Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Trump Foundation and why I will continue to follow the rules even when they don’t (or won’t)

This is something I never thought I would say  - I have something in common with Donald Trump. We both have started non-profit foundations.  Mine is a public non-profit and his is a private foundation, but we are in it to help a cause or causes, right? For me it is the case, but after reading an article from the Washington Post about the Trump Foundation's dealings, I believe the similarity is a tenuous one.
I am currently very angry with the news about the Foundation. It has to do with following the rules which are set up by the IRS and the government to ensure that money which is earmarked for charity is properly used, not for the people who run the charity's self-interest.

As a public foundation, the charity I founded, just like others who are 501 c-3's, spend a considerable amount of time and money to obtain our status and to keep our status. Every year, we need to file a federal tax return called a 990, as well as documents with the state. The more we grow our budget and revenue, the more documents we need to file. I am fortunate to have accounting help which keeps the costs for maintaining records and filing these documents down to a reasonable number.  But, every dollar spent on administrative costs is a dollar not spent on delivering our programs.

Besides keeping our financial house in order, we spend time discussing and understanding the rules for staying within the laws that were set up to prevent fraud. We need to stay within our mission, we need to have a review or audit of our records in order to maintain our non-profit status.  Again, this is time that could be spent on solving the problem that necessitates our having a non-profit in the first place.

I may not be jumping for joy to do these tasks, but I know it allows people, foundations and corporations who donate money to us, to know that we are above board and transparent with how we are using their money.

Private foundations, like the one Trump founded, are regulated as well.  One of the reasons they have rules is to prevent something called "self dealing".  Self dealing is a term meaning that you are using your foundation to your benefit, not the causes you claim to serve.  The government wanted to make sure wealthy people did not start these foundations as a way to shelter money from the government.

The Post article, which you can read here, as well as this other article from Talking Points Memo, which goes into further depth, shows how Trump used his foundation for personal gain. He used donated money to pay for his businesses' legal expenses and for two portraits of himself to be painted.  The sum total of these projects are more than my current budget.

So I am a bit hot under the collar about this subject.

Let me lay out what I could do with this money ov if the foundation had actually donated it to a charity. (And if you have a charity, just take out my numbers and descriptions and put your own in. You will see my point.)

This is my budget for 2015-16
Salaries and benefits $125K
Programming costs  $70K
Insurance  $3K
Marketing  $23K
Professional services $3
Travel $2K
Office supplies $2K

I do not take a salary or receive other compensation for the work I do with my non-profit. I do this work, as do the staff (who should get paid more) and our volunteers, because we are passionate about creating a change.  We are growing quickly now and every week, I ask my staff and myself and my volunteers to do more and more because of the need. We make choices of what we can and can’t do because we have limited funds. We understand that this is the life of a non-profit.

So I am angry. Because there are so many of us who spend the time and the energy on changing our little piece of the world, when you find a person who has such disregard for what we do and how we conduct ourselves, it makes me angry.  When this person only seems to cares only about how he can serve himself and not others as he is supposed to, it makes me angry.  

But, even though he and his staff have no regard for the laws and the rules that govern non-profits, I do. I will continue to do this because having the trust of public is very important to me and to my staff.  Mr. Trump may think I am not smart, but I believe my actions speak louder than his words.

Addendum - Since I started this post, there is an update.  The Trump Foundation did not file the proper paperwork in the State of New York to start the foundation.  They have been given a cease and desist order. They have until mid-October to rectify this matter.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Power of Vulgar Words and How We Use Them to Make Women Smaller

Warning : This blog post contains inappropriate language for children. These words are necessary to prove points cogent to the argument the writer will be making

Last week I was lucky enough to spend most of the week in the company of 26 pre-teen and early teen young women, as well as, many amazing women from the business and tech startup world.  The reason was the 5th year of TechGirlz Tech Entrepreneur Camp. As much as we spend the week concentrating on having the girls learn how they can be part of tech economy, their enthusiasm and excitement of seeing themselves as business leaders, is infectious!  I leave this week every year feeling energized and most of all, feeling hopeful for the future of these girls in the workforce.

And then I ran smack dab into this week. And it hit me hard.

