EqualiSea

The Pulse on Gender Equity in Seattle & Beyond

Four reasons the Womxns March on Jan 21 is Just What Seattle Needs

Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

I took a break over the holidays. Not just a break from work, but a break from reality. I checked out from social media, stopped reading the news, and forced my mind to turn away from the terrifying upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump. I knew I needed to recharge for the hard work that is to come. 

It all begins with tomorrow’s inauguration, followed by a global Womxns March on Saturday, including one here in Seattle which is estimated to have many tens of thousands of people. 

Even though I desperately wish that this march was not necessary, that we did not have a president-elect who denies the full humanity of women, there is a silver lining.

Seattle in particular needs this march, and there are four big reasons why.  

A realization of the need for intersectionality

When I joined the peaceful Seattle protest on November 9, 2016, the day after the election of Donald Trump, an amazing thing happened.

Because the march was a reaction, because it hadn't been planned in advance by any one group, everyone just showed up, and mixed together. 

As we walked through the city, chants were led sporadically, by individuals throughout the crowd.  We heard chants for “Black lives matter,” “Queer lives matter,” "native lives matter," “Immigrant lives matter,” and “Trans lives matter,” alongside “misogyny has got to go!” and “my body my choice!”

At the University of Washington, one stop on the Nov 9 march

At the University of Washington, one stop on the Nov 9 march

After awhile, something shifted slightly. Organically, the crowd became aware of distributing time to each of the chants. No one person or group was leading, but if #BlackLivesMatter chanted for a few minutes, it was followed up by LGBTQ chants. If one group started gender equity rhyme, immigrant rights were prioritized next. A sense of unity began to grow, an understanding that calling for the equality of someone who is different than me is the same as calling for equality for myself.

This sounds like an incredibly simple realization, but it's one we're usually sheltered from, particularly in Seattle, where we tend to sweep inequities under the rug, which makes it very difficult to see how they intersect. 

There was also a realization that where we do have power and privilege, we can and must use it positively. Men shouted for women’s rights, white people shouted for racial justice, straight people shouted for LGBTQ equality. People were addressing their own privilege in real time, and it was amazing to see that. It was honestly the first time I had seen large numbers of men actively engaged in calling for gender equity. 

This Saturday, it's vital that we're having a march for women in particular, because there are gender-specific structures of privilege and oppression that must be addressed directly. But I'm hopeful that we're learning how the fight for gender equity cannot be segregated from other social justice movements, because women are part of all of those groups as well. I'm certainly still learning, and will be for a very long time. This intersectionality has been built into the principles of the national march, and the organizers have also acknowledged that they are still learning.  

This is a long overdue shift in mindset--it's been almost 30 years since the tern "intersectionality" was coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, but my computer still tells me it's not a word every time I type it. It's about time for that to change. 

Bursting the Seattle bubbles

Seattle has a culture of segregation.

It has a literal history of geographic racial segregation, with a significant legacy. This is why north Seattle is mostly white, and south Seattle has significantly more people of color. We also have a gender segregation in the workforce, particularly the tech industry. Seattle isn’t particularly unique in this regard, but we tend to ignore this segregation, because we view ourselves as a progressive city that has “solved” these types of things. 

We also have a culture of personal segregation. To put it differently, we like to stay with our own group of friends and family. We like being comfortable in our own little bubbles.  One effect of this is the existence of the “Seattle Freeze.” This is not inherently a bad thing at all, but it does affect our interactions, meaning we're less likely to meet people who are different from us. 

The local social justice movements are not immune to this culture, and being able to burst those bubbles, if only for a few hours, is an immensely valuable thing. 

It’s no secret that the women’s rights movement has struggled with a racism issue. The Black Lives Matter movement has likewise struggled with a sexism issue. The LGBTQ rights and environmentalism movements have struggled with both.

This is by no means intentional—these groups are full of amazing people with the best of intentions. But most of us grew up in a culture that teaches us to value certain people over others, and it’s impossible not to absorb some of that. Being able to stand together in this march and future actions and learn about each other’s work will lend strength not only by bringing our communities closer together, but also allowing us to grow personally. 

Breaking down the myth that ‘this doesn’t happen here’ and embracing discomfort

When doing gender equity work here in Seattle, I often come across the belief that gender inequity doesn’t exist here.  We’re Seattle. We’ve solved it. Or, the variation--Yes it does exist here, but my company/organization/group is very progressive and does not have gender bias.

