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."

More playlists
  • Anxiety is triggered environmentally and emotionally, but a physiological response quickly follows.
  • Calming breathing techniques help to tamp down the physiological response of anxiety.
  • The following four exercises are known to help calm anxiety and develop focus.

Stressed? Use This Breathing Technique to Improve Your Attention and Memory, with Emma Seppälä

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Emma Seppälä, science director at Stanford Center For Compassion And Altruism Research And Education, says American culture values intensity yet undervalues calmness. We never shut off. While intensity has its place, every animal in nature inherently knows the necessity of rest in order to store up energy for when it's actually needed. Americans are careless with our energy reserves, which is why so many of us are chronically tired, overworked, and stressed out.

Seppälä knows that breathing changes our state of mind. She recommends a popular yogic breathing technique, nadi shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing.

Place the index and middle fingers of your right hand on your forehead. Use your thumb to close your right nostril while inhaling through the left nostril, then close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat this for at least two minutes, then sit quietly for another minute or two, breathing normally.

There are many variations of this technique. My favorite is a four-cycle breath: inhale for a count of four through one nostril, retain your breath for a count of four, exhale for four, hold your breath out for four. If you're new to this breathing technique, retention might initially create more anxiety than it relieves, so try the basic inhale-exhale pattern until you can last for at least five minutes before moving onto breath retentions.

Mind Hack: Combat Anxiety with This Breathing Technique

Power Breath

Game designer and author of "Superbetter," Jane McGonigal, recommends the Power Breath: exhale for twice as long as you inhale. She says this will shift your nervous system from sympathetic to a parasympathetic tone—you'll calm down. Simply sit comfortably, close your eyes, and begin by inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of eight.

This is also a popular yoga breathing technique. As with nadi shodhana, it can initially kick up rather than diminish anxiety. If you find long exhales challenging, begin by inhaling and exhaling at an even rate: a count of four in both directions. Then try to slowly increase your exhale to a count of five, six, and so on. Longtime practitioners can inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of 50. As with any muscle, you can train your breathing. The benefits are immense.

Breathing Techniques to Help You Relax

Focus Word Breathing

Lolly, a Mind-Body Specialist at the University of Maryland Heart Center, offers what she calls Focus Word Breathing. Traditionally, this is known as Mantra meditation. Choose a word that has meaning to you—calm, grace, ease—and repeat it during every inhalation and exhalation. As your mind wanders, the word becomes a sort of flagpole that you've mentally planted to bring you back to this moment.

As a former sufferer of anxiety disorder, I remember how important my thoughts were when having a panic attack. The power of the physiological symptoms increased when I dwelled on negative thoughts. This spiral felt like being sucked into a vortex. By contrast, when I was able to redirect my thinking, the symptoms lessened.

Mantra meditation never completely worked during an attack. By that point, my physiology had been hijacked. But as a regular practice, this breathing technique is powerful. Think of it as training for the big game of life. You teach yourself to focus on beneficial words. Your attention goes where thinking leads you, but you also have control of your thoughts. By integrating a mantra with breathing, you're priming your mind to focus at will.

How to do Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall) w/ AnaMargret Sanchez

Deep Belly Breathing

This exercise is commonly used by yoga instructors to bring their students into Corpse Pose (Savasana). Place your hands over your stomach while lying down and focus your attention there. Take deep, even breaths into your hands. As with the last technique, focus your mind there. Relax the muscles at your extremities: your toes, fingers, and forehead. Allow yourself to melt into the floor.

I love doing this breath while in Viparita Karani, otherwise known as Legs Up the Wall posture. The video above explains how to enter this pose; a blanket or pillow under your lower back makes the posture comfortable. Once there, I practice deep belly breathing. This technique always calms me down. I've recommended it to friends suffering from insomnia; they all responded with positive anecdotal feedback.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

  • Becoming a successful trader involves learning the psychology tricks of the trade.
  • Risk management and a winning mindset can help you maximize profits in the market.
  • Simple technical and fundamental analysis strategies can help you consistently profit.

