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June Book Review: Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it)
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    No really, why?

    Professor of business psychology at Columbia, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explored this topic in a Harvard Business Review article in 2013, where it quickly became the most-read article on the site. Though his book of a similar title only released in March of this year, we had to snap it up and find out, why do incompetent men hold leadership positions in so many fields? Despite what the title may suggest, this is not necessarily a gendered issue. Just about everyone, male or female, has been a victim of an incompetent boss, manager, or supervisor (who, the author argues, is almost always a man).

Chamorro-Premuzic addresses the psychological reasons that men achieve leadership roles more frequently than women of similar (or better) qualifications. He talks at great length about how charismatic narcissism and psychopathic tendencies - traits more typically found in men - are considered beneficial in many business environments. However, while people who are charismatic and narcissistic often appear to be confident and capable, the author states very clearly that “there is in fact no relationship between confidence and competence.” Chamorro-Premuzic addresses why it is hard for any competent individual to become a leader when they are overshadowed by incompetent charisma; this is particularly true for women. This is deeply at odds with the mountains of independent research indicating that businesses achieve greater profitability with women at the helm.   

   The first half of the book mirrored its Harvard Business Review counterpart, “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” but the second half puts its focus on the subtitle: “and how to fix it”. Chamorro-Premuzic provides in great detail steps that can be taken to mitigate incompetent male leadership (broadening job searches to include gender diversity, continuous leadership training, utlizing metrics to gauge performance etc.) however, as simple as these steps sound it is not enough to just hire a “leader” . In fact, the author cites that 75% of hiring decisions are made purely on instinct - which is obviously a terrible metric for hiring practices - and instinct tends to favour charisma and confidence over talent or capability.

Ultimately, like most issues in the workplace, everything comes down to culture. We would be doing a disservice to the book’s message if we tried to summarize all of the valuable takeaways and leadership advice. Truly, there is just too much. We highly recommend this book to any individual (male or female!) looking to improve their leadership skills, and to organizations that are looking to improve their internal culture, and therefore their bottom line.

We at Genderversity give “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it)” 5/5

We love book recommendations! Leave a comment, Facebook message, or email, and tell us what you think we should read next

Bailey DavallComment
No, He Didn’t Steal Your Idea: Communication Barriers and Workplace Stress

Let’s start today’s post with a hypothetical:

You are a woman working closely with men in a professional environment. You’re in a meeting and you share an idea. It’s quickly glossed over by your male colleagues. The next day, your male coworker comes in and tells your boss your idea from yesterday’s meeting, seemingly taking all the credit for himself. Your boss is on board, and no one acknowledges that it was your idea in the first place!

This is a complaint we hear regularly from women in the workplace. “Men just don’t listen!” Most women cite this as the number one reason for changing jobs. “Not all men!” is often the response we hear from the male perspective, and now we have a problem - communication breaks down, it leads to staff turnover, which we all know is costly for the company and bad for staff morale.

A recent study out of the University of Southern California indicates that men and women react very differently to stress. For women, stress can increase brain activity, causing them to feel frantic or energized. For men, it’s the exact opposite. The study shows that if placed under too much stress, the male brain will literally start to shut down and decrease activity. Can you see how this could go badly? A perfect storm where one side needs to communicate everything all at once, and the other side needs to destimulate and organize their thoughts, it’s no wonder men and women sometimes have trouble working together!

Knowing this research, we can start to make changes in our own behaviour at work. We don’t need to shame men (or women for that matter) for biological reactions to stress - you can’t change your basal brain chemistry on a whim. However, as a woman you may need to recognize that yelling at a man at work may achieve the opposite of the desired effect. As a man, you may need to realize that she isn’t “just talking” at you, her brain is rapid-firing trying to organize itself. He isn’t lazy, uncooperative, or not listening, and she isn’t a chatterbox saying the same thing over and over again. It’s just our biology dealing with stress in very different ways.

So, how might the business professional take this knowledge into the workplace?

Work on your communication methods with the opposite sex. Ladies, slow your roll. Work on being more concise (I personally find numbered lists to be really helpful here), and try not to give extraneous details where they’re not necessary (your cousin’s boyfriend’s sister is probably not relevant to why the vendor hasn’t called back). Men, we would really appreciate it if you gave us a verbal or physical indication that our voice was heard. Seriously, just a “sounds good” or “yeah” or even just a thumbs up works! Women often end up feeling dismissed or disregarded if we don’t receive confirmation, and this is why men are accused of stealing women’s ideas at work. The fact is they didn’t steal it, it was just a good idea that merited repeating; but there was no verbal confirmation, and it gets lost in translation as a stolen idea.

