Men have long dominated Reddit — the self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet.” And judging by Fortune’s recent list of the best business-related AMAs, the site’s “Ask Me Anything” section is no exception.
AMAs, of course, are the format in which people — often famous ones — submit to being grilled with questions online by an audience of visitors with widely varying levels of sincerity and civility.
But in mid-November, Reddit named Ellen Pao as acting CEO, making her the first woman to fill that role. Soon afterwards we noticed Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, conducting a Reddit AMA of her own. Inspired by those examples, we decided to take a look through the archives and compile a “best of” female leaders on AMA.
Some caveats: the pickings are slim, as relatively few women — particularly in the professional world — have been willing to subject themselves to the notoriously troll-packed forum. For those who did brave the often-trying waters, it required a certain mix of patience and humor, no doubt. (Madonna’s default response to the more ridiculous questions she got, for instance, was “send photo.”)
Still, we found plenty of nuggets of valuable advice from women leaders in the Reddit AMA archives. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites.
On the obligations of being a trailblazer: “It has been amazing to lead two great institutions as the first woman each time. But what I have learned is that much more important than being a role model is being a really available mentor for those coming up behind me. My generation felt that the women who succeeded before us — and there were very few of them — pulled the ladder up after them, and I am committed to not doing that.”
On selling yourself: “When I started in the early 1970s, the only women in the beef industry were working as secretaries in the office. Being a woman in a man’s world was a much bigger issue than being autistic. I had to be twice as good as a man. It frustrated me that men could mess up a design project and still have a job. I learned I had to sell people my work.”
On determination: “I personally always wanted to walk on the Moon, ” said Garver, who has since gone on to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association. “Google ‘astromom’ and you will read about my quest to go to space about 12 years ago. I even had my gall bladder removed in order to qualify for the flight!”
On workforce needs for the future: “We need more young engineers and scientists and yes, we have some big shoes for them to fill… I hope many of them will be wearing heels!”
On the writing process: “I’ve no idea how writing works. My son says I’m the least analytical person he’s ever met. I think I’m just an instinctual writer. It comes and I go with it. It’s from some other part of the brain. I’m just glad it’s still coming….”
Advice for others: Persistence. “Don’t believe in writer’s block. There are good days and not so good days. I get up and do something else knowing that tomorrow it will come. And if it doesn’t, then it’s wrong, and I have to move on. Just keep writing and don’t let anyone discourage you.”