To Talk or Not to Talk

Hillary-Clinton

In honour of birthday-girl Hillary Clinton, I thought I’d write a post about gender bias and politics.  No matter your political views (and I’m Canadian so it doesn’t matter anyway), you can’t argue that Hillary is a remarkable leader.  And as a female leader, she has overcome many more obstacles than you could imagine.

One specific obstacle is explored in research by Yale professor Victoria L. Brescoll.   In her research, Dr. Brescoll examined gender differences in volubility (the amount of time an individual spends talking) in the US Senate.  It was originally thought that as a person’s status/prestige/power (whatever you want to call it) increased, so did the amount of time they spent talking.  However, Dr. Brescoll found that this relationship was only true for men.

This may seem trivial, but consider this:  People who speak more, are in turn perceived to be more powerful and more likely to be considered a leader.  And with more power, men speak more, thereby further increasing their power.  It’s a reciprocal relationship that heightens the status of men, leaving women behind.

So why don’t women with power also speak more?

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Saying Thanks

After a long weekend eating lots of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (or “Canadian Thanksgiving” as others may know it), I thought it would be appropriate to post a Thanksgiving-themed leadership tip.

“Thanks” is such a simple word.  A word that, at one syllable, literally takes less than a second to say.  But the impact of this word can be massive.  Coming from their leader, “thanks” can make employees feel appreciated, valued, and that their hard work is being recognized.  Employees who feel these things are more likely to continually perform high, are more likely to participate in extra-role activities that benefit the entire organization, and more likely to stick around a company longer.  But perhaps even more importantly, employees who receive gratitude are happier and healthier.  All for one small word.

So please, remember to show some appreciation for those who continually help you do your job 🙂

If you’re still not convinced, I’d like to quickly look at the other side – not saying thanks when it’s due.  In the field of leadership research, it was once thought that not saying thanks had no effect – of course the positive outcomes listed above wouldn’t occur, but could negative effects beyond that happen?

I’m writing about it, so obviously the answer is YES.  Not saying thanks, not giving someone recognition or praise when its due is actually a significant source of stress.  Think about it: If you had been working hard to deliver a project, to be met with no acknowledgement whatsoever, wouldn’t you be a bit peeved?  Of course.  And that’s what researchers found: A lack of feedback is a terrible thing to deal with.

Thanks (yes, that was intended) for taking the time to think about this small gesture that can truly make someone’s day.  Try it tomorrow 🙂

Further Reading:

Now.

I have been thinking about this blog for years. I purchased the domain over a year ago, and set up the bones of the blog last February. But it has taken me until now to finally write my first post. There was always something that made me say to myself “I’ll start the blog when [PhD proposal/dissertation study/best friend’s wedding/etc. etc.] is over”.

What finally got my butt in gear? Well, like Ron & Harry, I was straightened out by Hermione, of course. Emma Watson, as the UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, gave a passionate and motivating speech about gender equality. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and click here and then visit http://www.heforshe.org. Vanity Fair called the speech “game changing”, and I’d have to agree.

In her speech, Emma asks, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Touché Hermione, touché.

So here I am NOW (I realize the speech was a couple weeks ago, give me a break), finally putting fingers to keyboard, to finally realize my vision of a blog where anyone could come to learn about issues facing women in the workplace, and discover tips to make themselves and those around them better, happier employees and leaders. It’s a daunting task to make the working world an equal and happier place, so please bear with me and come back each week for a bit more.

For today, let’s start with a very quick look at the core issues relevant to this blog – leadership, women in the workplace, and feminism:

  • Leadership: There’s a misconception on what it is to “lead” and what it is to “manage”.  Many use the words interchangeably.  Not at this blog. “Leadership” is anything one person does to influence another or a group.  Anyone can be a leader.  Anyone can be a great leader.  Anyone can be a terrible leader.  I hope to show you how to avoid the terrible, and reach for the great.
  • Gender Equality: Chances are, if you’re reading this blog you’re already aware of the 70% stat that is so often thrown around – women on average make 70% of the pay that men do in the same position.  Pretty crappy, yes.  On top of this, women often face “the glass ceiling” – a difficulty in moving from middle-management to senior management positions and above in organizations.  In the US, women hold over 50% of management & professional jobs, but as the rank of those jobs increases, female representation dwindles.  Answering why these phenomena exist is difficult (the Clinton Foundation has undertaken an initiative to help out), but researchers have discovered many clues and potential solutions, which I will share here.
  • The New F-Word: Feminism.  I’m a feminist, I hope you’re a feminist, and I’m always taken aback by those who say they are not.  Thankfully, the work of many prominent individuals such as Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (to name only a few) are finally bringing the real definition of feminism to the mainstream.  There is one question you need to ask yourself to know if you’re in the company of these brilliant individuals: Do you think that men and women should have equal rights? If you answered yes, congratulations, you’re a feminist, YOU ROCK!  If you answered no, then I sincerely hope that you will read about the issues facing women around the world, think about the women who have touched your life, and reevaluate your views.

I will leave it there for today.  Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy day to read this.  Please don’t hesitate to give me a shout if you have any questions or suggestions (e-mail here), and be sure to visit my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.

In the words of the first female news anchor of the Channel 4 News, thanks for stopping by!