Virtual technology can help create a more equal reality.
This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com
Virtual reality (VR) is changing the way we view the world and each other, literally. Already, the innovation has made advancements throughout numerous industries — entertainment, business, healthcare, etc. — reimagining the way we communicate, learn and work.
Still, critics counter that its software and programming foster sexism and gender bias, evidenced by the traditional power structures that prevail in leadership positions today. However, interest has increased in using the immersive tech for social change, so it’s worth asking: Can we truly realize VR’s potential to help, and not hinder, working women?
The answer, I believe, is yes. While it’s true that programmers must take proactive measures to ensure that VR avoids creating hostile environments for women, groundbreaking VR applications can empower female leaders by nourishing supportive mentorship groups, educating on and preventing sexual harassment and ultimately fostering the empathy that safeguards against workplace sexism.
VR’s Realms of Support and Mentoring
In order for women to thrive at work, it’s important that they have strategic support systems of peers and mentors, specifically those comprised of other women who know first-hand the challenges they face regularly. VR extends the opportunity for women to communicate with each other in networks that help them flourish. One great example is the Lioness app created by the integrated ad company Ogilvy in partnership with Google and UN Women. Due to the lack of female representation within the advertising industry, the app was created to foster a platform where women can share and learn from each other’s experiences. Employing various Google tools, including augmented and virtual reality portals, the app offers features a tour creator to generate visual workplace field trips, inspiring students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to female leaders.
Though some men in leadership positions have reported fears of mentoring women in the wake of the #MeToo movement, more companies are now emerging that focus on creating virtual learning and mentoring environments for women. Take Ceresa, for example, which offers structured programs with virtual mentorship meetings to remove the burden of anxiety and build more lasting mentoring relationships.
Virtual reality also allows women to step into the journeys and professional worlds of successful female leaders. For instance, The Female Planet, a YouTube VR series, makes it easier to shadow and learn from global female leaders by tracking the personal and professional experiences of five women from the tech and even entertainment sectors.
As the confidence gap remains a major challenge for female workers, these virtual worlds can build a more empowering reality, offering them the support and learning tools they need to excel.
Virtual Sexual Harassment Training and Monitoring
A 2017 study found that 78 percent of female founders had reported experiencing, or knowing someone who had encountered, sexual harassment at work. However, VR can both train coworkers and monitor the office to safeguard against sexual harassment and abuse.
The key is creating an immersive experience that helps engage trainees and puts the material into a real-life context. Companies like Vantage Point have designed a multi-step, VR sexual harassment training program that essentially transports you to another world. In safe environments, users become educated on how to identify and report sexual assault, practicing the best ways to respond if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Similar to how AI-led companies like Callisto and Botler.ai can monitor and help survivors report sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s worth noting that VR tools with augmented features can identify and monitor when sexual harassment occurs, helping to expose and address its prevalence.
In India, for example, VR is trying to wipe away stigma and deep-rooted fear of reporting sexual assault. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, in partnership with the Rajasthan Police, has created multilingual “Virtual Police Stations” that allow citizens to stay informed on the various laws concerning these issues. By simulating the environment of a real-world police station with 360-degree technology, Google Cardboard and corresponding mobile apps can be used to file a report anonymously.
As an additional bonus, these immersive tools, through exposure-based therapy lessons, show promise of treating post-traumatic stress disorder that sexual assault often creates. If applied as part of an Employee Focus Group or an employee health and wellness benefits package, VR can foster a more emotionally engaged, positive environment.
A More Empathetic Reality for Working Women
Several organizations are already integrating VR to help workers empathize with each other. Nonprofit organizations use it to encourage donor involvement with humanitarian causes, and many companies are using it to create safer spaces and stronger bonds with their employees and customers.
For women, virtual features can help male co-workers in particular, understand how sexual harassment affects them. Recently, the independent filmmaker Jayisha Patel created Notes to My Father, a short documentary that relays the story of a human trafficking survivor. The vivid and uncomfortable presentation demonstrates what it’s like to be the subject of the male gaze.
A VR episode or series doesn’t exist yet that documents the normalized biases, microaggressions and sexism that female founders and workers face from investors and higher-ups, but this approach may provide impetus to create and promote these stories for businesses that are still heavily male-dominated.
As VR introduces people to new perspectives and information, we will be able to share and understand more clearly the sexism and discrimination, either blatant or unconscious, that working women and female leaders regularly experience. There are still many fundamental and systemic societal changes that we need to improve, but with a market projected to be worth $33 billion by 2022 and a unique ability to educate and foster empathy, VR could be the missing technology to help us get there. Virtual reality doesn’t merely offer a vision for the future, but puts in place a support system and empowering technology that helps professional women thrive.
This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC
We know that women have long suffered misrepresentation in the business world. They are scarce in corporate leadership roles and male-dominated fields like science, technology and entrepreneurship. We also know that gender diversity is good for business, resulting in greater profitability and innovation. We all know these facts, and yet the problem persists.
There are a number of ways to address this, but one that is less discussed is the idea of supporting girls and women as a part of a company’s social responsibility program. There’s perhaps nothing more beneficial to businesses and their surrounding communities than supporting young talent, and if that talent consists of women and girls, we’d be doing ourselves an even greater service.
In the entrepreneurial space, only 10 percent of funding globally goes to women, and only 0.2 percent to black women. This is a gross disservice that needs to change and it’s why supporting female-driven programs is so crucial. There are many avenues for doing so, from facilitating mentorships to hosting workshops; depending on your industry and your community, your highest impact options will vary. Take a look at the organizations and nonprofits in your area, as well as schools and community support programs looking for partners. In many cases, your best bet might simply be to donate time or money to the organizations that are already making headway with dynamic programs aimed at supporting women and girls.
