achieving goals

How to Balance Your Crazy Busy Holiday Season

‘Tis not the season to run yourself ragged, but I know that for many women, that’s what happens during the holidays. If your constant companion is an endless to-do list, you are not alone. As women, we tend to give, and give, and give some more taking care of people at home, at work, and in the community. Now that we’re well into the holiday season – aka the season of giving – we ramp that up and our time revolves around (likely unreasonable) expectations about parties, shopping, gifts, and spending time with friends and family. In the quest to hit the deadline, find the perfect gift or attend the next party many of us lose sight of our own health and wellbeing. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves overwhelmed, too exhausted to do or give another thing, and waiting anxiously for the holidays to be over.

With all you have to do, it may seem counter intuitive to reach out to another woman for help. Sure, she’s busy too, but your women friends really can help you get through a stressful holiday season with year-end deadlines at work. With their encouragement, you will find new ways to be kinder to yourself and maybe even cross things off your list, as long as you can find the courage to ask for the help you need. As we wrote in, In This Together, “You can put five women together in a room, and within an hour they’ll have analyzed the problem, made a plan, divided up the action steps, and begun to work toward a solution. Women share skills of problem solving and mutual respect and complement one another’s strengths.”

With our “tend and befriend” approach to stressful situations, women can be your strongest allies and your greatest source of encouragement this time of year. A quick cup of coffee with a friend could help you prioritize and develop a path forward. A quick phone call with a colleague can give you an action plan and make your unmanageable situation suddenly doable. We have been taught to conceal our vulnerability. But when we act authentically and invite others to help us solve a problem, we discover strength and power to accomplish things far beyond anything we can do alone.

Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change, knows that it’s a balancing act and that it can be tough to manage overwhelm at the end of the year. At this time of year, leaders like Kathy can be thinking, “I can’t believe how much I have to do. I can’t believe other people have already done their holiday shopping while I haven’t done laundry in a month.” Kathy recommends three tips to manage end-of-year overwhelm:

  1. Write everything down to manage the details
  2. Take your time on each task rather than rushing
  3. Take yourself for a walk at least three times a week

Those are all great, effective ideas, and I want to add: Reach out to other women. Especially during the holidays, each of us needs to support other women everywhere. Not one of us is as creative, skilled, and powerful as we are together.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do for your health and well-being this season – and every other day of the year – is to be true to yourself. You really can’t be all things to all people. No, you can’t. So take a break, take a breath, and nurture yourself and your connections. You deserve a happy holiday season, too! And the better care you take of yourself, the more you will have to give. It’s a miracle!

We Need Male Allies to Help Us Get Ahead

Male AlliesFor gender parity to succeed, we need male allies at every level of government, in the workplace, and the communities we call home. The main argument for achieving women’s parity is that you only get half the results when you engage half of the population. So doesn’t it make sense, that the same is true in working for parity itself? It should be obvious that we’ll get there faster if we all work together, but the system that rewards sexism in the workplace and our communities is strong and works against us to keep the status quo itself working against closing the wage gap, assuming our fair share of leadership positions and achieving full equality.  We must engage men (the other half of the population) in new ways, make them feel like they belong and help them understand their own benefits from women’s advancement, and shift their perspective of how they can help us get ahead.
Men often don’t see the disparities, despite the fact that they have a larger stake in women’s equality than in the past. Many men today count on the financial contribution their wives make to the family economy, and they were likely raised by women who worked. They also want their daughters to succeed and will express outrage when the women in their lives encounter discrimination or barriers at work. But that personal perspective needs to be widened to a world view for them to truly understand the value of gender parity.

Include Men In Gender Equity Discussions

To help our male counterparts become more aware and include them in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that some women’s conferences and employee resource groups are changing their approach by creating events aimed at men, and inviting them to attend. Their approach is based on evidence which shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress – compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.
Do the math, an organization has a 66% greater chance of succeeding if men are “deliberately engaged.” That’s huge. In fact, this discrepancy illustrates that if we don’t work with men, significant progress is doubtful, and gender inclusion programs will likely fail.
The evidence for parity just keeps multiplying. Take for example the pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) projects that the U.S. economy would generate additional income of more than $512 billion if women received equal pay. And if that doesn’t get your attention, a recent McKinsey study showed that stricter workplace gender equity practices could add $12 trillion the global GDP by 2025 (seven short years from now) with stronger workplace gender equity practices. $12 trillion dollars definitely makes the case for working together to change the status quo. That extra money isn’t just for women. Everyone benefits. Men too.We, yes women and men, need to recognize and acknowledge the gender inequality problem so that we can work together to correct it. Equal pay for equal work is a unifying goal that benefits all of us.