Though it's a time of great uncertainty, the stock market is continuing to soar. Rather than keeping it an enigma, the market can be learned with a little bit of time and expert guidance.

The Secret to Stock Trading and Profits Bundle includes seven courses ranging from candlestick trading and day trading to technical analysis and Fibonacci tools. After these 179 lessons, these newly acquired market skills will help you become a profitable trader.

Day traders need to pay close attention to technical analysis and chart indicators. There is a psychology to day trading. The Day Trading 101 course gives you a thorough overview of how the stock market works, while the Day Trading Secrets course will make you confident in your lightning-quick assessments of market patterns.

Fibonacci tools are popular among traders, as they are used to draw support lines, identify resistance levels, place stop-loss orders, and set target prices. The Fibonacci 101 course offers a cursory overview of how to use these tools, covering everything you need to know in order to interpret and predict price action.

In the 20-lesson Technical Analysis 101 course, you'll be taught the perfect time to buy and sell through chart patterns, live market analysis, and technical analysis. An understanding of simple lines of support and resistance will result in consistent profits.

The Candlestick Trading Masterclass will help you turn into a profitable trader by teaching over 31 candlestick patterns: technical tools that merge data for multiple time frames into single price bars. Understanding these patterns will help make your current trading system much more effective and profitable.

Finally, the Advanced Trading Masterclass offers the ultimate blueprint and technical analysis hacks for quickly helping you double or even triple your trading returns. Trading psychology, risk management, and developing a winning mindset are all covered.

The Secret to Stock Trading and Profits Bundle is on sale right now for just $29.99, a 97% discount from the list price of all of these courses combined.

Price subject to change.

The Secret to Stock Trading & Profits Bundle - $29.99

Start Trading Today!

When you buy something through a link in this article or from our shop, Big Think earns a small commission. Thank you for supporting our team's work.

People have searched for sex differences in human brains since at least the 19th century, when scientist Samuel George Morton poured seeds and lead shot into human skulls to measure their volumes.


Gustave Le Bon found men's brains are usually larger than women's, which prompted Alexander Bains and George Romanes to argue this size difference makes men smarter. But John Stuart Mill pointed out, by this criterion, elephants and whales should be smarter than people.

So focus shifted to the relative sizes of brain regions. Phrenologists suggested the part of the cerebrum above the eyes, called the frontal lobe, is most important for intelligence and is proportionally larger in men, while the parietal lobe, just behind the frontal lobe, is proportionally larger in women. Later, neuroanatomists argued instead the parietal lobe is more important for intelligence and men's are actually larger.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, researchers looked for distinctively female or male characteristics in smaller brain subdivisions. As a behavioral neurobiologist and author, I think this search is misguided because human brains are so varied.

Anatomical brain differences

The largest and most consistent brain sex difference has been found in the hypothalamus, a small structure that regulates reproductive physiology and behavior. At least one hypothalamic subdivision is larger in male rodents and humans.

But the goal for many researchers was to identify brain causes of supposed sex differences in thinking – not just reproductive physiology – and so attention turned to the large human cerebrum, which is responsible for intelligence.

Within the cerebrum, no region has received more attention in both race and sex difference research than the corpus callosum, a thick band of nerve fibers that carries signals between the two cerebral hemispheres.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, some researchers found the whole corpus callosum is proportionally larger in women on average while others found only certain parts are bigger. This difference drew popular attention and was suggested to cause cognitive sex differences.

But smaller brains have a proportionally larger corpus callosum regardless of the owner's sex, and studies of this structure's size differences have been inconsistent. The story is similar for other cerebral measures, which is why trying to explain supposed cognitive sex differences through brain anatomy has not been very fruitful.

Female and male traits typically overlap

Chart showing that male traits in blue and female traits in pink overlap quite a bit.

A chart showing how measurements that often differ between sexes, like height, substantially overlap. (Ari Berkowitz, CC BY)

Even when a brain region shows a sex difference on average, there is typically considerable overlap between the male and female distributions. If a trait's measurement is in the overlapping region, one cannot predict the person's sex with confidence. For example, think about height. I am 5'7". Does that tell you my sex? And brain regions typically show much smaller average sex differences than height does.