Here are a few options that are worth looking into:
- Digital Undivided: This organization offers a 9-month incubator program designed to help black and Latinx women through the startup pipeline to launch their own businesses. Participants receive instruction in customer development, product development, and company development. Upon completion, participants pitch their company to active investors.
- MakerGirl: This organization provides a STEM education and mentorship program to girls. Honing in on kids in the 7–10 age range, MakerGirl strives to show girls that they can be creative and analytical at the same time. Data shows that girls fall off the STEAM train around middle school, so MakerGirl seeks to grow and deepen their interest before that happens, encouraging participation in creative, analytical projects like 3D printing. MakerGirl also has partnerships with college campuses and facilitates mentorship programs for women.
- The National Association of Women Business Owners: For over 40 years, this organization has been helping women working in all industries found and run their own businesses. NAWBO supports networking and mentorship programs, provides educational resources, and advocates for the needs of female business owners.
- Pretty Brainy: This nonprofit empowers girls (ages 10–18 as well as their collegiate mentors) by providing them with relevant STEAM learning. Pretty Brainy tailors curricula to hold girls’ interest and gives them the confidence necessary to excel in science and math.
- Women Who Tech: This nonprofit showcases and funds female founders. They also monitor the landscape for women in leadership, and have found through their research that about 40 percent of female founders looking to raise capital are sexually harassed and, of those women, 65 percent were offered funding in exchange for sex. Women Who Tech not only raises awareness of these issues, but offers women a safe alternative for funding needs.
Investing in programs that help females is a social cause worth fighting for, or at least one that should command financial support from a business community that stands to benefit from a more diverse workforce. Your support can help a little girl dream beyond what she thinks is possible today. You can help women gain employment, start businesses, and reach financial independence. Until we step up to truly support our women and girls, providing them with confidence and training, we’ll never realize the true potential of our economy.
This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal
Forbes reported last year that 80 percent of companies have already implemented some form of artificial intelligence (AI) while 30 percent plan to expand their AI investments in the next three years. It’s clear why: AI promises to reduce costs, boost efficiency and help employees achieve more productivity.
While AI offers us many advantages in the way we work, it also provides a seemingly random benefit: helping women become better negotiators.
Women have long suffered from fewer economic opportunities as men, and they continue to earn only 82 cents to a man’s dollar. Part of the problem is that women face significant negotiation hurdles. Glassdoor research concludes that 68 percent of women accept starting salaries without negotiating compared to 52 percent of men.
With the pressure on companies to demonstrate progressive change in 2019, it goes without saying that they have an ethical obligation to provide equal pay for equal work. Even so, there are ways women can empower themselves to help close the pay gap by becoming better negotiators — and AI could be the tech that helps them achieve that:
‘Hagglebots’ Lend Support & Strategy
In a world of ingrained gender inequality, research indicates that women don’t negotiate as much as their male counterparts, in part, because they don’t receive the support they need to build confidence. Other times, women fear they’ll be penalized for their ambitions. But that’s where AI may lend a strategic hand.
Science Magazine mentions that “hagglebots,” or AI-driven negotiation systems, can offer a variety of applications when women fail to reach the best agreements. Currently, negotiation support software assists users by suggesting equally beneficial outcomes on sites like eBay. In a job negotiation scenario, it can use data to track issues previously discussed in career conversations, helping women build constructive strategies by assessing the best ways to find a middle ground with superiors.
Computer scientist Tim Baarslag explains how these systems pick up on specific patterns. For example, your boss may have dismissed a large salary increase in previous meetings. In those same meetings, the employee may have brought up parental challenges like child care more than once. The software identifies these patterns and can suggest that employees negotiate for an extra work from home day instead.
Indeed, AI’s negotiation skills are improving. Facebook experimented and trained AI bots to negotiate between themselves and replicate human negotiation techniques. Built with learning algorithms, the bots were able to evaluate different actions and their possible outcomes. Additionally, the tools were able to help users leverage information and determine the best deals possible during a negotiation. The experiment demonstrated how bots are easily trained to imitate linguistic and logical patterns of human behavior, paving the way for them to assist in real-world transactions in the future.
Fully autonomous bots can’t negotiate on their own just yet, but in the future, it may help women thrive at work. Users will need to feed the bots information for now, but Baarslag says that solving political arguments could be done efficiently in virtually any marketplace or industry.
Guard Against Gender Bias
Research shows women are often better at negotiating when they’re doing so on behalf of someone else, not themselves. The articles goes on to report that when it’s on their own behalf, the systems-that-be often expect women to be collaborative in the negotiation process so as to not seem combative. Harvard Business Review examined this “social cost” of negotiating for women. Both male and female professionals were less interested in working with women who try to negotiate better salaries versus men with similar ambitions. Clearly, unconscious bias attributes to the anxiety and insecurity working women experience surrounding salary negotiations.
While women have tried their best to strategize around these barriers since entering the workforce, AI may provide an actual solution. Some tech companies actively seek to improve unconscious bias through programming. Scientists at DeepMind are attempting to eliminate the human bias element through their AI system, the Generative Query Network (GQN). The framework places AI bots in learning environments so they can form their own observations about the world. In doing so, the bots could help employers adhere to fair negotiation practices, identifying and signaling against unconscious bias so employers can understand where and why they were unfair.
San Francisco company, Kanjoya, uses natural language processing (computer algorithms that read for tone and context) to limit gender bias and discrimination. The system processes hundreds of millions of words with emotions so they can determine why a particular subject is being brought up in surveys. Kanjoya then aggregates these and cross references it with hard evidence like starting salary across a particular industry or a specific job position. For example, if more women mention salary, career development or work/life balance in a negative context, the system can indicate to employers that these issues more readily affect women.
Entelo, another San Francisco startup, uses unbiased sourcing models, a tool that anonymizes job candidates. The machine redacts names, photos, gender and other information deemed preferential against a candidate.
