Are women better leaders?

Posted December 18th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

The issue of the glass ceiling has been with us for sometime now, yet relatively little progress is being made in North America, when it comes to senior executive positions and boards of directors, compared to other countries, where significant progress is being made in gender diversity. At the same time, there is increasing evidence that women actually make better leaders, and are more suited to the style of leadership needed today in organizations.

In an article I wrote in the Financial Post in May, 2010, entitled “What’s Happened to the Glass Ceiling,” I said, “Call it a glass ceiling, glass wall or a glass floor—there is still a barrier blocking senior women leaders in organizations. High-powered executive and professional women are increasingly opting out of, being bypassed, or otherwise disappearing from the professional workforce. While this exists, true diversity in organizations will not happen.”

The World Economic Forum’s 2012 report called the Global Gender Gap Index, which has been used since 2006 as a tool to capture gender-based disparities, by measuring national gender gaps in economic, political, health and educational metrics on the best countries for women in economic equality terms, place the Scandinavian countries and New Zealand in the top 8, with Canada rated at 21st and the U.S. at 22nd. Countries such as Latvia, Cuba, South Africa and the Philippines are ranked higher.

A 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report found that women now hold 20% of senior management positions globally, which is actually down from 24% in 2009 and only up 1% since 2004. The report also showed that G7 countries lag behind the global average with only 16% of women holding senior executive positions, compared to 27% in the Asia-Pacific region. More women have risen to top positions in countries such as Thailand, Hong Kong and countries in Africa, than in North America. Thailand, in contrast, leads the way with 30% of companies employing female CEO’s, followed by China (19%), Taiwan (18%) and Vietnam (16%), compared to only 3.6% of the Fortune 500 companies. As of 2011, there are only 98 female CEOs among the 3,049 publicly trade companies in the U.S., a 3.2% increase over 2010 and 2.9% increase over 2009.

The U.S. in particular is taking steps backwards with respect to gender equality. In the field of law, women are more than 50% of the law students, but less than 25% of law firm partners, federal judges, and law school deans. In 2012, women are expected to earn 63% of master’s degrees and 54% of doctoral and professional degrees, but comprise only 20% of full university professors and only 25% of college presidents. Women comprise only 17% of the U.S. House of Representatives, 16% of the U.S. Senate, 16% of state governors and 24% of all state legislators. Internationally, the U.S. ranks 85th in the world in its share of women in national legislative bodies. Of the largest 100 cities in the U.S., only 9% have female mayors. A recent Catalyst Corporation report showed that women held only 16% of Board of Directors seats at large companies, and more than 25% of Fortune 500 companies had no female executive officers.

Even in the movie industry the picture is the same. In 2011, men directed 95% of the top-grossing films, an increase since 1998. Only 4 women have been nominated for Oscars as best director and only one has won. Eighty-four percent of the 2011 Oscar nominations for screenwriting went to men. Seventy percent of movies starred men, not women. And finally 77% of all Oscars went to men.

In the U.S., the recent divisive and acrimonious political campaigns have unearthed attempts to actually move women’s rights and diversity backwards. A record number of state legislative attempts and several in Congress to roll back women’s reproductive rights have been evident. So too, has the proposed pay equity legislation been held up in Congress.  ABC News/Washington Post reported recently that one in four American women have been sexually harassed on the job, yet only 64% of Americans see harassment as a serious workplace problem, down from 88% in 1992. Yet pay equity would produce a significant stimulus to the consumer-based economy, according to Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, who estimates that pay equity would grow the U.S. economy 3-4%, compared to the 1.5% produced by the $800 billion stimulus legislation.

What is the evidence to support the contention that women are better leaders?

Kellie A. McElhaney and Sanaz Mobasseri of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkley, produced a report, “Women Create a Sustainable Future.” Among the conclusions in their research and published in the report, was “companies that explicitly place value on gender diversity perform better in general, and perform better than their peers on the multiple dimensions of corporate sustainability.”