Bailey Davall
August Book Review: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

“Feminism” - I know, it’s a word that can scare a lot of people away, but before we dive into this month’s book review we are going to address the meaning of what it means to be a feminist. It’s really very simple:

Feminism is the belief that men and women have inherently equal value. Some people prefer the term “humanist”, or “egalitarian”, but let me be clear - they refer to the same principle that all people, all men and all women, are equal.

Now, with that clarification in mind, we can continue.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was exactly what the title claims to be. The author, prolific Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, structured the book as a response to a letter from a friend, a new mother who asked Adichie how to raise her infant daughter to be a feminist.

Amongst her first suggestions, Adichie addresses the disparities that often occur between raising boys and raising girls, even early in life. We know that most boys are given trucks and blocks to play with, toys that teach them to explore and interact with the world around them, and that little girls are often given dolls, or toys that teach them to value domesticity over exploration (an ideal feminist solution would be for all toys to be marketed to children of all genders without separating them as “girl toys” and “boy toys”, but I digress). One solution that Adichie offers to address these disparities is to eliminate the idea of “gender roles”, the idea that “baseball is for boys" and “cooking is for girls”. If a girl has a talent for baseball then it should be encouraged. If a boy wants to learn to cook there is nothing “girly” about it. These gender stereotypes have been found to be harmful when forced upon children, but Adichie acknowledges that it all comes down to individual choice. Activities and hobbies should be encouraged regardless of the gender of the child pursuing them, or the traditional gender role with which they are associated.  

Many suggestions seemed obvious at first, “teach her to love books”, “be a full person”, “teach her that she has choices in life”, but the suggestions of course are just the surface. Teach her to love books because it will give her the tools to question the world around her, and help her express herself in whatever she chooses to become in life. Be a full person, and lead by example, show her that you are more than a mother, an employee, a wife, you are an individual with your own interests and personality. Teach her that she has choices in life, and that they should not be made because of undue pressures from society, culture or peers. She has the choice to take her husband’s name after marriage, and she also has the choice not to. She has the choice to have sexual relations with another person, and she has the choice to say no. She has the choice to be a wife and mother, the choice to be a rocket scientist, and the choice to do both or neither.

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Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never reason for anything. Ever.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Realistically, while this book’s focus is on raising a daughter, the suggestions are valid for raising any child: teach them about sex early, factually and without shame for their biology. Teach them that they don’t have to be “likeable” or appeal to everyone; so long as you are honest and kind, people who value those traits will want to be around you. This also means being honest and kind to yourself. Teach them about diversity and difference, and that their experiences in life are not universal to everyone.

I did not address every one of the fifteen suggestions here - it is because I cannot do them all justice in this short review, so please trust our judgement and pick this one up for yourself. I highly recommend Dear Ijeawele to everyone, men, women, parents, and non-parents, feminists, and non-feminists, because the fifteen suggestions are not just suggestions for women, or for mothers, or for feminists: they are suggestions for life.

We at Genderversity give Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions 5/5

June/July Book Review: The Male Brain and The Female Brain

 

If you are a frequent visitor to the Genderversity blog, you may have noticed that we skipped our monthly book review in June. We assure you, it’s not a mistake! For June and July we are doing a special two-book review on “The Male Brain” and “The Female Brain”, both by Louann Brizendine, M.D.

When I first purchased the books I had intended for the reviews to be separate. Why shouldn’t they be? Modern medicine has taught us that the brain chemistry of males and females are inherently different (please see our May Book Review for a great source on this), so it would stand to reason that these particular books on the matter would be different too. I finished “The Female Brain” first, and enjoyed the style in which the information was presented. The author used short, relatable anecdotes that outline experiences that all of us have faced, and explains the brain chemistry behind them (like how being dumped by a partner is chemically comparable to symptoms of drug-withdrawals for both men and women, or how teenagers can seem to go from agreeable to aggressive seemingly out of nowhere just because their brains are still in the process of developing). Each chapter presents a different stage of brain-development chronologically from utero to full maturity, even addressing the changes that happen during pregnancy and after menopause.

Before I sat down to write the review I was looking through my notes and noticed that in addition to all the information the book had given me about the state of the female brain, I had ended up with a lot of information on the male brain as well. I mean a lot. Out of curiosity I skipped writing the review and read “The Male Brain” right away, and was floored (and frankly a little disappointed) to find that the books were basically the same.