Currently, these tools are used for the hiring process, but imagine if everyone could use these technologies to base salary on the professional attributes and accomplishments regardless of gender identification during the review stage. It would help ensure that women get as fair treatment as possible during pay reviews. With the passing of California’s strict Fair Pay Act — a law that puts the burden of proof on companies to show they haven’t shortchanged an employee’s salary based on gender — we could soon see the promotion of these technologies in other places across the country.
Autonomous Tools Inspire More Professional Women
It’s not that women aren’t naturally bad at negotiating, it’s that the structures that keep them disadvantaged are, by and large, what cause them to have less confidence than men during negotiations. To counteract this effect, AI has huge potential going forward. We already have the foundational technologies and processes, but it’s up to employers and leaders to expand them in the workspace.
Companies may find AI intimidating, but since the technology can help put an end to sexism in the workplace and improve the way we communicate, it is definitely worth consideration — not just for the benefit of women but for business as a whole.
Japan has made specific moves to equality; so has the U.K. What’s the holdup here in the U.S.?
This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com
For women, the American workplace still remains fraught with inequality. Issues like pay disparity, poor maternity leave policies, sexual harassment and unconscious biasare among the various disadvantages preventing women from succeeding and thriving at work.
IBM research, meanwhile, shows that 79 percent of global companies haven’t even prioritized achieving gender equality in their workplaces. But just because American gender equality and occupational integration appear to have stalled shouldn’t mean we have to wait the 202 years the World Economic Forum has estimated it will take for the gender gap to close.
When Japan faced its own challenges in developing gender equality in its workforce, that nation introduced Womenomics, a concept that seeks to boost domestic product and female representation and focuses on increasing equality and reducing pay disparity.
The concept ultimately helped push female participation in Japan’s workforce up to 67 percent.
If U.S. big business is truly committed to improving gender equality — as over 40 major companies have confirmed — inducting Womenomics principles like data reporting and improved sexual harassment policies into business ethos will not only help to dismantle gender barriers but ultimately make businesses far more sucessful.
Companies are rewriting rules to help achieve equal pay
A major component of Japan’s Womenomics policy focuses on securing equal pay, and thus ensuring representation and financial stability for working women. In the United States only 65 companies, according to Just Capital, have reviewed their gender pay gap, showing the need for U.S. businesses to foster business models that maximize Womenomics’ potential.
One way companies can do this is by incorporating business practices that require them to collect and report pay data.
In the United Kingdom, for example, companies didn’t address the gender pay gap until a government requirement pressured them to make the data public. Now that over 250 U.K. companies have published pay data, that move is expected to boost transparency and ensure pay equity.
As Quartz reported, salary reports are essential to identifying structural inequality of opportunity patterns and the unequal distribution of well-paying jobs. Salary data can also reveal stark differences, based on salary levels, in women’s access to bonuses and rewards; bonuses and other rewards help widen the gender pay gap.
Then, when businesses don’t report their pay data, “naming and shaming” methods can hold these enterprises accountable.
What’s happening in this country
The current push for American companies’ data may soon give this Womenomics strategy precedence. Recently, a federal judge reinstated an Obama-era ruling for companies with over 100 employees to report pay data by gender, race and ethnicity.
It’s unclear if companies need to comply by the May 31 deadline, but this legal ruling could be a useful impetus to close the gender pay gap.
Even so, Natasha Lamb of Arjuna Capital has told Bloomberg that while this regulatory mandate from the EEOC might help narrow pay gaps, it won’t make the data transparent to investors. Said Lamb: “We want to be able to measure ‘apples to apples’ on how companies are doing on narrowing those gaps.”
It’s imperative, as Lamb pointed out, that we find ways to push companies to collect and report their data. And, in fact, pay transparency is starting to become more of a trend across multiple industries. Recently, for instance, tech companies like SumAll and Buffer have implemented transparency as a core tenant of their company culture, with positive results.
Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne listed staff salaries on the company website — including his own paycheck — along with the formula used to calculate those salaries.
Other companies like Starbucks have partnered with 25 other U.S. employers in something called the Employers for Pay Equity consortium: Members agree to a shared set of pay equity principles: equal footing, transparency and accountability.
Along with pay-data reporting, Starbucks’ VP of Global Public Policy Zulima Espinel has spoken about her company’s focus on helping women achieve better paying roles. Specifically, Starbucks has pledged to promote organizational changes with gender parity in senior leadership by 2020.
As more major companies align their business principles with transparent data-reporting practices and equal pay initiatives, they will not only bolster their reputations and appeal to more female workers, but also strengthen their potential for longevity. As Business Insider has reported, studies indicate that these practices increase productivity and performance.
Strategies of support
Japan’s Womenomics concept centers around the idea that women’s equal participation will improve the economy as a whole; and U.S. companies need to become equally savvy, creating safer, more supportive professional spaces where women have the ability and desire to participate, especially in traditionally male-domainted industries.
More supportive sexual harassment policies are a key element here: In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported, 52 percent of companies surveyed reviewed their sexual harassment policies.
That’s a start, but it’s not enough to curb the harassment that over 54 percent of women reportedly face in professional settings, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.
Companies can build more support by changing the culture through initiatives like no-retaliation policies and networks other than HR where women can report harassment. Strategic training goals (like employee resource groups, unconscious bias training and empathy training) are another move. So is the creation of a diversity governance structure that limits any minimization of these issues.
At KPMG, a Women’s Advisory Board supports women at all stages of their work lives and careers, targeting programming and strategies to meet their needs. Other companies like Google and Mogul foster unconscious bias training to pull apart the foundations of toxic work cultures. Goldman Sachsincludes a diversity committee in each geogaphic region, three of which focus on affinity networks and training as key levers in achieving diversity objectives.