First, let’s just put that to rest right away. Seattle, though we’ve made some great progress, we have serious inequity issues. There is ample evidence to document this, and I’m not making that case here, but I will give you one fact to illustrate—we have the worst gender pay gap in the country.  In the country.

Why does this “we are perfect” mindset perpetuate, then? I believe it’s in part due to the bubble effect I mentioned earlier—we tend to surround ourselves with people just like us, which makes it easier to be blind to the realities of those outside our groups. If we work at a tech company, live in north Seattle, and shop only at PCC, it’s easy to not notice that there are serious injustices happening here, because it’s out of sight.

But it also has to do with an unwillingness to be uncomfortable.

Many of Seattle’s leaders, in business, in government, and in other ways, still tend to come from privileged backgrounds. Not all of them, by any means, but a majority still hold significant amounts of privilege due to their gender/race/sexual orientation/class, and so on. 

This does not mean they're bad people--not at all! But the trouble with powerful people also being the most privileged is that with privilege comes comfort.  And with comfort, particularly if it runs deep and you’ve had it for a long time, comes an unwillingness to be uncomfortable.  It’s much harder to venture out into a snowstorm if you’re used to spending your days tucked up in a cozy house with the kettle on and a roaring fire.  You might not have the right clothing.  You might not know how to drive in the snow.  You might not have snow chains or know how to stick your arm in the wheel well to put them on safely. So you find reasons to stay inside, where you don’t need to work on those difficult and uncomfortable tasks. 

But that unwillingness to be uncomfortable has very real consequences.  It’s part of the reason why we have the worst gender pay gap in the country.  It’s a major factor is why our city is becoming less diverse as people of color are actively being pushed out, or opting out. 

That’s not to say that we aren’t doing amazing work here---we truly are. But we’ve got to remove the blinders that trick us into thinking we’ve solved everything, and we’ve got to be willing to step into that discomfort.

Gaining energy and validation for equity work

At one point during the march the day after the election, we were walking in the University District, chanting “Who’s lives matter? Black lives matter!” and a Black man who happened to be standing on the sidewalk at this moment, was smiling hugely, laughing with joy, and shouting Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

When the men in the group began chanting “her body her choice” after the women chanted “my body my choice,” I felt the same way. 

The importance of receiving positive feedback and validation cannot be understated. 

The fact that I get ten times the facebook “likes” for posting about going on a hike than I do when I post about my gender equity work means something real.  It affects the energy I have to do the work, it affects my outlook, sometimes even making me question if I'm doing the right thing, it affects how much I can keep giving, usually unpaid, to the movements I'm working on. 

One thing I’m looking forward to the most is the positive energy and support that coming together as such a large group will bring. It shows that yes, people are passionate about this cause, and there are many allies out there. Working to achieve goals as a group is incredibly powerful--especially if the group is physically all in one place. This is part of the reason why group activities like watching or playing football and singing together at church are so popular. There's nothing that can replace that feeling of standing side by side with like-minded people.  

We are not alone. We can do this.  We are strong together. 

On my feminist bookshelf

Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

It's no lie that I am a total bookworm at heart.  Perhaps it’s something to do with growing up in the Pacific Northwest but there’s little I enjoy more on a rainy day than gathering a collection of Trader Joe’s snacks, pouring a mug of tea, and cozying up on the couch to read about how to smash the patriarchy. 

Here’s what’s currently on my bookshelf:


Rad Women WorldWide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and other Revolutionaries who Shaped History

By Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl (2016)

This is such a fun book. Each page features an illustration and a short bio of an amazing feminist. Learn about present and past heroines from all over the world, ranging from political activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma to Venus and Serna Williams in the U.S.A. to Hatshepsut in Egypt.  Perfect for a daily dose of inspiration in the morning with my coffee. Suitable for kids and adults alike. 


We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

By Andi Zeisler (2016)

Andi Zeisler, a founding editor of Bitch Magazine (which I love) doesn't hold back one bit in her new book. Though I’ve only just started it, the main focus is a criticism of for-profit companies cashing in on the feminist movement without creating real change.  Seeing “girl power” messages plastered on products sold by corporations that have no real investment in gender equity is dangerous. It's dangerous because we think we’ve made progress so we don't fight as hard, when really we’re just falling victim to a clever marketing ploy. 


Americanah: A Novel

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)

I’m a little late in reading this one from 2013, which is already fast on it's way to becoming a classic.  Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores Blackness, feminism, class, nationality, and the power of language in this must-read.  She’s also the author of We Should All Be Feminists, based on her TedTalk by the same name.  I’ve been known to email this TedTalk to friends who are afraid to use the F word (feminist).


