Melissa

How to Create Your Wonderful Holidays and Life

How have the holidays been going for you so far this year? Several years ago, divorce turned me back into a single woman after many years of marriage, and I’m happy to say my holidays these days feel just fine. The adjustment was challenging, and I confess I had some blue days, but by now I’ve learned that the secret to creating a wonderful holiday is to make my own choices and not allow other people’s stereotyped ideas to define me. Each of us has the right to spend the holidays the way we want to, right? Yes, you do, too. Yet, too often we let others dictate what we do, for our holidays and for our entire lives.

Women are doing that much less today than we used to because we are gaining more confidence in our own rights and abilities. We can learn a lot about this from single women because they build their lives outside the traditional stereotyped wife-and-mother roles for women. They may be single parents, or happily childfree, and heads of their own households. They pursue meaningful careers, and enjoy a rich social life, a strong and supportive circle of friends and family, are important to a lot of people and spread joy and good works throughout their communities.

During the holidays do your expectations keep you from seeing your circumstances for what they really are? Do you wear rose-colored glasses or focus on ways you fall short and feel depressed? One stereotype is that of the unhappy spinster alone at the holidays, but read on.

Bella de Paulo noted in Psychology Today that articles about making your unmarried life work focus almost exclusively on single women. Why? Because stereotypes assume women would rather be married and mothers, but the reality is quite different. Even more women than men said they thought being single helped them by allowing them to focus more on their work, or their studies, on making more friends, or on prioritizing their own needs. They said that being single makes them feel empowered, and able to enjoy the adventure and journey of their lives.

Many women who feel trapped by their choices imagine that becoming single is the only way to gain control of their lives. But what if you could ask for the support and assistance you want for your holidays rather than feeling trapped in impossible expectations? What if you could skip the parts of the holidays you hate and create new traditions? Guess what! You can. Go for it!

When women learn that I’m divorced, they say, “Well, you don’t have someone at home that controls your money.” I reply, “That’s right. Why do you?” It’s a worthy question. If you were in charge of YOUR life, what would you want your holidays – and your coming year — to look like?

Many women have never allowed themselves to ask such questions and feel like they have no choices. That’s not true at all. We learned a lot about stereotyped gender roles while working on my new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. It takes focused attention to change our holiday experiences, just as it takes work to change other parts of our lives. I’m convinced the best way to handle such discomfort is in solidarity with our women friends. Together, we can laugh at ourselves, create a vision for our futures, and find the courage to ask for what we want.

Here’s to creating the best holidays – and the best lives – that we can imagine for ourselves.

Why Gaining Equality Inspires Women’s Hope

What a thrill to experience women’s quest for equality through the play, “Gloria: A Life” in New York City this past weekend! The theater-in-the-round evoked Gloria Steinem’s living room, with each seat backed by a colorful pillow, the stage filled with Persian rugs and ethnic prints, stacks of books, and electrified by a powerful ensemble cast of eight women actors. Multi-media projections brought history to life as Christine Lahti enacted Steinem’s career, starting as a “girl writer” in the news industry of the time, which was unashamedly dominated by white men, also portrayed to entertaining effect by women actors.

For two hours, we were THERE with the young Gloria as she struggled to escape the pink ghettos of fashion and beauty writing assignments, as she fought to gain recognition for her skills rather than her looks, and as she learned from experienced African-American organizers. Over the decades and in community with other women, she gained the courage to overcome her fear of public speaking and began her life’s work as an organizer.   We learned with her, as she spoke with other activists hundreds of times each year, learning and educating around a still-radical notion: women and men arefully equal and human.

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter sat riveted throughout the performance, and said she learned a lot that she had not known about the women’s fight for equality. I learned a lot too:

  • That the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy, that Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to attend the Constitutional Convention as consultants, and that their first question was, “Where are your women?”
  • That despite denigrating public pronouncements by national (male) TV commentators, the first issue of magazine, which Steinem co-founded and published free of fashion and beauty advertising in 1971, sold out in Los Angeles in just eight days.
  • That experienced women activists of color were allowed to speak to the media only about race while Steinem, a newbie, was elevated as the spokesperson for women’s issues (which might explain a lot about racial tensions surrounding the 2016 Women’s Marches.)
  • That the protesters who piled bras, girdles and other restrictive clothing into a barrel never set a match to it because they could not get a fire permit and were too obedient to break the law, even though the press forever after dubbed them “Bra Burners.”

