” to sustainability. This book provides food for thought and examples about how to make businesses adopt practices that benefit their employees, users, communities, and the planet. However, I missed a more critical view of some of the study cases, especially for big tech companies, which is the area I’m more familiar with. For example, Facebook and Google are portrayed as the paradigm of regenerative businesses, without any mention of their questionable practices as employers and business models. Still, the book provided valuable insights for my talk Regenerative Business: Embedding ethics and inclusion in workplaces, products, and services at the Cambridge Agile Exchange last February (recording here).

Continue reading

When tokenistic diversity damages reputation: The revenge of the lehenga

Paws of different colours - blue, green, red, yellow – on a wood background. Among them, there is a black pawn.
Image from Pixabay by MetsikGarden.

(4 min read)

When business leaders learn that I’m an inclusion strategist, most of them tell me about their diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives in the workplace: gender pay gap report, employee resource groups, diversity audits…

Then, I ask them what are they doing about the diversity of their customers. Yes, you can come up with 4-6 versions of the “ideal” customer and hope for the best but the reality is that humans are much more complex and their situation and environment are dynamic, not static. How are they authentically including that diversity of experiences in their products, services, marketing, and sales?

The HBO TV series “And Just Like That…,” a reboot of “Sex and the City,” is a good reminder of what happens when you play the “diversity” card in your products whilst patronizing your customers.

Continue reading

What words do we need to invent to embed systemic change?

A sheet of paper emerging from a typewriter with the letters “words have power” copied over and over.
Image from Pixabay by Geralt.

(4 min)

I have the privilege to speak 3 languages: English, French, and my native Spanish. Even if the three of them share a lot of history (all are Indo-European languages with close ties and use the same alphabet) it still surprises me how some words apparently close in meaning can resonate differently. Let me share my experience with the word “engineer”.

I’m a Chemical Engineer and in the country where I pursued my studies (Venezuela), it was assumed that engineers are smart people that get to top management positions. Later on, I lived in France. There, to be an engineer has even more prestige! If you happen to graduate from one of the Grandes Écoles d’Ingénieurs (Great Engineering Schools) the sky is the limit for your professional career.

So, it was a surprise when I moved to the UK and realized that the word “engineer” was sometimes used interchangeably with “technician”. Also, I noticed that images would often portray engineers as people in overalls working on power plants rather than solving equations in a computer or in a meeting room making decisions.

One day I learned that the interpretation of their origin may actually different!

Continue reading
Article Levels of Pain by Patricia Gestoso as displayed on the Certain Age e-magazine website. It features two old pictures of a woman's head and torso with the shape of some internal organs painted on her skin in black marker.

Happy New Year! I wish 2022 brings all of you tons of professional and personal success.

For me, 2022 started with a bang! I got an article published on Certain Age, an e-magazine that showcases a wide array of ideas from modern women. Topics range from big ideas to small wonders with a sense of voice and an uncompromising commitment to factual accuracy.

This piece (8-min read) is my answer to a question that I’ve been pondering for 40+ years: Does contempt for women’s pain justify substandard healthcare for half of humanity? Asking for a friend…

I’d love to read in the comments how the article resonates with you!

“No black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much’. Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’…No woman has ever written enough.”

bell hooks

Ensure your ideas and experiences get exposure in 2022!

Instructions to submit your contributions to Certain Age can be found here. The editor, Jean Shields Fleming, provides thoughtful advice and she’s very respectful of the author’s voice. She’s been an absolute joy to work with.

Intersectionality, Data, and AI: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women November 25, 2021

Close up of a field of blossomed orange tulips. Image from pixabay by anujatilj.

(3 min read)

2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the Global 16 Days Campaign. According to UN Women, the global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which will run from 25 November to 10 December 2021, is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”

Violence against women is messy. Year after year, reports, statistics, and think tanks remind us how bad the situation is and how to address it.

Still, we fail to make this planet safe for half of the population. Moreover, some groups of women are especially let down by our society.

Let’s have a closer look.

Continue reading

Four ways we ignore children when discussing digital inclusion

Two teenage girls portrayed against a wall with multiple surveillance cameras pointing at them. The girls look at the cameras back. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

(5 min read)

Children are an afterthought in our digital inclusion plans.

