Women Can’t do Math? Nonsense

inventhedyHow many times have you heard people say how much they hated math, couldn’t do it, and still have nightmares, cold sweats and physical reactions to miserable math memories? A mere mention of statistics or calculus at a cocktail party can elicit a rejoinder from a complete stranger. More often than not, the immediate response is to move quickly to the bar or for you to be privy to a retelling of someone’s earlier trauma.

Math was never my strongest area of study. I wish that it had been easier for me to master or to at least be more comfortable with the material. If I had a time machine, I would happily jump in and request a redo with new instructors and the wisdom of a more fully formed adult to tackle all forms of math. Treating it like the elephant in the room and avoiding it when possible, also changed my career path in ways that I didn’t understand until much later on. I have coached enough unhappy attorneys, who in part, chose to study the law because they were not math/science people. While that is not the full explanation for all dissatisfied attorneys, too often it is a very common refrain; a choice by default.

What doors would a proficiency in math have opened up? Larry Summers, late of Harvard University suggested that so few women become scientists and engineers because of discrimination, preference and even differences in innate ability. Outrageous? Of course, yet many women continue to pick up on this negative stereotype and opt out in advance. Have you ever dined with friends who declined to “do the math” when the bill arrived? Have you ever dined with friends who announced they could not read the menu? The latter is a highly unlikely scenario unless it was for wont of reading glasses. So, illiteracy is shocking but lack of math proficiency is somehow understood? Why is this behavior more commonplace among women? In mixed groups I have yet to see a woman grab the check to do the calculation and yes, it is just as likely that she could do it.

Yes, of course women CAN do the math, determine the tip and divide the charges on a meal tab. However, it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up. In a recently published paper from the Academy of Sciences, three business school professors set up a lab experiment in which managers were given an “implicit association test” to measure gender bias in math and science. “The very people who are biased against women about math, are also less likely to believe that men boast about their skills, so they are picking up a negative stereotype of women but not so for men.” In fact, when the same managers were tasked to hire people based on the outcomes of mathematical tasks that they performed equally well, managers of BOTH sexes were twice as likely to choose a man.

What can we conclude? Bias does exist and Larry Summers was dead wrong. So if you ever have the opportunity to join him for a meal, be sure to smile and let him pick up the check!


Spring Clean Your Closet

dresses-300x218Should it go or should it stay? Each season I approach my closet with a mindset of reorganizing everything to make way for shifting clothes from one space to another. It’s the kind of task that is energizing in anticipation of warmer weather and fewer layers to consider. There’s a beginning, middle and end if I can remain focused and unattached to the garments. Sometimes it is very straightforward and sometimes there are stops and starts, events to recall, and reminders of places where I’ve worn a particular outfit. Good thoughts and others mix in with the texture, fragrance and times of the past season…evocative and worth the pause to summon up memories.

However, when getting down to the real business of a seasonal closet reorganization it is easy to get off track and lost in the land of wishful thinking. Sometimes it calls for a merciless extraction exercise to leave you with physical and psychological space. It’s time to purge using the following guidelines:
• Stained
• Doesn’t fit now, didn’t fit then, won’t fit in this century
• Not trendy
• Smells
• Doesn’t convey the right message
• Worn out
• Wouldn’t buy it now
• You keep trying it on but wouldn’t wear it out of the house

Separate work wear from casual clothing. Does your go to “power outfit” still convey a strong image or is it dated? Five pairs of black pants may no longer be in style and/or not fit properly. Take your time and be honest with yourself. This is an opportunity to organize your wardrobe and simplify your morning routine.

Lastly, a reason often overlooked is the clothing you connect with a bad memory. It might be the gorgeous coat that you splurged on but you associate it with the winter you lost your job, faced a difficult family situation, got dumped or were going through a rough patch. Toss it! If it’s a piece left behind by a painful ex, a previous friendship, or anyone negative. Toss it! When you purge your closet of bad memories it is empowering and now baggage free, you can shop for replacements, adding things that you love!


Claim Your Space

powerposeswomenHarvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy recently delivered an inspirational keynote address. This was of particular note as she wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. Early in her college career, Cuddy suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said she would struggle to fully regain her mental capacity and finish her undergraduate degree, yet she persevered despite the original prognosis.

Cuddy’s research at Harvard Business School confirms that our body language communicates information to others that shapes their perceptions of us. It also communicates information to us that shapes our own self-concept. We can construct how powerful we feel by assuming expansive body poses.

In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, high-power poses for as little as two-minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds, and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss. These power poses led to an increased sense of power and risk tolerance.