Maternity and parental leave
Maternity and parental leave are especially important supportive policies. One of Japan’s Womenomics philosophies centers around support for working mothers. Currently, only 13 percent of American workers, according to Glassdoor data, have access to paid parental leave.
KPMG is again at the forefront here, with its paid leave policy of up to 17 weeks for new mothers and four to six weeks for new fathers; the company also offers up to $20,000 for child adoption assistance subsidies.
At Deloitte, programs like the “Reconnect Program” coach new parents at work, giving them the knowledge and confidence to support both their careers and families. They also receive financial support for childcare once they do return to work.
Wiser Womenomics policies for winning solutions
Economic policies work better when cultural and financial policies change with them. To help close the gender gap, we must push companies to spearhead new, holistic approaches to Womenomics within their respective industries.
As businesses make commitments to women through integral initiatives and policies, they will redefine how our culture treats working women and women in general. When we have finally achieved that level of gender equality, those among us who are sexist and ignorant will witness and accept the incredible things we can accomplish together as a united gender-equal society.
This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC
For women in the workplace, building, maintaining or even regaining confidence in our professional lives can be a major challenge. Many influential women from Beyoncé Knowles to PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, have struggled with feelings of self-doubt.
Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that working women, including female business leaders, often face bias when it comes to how others view their confidence. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why women hold fewer leadership positions than men and only a quarter of women ask for a raise compared to their male counterparts. But working women shouldn’t have to conform to the societal expectation that they must acquire more traditionally masculine qualities to appear more self-confident.
While there are deeply ingrained systems that keep women from gaining influence and power at work, female business leaders can uplift themselves and each other by dispelling myths about confidence and learning how to better cope with any insecurities and preconceived notions they may face in the workplace.
Myth #1: I Must Feel Perfect Before I Am Confident
In their book “The Confidence Code,” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman show how a lot of women harbor this mentality. It holds us back from answering questions, asking for a raise or applying for jobs. For instance, women at Hewlett-Packard applied for promotions at their workplace only when they felt they were 100 percent qualified for the job, whereas men applied when they met 60 percent of the job description.
Similarly, when asked about giving young women extra responsibilities and leadership opportunities in her campaign, Hillary Clinton says that women often ask, “Do you think I’m ready?’ But when I ask a man, he goes, ‘How high, how fast, when do I start?!’” Clinton’s response was that women are too hard on themselves and, as a result, sell themselves short.
One thing professional women in particular need to remember is that perfection is impossible. You can strive for mastery, but mistakes will always be made — and the most you can do is learn from those mistakes. Plus, it’s important to remember that confidence and even mastery are developing processes with no realistic end goal of perfection. Instead, let mastery guide you on your way to confidence. As Kay and Shipman say, “The confidence you get from mastery is contagious. It spreads…mastering one thing gives you the confidence to try something else.” Knowing you have mastered certain skills gives you a feeling of emotional security that is kin to confidence.”
Myth #2: Confidence Means Being Loud and Pushy
We typically think of confident leaders as loud, ruthless and extroverted; dominant types with stereotypically masculine qualities. But confidence can be observant and stoic as well. According to counseling expert Meg Selig, while “extrovert confidence” is a reality, so is “introvert confidence.” While it’s not showy, this confidence style prevails by a person who demonstrates strong values and sticks to them. As such, respect for their skills, communication and modesty help them succeed.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or an introvert (or both!), you can always learn to be a caring and effective leader. Author Carolyn Webb offered her own definition of confidence as being “how you feel when you’re being your best self.”
Myth #3: You Either Have Confidence or You Don’t
Often the perfectionist aspect of confidence gets the best of us. Recent research indicates that self-criticism is one barrier to women’s success in the workforce. Because women are often socialized to be modest and polite, it’s no surprise that we underestimate our own skills.
Some people are naturally confident when they lead their teams, brainstorm strategies or pitch ideas, but confidence is a learned skill that anyone can gain. No one expects you to jump onto a tennis court and play like a pro. Confidence works the same way: it’s a learnable skill and practice helps you excel.
Despite facing bias at work, women have some power when it comes to improving their inner confidence. One is to increase your “confidence quotient” by taking risks, learning new skills and setting small and large goals. To reflect an inner sense of confidence, you could even write out positive affirmations and scripts so you know how to better handle mistakes.
Sheryl Sandberg said, “Confidence and leadership are muscles. You must learn to use them or you don’t.”
As we research and gain more awareness of our own confidence (or sometimes lack thereof), working women can more efficiently address not only the inner, but the systematic issues which keep women unempowered in the workforce. As we recognize that it’s totally normal to doubt ourselves, feel nervous or imperfect, we can be aware of the issue and focus on our positive attributes instead.
Acknowledging your vulnerabilities and using them to your advantage can improve business, build a better work culture and help you grow…
This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal
Vulnerability is often associated with weakness, high stakes emotions and a lack of confidence.
It’s the opposite of what we typically expect business leaders to show in a brainstorming session, on the public speaking stage or in the boardroom.
Often, entrepreneurs actively seek to hide their vulnerable traits, but being vulnerable has its strengths. Not only does it help us foster better relationships, but it also, surprisingly, acts as a beneficial strategy in growing stronger businesses.
An article from the World Economic Forum shows our trust in CEOs has floundered as many business leaders seek to remake the image of the self-serving business leader. Customers, investors, employees and the general public now expect them to share their vulnerabilities — and their company’s vulnerabilities — with the world.
The reason comes down to how vulnerability helps us build better businesses, excel as business leaders and ultimately, become better people.
Vulnerability Fosters Creativity
“Perfectionists perish. There’s nothing worse for a team than someone afraid to make a mistake,” tells sports psychologist Graham Betchart to CNBC.
Betchart knows this better than most. He has studied vulnerability and has helped train NBA athletes on how to develop mental fortitude and how to handle pressure.
