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."
- Shares of Beyond Meat opened at around $200 on Tuesday morning, falling to nearly $170 by the afternoon.
- Wall Street analysts remain wary of the stock, which has been on a massive hot streak since its IPO in May.
- Beyond Meat faces competition from Impossible Foods and, as of this week, Tyson.
Shares of Beyond Meat soared Tuesday after the company announced plans to sell a ground-beef product called 'Beyond Beef' in grocery stores nationwide.
On Tuesday morning, Beyond Meat (BYND) opened at about $200, but by the afternoon fell to $170. The drop was partly fueled by Wall Street analysts saying the company is overvalued. (For context, the highest price target among analysts is currently $123.) Still, Beyond Meat is trading far above its initial public offering price of $25, and analysts seem generally optimistic about the company over the long term.
"Despite the valuation considerations, we continue to expect significant growth potential in the plant-based meat category and believe that Beyond Meat is well positioned as one of the frontrunners leading the new wave of plant-based meat products," said Bernstein, the Wall Street research and brokerage firm.
"Come be among the first to try this delicious new product that delivers the versatility, meaty texture and juiciness of ground beef with less of the baggage!" the company wrote in an Instagram post.
Beyond Meat says its new product is "versatile enough to use in any ground beef recipe," and that it will tenderize and marbelize just like real meat. Last week, the company debuted a new burger patty that contains cocoa butter and coconut oil, which create a marbling effect when cooked. Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told CNN Business his company will probably continue to issue new products and improve upon existing ones.
"It's part of our philosophy and our approach to innovation that we're going to be constantly iterating," he said.
Brown echoed similar thoughts on a call with analysts following Beyond Meat's first-quarter earnings results.
"I am maniacally focused on driving this business forward through innovation," he said. "I have no distraction with an incumbent business, no concerns about upsetting my existing supply chain."
The alternative meat war
But Impossible Foods – Beyond Meat's chief competitor – is also vying to dominate the alternative meat industry.
"They've both publicly stated that their goal is to really reach every single person," Zak Weston, a food service analyst at the Good Food Institute, told Marketplace.
What's more, Impossible Foods might be more popular.
"Based on our search volume data, it is clear that the Impossible Burger is much more popular among consumers than the Beyond Meat burger," Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing at SEMrush, told MarketWatch. "While search volume cannot determine causation, the significant difference in consumer interest for one of its main competitors, the Impossible Burger, points to a larger long-term risk for Beyond Meat in addition to its recent losses on Wall Street."
Tyson – the world's second largest processor – also debuted new alternative meat products this week under the Raised & Rooted brand. Ultimately, the winner of the alternative meat war will likely come down to which company can better mimic the taste, texture and appearance of real meat. After all, these companies aren't advertising primarily to vegans or vegetarians – they're going after carnivores.
- The study estimated psychopathy prevalence by looking at the prevalence of certain traits in the Big Five model of personality.
- The District of Columbia had the highest prevalence of psychopathy, compared to other areas.
- The authors cautioned that their measurements were indirect, and that psychopathy in general is difficult to define precisely.
A new study estimated the prevalence of psychopathy in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.
How can you identify psychopaths? It's difficult, but research provides a few clues, such as that psychopathic tendencies are more common in:
- Younger people
- Professions such as CEOs, lawyers and politicians
Psychologists have used different diagnostic tools to measure psychopathy over the decades. Today, the leading tool is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), which measures traits such as pathological lying, impulsivity, parasitic lifestyle and lack of remorse or guilt. But psychopathy can be measured in other, more indirect ways, too.
One example is the triarchic model of psychopathy, which says the disorder stems from a combination of the personality traits disinhibition, boldness and meanness. In the recent study, the researchers used that triarchic definition of psychopathy, but mapped it onto the Big Five model of personality, which includes the traits conscientiousness, openness, neuroticism, extraversion and agreeableness.
To measure psychopathy across the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the researchers used state-level Big Five data from a previous study. The results consistently showed that people in rural areas tended to be less psychopathic, while urban areas were more psychopathic. Scoring highest in psychopathy, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the District of Columbia.
"The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country, a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn to a literal seat of power," the researchers wrote.