In other words, Cuddy states that we can fake confidence and power by using expansive body language to change our body chemistry and our feelings. This is especially useful in preparing to speak to a group or in any situation where a self-assured image is important. Whether you face a challenging subordinate, a complex negotiation or a difficult relative, this is a quick way to gather your composure and tap into your power. Begin incorporating the pose into your daily practices, thereby reducing stress and adding greater self-assurance. Claim your space!


Career Exploration-Other Places to Get Started

greatest-strength-greatest-weaknessSometimes you think that the answer, the key to what path you should be pursing is right in front of you and you just can’t see it. Unlocking your approach is a first step. Below are questions that can help in getting started with your self-interview.

1. What topics do you enjoy helping others with?

2. What topics do friends, co-workers, managers, or family members call on you for help with?

3. What subjects make you want to share what you know with strangers, peers, and acquaintances?

4. What problems make you want to discover a better way of doing something?

5. What topics are you drawn to find out more about?

6. What are your favorite books and/or movies?

7. What subjects are represented by the books on your bookshelves?

8. What did you always want to be when you grew up?

9. What subjects fascinated you as a child?

10.What life experiences or life-changing events make you want to share what you’ve learned with others?

11.What process or set of steps do you do regardless of the topic or task at hand?

12.What tools, equipment, or raw material do you like to use in your work?

13.What characteristics describe your favorite clients or customers? (Age, gender, belief system, cultural/ethnic background, life stage, education level, income level, problem or life situations, shared interest, lifestyle, particular talent, etc.)

© MWeisner2017

More $ Career $ Advice

pay-gapThere is no end of career advice to be found. It may be industry specific or so broad that it could apply to anyone. The latter is not especially useful, so when I read Sally Krawcheck’s piece as it related to her top career advice, it was with a focus on investment, investment in yourself and the significance of creating more dollars. She is the former president of a Bank of America Division and owner of a women’s networking community. “Women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar on average. While that amount has risen, it is not close to where it should be and the difference in the dollar amount is alarming.”

According to Krawcheck, “If we ask for a raise and get one big enough to close that gap, the investment we have just made in ourselves earns us nearly a 30 percent return on what, for many of us, is our biggest asset: our income stream. Compare that with investing in a 10-year government bond when it was yielding 2.48 percent, or in the stock market, which has returned 7.3 percent on average over the past decade.”

She continues, “Put another way, if we earn $77,000 a year and take that up to a man’s $100,000, we’ll see a net gain of $23,000 annually, $230,000 over a decade and close to $1million over the course of a career. That’s if we never request, or get, another raise.”

You may not close the pay gap in one jump, but all progress counts. There is a lot of money that’s left on the table for no reason other than no one asked for it. Compensation is based on performance among other things, so list your accomplishments, practice the ask and do not apologize for your request.

Effective Body Language- Putting Your Best Self Forward

power-posesAccording to body language expert, Janine Driver, several key gestures can make a difference in how you are perceived. The following DO’s and DON’Ts are easy to picture and excellent reminders.

HOLD YOUR CHIN- It’s a thinking pose

PULL IN YOUR LIPS– Sucking in your lips suggests that you are holding back, perhaps attempting to hide something

STEEPLE YOUR FINGERS– Pressing fingertips to fingertips increases your authority

LOSE TRACK OF YOUR TILT– Tilting your head in serious situations makes you appear less believable. For general conversation, be aware of the direction of your tilt. To the right, you seem more attractive. To the left, you’re viewed to be more intelligent.

CROSS YOUR ARMS- It is a power position and makes you seem more standoffish. The action uses both sides of your body, engaging the logical left and creative right parts of your brain. Arm crossing makes us more likely to remain on a difficult task.

WRINKLE YOUR NOSE- It’s a universal sign of disgust

This is only a sampling and no doubt you can add many more gestures to the list, from making solid eye contact to leaning towards the person who is talking. But how close should you be and when does space become an invitation or a violation? Body language varies from culture to culture, so it’s important to learn what is most appropriate in a given group for your own comfort and that of others.
©Maureen Weisner 2017

Please Stop the Whining

no-whiningWe have all experienced the “Debbie Downer” character in our personal or professional worlds. Complaining has been elevated to a high art by these individuals and while entertaining at times, it’s more frequently draining and off-putting. Fault finding is valuable when you identify what’s not working and look for a solution. Occasional whining may be acceptable but if it rises to the level of chronically finding fault, it’s time to take stock. When crankiness has become an end to itself and a legitimate issue actually does arise, how likely will others respond to it?

Life is imperfect and for some people, complaining is a way to get or even deflect attention. Notice your own behaviors:
• Are they energy draining or energy building?
• Are you feeling powerless in a situation or a relationship?
• What is your typical response?