What Betchart has found is that when we work to intentionally avoid mistakes, we limit our creativity. Being willing to accept that things may not go according to our plans or expectations — in other words, being vulnerable — gives us a greater chance of finding creative solutions.
University of Houston professor and leading researcher on vulnerability, Brené Brown, mirrors this idea. Brown argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity. She says, “I would challenge anyone to point to any act of innovation that was not born of vulnerability, that was not born of putting an idea on a table that half the people in the room thought was stupid. That the other half questioned. If the idea makes sense to everyone right away, there’s nothing innovative about it, right?”
Vulnerability Improves Trust
Brené Brown’s research also delves into how vulnerability can create a trusting workplace. In her famous “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk, she says that vulnerability lies at the very foundation of authentic connection with others. In her research, Brown determined that “a sense of worthiness” is what defines people who have a strong sense of belonging from those who feel alone. Those who have “the courage to be imperfect” and embrace their vulnerabilities are more likely to build meaningful and trusting connections.
“We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability,” Brown says. Unfortunately, that habit of hiding our emotions and imperfections ultimately leads to disconnection and distrust.
When leading a business, that focus on building better connections can really pay off. According to the Harvard Business Review, transparent communication builds better levels of hope and trust which improves employee performance. It also builds a culture of forgiveness where we don’t punish mistakes, and instead learn from them — a mindset that has proven to benefit productivity.
Betchart told CNBC Make It, “We’ve found that when a leader, a person in charge, is able to be vulnerable and say, ‘I’m human just like you and I make mistakes,’ it empowers the group. People really resonate when they can connect.”
Build Better Character But Safeguard Your Boundaries
While it’s important to be open, there’s a fine line when it comes to being too vulnerable at work. For instance, oversharing and expressing self-doubt excessively makes others start to question your ability or credibility.
You also don’t want to fake vulnerabilities to build relationships. Quartz reports that when vulnerability veers away from authenticity, it can start to feel scripted and even hurt you professionally. Instead, It’s important to ask yourself if what you’re sharing is helpful to others, including yourself. Gradually, it’s reasonable to include vulnerable aspects of yourself while inspiring others in the process.
Vulnerability for business leaders isn’t just about showing your emotions or pain points to connect with others. It’s about being more self-aware and actively collaborating with others to examine important problems and solve them creatively. Yes, vulnerability makes us more real, more communicative and more trusting, but it also helps us build stronger teams, bigger businesses and better communities. It’s time to start using our vulnerabilities to our advantage rather than thinking of them as weaknesses to be overcome.
This article, by Krystal Perkins, was published on Prague Post
Real estate veteran Debrah Lee Charatan has long been hailed for her entrepreneurial insight, decades of industry experience, and passion for supporting communities throughout the New York metropolitan area. Charatan is the President and Cofounder of BCB Property Management, a leading multi-family real estate investment firm dedicated to the acquisition, renovation, and management of buildings in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Since 2008, she has led BCB to acquire over 1.6 million square feet of New York and New Jersey real estate, and a portfolio of over 120 buildings and 1,800 apartments.
Debrah Lee Charatan’s impact today is vast, but she never forgets her humble beginnings. Starting as a secretary while completing her BS at Baruch College, she sought out an opportunity as a property manager at a local real estate firm where she began to make her deals in the 1970s.
From there, Chartan leveraged her resources and real estate expertise to create her own company, Bach Realty, which she grew into one of the most prominent names in New York’s commercial real estate space during the 1980s. Bach Realty is recognized as New York City’s first all-female real estate brokerage, and Charatan’s entrepreneurial success saw her profiled in USA Today, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Inc., the New York Daily News along with dozens of other media outlets.
In 1993, Charatan kicked off another career landmark by launching Debrah Lee Charatan Realty, where she continued her dedication to her entrepreneurial team and New York’s communities at large. Since then, Charatan has become a prolific thought leader on female entrepreneurship, and has been published in the likes of Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, VentureBeat, Thrive Global and SCORE NYC.
Charatan’s focuses much of her community engagement and charitable ventures through the Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, including the support of numerous arts organizations and cultural and civic causes including New York’s Central Park Conservancy and the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation. Also, Charatan sits on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Real Estate Council.
As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Debrah Lee Charatan actively supports the preservation of Jewish historical and cultural institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Park East Synagogue, Chai Lifeline, Southampton Chabad and the Jewish Musem. Currently, Charatan serves as the Vice President on the Board of Trustees for Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, an organization that seeks to support elderly and other vulnerable New York residents, including Holocaust survivors, through independent living that offer community-based services.
How can new entrepreneurs learn to maximize their productivity?
Staying productive requires a steady routine. Like most entrepreneurs, I wake up early to get a head-start on the day. I’m up at 5 am on weekdays to work out for an hour and get to the office early so I can make the most of each day. Choose something that raises your energy and sets a positive pace for the rest of your day.
On the job, the real trick is to set goals and write those goals down. I make “to do” lists — the night before, or first thing in the morning — that detail what I’m going to do that day to achieve those goals. That way, when I get to work, I know what meetings, calls, tasks, and other big-picture items I have on my plate, and more importantly, why they are on my plate.
If you diligently keep track of everything you need to accomplish, you’ll make sure the essentials are crossed off.
What do you think are the best resources for young entrepreneurs to utilize?
Your best resources are time, your budget, your skill set, and your network.
Manage your time and your budget wisely. When you have spare time, use it to develop your skills or learn more about what it takes to survive and thrive in your industry. Create a budget in advance and track your revenue and spending, so you identify where you need to put your efforts that support a growing business.
Relationships are also key. Building genuine trust amongst your peers, colleagues, and competitors offer you one-of-a-kind advantages and opportunities that you won’t have access to anywhere else.
