Women in Leadership


Wise Women Rise to the Top

There’s a big difference between being smart and being wise, and also being intelligent, frankly, says futurist Edie Weiner.

Why We Need More Women on Boards

"Men don’t necessarily visualize women as being at the top. Their mental image of the leadership of their organization is often a clone of themselves," explains former IOSCO chairperson Jane Diplock.

Empowering Women Doesn't Mean Disempowering Men, with Landesa's Tim Hanstad

Throughout the developing world, "and increasingly in Africa and Asia in particular," the single largest occupation for women is agriculture. Yet although they're doing much of the work, women and girls (who make up the majority of poor people on the planet) are restricted from actually owning the land they work.


That's where Landesa comes in. Formerly the Rural Development Institute, Landesa is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the world's poor obtain land property. Tim Hanstad, Landesa's president and CEO, discusses the importance of empowering women.

The Girl Effect

Tara Sophia Mohr explains how we can empower girls to silence their inner critic.

How to Get More Women At the Table

What's the Big Idea?


The cooperative model is an alternative way of doing business that aims to share the wealth equitably among members rather than shareholders, and it's gaining traction thanks to the exemplary way many coops have weathered the turbulent global economic climate.

With assets of over $190 billion, Desjardins is the largest financial cooperative in Canada and one of the most successful in the world. Just four years ago, in 2008, in the midst of the crisis, Monique Leroux managed to get herself elected (yes, elected) as the first female CEO in the organization’s history.

Watch the video:

She believes it was the combination of speaking with conviction from her heart and head that won her the job (Romney and Obama: take note). “I made sure to come with values and convictions,” she says. “So it was not just to talk about financial objectives, but also what I wanted to achieve with the people at Desjardins Groups.” 

What's the Significance?

One of those objectives was helping raise more women to power with her. "It's quite important to have more [women] on boards," she told Big Think in a recent interview, "but a significant impact will be first to work to have more [women] in senior management positions. That's a context where the CEO has a more direct influence." And the more women who land in senior positions, the larger the talent pool you have for candidates to go on to become board members or executives. 

Leroux's strategy for bringing about change was directly and aggressively reaching out to other women herself through coaching programs and initiatives, rather than just sitting back and hoping that the situation would work itself out. Equal representations starts at the top, she says, requires a serious commitment from those in power, male or female. That means taking active steps to evolve new protocols and ways of doing things when it comes to recruitment and promotion. 

"Personally, as a Chairperson of Desjardins Group and CEO of our organization, I’m very committed to have better representation...  If you don’t have that commitment, it will not happen.  There will be a lot of issues, problems -- anti-selection, if I may say it that way --that will eliminate some very good candidates to go to the top positions." 

Of course, Leroux has seen plenty of good candidates eliminated that way, but she's also positive about the ability of individual women to fight their way to the top. She's used to being the only woman in the room -- whether that's the classroom, the boardroom, or her old office at an accounting firm -- and she sees it as a privilege, not just a challenge. Reflecting on her career, she recalls, "I was often very anxious to get the right advice at the right time, but overall I felt that being the only woman in a group of men was a neat opportunity." It's always a question of ambition and attitude, she says, and perhaps she's right. Today, more than sixty percent of the senior managers at Dejardins are women.  

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com/Everett Collection.

Women & Girls in Gaming

There’s definitely a misperception that women and girls don’t play games. In fact, 40 percent of gamers are women, and 94 percent of girls under the age of 18 play games regularly, play computer and video games regularly.

Do Women Make Better Leaders?

Mercedes Rosalba Aráoz Fernández has observed that women leaders, herself included, tend to collaborate more openly and distribute power more liberally than males do. The not-very-surprising result, she says, is a more contented workforce or constituency, and better outcomes.

A Practical Guide for Powerful Women

One of the things I didn’t want to do when I wrote my book, No Excuses, was to tell women to have another one of those books that says what’s wrong with women: women can’t, women don’t, women shouldn’t.  I think we have way too many of those. 


I'm a practical activist.  I'm very positive.  I'm very optimistic.  I think this is women’s moment.  We can do so many things.  We have so much power in our hands right now if we can see it and seize it and use it and that’s really my point.  It’s that this is that kind of a moment and so I wanted to give women some very practical power tools. 

Now in order to get there and to use these power tools what I've found when I talked with women because what really got me started on this obsession that I have now about women’s relationship with power is that I realized that women have been stuck at 18% of top leadership positions. That’s in politics.  That’s in the workplace across all sectors of employment for at least 20 years, sometimes more and that’s despite the fact that here in the U.S. at least we have changed the laws.  We have opened many doors.  We’ve seen a women-first almost everything.