What Works: Gender Equality by Design

By Iris Bohnet (2016)

Published by Harvard University Press, this academic book is one of the most important current reads for business, nonprofit, public sector, and educational leaders committed to gender equity.  It goes beyond theory, and dives into how we can take steps to reduce the impact of unconscious gender bias (and other types of bias) in the way we run things.  It’s based in behavioral design theory, demonstrating how we can change how humans act through design.  The classic example is when orchestras began putting up curtains to “blind” them from seeing who was auditioning, and they immediately hired nearly twice as many women.  This book has been a key tool of mine when working with clients on making their business more inclusive and equitable.


Men Explain Things to Me

By Rebecca Solnit (2015)

If you’re a sucker for gorgeous writing that has the ability to pull emotions straight out of your chest, and you’re also a feminist, you’re not going to be able to put this one down. Rebecca Solnit has that unique ability to capture an intense feeling and put it into words that everyone can understand.  Like, say, the feeling when a man starts talking down to you, explaining a topic that you are in fact an expert in, assuming that you know nothing about it.  Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays that starts with her now-famous piece that resulted in the creation of the word “mansplaining.”


The Truth About White People

By Lola Peters (2015)

I was lucky to meet local author, nonprofit leader, and community changemaker Lola E. Peters at an event last summer, and picked up her book right away.  This collection of essays dig into racial power structures that are present in all parts of our lives—from where we work, to our relationships, to the women’s movement. It demands self-reflection, and real conversation.  I read only one essay at a time, giving myself time to absorb each one before I moved on to the next. 


Living History

By Hillary Rodham Clinton (2003)

This memoir, published 14 years ago, has been simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking to read.  Inspiring because there is just so much good that this one woman has done.  No, she's not perfect, but she's done a hell of a lot more than we usually hear about. Heartbreaking because, well, I don’t think I need to explain.  Though you always have to take memoirs with a grain of salt, this book is full of not just her personal stories, but is also an education on gender and politics and how much, and yet also how little, things have changed in the past 70 years. 


Gender Balance: When Men Step Up

By various authors (2016)

Full transparency: I haven't started this one yet.  However, I'm more excited than might be reasonable for someone reading a Human Resources book.  Why? Because it is a gender equity book directed at men and masculinity.  Too much of the dialogue around gender in the workplace is aimed at women, telling them what they're doing wrong (Lean In / negotiate harder / have kids later / etc.). It's about time we start putting the responsibility on those in leadership positions (most of whom are still men) who have the power to change the cultures and business processes of their companies.  This is a collection of writing from top global business leaders who walk you through the benefits of gender equity and some techniques for how to approach this complex issue. You can also view the OECD panel from last year with several of the authors. 


Graceling

By Kristin Cashore (2008)

Sometimes I just need something light and fun to read, and I’ve found my people in YA feminist fantasy.  Graceling follows heroine Katsa, who draws us through a fantastical story filled with battles, magic, and figuring out how to use power for good. Though there is a little romance, it’s refreshing to see a teen story that doesn’t revolve solely around wanting attention from a boy. 


Bonus: movies!


Hidden Figures: Opening January 6

This one comes out Friday, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's the story of the Black female mathematicians and engineers at NACA (now NASA) known as the West Computers.  Set in the 1960’s at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, the work of these women has gone largely unrecognized until recently.  The movie is based on the book by the same name, written by author Margot Lee Shetterly, who explains how “Langley was not just a laboratory of science and engineering; ‘in many ways, it was a racial relations laboratory, a gender relations laboratory.’”

The Eagle Huntress: In theaters now

This epic story was so beautifully shot and heart-wrenchingly uplifting that people were actually cheering out loud in the theater when I saw it last weekend.

13 year old Aisholpan Nurgaiv is an incredible heroine—strong, courageous, and unwavering in her self-belief. Seeing a young brown girl question what she's been told about her role, and then decide how she wants to live her life, and succeed, is incredibly important and exhilarating in itself.  We don't see that enough in the cinema. But perhaps just as importantly, this film showcases the critical role of fathers in progressing gender equity. Without her father's support, Aisholpan would never have succeeded in the practice of using eagles to hunt in Mongolia, as it is traditionally only passed down from father to son. He was the gatekeeper of the knowledge, and also controlled her access to competitions, gear, and ability to travel to hunting grounds.  He consciously chose to defy social pressure. He chose to believe in his daughter, and train her in a skill that women and girls had never before had access to. That is a powerful message that everyone, especially fathers, need to hear more of. 