A 2012 Dow Jones study shows that business startups are more likely to succeed if they have women on their executive team. And according to the Center for Women’s Business Research, although women own about 40% of the private businesses in the U.S., women make up less than 10% of venture-backed start-ups.

A 2005 Report on Women and Entrepreneurship, the percentage of entrepreneurs who expect growth for the businesses is higher for female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs. And according to a separate study by Babson College and the London School of Economics, women-led start-ups experienced fewer failures in moving from early to growth –stage companies than men.

Catalyst, the U.S. non-profit company, found that in 2011 a 26% difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between the top-quartile companies with 19-44% women board representation and the bottom quartile companies with zero women directors. When the McKinsey team asked business executives globally what they believe the most important leadership attributes are for success today, each of the top four—intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participatory decision-making and setting expectations/rewards—were more commonly found among women leaders. McKinsey reported in its Organizational Health Index (OHI) companies with three or more women in tip positions scored higher than their peers.

A Pew Center Global Attitudes Project found that 75% of respondents in the U.S. and 80% in Canada believe that women make equally good political leaders, and the numbers were much higher and Europe, Asia and parts of South America. Another Pew Center study, Social and Demographic Survey found women leaders possessed more leadership traits of honesty, intelligence, compassion and creativity than men, whereas men scored higher only in decisiveness.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, authors of The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Activate, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, argue that in today’s complex demanding world of organizations, women may possess superior leadership capabilities compared to men.

Zenger and Folkman make that contention based on 30 years of research on what constitutes overall leadership effectiveness that comes from 360 evaluations of a leader’s peers, bosses and direct reports and a 2011 survey of over 7,000 leaders from some of the most successful and progressive organizations. They concluded “at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts—and the higher the level, the wider the gap grows.” Specifically, the authors note, “at all levels, women were rated higher in fully 12 or the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree—taking initiative and driving for results—have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.”  Men outscored women significantly on only one management competency—the ability to develop a strategic perspective.

Thomas Malone, a management professor at MIT and his colleagues completed research which tried to determine what made a team smarter. He created teams of people aged 18 to 60, had them take IQ tests and then gave them a series of problems to solve. He found that those with the highest IQs did not perform the best, but the teams with the most women did. He reported in the Harvard Business Review, “the standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group…But so far, the data show, the more women, the better.”

Tony Schwartz, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network describes what women know about leadership than men don’t, arguing “An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities—the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively—and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy and humility…I meet far more women with tis blend of qualities than I do men.”  He goes on to say “The vast majority of CEOs and senior executives I’ve met over the past decade are men [who] resist introspection, feel more comfortable measuring outcomes than they do managing emotions, and under-appreciate the powerful connection between how people feel and how they perform…For the most part, women, more than men, bring to leadership a more complete range of the qualities modern leaders need, including self-awareness, emotional attunement and authenticity.” Schwartz contends that men overvalue their strengths from an early age, while women tend to undervalue theirs, and that men are often victims of their own egos, and their need to win and use power.

So what action needs to be taken?

According to the Catalyst research organization, since 2008, at least 9 countries, including France, Norway, Italy and Spain, have passed legislation requiring some kind of quota requirements for diversity on corporate boards. Other countries, including the U.S., Britain, Australia and Germany have adopted regulations requiring organizations to review board diversity at their annual meetings. Canada at this point lags far behind in these initiatives, with no legislative actions or regulations. In October, 2012, the European Commission proposed a new law that would enforce quotes of 40% for women’s representation on European corporate boards by 2020.

Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee,  of McKinsey & Company, and authors of a special report for The Wall Street Journal Executive Task Force for Women in the Economy, argue “As the U.S. struggles to sustain historic GDP growth rates, it is critically important to bring more women into the workforce and fully deploy high-skill women to drive productivity improvement.” The authors reviewed over 100 exiting research papers, surveyed 2,500 men and women and interviewed 30 chief diversity officers and experts to determine why there were such low numbers of women leaders in organizations, particularly at the upper levels. Of all the factors that were examined, the authors identified entrenched beliefs as one of the most significant—the prevailing belief that women were not as capable as men to be leaders. Barsh and Yee of McKinsey contend “if companies could raise the number of middle management women who make it to the next level by 25%, it would significantly alter the shape of the leadership talent pipeline.”