We talk about the importance of embedding diversity, inclusion, and ethics in technology as a prerequisite for a digital future that works for everybody. The conversation is framed in the context of identities – gender, ethnicity, sexual preferences, culture. However, we have forgotten children. I’m talking about children’s data privacy and their vulnerability to tech tools, especially those powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

In this article, I share four areas where we’re letting children down and how the power of framing data as money can help us to proactively include them.

Continue reading

How are you losing business today by skipping diversity and inclusion in business operations and how to fix it

Photo of a wooden staircase in a bamboo forest by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

(10 min read)

I’ve been beating the drum of the business value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in tech since 2015. Many moons later, still every time I engage in this discussion with business leaders, they invariably default to either the diversity of their workforce or the McKinsey reports correlating the gender and ethnic makeup of their leadership teams to increased financial returns such as higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

In my experience, it’s hard to use correlation to convince the skeptics or to support D&I champions. On the flip side, through my professional and personal path, I’ve witnessed innumerable instances where D&I has played a crucial role in the success and failure of initiatives and organizations.

How did I come to witness all that evidence? I’ve been a unicorn all my life. I became an emigrant before I was a year old and I’ve had the opportunity to live in 6 countries and 3 continents. As a woman, my professional path is “atypical” by Anglo-Western standards. I studied engineering and computational chemistry, which are considered typically male occupations. Beyond academia, I’ve worked for chemical and tech companies. I don’t have children. I still remember talking to colleagues in December 2015 about the need to put in place a strategy to retain women in tech as half of the young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35 [source]. To my surprise, often my puzzled interlocutors would ask me if “diversity and inclusion was an American thing”.

Fortunately, nowadays there is much more awareness about diversity and inclusion in business, including the tech sector. Also, there are some companies that are getting tangible value out of understanding the value of developing solutions for underserved populations. As I’ve written in the past, people with disabilities and their families constitute a market the size of China ($8 trillion/year). Closer to home, the UK’s 12 million people with disabilities have a spending power of £120 billion as per AbilityNet, a British charity focused on the digital inclusion of people with disabilities.  

But how to go beyond preaching to the converted? Moreover, how to engage with organizations that don’t have the budget for a Head of D&I?

What business leaders want to know about the value of D&I

Early June this year, I launched a survey asking business owners, managing directors, CXOs, and board members their top question about the business value of diversity and inclusion. In return for answering the survey, I offered respondents to email them my answer to their question.

I categorized the 50 answers I received into four buckets. Even in such a small sample, still we can trace a roadmap for how organizations approach D&I at workplaces

Continue reading

Women’s battle for fair access to leadership positions in tech

Brown woman in casual attire with a laptop in her lap typing software code.
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.

I’m delighted to be featured in the last issue of The Mint Magazine on the digital economy. The piece, entitled Motherboard Matters, is my first contribution to an economics journal!

In this article (5-min read), I highlight how the pervasiveness of patriarchy, exceptionalism, and meritocracy in the technology sector is at the core of women’s battle for fair access to leadership positions in tech.

I also share how we need to overhaul tech so it moves from extracting to contributing to society and the planet.

Motherboard Matters

I’ve now been working for over 15 years as a head of services in the tech industry. Throughout my career, I’ve strived to support other professional women with the determination to see workplaces reach gender equity during my lifetime.

The pandemic has wrecked that hope in the tech sector even though it is thriving financially. The reason? Tech hasn’t seen the opportunities to challenge practices such as unpaid care work and the revered 40-hour workweek that keep women away from leadership positions. Instead, it has brushed off the problem with platitudes: flexible working… work from home… hybrid working…

This lack of questioning is the product of the pervasiveness of patriarchy, exceptionalism, and meritocracy in technology, which hinder the deep transformation required to upend the status quo. These characteristics are part of its DNA and have long stayed under the radar of most people, including myself.

When I started in software, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable in a sector where you must work much harder to progress in your career if you are not simultaneously white, heterosexual, able, and male. I’ve been an immigrant all my life, so I was used to being “the other” and to have to prove myself over and over.

Then, in the early 2010s, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote Why Women Still Can’t Have It All and Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In different ways, those powerful women sent the message that women didn’t have the same opportunities as men to get to the top and that imbalance had to be fixed.

Around that time, I was promoted. I quickly noticed that often I was the only female senior manager in projects and meetings. The smart and promising women that I had met years earlier had come back from maternity leave to unappealing part-time jobs, without access to the plumb assignments that lead to career progression.

The motherhood penalty revealed to me systemic patterns where before I’d seen only coincidences.