Chronic irritability distances you from others. If only they would change, then you might not have anything to object to. Focusing on what others need to do rather than on your own actions avoids the possibility of personal transformation and empowerment. Turn that critical eye inward.
• Identify what you would like to create
• What are you choosing to modify or eliminate?
• Channel the energy
• Ask for support from others
• Create a plan of action
• Engage


Are You Passionate or Curious?

questionsThe oft repeated mantra to clients in transition had been to seek out their passion, follow it and the money will somehow be manifested. If only life could be so well orchestrated that your deepest desires and interests would also provide a reliable stream of income. While anything is possible, and ideally the work you do will in great part be congruent with your values, skills and interests, how does passion play a role and what about curiosity? How are they connected?

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

Is it the chicken and egg question, also referred to as the causality dilemma? The latter refers to the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first.

If you are curious by nature, are you likely to be more engaged in collecting information and learning new things? How long will your interest be sustained beyond the superficial unless there is more to maintain your attention? Some people are serially occupied by learning and satisfied to become knowledgeable about many things. In bygone times when we actually visited bookstores, did you wander everywhere or tend to gravitate towards particular areas? The same can be said for on-line sites. Do you jump around regularly or become more expert with specific sites for learning new information?

Remember the early days of a relationship, whether platonic or romantic, and not knowing if it could develop into something more? That excitement may have turned into passion, and deepened, or flamed out. In the workplace you may have been attracted to an industry or called to a profession because you were passionate about its values or the impact you could make.

Passion is an exciting emotion and it feeds us. Curiosity relates to an eagerness to know more about something or to get information. Inquisitiveness may lead you beyond the initial burst of enthusiasm or it can actually be the accelerant that fans the flames of passion. Curiosity expands our world, leads to great discoveries and engenders passion in many forms. Both are inextricably connected but when the passion wanes the inquiring mind may provide another way to retain the spark and focus on new directions with abandon to become, like Einstein, passionately curious.


Taking Notes

taking-notesAdmittedly I am a product of the Luddite era, when taking notes meant pen and paper, unless you had a working knowledge of shorthand. In class we all developed our own versions of transcribing the words of the lecturer into some legible form to be reviewed later. Unfortunately, “later” often meant well beyond the time when those scribbles made sense and the well intended abbreviations morphed into indecipherable gibberish. Fast forward to the present and, with few exceptions, students are keyboarding. Most people can type faster than write longhand, so why would you choose the latter? In short, digital note-taking is easier.

New information suggests that longhand may be a better tool for locking in learning and help us remember what we heard. UCLA researchers had students take notes at a lecture and quizzed them later. Even with the Internet disabled, long-hand note-takers performed better on tests. Mueller/Oppenheimer referred to the “desirable difficulty” —when an obstacle that can frustrate us, actually helps us learn. Students who were transcribing the lectures were acting as stenographers and not grappling with the task of taking in the information, processing it and creating a way for them to recall it. Note-taking is a two part process; encoding or creating the notes and storage – reviewing the notes later. Printing information in hard to read fonts was another example of “desirable difficulty”.

As an aside, in a class I recently took, I was the only one still writing notes by hand. What I also noticed was that many screens were not capturing the speaker’s words, but playing solitaire, scanning Facebook or checking messages. So, has attention become so fragmented that even in the middle of a lecture, the focus is elsewhere, accounting for the information retention gap? Or, can we make the best use of these tools selectively knowing that once you store a phone number in your mobile device, for example, you will not have to recall it from your memory, having sent it to the cloud and safely stored elsewhere.


Ignore the Small Stuff

5475688_m_-_crowd_gesturing_silenceYou have only so much energy. Spend it wisely.

Some things just aren’t worth your time and energy. Perhaps a co-worker refuses to greet you in the morning. Maybe a customer uses a sharp tone of voice. Your partner may forget to do an errand, sending you over the edge. Is it worth stewing about it, replaying the incident, slight or misbehavior endlessly? Possibly, but more often than not, we expend much more effort on minor grievances that can take on a life of their own, relinquishing our power to someone or something else

Think about how much time you’ve wasted on what really amounts to minor irritants when you could have used it to redirect your thinking and avoid getting trapped. Are you willing to carry along the annoying experience in the AM, through your day, only to share it in the PM with family or friends? How much “rent” can you charge to that earlier incident for taking up premium space in your head?

One effective strategy for managing frustrating situations can be as simple as counting to ten before engaging or responding. Try it when you’re sitting in traffic and before you lean on your horn. Another technique is to change the geography by physically moving to another space or area before reacting. Sometimes that action alone can make a huge difference.

Get smart. Don’t spend $10 worth of energy on a 10-cent problem. Learn to identify the higher value issues and act accordingly.

“Do not let trifles disturb your tranquility of mind…life is too precious to be sacrificed for the nonessential and transient…ignore the inconsequential.” ~ Grenville Kleiser