I realized many of men can be still be truly disrespectful of women who are famous, accomplished and powerful. I realized words have power to shape how others view these women, and women who aspire to be like them.  I realized how, as women, we must educate men, that the use of these words must not be used.  

So what am I talking about.  Scott Baio was called out for a a picture of Hillary Clinton which he had tweeted early this year. The unfortunate position of Mrs. Clinton in front of the word Count, had her blocking the O.  You get the picture and if you don't, please refer to the definition at the end of this post.  See his response to the use of this picture in this interview.   His excuse - he didn't say anything about the picture, so it wasn't like he said the word. 

You may not like Mrs. Clinton, you may disagree with her liberal stance, but does that warrant the use of that word.  And you might feel that this word will only be used against her because you may not like her.  But if this word can be used against her, potentially the most powerful woman in the world, can it be used against me in the 
workplace if a coworker disagrees with me? Are we legitimizing the use of this word because a man does not like a woman's stance or work.

I have always found this word to be extremely distasteful and I refuse to use it. And if you read the warning that came before the definition on dictionary.com, it further cemented my belief that it should never be used in any circumstance.  

But on this reflection, it made me think of the other word which I use sometimes to describe myself and other women - bitch.  I will give the link to the definition since there are many attributes in slang.

In a conversation today with a coworker, we were discussing a hard conversation I was planning on having. As we discussed wording and tactics, he said "You can start off by saying  - I don't mean to be a bitch" and I realized that I had used that phrase myself, about myself.  I know he did not mean anything by it, but I said back that a man would never say in a difficult conversation. "I don't mean to be a dick" (dick being equal to bitch, but not as harsh). I said it is business and I should not have to excuse why I was having the conversation. I will not be using that word again when describing myself (or another woman) in a conversation again.

I know you may be thinking I am making too much of this issue, but these words paint a picture and degrade a women's worth. I refuse to be part of allowing others to use these words on the 26 girls I help shepherd to greater confidence in their abilities. It is part of how I plan to make it easier for them to be part of the working world. And I ask that you join me.

C**t - definition (and warning) from Dictionary.com

All senses of this word are vulgar slang and are very strongly tabooed and censored. The meanings that refer to a woman and a contemptible person are used with disparaging intent and are perceived as highly insulting and demeaning. There are many words used to refer to people in sexual terms. However, to call a person a c**t, especially a woman, is one of the most hateful and powerful examples of verbal abuse in the English language. 

nounSlang: Vulgar.

the vulva or vagina. 
Extremely Disparaging and Offensive
a contemptuous term used to refer to a woman. 
a term used to refer to a contemptible person.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Reflections from the United State of Women Summit

I have had a couple of days to reflect after attending the tremendous summit that was the United State of Women which was sponsored by the White House. I did not really understand what the full event was going to be, but was a bit skeptical.  So many times you attend these large events aimed at women and it is a lot of platitudes with no real discussion on how to move forward.  I was not totally prepared to take in all the information that was handed out by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, First Lady Michelle Obama and the host of women who spoke who are not household names.  

But before I dive into what I learned and what my take aways are, I need to discuss how this event fit into the context of world and personal events.  The two weeks leading up to the summit included news about the shameful sentencing of the Stanford rapist and the outpouring on social media, the continued “musing” of hate speech by the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate (it should be noted I will not be voting for him), the forgone conclusion our country will have its first female Presidential candidate, and the massacre of 50 people at a LGBT club. Couple this with my eldest son’s graduation from college, my niece’s wedding, and confirmation of TechGirlz working with 2500 girls in one year, and I am a swirl of emotions, both happy, sad, angry, and hopeful.

I began the Summit on Monday with a pre-conference on Entrepreneur Empowerment. This was about 150 women, so much smaller then Tuesday’s marquee event/ The sessions were very good, full of information, especially about how the SBA can help with providing funds. I am hoping to have a high level SBA representative come to talk to the Philly tech community. I don’t think this is really thought of as an option for funding. And if it is not a good option, I want to explore why.  I did learn the SBA is supporting women led funding groups with a two to one match.  It is called the SBIC program (Small Business Investment Company).