The tipping point was when I joined a group of professional women working in various industries and at all career levels. Our honest conversations about men stealing ideas, the harmful effects of unconscious bias, or the motherhood penalty revealed to me systemic patterns where before I’d seen only coincidences. That prompted me to create the first employee-led group focused on fostering gender equity at my company, which positive impact was recognised with the 2020 Women in Tech Changemakers UK award. I also spreadhead other initiatives to grow diversity and inclusion in other organisations. I also discovered that power asymmetry was not a bug but a feature embedded since the birth of tech.

In the 1930s, women were hired to solve mathematical problems that were considered at the time as repetitive work. Some of those calculations were as complex as estimating the number of rockets needed to make a plane airborne or determining how to get a human into space and back. When computers took off in the 1960s women became the programmers while men focused on the hardware which was regarded as the most challenging work. As programming gained status during the 1980s, men pushed women out of those jobs. That prompted a sharp increase in the salaries of software developers, institutionalising patriarchy and the gender pay gap.

Historically, tech has approached these issues by “fixing women.” For example, women in the sector are coached to develop stereotypical male leadership traits. In the past decade, tech leaders have promoted the abdication of responsibility for solving gender inequalities and charged women with mitigating the damages. For instance, female executives are expected to act as role models on top of their full-time jobs. This can go all the way from agreeing to be the company’s speaker at STEM events to sponsoring the female employee network.

This transfer of responsibility is also alive and well in start-up tech businesses. A venture capitalist shared with me his view that the key to increasing the funding received by women’s businesses was that they were mentored by successful female founders. I replied that those top performers were often overburdened by the demands of paying back to society and that men could also mentor women. Later that day, he asked me to mentor a woman with a promising business idea that he was trying to help. He introduced us via email mentioning my interest in supporting her and inviting us to connect. His “helping” was done.

In recent years, the most popular software development approach, agile, has become a staple of the business jargon. The origin of this methodology can be traced back to 2001 and 17 software developers unhappy about what they considered excessive planning and documentation practices. They came up with their own set of rules: The Agile Manifesto.

The rationale is that tech is special and its regulation is counterproductive and stifles innovation.

But agile is more than a project management approach. It buttresses tech’s deep cultural belief in exceptionalism, the idea that our sector is inherently different from, and even better than, all the others. This helps to explain how we allow tech companies to go fast and break things while we impose strict regulations on the food and drug industries. The rationale is that tech is special and its regulation is counterproductive and stifles innovation.

The debates about the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) are perfect examples of how this sector dodges the rules applied to other industries. For example, I recently met with other professionals to discuss future trends in support software. Everybody was very excited about the use of AI tools such as sentiment analysis to improve the user experience. Then, I brought up the proposal for regulating those applications released by the European Union a month earlier. The participants – who were unaware of the document – quickly asserted that the directive had nothing to do with support. In summary, norms are for others.

This framework conveniently disguises the dearth of opportunities for underrepresented groups as being the result of a lack of intelligence and skill.

And the most pernicious cultural tenet in tech is its self-proclaimed meritocracy. How do we heal a system that considers itself virtuous? The idea that tech is inherently fair is rooted in its connection to logic and mathematics which commonly translates as objectivity and reason. This framework conveniently disguises the dearth of opportunities for underrepresented groups as being the result of a lack of intelligence and skill.

Can we extricate patriarchy, exceptionalism, and meritocracy from tech? Yes, we can but it’ll need an overhaul of its vision, mission, and purpose. It’ll need humility.

What does that mean in practice?

First, it means moving away from methodologies that could foster power asymmetry between creators and users. Instead, we should adopt systems thinking and multi-stakeholder co-creation practices for the development of products, services, and workplaces.

Second, recognising that the financial success of our sector relies on innovations funded by governments and products purchased by customers. Hence, paying taxes that are commensurate with tech business profits is not philanthropy but a fair contribution to society.

Finally, abiding by the same rules and regulations imposed on any other sector with the potential of affecting billions of lives. Only then, will tech be able to deliver on its “Don’t be evil” promise.

Further reading

System map of the factors accounting for the low representation of women in leadership positions in tech companies.

Life under lockdown: Report on the impact of COVID-19 on professional women’s unpaid work

BACK TO YOU: What are your views on the topic? How does my story resonate with yours?

Picture of a computer motherboard that illustrates my article Motherboard Matters in The Mint Magazine.

