Monday, December 27, 2010

Women's Leadership Initiatives Fail--Joan C. Williams in Forbes

We all know the grim statistics. Women in C-Suites are still as rare as icicles in July. Companies often express their concern with a so-called "women's leadership initiative." They are often well-intentioned. So why do so many initiatives produce so few results?

They take the wrong approach. If we continue to rely on vague good intentions, meaningful change will take generations. Thirty years of social science, though, offers clear guidance on how to address the organizational issues that keep women out of leadership roles. Here are four steps to a social science-based approach:

Get serious. Too often, at the Center for WorkLife Law, we hear from women who want us to come speak to their leadership initiative, but are unable even to pay our expenses. Here's what we say: Don't accept an assignment unless you are given the resources you need to succeed in implementing it. That's standard business advice, and it's relevant here.

These women often are asked to shoulder new responsibilities on top of their existing workloads, often without a budget or administrative support. Then they find their efforts don't count when comp time rolls around. Only about 3% of women believe that contributions to diversity are valued in remuneration, according to my recent co-authored study of women law firm partners, New Millennium, Same Glass Ceiling?

A women's leadership initiative may well hurt women rather than help them if it requires them to spend time, with administrative support, on activities that distract them from activities the organization truly values and rewards.

Click here for full article in Forbes by Joan C. Williams.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How men can improve work for women- Penelope Trunk

Throughout my career, men have helped me every step of the way. Sometimes it was when I asked for help. Sometimes they saw I needed help even before I did, and they were there.

So you might think this is December-is-full-of-good-cheer-post – you know, me thanking men for all they’ve done for me at work. But no. It’s me asking for even more. It’s my wish list for what else men could be doing.

For full article by Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist click here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sarah Palin, Riot Grrrl-- The Atlantic

To paraphrase Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, I don't agree with a word that Sarah Palin says, including "and" and "the." And as a liberal feminist, it drives me absolutely bonkers that Palin is the most visible working mother and female politician in America, that she is the best exemplar of a woman with an equal marriage, that she has put up with less crap from fewer men than those of us who have read The Second Sex and marched in pro-abortion rallies and pretty much been on the right side of all the issues that Palin is wrong about.

So I suppose I should confess: I like Sarah Palin. I like her because she is such a problem for all these political men, Republicans and Democrats alike, with their polls, and their Walter Dean Burnham theories of transformative elections, and their economy this and their values that--and here comes Palin, and logic just doesn't apply. She speaks in spoonerisms, she raises wretched children, she's a quitter, she's a refudiater, she shoots moose and beats halibut, she has a dumb accent that doesn't have the charm of Charleston or the Brahmin of Boston--really, she is just a lot of quirks.

But it doesn't matter. It will never matter and I bet it never has mattered, because Sarah Palin is hot. She has sex appeal. That's why people like her. That's the whole story. Everyone has to stop trying to deconstruct and decode it, because there is no accounting for chemistry, and Sarah Palin has lots of it going on with her public. I don't think anyone knows or cares what in particular she stands for, other than some general conservative cache of principles, because they are in love with her.

For full article by Elizabeth Wurtzel visit The Atlantic.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Resiliency: Female leaderships Secret Sauce

What will end up mattering more to my career - ace'ing academic courses or mastering the art of bouncing back quickly when things go wrong?

When I finished Stanford undergrad last year, I, like many young people, focused my attention on things like finding a good job and building my professional skills.

But I just read a great new book that makes me think there's another place to look, a more important source of long-term career success: My personal resilience.

Authors and McKinsey consultants Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, have interviewed hundreds of successful women to figure out what really differentiates women who get what they want from their careers.

In "How Remarkable Women Lead," Barsh and Cranston focus on five factors that inspiring women leaders tend to have - and that we can all cultivate in ourselves:

1. Meaning - making the effort to find meaning in out jobs.
2. Framing - being able to re-frame difficult moments, to replace negative emotions with useful ones quickly.
3. Connecting - actively reaching out to others, building strong networks we can turn to for advice, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.
4. Engaging - jumping into the fray, taking the risks that make us stronger.
5. Energizing - taking the time to take care of themselves through sleep and exercise so they don't burn out.

The authors say that what really sets great women leaders apart is not their wins, but their ability to respond positively to failure. Each female leader in the book recounts a balanced set of stories -- both highs and humbling lows -- that women of any age can relate to (rejection, lay offs and cancer).

What's remarkable about these women is how they have taught themselves to shake off disappointment and pick themselves up without losing too much focus, perspective or time. The reality is, setbacks, roadblocks and failures happen to everyone. And there are some simple things that help women leaders (and all of us) stay on track:

  • Ample restorative time: sleep, exercise and anything else that works for you.
  • Engaging with supportive family and friends, and pals at work who canget you out of your funk.
  • Taking the time to diagnose what caused the set back: soliciting feedback no matter how painful : -)
  • Focusing on next steps to get you going in the right directions.
  • Pals at work who you can rely on to get you out of our funk.
  • Taking control of your schedule to make blocks of time for important work (no email or phone!) with regular restorative intervals.
I loved this book because it's making me see a new way my friends and I can build the futures we want: sharing tips for getting up, not just sympathy when we're down.

So what do you do? How do you get up when things go wrong and life's showing you little mercy? What do you focus on to get psyched and going again? Please share!

- Mary Liz McCurdy

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guilt If I Do, Guilt If I Don't

When did going to the gym become something I feel guilty about doing?

My friend, Guilt, calculates the cost of me going to the gym (gym membership, nanny coverage, lost work productivity) and reminds me of all the things that are on hold or that I should be addressing while I work out. I ignore him and leave the house.

As I walk to the gym, Guilt starts mapping out the most efficient way to workout and shower so that I minimize the amount of time I am there. I often skip classes because when all is said and done, you are at the gym for almost a whole hour and a half. When I work out on my own I can get it all done in an hour. Guilt doesn't like it when I'm there for more than an hour.

I climb on to the elliptical, I strap on my headphones, and try to steer the channel to something "valuable" - maybe CNN? When my hand inevitably
reaches to change the channel to any of a number of reruns of crime shows, Guilt starts a-buzzing, "Isn't it bad enough you aren't working/taking care of your children/supporting your husband?! You are doing something just for YOU?! And now you are actually watching trash TV on top of it?! You could be at LEAST using this time to read a business book!"

I take off my headphones and flip on my Kindle which is loaded with 10 books I really should read. The bouncing and reading aren't mixing. I flip it back off after 5 pages and put the headphones back on. Guilt is quieter because I tried but he's still there.