Tuesday was the big event.  I am not going to review the entire day. I recommend watching the videos the White House has put online or finding reporters versions of the soundbites and quotes. There were tons of statistics to support why we need to support women (like did you know women earn 79 cents on the dollar for what men make in comparable jobs, but African American and Hispanic women make significantly less than that?. I didn’t).  It was a bit of a commercial for the administration, but I did not realize how much this administration had done for the cause of women’s health, economics and family life.  Here is a good link worth exploring. There were talks on violence against women, not just here in the US, but also internationally, talks on closing the pay gap and the growing role of women in the workplace, the changing of culture to break down gender norms, and education for women.

I do recommend watching Biden’s speech as he talks urgently about violence against women. But, I urge you to watch President Obama’s speech which outlines the strides that have been made and the hope for the future of women in America. It is stirring and I will admit to crying at the end of it.

It is hard for me to describe the joy I felt during the day of being surrounded by 5000 women. It felt like a true sisterhood.

But, as I predicted, there were no actionable items you were left with, so what did I take away and what is my advice for other attendees as they come down off the high of such an event?

I came away reenergized to do the work that needs to be done to further women down the path.  I know that even though it was stressed time and time again that this is a great time to be a woman in the United States, there is still so much to be done.  I have my action items. It is to continue to slog it out on a day to day basis and do what I, and my team and my co- conspirators, are doing.  It is to continue to support each others work with words of encouragement, acts of kindness, and purposeful connections.  It is to make sure I am visible to other women to serve as an example and role model.  I do not say this in a narcissistic manner, but in truly understanding  that it is not just famous who are helping us make strides, but the ordinary women who are just as important as role models on a smaller scale.

I  also discovered that I could come further out of my shell than I ever thought I could.  Those who know me are chuckling because they think networking comes easily.  But it does not.  I was feeling so good about the idea of this event (and also happiness from the graduation just a few days before) that I think I unconsciously opened up. I came to the event by myself, I did know a few people, but did not have a safety net of constant companions.  So I made them at every corner, every line, every table, in the hallways. I easily introduced myself to others and made some valuable connections because of being so open.  Where I might be reticent about meeting someone who had a high position, I threw caution to the wind to talk to them.  I really did not know I had that type of spirit in myself and gaining this knowledge will make me less afraid in the future.  I gained so much by taking chances.

 What would I recommend to others? I will start with a story of a young women I meet while in the registration line. We exchanged who we are and what we do. She told me me about her work at a large company. She said she had been given a ticket at the last minute and was not sure what she wanted to get out of the conference. But she told me about how #BlackGirlMagic had inspired her to bring the African American women at her company together to meet once a month so they could support each other. I am not sure she truly understood how that one act was going to impact the group she formed. She did not think it was that big of a deal, I could tell by the way she had underplayed her role. Maybe it was because it was a newly formed group, But I know from experience that her reaching out to support other women and form a community, no matter how small, would be impactful.

The point of the story? Each of us can play a small role in creating change in your company, in your school, in your community.  You can decide what it looks like or what it is, but do something.  The speakers did not need to provide the tools, they provided the information of what needs to be done. Pick a small project, make a commitment to yourself to see it through, no excuses.  

 Change happens in little incremental steps, not in giant leaps.   

Monday, June 13, 2016

The United States of Women Summit - Pledge Your Next Action

Today I am preparing to attend the United States of Women Summit taking place in DC on Monday through Wednesday.  I am honored to be chosen for the work I do to encourage, inspire, mentor, and teach girls and women to consider careers in technology and tech startups.  I hope to spend some time with women in my regional community and meet some new contacts who are interested in the type of work I am doing. i also am excited to spend a day with likeminded women.  And if I get to see and hear Michelle Obama and Oprah speak, well, it will be a very good day, actually a really good day.  I am also speculating that a certain woman presidential candidate might make an appearance. I will have a lot to report back to my mom.

But I am all about what happens after a meeting, no matter what the size. Talk to anyone who has worked with me over the years and they will tell you I do not leave a meeting without action items. Otherwise, what was the point of meeting?  You talked to people, you learned a thing or two and then that is it.  And just as important as the action items is when the items will be completed.