Male Allies Also Subjected to Backlash

However, including men in our efforts to close the gap isn’t as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. As HBR reports, these efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. While some research has shown that white men face no penalty for promoting diversity, other studies suggest that there can be a cost to acting as an ally. In fact, men who display willingness to be an ally and behave as mentors, collaborators and other ways identified as feminine work-styles, they can be subjected to the same backlashes as women. It’s called “the wimp penalty.” The HBR reporters sum it up, “Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior.”
Diversity and inclusion doesn’t just happen, and while we may have a group of men willing to stand with us, the impact of that system can keep men in their place, just as much as women. Awareness can give us the tools we need to work around it and get men to help us claim our fair share. However, not all male allies are created equally. Diversity consultant Jennifer Brown frames allyship on a continuum ranging from apathetic (no understanding of the issues) to aware (knows basic concepts) to active (well-informed, sharing and seeking diversity) to advocate (committed, routinely and proactively championing inclusion).

Our Male Allies Matter

We need to let our allies know, at all phases of the continuum, how much they matter. HBR reports that gender parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have an important role to play, that their partnership is valued, and that transformation of the workplace is something they can share in. Feeling accepted boosts male allies’ internal motivation to participate and further strengthens gender alliance efforts.
Men are a great and necessary resource in advancing leadership opportunities for women in the workplace. It’s in all our best interests to make our companies as productive and profitable as we can. That’s why we all need to work together to change the status quo and make a real, daily commitment to working together to change the system to one that supports more balanced diverse management and workforce.

Harness the Power of Women Helping Women

Women Helping WomenThe power that is unleashed when women help other women is becoming abundantly clear to everyone through the initiatives like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Women, speaking out in unison, are amplifying the voices of victims, who were once blamed for the crimes against them. Nearly every day, we witness the power shift as the once-powerful perpetrators are being removed from their places of authority. However, in other settings, women continue to remain distant and unsupportive of other women, maintaining the limitations of the glass ceiling for possibly brilliant women leaders, who struggle to get to the first rung of the ladder and advance their careers.

Ann Welsh McNulty, co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners, recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that some senior-level women distance themselves from junior women in the workplace in response to inequality at the top, and cited a study published in The Leadership Quarterly that found that the inclination to, “Separate oneself from a marginalized group is, sadly, a strategy that’s frequently employed. It’s easy to believe that there’s limited space for people who look like you at the top when you can see it with your own eyes.” She also reports that whereas many women are navigating alone, men are 46% more likely to have a higher-ranking advocate in the office.

McNulty writes that the antidote to being penalized for sponsoring women may just be to do it more — and to do it vocally, loudly, and proudly — until we’re able to change perceptions. That is a perfect approach. Times have changed and today there is room on top to make space for all of us. With that in mind, our upcoming book, In This Together, looks at the phrase “Not enough pie” which was used in the past to define women’s lack of support for other women. However, today Gloria Feldt sees women’s leadership not as a competitive win-lose situation, but instead as an infinite pie, and says, “The more there is the more there is. The pie just keeps getting bigger.”

Advancing women into leadership positions is not only the right thing to do, for a number of reasons, it is important to a company’s bottom line. For example:

  • A recent Catalyst report found Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance in three important measures:
    • Return on Equity: 53 percent higher.
    • Return on Sales: 42 percent higher.
    • Return on Invested Capital: 66 percent higher.
  • A recently published study from the Peterson Institute reports that companies with at least 30% female leaders—specifically in senior management—had net profit margins up to 6 points higher than companies with no women in senior management. That is a 15% increase in profitability.
  • In 2015, McKinsey & Co found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their counterparts in the lower quartile.
  • McKinsey also found that companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, leading to cost reductions associated with replacing top executives.