I finish my workout, run down the stairs, shower in 5 minutes and put my hair in a ponytail because I don't want Guilt yelling at me if I take too long to get ready. I leave - happy that I got it done but it's a tainted happiness. It's one laden with "yeah, butts".

I remember in my 20's, going to the gym was something I felt guilty about NOT doing. But now, with a career, two small children, and a husband who works full time, I often feel guilty when I am at the gym, or for that matter, doing anything just for me.

This isn't really my story anymore...I have learned that guilt is THE most unproductive motivator, if not actually demotivating. Guilt is a killer of all things good, and provides no positive outcomes. Guilt should be put out to pasture, pronto.
But dozens of clients I've talked to over the years continue this internal struggle of knowing when it's not only okay but required that we put ourselves first. Career, physical health, passions - these are things that we all would bend over backwards to help our families prioritize. Now it's time for us to believe that we deserve equal priority, and we should ask for that from those who support and love us. And Guilt needs to go hang out with someone else.

Rebecca Rodskog is a Change Management Coach and Consultant, an Actress, Speaker and Writer. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Debunking the 24/7 workday

I've spent a good part of my career as impaired as a drunk. You have too if, like me, your nightly sleep averages less than 5 hours. According to medical research, this makes you the cognitive equal of someone DWI.

"OK, I'll be careful driving," I want to argue, "my caffeine-fueled brain works fine!" Apparently not. Looking at the judgment of sleep-starved medical interns, error rates jump as much as 6 times. We have a hard time taking a sober look at this when, as Harvard Business Review points out, our work culture glorifies sleepless machismo in the way "we once glorified people who could hold their alcohol."

As we bid farewell to the dog-days of summer, those few August weeks when America's passion for the 24/7 life wanes ever so slightly, let's ask why we plunge so readily into our post-Labor-Day norm: meeting-packed days, harried emails, texting, around-the-clock availability for work, little rest. Today's headlines might make us think twice: On scores of global competitiveness, Sweden now outranks the US while later this month the new "Wall Street" film opens with the title "Money Never Sleeps." Maybe it should.

We office workers log more hours than any prior generation because we can (thanks to technology) and because we assume we must (thanks to global competition). These days, if you want to be a go-to person, you want to be seen as always-on. Besides, a strong work ethic is a great thing, right? That's what we tell ourselves.

But is working as many hours as we can the same as being productive?

"Available 24/7!" said the email from my hairdresser. Now, I've never known anyone who, at 2AM, absolutely had to have a trim. So why "24/7"? Because this language is current code for "I'm serious. I'll put you first. Choose me." Good PR, perhaps. But what's the customer benefit? How straight would your 2AM haircut be? In fact, this meme has real costs which we increasingly see in both anecdote and research.

"I realized I couldn't have a real management job anymore. I couldn't handle the calls after midnight," a woman named Ann told me. She worked for a boss who dialed her number whenever he had something to say. Sending a message or waiting until morning - these were things he just didn't like to do. Perhaps Ann's boss was un-reformable. But Ann hadn't even tried to change things by acquainting her boss with voice-mail or looking for a management job at a more stable firm.

In her bones, Ann, like too many of us, believed her boss was in the right. She thought that to be a good employee, she had to take the call, wherever, whenever it came.

Early in my career, I was dumb enough to sign up for the jobs more enlightened people side-stepped. I spent my early 30s managing global portfolio trades. Days started at 4AM and nights were peppered with foreign voices calling to say "your client is going to be mad because ..." someone screwed up in London, Frankfurt, or Singapore. About to crack (from brain-cell depletion and spousal pleading), I switched to a gig with more standard waking hours, but with plenty of ways to work and travel all the time. I learned that any job can be 24/7 if you believe that's the only path to glory. And I did.

Until one day a management guru (on my employer's dime) told me this: "If you can't get your job done in 10 hours a day, there's something wrong with you or there's something wrong with your job."

So many of us define our self-worth by how hard we work, we have trouble disentangling our egos and even asking if there might be a better way. When we've pushed ourselves to be good students, get good jobs and deliver results, it's hard to hear that our more-more-more approach may not be the right one. For many, being asked to examine how we work feels like being asked to be mediocre.

Our 24/7 dogma, and the reaction to it, generates two clashing extremes: Total Buy-In (Ann's view) and it's opposite, the complete (largely female) rejection of 24/7 and sense that we should be able to work any hours we want. Interviewing male managers for our book Getting to 50/50, we heard a lot of complaints about women being unrealistic about hours - particularly after having kids. We too were speechless when female graduates of fancy medical schools told us it should be OK to take whole summers off and high-paid executives said their employers shouldn't blink if they do school pickup at 3:00 every day for years. Polarized views lead nowhere and keep us from building lots of sensible things like good after-school programs (so we know kids are happy while we're at work) and efficient office norms (so we can think straight when we get home).

Thomas Edison's view that genius, or just good work, is 99% perspiration is largely right. What we need is a more sensible dialog about the best way to perspire. Management expert Tony Schwartz's new book Why The Way We're Working Isn't Working, takes on the fallacy that "human beings operate most productively in the same one-dimensional way computers do: continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time."

While I couldn't live without my many multi-tasking devices - they save me from missed meetings, tight deadlines, lost dogs, etc. I have to force myself to heed the data. It says that our brains really do only one thing at once. Sure, I can tell myself I'm a parallel processor, responding to a crisis on email while, simultaneously, writing up next-week's presentation. But the facts say something different: I would get both tasks completed faster if I finished one and then focused fully on the other, 25% faster actually.

What's clear is that blind belief in 24/7 is turning us into inebriated slow-pokes. What's less clear is how to stop it. How do we change habits and structure our teams to improve our return on time?

In one study, Harvard Business School's Leslie Perlow looked at programmers producing code that was substantially the same in China, India and Hungary. What the teams in these three countries shared was this: certainty that its own cocktail of process and hours was vital to producing high-quality work. But Perlow found there were vastly different ways to complete the same work. One team averaged 60+ hours per week to produce the same results that another team produced - at equivalent quality and profit - in 40 hours per week.

Perlow's two decades of research spans several continents and a range of intense fields like engineering, finance and consulting. In a US study, Perlow found that "those who work hardest do not necessarily contribute the most to the corporation's productivity, and, in fact, that often no one benefits from this behavior, not even the corporation." Working round the clock generates bugs in the code, management gaffes, and firedrills that put both individuals and their employers in peril.