 


What books are you reading? What movies are you most excited about? Let me know on Twitter: @equalisea

Launch of diversity survey for Seattle startups

SeattleMartha BurwellComment

Before we begin: a note from Martha.  Friends, I'm sorry I haven't posted in far too long! It's been an exciting year and my projects have grown.  I am not abandoning my passion project EqualiSea.org, and have some exciting posts coming up.  Thanks for reading, and for your support. 


Seattle is a very special place. Whether you moved here for the tech scene, for the access to the outdoors, or for the coffee, you know it has it’s own je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from any place in the world.

The startup environment here is also unique. Last year, I began my own entrepreneurship adventure and launched a small consulting business, focusing on diversity and inclusion.

As I learned and grew, had countless conversations over coffee, and met with dozens of startup leaders, the seed of an idea began to take shape in my mind.

I had worked with startups in the past, and had done gender equity work as well, but always separately. I began to realize—those two worlds needed to collide. 

Image by Eric Ringsmith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Image by Eric Ringsmith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“Fixing” gender inequity once it was already built into the way we run our businesses, though not impossible, is incredibly difficult. What if we prevented it from gaining a foothold in the first place? What if we worked with entrepreneurs to create businesses that were not only profitable, but also equitable? 

As I began to explore this concept, I looked around to see what already existed. 

The truth? Not much. 

Yes, there were trainings. There were consultants, and academic papers. But nearly all of the existing resources were designed for established businesses, and didn’t translate well to startups. Startups move extremely quickly. They pivot, they iterate, they grow in spurts. Teams are small, and overhead is low. They value innovation and fresh thinking; they have a different relationship with risk. Much of which clashed with the way traditional diversity and inclusion training worked.

Next, I looked around for data on inequities in the startup world. I found a few national pieces, and some interesting studies out of San Francisco. But none applied directly to the unique startup world that we have in Seattle. Like our natural environment, the startup ecosystem here is complex. Many of our startups exist on the fault lines of ideologies—the drive to do good, and the drive to profit. Just as much as the existence of our mountains depends on the crashing together of tectonic plates, the brilliance and innovation that emerges from Seattle startups depend on the discomfort and risk that this collision of ideologies brings. 

And, as the lack of research showed, those fault lines are often just as hidden as the ones that lie under our feet. 

I wasn’t content accepting that void of information, so I reached out to Christy Johnson of Artemis Connection, and Ruchika Tulshyan, author of The Diversity Advantage, to collaborate on a project that would help us understand diversity in the Seattle-specific startup scene. 

Today, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the first survey on gender and racial diversity in Seattle startups. We’ve included questions about both gender and race, to gain a more complete picture. 

Whether you are a CEO or a brand new hire, if you are employed by a Seattle-area startup of 250 employees or less, we would love to invite you to take our survey. Your individual responses are confidential - only aggregate information will be shared. The survey takes about 10-15 minutes. Click here to begin

Lastly, after taking the survey, please forward it to one or more people you know in the startup world, and invite your colleagues to participate.  If you do not work for a startup, please invite those from your network who do. 

Seattle is a leader, both socially and in the startup world, and we’re so glad to have you’re help on pursuing this next great adventure.  

Take the survey here.

Where are the women in the Mansion?

Washington State, Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

Understanding the decline in the number of female Governors.

The Washington State Governor's Mansion in Olympia, WA.  Photo by Harvey Barrison is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Washington State Governor's Mansion in Olympia, WA.  Photo by Harvey Barrison is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

As of today, only 37 women have ever served as U.S. Governors, compared to more than 2,000 men.   

Tuesday night I had a chance to see two of them in Seattle: Former Governor of Washington Christine Gregoire (2005-2013) and former Governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts (1991-1995), in an event hosted by the Women's Funding Alliance

As I walked into the room and found a chair, I was excited to hear about the progress women have been making as governors.  But also being a realist, I knew not to get my hopes too high—given that the number of women in other political offices, such as congress, has been increasing at a pace so slow it hardly seems to be moving at all. 

The percentage of female governors must be at least increasing at that snail’s pace, right? RIGHT?

My naïve hopes were dashed right off the bat.  It turns out that female representation in governorships hasn’t just flatlined—it’s actually fallen in recent years.  The record stands at 9 women simultaneously serving as governor (in both 2004 and 2009), which has dropped to the 6 women currently serving.  Put another way, only about 11% of our current governors are female, which is 33% less than 12 years ago.   Those stats aren’t great. At all. 

