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Who believes women should sob their way to the top?

2 Jun
womaneer crying at work

Does crying at work make you more authentic? (pic: istockphoto.com/Chepko)

Lesson one of getting ahead at work, I’ve always believed, is to leave your personal life outside on the pavement and let a professional persona enter the workplace and lead the day. Never once have I believed that I should fall victim to my emotions and blub my heart out when things get too much for me.

That’s why I admit to feeling shocked when I read about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a speech to Harvard Business School graduates telling women that it was OK to cry at work. What? Wear my heart on your sleeve? Let a career-limiting tear cascade down my managerial cheek? Won’t people think I’m hormonal, incompetent or out of control?

What Ms Sandberg said was this: “I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.”

What are the different perspectives on this? Continue reading

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Sexual rivalry at work makes women more jealous than men

5 May

Women get jealous at work if their rival is more attractive and powerful than they are, according to a study of ‘intrasexual competition’ – but the green-eyed monster doesn’t affect men at all if they find themselves competing with other men.

A tongue-in-cheek view of sexual rivalry at work. (istockphoto.com/JanMika)

Researchers from universities in Valencia, Spain, Groningen, Netherlands, and Palermo, Argentina, studied the sex differences in jealousy and envy in the workplace, and published their findings in the Revista de Psicología Sociai.

Study co-author Rosario Zurriaga, from the University of Valencia, said: “Women with a high level of intra-sexual competition are more jealous if the rival is more attractive, and more envious if the rival is more powerful and dominating. [We] did not get any results in men, as no rival characteristics that provoke jealousy or envy predicted intrasexual competition.”

Here, jealousy is defined as fear of losing what you have, and someone taking something treasured away from you (hence the feelings of jealousy for someone deemed attractive) – and envy is defined as feeling ‘less than’ someone who has the power and qualities you would like yourself (hence envy for women with more power and status).

Zurriaga added: “Our research intends to clarify the role of emotions like envy and jealousy at work. These feelings have not been studied in working contexts and can cause stress in workers and negatively affect the quality of working life.” The report recommends that to prevent these negative effects, women should not compare themselves with others at work, and look at why they feel threatened about losing something.

Are women their own worst enemies in business?

9 Mar

Women's competitive nature is turned on others as well as themselves (pic credit: istockphoto.com/Maridav)

Forget the sisterhood. Women are in it for themselves – and will clamber over female colleagues to get to the top. Women will also push themselves much harder than men because they feel they need to be at their desks to prove they’re working hard.

At least, that’s according to a survey from Business Environment, which shows that even with the rhetoric of International Women’s Day and the support for women’s social, economic and professional achievements worldwide, when it comes down to a local, everyday level, women can be their own worst enemies.

The research says that women are highly critical of their female colleagues, with nearly three quarters (72%) judging their co-workers on inappropriate dress – compared with just 60% of men. A quarter would also be reluctant to hire a woman with children or of child-bearing age.

The findings suggest that women have more respect for male business role models, with a quarter (28%) saying they aspire to Richard Branson’s management style, compared with 12% for Karren Brady’s.

However, women feel they have to work harder than men, and are guilty of Continue reading

Top 50 Companies for Executive Women report shows popularity of career counselling

1 Mar

US organisation the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) has issued its Top 50 Companies for Executive Women 2012.

The report shows that the NAFE Top 50 continue to outpace the Fortune 500 on representation of women at executive level: 22% versus 14%.

However, what I find the most interesting finding in this survey is the extent to which career counselling helps women progress their careers. While each NAFE Top Company offers management or leadership training to female employees, the advancement programme that women engage with most is career counselling – 38% of women take advantage of it when it is offered, compared with 11% that use sponsorship programmes and 19% mentoring programmes. The percentage of women having career counselling almost doubled in the past year.

What also sets NAFE companies apart, I note, is that all managers are trained on work/life balance issues and implementing flexible working arrangements.

Working mothers are happier than stay-at-home mums – but earn less than childless women

17 Feb

Working mothers are happier than stay-at-home mums (pic credit: istockphoto.com)

Working mothers are happier than mums who stay at home, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. But going back to work after having children comes at a price, with research from the University of New Mexico revealing that mothers earn up to 14% less than their childless female colleagues.

The study Mothers’ Part-Time Employment: Associations With Mother and Family Well-Beingby Cheryl Buehler and Marion O’Brien from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, found that “mothers employed part time had fewer depressive symptoms during the infancy and pre-school years and better self-reported health at most time points than did non-employed mothers”. In other words, a healthy balance of work and family life makes mothers feel happier.

This excellent article from The Conversation, Work Keeps Mums Happy and Children Well-Adjusted, provides a balanced and insightful commentary on how mothers who work are more fulfilled – and counters the old-fashioned arguments that children of working mothers are somehow deprived. Drawing on John Bowlby’s attachment theory, it explains that children enjoy spending quality time with their parents, and feel happy and confident to explore the world and discover themselves as long as there is a ‘secure base’ to return to.

However, the downside of mothers going back to work is that Continue reading

Women are ‘better leaders in recession’

11 Jan

The female tendency to take fewer risks makes women stronger leaders during tough economic conditions, according to research by occupational psychologists Geoff Trickey and So Yi Yeung.

The study of 2000 workers in 20 occupations found that men are twice as likely to take risks, and women are twice as likely to be careful. The findings suggested that risk-taking was a “distinctive feature” of gender, and could help explain the difference in leadership styles between men and women. The more cautious approach taken by women is therefore more effective during recession, said the researchers.

These different approaches to risk stem from the evolution of the species and the need to survive, but in the modern workplace this translates into having a balance of the adventurous and carefree with the wary and prudent – regardless of their gender.  Trickey added: “Risk taking is necessary and desirable, but we need to reinstate the balance that ensured the survival of our ancestors. Whether this is best done by gender selection manipulation is arguable, but the aim should be to achieve a balance of risk types.”

Do career women have to power dress to be taken seriously?

10 Jan

It was inevitable with the release of the Iron Lady movie, about the life of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, that we would revisit the impact she has had on women over the years. Cue discussions about power dressing and the role of women in male-dominated environments.

Apparently it is some of her presentation choices – to deepen her voice and lower her hemlines – that women emulate when they want to be taken more seriously in the workplace. A survey from Business Environment says that 59% of London women have dressed more powerfully – ie with longer skirts and less cleavage on show – to get ahead in their careers. They will also lower their voice and yet wear more make-up

I’ve always dressed on the basis that the more flesh you show, the less you’ll be taken seriously in the workplace, and the more attention you bring to yourself for the wrong reasons. In fact, the survey says that dressing inappropriately is the most common reason among two-thirds of respondents for judging and disparaging a colleague.

However much modern women may emulate Thatcher’s sartorial choices, I doubt very much they will want to copy her management style, which was renowned for its rigidity. For a great view on this, read an article in Management Today, which questions whether women really want to be like Margaret Thatcher. I suspect the answer is no.

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