Neuroscientist Daphna Joel and her colleagues examined MRIs of over 1,400 brains, measuring the 10 human brain regions with the largest average sex differences. They assessed whether each measurement in each person was toward the female end of the spectrum, toward the male end or intermediate. They found that only 3% to 6% of people were consistently "female" or "male" for all structures. Everyone else was a mosaic.

Prenatal hormones

When brain sex differences do occur, what causes them?

A 1959 study first demonstrated that an injection of testosterone into a pregnant rodent causes her female offspring to display male sexual behaviors as adults. The authors inferred that prenatal testosterone (normally secreted by the fetal testes) permanently "organizes" the brain. Many later studies showed this to be essentially correct, though oversimplified for nonhumans.

Researchers cannot ethically alter human prenatal hormone levels, so they rely on "accidental experiments" in which prenatal hormone levels or responses to them were unusual, such as with intersex people. But hormonal and environmental effects are entangled in these studies, and findings of brain sex differences have been inconsistent, leaving scientists without clear conclusions for humans.

Genes cause some brain sex differences

While prenatal hormones probably cause most brain sex differences in nonhumans, there are some cases where the cause is directly genetic.

This was dramatically shown by a zebra finch with a strange anomaly – it was male on its right side and female on its left. A singing-related brain structure was enlarged (as in typical males) only on the right, though the two sides experienced the same hormonal environment. Thus, its brain asymmetry was not caused by hormones, but by genes directly. Since then, direct effects of genes on brain sex differences have also been found in mice.

Learning changes the brain

Many people assume human brain sex differences are innate, but this assumption is misguided.

Humans learn quickly in childhood and continue learning – alas, more slowly – as adults. From remembering facts or conversations to improving musical or athletic skills, learning alters connections between nerve cells called synapses. These changes are numerous and frequent but typically microscopic – less than one hundredth of the width of a human hair.

Studies of an unusual profession, however, show learning can change adult brains dramatically. London taxi drivers are required to memorize "the Knowledge" – the complex routes, roads and landmarks of their city. Researchers discovered this learning physically altered a driver's hippocampus, a brain region critical for navigation. London taxi drivers' posterior hippocampi were found to be larger than nondrivers by millimeters – more than 1,000 times the size of synapses.

So it's not realistic to assume any human brain sex differences are innate. They may also result from learning. People live in a fundamentally gendered culture, in which parenting, education, expectations and opportunities differ based on sex, from birth through adulthood, which inevitably changes the brain.

Ultimately, any sex differences in brain structures are most likely due to a complex and interacting combination of genes, hormones and learning.The Conversation

Ari Berkowitz, Presidential Professor of Biology; Director, Cellular & Behavioral Neurobiology Graduate Program, University of Oklahoma

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • The Premium 2020 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle explores the most popular project management methodologies.
  • Coursework covers Agile, Agile Scrum, PMI-PMBOK and Six Sigma approaches.
  • Valued at $2,699, the course package is on sale for just $45.99.

For all its intricacies and varied approaches, project management is a relatively simple pursuit. Your employer gives you a complex task and your mission is to see it through to a successful conclusion. Of course, there are many paths to success or failure, so knowing which ones lead to happy stakeholders and your best career is where great project managers are made.

Part of knowing how to succeed is understanding all those paths, so The Premium 2020 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle gives you a complete look at all the most popular methodologies for running a successful project.

This collection includes 11 courses packed with more than 120 hours of instruction, each exploring the core tenets of the major project management approaches.

You’ll get a complete introduction to how project managers do what they do with the Project Management Certification Course. The Deeply Practical Project Management course goes even further, guiding first-timers through how to effectively plan a project, know its scope, craft a schedule, maintain a budget, and assess risks before you start. There’s even a focused look at cybersecurity threats to your work with Certified Information Systems Security Professional training.