And so much more. What a great teaching tool! I hope the play becomes popular in high school theater programs because young people need to understand what it took to gain the rights they enjoy today.

The play is adapted from Steinem’s fascinating 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, and if you can’t get to New York to see the play, you should read the book. At the performance I attended, which was a benefit for TakeTheLead, Steinem herself led the audience discussion that forms an integral part of every performance. Women and men, young and old, asked questions, shared personal stories, and expressed their appreciation for the doors Steinem and her peers opened for all women today. Rights young women take for granted today were absolutely outrageous ideas then.  Sexual harassment, previously accepted as “just life,” is now a thingthat women can fight. Today women have a legal basis for seeking equal pay, equal opportunity, and the right to control our own bodies, even though progress is uneven and continually threatened.

Steinem, now 84, noted in her closing comments one benefit of growing old: she can remember when things were so much worse than today. She stressed that women’s equality is not something to be won in a mass movement later, but by each woman every day doing a small thing to stand up for equal rights. We gain the courage for those actions by connecting and living in community with others, sharing our stories, laughing and crying, and making our plans together. She left us with a challenge and a question: “What outrageous action for equality will you take in the next 24 hours?”

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!

Gloria Steinem’s Endorsement is Something I Cherish

This is a big thank you to Gloria Steinem, who endorsed our new book, In This Together – How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. I will thank her in person on December 15 when I attend the play “Gloria, A Life” in Manhattan (please join us there), but I’d like to tell you now why it means so much to me that she wrote:

“Whether our problem is isolation in a male-dominant culture, distance across racial barriers, living in front of a computer screen, or all three, Nancy O’Reilly’s In This Together will help us to create community, success, and well-being.”

That’s exactly what I hoped this book would do, and Steinem’s radical idea that we are “linked, not ranked” is the key to women to supporting each other. When we join together around our common goals for women and girls, there’s no limit to what we can do. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by income, social standing, race, ethnicity, gender expression, background, or any other differences. As a traveling feminist, Steinem learned “one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” That’s crazy talk, right!

Gloria Steinem, as you know, is a feminist activist and organizer who has stood up for her belief in the equality and full humanity of women and men since the 1960s. It’s this simple yet radical concept that underlies women’s worldwide fight for equality. She is a thrilling writer and thinker, author of five books, and co-founder of NewYork magazine and Ms. Magazine, where she still serves as consulting editor. Steinem and I are united in our support for Take The Lead, as they seek to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity by 2025.

In My Life on The Road, Steinem tells stories about the travels and relationships that have shaped her activism. She lived in India as a young woman, and that is where she first witnessed the power of talking circles, where everyone in the village had a chance to speak and listen in turn, and the goal was understanding and consensus rather than winning or losing.

Why Equality for Women Frightens People

Change is about more than uniting people in a movement, though. Steinem encourages others to find their voices, noting, “The first step toward speaking for others is speaking up for ourselves.” By suggesting that women should have equality everywhere, she up-ended the patriarchal power structure. People who have power usually fight to keep it, and feminists became a lightning rod for criticism, controversy and often vocal protests. Even some women have felt more threatened by this idea than liberated.

We write a lot in In This Together about the many gender stereotypes that limit women’s aspirations and behavior. Refusing to accept those limits when writing in praise of the benefits of travel, Steinem pointed out, “Even the dictionary defines adventurer as “a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures,” but adventuress is “a woman who uses unscrupulous means in order to gain wealth or social position.”

When people fretted that Steinem was in danger when traveling alone, she pointed out, “Records show that women are most likely to be beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home is an even more dangerous place for women than the road.”

Full equality would empower women to provide safety for ourselves and our families, and to pursue any career. Steinem recalls working as the only “girl writer” on a pioneering political satire TV show. Women were – and are – poorly represented in the writing room, she wrote, “probably because the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.”

Have you noticed that when women gather together, we laugh a lot? When we link together joyfully around our common humanity and goals, it’s a wonderful life! Women are better off now than at any time in history, due in large part to the continuing work of courageous women. We’re keeping it going. Thank you, Gloria Steinem for taking the lead.

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.