“The Female Brain” had covered so much information about both sexes that I truly didn’t have enough information to separate the reviews. After reading “The Female Brain”, “The Male Brain” felt like a disappointing attempt to resell the same content in a package geared towards men (a marketing ploy we see every day in things like disposable razors, shampoos, soap, etc.)

These two books have also been exceptionally controversial, despite having been on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Many professionals in the medical field consider these books to be “pop-psychology”, and take issue with many theories that are presented as fact in the book despite not having been proven to be 100% true (though there are no outright “lies” as far as my fact-checking has found). However, this could be due to the book being geared towards the layman. The average person’s knowledge of neuroscience is likely not equal to that of the vast majority of the medical community, so it’s very possible (and likely) that Dr. Brizendine simplified some things in order to better explain them.

Overall, I will give these two books a combination score of 3/5, having removed points for “The Male Brain” being virtually identical to its female counterpart, and apparent simplification of facts.
 

Join us in August for our review of “Dear Ijeawele” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!

Bailey DavallComment
Book Review: Gender Medicine

We know that men and women are different. We are aware of all the ahem “obvious” ways (if you know what I mean), but for some reason the implication that there are any differences beyond that is extremely controversial. We addressed it briefly in last month’s book review of Brain Sex, but this month’s book dives deep into the very very real differences that exist between male and female bodies.

Gender Medicine by Marek Glazerman M.D takes us through years of research and studies done on both male and female bodies to determine where exactly our differences lie, and as it turns out, those differences lie everywhere. Just about literally every system we have in our bodies is composed differently. Did you know that men and women exhibit different heart attack symptoms? Or our gut bacteria is different even when fed the exact same diet? That we register pain differently because our brain chemistry is not identical?

Dr. Glazerman (former president of the International Society of Gender Medicine) presents factual studies in concise form, citing dozens of reputable sources for his information, including journals of medicine and clinicians around the globe. Anyone with a basic understanding of human biology would find it an approachable read to learn about what truly differentiates us from the opposite sex. Dr. Glazerman considers gender medicine to be the first step to fully personalized healthcare. Imagine if a doctor could perfectly tailor medicine dosages to you based on your sex, your hormonal makeup, your family history, your lifestyle. Personalized healthcare has to start somewhere, and your chromosomes are a good start.

Overall: 5/5

Any thoughts on what our June book should be? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

April Book Review: Brain Sex
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Welcome all to our inaugural Genderversity™ Monthly Book Review! This is the section of our blog where we’ll review and recommend some of our personal favourite literature in regards to gender science, sociology, and the world of business through the lense of gender diversity. Our first book is one to which Genderversity™ CEO Jill Beresford largely attributes her start in gender intelligence work - Brain Sex, by Anne Moir Ph.D and David Jessel.

The first thing you’ll likely notice about the book is that it was co-authored by both a man and a woman, and it certainly reads as such. By not favouring one gender over the other, Brain Sex beautifully addresses the challenges that men and women often face when communicating with each other and why those challenges occur, communicating their well-researched facts through intelligent (and often quite snarky) humour. They examine the physical and chemical changes that affect each of us in utero, puberty, and beyond, to factually address how hormones can affect our brains at their basest level. The authors also acknowledge that many of the facts they present can be divisive, and maybe even alienating to many readers. The idea that men and women are neurologically, physically, socially, different from one another is often written off as controversial. Brain Sex works to minimize “sexual politics” and really focus on the “why” and “how” of our behaviours and tendencies through the lense of biological sex.

The only issue I will point out with Brain Sex (and really, it’s the only issue) is that because it was released in the late 1980’s, the research is not as up to date as it could be. Gender science, neurological imaging, and social awareness have all made leaps and bounds in the 30 years since its release. Nonetheless, if you are just beginning your journey with gender intelligence, Brain Sex is a great place to start. It’s cleverly written, well-researched, highly informative, and a vastly entertaining read even if you are unfamiliar with the science behind it.

Overall: 4/5 stars

Join us in May for our next book review: Gender Medicine, by Marek Glezerman

Bailey Davall
What a 3 Year Old Can Teach Us About Stopping Unwanted Harassment

You have to be living under a rock to have not noticed that 2017 is the year where just about every media vehicle available for communication is running multiple stories daily on sexual harassment, sexual assault and, sadly, rape. A virtual tidal wave of allegations in just about every industry hits the news, multiple times, daily.

Religion. Hollywood. Media. Politics. Business. Education. Refugees. And it’s global.