Whether its Agile and Agile Scrum with its continuous testing and feedback process, PMBOK and its highly-structured set of standard project management terms and guidelines, or Six Sigma with its focus on improved efficiency through eliminating errors, you’ll explore the strengths and weaknesses of each method so you can best choose the right approach for your task.

The package also includes training geared specifically to help students pass Agile and PMBOK certification exams administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the premier oversight body in the project management field.

These courses are valued at $2,699, but with this limited-time discount, the entire bundle is available now at about $4 per course, just $45.99.

Prices are subject to change.

The Premium 2020 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle - $45.99

Get it now for $45.99

When you buy something through a link in this article or from our shop, Big Think earns a small commission. Thank you for supporting our team's work.

  • Lions help maintain balance in their ecosystems, but they also kill cattle.
  • The big cats are ambush predators who depend on the element of surprise.
  • In an experiment, eyes painted on cow backsides appear to deter lions from attacking.

For cattle-owning subsistence farmers in Botswana, lions pose a threat to the livestock on which they depend. Attempts to keep cattle safe often result in the shooting or poisoning of the big cats. Aside from the obvious moral discussion of what makes the life of one animal more worthy of preservation than another, large predators play a vital role in preventing trophic cascades in which the loss of one species throws an entire ecosystem dangerously out of balance. The African lion population is in decline, with the estimated number of adults ranging from 23,000 to 39,000, as opposed to more than 100,000 lions in the 1990s.

As part of the search for a non-lethal remedy to the farmers' problem, a collaboration between the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) in Africa and the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and Taronga Conservation Society, both in Australia, recently completed a program they called the "i-cow project." Its tongue in cheek [pun intended] moniker might just as easily be spelled "eye-cow," since what it involved was painting large eyes on cows' hind quarters to see if they might deter lion attacks. They did.

Sneak attackers

Image source: Bobby-Jo Photography/The Conversation

Lions are ambush predators who sneak up on their quarry. Ambush predators are common in nature, on land and sea and in the air. They come in all sizes, from the praying mantis to the orca, and what they have in common is a sit (or swim)-wait-pounce strategy.

The element of surprise is a critical part of an ambush predator's method, and previous research on lion and leopard behavior in Africa's Okavango Delta suggested that an attack may be called off when an ambush predator believes it's lost the element of surprise.

Conservation biologist Neil Jordan of UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science has seen this in action. He tells UNSW Newsroom about how he got the idea for i-cows as he was watching a lion about to attack an impala near a village in Botswana where he was staying. "Lions are ambush hunters, so they creep up on their prey, get close and jump on them unseen. But in this case, the impala noticed the lion. And when the lion realized it had been spotted, it gave up on the hunt."

There's also support for this deterrent effect in nature, where having markings that look like eyes staring back at a predator appears to provide a distinct evolutionary survival advantage for a range of species, including butterflies, moths, reptiles, fish, and birds.

No mammals, however, have eyespots, and the i-cow team believes this is the first time that humans have investigated the effect of adding eye markings to them.

Eyes, crosses, and bare backsides

Prepping a cow

Image source: Bobby-Jo Photography/The Conversation

Jordan and his colleagues painted markings on cattle from 14 herds. 683 cows had eyes painted on their rumps, a cross was painted on the posteriors of 543 cows to learn if a natural eye shape was required to deter predators, and 835 cows were left unpainted.

Most lion attacks occur during that day — cattle are more likely to be securely penned at night — so the test cattle were painted in the morning and released to forage as usual. There were 49 painting sessions with each lasting for 24 days.

While 15 of the unpainted cows were ultimately taken by lions, not a single eye-painted cow was killed. Unexpectedly, a painted cross seemed to help a bit, if not as much as an eye painting — only 4 cross-painted cattle were attacked.

A few caveats

The researchers point out a couple of potential issues with their research.

First, the presence of completely unmarked cows in their experiments may have provided a more obvious target for lions in that they had no potentially off-putting (or even confusing in the case of the crosses) markings.

Second, animals learn. It may be that the area's lions would eventually habituate to or figure out the humans' subterfuge. The researchers note in an article for The Conversation noting that this tends to be a problem with non-lethal anti-predator remedies in general.