Long Term Effects of Sexual Assault

Effects of sexual assaultWe know that sexual assault and harassment is psychologically traumatizing to the victim. As we have just witnessed in the recent Congressional hearings, these psychological effects are long lasting. Our understanding of the impact, however, continues to expand. A new study released last week shows that the trauma many victims feel is not limited to their emotional and psychological health. These attacks can impact their long-term physical health as well.

The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, found that both workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault had lasting, negative effects on women’s physical and emotional health. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited 304 women between the ages of 40 and 60 and recorded their blood pressure, weight and height. Through a brief questionnaire, researchers found 19 percent (58) of these women reported a history of workplace sexual harassment, and 22 percent (67) had a reported a history of sexual assault, and 10 percent (30) of the women reported they had experienced both sexual harassment and assault. The numbers for this study’s population are lower than national estimates, which indicated that 40-75 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, and 36 percent have experienced sexual assault.

About one in four women in the study who had been sexually assaulted met criteria for depression, while only one in 10 who had not been assaulted were also suffering from depression. Researchers also found that those who reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment had significantly higher blood pressure and significantly lower sleep quality than women who had not.Their findings are adding to a growing body of evidence, expanded through more than a dozen other studies over the past decade. Researchers have now documented other physical symptoms caused by sexual harassment, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems and disrupted sleep.

“When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault, our study shows that lived experiences may have a serious impact on women’s health, both mental and physical,” Rebecca Thurston, a professor of psychiatry at the Pittsburg School of Medicine and the study’s senior author said in a press release. “This is an issue that needs to be tackled with urgency not just in terms of treatment but in terms of prevention.”

The researchers are right, sexual assault and sexual abuse has a profound impact on victims, and efforts to improve women’s health must target the prevention of sexual harassment and assault, not just the treatment of its consequences. While the momentum surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements (as well as ongoing current events) has inspired and emboldened more and more women to stand up and make their voices heard, this study illustrates the fact that this is an unfolding crisis and will require diligence, education, and continued attention to eliminate.

The goal of sexual assault prevention is simple—to stop it from happening in the first place. The same can be said for workplace harassment. However, according to the CDC, the solutions are as complex as the problem. Preventing sexual assault requires prevention strategies that address factors at each level of the society. To help facilitate progress, the CDC has put together “STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence,” which represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities.

In terms of workplace harassment, it’s important to keep in mind that the same laws prohibiting gender discrimination also prohibit sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the main federal law that prohibits sexual harassment, and each state also has its own anti-sexual harassment law. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done. It is important that employers adopt clear sexual harassment policies and conduct regular sexual harassment training – even if your state doesn’t require or suggest training. It’s also crucial that complaints are taken seriously, and if the complaint is shown to be valid, it is followed with a swift and effective response.

Although the studies focus primarily on women, people with non-conforming gender identities also experience sexual harassment and assault at high rates. To make the changes so desperately needed, we must work together. This isn’t something that will go away, so now is the time to act. This is a health crisis we must address. We need to listen to the victims, hold attackers responsible, and create safe environments in which people to live, work, grow, and thrive.

Anger in the Workplace IS Acceptable – For Women and Men

Anger in the WorkplaceSerena Williams recently made headlines after losing in the U.S. Open final match to Naomi Osaka. The news wasn’t based on how Williams played the game, but instead focused on a heated debate she had with an umpire that led to her getting slapped with a $17,000 fine. The entire interaction sparked a much larger discussion about the consequences of women showing anger and emotion. Why are women consistently penalized for expressing traits that their male counterparts exhibit regularly? While Williams’ anger may seem symbolic of women’s larger rage, it is important to look at how double standards like this recent incident play out in the workplace, and how that impacts women from every walk of life.
Research has consistently found that there are big differences between the ways that men and women are treated for expressing emotions, and particularly anger. Men who express anger at work are perceived as higher status. Women who express anger at work, however, are perceived as lower status and less competent, and are also paid lower wages.

