Caution: Daylight Savings Time!

This weekend, 70 countries will “spring forward” their clocks, and the people in those countries will lose an hour of precious sleep.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver did a great segment about Daylight Savings, check it out below.  One thing I wanted to highlight (mentioned in the video), is that research has repeatedly shown that there are increased car accidents and workplace injuries following the springtime adjustment to our clocks.  So please be careful next week – drive with extra caution, and be extra careful at work!  And in case you’re wondering, this increase in accidents in the spring, is not balanced by a reduction in the fall – when we gain an hour,  there is no change in accidents and injuries.  Hopefully this random routine we all endure will be put to an end someday, but until then, stay safe friends!

A Woman’s Place is in the Corner Office

Earlier this week, HBR released a report which detailed work on the effect of female leadership at the upper echelons of organizations (read it here). In short: Organizations with greater female representation in the C-Suite and on their Boards had better profits.
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These types of findings have been found before, and it’s great that a source like Harvard is now also championing it.

The authors of the report were unable to answer the question why having more women produced these results. They surmise that it could be the product of diversity (which definitely is linked to better firm performance), or a role-modeling/cultural openness effect. You can read more about those in the article.

For me, being a leadership expert, my thoughts immediately went to research that shows that women are better leaders. A researcher named Alice Eagly has completed a number of meta-analyses on the topic of leadership. A meta-analysis takes dozens of other research findings and summarizes and puts them through further statistical rigor, so results are in many ways more reliable than a single research study. In one such meta-analysis, Eagly looked at the gender differences in leadership styles (paper here). She found that women were more likely to be transformational leaders, and use another style called continent reward (this involves setting goals paired with clear rewards for achieving them and penalties for not). Both of these styles are positively associated with individual, team, and organizational performance. Men were more likely to engage in negative behaviors akin to micromanaging, looking for and penalizing errors, or just not caring about employees. Needless to say, these behaviors are negatively associated with performance (and a slew of other employee well-being factors).

So having women break through the glass ceiling is good for firm performance, and having women at all levels of your organization is good for everybody.

One final note: the positive leadership behaviors can be developed through training – more about that in a future post 😉
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Burn, Baby, Burn!

Now may be about the time that many new year resolutions are starting to wane. Maybe you’re not seeing results, maybe you have lost your purpose, and motivation.  In which case, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Or, maybe you’re killing it, in which case, nice work!  Either way, today I want to give you a bit of motivation, in the form of knowledge!

Specifically, I want to talk about exercise.  Of course there are many reasons why exercise is good for your health.  Everyone knows that.  BUT, exercise can also be good for your career!  Below I’m going to mention a few studies that show the effects of exercise on work – and all you have to do to take advantage of these benefits is to keep fit and have fun.

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1. Exercise Makes You a Better Leader (link)

  • So technically, research shows that exercise makes you less of a bad leader: Researchers found that exercise was linked with a decreased likelihood that a leader would engage in what is called abusive supervision – an abusive supervisor is one who demeans, belittles, verbally harasses… basically everything negative but physical aggressions.  The authors found that workplace stress increased abusive supervision, but when leaders also exercised, the effects of stress were cancelled out.  In this study, exercise was measured by the number of hours per week a leader exercised – it didn’t capture the type of exercise, just that it was being done.

2. Exercise Buffers the Negative Effect of Workplace Stress on Your Health

  • In some of my own (currently unpublished) research using a national longitudinal sample, my colleagues and I found that over the course of 10 years, there was a negative relationship between workplace stress and overall health (e.g., sickness, disease, mental health).  This finding isn’t new, but what we also found that when a person exercised, like in the first article, the negative effect wasn’t as strong.  Exercise weakened the negative effects of stress on our health.  Exercise was measured by the energy expenditure of exercise – very similar to the duration calculation in the first study, but also incorporating some measure of vigour.
  • Another study showed similar findings for the effects of exercise on the relationship between depression and work burnout (here).

3. Exercise, in the form of Yoga, Reduces Aggression & Counterproductive Workplace Behaviors (link)

  • Research from India shows that the practice of yoga translates to positive outcomes in the workplace.  In an experimental study (where some people were in a “yoga” group, and others were not – i.e., a “control” group), it was shown that those in the yoga group were less aggressive, and performed fewer counterproductive workplace behaviors (a counterproductive work behavior is an umbrella term for any behaviour that interferes with the achievement of an organization’s goals, for example, stealing, interpersonal conflict, or bullying).

So if exercising for your health wasn’t enough motivation, maybe knowing that exercise can improve your functioning at work, and your interpersonal relationships with your co-workers, will.  Take it a step further, and encourage your employees to exercise, create a challenge with your team to stick to an exercise plan, or have your company bring in a yoga instructor.  These are relatively cheap solutions that could have a major impact on you, your employees, and your organization.

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Smile, Sweetie.

I’ve been thinking about the act of smiling lately, probably because I watched Elf multiple times over the holidays, and as Buddy says, “Smiling’s my favorite!”.  The other reason I’ve been thinking about it is because what used to be a simple facial expression, as it turns out, is a far more complex topic than you might think.

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THE GOOD
First, the good.  Of course, there are many reasons why smiling should be your favourite.  In the workplace, smiling is related to:

  • being perceived as a better leader (more)
  • better job performance ratings (more)
  • higher pay (more)
  • a better chance of success in job interviews (more)

In general, smiling is also associated with:

  • better social relationships (more)
  • lowered stress and stress responses, like heart rate (more)
  • higher later life satisfaction (more)
  • longer lives (more)

Even more amazing, researchers have shown that there is a reciprocal relationship between smiling and positive emotions; not only do positive emotions trigger a smile, but the simple act of smiling (even if you’re not feeling it), can cause positive emotions and outcomes.  So if you’re ever feeling down, stressed, or angry, forcing yourself to smile is a great first step in getting yourself in a better mood (if you can’t force it, try repeating the letter “e” to yourself!) (more here and here).

THE BAD
So how on earth, you might ask, can smiling be bad?  Well, maybe when some random man on the street shouts at you to do it?  This is an unfortunately common experience of many women, one that inspired Tatyana Fazlalizadeh to start an art movement.

Research shows that people expect women to smile more.  When those expectations aren’t met, many people will attempt to correct this social deviation.  Asking an unsmiling women “are you okay?”, is one way this happens.  And of course, street harassers more blatantly point it out, making women feel victimized, unsafe, and violated.

But those who do smile also run into problems!  Everyday Feminism did an excellent job describing the frustrations experienced by women who do smile, including harassment, or mistaken flirtation (story of my life, I’m just friendly!).  These problems are exacerbated for female employees in the service industry (e.g., restaurants, hotels), who may receive unwanted attention daily because of a job requirement to smile (more).  In these instances, the positive benefits of smiling described earlier, may be outweighed by the negative repercussions of harassment.

In Conclusion

So, we simply want to remove the negative effects created by society’s social expectations for women to smile, and then encourage everyone to smile for the sake of their success and health. Simple.

Of course not, but the awareness created by groups like Everyday Feminism are certainly helping, and you can help by spreading that awareness.  Also, try to ignore street harassers, with headphones, or your phone.  If you are a man, never tell someone what to do with their face, never assume a smile means more than a social nicety, and if you see “smile harassment”, call out the inappropriateness and social undesirability of the behaviour.

And then maybe let only one man, Nat King Cole, tell you to smile 😉

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!