In a recent article, Perlow describes four years of work at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The management consulting giant ran time-use tests on real-time assignments to see if it was possible to produce top-quality work without 24/7 culture. One BCG team mandated that each consultant, on an important project with a new client, work only four days a week. Another required consultants to unplug and abstain from work (no email, no cell phone) after 6pm. Turns out, if you know you're required to switch off, you think much harder while you're on. And team members quickly figure out how to communicate to colleagues what they need to know so dropped balls are avoided. Teamwork, sharing and passing information, improves by necessity. Having to articulate what we are doing is a great discipline.

What Perlow and others keep finding is that success does not require 24/7. What it does require is more rigor in how we manage ourselves, using supremely simple tools:

·Clear goals. "The most effective firms focus on a limited number of well-defined objectives," says Adrian Ott author of The 24-Hour Customer. For example, a popular case study, shows how the down-and-out Lehman Brothers equity research team ( #15 in the industry ) rose from the ashes. How? In 1987, a metrics-driven manager, Jack Rivkin took over and lead the team to #1 in three years. Rivkin told his team exactly what he wanted from them: to focus all their energy on high-quality analysis - and specific steps to get there. The team was evaluated on a score card measuring all relevant, quantifiable activity: number of calls, written reports, client visits. And there were no secrets. The numbers were out there for everyone in the department to see.

·Good process. Time-diary research, where workers record what they're doing hour-to-hour, reveals a lot. Even at well-run companies, high-performing knowledge workers say big chunks of their day, sometimes half of it, are wasted on ill-planned meetings and cleaning up after snafus. Studies show that declaring "quiet time" (protected hours to get vital thinking work done), encouraging collaboration and overlap produce world-class results more profitably. "We need to replace 24/7 with 80/20," says Sasha Grinshpun, an executive coach who works with firms like Google and IBM. "If we understand where we can add the most value, we can focus on the 20% of our work that generates 80% of the results."

·The Zero-Baloney Standard. "Nanny cam most managers," an executive suggested, "and they'd have a hard time explaining where their time goes, even to themselves." For most of us, metrics-driven leaders and time-off by fiat are hard to come by. But is there something we can all do to give 24/7 a sanity check? Welcome the auditors - let them examine the ledger of "to do's" and test what's really valuable versus baloney. A partner at a global accounting firm told us how she and her spouse vet each other's calendars once a week. They talk through which meetings/dinners/golf games are truly critical and triage the rest. Our best friend, our spouse, our kids: they all have opinions about how we spend our time, if we only stop to listen.

So when voices chide "close laptop" (my daughter), "smartphone off" (my son), "go to sleep" (my husband), I need to give them license to steer me away from the shoals, past the siren song, of 24/7. Sailing somewhere between Gordon Gekko and Sweden will likely prove a better course for all of us.

Visit the Washington Post for this piece and more from the entire column.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Too Few Women In Tech? How We Can Improve Diversity.

Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch just came out with an article about women in Silicon Valley with a fairly controversial headline: Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Blaming the Men. He argues that women really don’t want to be entrepreneurs, there aren’t very many women entrepreneurs, and therefore it is unfair to blame him for not having more women speakers at his conferences. Basically he states that he tries very hard to have women speakers and venture capitalists try very hard to fund women entrepreneurs, but they cannot find them.

Now, I can tell you that in my 17 years of working in Silicon Valley, I have never talked to a venture capitalist that has said they are looking for female entrepreneurs to fund. But I have spoken to conference organizers looking for female speakers. I actually agree that they are probably unfairly criticized, but I don’t think it is because there aren’t enough female potential speakers. I think that woman might be much more selective about where they go speak. If you are a female entrepreneur, and a mom, and you are asked to speak at a conference, a balancing act occurs in your head. Is this conference worthwhile? Is it worthwhile enough to give up an evening with my children? Or a few days with my kids if it requires travel? Perhaps this balancing act means that women are less likely to say “yes” to a boondoggle, or a conference that might be fun but is unlikely to bring them more clients or additional funding. I don’t know if this is the reason it is hard to find speakers, but I suspect that it is one part of the equation.

I asked my friend Robbie, a Silicon Valley marketing whiz/consultant, for her thoughts on Michael’s column and here was her response. What do you think?

I think the reason Tech Crunch and the other event organizers have a hard time getting women entrepreneurs to participate in their programs is that there is a relatively small number of big name women entrepreneurs and they are in high demand. The real issue is why there are so few successful women entrepreneurs.

While most VCs would love to invest in more qualified woman-run companies, they tend to work the networks of people they already know, who are mostly male, and rely in great part on personal references to identify and qualify companies. In addition, the timing for founding companies is tricky for women, who often find themselves choosing between starting a family or starting a company. While men are increasingly involved in childrearing and household management, the reality is that the bulk of these responsibilities still falls with women—even those who are highly qualified engineers and MBAs.

What can we do about this discrepancy?

Men in power positions such as Mr. Arrington need to continue to keep the doors open, and look hard for entrepreneurs who don’t look like everyone else. Women need to be more thoughtful about their career aspirations earlier on, and braver about taking risks. And couples need to share the responsibilities at home, so both men and women can have equal opportunities to create the new businesses, jobs and technologies that make Silicon Valley such an exciting place to be.

-Joanna Strober

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Washington Post- Leadership's next frontier: Changing how we use our words and bodies

"In Japan, we say there are three genders: Men, women, and American women," joked the head of our Tokyo office. It was 1992 and he was trying to inoculate me for my first week of Japanese business meetings - against any worry that I might be held to local female standards: being deferential toward men (not good at that), speaking in a soft, high voice (ditto), serving tea (spills likely). I laughed, thankful that he was giving me license to be myself - and thankful that I was a member of the third sex, American women, unburdened by the gender codes of traditional societies.

This summer, The Daily Show's "women" kerfuffle reset my blithe sense that we're so much freer of cultural baggage. Top female ex-staffers said they'd felt "ignored and dismissed" and the knee-jerk debate about sexism ensued. Is there a more useful way to look at these all-too-common rows?

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers offers one alternate frame. The book shows how the weight of culture can bring down even planes. Cultures laden with hierarchy, it turns out, have bad crash records because junior officers feel unable to voice concerns. Korean Airlines (KAL) was the worst - stunning the world with a string of crashes because their flight crews could not speak up. From the black boxes of doomed planes, Gladwell reveals an alarming truth. Social norms can be insidious, costly - and sometimes stronger than the will to live.

How did KAL fix this problem? They changed the language of the cockpit - to English. By changing the words spoken, KAL re-set the tone in the cockpit and gave subordinates a way to make themselves heard.

While U.S. women have cast off many a mental girdle, we've held onto social standards that cause a lot of trouble. With the help of the guys around us, we continue to act out norms that generate unhappiness between men and women - and make it harder for us to work together.