How can young entrepreneurs take advantage of the disruption in their industries?
As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of writing things down: my goals, my tasks, and my ideas.
One benefit of writing down your goals is that you start to recognize opportunities that come your way that can impact the future of your business in a significant way. It also helps you think more open-mindedly about how to adapt and take your ideas in a new direction as you develop your business.
Also, remember not to take “no” for an answer when a hurdle presents itself, either deal with it head-on or look for ways to redirect your energy and work around it.
What are some of the most effective growth strategies that have helped BCB Property Management succeed?
If you want to grow your business, you need to invest in its success. And in any business, an entrepreneur is only as good as the team that supports their work.
When I founded Bach Realty in the 1980s, and I started to make money, I immediately reinvested those funds back into the business. I hired new talent, updated our equipment, and made practical office renovations. This habit of reinvesting capital into my business is one that helped me thrive at Bach Realty and Debrah Lee Charatan Realty and helps me to this day at BCB Property Management.
Be patient and invest for the long-term. I’ve spent many years reinvesting my money and resources into my companies, and it’s afforded me opportunities for growth that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
How did you become so involved with philanthropy?
I believe every entrepreneur ought to invest in their local community, big or small. When I first started Bach Realty, I made a point to encourage female entrepreneurship by supporting the city’s first all-female real estate team because I knew I could make an impact and help better women’s lives. Today, I maintain relationships with professional female business communities and sit on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund in New York City.
When you align yourself with local communities, you more clearly understand their needs, and it allows you to create a strong foundation of mutual support and professional development. I continue to foster community ties, especially through The Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, which focuses on arts, cultural, medical and other humanitarian causes in the greater New York area and beyond.
Do mentorship opportunities help new entrepreneurs succeed?
Absolutely. Mentorship gives both the mentor and mentee new perspectives and a broader network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an entrepreneur who inspires you. With consistent effort, a two-way mentoring relationship allows any business leader to expand their network, their industry knowledge, and even their company’s bottom line.
You’ve been particularly influential in supporting women in business. What advice can you give female executives?
Many women still let bias or negative self-talk hinder their progress and confidence. My advice: don’t doubt yourself. If you do doubt yourself, learn how to push those negative thoughts to the back of your mind while you work because those doubts will clutter your vision.
One of my biggest regrets as an entrepreneur was that I didn’t realize my leadership potential at a younger age. It’s essential to get ahead of the game and go for it, developing your knowledge and skills in your younger years.
On another note, remember to support other women! While female leaders are growing in number, it’s still essential to create a space that allows us to succeed in a heavily male-dominated world.
As a veteran entrepreneur, what is one essential piece of advice you’d give to emerging entrepreneurs?
As I’ve said, I believe in setting goals. Make daily, weekly and yearly targets. Even better: write them down. Advise your employees and business partners to do the same and offer any support you can to help them reach those goals. Holding yourself and others accountable for progress is the best way to make dreams a reality.
Nurturing and encouraging stereotypically feminine traits can create healthier and more productive work environments…
This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal
The era of Mad Men gender politics may have improved, but professional women still face toxic work cultures. A 2017 PwC survey shows that women employed within majority-male workplaces are more likely to report that men in the office are making it difficult for them to excel.
Gender bias, harassment and pay inequality greatly highlight the discrimination working women face on a daily basis. Compounding these issues, women are traditionally socialized with stereotypical feminine characteristics like empathy, intuition and caregiving — traits which are often derided in the workplace. Meanwhile, stereotypically masculine qualities like assertion, directness and competition are praised, leaving many women to feel they need these traits to succeed in business.
Of course, both women and men hold a nuance of traditionally masculine and feminine qualities, so it’s essential to infuse a balance of both perspective into corporate cultures.
In the era of the #MeToo movement, especially, businesses ought to create a more supportive and productive work environment for all of a business’ employees. Nurturing and encouraging stereotypically feminine traits like empathy, caring and intuition is one way to profoundly do that.
Empathy Improves Engagement and Productivity
Being emotionally open and empathetic in the workplace does not always come naturally, but empathy is the cornerstone of a healthy work culture. It’s needed to effectively understand and share the feelings of coworkers and is especially important during the decision-making process.
In 2018’s Businessolver’s Empathy in the Workplace Index, 96 percent of employees consider empathy an important trait for their CEOs to show, but 92 percent of workers still believe that empathy is undervalued.
Joe Shanahan, the CEO of Businessolver, says the current lack of empathy in the office comes from the discrepancy between two groups who view the behavior of practicing empathy in the office differently.
Speaking to Forbes, Shanahan says, “It’s time to change perceptions and increase our standards for empathy and it’s clear that increased workplace diversity makes organizations more empathetic.”
Shanahan continues, “CEOs are no longer free to sit on the sidelines and delegate workforce culture to their HR team…they need to be part of the change in conversation if they want to stay ahead of their competitors and equally important, engaged with all employees — both the senior executives and the interns.”
Empathy is perhaps more important to corporate cultures than many realize — when people are treated like people, their productivity skyrockets. Forbes reports that up to $600 billion in worker productivity is lost each year due to lack of engagement, and incorporating empathy is one of the best ways to combat that trend. This results in benefits like higher employee satisfaction and productivity, lower turnover, improved profitability and higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Behind every happy workforce lies empathy.
In an article for The Huffington Post, Claudia Chan, CEO of S.H.E Global Media Inc. believes corporate cultures should offer a diverse option of interest-based network and support groups. Organizing groups that have the same interests or need the same support — think: parenting groups — can help everyone feel understood and supported, while also creating bonds amongst workers.
Cultures of Care Influence Safety & Respect
Caregiving is traditionally associated with women and mothering. But in the workplace, a caregiver is simply someone who nurtures his/her team’s growth and demonstrates a positive work ethic through values, purpose and passion.