Regionally, psychopathy was clustered in the Northeast, with Maine as the most psychopathic state. Some psychologists have described the Northeast as "Temperamental and Uninhibited." In terms of the Big Five personality traits, the researchers wrote that this translates to "low extraversion, very low agreeableness and conscientiousness, very high neuroticism, and moderately high openness."
The researchers also compared the Big Five data to four variables that relate to psychopathy: homicide rate, violent crime rate, property crime rate and percentage of residents living in an urban area. Only the share of residents living in an urban area had a significant relationship with the personality data.
Ultimately, the researchers cautioned that their methodology was indirect, and that "some amount of noise will inevitably be captured in the results."
"The meaningfulness of the results found here is contingent on both the translation of Big Five personality traits into psychopathy and that psychopathy is something that can be conceptualized as a statistical aggregate across people," they wrote. "And if the estimates are conceptually meaningful, the question remains of whether the size of the differences across regions is practically significant. The weak relationships found in the data can themselves be interpreted as support for skepticism, but whether that interpretation is correct requires further research beyond the scope of the presentation of this methodology and results."
What's more, psychopathy lies on a spectrum. The researchers note that "a very small percentage of individuals in any given state may actually be true psychopaths." According to the Hare checklist, about 1 percent of the general population qualifies as psychopathic.
Here's how the recent study ranked the 48 contiguous states:
3. New York
8. New Jersey
12. Rhode Island
22. South Dakota
26. New Hampshire
27. North Dakota
40. New Mexico
41. West Virginia
44. South Carolina
48. North Carolina
- Composed of massive filaments of galaxies separated by giant voids, the cosmic web is the name astronomers give to the structure of our universe.
- Why does our universe have this peculiar, web-like structure?
- The answer lies in processes that took place in the first few hundred thousands years after the Big Bang.
Looking up at the night sky, it seems as though the stars and galaxies are spread out in a more or less random fashion. This, however, isn't really the case. The universe isn't a random jumble of objects; it has a structure composed of galaxies and gas. Cosmologists call this structure the cosmic web.
The cosmic web is composed of interconnecting filaments of clustered galaxies and gases stretched out across the universe and separated by giant voids. The largest of these filaments that we have found to date is the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall, which is a staggering 10 billion light years long and contains several billion galaxies. As for the voids, the largest is the Keenan, Barger, and Cowie (KBC) void, which has a diameter of 2 billion light years. Within a segment of the spherical KBC void lies the Milky Way galaxy and our planet.
Altogether, these features give the universe a foamy appearance. However, once you zoom out far enough, this pattern disappears, and the universe appears to be a homogeneous chunk of galaxies. Astronomers have a delightful name for this sudden homogeneity — the End of Greatness. At smaller scales, however, we can see that the universe does indeed have a rather magnificent structure. This begs the question: How did this structure come to be?
It starts with a bang
Space itself has fluctuating energy levels. Incredibly small pairs of particles and anti-particles are spontaneously coming into existence and annihilating each other. This "boiling" of space was happening in the early universe as well. Normally, these particle pairs destroy each other, but the rapid expansion of the early universe prevented that from happening. As space expanded, so too did these fluctuations, causing discrepancies in the density of the universe.
A visualization of quantum fluctuations.
Because matter attracts matter through gravity, these discrepancies explain why matter clumped together in some places and not others. But this doesn't fully explain the structure of the cosmic web. After the inflationary period (roughly, 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang), the universe was full of primordial plasma clumping together due to the aforementioned discrepancies. As this matter clumped together, it created pressure that counteracted gravity, creating ripples akin to a sound wave in the matter of the universe. Physicists call these ripples baryon acoustic oscillations.
Simply put, these ripples are the product of regular matter and dark matter. Dark matter only interacts with other things through gravity, so the pressure that causes these ripples doesn't affect it — it stays at the center of ripple, not moving. Regular matter, however, is pushed out. A little under 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe has cooled enough such that the pressure pushing the matter out is released through a process called photon decoupling.
Zosia Rostomian, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
An artist's illustration of the rings formed by baryon acoustic oscillations.