How Sustainability and Diversity Can Boost Company Success

Illustration of hands in different skin tones surrounding the Earth. The image has heart shapes sprinked liberally.

Image by Ray Shrewsberry.

Early this year, I received the following post in my daily digest from the Ada’s List [source], a supportive community of women who work in and around technology.

Over the next few weeks, we’re collaborating with long time Ada’s List partners Bulb for a 3 week blog series – and we need you!  The blog series will be split into the following topics, with all places allocated on a first come, first serve basis:

Growth – All places taken
Branding and Company Values – Places available
Sustainability – Places available

I wrote back


I’ll be very interested in talking about embedding diversity and inclusion practices as a part of the sustainability agenda, both footprint and handprint.

Best, Patricia

I was invited to participate in the post. I was very pleased when I received the questions sent by Bulb to guide my contribution. There was one explicitly mentioning diversity and inclusion.

As you’ll read below, I didn’t limit the value of diversity to one answer.

Continue reading

The graduation: My first experiment with future narratives

Green road sing with the text "Welcome to the future".
Image by mykedaigadget from Pixabay.

(9 min read)

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

For the last 6 years, I’ve been very vocal about what’s wrong with products, services, and workplaces that exclude users and employees. I’ve designed visual tools, given talks, and created communities to highlight the problems and build a business case for diversity and inclusion. Whilst all those efforts have contributed to increasing awareness about the issues, change has been incremental at best. What’s more, the pandemic is already threatening to reverse any progress made in the last decades.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

R. Buckminster Fuller

What if instead I’d draw a picture of a better future? The occasion was the final assignment for a creative writing course sponsored by  Arts Council England: A 2,000-word story related to World War II.

Keep reading to discover my assignment, which is now part of the book “VE75 An Anthology of Short Stories” by Trafford Libraries.

Continue reading

Reading as an antidote for indifference and exclusion

Drawing of a white young woman looking through a telescope to a 13 book covers. The books are named in this post.
Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from images from Pixabay and Goodreads .

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

Toni Morrison

(5 min read)

In 2018, I discovered that in spite of considering myself a diversity and inclusion evangelist, the books I read were mostly written by white, anglophone, American, and heterosexual men. I was appalled at the homogeneity of the voices to whom I was paying attention. Decided to do something, I began to record not only if I liked a book, but categories such as the gender and ethnicity of the authors, where they were born or their religion.

As a result, in 2019 I read 40 books written by a much broader range of voices. The experience was so energizing, that a year ago I launched the #CuriousMindsDiversePeople2020 challenge [source]. The aim of the challenge was to serve as a quarterly accountability check for the diversity of the voices participants heard in 2020. Subscribers to the email list received quarterly emails reminding them to check the diversity of what and whom they were reading, listening, and watching and sharing with them the list of books I’d read in the previous three months

Continue reading

Unlocking change with ethical and inclusive design

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

(9 min read)

I’m not Black on Monday, a woman on Tuesday, and left-handed on Wednesday.

Annie Jean-Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion at Google

My journey into ethical and inclusive design was prompted by embarrassment, fear, and impatience.

Embarrassment: When in December 2018, six months after launching my website on diversity and inclusion in tech, an expert in disability asked me if it was accessible and pointed me to the post 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment on the site Life of A Blind Girl . Reading the article was transformative. It made clear to me that, irrespective of my intention — promoting diversity and inclusion — my impact was the opposite: Continue reading

3 things we should unlearn from COVID-19

Finger clicking on a button that has the inscription “31 December 2019”.

Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from this image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay .

(7 min read)

Imagine you go into a one-week change management training with the expectation is that when you are back to work you’ll reassure everybody that there is no need to change. How does that sound?

Actually, this is what’s happening right now. We’ve been in a change management boot camp for 3 months now, at the cost of $2-4 trillion US$ (UNCTAD, Asian Development Bank), but most leaders keep using sentences such as “back to normal” and “resume”, or simply they have gone hiding. Do they really believe we can all go backwards in time to 31 December 2019? Are they lacking the creativity and energy to be the catalyst for a different future miles away from their vision four months ago? Or are they simply patronizing their citizens and employees by thinking that if they keep insisting on going forward to the past, we’ll all close our eyes to our individual and collective experiences during this crisis?

If it’s the latest, it’s not working.

Continue reading

Inclusive leadership in the time of the coronavirus is also worrying about food and toilet paper

Picture of the empty shelves in a supermarket in England. Picture taken on 14th March 2020 by Patricia Gestoso©

Picture of empty shelves in a supermarket in England. Picture taken on 14th March 2020 by Patricia Gestoso ©.

