Meet the Women in Tech: Comedian and author Sarah Cooper

As part of this year's Women in Tech series, SI News introduces you to inspiring women on the tech scene. We caught up with comedian, speaker and author Sarah Cooper who spoke at this year’s Women in Tech conference at Stockholm, an annual event hosted every International Women’s Day.

Meet the Women in Tech: Comedian and author Sarah Cooper

From comedy to public speaking, podcast host and best-selling author Sarah Cooper is a Jill-of-all-trades.

Cooper’s most recent book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings is a humorous tome that teaches women how to survive in the modern workplace through comics and tongue-in-cheek suggestions.

“I don’t think a lot of men understand what it's like for a woman to be the only woman in the meeting and that they have to kind of fight to be heard and be a part of things,” she says, adding that “as a woman leader you’re often confronted with having to tiptoe around the male ego.”

Cooper argues that the way many women were raised has impacted their behaviour at the workplace. “Growing up as women we’re often taught to think about others before we think about ourselves. And often that means putting ourselves second,” she says.

Photo: Photo: Sarah Cooper during her speech at the Women in Tech event in Stockholm

Indeed, many women often feel they have to ingratiate themselves with their colleagues or managers by always saying ‘yes’. This is a hurdle Cooper encountered many times while working at tech behemoths Yahoo and Google.

“It’s so hard for me to say no to something, even though it’s something I don’t really want to do because I want to please other people,” she says.

Cooper has found her way out of being a people-pleaser and instead focus on her professional goals.

“One thing that has helped is just creating a mission for myself, creating a thing that is important to me. And if I’m asked to do something I just look at that mission and I think ‘does that thing helps me do what I want to do?’ And if it doesn’t, I just say no,” she adds.

Cooper suggests that women should take advantage of their innate qualities such as their listening skills, and use them to change the workplace and rise to become fantastic leaders.

“We should lean into the things that we naturally do, and I think that will actually propel us forward,” says Cooper. “Tech is a good place for women to be. More than ever.”

Cooper’s advice for women wanting to step into the tech world is to find support within their community. Networking, she argues, will help women stay in technology rather than walk away from it.

“Find a group for people who you admire, who may be going through some similar things and who support each other,” she advises.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.