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.
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 😉

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.


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).

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 😉

Happily Ever After…?

Men & Women's Expectations vs. Reality on Child Care Responsibility

Men & Women’s Expectations vs. Reality on Women’s Child Care Responsibility. Source: HBR

The issue of gender equality in the workplace is a biggie, and one that I was waiting to tackle for now.  But I just had to share this recent article from Harvard Business Review: Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women.

The authors examined a large sample of Harvard MBA grads spanning many decades, and found an important piece to the gender gap puzzle: At-home expectations of (gender) roles play a part in explaining career achievements.

I strongly encourage you to read the whole article, as the authors can obviously do it far more justice than I could.  But if you’re too busy, here’s the takeaway: If you’re married, in a relationship, or plan to be in one at some point in your life, your partner’s expectations of your roles in the relationship matter (obviously).  If your partner holds “traditional” views (i.e. that a woman’s role is as caregiver, and a man’s as breadwinner), then your own career aspirations are likely to suffer.  On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have a partner who is truly a partner, then your work life will likely be far more satisfying.

But if you are in the former position, fear not.  For the most part, views on expected roles aren’t set in stone, and a few discussions with your boo about your values and expectations for work/family division can help get you, can make the two of you an unstoppable couple 🙂

And as inspiration, my all-time favourite TV couple, Brad & Jane.  Happy Friday!

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To Talk or Not to Talk


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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