(3 min read)

Last week, I asked a colleague how her recent transition to remote working was going on. Was her internet and VPN working ok? Did she get access to the docking station, screen, and mouse from the office? Was she proactively taking breaks?

Her answers reassured me: Yes, yes, and yes.

She also told me that after finishing her work at 6.00 pm she rushed to the supermarket to only find broccoli and Brussels sprouts. We made fun about how some people rather starve than eat certain food. It also made me realize that I’ve failed as a leader.

The scarcity trap

The picture that accompanies this post it’s how the supermarkets looked like where I live a week ago. It’s how they looked all this week too. And this weekend as well.  Me too, I’ve felt the pain and stress of visiting 3, 4, 5 supermarkets to gather the basic food and toiletries I needed.

Continue reading

The ROI of Inclusive And Ethical Design

A calculator and a pen resting on a paper with some handwritten notes. 

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay.

(5 min)

Interacting with tech products that reject me as a user or provide a subpar experience elicits two very different responses in me.

As a Head of Customer Service with 25+ years’ experience in scientific and engineering software, I’m well aware of the constraints imposed by a finite R&D team and an ever-growing list of customer enhancement requests and bugs to fix. It’s teams like mine that build those lists and provide feedback to the product team on their prioritization. Which features and fixes make it into code depends on a multitude of factors: the difficulty to implement them, their alignment with the vision for the product, and their potential impact on the user experience and expectations. This last criterion is assessed using fictional user personas created by the product team as a representation of the ideal customer. The closer the requester of the feature is to one of the user personas, the higher the chances of implementation into the product. However, if the issue is considered an edge case – not representative of a substantial customer base – then it will mostly get rejected or postponed indefinitely. Every new feature and fix must demonstrate its ROI.

As a woman that cumulates several out-group identities – e.g. non-native English speaker, poor vision – I’m used to the frustrating feedback that my mediocre user experience is deceptively cataloged as an edge case. Why deceptively? The average tech Continue reading

Who are you reading and who are you silencing? The tale of how I diversified the voices from whom I learn

Three figures. One covers the mouth, other the eyes, the third one the ears.

Image by Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay.

(6 min read)

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is […] that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Before using the term diversity and inclusion advocacy, I had already identified the need for it. I’m a woman, STEM studies, work in tech, and I’ve been an immigrant all my life. This intersection of out-group identities has often resulted in being seen as the other. It has also prompted me to consciously endeavour to listen and empower members of other out-groups.

However, a little more than a year ago, I realized that, unconsciously, I was silencing those other voices.

Continue reading

Ditch empathy and embrace curiosity: Be a better manager, improve customer experience, and become a stronger diversity and inclusion ally

Child hand pointing to a blackboard with the words what, where, when, why, how, who.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

The term empathy has been steadily gaining visibility for years. It’s not a hunch; as per Google Trends, its popularity has doubled in the last 10 years. This shift can be explained by empathy expanding from the personal sphere (partner, family, friendship) to the business arena (emotional intelligence, management, customer service, HR, diversity and inclusion). What’s more, empathy appears to be the cure-all for any human interaction mismatch (and for machines too: if only they would have empathy…).

But, is this based on hard evidence or wishful thinking?

I believe that betting on empathy is unlikely to make the positive change in human relationship we are looking for. Continue reading

5 Strategies to make Unconscious Bias Training Effective

A man throws a bag with the sign "unconscious bias training" in a trashcan with the label "Nice to Have".

Unconscious bias training being thrown in the trashcan of the “nice to have”.
Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from this original image by OpenIcons from Pixabay.

“I’ve studied cognitive biases my whole life and I’m no better at avoiding them”

Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences

Four years ago, my interest in human behavior — crucial for my work as head of customer service — led me to Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, fast and slow”. The book details how biases and rules of thumb play a crucial role in our decisions in the back of our minds. Serendipitously, around the same time, I started some initiatives to further diversity and inclusion at my workplace and I stumbled on a wealth of studies naming unconscious biases as one of the major barriers women encounter to thrive at work.

The more I learned, the more I realized — in hindsight — how unconscious biases had plagued past decisions. I read books and articles, talked to experts, and watched Continue reading

UK Gender Pay Gap Awareness: How to broaden the conversation at the workplace


Chairing an employee awareness session about the UK Gender Pay Gap in Tech at the Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry.