The problem really isn’t just that all of the child rearing responsibilities are still put on women’s shoulders, but what I found was that women have an outdated notion of what power means and I talked to women all over the country.  I looked at the research and I frankly I had to look at my own heart and my own journey to leadership and some of the things that I had learned along the way and some of the ways I had not yet learned how to embrace my own power.  This was not an easy exploration for me.  I can tell you that.  But what I found was that we women tend to think of power in a really outdated way. It’s a traditional way of thinking about power.  It means that somebody can make you do something.  It means that you don’t have control over your own life and it also implies a finite pie, as in if I take a slice there is less for you.

So therefore, it feels oppressive.  It makes you feel powerless.  Once I can get women to change how they’re thinking about power from that oppressive way to the most expansive idea of power over I just would see faces relax and women say, "Oh yeah, give me that, I want that kind of power because the power to is the ability to make life better for yourself, your kids, your community, your world, your country." It’s the ability to innovate, to think of new and better ways of doing things and I think women sort of inherently know that power isn’t a finite pie, that in fact the more there is the more there is. 

If I help you get more powerful it doesn’t mean there is less power for me.  It means there is more capability to do these good things in the world and therefore, power to makes you feel powerful and power to is what enables us to be leaders, to take on leadership roles.  I think power to is real, authentic leadership and leadership that can transform how things are done in this world. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Vivek Wadhwa on the Gender Problem in Silicon Valley

Vivek Wadhwa points out the lack of women in the technology sector and discusses the negative public backlash to his coverage of the issue. Wadwha is a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke, and distinguished fellow at Singularity University.

Why Fewer Women Succeed at the Highest Levels of Science — From a Woman Who Did

This video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.


"Sometimes you have to learn when not to be too much of a lady," says Joy Hirsch. "So if you have to kick a**, just go do it." Director of the Brain Function Laboratory at Yale University, Hirsch knows the challenges that women face in professional life. Often valued for more traditional qualities like the ability to teach or mentor, women aren't always first thought of as leaders; but of course they are, and always have been. The challenge ahead of us, as Hirsch says, is to "allow ambitious, talented women to contribute as best they can."

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  • U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
  • The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.

The nationwide protests that were catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd led to the possibility that President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act. This piece of legislation would presumably justify the use of the military to quell the demonstrations that on numerous occasions turned violent. The legality and reality of that is still under debate, highlighting a very controversial power of an American President. While the U.S. military is banned from participating in law enforcement activities on its own soil, the Insurrection Act can provide the exceptions.

The Act was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson in 1807, and has a long history of being used to quell race and labor-related riots. The first time the act was modified was in 1861, when in anticipation of the calamity that would follow the Civil War, a section was added allowing the feds to use the National Guard and the army even against the wishes of state governments. The language specified the case of "rebellion against the authority of the government of the United States" as the cause that would justify sending in the troops.

The 1871 amendment to the act was actually meant to protect African-Americans from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan. The new wording stated then that the federal government can invoke the act for the enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This came into play during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War and in the course of the desegregation incidents that were part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

One important caveat to the use of the act – since 1967 it has only been invoked upon request from the states and not under exclusive authority of the President. The actual wording of the act states its purpose is to address "whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened," call upon military troops. A 1956 provision, however, says the President can use it without state governments in cases where "unlawful obstructions" or "rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws". In the current situation in the U.S., following the George Floyd murder at the hands of the police, the states have not asked Trump for such help.

Discovery of Nat Turner Engraving by William Henry Shelton

Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

One of the early Presidents to invoke the act was Andrew Jackson. He used it to put down the slave rebellion by Nat Turner in 1831 and to settle a labor dispute by workers of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1834.

Ulysses S. Grant relied upon the Insurrection Act several times, for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina in 1871 and to put down the unrest that started after the contested 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election.

Rutherford B. Hayes used the Insurrection Act for the troops needed to deal with the Lincoln County War of 1878, the one that famously involved Billy the Kid.

The tensions brought on by the railroad worker Pullman Strike of 1894 and the 1914 mine worker uprising dubbed the "Colorado Coalfield War" forced, respectively, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, to rely on the act to bring back order.

Colorado National Guard troops during the Ludlow strike. 1914.

Credit: Survey Associates, Inc.

In more modern times, the Insurrection Act's re-appearance is tied exclusively to breakdowns in race relations. It was employed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1943 Detroit race riot and by Dwight D. Eisenhower to protect the Little Rock Nine – a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. John F. Kennedy used the act a couple of times, both times to fight segregation. He called upon it during the Ole Miss Riot of 1962 and to enforce desegregation in Alabama's public schools in 1963.