Women have a lot of momentum right now, and we can use that to work towards equality and advancement at all levels. There is more than enough room at the top, and as we climb the ladder we need to reach out to other women, and help them along. Just as #MeToo and #TimesUp are proving, when women connect and collaborate we can do anything. We prove it every day and we need to take note in these times, that the more we focus our efforts and support one another, the more of everything we can create, especially “pie.” Let’s focus on creating opportunities for all women. If we work together, we can change the workplace, and in turn, change the world.

Who Are You, As An Individual?

Author, Speaker, Coach

Elizabeth Suarez

Who are you is the first question coach and author Elizabeth Suarez asks her clients. She said that women almost always answer in terms of who they are married to, or who their children are. Elizabeth said the key is you can’t have what you want until you decide who you are as an individual. Yes, you have relationships with those other people, but who you are, what your interests are and how you feel about your family all combine to unleash your negotiation potential for yourself.
Elizabeth praised her mother for not giving up after her father died. Her mother was a tremendous negotiator for everyone else, but not for herself. Elizabeth worked her way up the corporate ladder in the days when she was told to keep her place and put in her time. She was told when she reached a certain level, people would listen to her ideas. Today’s world is changing and she feels that we all have the right and responsibility to contribute, but first you have to figure out who you are.

Key to Getting Everything

Elizabeth’s new book, The Art of Getting Everything, looks at our personal talents and traits as “net worth.” We all have it, but we must assess it honestly and identify how we contribute to the greater good in our careers and elsewhere in life. She compared it to navigating the New York subway, which is necessary to survive and get around in NYC. There are three major lines in life that may intersect anywhere:

  • Your career
  • Your family
  • Your interests

The foundation of getting everything is figuring out how to navigate the intersections. Elizabeth encourages her clients to get outside of their bubble and network with others to get help negotiating these intersections. In this interview, she used the example of someone who is expecting a baby and was just asked to be the CEO of a major company branch. This woman doubted her ability to do it all when she remembered meeting another woman who had twins while launching a new international division that moved several million dollars in revenue.  Elizabeth advised us to learn from other people’s stories, to reach out and listen to those stories and share ours as much as possible. You never know when you need that valuable lesson or that intersection of abilities to help you through a difficult time. It’s important to remember that you can have it all, but maybe not all at the same time.

Put Your Own Face Mask on First

Since Elizabeth spends a lot of time flying, she used the instructions from the flight attendant as the most crucial bit of career advice. Take care of yourself and the rest will fall into place. Start by doing this one thing for yourself–listen to this podcast. Then go to Elizabeth’s website and download the free “Negotiation Unleashed” Workbook to think through the key pieces to your net worth. Buy her book, and get started developing your skills in a new art form, The Art of Getting Everything.

Together, We Can Make A Difference

Right now, in every sector, women are making their voices heard. We are taking to the streets, gathering on social media, and organizing through numerous initiatives and movements. We truly are in this together, and we need to be in order to move to the next phase. While some may think this rise in conversation and feminine power may have started with the presidential election, or even with #MeToo, women gathering to further the common good started much, much sooner.

In 1848, a group of almost 200 women met at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. The first ever women’s rights convention kicked off with. Reading of the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances” which detailed the injustices inflicted upon women in the United States and called on women to organize and petition for their rights. The Seneca Falls Convention was followed two weeks later by an even larger meeting in Rochester, New York. National women’s rights conventions were held annually after that, providing an important focus for the growing women’s suffrage movement. Through gatherings in Seneca Falls, a movement was born, and after years of struggle the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920, granting American women the constitutionally protected right to vote.

The struggle continues as we work to close the gender pay gap, claim our rightful place in leadership positions, and live lives free of oppression and harassment. And guess what? In order to get that done, women are still gathering. The Women’s March saw 4.6 million women and men take to the streets and march to raise awareness on women’s rights as human rights in 642 cities on every continent on the globe. The anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and#TimesUp have also shifted the conversation on women’s issues, and elevated the global consciousness surrounding the obstacles women encounter in their daily lives.

Numerous organizations have also taken root in the past decade to further the needs of women, and help us claim our fair share. For example, our very own Women Connect4Good Foundation supports and connects women to empower and lift up all women to break through barriers that prevent them from achieving sustainable, fulfilling lives and claim their power to change the world.