Recently, I was invited to chair a “Breakfast & Learn” session at our Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry (UK). The topic: UK Gender Pay Gap. This article is a reflection on that great learning and interactive experience.

What is “Breakfast & Learn”? One-hour monthly awareness sessions organized by our Great Place to Work (GPTW) ambassadors around a specific theme. Ideally, the presenters should keep the topic light and open, avoid the profusion of slides, encourage the audience participation, and limit the use of jargon. A healthy breakfast is provided along.

Why me? I founded the EuroNorth Dassault Systèmes Lean In circles in 2016 to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at a regional level, I’m a member of the EuroNorth Diversity and Inclusion Council, and I’ve had the pleasure to host virtual employee meetings with our UK HR team to discuss the findings of our gender pay gap reports for 2016/2017 and for 2017/2018.

Why this topic? I learned that the recent publication of the Dassault Systèmes Gender Pay Gap report had been a hot topic for discussion in this office. There were different views regarding the scope, key indicators, and impact of the UK gender pay gap as well as the usefulness of reporting the data. Continue reading

Two Alpinists in Mount Tech. Take #1: Meritocracy

A woman and a man climb a mountain with the inscription “Mount Tech”. They have reached the same altitude, which is marked by a dotted line pointing to a vertical ruler labeled as “meritometer”. The woman has attached four weights of four different colors. The man has climbed the mountain using four pitons colored in the exact four colors of the woman’s weights. A legend indicates the colors represent bias, society expectations, stereotypes, and salary. At the top, a man thinks “That’s what true meritocracy looks like”.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Piton  \ ˈpē-ˌtän \ a spike, wedge, or peg that is driven into a rock or ice surface as a support (as for a mountain climber).

Weight \ ˈwāt \ : a heavy object to hold or press something down or to counterbalance.

Meritocracy \ mer-ə-ˈtä-krə-sē \ : A system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.

Disability as an Innovation Driver

Yellow light bulb over physical disability symbols with the caption “disability as an innovation driver”

(5 min read)

The typewriter, internet, closed captioning, text-to-speech, eye gaze.

All those inventions have in common a widespread application and impact. They were also originally created to overcome a limitation imposed by a disability. And there are a lot more, as this article points out.

Surprised? I was. Stereotypes do narrow our thinking.

Myth #1: Disability happens to others.

Continue reading

Want to curb climate change? Empower women

I was not planning to like Moment of Lift (source) by Melinda Gates. Although I was tempted to read it, I always bailed out at the last minute because somehow I thought it would be some kind of 101 Wishful Thinking for Women. When the World Economic Forum Book Club (source) chose it as a May read, I thought it may be a signal. It was.

Continue reading

Women & Money | Shame & Guilt

5 min read

I love the Masters of Scale podcast, hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and investor at Greylock. What’s not to like about a podcast about innovative business models, that is fun and committed to a 50-50 gender balance for guests? Continue reading

My first LinkedIn Article: Diversity is key to delivering excellent customer support


In my first LinkedIn article, I share 5 key factors to the success of the customer support team I lead. Predictably, diversity of workforce and perspectives is crucial to delivering exceptional customer service. Continue reading

Purl: For Pixar achieving gender equality at work is the low-status groups’ responsibility


Purl Final Scene: WARNING Wishful Thinking Ahead!!!

Last week, I received a link to Purl from a fellow diversity and inclusion advocate with the line “Wondered if you had seen this… it’s a brilliant explanation of the male-dominated workplace”.

Upon clicking on it, I was redirected to a Pixar 8-min short animation film called Purl Continue reading

When a Toilet Becomes a Symbol of Exclusion

Photo of a sign with an arrow pointing to the right followed by a transgender symbol at the center and disabled toilet sign.

A toilet sign at the TEDxWomenLondon2018

Toilet /ˈtɔɪlət/

A structure like a seat over a hole where you get rid of waste from your body.

A room in a house or public building that contains a toilet.

Early this month I attended LondonWomen. As per the director and curator of the event – Maryam Pasha – it was 8 years in the making. The stimulating array of speakers showed a labor of love, commitment, and resilience. 

I went to the event to keep up with the state-of-the-art in women’s issues and to network. I did a lot of the first (more at the end of this post), less of the second.

