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Top 50 Women in Technology

Leadership Style

‘Girl Power’

Cureton believes women bring a different style of leadership to companies, and “I think that women are the best leaders to have in times of difficult change. The so-called female traits of empathy, intuition, and collaboration are game-changing leadership characteristics in an environment where people are afraid to change, facts are scarce, and the collective wisdom of a critical mass is needed.” She believes her own strong points are the traits of empathy, intuition, and ability to collaborate. “Ironically, in my rookie leadership years, I felt the need to shut down these attributes and use the more masculine and so-called successful style. I felt a strong pull to conform and be ‘one of the boys’. But, now, I’m comfortable in my own style.” On the barriers that persist in terms of prohibiting women from fulfilling their potential and assuming an equitable share of management positions in leading tech companies, she says “certain attributes are rewarded that may not be typically associated with women. Assertiveness and ‘pride of ownership’ are often associated with successful scientists. Women are typically more accommodating, inclusive, and collaborative. To say “I” did something rather than “we” is often a rewarded behavior.” “I think we also have a “pipeline” problem. We absolutely must attract more young girls into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. As a young girl, I wanted to be an astronaut. But, I didn’t see any astronauts that looked like me. My favorite show growing up was I Dream of Jeannie. The girl was the sexy, servile genie and the boys were all heroic astronauts. We need to help young girls with this. Women in technology need to get out help these young goddesses,” she adds. With more needed to be done to attract women to the tech sector, “I would first charge women in technology to get out and be visible to young girls interested in the technology field. Second, teachers need to be trained to avoid discouraging women (and minorities) from studying technology. And finally, I think that women need to be kinder to each other, providing encouragement and mentoring to help others reach professional success.”

Cureton tries to do all these things, she says, and she is “always eager to talk about girl power to these young goddesses. I have a home-based business teaching piano mostly to children. Every chance I get, I make the music-math connection and reinforce that math is as ‘easy’ as music. Finally, though it’s getting difficult, I mentor as many women as I can. Fortunately, social media makes this goal more practical and attainable.” Asked whether she feels she had to work harder to achieve her success in the past than what might have been expected from male equivalents, she responds: “I have to say yes. I don’t recall who said this, but there’s a quote that goes something like – ‘you’re not paranoid if everyone really is against you’. To acknowledge that there are workplace or societal biases means that you must work harder. You have to work harder just to have equity.” “Having said that, I feel blessed to have been required to overcome these adversities. It made me a better woman,” she adds. Cureton’s grandmother, Corona, is her role model. “We called her Mama. Mama could crochet, knit, sew, and do needlepoint She taught me, a lefty, how to crochet left-handed yet knit right-handed, and how to use a pair of right-handed pinking shears. She could also do ceramics. She could hang dry-wall, plaster walls, do masonry, do plumbing, repair shoes, perform basic masonry work, and fix a car. I’m pretty sure she could even perform minor surgery.” “She was the President of the Officer’s Wives Club while my grandfather served our nation as an Army dentist. She was unwelcome and a minority. But her charm and leadership carried the day and she served her country in this role with class and capability,” she adds. Organizations need to get over their fear of technology and learn how to leverage it for transformation, Cureton asserts. “We can’t just follow the hype or the flavor or the month, we must understand our organizational culture and how to mitigate barriers that hinder success.” Most organizations hate technology because it has failed them in many ways, she believes, as we see large software development efforts ruin many executive careers; the demons of data gobble up critical information just when you need it the most; and the purveyors of bit and byte containers change things so fast, people

hardly get a chance to learn. Nevertheless, business leaders must lock arms with their technology executives and overcome the barriers to integrate powerful capabilities that can move them light years ahead,” she says.

The Leadership Muse The highlight of Cureton’s career was writing her first book, The Leadership Muse, adding that “It has certainly not made Oprah’s or New York Times Bestseller lists, but it was a labour of love and expression that changed me. The book is a reflection of the ordinary things in life that can inspire you to do the extraordinary. It changed my life and I value the experience of creating it.” Having retired from the government and from NASA, Cureton has gone from CIO to CEO and started her own company Muse Technologies, Inc. and looking to the future, she will be “focusing on IT transformation and doing all the things that I absolutely love. I also want to write another book on leadership.” Never, ever, ever apologize for being a strong, smart, sexy, technology diva, she advises women pursuing careers as CIOs. “Use your knowledge of technology and couple it with your super powers of empathy, intuition, compassion, and ability to collaborate to change the world. Oh, and use your powers only for good.”

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