After many late nights, I'd flown cross country as the junior member of a restructuring team. Our client was a bank on the verge of collapse and our job was to save it. In the meeting, my boss glowered. The bank's leaders argued among themselves rather than responding to our analysis. When it was my turn to speak, I tried to ease the tension by putting context around our numbers and using a warm tone. The bank's CEO ignored what I was saying to instead squabble with a board member next to me - for 10 minutes. Yielding to the will of the client, I sat back and attempted a patient smile.

"You lost control of the meeting," my boss said gruffly on the way to the airport. "You should have looked the CEO in the eye and said, 'You're wrong! You're missing the point.' Worse, you were wordy and you smiled at him, like it was OK that he interrupted you." I didn't recall my boss saying anything so bold and wasn't sure how effective I, the team minion, would have been with a stare-down. But my boss made me think: Why all the words and why had I smiled?

Researching Getting to 50/50, I learned that women speak an average of 21,000 words a day while men use a mere 7,000. (My husband says I'm above average and should shield him from my verbal tsunami; but studies say female verbal supremacy is really a form of deference - that we feel obliged to explain ourselves more than men do). Data also shows we women more often tilt our heads and smile encouragingly because we've been socialized to think this is the polite thing to do. And we wait patiently for our turn to speak. And don't retaliate when interrupted.

So when women say they don't feel heard, should we tell them to act more like men? Or should men drop the dominance bit - and learn to like listening? Both would help. Men and women need to get on the same page about what's "normal," so we work together more constructively.

It's not generational, either. Talking with a panel of current business school students, a female lecturer said "You know, I make a big effort to call on women in my class. But it seems like the guys still dominate the conversation. Why is that?" The female students had an interesting take: It's not that the women are too quiet, it's that the men are too noisy. "Guys in our class feel free to express an opinion when they haven't read the case. They have no shame. Women think that's irresponsible and don't speak unless they have something valuable to say."

When a graduate school professor was asked why there weren't more female speakers in his classes, he had a simple answer: "Well, men bang down my door to come present their ideas. Women seem to be waiting to be asked."

To get beyond mere anecdotes, check out The OpEd Project, an effort committed to closing one specific gender gap: Men submit eight times more newspaper opinion pieces than women do. Sitting in an OpEd Project seminar, I saw women who are tenured professors, leaders in business, medicine and law reveal an extreme inability to utter a simple sentence: "I am an expert in X because Y" as in "I am an expert in cloning because I invented some of the first successful techniques." "It's so male to do that!" a highly accomplished woman said. "It sounds like you are putting yourself forward."

Catherine Orenstein, the group's founder, says this is common among the thousands of people who've gone through her program - that even world-renown women experience discomfort applying the word "expert" to themselves in a way men don't.

Korean Airlines imported a new language to fix its cockpit culture problems. Changing language - the one that divides men and women - can go a long way to fix glitches in gender culture too. To start, let's think twice about common phrases that widen male/female gaps, instead of shrinking them.

"She's aggressive." Before I worked for her, this is how a guy friend described one of my favorite bosses. The woman, I learned, was indeed vocal - and incredibly kind. I've since heard experts say there's one trait that defines successful women in business: they're louder. So no matter how uncomfortable it makes people, let's encourage as much volume in our daughters as we do in our sons.

"My wife stays home; it's better that way."
I once hired a lawyer to review an employment contract. Unprompted he cautioned me: "You don't really want this job, do you? When both parents have demanding jobs, kids don't do well." While I was paying for this inaccurate advice (real facts here), many women tell us they get it for free - often from well-intentioned co-workers. No matter what you believe about kids, if you wouldn't urge a man to back away from a job, please don't suggest it to a woman.

"My husband can't multi-task." "Learned incompetence" is debilitating for all of us. When we use words that excuse a man from knowing how to handle household chores and children (or a woman from knowing how to handle an oil change, the TV remote or money), we set ourselves up for collisions that could be avoided.

And every time we apply a common language to men and women, we nudge the culture, inch by inch, away from double standards.

But, there's a silent language that we can each change instantly - if we know it exists. At Stanford Graduate School of Business, leadership professor Deborah Gruenfeld teaches a course called "Acting with Power," where students learn to look for and use non-verbal cues of high and low status. Guess what? Most high-power behaviors, like claiming space, bold gestures, and interrupting, are typically seen as "male." Acts of "playing low", including keeping limbs close to the body, glancing away and nodding encouragement, are often thought of as "female."

Gruenfeld points out that, when it comes to having influence, the quality of the argument is often less important than the status of its proponent. And status is signaled in milliseconds by each of us when we walk in a room. So who gets heard is also a function of the language our bodies convey. "The students in my classes come in feeling trapped by the ways they have learned to play gender roles," she says. "But they learn very quickly that what feels natural is just over-learned, and that different work roles call for different kinds of physical actions, regardless of gender. To succeed in a hierarchy, you need to be able to play both high and low. There are real benefits to both."

As we try to find a lingua franca both genders can use, new research offers some norm-shifting ideas. Whether you're a man or woman, putting your body in positions that speak power makes you feel good. See yourself as the executive in the boardroom who "crests the table with his feet, fingers interlaced behind his back, elbows pointing outwards" and amazing things happen. Your testosterone (confidence) rises, cortisol (stress) falls, you're more likely to take risk and feel "in charge." Who doesn't like that? So let's encourage our girls to put their feet up - and make changing the language both comfortable and fun.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gandhi for Gals – the Beauty of Thick Skin

New on my firm's trading floor, I was glad to know at least one person. Derek had been a year ahead of me in college and was now a junior T-Bill trader. One day, I walked up behind Derek's desk to ask a question. His head was turning from side to side checking the multiple screens in front of him. Suddenly, he shouted an expletive. Expletives continued to erupt for the next several seconds. Derek's boss walked up, less worried about the money being lost than something else. "Derek, don't talk like that in front of a lady," he said. The boss was 30. I was stunned.

On trading floors, like navy ships, colorful speech is standard. I was accustomed to bad language: it was a vice I suffered too. Letting off steam with a few foul words came quite naturally to me and seemed harmless. Derek's boss didn't know that I, for good or ill, shared more with Rahm Emanuel than Scarlett O'Hara when it came to cursing. "It's an honest mistake," I heard myself saying, "but I am NOT a lady!"

While a true statement (I flunk Miss Manners daily, on many counts), my response looked nutty. The boss was only trying to be kind. But I was so mad, I couldn't help myself.

I've huffed and puffed about many things I should have blown off. So I could only nod when I heard this wisdom from an executive recruiter for C-suites and board seats: "Thick skin. That's what more women need."