What is going on? Why aren’t there more women in the mansion? 
The Governors shed some light on the situation:

Women in or running for public office increasingly face harassment, outright sexist language, and threats.  

As Gov. Roberts put it, “things that people used to think but not say, they’re saying now.” What had been a tough but relatively respectful environment for women is becoming an openly hostile one.  And the strain of operating in that kind of environment is likely a main reason why fewer women are willing to throw their hat in the ring.  Both women stated their dismay at recent escalation of this hostility, made glaringly obvious in the current Presidential election.  Instead, argued Gov. Gregoire, “let’s talk about the issues…and how we solve them… and get over this disrespect and demeaning nature that we’re seeing in politics today.” 

A local example of this was seen recently with the misogynistic backlash that the female Seattle City Council members received (as Samantha Bee hilariously explains below). 

 

Women are more reluctant than men to put their family through the stress of campaigning.

Running for office can be extremely tough not only on the candidate, but also on their family.  As Gov. Gregoire stated: “It is easier to be the candidate and have these lies told about you than it is to be the loved one of the candidate.  And women I think really struggle with ‘I don’t want to put my family through the ugliness of a campaign, the expected lies and comments and remarks that will be made.’”  It’s one thing to take abuse yourself, it’s another thing to make your family face that, and women seem to be less willing to ask their family to go through it.

Internalized gender bias persists—even in women

A third piece of the puzzle is understanding the mental barriers a woman has to overcome to believe that she is capable of leadership.  Our culture conditions us all—men and women alike—to believe that men are more capable leaders.  This is reflected in the fact that a woman must be asked many times to run for public office before she actually will

It takes a lot of work to recognize that internalized bias, and then to overcome it.  Gov. Gregoire shared the story of how her daughter thought she wasn’t qualified to run for Port Commissioner—until she looked at the resumes of the current commissioner and realized she was possibly the most qualified.  Multiple times throughout the evening, both Governors emphasized the need for women to believe in themselves.  As part of the solution, Gov. Roberts called for more documentation of women in leadership roles, because “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” She then proceeded to whip out a copy of her autobiography from behind her chair, with a grin. 

Male allies need to step up

Though this was only a minor point in the discussion, I’d like to emphasize its importance here.  We cannot ask women to do all of this work.  We also need to work on leveling the playing field—and that means those who hold power in the playing field need to step up. As Gov. Gregoire put it, the situation “isn’t going to advance…until men join.” It is both the right thing to do, and it will also result in better policy.  In fact, this applies to all types of diversity, both Governors argued: “diversity has got to be key…it (leadership) should look like the nation that we serve.” 

And last time I checked, our nation wasn’t 89% male. 

How a Pakistani-American Girl Superhero is Saving Her World--And Ours.

Gender Equality Overall, SeattleMartha BurwellComment

Kamala Khan is a teenage Pakistani-American living in Jersey City, and she’s out to save the world. 

Until recently, Kamala Khan lived a perfectly normal life.  But everything changed when she suddenly acquired super powers, and weird things started happening in her neighborhood.  Now she has to battle villains, investigate the mysterious force that's poised to take over the earth, and figure out how to use her new powers.  All on top of dealing with the normal teenage stuff like overprotective parents, new feelings, and complex friendships.  Though her friends know her as Kamala, when she puts on her homemade superhero outfit (a modified shalwar kameez) you may call her Ms. Marvel.

While Ms. Marvel is saving her world from villians, she’s also saving our real-life world a little at a time by busting down stereotypes and showing us that a hero can be a girl, a hero can be muslim, a hero can be real and imperfect and a little bit awkward. 

When the first Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel was released in October 2014, it was an instant best seller.  Since then, more episodes have been released, each of which has built on the initial popularity.

Part of this popularity can be attributed to the fact that Kamala takes on real topics that lots of people can relate to.  Topics like what consent and victim-blaming mean, what it’s like being a second-generation immigrant, and how tough it is to resist bacon (‘delicious, delicious infidel meat’).  

We see the exploration of unfamiliar gender roles, where men are allowed to have heart-to-heart conversations with each other, and Kamala is more often the one saving the guy, rather than the other way around.  We learn about Pakistani culture through Kamala’s interactions with her family and friends.  We even learn a little bit of a new language via Kamala's conversations and when Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers, the original blonde-haired, blue-eyed, big chested Ms. Marvel) appears in a dream-like state to Kamala and recites a poem by a 13th century Sufi poet—in Urdu.   But most of all, we see a teenage girl figuring out that despite all the pressure to try to be someone else, it’s best to just be herself— imperfections included.   

