In November 2016 I started a great position at a big, prominent tech company in my city. On my first day I had a realization—for the first time in my professional history, I’d now be working alongside women. As my first three months flew by, I began getting to know the amazing women in my department. I also gradually began opening up about my deep rooted beliefs and passion for the feminist movement.
I grew up in a house of art and inspiration, with parents who encouraged me to think critically and creatively about the world. I have always been a feminist. It’s never felt like a radical idea or a bad word to me, but when I entered the tech industry in 2011 it did feel like something I needed to tone down, particularly in my professional life. Then everything changed. The events that unfolded on November 8, 2016 broke my heart and steeled my resolve in ways I never imagined. I made a vow to take my activism beyond my personal social networks. I started by participating in my local Women's March, and experienced the utter euphoria of marching alongside some 15,000 women and allies. I began to focus my spending on supporting local and women-owned businesses. I stepped up my volunteering efforts with a local NGO that works to provide scholarships for impoverished and orphaned girls in Nyanza Province, Kenya.
Then I took a next step that, as someone living with crippling social anxiety, terrified me. I set out to make some professional allies. Although I didn’t formally pull together a group, once I set the intention within myself I realized that my wishes were shared by many of the women I work with. We started having great conversations, sharing our professional (and sometimes personal) goals with each other. We discussed the roadblocks we face, the grindingly slow process of promotion, the frustrations of bureaucracy, and the sting of ignored contributions.
When we began discussing the ways in which we can address these issues, I introduced them to the concept of shine theory. First coined in this article by journalist (and co-host of my favourite podcast Call Your Girlfriend) Ann Friedman, shine theory is all about the power of surrounding yourself with smart, accomplished women, and viewing each other’s success as a cause for celebration, not insecurity. As her friend, Aminatou Sow (the other half of Call Your Girlfriend—if you’re not listening to this podcast yet, you should be!) said: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”
I shared this amazing article with my colleagues that shows shine theory in action. Within the walls of Barack Obama’s White House, women banded together. While President Obama was committed to diversity, many Washington insiders considered his administration to be a 'boys club' in its early years. In 2013, only 35% of cabinet levels posts were held by women. Determined to improve the situation, women began to make a point of amplifying each others contributions, speaking up when a colleague was interrupted, and supporting each other’s professional goals.
“Female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution—and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”
By President Obama’s second term, he began calling more often on women. By 2016 half of all White House Department heads, as well as half of his senior aide positions were filled by women.
My colleagues were as inspired by this as I was, so we decided to form a coalition. A Shine Coalition. We meet regularly to talk, share our triumphs, frustrations, professional goals, and passions. We back each other up in meetings, we amplify each others accomplishments, and we empower one another. I’ve found my Girl Gang, my people, my allies, and it’s making me a better person each and every day.
I created this website to serve as a safe space for women and allies to learn more about the power of shine theory, intersectional feminism, and professional development.
I’m so excited to have you along for the ride.