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, commenting on changing corporate culture, “leaders need to tell the majority of men in corporate life that they also need to change, and allow new and different styles of leadership to move in—and up.”

Two things seem more certain today. First, the glass ceiling has not been broken in any substantial way at the senior executive and board level in North America, and second, research points to women possessing the kind of leadership style we need today.


Gun Control and the Culture of Violence

Posted December 18th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

The most recent shooting tragedy, in which 20 young children were murdered at a school in Connecticut, has refocused the debate over gun control and violence in the U.S. While the outrage was almost universal, repeated comments from politicians and other leaders that “now was not the time” to do something about gun control, was also heard loudly. But it’s important to see the gun control issue within the context of the U.S. as a violent society.

According to  Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home? Edelman exclaims “This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns before children and other human beings.”

Harry Bradford, and Howard Steven Friedman writing in the Huffington Post, and the Brady Campaign, and Washington Post provided detailed statistics regarding the firearms industry including the following:

  • The firearms industry created $31 billion in economic activity in 2011.
  • An estimated 270-300 million guns are owned by Americans
  • An estimated 45 million Americans own handguns
  • 87% of the children killed in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
  • 80% of the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
  • The U.S. ranks number 1 in the world in terms of guns owned per 100 people (at 88.8). In comparison, Canada is 114 and Sweden is 70.
  • Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the advanced countries in the past 50 years took place in the United States.
  • The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively.  In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98.   And that overall rate doesn’t tell the full story.  In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number.  The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in Detroit, Michigan the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.  According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed every day in firearm-related incidents.
  • Of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries with the five highest homicide rates are, in order: Mexico (highest), Chile, Estonia, the United States and Turkey (fifth highest).
  • On average in the U.S., 97,820 people are shot every year and approximately 268 every day.

So it is pretty clear that death by guns in the U.S. is a serious problem that far exceeds that of other Western nations. Two distinguished legal scholars, Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, compared crime rates in the G-7 countries (Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States) between in their book, Crime Is Not The Problem: Lethal Violence In America Is. Bluntly, they stated their conclusion: “What is striking about the quantity of lethal violence in the United States is that it is a third-world phenomenon occurring in a first-world nation.”

We can point to U.S. states’ legislation that has actually loosened gun control over the past few years, including the “right to carry” a weapon in the open in public places and the famous “stand your ground laws,” which can give an individual a reason to use a firearm.

What then, is the argument for gun control?

Lisa Hepburn and David Hemenway, of Harvard University studied the issue and published their results in  Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. They concluded that based on their study of cities, states and countries, where there were more guns there were more significantly more homicides.

Economist Richard Florida researched the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. He found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths.

Other countries have successfully dealt with this issue. Max Fisher, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, describes how Japan, a country of 127 million has gun control in effect : “Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country’s infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.” In 2008, the U.S. had over 12,000 firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding 2, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal.

Let’s take the example of Australia. In 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s Prime Minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands. The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings. In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

Undoubtedly the renewed debate over gun control will have to consider the U.S. Constitution’s second amendment, the causes of violence and the psychological profiles of murderers. In some ways, the debate may get sidetracked into the psychological issues and things like background checks, when the real issues of gun control and the U.S. as a violent culture need to be addressed.

These mass murders must be seen in the context of the U.S. as having a history of violence and military activity on a large scale.  For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. ranks number 1 in the sale of military arms to other countries, far ahead of such countries as Russia. And according to a report in the National Post, based on data from the Defense Department, the U.S. has somewhere between 700-800 formal military bases around the world, not counting covert operations. As a percentage of its GDP, the U.S. spends 41% of all expenditures of all countries in the world on the military. China, which is second, spends 8.2% and Russia 4.1%. And according to OECD data, the incarceration rate per 100,000 people, the U.S. ranks number 1 among 34 countries at 730. In contrast, Canada’s figure is 114 and Sweden, 70.

