Taking Another Crack At The Glass Ceiling

Taking Another Crack At The Glass Ceiling

I was recently (not for the first time) in a conversation where a woman said she never again wants to work for another woman.  When I asked how many female bosses she’d had over the years, she replied: “One.”


We human beings strive for internal consistency. Leon Festinger, in his theory of cognitive dissonance, held that when a person experiences inconsistency (dissonance) the ensuing stress often motivates the individual to both reduce the dissonance and avoid any information that would increase it. 

Now, you might think that a woman would experience some dissonance were she to state that she never wants to work for another female boss.  But what if she believes that men make better bosses than women, in which case the single experience of working for a poor female boss actually helps avoid feeling dissonance?

There are lots of articles and papers about the dearth of women in top-level business and government jobs.  While discrimination does exist, part of the answer may well lie with cognitive dissonance.  To the extent that people in power believe that women are as capable as men to assume leadership, they’ll act in ways congruent with that belief.  If they doubt that women can be effective leaders -- especially in male-dominated professions -- the desire to avoid dissonance would naturally lead them to deny high-level promotions to women until and unless such doubts give way to greater confidence.

Pointing to the successful careers of one or two prominent women won’t do the trick. It hasn’t worked so far.  They can be dismissed as exceptions.  A boss once told me that we had few women in senior positions because qualified ones were exactly that – hard to find and exceptions to the rule.  It allowed him to maintain congruence between his failure to hire women leaders and his view of himself as fair minded.

For some people, having a daughter finally opens their eyes to how antiquated their beliefs are – assuming the daughter is not viewed as an exception.  It’s difficult to be proud of your daughter and have high hopes for her career if you refuse to promote women to leadership positions. 

If you work where women aren’t readily promoted, it may be time to find ways to show those who harbor doubts about female leadership that such beliefs are inconsistent with other beliefs they hold dear.  Shine the light on contradictions.  In short, use cognitive dissonance to facilitate promotions of women rather than the opposite.  That path may take some research into the belief systems of those holding women back, but it may also take another chip out of a glass ceiling that should have been a thing of the past long ago.

photo/Shutterstock.com

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

What is the rarest blood type?

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

Videos
  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Sex & Relationships

There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Quantcast