But not just one layer. To get to the top, women likely need three.

Let's start by shedding the soft veneer we're encouraged to grow as girls - for something more battle-ready. This month on Harvard Business Review's site, management expert Jeff Pfeffer points out that women won't get equal power until they project equal toughness.

"We've ruined her," said a male friend about his tween daughter. He explained that while he and his wife bred a love of grit in their sons (rolling in mud, staring down bullies), they had indulged their daughter in little-girl-ness. Her nose was always wiped, her clothes never dirty. When the playground was rough, her parents would come to school and sort things out. "She spends hours crying about wisecracks, what's she going to do when someone yells at her at work!"

I assured my friend that most girls find their inner-street-fighter soon enough; that like many of us, raised to value niceness, she'd learn its drawbacks and find the ability to push back or laugh it off (though I'm still learning). In the name of kindness, we should nurture as much "tough guy" in our daughters as we do in our sons.

Girls also need a layer that boys don't - added protection to be successful outsiders, until we finally get comfortable with females wielding power as overtly as men do. Not long after I snapped at Derek's boss, I was assigned a mentor. This woman was the rarest of breeds, a female proprietary trader, Wall Street 1988. She took me to drinks and said, "You're going to be lonely. But you'll succeed if you want to." At the time, this wasn't particularly motivational. But the words stayed with me because they were true. And, unless progress accelerates, they will still be true when my daughter goes to work in 15 years.

While a lack of gal-pals is survivable, the second thick-skin layer is about more than warding off loneliness.I've always hung out with guys as much as women, so it never occurred to me that spending my career in mostly-male places could be a problem.

But when you're the only one of your kind in the room, there are no standard expectations - no one knows what they want from you. I got advice on all the many things I shouldn't be. "Young women should not be funny" - when I tried to ape (perhaps poorly) witty male superiors. "Try to be less squeaky and talk slower," was my colleague's brotherly prompt as we walked into client meetings. "Cut the 'professor' voice," said a favorite guy friend, when I carried on about topics I knew well. All good feedback. But how to be is hard to navigate when you're stuck zig-zagging between male and female norms.

As one of two women at an off-site, I watched my only female peer present to the group. Her approach to striking the right tone was to remove all affect from her voice. Predictably, no one listened. I got up to speak next but had forgotten to breathe. My fear of being a female flop rose so high I almost fell over. I clung to podium, painfully plodding, and jokeless. I've since learned to find the humor in these moments - and now know others share my sweaty palms.

Researching Getting to 50/50,
we found this issue has been well-studied. Columbia professor Claude Steele recently conducted a study showing that even female engineers (no strangers to being outnumbered by men), have higher heart rates, temperature and distraction when they are less than 25% of the room. Make the room gender-neutral and group results improve - women perform well and men perform no worse.

This isn't an argument for quotas in engineering or anywhere else. It is simply to point out that some environments will enhance our chances of success while others won't. Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, a creator of the Implicit Association Test, offers even more usable advice. If you can't fix your workplace, if you can't recruit your way to a more gender-neutral team, find other ways to surround yourself with evidence that you are not alone. To escape the cultural swamp, the one in our minds, Banaji puts famous women scientists on her screen saver and fills her office with reminders that human greatness is not bounded by sex or color.

Now, it's at that pinnacle - big power, money or fame - where women need a third shielding layer, like chainmail. What do I have in mind? How about Sarah Palin. I agree with Palin on very little, but her raw ambition makes me smile. As does her ability to walk right through flack - untouched by bi-partisan detractors and inconvenient facts. Let's get that super-strength body armor on the many talented women who lack it.

Jane, a neurosurgeon, was an expert in her field and held a big position at a major teaching hospital. She got pregnant at 40. Her male colleagues thought she'd lost her mind - that child creation and brain surgery didn't mix. She took six weeks off to recover from the birth and returned to the hospital game to resume her full schedule. But her boss had a different plan. "Your colleagues had extra work while you were out, you need to pay them back. I'm doubling your call schedule until that happens." You could see his point - her peers needed a break and she had caused the problem. But was this the optimal approach? With a six-week-old baby, feeling betrayed at work, Jane quit. What if she'd had Sarah's skin? She might have done a Mama Grizzly, bear hugged her boss and assured him she'd pay the time back - in a year, when she could see straight.

Women don't need a child to need the chainmail layer, just a man-sized set of dreams. The dean at a major professional school said, "It awes me how the knives come out. When a woman here is poised to beat out a male peer for a big job, some men will say things that just aren't true, it makes them uncomfortable that a woman could win."

Who wants to believe this? I don't. But then you start to see little things that say it might still be so. In liberal northern California, I watched my son's soccer game, in a league divided by age and gender. One parent said, "hey, wouldn't it be fun to have the boys play the girls?" Another replied, "yeah, but look at the girls, they're more focused - they'll clobber these guys. And some dads just won't deal well if their sons loose to girls." (Check out data collected by the National Science Foundation on the resistance we still have to seeing women as winners.)

What's the cure? Keep at it - think Gandhi for gals. A small man with a very thick skin moved minds (re-moved an empire) by helping people like him stand up for themselves, in the right way - again, and again, and again.

Leadership expert Jean Kahwajy tells women to "assume people are doing the best that they can." The trick Kahwajy says is learning to "receive," to hear what you don't want to hear and react in a positive way. So you have the energy to stand up for yourself - and for others.

"The senior guys I work for didn't want to promote Lynn to run a simple, local business," said a female executive who'd built her career (and sturdy shell) working at a big company. "They said Lynn didn't have enough experience to be in charge. But, weeks before, they'd made a man named Jack the leader of a complex, global business that he knew nothing about. So I said, 'Hmm, I'm trying to follow the logic here. Is it just that Jack is much smarter than Lynn?' The guys stopped, laughed, and gave Lynn her promotion."

With a strong hull, you feel safe to act on Gandhi's maxim: "An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hand a Congressman a Baby! --The Washington Post

In my early banking career, I oscillated between all-nighters and cross-country red-eyes. Not fun. But I enjoyed the delusion that these rookie years were the worst of it, that I was building life-long skills and endurance to face any test ahead. Then came kids.

Sensing my pre-child naivete, a few kind souls tried to open my eyes: "You won't have time to take a shower," said a friend who'd dodged bullets as a reporter and finished medical school with two infants. "Very tired, all the time, for years," my dad recalled, about starting out as a parent -- worrisome coming from a guy who'd survived foster care and World War II.

Still, I clung to that belief that it couldn't be that bad. Until a few months into working parenthood. Then, driving the highway to work one morning, exhausted after a string of bad nights, I had a weird cop fantasy: I imagined that a kindly patrolman pulled me over to give me a ticket - and an order: "Park your car, ma'am. Take a nap."