As a result, the matter is locked into place. Some regular matter finds its way back to the center of the ripple due to the gravitational attraction of the dark matter. The result is a bullseye: Matter in the middle and matter in a ring around the middle. Because of this, physicists know that you're more likely to find a galaxy 500 million light years away from another galaxy than you are to find one 400 or 600 million light years away. Simply put, galaxies tend to be found at the outer rings of these cosmic bullseyes.
Altogether, these processes produced the gigantic web of stuff that compose our universe. Of course, there are many other processes that go into producing the cosmic web, but these fall outside the scope of this article. For those of you interested in observing what this structure would look like, you're in luck: astronomer Bruno Coutinho and colleagues developed an interactive, 3D visualization of the universe's structure, which you can access here.
The Cosmic Web, or: What does the universe look like at a VERY large scale?The Millennium Simulation featured in this clip was run in 2005 by the Virgo Consortium, an international group of astrophysicists from Germany, the United K...
- A new study asked hundreds of participants what advice they would give their younger selves if they could.
- The subject matter tended to cluster around familiar areas of regret.
- The test subjects reported that they did start following their own advice later in life, and that it changed them for the better.
Everybody regrets something; it seems to be part of the human condition. Ideas and choices that sounded good at the time can look terrible in retrospect. Almost everybody has a few words of advice for their younger selves they wish they could give.
Despite this, there has never been a serious study into what advice people would give their younger selves until now.
Let me give me a good piece of advice
The study, by Robin Kowalski and Annie McCord at Clemson University and published in The Journal of Social Psychology, asked several hundred volunteers, all of whom were over the age of 30, to answer a series of questions about themselves. One of the questions asked them what advice they would give their younger selves. Their answers give us a look into what areas of life everybody wishes they could have done better in.
Previous studies have shown that regrets tend to fall into six general categories. The answers on this test can be similarly organized into five groups:
- Money (Save more money, younger me!)
- Relationships (Don't marry that money grabber! Find a nice guy to settle down with.)
- Education (Finish school. Don't study business because people tell you to, you'll hate it.)
- A sense of self (Do what you want to do. Never mind what others think.)
- Life goals (Never give up. Set goals. Travel more.)
These pieces of advice were well represented in the survey. Scrolling through them, most of the advice people would give themselves verges on the cliché in these areas. It is only the occasional weight of experience seeping through advice that can otherwise be summed up as "don't smoke," "don't waste your money," or "do what you love," that even makes it readable.
A few bits of excellent counsel do manage to slip through. Some of the better ones included:
- "Money is a social trap."
- "What you do twice becomes a habit; be careful of what habits you form."
- "I would say do not ever base any decisions on fear."
The study also asked if the participants have started following the advice they wish they could have given themselves. 65.7% of them said "yes" and that doing so had helped them become the person they want to be rather than what society tells them they should be. Perhaps it isn't too late for everybody to start taking their own advice.
Kowalski and McCord write:
"The results of the current studies suggest that, rather than just writing to Dear Abby, we should consult ourselves for advice we would offer to our younger selves. The data indicate that there is much to be learned that can facilitate well-being and bring us more in line with the person that we would like to be should we follow that advice."
- Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
- Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
- A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
While black holes may well be points in space into which everything falls and from which even light can't escape, the image many of us have of an ever-growing nonstop universe-eater may not be so. Stephen Hawking didn't think it was. He theorized that black holes eventually evaporate as a byproduct of the gradual release of tiny bits of radiation now known as "Hawking radiation". Such emissions are too faint for us to observe from so far away, but now the behavior of an artificial, lab-created black hole of sorts has lent support to Hawking's theory. There's nothing about this story that isn't interesting. For one thing, this man-made "black hole" is made of sound. It's also formed inside some always-bizarre Bose-Einstein condensate.
What Hawking predicted
Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty
Physicist Stephen Hawking.
While it's known that photons can't escape the pull of a black hole, Hawking's equations, intolerant of absolute nothingness, suggested "empty" space is actually full of virtual quantum matter/antimatter pairs that blink into existence, and immediately annihilate each other thanks to their opposite electrical charges, quickly blinking out again.
Hawking proposed that when virtual pairs pop into existence near a black hole, though, they're torn apart by the pull of the black hole, with the antimatter being sucked in while the matter shoots off into space — at this point, they're no longer virtual, but real, particles. The negative charge belonging to the antimatter particles reduces the energy and mass of the black hole that's absorbed it by a tiny amount — however, when a black hole ingests enough of these, it evaporates. The positively charged particles fly away as what's now called "Hawking radiation." It would be very weak, but nonetheless there.