I also had a “toilet” epiphany: Continue reading

25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


Some resources to understand the massive scale of the problem worldwide:

Continue reading

Headwinds and tailwinds: A framework to build empathy

Cartoon of two cyclists going in opposite directions. Over one of them, there is a smiley sun, whereas there is a cloud blowing air in the direction the other cyclist is going.

Remember last time you were faced with strong winds against you whilst cycling or walking? Probably yes. And tailwinds, i.e. winds that helped you to progress faster? Probably not.

In their scientific article The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings, Shai Davidai and Thomas Gilovich used headwinds and tailwinds as a metaphor to explain our perception of advantages and disadvantages that we face. Continue reading

How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings


Last weekend I finished Sarah Cooper‘s third book “How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings“, out on October 30th. Given that I thoroughly enjoyed the previous one, “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings“, and my interest in female leadership, purchasing her new book was a no-brainer. Sarah is a writer, comedian, Continue reading

Salary transparency or how to eradicate the gender pay gap

Tech companies such as Buffer and Verve had implemented transparent salary. A realistic strategy to end with the Gender Pay Gap #genderpaygap #womenintech

Two weeks ago I attended the Ada’s List Conference 2018. The Ada’s List is an email-based community of more than 6,000 subscribers (me among them) “for women (and those who identify as) who are committed to changing the tech industry”.

The Conference was structured as a blend of presentations and concurrent workshops covering a vast array of topics related to women in tech. Inclusive design (‘Leaving No One Behind: Building Apps for The Next Billion Users’ by Aygul Zagidullina), new technologies (‘How can we use advanced imaging technology to build a better food system?’ by Abi Ramanan), self-care (‘Discover your self-care non-negotiables” by Babs Ofori-Acquah), and UX (‘Personalising the user experience and the playlist consumption on Spotify‘ by Mounia Lalmas-Roelleke) are some examples.

If there was a talk that both challenged my preconceptions and fuelled my optimism that a diverse and inclusive workplace is achievable was that of Åsa Nyström, Director of Continue reading

If Men Could Menstruate…

In 2015, the UK branch of WaterAid – an international non-profit organization with the mission of providing clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene to people that don’t have them yet  –  launched the campaign If Men Had Periods to denounce that more than 1 billion women around the world lack of water and toilets during their menstruation. Furthermore, WaterAid wanted to increase the number of signatories to their Make it Happen petition, which called on world leaders to make sure that the UN sustainable development goals included a target on safe water and sanitation.

Their tongue in cheek approach was successful. Their adds won several awards, their Continue reading

Women, Tech & Systems Maps: My alternative to the magic bullet

Woman of Asian ethnicity with a worldmap in the background. The countries in the worldmap are creeated using 0 and 1.

Women, Tech & Power (Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from Pixabay images).

As a woman joining the university in the late ’80s to pursue an engineering degree, I took for granted that gender parity in the workplace was around the corner. The few female professors in our science and engineering faculties reassured us that we were on a good track. They shared how as students they were only 2-3 women per chemical engineering cohort, whilst we could be counted by tens! The message was clear: “”Don’t complain and work hard. Women’s presence is scaling exponentially”.

It’s 2018 and the World Economic Forum reports that the workplace gender gap will not be closed for 217 years. This disappointing realization has sprung a flurry of expert Continue reading

Are you biased? Flip it to test it!

Unconscious bias can be defined as

a bias that happens automatically, outside of our control and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences.

Whilst all human beings have unconscious biases, that’s not an excuse for inaction. Unconscious bias impacts Continue reading

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele


Recently, I listened to the book “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The audible recording is 1 hour and I absolutely recommend it.

The premise of the book is the following: Years ago, the author was asked by a friend for advice on raising her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s advice to her.

My five favorite suggestions:

Continue reading

Gender equality lessons from a 12-year-old girl

Sexist Comment

Geauga County Maple Leaf, Thursday, July 19th, 2018 Vol. 25 No. 29, p. 7

Julianne Speyer is a 12-year-old American girl that can teach us a couple of things about equality,  fairness, and standing up for what we believe.

Continue reading

Women & Silence

Women and Public Speaking

Recently, I read the through-provoking Women & Power A manifesto, written by Prof. Mary Beard. In the chapter The Public Voice of Women, she highlights that in the Western tradition for the last 3,000 years women’s public speech has been confined to two areas:  (a) the support of their group interests (e.g. women rights), and (b) their victimhood (e.g. Christian martyrs). Attempts to breach that rule are Continue reading