Last week, Vice President Biden's Middle Class Task Force reframed the problems of working parents "not as women's issues" but as "issues of middle class economic security." Great start.

Biden and Attorney General Holder vowed to collect better data on the working parent pay gap and better educate the public about laws to protect workers with kid duties. But can policy alone do the trick?

Only 25% of families have a parent taking care of things at home full-time. Why aren't the rest of us - the 75% of us responsible for both jobs and kids -- getting things fixed faster? Half the workforce is female. And eight-in-ten women become mothers. So primary care for children impacts at least 40% of workers at some point in their lives - and the majority if we acknowledge that many men are primary parents too.

My hunch is this: Compelling demographics aren't moving enough of us to action because we are flummoxed: Why and how should working parents change the workplace? Standing in the way of finding even basic solutions -- think paid leave, daycare, child sick days -- are a set of hazardous thoughts, sometimes unspoken, often emotional, that are hard to resist. I've fallen prey to at least three myself:

1.The underestimation: "Babies can't be that hard" (afflicting non- and pre-parents).

2.The overestimation: "Babies are infinitely hard," (suffered by new parents in the manic early years).

3.The exasperation: "A baby? Now?" (the look in the eyes of many bosses and co-workers, saying that having a baby is not convenient - ever).

First, it would help if we accurately talked about what it takes to bring new people into the world. While our children are a source of unspeakable joy, the process of raising them is not. "I'm so glad you'll have time to relax and bond with your baby," a non-parent said to me before my first maternity leave - the grittiness of 12-hours of daily breastfeeding and other post-partum charms invisible to both of us then.

Now we know: babies are just a wild amount of work, from the hurricane of infancy to croup and ear infections to pre-verbal tests of will and whining. After our first child recovered from hand-foot-and-mouth disease (which covered him in tiny painful blisters, making eating impossible and crying endless), my husband asked me: "Do you think the stork could deliver babies at age two?"

Second, let's admit inaccuracy can swing in the other direction -- that we parents can get a little nutty in the name of protecting our kids As a 20-something, I raised my eyebrows at overly fussy parents and vowed I'd be much more easy-going. Hah.

When a nurse hands you an infant and it's clear that you are actually responsible for another life, you find yourself succumbing to all sorts of scary ideas. There are plenty of bona fide threats to children, but the intensity of early parenthood can make it hard to draw the line between prudence and paranoia. I imagined an invisible army of microbes perpetually menacing my baby; I double sterilized bottles and used Purell in ways its makers never intended. My husband obsessed over SIDS, despite baby bumpers and doctor's assurances. He would get up at night to make sure our kids were still breathing.

As individuals, working parents can do a lot to help themselves - talking early and often about what's needed (and not) to raise the next generation. It's the third kind of hazardous thought - the workplace impulse to see kids as irksome - that Mr. Biden can help with most.

It's tough for me to confess, but the first time I saw a pregnant peer where I worked, the only words that came to mind were: "Why is she having a baby?" Child creation just didn't seem in the spirit of a hard-charging workplace.

Sadly, my sentiment then remains in the workplace today. Writing our book, Getting to 50/50, we learned how this view (that being a primary parent is incompatible with serious work) plays out in many venues today - including board rooms.

"What is she thinking?" a board member asked in a meeting a few years ago when he heard that a founder of the soon-to-be-public company was going on maternity leave. "She's thinking that she's 39," responded the only woman the room.

The board wrangled over whether the decision to reproduce meant the founder would be less focused on her job. Anticipating the worst, the board decided to re-allocate some of her pay to other executives - who weren't under suspicion for losing their edge to kids.

Research by Stanford professor Shelley Correll shows how all of us (men and women) list toward the belief that motherhood (aka primary parenthood) permanently drains commitment and competence from talented women. When a father of small kids is late or looks dazed in a meeting, we're more willing to assume it's an aberration, a passing phase, and he'll snap back to top form because he values his job. We give him the benefit of the doubt. Do we give women the same?

Biden's task force can do a lot to address the woeful miseducation of many people at the top. While only the minority of families have a parent at home, the majority of people who make the rules and set the tone at work come from these households.

In fact, the a Council on Contemporary Families paper recently pointed out that the mismatch between family cultures of . executives and the rest of the workforce is the largest blocker of sensible workplace policy.

Leaders with spouses at home need to stop assuming that this is normal - or necessarily desirable. Research shows that kids do at least as well when both parents work. Executives should also read the growing pool of business school research that further upends traditional thought: It says we get statistically higher results if we tell everyone (not just parents) to go home for dinner. That replacing 24/7 machismo with time out of the office yields better teamwork, better thinking and better output, according to the Harvard Business Review).

After spending a weekend with his kids alone, one male executive told me, "If every man in Congress had to do this, we'd have some very different laws." So let's give Mr. Biden a hand and do our part advancing the ball.

The next time a politician kisses a baby, let's tell him to hang on to the tyke for the weekend. And let's think of everyone we know who somehow missed the course in mano-a-mano kid management - our dads, brothers, uncles, buddies - and get them a multi-day childcare gig (solo flight, no helping hands allowed). Education can do a lot to turn dangerous thoughts into useful ones - and nothing teaches faster than a little baby bootcamp.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Perfectly Imbalanced

Three years ago, I was sitting at a Ladies Who Launch event, enjoying a rare day away from my just-turned one year old son. I was considering launching my business, and I wanted to see how these other women were doing it. I attended to be inspired, motivated and guided, but reflectively, I was also using the event as a reality check: do women really do this? Do they actually have babies AND have a full-time career? Are they happy? Do any of them obtain that much sought-after state of BALANCE?

And then, much to my delight, their keynote, Geraldine Laybourne, the creator of Nickelodeon and Oxygen Media, spoke these words:

"People often ask me how I stay balanced and I answer, 'I don't! I'm perfectly imbalanced!'" She went on to talk about how there are days or even weeks where it's all work. Then there are days or weekends that are all family. She said it's always 100% no matter what she's working on, so it's often "imbalanced" but that it's perfect for her, and it's how she's chosen to live her life. She doesn't not strive for a "balance" - she feels that's an impossible quest and you will just make yourself unhappy trying to do it.

Perfectly Imbalanced. This phrase was both freeing and scary to me. Freeing because I could actually see a path of happiness that didn't necessarily involve being a superwoman. Scary because it meant letting go of a mental model of perfection I'd created - some things might actually slip or be neglected while I was focusing on others. Was that really okay?