When I look back on how TechGirlz moved from an idea in my head to the 5000 girls who have been through our TechShopz, when I think back on how Chariot Solutions went from a 10 person to 60 person company, when I see how the Women in Tech Summit has moved from our first event to three in one year, I know it was not just about the big idea, but the  many,small actionable steps we took along the way.

The next couple of days I will be making plans after I meet new people or reconnect with those I know. I will be listening, learning and then taking that information to formulate ideas with plans to execute on those ideas. I will have small steps to further the goals of my companies and groups I support.  

No one said change would be easy or fast. The real work begins on Thursday.

What actions will you be taking to make your pledge a reality? Please add your comments below or let me know on twitter (@twelsonrossman).  Make sure to use the #stateofwomen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Philly Tech Week Schedule 2016 - Will it all fall into place?

Philly Tech Week is certainly a highlight of my spring.  It is a great way for me to see and reconnect with a ton of people I know in the tech scene, as well as, meet new people.  Besides that, I learn a lot. 

Chariot has been a supporter of Philly Tech Week (PTW) since the first year. Philly Startup Leaders Entrepreneurs Expo was born during PTW and TechGirlz has also benefitted from PTW with the start of the Women in Tech Summit.  It is amazing how it has grown over the years. Technically Philly has done a fantastic job!

As I viewed the calendar this year, I knew I was in trouble.  There are a lot of events I want to attend.  I am perhaps over ambitious in my current schedule, but I thought I would share where I will be. I will also share the events I could not get to, but wanted to, due to schedule conflicts.  

I will also be seeing how Septa and Uber or Lyft will help me during the week. And hopefully I will have some time to grab some good food while I am in the city. 

Thursday, 4/28 - Through A Prism: Why Diversity Matters in Tech and Design - Great topic, since Technology is not just about coding. Good design impacts how software and hardware products are used.  

The Startup Crawl looks good if you don't want to trek out to the Navy Yard.

Friday, 4/29  - PTW16 Kickoff at Dilworth Plaza- hoping the weather holds out for this one!

Due to a schedule conflict, I can't go to Creative Mornings in Philadelphia with Todd Carmichael or Techniculture with Sree Sreenviasan, Chief Digital Officer of the Met.  I wish I could do both, sad I can't get to either!

Monday 5/2 - Philadelphia Health and Sciences Future - with Philly a mecca for the health and bio industry, I want to hear what the future holds.  It will help me plan some of Chariot's future direction.
Then off to - Let's Talk Tech run by my friends at Slice.  There is always more to learn about press and media relations
And then I am going to try and be in two places at once, but I don't think it is going to work.
TechGirlz is the beneficiary of the proceeds from the How Can Philly Be the Gender Equity Capital discussion at the Pyramid Club.  Beside the donation, I like a panel that is showcasing the how of change!
Now that starts at 6 and starting at 6:30 is the Mayoral Tech Town Hall.  I am always interested to see how the city government will be helping and participating with the tech community.  We shall see if I can do both. If not, Karen Stellabotte, TechGirlz Program Director, will be at this one and can give me a run down. 

Tuesday 5/3 another busy day has me starting at Transforming Tomorrow Today.  I love that this put on by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission discussing how emerging technologies are changing our region.
Then it is off to Curalate's open house (and maybe a quick stop at Hip City Vedge) before heading back to the Rad Girl Awards where they were nice enough to nominate me as Tech Educator of the Year.
There are several conflicting events that are too numerous to mention, so I suggest checking out May 3 for yourself. It looks like there are a few events that were added after I made my schedule.

Dev Days is on 5/4.  I will be manning the Chariot table at the Dev Days event (and Sujan Kapadia, one of our senior architects will be teaching Intro to Scala in the morning).   The evening will see me at the Women in Tech Soiree and PSL's Entrepreneur Expo. and the Dev Days Happy Hour.

Thursday 5/5 has me starting at my own office with our CTO, Aaron Mulder, teaching a workshop on Ionic for mobile apps.  The workshop is sold out. I would like to go to the Digital Health Evolution Conference or the Intersection of Poverty and Data, but those pesky "other obligations" are in the way. I will be headed to From Philly to DC: Building Inclusive Tech Communities followed by Mindful Startups, where Grant Hartman, a Chariot co-worker and mindfulness proponent, will be speaking.