Take the Lead prepares, develops, inspires, and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025, and their unique strategies create the breakthrough from where women have been stalled at 18-20% of top leadership positions for two decades.

Actually, when it comes to accelerating women’s leadership today, the sky is the limit. We’ve got Lean In, Emily’s List, Catalyst, Fem. Inc, Ellevate, Bossed Up, See Jane Do, SHEROES United, and more. And all of us are working towards the same goals – women’s empowerment. With training, tools, supports and awareness I truly believe that together we CAN make a difference.

The “I Am a Superwoman” Equality and Empowerment Summit, on Friday, August 24, is another great addition to the powerful movements happening all around us. Why is “I Am a Superwoman” important? Because women, sometimes at great personal risk, have fought for our rights in this country for nearly 200 years. However, our world is still divided and full of hate. In fact, in the United States 1.3 rapes per minute still happen. It is up to us to continue the fight, and work together to change the status quo.

“I Am a Superwoman” encourages us to assume personal accountability and individual responsibility for the future of our planet. It’s clear that a foundational shift in culture and leadership is essential. “I Am a Superwoman” highlights the need to recalibrate our societal mindset so we can move forward to create a better world for our children and for our community. It’s all about Equality. This is not a Partisan issue, it’s a Human issue. This movement is a critical step forward from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and aims to preserve and nurture the relationship between men and women. It’s time to re-direct our energies toward long term prevention focused on education and training programs that will stimulate positive change.

“I Am a Superwoman” invites women to build their legacy, and through the Superwoman Video Challenge urges women to prepare their Personal Bill of Rights. Wherever you are, simply pick up your phone and shoot a selfie video saying, “Here’s to the Superwomen who started the Equal Rights movement, and here is my personal Bill of Rights,” and share three to five things that you feel strongly about. Then you can post your video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and include #IAmaSuperwoman, #NowItsUp2Me, and SuperwomanDonations.org. Proceeds from the “I Am a Superwoman” activities will go to 501c3 organizations like SHEROES United, an organization my Leading Women co-author M. Bridget Cook-Burch founded that works tirelessly to help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.

Remember, the momentum we gain when working together is unlike anything in the world. To find out more and get your ticket for the “I Am a Superwoman” Equality and Empowerment Summit, or to learn more about any of the “I Am a Superwoman” activities, go to SuperwomanCampaign.org.

Equally Distributing the Office Housework

Who makes the coffee in the morning at the office? Orders box lunches for a team meeting? Takes notes at said meeting? Collects money for a co-worker’s birthday party or signatures for a “Get Well” card? Is it you? Or another woman in your office? If you, or a female coworker, find yourselves doing a lot of thankless, busy tasks around the office because no one else will, it’s time to stop.

Too many women who get stuck taking the responsibility of covering household duties at home, take these self-imposed responsibilities right into the office. It’s important to point out that taking these tasks on will not necessarily ingratiate you to upper management. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote in a New York Times essay that when a woman takes on these chores, she is not seen as a better employee. However, an NYU study found that when men performed some of the same work-related tasks, they were rated 14% more favorably than their female counterparts.
Sandberg and Grant point out that without “housekeeping” at the office, the machine of a company doesn’t run as well. They write, “When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is ‘busy’; a woman is ‘selfish.’”

Yes, it’s a fact. Becoming the office homemaker can keep you stuck right where you are. Researchers Linda Babcock, Maria P. Recalde, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart, recently reported in the Harvard Business Review that while women tend to volunteer for “non-promotable” tasks more often than men, they are also more frequently asked to take such tasks on. Their findings were based on their recent study, exploring how men and women accepted or volunteered for jobs with “low promotability.”

The simple definition of low promotability is any piece of work that won’t generate anything for you, but which still needs to be done by someone. These include tasks like organizing the office holiday party, agreeing to train new employees, or helping to clean out the supply closet. There’s obviously a wide array of what these sorts of things could be depending on your industry, but a task with low promotability is basically anything that improves your work environment without necessarily leading to more money or a better work review.