Hawking also predicted that the radiation emitted would exhibit a continuous thermal spectrum rather than discreet light wavelengths preferred by individual escaping photons. The temperature of the spectrum would be determined instead by the black hole's mass.
Part of the problem in testing Hawking's theories was summarized by physicist Silke Weinfurtner, who has written:
"The temperature that is associated with Hawking radiation, known as the Hawking temperature, is inversely proportional to the mass of the black hole. And for the smallest observed black holes, which have a mass similar to that of the Sun, this temperature is about 60 nanokelvin. Hawking radiation therefore produces a tiny signal, and it would seem that the phenomenon cannot be verified through observation."
The analogue black hole in Haifa
Image source: Technion–Israel Institute of Technology
Physicist Jeff Steinhauer.
Experimental physicist Jeff Steinhauer of Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, has been working alone in his lab for years creating sonic "black holes" that suck in and trap sound waves. (He's a drummer, too.) Physicist William Unruh of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, first proposed the creation of a sound-wave black-hole replica in 1981 as a safe way of observing the behavior of the stellar version. (After all, creating a real black hole in a lab or anywhere nearby could lead to The End of Life as We Know It.)
Steinhauer's black-hole replica was "constructed" within a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), an extremely strange form of matter in which atoms are cooled to a temperature vanishingly close to absolute zero. At this temperature, there's so little energy available that atoms barely move at all in relation to each other, and thus the entire superfluid begins to behave as one big, unified atom. Within such a frigid condensate, weak quantum fluctuations occur, and these produce pairs of entangled phonons, compressional waves that can create the air-pressure changes we perceive as sound.
Working with a cigar-shaped trap just a few millimeters long, Steinhauer cooled some 8,000 iridium atoms into a BEC. Inside it, the speed of sound, the rate at which the condensate flowed, dropped from 343 meters per second to an almost stationary half a millimeter per second. Reducing the density of one area of the BEC to allow atoms to travel at 1 millimeter per second, though he created a supersonic region — at least compared to the lower speed in the rest of the condensate, that is. Its comparatively rapid current overwhelmed and pulled in any high-energy phonons that came near its event horizon, thus trapping them.
In August, Steinhauer published a paper in Nature that documented his observation of phonons emerging from his artificial black hole in line with Hawking's predictions. Steinhauer reports entangled phonon pairs popping into existence together equidistant across the condensate's event horizon and behaving much as Hawking predicted: One pulled over the supersonic waterfall and trapped in the supersonic region, and the other escaping outward, away from it, just as Hawking radiation would do. The symmetry in the number of phonons inside and outside the event horizon further supported their entangled beginnings and eventual separation, as in Hawking's prediction.
On top of that, the aggregate radiated phonons did indeed produce a thermal spectrum determined by the system's analogue to gravity/mass, which in this model's case was the relationship between the speed of sound and the flow of the BEC, and not individual phonons' sonic wavelengths.
Analogies are usually imperfect
Image source: Alex Farias/Shutterstock
While the behavior of Steinhauer's phonons in his black hole analogue certainly supports the plausibility of Hawking's hypothesis, it doesn't constitute proof. His experiment deals with sound and phonons instead of light and photons, and obviously operates on an entirely different scale than a real black hole — and scale does matter in quantum physics. Still, it's fascinating.
Theoretical physicist Renaud Parentani enthuses to Live Science, "These experiments are a tour de force. It's a very precise experiment. From the experimental side, Jeff Steinhauer is really, at the moment, the world-leading expert of using cold atoms to probe black hole physics." Other aren't as impressed. Speaking with Nature, physicist Ulf Leonhardt says that while, "For sure, this is a pioneering paper," he considers it incomplete, however, in part because Steinhauer was only able to correlate phonons of high energy across the event horizon, and didn't find that low-energy phonons also behaved as Hawking predicted. In addition, Leonhardt is concerned that what was inside the trap wasn't a true BEC, and that it could be producing other forms of quantum fluctuation that just look like Hawking radiation.