Three years later, I realize that the concept of "Perfectly Imbalanced" is actually a survival technique as well as a way of viewing life. When I'm having one of those days where I feel like work is getting neglected because of my kids, or my family is getting neglected because of work, I use the phrase as a mantra to keep me going..."I am perfectly imbalanced. It's all meant to be, and it's perfect."

The phrase also applies to what we are supporting in
Getting to 50/50. Many people, upon hearing the title, assume it's about splitting it down the middle - perfectly balancing work and home responsibilities between husband and wife. But 9.9/10, you are not splitting 50/50, but striking a perfect imbalance that considers everyone's short and long-term needs, and works for your unique situation.

Letting go of the notion of "balance", and ceasing all effort to obtain it, has allowed me to enjoy my perfectly imbalanced life of ever-shifting priorities. I see my days as a series of decisions that dictate how I am going to spend my time, vs. a prescription for the "right balance" of activities that ultimately never gets met. Viewing my life through this lens allows me to have a longer term view of my life that can be co-created with my husband - it's not about being perfectly balanced every day, but about being able to look back at my life and see that I was able to give proper focus when needed to the right things - sometimes that's family, sometimes it's career, and sometimes it's just me. And that yes, letting things slip can actually be the fastest path to happiness.

Rebecca Rodskog is a Change Management Coach and Consultant, an Actress, Speaker and Writer. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Washington Post Column: Maternal wall or mental gap?

In my late twenties, I asked my boyfriend how he thought having a family might work. Our standard weekday ended with dinner at 9pm, after 12+ hours at the office.

"I know just how it will work," my boyfriend gamely replied. He grabbed a pad and sketched out our future. He drew stick figures of himself, me and two hypothetical children. In the center of his diagram, he penciled in Mary, our housekeeper, who came in a few hours a week to save us from dust bunnies. "We'll do just what we do now," my boyfriend told me, "and Mary will take care of us." I laughed. I was no expert on running a family, but I had a feeling it was going to take more effort.

To keep reading our Washington Post "On Leadership" column, click here

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Speaking of Freedom...Do We Want it All?

After July 4th, I was doing some thinking about freedom. I am filled with gratitude and awe when I think about what was sacrificed to allow me to be sitting here at Starbucks, wearing what I want to wear, writing what I want to write, with no fear of consequence (except maybe an angry reader).

But along with that gratitude, I also feel overwhelmed. I have many, in fact, that it's not exactly clear what do to next.   I actually feel guilty sometimes if I think I am not constantly maximizing the opportunities that have been presented to me. And sometimes, dare I say, I wish I didn't have so many choices.

Now, before that comment annoys you, let's talk a bit about psychology. In his Ted Talk
, Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

He claims "with so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all." And, "even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from." The imagined alternative reduces the satisfaction we have with the option we chose.

Wow. He couldn't have said it better. I have chosen to start my own business, working from home so I can be with my kids when I want to and set my own schedule.

But sometimes I think, gosh, would I be happier if I had chosen... be a stay at home mom and not have to worry about the business... work part-time at a company where I can leave my work at work... work full-time at a company so I can be told what's expected of me... have stayed where I was before where I would surely be a Partner by now...
...or really just about any other option that has been placed before me?

And to make it worse, we women don't do a really good job of supporting each others' choices, do we? It's almost as if to validate our own choices we have to believe that the choices others make that are different than ours are bad.

My husband's stepmother is in town. She made a comment the other day that she had been observing young women in the city, and she felt a bit sorry for them. They seemed so...busy. And I thought, yes, we ARE busy, but isn't that what we wanted?

I would never want to live in a society where my choices are made for me. I am eternally grateful and recognize how lucky I am to be able to be doing what I am now. But, the management of the choices can be exhausting, and I believe we need to see it for what it is - too many available choices can lead to dissatisfaction in the choices we've made.

We need to stop worrying about the choices we could have made, enjoy and celebrate the ones we have made – while being equally happy for our friends who make decisions different from our own. 

Let freedom ring!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Today Show's Chatzky: Earning Power Shifts the Status Quo

Today, says the Shriver Report, a 2009 study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, only one of five families with children at home have dads who work and moms who stay home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25.9% of wives in 2007 were earning more than their husbands in households where both spouses work. That's up from 17.8% two decades ago. Since December 2007, men have accounted for three-quarters of all job losses.

When earning more money shifts the status quo at home, learning new ways to cope with the money/gender gap can help.

To continue reading Chatzky's take on Getting to 50/50, click

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What to wear to work? How much freedom do we really have - check out our new Washington Post "On Leadership" column

"Vanilla. Wear nothing that makes anyone think twice." That was the advice a successful man gave me as I started my career.

I bristled at this idea but grudgingly tried to apply it. Like many young women, I was happy to be free of male fashion constraints (white shirt, dark suit) and man-on-man abuse for non-conformity ("Lavender-striped tie? Where'd you get that, your mother?").

But sartorial liberty has its risks. How polished should a woman look to convey competence? The standards vary widely. In the military, male commanders sport form-fitting outfits but female generals seem to tailor their uniforms only in the movies. What about open-toed shoes? Ruffles? Bold jewelry? Necklines? The choices - and perils - are boundless.

For the full article, please go to:
On Leadership

Monday, June 14, 2010

NYTimes: Women and Technology and Myth

Immigrant Model for Women: What we can learn from Indian entrepreneurs.

An interesting article by Adriana Gardella.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NYTimes: In Sweden, the Men Can Have It All

From The New York Times: The Female Factor

For nearly four decades, governments of all political hues in Sweden have legislated to give women equal rights at work — and men equal rights at home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Surprise! I want to work!

A recent article on The Bump highlighted the 10 Biggest New Mom Surprises (and How to Deal). Amidst noisy poop and bad breastfeeding experiences they mentioned this nugget: "Going back to work is hard."

This is one of the top 10 surprises? Really? I have not yet met a single mom who is thinking about going back to work who hasn't thought the transition back will be hard. What surprised me? How much I WANTED to go back to work, even though I KNEW it was going to be hard.

I love The Bump - as much as I loved The Knot when I got married and The Nest when we were settling in to our new life as a married couple. I love their witty banter and the way they create community without being forceful. I had coffee a few months back with Carley Roney who co-founded the knot with her husband. She's an amazing mother, wife and business owner. She LIVES the 50/50 model. I am pretty sure that she expected going back to work post-baby would be hard. And I'm pretty sure she still didn't skip a beat when the time came to start working again.

We are all very willing to talk about how hard it is
to leave our babies, but every time I mentioned how much a I wanted to go back to work, how hard it was for me to NOT be working, the conversation would get a little uncomfortable. "Won't you miss them?" "Do you have to?" Yes, I had to to go back to work. For ME.