This can have serious consequences when it comes to promotion and advancement, and negatively impact gender balanced leadership. If women are disproportionately stuck with menial tasks that have little visibility or impact, they’re much less likely to gain the attention or responsibilities they need to advance. Even if you’re better at a task or more willing to do it, stop and think, are you allowing your biases about yourself and others keep you from advancing as you’d like. Educate yourself about what your industry and your company values as promotable qualities and choose to develop and show your capabilities at doing those instead.

Studies of industry and academia have also shown systematic gender differences in how work is allocated, continuing to show how women spend more time than men on non-promotable tasks. These differences may explain why, despite the advancements that women continue to make, we find vastly different trajectories to leadership positions.

Changing this dynamic and the division of non-promotable tasks has to become a top priority for organizations of all sizes. With most of these tasks automatically falling to women it serves as an example of both external and internalized sexism. Sure, a woman can just say “No” or call out the bias as it occurs. However, it might be more effective to shed some light on the big picture for the department or companywide. By doing so, suggestions on how to address the issue can come from women and men in all positions, and hopefully, move the organization towards change. Whether putting tasks on rotation, setting up a sign-up board with no repercussions, or fully engaging men in the company, once a system is in place, the tasks will not continue to be so disproportionately distributed.

When we identify things that are broken in the workplace and work together to fix them, we get closer to parity. Study after study has proven that today’s businesses gain when women join the top levels of the organization. Let’s commit to doing everything we can to help them get there. And let’s start today.

2018 To Be Another “Year of the Woman”

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world. And you have to do it all the time.”Angela Davis
While 2017 was a tough year, it was also one of a great deal of progress. It was in 2017 that women made their voices heard in unprecedented numbers. From the Women’s March on Washington to the floodgates opened with the #MeToo movement, women are proving that they are no longer willing to remain silent, and the momentum of change is fast and far reaching.
TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as the magazine’s Person of the Year, in a nod to the women coming forward to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, and not only for the global conversation, but the movement they began. Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards write in TIME that, “This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.”
While the fight for equality, justice and dignity for women started with the suffragettes, the events of this past year have made a similar impact, and women are taking their message to the streets, the internet, and the workplace. Retired US Senator Barbara Boxer writes in USA Today, “As we say goodbye to the chaos of 2017 and its seemingly never-ending turmoil about…well everything…I believe it is possible, maybe even probable, that we will see 2018 turn into another Year of the Woman.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees and has also been quoted as saying that 2018 could be another big year for women. Predicting that female candidates could sweep elections across the country, she recently told party officials at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting that, “Based on what I see out there that we are going to have another Year of the Woman.”
“What it means is that we have an opportunity to really turn this next year into a year of change affecting women,” she added.
So how can we best position ourselves to help make that change? Here are a few places we could start.
Support the women speaking out. As Melinda Gates writes in TIME, “2017 is proving to be a watershed moment for women in the workplace and beyond. Instead of being bullied into retreat or pressured into weary resignation, we are raising our voices—and raising them louder than ever before. What’s more, the world is finally listening.” Right now, women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others to step up and say, “me too” and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations right now aren’t denying them. The allegations aren’t limited to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, or the hallowed halls of Congress. The problem is far more wide-reaching than one man, or even one industry. This has impacted women in every industry and every walk of life, and is finally experiencing the spotlight of public attention and, more importantly, action, it deserves. Right now, we need to listen to the women who are speaking out, and create environments that are safe for all women and men.
Support the women running for office. EMILY’s List, VoteRunLead, and She Should Run have all reported a huge surge in women interested in running for office. As these women muster their courage and support and take the first steps to run for office, it demonstrates that this truly is a woman’s time to lead. It’s important in this time of unprecedented female engagement that we support the women who are running, and those who have run, perhaps already won, already hold office, and are serving in their communities, states, and nation on every level. We need to celebrate the women who have paved the way, and support those who prepare to follow their lead.
Make your voice heard. Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.
Work towards gender equality. The solution to much of what has been coming out of the #MeToo movement could be solved by having more women in leadership positions. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the harmful effects of living in a male-dominated culture.
In 2017 we have seen an unbelievable progress towards gender equality, however, we will still need to continue to fight and work hard to claim equal rights for women. That is going to take all of us working together, and joining forces with the women and men in our lives who, like us, feel that equality shouldn’t be a lofty goal, but a way a life.