#meToo is now a social global and numerically frightening phenomenon of women and men posting #meToo to announce that they have been victims of some form of unwanted sexual attention – and what of those that didn’t post preferring to live with their story in silence for reasons of their own? I didn’t post but man, do I have some stories!

If we want to solve for “X” and “X” equals stopping all of this sexual aggression primarily targeted to women and children, what would the formula look like?

For me it would start with education. Whether it’s science or culture (and we don’t have precision yet on which has more influence), I’d definitely start with the cultural change that could be made through education of both men and women.

When my now-adult daughter was 3, she attended Montessori school. Montessori, a long-standing and very well-proven teaching method that has been around since the 1800’s, focuses on the life skills needed both in and outside of the classroom. I had sent my daughter to Montessori School because I wanted her to be a strong and independent person. I wanted her to be free to express herself; to be a leader if that was her natural inclination; to speak up respectfully and right injustice or other problems in the world in whatever line of work she would chose as an adult; to teach her during the day, what her father and I would continue to reinforce at home when she was with us and not in school. Both her father and I worked as CEOs.

One of these skills taught in the classroom at Montessori is to respectfully ask other children to be respectful of boundaries and not touch you if you don’t want to be touched.

One day at a small birthday party, a grandfatherly-man grabbed my then 3-year-old, put her on the floor and started tickling her. She immediately wiggled free, stood up, looked him right in the eye and said “Excuse me. This is my body. Please don’t touch it.”

The room silenced.

I was horrified.

My staunchly English upbringing was screaming out that I needed to “fix” this tense situation of a child asking an adult, who was now babbling to me about not being a pedophile, to not touch her. Culturally I had been trained that children should be seen and not heard. I wanted so much to make the man in front of me “comfortable” in this uncomfortable situation.

I imagined her moving into her teenage years listening to what I might have said at that moment to “fix” the room’s discomfort, when she was getting inappropriate advances from others – men or women. Did I want my words ringing in her ears “It’s ok honey, he/she is just playing”? “It’s ok honey, put your needs to be left alone behind the needs of those who touch you unasked?”

My response to the room?

“She asked you not to touch her, so you need to honor her request”.

Two short sentences – one by a 3-year-old and one by her mom – changed her life although she was probably blissfully unaware that there was ever any other choice than speaking up respectfully about something you don’t like (which she does to this day!)

Ask yourself what you would have done if you were 3 and/or if you were me. And then ask yourself, “can we culturally make change through education to this environment we live in where costly inappropriate sexual advances are headline news not to mention life-damaging for the victims?

The resounding answer is YES. If a 3-year-old can learn to do it with the support of those around her, you can too.

Gender Diversity – The Guys Who Get It, and Those Who Don't

Sometimes it seems like most companies don’t know how to work with women. Fox News, Uber, Bestworks, UBS, Ralph’s Grocery Stores, Chipotle, Google, and countless others make headline news on a regular basis for this very reason.

Many corporations at some point in their lifetime have been, are, or will be engaged in/settling their sexual harassment and discrimination claims, and unfortunately no one sees those (very expensive) sexual harassment and discrimination cases ending anytime soon. But does all the fault lie on men who don’t value women in the workplace? Can you name one male-run company that values female input tremendously and has been in the news lately?

Probably not and probably not without a Google search. Here’s two:

Joe Keefe, is President and CEO of Pax World Funds and its investment adviser, Pax World Management LLC, as well as its majority-owned subsidiary, Pax Ellevate Management LLC. Keefe is a leading advocate for investing in women, is aware of the critical role that gender diversity plays in business success, and actively works to create this diversity in his own companies. Indeed, Pax Ellevate Management LLC, a gender-lens investing pioneer and investment adviser to the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX, or just “the Fund”), announced in July, that the Fund outperformed the MSCI World Index, for the three-year period.

Keefe sees the economic benefit in working with women. It really is just that simple. No grandstanding. No excuses. No headline news. Just performance that exceeds that of men-run only companies by up to 65%. Just profitability, which, in case you forgot, is what most of us are in business for.

Similarly, Kevin O’Leary of Canada, better known as “Mr. Wonderful” from Shark Tank, also sees the value and financial contribution of women-led businesses. In a recent interview with The Boston Business Journal, Kevin spoke about why he has 50% of his portfolio in women-run companies. In the interview he even goes so far as to claim that “women CEOs are a better bet than men”. A man of few words (though some may argue that his words aren’t very kind), Kevin “gets it”.