Beyond The Stereotypes

Media and literature frequently reflect, and perpetuate, the belief that boys and men are angrier than girls and women — and that their anger is righteous and violent. That perception may be why men seem to get a free pass on exhibiting that anger at work. However, studies have also repeatedly shown that women report feeling anger more frequently and in more sustained ways than their male counterparts. In early 2016, a survey conducted by Esquire and NBC found that women reported consistently higher rates of anger. Another, conducted by Elle magazine two years later, revealed the same pattern.
We all know that women are angry right now, and #MeToo, #TimesUp and the Women’s March are some of the ways that women’s long-simmering frustrations are boiling over. However, this anger is nothing new. Natalie Gil points out in Refinery 29, “We’ve always been angry – we’re underpaid, overworked at home and in the workplace, thwarted from reaching our potential and diminished.” It’s important to note that it doesn’t take a cataclysmic event to express anger in the workplace, it can be something simple and even routine, and something that may not warrant a second glance if a man were to point it out.
The fact is, anger is a universal human emotion, and given that we are angry, like our male counterparts, the big question is, how can women overcome the negative consequences of expressing anger? And how can we work together to create a workplace that allows women and men to express emotion, and not be penalized unfairly?

Navigating Anger in the Workplace

Perhaps the best way to create a workplace that works for all of us is to bring awareness to the fact that we all get angry and take steps to learn, individually and collectively, how to channel that angerappropriately. For example, if you’re angry at a situation, call that situation out, and discuss it with co-workers, don’t rain your anger down on those around you. We can also discuss, and perhaps even put policies in place, that allow men and women to express their anger in healthy, direct, non-aggressive and non-toxic ways. All explanation and justification is a waste of time. Once the anger has been felt, expressed and owned, impacted employees can look at the lessons our anger might teach us. Anger is usually an indication that you need to set a boundary, stop doing something that is no longer of service, change direction, face what is not being faced, or to just say no.
Anger can be a great motivator, and we can use that to address the issues surrounding emotion in the workplace. While women have plenty of reasons to be angry and frustrated, it is important to keep in mind that we weaken our ability to make change if we allow ourselves to be derailed by our differences. If we can work together, women and men, to look at this situation, remove gender stereotypes, and have an honest and open dialog, we CAN change the workplace, and create an environment that works for all of us.

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.

More Reasons to Create Gender Equality in the Workplace

Gender Equality in the WorkplaceFor decades, in order to make our voices heard, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, for many of us trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads), and a new study shows that we can and will continue to utilize our feminine strengths as gender equality in the workplace becomes more the norm.

As women, we know that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. A researcher at the University of Salzburg in Austria agrees and suggests in his recent study that men and women not only have particular personality differences, but those differences grow in nations that have the greatest gender equality.

In addition to looking at personality traits, the study squared its findings against “gender equality” measured by the Global Gender Gap Index. The results showed that greater gender equality is associated with stronger expressions of gender difference. While the study’s author, Tim Kaiser says that it could be a “case of the personality adapting to changing societal conditions.” It could also be a situation where women are empowered to lead authentically as themselves.

Gender Equality in the Workplace Starts by Removing Bias

As it stands today, moving up the ladder is a competitive process, regardless of gender. However, to truly level the playing field, we need to create an environment where gender equality in the workplace is a given and ensure that advancements, promotions, and the entire workplace is free of discrimination and bias. Unconscious biases have a critical effect on our judgment and can stand in the way of women working their way into the C-suite.

Gender bias stereotypes – surrounding men and women – can lead to unfair decision making. To eliminate that from the workplace and advancement process, we need to educate employees about how stereotypes work. Mary Lorenz writes in Career Builder that since we are not always aware of our biases, we do not realize when they are influencing our decision-making; therefore, education and awareness are key to moving forward.

We also need to establish clear criteria before making decisions about hiring, promotion, etc. so that bias gets removed from the decision-making process.Research has shown the more formal the criteria are, the more women and underrepresented minorities will be hired. It’s also important to scrutinize that criteria on a regular basis and adjust and refine as needed.

It’s also important to set diversity goals, as agrowing body of research suggests that diversity in the workforce results in “significant business advantages.” Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School says that at the end of every hiring process, leaders should track how well they’ve done against the diversity goals they set out to achieve.” This also encourages those involved in the hiring and in other parts of the company “to keep diversity and equality top of mind.”

And more than anything, be transparent. With education, clear criteria, and diversity goals, it should be a no-brainer to post numbers. As Lorenz writes, keeping, “track of our progress in terms of how we’re doing in terms of gender diversity in our workplaces really causes people to be more thoughtful in how they’re making decisions.” Transparency and accountability are essential tools in creating a gender equal workplace.

Because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. But in order for that to happen, and for women to have the opportunity to lead authentically, we have to level the playing field and work together to create a bias-free environment where women can use their unique skills and strengths to lead a more balanced and diverse workforce.

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.

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