Ways to Enhance Your Leadership by Making Your Voice Heard

To really change the status quo, women need to make their voices heard. Across the country, women are tackling that goal on a large scale (say by running for office), or by voicing their opinions in the workplace and in community organizations. Whatever the venue, speaking out is key, especially if you want to advance. Interestingly, a new study has found it isn’t just what you say that helps you get ahead, but how you say it.
Research has found that speaking up with information intended to help your group has a ton of benefits. It can improve performance, help come up with creative solutions, and address (and even avoid) issues that might hold your group back. And by speaking up, research suggests that not only will you help your group get ahead, it can help you emerge as a leader.
In efforts to better understand the power of using your voice, researchers Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, Sean R. Martin, and Todd Woodruff found themselves wondering which matters more: who speaks up, or how they do it? In a search for those answers, the group recently undertook two separate studies, and their results were eye-opening.
Sean R. Martin writes in Harvard Business Review that they found those who speak up can gain the respect and esteem of their peers, and this increase in status made people more likely to emerge as leaders of their groups. However, these effects happened only for some people and only when they spoke up in certain ways.
“Specifically, speaking up with promotive voice (providing ideas for improving the group) was significantly related to gaining status among one’s peers and emerging as a leader. However, speaking up with prohibitive voice (pointing out problems or issues that may be harming the team and should be stopped) was not,” Martin writes. “We further found that the gender of the person speaking up was an important consideration: The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”
Their findings echo research that shows that people respond differently when men and women engage in similar behaviors, which suggests that women who speak up and share ideas may not see the same benefits as men. Proving yet again that there is a definite strategy behind effectively making your voice heard.
“This research is not intended to suggest that people — men or women — should speak up only with [promotive] ideas and avoid bringing up problems,” Martin writes. “After all, for teams to function, innovate, and learn, it is critically important to … to spot the things that be might holding a team back from even better outcomes.”
This research highlights the need for us to understand the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done.
My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt cites the work of Simon Sinek, who points out the benefit of explaining why before making a suggestion. For example, by first stating, “I have an idea for improving our overall productivity as a group,” before making their proposal, both women and men found their audiences responded better to their ideas.

My co-author Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. is a gender communication expert and urges women to make their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. If they do it correctly, the results can be beneficial, but it can be difficult to the get credit.  Our ideas are our intellectual capital, and in Leading Women, she relates how she felt when someone “stole” her idea in a meeting. She actually thought this just happened in textbooks, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she recommends that you:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared – Buddha
Happiness is a big deal. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., like love, happiness is often spoken of like it’s a physical object we must find and snatch up. Yet, also like love, happiness is something we are more likely to cultivate within ourselves than stumble upon in our wanderings. As the Dalai Lama has said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
When we look at happiness as an object, we may put goals or milestones in front of our happiness. As Paula Davis-Laack writes at HuffPost, women may be setting themselves up for happiness failure by buying into certain myths of happiness:

  • I’ll be happy when I get married or find that perfect relationship.
  • I’ll be happy when I make more money.
  • I’ll be happy when I have kids.
  • I’ll be happy when I lose weight.
  • I’ll be happy when I change jobs/get a new job/get promoted.