Lyndon B. Johnson was most prolific in engaging the Insurrection Act, resorting to it four times – during the bloody 1967 Detroit riot as well as the 1968 riots in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Baltimore that were precipitated by the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King.

In recent times, President George H. W. Bush was the last one to invoke the act, calling up troops to restore calm in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, prompted by the beating of Rodney King.

National Guardsmen in South Los Angeles, 30 April 1992.

Photo credit: HAL GARB/AFP via Getty Images

  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

  • The feature is called Manage Activity, and it's currently available through mobile and Facebook Lite.
  • Manage Activity lets users sort old content by filters like date and posts involving specific people.
  • Some companies now use AI-powered background checking services that scrape social media profiles for problematic content.

Facebook is rolling out a new feature designed to help users delete old posts in bulk instead of one at a time.

The company announced Tuesday that its "Manage Activity" tool will allow users to delete posts en masse, or archive them so that they're accessible only to the user. Manage Activity will let users organize old content in batches, sorted by filers like specific date range and posts involving certain people.

Manage Activity is available today on mobile and Facebook Lite, and the company says it'll be functional for desktop users in the future.

"Whether you're entering the job market after college or moving on from an old relationship, we know things change in people's lives, and we want to make it easy for you to curate your presence on Facebook to more accurately reflect who you are today," Facebook wrote in a statement. "That's why we're launching Manage Activity to help you archive or trash old posts, all in one place."

Facebook

Why is Facebook releasing the feature now? A company spokesperson told Recode that users and privacy advocates have long requested better control over past posts. Users have had access to the "limit past posts" option, which blocks the public from accessing a user's posts past a certain date. But there has been no way to delete old content in batches.

Social media background checks


Now, the feature could bring users some peace of mind. After all, the platform currently has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users, and some of these users created accounts in their teens, around the time Facebook became widely available in 2006. As these veteran users get older, it seems likely that many would want to delete years-old posts, whether because content is embarrassing, outdated or professionally jeopardizing.

Some employers now use automated or third-party background checks that scrape candidates' social media accounts. These checks can search for content that's racist, sexually explicit, criminal or otherwise offensive.

But they're not always accurate. One AI-powered background service called Checkr has even faced lawsuits from people who claim the company's algorithms made mistakes that cost them job opportunities.

How to use Manage Activity

It's unclear when Manage Activity will become available on desktop. But to learn how to use it on mobile or Facebook Lite, check out this instructional video from Facebook.

  • A new theory takes the direct-collapse theory explaining the creation of supermassive black holes around which galaxies turn ones step further.
  • The advance is made possible by a super-powerful computer, ATERUI II.
  • The new theory is the first that accounts for the likely assortment of heavy elements in early-universe gas clouds.

It seems that pretty much every galaxy we see is spinning around a supermassive black hole. When we say "supermassive," we mean BIG: Each is about 100,000 to tens of billions times the mass of our Sun. Serving as the loci around which our galaxies twirl, they're clearly important to maintaining the universal structures we see. It would be nice to know how they form. We have a pretty good idea how normally-huge-but-not-massive black holes form, but as for the supermassive larger versions, not so much. It's a supermassive missing piece of the universe puzzle.

Now, in research published in Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society, astrophysicists at Tohoku University in Japan reveal that they may have solved the riddle, supported by new computer simulations that show how supermassive black holes come to be.

The direct collapse theories

Glowing gas and dark dust within the Large Magellanic Cloud

Image source: ESA/Hubble and NASA

The favored theory about the birth of supermassive black holes up to now has been the "direct-collapse" theory. The theory proposes a solution to a cosmic riddle: Supermassive black holes seem to have been born a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang, not nearly long enough for the standard normal black hole genesis scenario to have played out, and on such a large scale. There are two versions of the direct-collapse theory.

One version proposes that if enough gas comes together in a supermassive gravitationally bound cloud, it can eventually collapse into a black hole, which, thanks the cosmic background-radiation-free nature of the very early universe, could then quickly pull in enough matter to go supermassive in a relatively short period of time.

According to astrophysicist Shantanu Basu of Western University in London, Ontario, this would only have been possible in the first 800 million years or so of the universe. "The black holes are formed over a duration of only about 150 million years and grow rapidly during this time," Basu told Live Science in the summer of 2019. "The ones that form in the early part of the 150-million-year time window can increase their mass by a factor of 10 thousand." Basu was lead author of research published last summer in Astrophysical Journal Letters that presented computer models showing this version of direct-collapse is possible.