I won't be at the closing event this year because I have an important family obligation, but you can't be everywhere.

This schedule is subject to change based on many factors including transportation, if my map planning skills actually are in tact, could I fit something else in the schedule and did I need to stop to eat!

Here's to a great Philly Tech Week! Follow my week @twelsonrossman on Twitter and Instagram.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

For whom are you designing your website?

The TechGirlz team decided mid-year that we needed to redesign our website. We have been experiencing a good amount of growth as we were executing on our vision and strategy. This growth had us adding more pages to our site and it was becoming unwiedly. We needed a new design.

Becca, TechGirlz co-webmaster and graphics designer (of the many things she does), decided to take on the redesign. (As a note, Becca is also my marketing assistant at Chariot. She had recently taken on a project, under the guidance of my coworker, Ken, and wanted to expand upon her knowledge and experience). 

Before we have even looked at a new design, Becca started with a site map. She worked with the stakeholders on the TechGirlz team, since they are her clients, and clarified their goals and frustrations with our current site. Then she and I sat down to discuss the flow.

As we started reviewing the site map plans, we had a discussion about who would be using the site.  Understanding our audience and what their needs would be, helped us think through the flow of how one of the members of the different audiences would go go through the site.  

After 5 years of TechGirlz, we understand our audience is comprised of parents who want to have their girls involved in tech, people who want to volunteer, people who want to use our materials for their programs/organizations, potential funders, and press/media.  Most people assume because of our name, the girls would be the biggest audience for our website and that is not the case.

If you are a new service or product, you will have hypothesis of who your audience is. Talking to your clients, not only will help your sales and define your product/service, but will also help you understand what information you need to feed them.

After revising the site map, we went and had a review by trusted advisors and potential visitors to make sure we did not miss anything obvious (sometimes another set of eyes is a good thing to catch a really dumb mistake).  This second set of reviews also allows for some new ideas.  Sometimes, you think you know everything, but you really don’t. 

Even if you are hiring an outside firm to design and implement your site, they do not know the people you are trying to reach as well as you do.  Make sure that does not get lost in color and image selection, platform choice, etc.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2016

Last year, I wrote this post while drinking some very good wine at the bar at Abe Fisher's while waiting for my family to join me for dinner.  It is a little earlier in the day this year, so no drinks to help me get started, but I guess that shows I don't need to drink to help me get started writing. 

I have decided this is going to be a tradition.  After reviewing my post, I realized that writing down my resolutions did help me be more aware of most of them.  I did forget a few.  I can also go back and see if I did a decent job of keeping them or at least making progress.  I will go back to a word I used - accountability.  Resolutions and goals are useless without having someone to be accountable to, even if it is yourself.  I think I would add some new words - a plan of action - to help me do even better.

So, here is what I resolve for 2016:

-Being nicer to those closest to me.  I will admit that I can be flippant, short, not thoughtful, and take them for granted.  This was on my list for this year and I do not think I did a good job of making progress.  I am putting alot of thought into how I can be better.

-I am keeping not eating mediocre food on here again.  This is the third year for this one.  And this is not about going to the most expensive restaurant or the most sought after place to get a coveted reservation, it is about eating good food.  I believe food is to be enjoyed and paying for food that is sub par is just not something I want to choose to do.  At least if you are going to have a meal with me, you will be well feed.

-I will continue to say yes more often.  I read an article about Amy Poehler in June and she lived by this for improv.  Saying yes to suggestions keeps my negativity from talking me out of projects, ideas, events that can be great for me!  That does not mean I don't assess some of the risks, so don't ask me to jump off a building, but I may be more likely to not stay at home if you ask me to go to a concert on a "school" night or take that speaking engagement.  More experiences are better for me to grow as a person. I talk myself out of too many opportunities.

- I need to get back to learning French and now Italian.  I was not consistent in 2015 so back on the wagon!  I am going to try and find someone who wants to learn with me.

This is a pretty good list and I think I can stick to it.

Here is to a good, exciting, healthy, adventurous, prosperous happy New Year.