But even though I was unwavering in my desire to start working again, I couldn't help feeling a bit guilty. I found myself hiding the fact that I just plain liked working because I was getting the impression that meant I was a bad mother. I knew in my heart of hearts that if I was a happy, engaged member of society, a contributing member to our family's income, and someone who was having an impact outside of our nuclear family, that I would be a better mother to my son. But I didn't feel like arguing that point with other mothers at the playground. I sadly perpetuated the conversation and let them believe that I needed to go back to work, or that I was only doing it to "keep busy" or "keep my toe in". I didn't tell them that financially we would survive without my income, or of my plans to build a large consulting company, or for world domination for that matter.

I am so grateful to have a husband who values my career - who understands that for me to be happy, I need to be engaged in a professional manner, creating something beyond me and my family. I am also grateful that he believes, as I do, that a mother isn't (and shouldn't be) the only person who can take care of my children.

It did not surprise me that going back to work was hard to manage or that I missed my baby when I was working. But I was surprised and delighted that my values became crystal clear once my first baby was born. No longer was it okay to just have a "job". If it was going to take me away from my babies, it had better be pretty darn meaningful work. Being a mother made me a better judge of how I was applying my skills, and how I was spending my time each day - allowing me the clarity to carefully engage in only those things that mattered. And one of those things that floated to the top of my list was, not surprisingly, my career. Rebecca Rodskog is a Change Management Coach and Consultant, an Actress, Speaker and Writer. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

By Rebecca Rodskog

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?

This week on KZSU’s talk show—“What Would Your Mother Say” a show that talks candidly about campus life at Stanford with young adults and mothers – we talked to two different authors (former Stanford grads) with conflicting opinions on how to pick your life partner.

Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him, The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, explained to the panel that women need to get real about finding Mr. Right. Women have unrealistic expectations of their perfect partner and these crazy idealizations (i.e. over 5’10’’ but under 6’0’’ with a head of wavy but not curly hair) often keep many great guys out of the gate from the get-go.

“Deal-breakers” and lists of what their dream guy should be like should be dumped—not the guy. Heck, as Gottlieb so kindly points out, “(we all become) Older, Overweight, and Bald anyways”. What we should do, Gottlieb recommends, is broaden our perspective and start looking for men with important qualities and similar shared values.

Conversely, Amalia McGibbon co-author of The Choice Effect: Love and Commitment in an Age of Too Many Options took a more circuitous approach to picking one’s partner—embracing the endless pool of choices. McGibbon noted the modern phenomenon that in this day in age, women have infinite possibilities as to how their life and life partner could be—“the world is our oyster”.

This choice effect has allowed women to “sidestep traditional time lines”, which McGibbon argued is not a bad thing. In fact, McGibbon commented, women should not feel like “ticking bombs” but rather should enjoy the wide array of choices that earlier generations of women did not have the pleasure of doing.

While it is fun to romanticize about finding Mr. Right and wonder if there are more than one Mr. Right’s out there, when does this analysis become paralysis? When do you wake and realize your lack of ability to decide--was in fact a decision?

Do we meet Mr. Right by:
a) Dumping our former dating criterion, making a new one and settling for Mr. Good Enough
b) Exercising our right to choose, explore and second guess our dating life because
we can in this day in age?

My view—a combination of A & B (sorry not on the menu)--these options should not be mutually exclusive. Doing a little homework and reflecting on what you and your ideal partner’s values and key qualities should share is the first step (hopefully this is where you dump the romantic comedy movie requirements).

Once this is done, absolutely take the time to “Shop till you drop” as we ladies know how to do so well. Enjoy the process with no sense of urgency. The best consumer is one with a lot of options!

By Mary Liz McCurdy

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fast Women, Fast Friends

“Yes we can” was Obama’s great rallying cry – what happens when we girlfriends adopt it as our own? Marathoners Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher just reminded me. The New York Times tells how Goucher went to Radcliffe for advice – how to compete at the top while pregnant. Since Radcliffe herself was pregnant (2nd child), she had both tips and camaraderie to offer.

In contrast, this weekend I watched Tooth Fairy, the movie about a proud hockey player who’s lost confidence in himself and throws cold water on the dreams of others. I thought of an otherwise kind women who looked a me when I was returning to work after having my first child. “Yeah, I tried to go back full-time too. It just doesn’t work – you’ll learn!” she told me. I know she meant well – she wanted to save me the sadness she’d felt when things didn’t play out the way she wanted. That exchange made me realized how hard it is sometimes to put aside disappointments and cheer our friends on to succeed – especially about things that have been rough for us.

Gretchen Rubin, in her great book The Happiness Project has a fix: To remember that, more than any other kind of gift, what our friends need is food for their dreams -- encouragement and faith to help them surmount the odds. This rang true to me. While we women are great at comforting each other when life is hard, as a group, we are less prone to say, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" So when female friends remind me to keep my sights high, that indeed is something of rare value.

After I’ve done my moping about whatever it may be, the kindest friend is the one who puts her arm around me and says: “Yup, it’s tough. So are you going to give up? Or pick up your chin and get back in there.”
If we want more girl power, we need to give and receive the kind of candid gifts that allow women to reach for the gold.

Time’s “New Sheriffs of Wall Street” cover this week shows what good things happen when females despite adversity, muscle through – the heads of the SEC, FDIC and TAARP are are three amazing women. They know what I try to remember: Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

By Sharon Meers

Monday, May 17, 2010

Harvard Toolkit for Closing the Pay Gap

Great piece in the New York Times
about Hannah Riley Bowles and her research -- showing how women close their own pay gap when they’ve got the scoop on pay scales and perceptions.

Excerpt: Even now, when women represent half the work force, they’re still paid considerably less than men — and part of that pay gap may be a result of what happens at the salary negotiation table.

That’s assuming that women make it to the table, since research shows that they are less likely to ask for raises. Even when they do, their requests may be perceived as overly demanding or less agreeable.

“We have found that if a man and a woman both attempt to negotiate for higher pay, people find a woman who does this, compared to one who does not, significantly less attractive,” said Hannah Riley Bowles, an associate professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who has conducted numerous studies on gender, negotiation and leadership. “Whereas with the guy, it doesn’t seem to matter.”

So what’s a woman to do if she feels her work merits a raise?

A new study concludes that women need to take a different approach than men. Women, it suggests, should frame their requests in more nuanced ways to avoid undermining their relationship with their boss.

To see more research based suggestions on women can negotiate their way to close the pay gap - read full article in the New York Times.

By Sharon Meers