On the heels of a Senate Intelligence Committee report rebuking the CIA for the use of torture in the fight against terrorism, and in the wake of a new movie depicting torture as playing a key role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a new poll shows opponents of torture have a right to be worried about the attitudes of Americans. According to the new HuffPost/YouGov survey, only 25 % of Americans said that torture of suspected terrorists who may know details about future attacks is never justified. Nineteen percent said it is always justified, 28 % said it is sometimes justified, and 16 % said it is rarely justified. The 41 % of respondents who said torture is rarely or never justified are outnumbered by the 47 % who said it is always or sometimes justified.

Whether it’s violence on a large scale such as wars, or domestic violence, it has been pervasive in American life and culture since its beginnings. At yet at the same time, politicians and media have depicted the U.S. as a “peaceful loving” nation, something people readily believed despite evidence to the contrary. Pulitzer Prize winning historian Richard Hofstadter observed: “What is impressive to one who begins to learn about American violence is its extraordinary frequency, its sheer commonplaceness in our history, its persistence into very recent and contemporary times, and its rather abrupt contrast with our pretensions to singular national virtue.”

The media immerse us in a culture of violence. In Hollywood and TV films, violent death has become the only formula for adequate retribution. Movie villains suffer hideous ends – movie justice. Violence as the cultural metaphor well suits a country that for decades has lived with perpetual wars. Turn on kids’ cartoons or any “drama” show and we see and hear the images and sounds of aggression against others. . And the most popular professional sport, American football, has seen increasing levels of violence.

U.S. foreign policy advocates violence as the solution to problems. The media sells violence just as the language of violence shapes political discourse. In Hollywood barely a film heads for theaters without the fight and sound of a fist hitting a face, a bullet ripping through a body or a car pushing another car off the road. And the U.S. leadership from the White House and Pentagon empowers the “assassination abroad committee” to decide which people get killed by drones on a daily basis in foreign countries

Any debate regarding gun control in America requires a serious examination of the culture of violence that exists in America, for this is where the real problem lies. It is not in 2nd amendment rights to bear arms or self-defense or crime, although these are issues the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. always hides behind. The real root cause is in the minds of Americans who may feel that a gun gives them a feeling of empowerment, and that they are entitled to have the power over life and death as well as the belief that if they want to they can take a life if they have been wronged (or imagined they have) in some way. After all, they see it glorified in the media every day.

The senseless tragedy in Connecticut provides an opportune time to turn the course of history in the U.S. and move in truth to a more peaceful loving nation that cares about the welfare of its people—especially children. The time for continuing talk covering the same ground over and over again has passed. It is time for action.

Hearing positive verbs can induce an unconscious physical response

Posted December 18th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Hearing a verb related to physical action automatically increases the force with which people grip objects, but has no effect on their physical reaction if the word is presented in the negative form, according to research published December 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Pia Aravena and colleagues from the L2C2, Institute of Cognitive Sciences (CNRS/UCBL), France.

Volunteers in the study were asked to hold a grip sensor as they heard a variety of verbs related to manual actions, like ‘throw’ or ‘scratch’, in different sentence structures. The researchers observed a significant increase in the strength of participants’ grip when words were presented in an affirmative sentence, but no such reaction when the same action words were presented in a negative context, such as ‘don’t throw’.

Several previous studies have explored how the brain processes negative sentence structures like “The door is not open,” but this is among the first research studies to explore the effects of this sentence-dependent context on language-induced motor activity. “These findings could open possibilities for the evaluation and rehabilitation of motor and language disorders” says Aravena.

Source; Pia Aravena, Yvonne Delevoye-Turrell, Viviane Deprez, Anne Cheylus, Yves Paulignan, Victor Frak, Tatjana Nazir. Grip Force Reveals the Context Sensitivity of Language-Induced Motor Activity during “Action Words” Processing: Evidence from Sentential NegationPLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (12): e50287 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050287