The factual, responsible, and proven understanding/implementation of the gender diversity research results demonstrates that when 30% or more of a company’s Senior Management Team and/or Board membership are women, the company will be up to 65% more profitable. Contrast that with the companies who have sexual assault/discrimination/harassment issues all over them and no/few women at the top. Coincidence? I think not.

Headlines like this from August 4th’s Washington Post: “Uber’s search for a Female CEO has been narrowed down to 3 men”, while cleverly-written and quite humorous, is sobering – and sad. It tells us how the men in charge at Uber think, taking the hypocritical approach of “Let’s-tell-the-world-we-want-a-female-CEO-but-do-something-else” which historically hasn’t served them very well.

Arianna Huffington, the ONLY woman on the Uber Board, had the gumption to speak up and tell the guys what Joe Keefe and Kevin O’Leary (and others like them) already knew. Her honest, fact-based and responsible suggestion to put more women on the Uber Board to attempt to capitalize on the expertise women bring to business was met with a comment by Board member, David Bonderman that women talk too much (maybe he should have listened to her, as he no longer has a Board seat at Uber, but perhaps he considers his new reputation as a rampant misogynist as a fair tradeoff).

Uber has offered their open CEO position to Dara Khosrowshahi, as one Uber source told Recode…”everyone is becoming exhausted. We need someone with the skills to move us along”. I personally believe Khosrowshahi to be extremely qualified. But so was Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg, and Susan Wojcicki. For the sake of all of those who work at Uber and their investors I hope Dara works out for you.

Uber did not ask my advice as a Gender Diversity Consultant, a former CEO of a publicly-held company, and as a woman, But here it is:

Bank on the guys who bank on the women….it’s just good for business!

Gender Inequality in Business is NOT Generational – witness UBER.

Recently I conducted a Genderversity™ training session in a large international technology firm. In the audience was a confident female Gen-Yer who was considered a leader within the company, and she stated the following: “… in my opinion, gender inequality and sexual harassment is just a generational issue”. She went on to say that sexual harassment and discrimination were a thing of the past in her generation (that is to say anyone born after 1990). When probed as to why she thought this way, she added that it was the older business men who have been accused of several counts of sexual harassment and discrimination (and when you think of some of today’s headline news, Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, and Bill Cosby would be considered “old” by her definition). She believed that the businessmen in her generation and in coming generations behave differently around women than their predecessors. In her mind the mistakes made in previous generations regarding inappropriate sexual behavior had since been mitigated.

A laudable argument, but objectively incorrect.

The meltdown of Uber - the most successful technology start-up ever, with an estimated market valuation of $40 billion based on a recent Inc. Magazine report - indicates that sexual harassment is clearly NOT a generational issue. The median age of an employee in tech-related companies is only 30 years old (based on a study from PayScale) - technically millennials. Uber is a millennial company; has millennial leadership; and millennials are the most enthusiastic Uber adopters according to Felim McGrath of the globalwebindex.

Uber has been the subject of extreme public scrutiny lately due to several instances that indicate a toxic corporate culture for women, throughout the entire Uber organization. Indeed, in February of 2017 Uber brought in the heavy-hitters to help solve their sexual harassment problems by hiring former U.S Attorney General Eric Holder (can’t even begin to imagine what that cost but “A” for effort right?)

To give an indication at how deep the problem runs, witness David Bonderman, an Uber board member who, in the midst of a June announcement of the findings from a sweeping sexual harassment investigation, made a joke about gender stereotypes, adding even more fuel to claims of a toxic culture. He resigned within the week.

We have no idea of the direct economic cost yet of settling Uber’s sexual harassment lawsuits (although personally I would advise the CFO to put a big, fat, liability accrual on the balance sheet; Uber, and other companies who operate like them are sure going to need it). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that American companies paid out $40.7 million in 2016 alone to remedy charges of sexual harassment, meaning these were payments to women who went to HR to report incidents and were largely ignored.

With the ever-growing media focus on women and women’s issues (including but not limited to sexual harassment, pay gaps, etc.) companies must make gender inclusion and diversity a strategic imperative. The result of this would lead to the prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination claims (and therefore the multi-million dollar payouts), all of which negatively affect profitability.

You can “hope” that what happened at Uber is not happening where you work. You might not see a sexual harassment lawsuit, but the facts point out that many companies will. 1 in 3 women report being sexually harassed in the workplace, the EEOC reports that 74% of all claims to them come from women, and largely involve sexual harassment.

“Hope” is not a strategy. A proactive approach to gender and diversity inclusion is a strategy and is necessary to properly address sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

If you feel that gender diversity is not a priority in your workplace, Genderversity™ is here to help. Please contact us for more information.