In fact, creating cultures of care help to shape safer, more respectful environments. A PwC study reports, “companies that do not promote safe, equitable and bias-free environments for all employees do so at tremendous risk to their organizations.”
Safety is key to allowing workers to freely focus on their work and develop professionally; women who face sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting abuse at work are keenly aware of how these trauma can sideline their careers.
While many Americans believe women are better than men at creating safe and respectful workplaces, both male and female leaders can provide better safety and respect by promoting strong moral codes in a company culture that cares about their team members, allowing each team member to be their best self.
Creating a caring culture influences safety and respect for everyone in the office, especially when there are written harassment policies, transparent practices and strong support networks surrounding these cultures. When both women and men feel safe and respected, it’s easier for them to have a voice and feel more productive.
Intuition Informs Collaboration & Innovation
Although intuition was long labeled “women’s intuition” because of the stereotype that women are more “instinctively emotional,” research showsthat the skill is available to anyone. And the ability to observe the intangible and pick up on nonverbal cues is absolutely critical to working effectively with colleagues and making better decisions.
However, the importance of intuition in the workplace has often been ignored in favor of hard data and facts. Yes, we need analysis to make crucial decisions, but intuition helps empower usand create more innovative and sustainable companies. According to research published in Psychological Science, intuition can help those who use it make faster, more confident decisions.
It also creates environments where workers are more collaborative and self-aware. Some new, “intuitive workplaces” — where employees share information and access more information about others — use technology to drive more intuitive practices when it comes to employee well-being and self-care in the workplace. HRZone reports that a growth of personal technologies like Smart Watches and Fitbits, along with digitized ways of working, lets employees quantify their health, well-being, work habits and mood at work. By 2030, it’s predicted that data collected through these digital technologies and employee monitoring devices can create agile work cultures that conserve energy, resources and create more efficient workers. Further, this data informs employees how to work best with one another.
When a workplace has a strong balance of data and intuition, it shows that they trust their employees and engage them in transparent communication as they innovate — true hallmarks of a healthy and productive workplace.
Plenty of CEOs indicate how important they think intuition is on the job and for burgeoning work cultures. Oprah Winfrey told O Magazine in 2011: “I’ve trusted the still small voice of intuition my entire life. And the only time I’ve made mistakes is when I didn’t listen.” Profound leaders like Apple’s Steve Jobs called intuition “more powerful than intellect.”
Mindfulness tactics like meditative breaks (used by Steve Jobs) and self check-ins help employees stay connected to their feelings. If employees don’t feel right about the direction of a project, it allows them to examine and communicate those gut feelings with collaborative leaders. Without intuition, innovation can’t exist and vice versa.
Redefining Feminine Psychology in the Workplace
Instead of suppressing feminine qualities because they may be deemed socially unacceptable at work, women and men need to feel empowered to embrace their soft skills. After all, it is only by incorporating these traditionally “female perspectives” that we can create healthier, better-rounded, and more innovative companies. Getting in touch with one’s own soft skills is, of course, a wonderful side effect.
Companies in Hollywood and beyond should use these three approaches to help close the gender pay gap…
This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal
Of the most memorable film scenes from the past couple years, one iconic moment comes to mind: Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, saving the world, using her power and determination — with the help of some super strength and armored bracelets. Not only are images like these symbolic of Hollywood’s post-#MeToo female empowerment, but it’s also metaphoric of the success of female-led victories at the box office.
Vanity Fair cites a new study that found female-led movies outperformed male-led movies for the past three years. But as in other industries across the country, the pay gap remains a significant barrier.
This story is not new. Emma Stone, 2017’s highest-paid actress, earned a whopping $26 million, a whole 2.5 times less than Mark Wahlberg’s $68 million, the highest paid actor of the same year. 2018’s highest pay discrepancy was even more astounding. Scarlett Johansson took home $40.5 million, while The Rock made over three times the amount: $124 million.
Public scrutiny of the entertainment industry coupled with the success of female-fronted films has empowered many actresses to ask for what they deserve. Yet each negotiation can’t be a one-woman show. Systemic gender inequalities within Hollywood need to change — and industry professionals and companies can support women through the simple approaches of data reporting, allyship, and improved equality policies and incentives.
Act I. Lights, Camera… Data Reporting
One of the most apparent ways to address and improve Hollywood’s gender pay disparity is through clear, fact-based evidence. In previous years, salary discrepancy has come to the forefront of the industry as seen in the aftermath of several Hollywood scandals that exposed salary data — think: Sony’s email hack or the Williams/Wahlberg reshoot fiasco — women were, and still are, kept ignorant about their male co-stars’ paychecks.
When organizations confront these issues, they’re forced to reckon with their own unconscious bias. Melissa Silverstein, the founder and publisher of the gender parity initiative, Women and Hollywood, explains how non-transparent salary offerings keep women down and only benefit the people in power.
Speaking to Forbes, Silverstein says, “What women are doing now is taking power into their own hands and saying, ‘We know what other people are being paid and you’re not going to get away with this anymore.’”
Indeed, reports show that making salaries public helps close the pay gap in many areas because reporting measures help identify “bad performers.” When companies are more aware of the reputational consequences of gender gap and data reporting, it prompts them to action. In the UK, “naming and shaming”mechanisms provide public gender pay gap data which has notably affected employees at the BBC.
The more salary information is actively reported, the more leading ladies and other women in the industry can leverage their earning power. Under California’s new Fair Pay Act, Hollywood employees will be allowed to discuss their co-workers’ wages and ways to eliminate loopholes that allowed employers to justify unequal pay distribution between genders.
Act II. All Heroes need Allies
Sure, women don’t need saving in the movies anymore, but support sure helps. Allyship in the workplace is another way that industries like Hollywood can topple the pay gap. Cultural change only occurs when organizational catalysts act as allies and cheerleaders for the cause. Organizational shifts need to occur from the heavily male-dominated studios first.