To find out more about how Ms. Marvel has been received, I went to Comics Dungeon, a Seattle comic store that has been a staple for comic lovers since 1992.  I had a chance to ask a few questions to Nicole Lamb, a long-time employee, comic insider, and author of the article series "Hardcore Lady Types," that explores female comic heroes. 

Me: What is your overall opinion of the new Ms. Marvel series with Kamala Khan? 

Nicole: Before the series came out I thought Marvel was forcing a new character and was skeptical how it would be executed. Since it's release it has shown that it's not only an excellent story and with great art, but exactly what the community of comic lovers has needed. This representation in both Kamala being a Pakistani Muslim American, but also a young woman navigating through high school, relationships and parental expectations, hits just what the mainstream industry had been missing.

How have comic readers responded?

They have responded positively, in a “must have more Kamala” kind of way… So there's an acknowledgement that this is hitting specific demographics, like families, women (of all ages), or any gender who like their superhero stories to be fun and endearing. It's a big demographic, it's just not all of it. Overall, Ms. Marvel stays at the top of our sales, near the likes of Saga.

What is one of the most interesting or important aspects of the new Ms. Marvel? 

The most exciting moment I've had with sharing Ms Marvel was when I went to a school in west Seattle to give a presentation about the history of comics. Towards the end I made mention of some of the recent series being released and said there's a Pakistani Muslim American superhero named Ms. Marvel and heard gasps in the crowd. That shock and awe shows me that Khamala's heritage is an important aspect and a sorely needed voice in our country. My hope is that this sets a precedent.  I'd like our future to be filled with great stories that won't create a shock because there will be so much diversity that whoever reads comics can see their reflection in the characters.

What would Kamala say about the current presidential elections?

I think she'd be frustrated that there is such immaturity on a presidential level and mad that there is a perpetual anti-Muslim rhetoric on one side. Perhaps though, on another side, she'd be hopeful there might be a President of integrity. 

What are your thoughts on how Marvel has handled gender and ethnicity in this new series? 

I think they asked the right people to be involved. Because of that, Kamala was able to have a strong voice and strength of character that is consistent throughout. I don't think you have to pair like with like though. For instance, having Brian Michael Bendis write Miles Morales Spider-man has worked even though he is white. If you get people who care about what they're doing and who they are writing (or drawing), you'll get good stories. 

What do you think the next big hit will be?

Nicole Lamb of Comics Dungeon (Photo courtesy of Nicole Lamb)

Nicole Lamb of Comics Dungeon (Photo courtesy of Nicole Lamb)

My thoughts are to mainstream companies: you have to diversify your line, have characters of different genders, sexuality, religions, have different types of stories, dark and gritty, fun and light, have all-age tales. Try different things and see what sticks. I see the market as always changing and the demographics are shifting. Ultimately, if you tell a wide variety of stories you'll have a wider fanbase because one size doesn't fit all in comics. When Marvel put out Khamala Khan Ms. Marvel, they did something no one had done before and it was wildly successful.

That's not to say do a cookie cutter version of this. 

Find voices that are not being heard or written about and tell those stories, such as gay men, transfolk and people of color. I hear time and time again from our community, where are the brown superheros? People want to see themselves in stories, especially those where the characters are being strong and are victorious. 


In closing, I'll mention one of my favorite moments of Ms. Marvel, which takes place in the most recent episode.  The world is about to end, and Kamala's best friend Bruno finally tells her that he has feelings for her. Her response?  She gently says to him: "Being Ms. Marvel--it's filled up my heart and my life in a way that nothing else I've done ever has...I'm not ready to be anything else, to anyone else.  I need to give this everything I've got."  In essence, she's choosing personal development and growth over the attention of a boy.  

This seems like a small thing, but it's incredibly important.  Far too often, we see teenage girl characters in pop culture defining themselves mainly in relation to a boy or man.  It was refreshing to see a young female lead defining her worth through her own strength and individuality.  And the most important part: she defined it for herself.

Next, I hope she gets to battle some more of our real world villians—racism, sexism, perhaps Donald Trump?  Find out in the next volume, to be released on June 14th.  


This interview has been lightly edited. 

For more posts on gender and diversity, see the "It's All Connected" intersectionality series.