Another version of the theory suggests that the giant gas cloud collapses into a supermassive star first, which then collapses into a black hole, which then — presumably again thanks to the state of the early universe — sucks up enough matter to go supermassive quickly.

There's a problem with either direct-collapse theory, however, beyond its relatively narrow time window. Previous models show it working only with pristine gas clouds comprised of hydrogen and helium. Other, heavier elements — carbon and oxygen, for example — break the models, causing the giant gas cloud to break up into smaller gas clouds that eventually form separate stars, end of story. No supermassive black hole, and not even a supermassive star for the second flavor of the direct-collapse theory.

A new model

ATERUI II

Image source: NAOJ

Japan's National Astronomical Observatory has a supercomputer named "ATERUI II" that was commissioned in 2018. The Tohoku University research team, led by postdoctoral fellow Sunmyon Chon, used ATERUI II to run high-resolution, 3D, long-term simulations to verify a new version of the direct-collapse idea that makes sense even with gas clouds containing heavy elements.

Chon and his team propose that, yes, supermassive gas clouds with heavy elements do break up into smaller gas clouds that wind up forming smaller stars. However, they assert that's not the end of the story.

The scientists say that post-explosion, there remains a tremendous inward pull toward the center of the ex-cloud that drags in all those smaller stars, eventually causing them to grow into a single supermassive star, 10,000 times larger than the Sun. This is a star big enough to produce the supermassive black holes we see when it finally collapses in on itself.

"This is the first time that we have shown the formation of such a large black hole precursor in clouds enriched in heavy-elements," says Chon, adding, "We believe that the giant star thus formed will continue to grow and evolve into a giant black hole."

Modeling the behavior of an expanded number of elements within the cloud while faithfully carrying forward those models through the violent breakup of the cloud and its aftermath requires such high computational overhead that only a computer as advanced as ATERUI II could pull off.

Being able to develop a theory that takes into account, for the first time, the likely complexity of early-universe gas clouds makes the Tohoku University idea the most complete, plausible explanation of the universe's mysterious supermassive black holes. Kazuyuki Omukai, also of Tohoku University says, "Our new model is able to explain the origin of more black holes than the previous studies, and this result leads to a unified understanding of the origin of supermassive black holes."

America is experiencing some of its most widespread civil unrest in years following the death of George Floyd.


Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May, and his death has underscored the many ways race and ethnic background drives unequal experiences among many Americans.

These charts help illustrate key gaps impacting everything from opportunity to health.

1. Wide educational gaps

In the 70 years since the US Supreme Court ruled racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional, progress in improving racial educational divides has been slow and uneven. Gaps have narrowed by 30-40% when compared to the 1970s, but divides remain large.

Improvement in 9-year-olds' NEAP math test scoresImprovement in 9-year-olds' NEAP math test scores (Image: Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis)

2. Limited access to improved earnings, mobility

For people of colour in America, education does not provide the same economic return as it might for other groups. People of colour, particularly women of colour, typically have lower salaries than white and male workers with similar levels of education.

Hourly wages. Even with similar educational levels, wen of colour are still earning less. (Image: Equitable Growth)

Income inequality is also stifling intergenerational mobility – the American Dream of children having a higher standard of living than their parents. Research from economist Raj Chetty in 2016 showed that at age 30 people born in 1940 had around a 90% chance of out-earning their parents. But for people born in 1980 this chance had fallen to half.

3. Outsized unemployment burdens

A lack of access to higher education or skilled work can make people of colour more vulnerable to unemployment during downturns and periods of economic growth. As researchers explained in one report from The Russell Sage Foundation and The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality: "An African American cannot count on education as providing the same relief against the risk of unemployment that it provides to other groups."

Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 1975–2011

Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 1975–2011. (Image: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from The Russell Sage Foundation and The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality)

4. Health care insurance and life expectancy dynamics

Life expectancy gaps between white Americans and people of colour have begun to narrow, but inequities still exist thanks to a range of socio-economic factors such as income inequality, access to health insurance and adequate health care.

The disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on black Americans demonstrates some of the vulnerabilities the population faces.

Life expectancy.

5. Black imprisonment in the US is falling but remains disproportionate

The imprisonment rate among black Americans has fallen by over a third since 2006, and stands at around 1,500 prisoners for every 100,000 adults. But black Americans remain far more likely to be in prison than Hispanic and white Americans. The figures are particularly stark among some age groups: in the 35-39 age bracket about 1 in 20 black men were in state or federal prison in 2018.

Imprisonment Rates

Imprisonment Rates. (Image: Pew Research)

Black Americans made up a third of the sentenced prison population in 2018 – nearly triple their representation in the US adult population as a whole. They also make up a disproportionate number of fatal police shootings.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.