Society spins a very seductive story for women, making it seem as though they’re not really worthy unless they’ve achieved these milestones. However, the truth is we don’t have to hit a certain goal to be happy. Dr. Nancy has written that, “It’s not money, good looks, success or even love in our lives that makes us happy. Many people who have all these things and should have high levels of happiness reported feeling glum and bored. So why don’t these things bring happiness to their obviously wonderful lives?”
“Things don’t make us happy, because people quickly adapt to change. We get used to the new things in our lives, which soon become everyday and predictable. Research also suggests that each of us has a “set point” for happiness, a level of contentment that stays about the same even when external circumstances in our lives change.”
For some women, that set point solidifies with age. A new study recently found that women get happier later in life, particularly between the ages of 50 and 70. Study author and psychologist Katherine Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. She says, “Women feel more in control of their lives and are still physically capable of enjoying their hobbies and traveling. They are often more financially stable and have less responsibility for children. They are free to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and are able to prioritize their own needs and wants.”
If we follow the Dalia Lama’s wisdom and look at happiness as originating from our own actions, we can modify our actions to work towards happiness in our everyday lives. As Dr. Firestone writes, “Determining what these actions should be is each individual’s personal adventure, but research can provide some guidance. Studies show that the happiest people are those who seek meaning as opposed to immediate gratification or pleasure. To find fulfillment, each of us must uncover our true hopes, ambitions, dreams and ideas, and then make our actions match these ideals.”
Where is your meaning? Is it in your child’s laugh? In your work? In your community? What about your hopes? Your dreams and ideas? Your ambitions? What actions can you take to bring more meaning to your life, and dedicate yourself more fully to that which you feel most passionate about?
There are things we can all do, not only to bring new meaning into our lives, but to make the world a better place for all of us to live in. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Do something nice for someone.
  • Go out of your way to help another woman.
  • Reach out into your community and volunteer.
  • Take five steps each week towards your personal goals.
  • Spend time with friends or family.

There is no time like the present to take control of our power and perception, and create happier, healthier lives. We can tap into our own personal meaning by shifting our actions, expressing gratitude for what we already have, and taking time to be kind in words and actions toward others. The rewards of taking these actions and accepting responsibility for our own happiness are immeasurable. But daily setting this course toward these goals in every action you take will keep your steps on the path of personal happiness without distraction from society’s conflicts and crises. And your candle can share its light with others working toward their own happiness and sharing their light as well.
 

Nice Girls Finish Frazzled

We can probably all agree that we want our daughters to be “nice” above just about anything else. While it’s a given that kids need to be taught to be friendly and have basic manners, many young girls are expected to prioritize niceness over expressing unhappiness or distaste. That pressure to please doesn’t let up for women entering the workforce. In fact, a new study to be published in Human Resource Management Journal finds that for a woman to be considered confident and influential at work, she not only must be viewed as competent, she must also be liked. For men, being liked ― defined in the study as exhibiting pro-social traits, like kindness and helpfulness ― did not matter.
One of the paper’s authors, Natalia Karelaia, an associate professor of decision sciences at Insead Business School in Fontainebleau, France, told HuffPost, “They have to be good performers and show some conformity to gender stereotypes to be successful at work. This means that women literally have to work harder ― and do more ― to get ahead.”
A recent Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership finds most Americans find women to be indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and innovation. In fact, many of those surveyed think women are actually stronger than men in the key areas of compassion and organization. However, women continue to feel the pressure to focus not only on the job, but on how they can be nice, approachable, and all things warm and fuzzy while doing it.
Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In, wrote that, “High-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations of how women are supposed to behave. Since we taught our girls to be nice above all else, grown women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly and nurturing. So, if a woman acts assertively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she ‘should’ behave. By violating beliefs about what women are like, successful women elicit pushback from others for being insufficiently feminine and too masculine.”
While this new study shows that niceness may help women in the workplace, the burden of carrying the extra pressure to always be nice can also hurt them. Leading Women co-author Lois Frankel, PhD, writes that it can make it harder for women to assume leadership roles and do it effectively. Frankel explains, “When they do, they often try to make everyone happy (which is impossible), delay decision-making by trying to get everyone’s buy in, hesitate to take necessary risks for fear of offending the powers that be, and communicate in ways that undermine their confidence and credibility. Ironically, each of these behaviors could work to the advantage of women – if only they would balance them with new behaviors that contribute to more effective leadership. In other words, stepping fully away from the nice girl messages learned in childhood, and into adulthood, is all it would take for any woman to be a phenomenal leader for this age.”
Frankel shares eight great tips to help women step into leadership in Leading Women, including tips on how to get in the risk game, ways to think strategically while acting tactically, ways to resist perfectionism, and how to consciously build your leadership brand. Simply implementing two or three strategies can create a dramatic shifts in how you feel about yourself, how others perceive you, and the impact that you make at work and in your community.
In order to strike a balance and lead authentically, we need to recognize the full potential of women, and throw antiquated, stereotypical views out the window. We need to embrace our power, take our seat at the table, and lead with our experience and abilities first, personalities second. It is time to level the playing field, achieve full equality and change the world.
 
 

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