We’ve seen many examples of male to support diversity. Male actors like Benedict Cumberbatch vowed to only work on films where his female co-stars are paid equally. Others like Bradley Cooper have publicly supported the movement.
The Harvard Business Review examines how other males in Hollywood (and elsewhere) can help topple the patriarchal pay gap. First, male allies need to be committed to the cause and community even at the risk of not fitting in with the dominant culture. Researchers suggest that men at every level can call out insults and affronts, eliminate pay and promotion disparities, and advocate for diversity policies in their organizations. The more vocal male allies call out injustices and believe in the possibility of change within the industry, the more others will unify around a culture of change.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Attorney Neil Meyer, who represented Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson, says, “We’re a community, and to the extent that any or all of us do something to perpetuate inequality, we’re all complicit; either you’re trying to be a part of the solution or you’re trying to be part of the problem.”
Act III. Call Action on Equal Policies and Initiatives
Equal pay will not prevail until action-oriented policies become ingrained within organizations. In Hollywood, it’s reported that women make even less than the national average of 80 cents to every dollar that men make; research from Dominican University of California shows that sometimes Hollywood women may make as low as 30 cents to a man’s dollar based on a “quota system.”
But new organizations and networks are trying to curb these systems. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has raised more than $22 million since it began to fight for equal pay and help end harassment in the various workplaces. In fact, the Time’s Up movement prompted HBO to close the pay gap across all its TV shows. Other industry firms, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and the International Creative Management, have taken on the “50–50 by 2020” pledge.
Other initiatives like Women’s Media Action Coalition (WeMac) and Take the Lead’s “50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment” project are executing multi-pronged goals to achieve intersectional gender parity in the workforce. WeMac has already sought justice through seven task forces that lobby, litigate, research and fund projects. Take the Lead aims for gender parity in film and television by 2025. Their leadership building program has created a network giving women accessible tools that help them navigate the industry and serve as an example of how to close the gap.
Of course, there are a series of federal and state laws that support the equal pay wage movement. However, none of them demand inclusive hiring or reporting. As women grow more powerful in Hollywood, they should require contracts that are inclusive of their value and other female setworkers, too. For one, it’s necessary to demand inclusion riders — a clause that stipulates on the diversity of the cast and crew to retain acting services. More actors like Frances McDormand and Michael B. Jordan now use this tool to alleviate the pay gaps that persist for gender and racial minorities in the film industry. Secondly, it’s important not only to discuss pay with co-workers, but to negotiate and stipulate transparent communications regarding salary within a contract. With building pressures on studios, Hollywood women can band together and use these tactics to close the pay gap even further.
Time’s Up, Pay Up!
Hollywood is a business like any other and merely reflects the poor state of pay inequality across the country. The Institute for Women’s Policy Researchsuggests that California, where the epicenter of entertainment studios lie, will close the pay gap by 2043. Executives need to get behind the scenes and enact fairer policies, not just condemn inequality on the public stage. The glare of the lens is on industry leaders in Hollywood to pay up. If not, women should take on the everyday Wonder Woman role and demand a happy ending to unjust policies ourselves.
Emerging technologies can create more equal economic opportunities for women across the globe…
This post was originally featured on ThriveGlobal
In today’s budding digital economy, many of us often assume social progress is bound to improve at a similar pace as technology. However, the gender gap is causing an even deeper divide than we originally expected.
According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report, the gender gap continues to widen as women remain behind in politics, health, education and economics. In fact, recent research predicts that at our current rate of progress, gender parity won’t occur for another 217 years. That sounds frightening, especially given that women earn 80 cents to every dollar men make while only 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
But there is still cause for hope. Emerging technologies now democratize access to resources like education and finance, helping improve gender equality at a faster rate than we might have previously thought possible. Not only will this kind of tech advancement be instrumental in closing the gender gap, but it will also help accelerate economic growth and promote innovationfor companies across the board.
Here are three crucial ways we can utilize emerging technologies to support more economic opportunities for women — and close the gender gap for good.
To Secure Financial Assistance
Women often lack the financial resources and infrastructure that men receive in and out of the workforce. Globally, 42 percent of women and girls remain unbanked, meaning that women are less likely to be financially informed and economically independent.
Bill and Melinda Gates’ Level One Project aims to fix that problem. It focuses on using blockchain technology to bring the financially disenfranchised, including women in underdeveloped nations, into the traditional banking and digital economies.
The project has created a model for a country-level digital financial services system designed to bring the poor into the formal economy. The system uses wireless and simple 2G cell phones to reduce processing costs for users while integrating fraud and security protections. Crucially, this transparent setup gives women in developing nations access to a bank account and the freedom to take charge of their financial futures.
Fintech also eases the financial burdens caused by collateral or credit history issues. For example, data can help financial providers assess and help clients in lieu of traditional documentation which many women in developing countries don’t hold. Companies like Kenya’s FarmDrive, Mexico’s Konfío and banking services like M-Pesa are paving the way in this realm. An MIT study identified M-Pesa as particularly effective in assisting female-led households out of poverty.
Meanwhile, developing countries are using biometric IDs to introduce financial safeguards for women, like Pakistan’s emerging fintech tools that ensure women receive direct payments to avoid going through male family members.
But Fintech’s unique tools can offer women financial autonomy in more ways than one. Blockchain is yet another innovation that allows self-starting women to send and receive direct payments via a digital ledger. In developing countries, the ledger is especially important to lowering barriers to financial inclusion for women. Further, the interface allows for quicker access to funds and transparent recordkeeping of their finances without having to deal with the (sometimes discriminatory) practices of central banks.
Genevieve Leveille, CEO of AgriLedger, is an expert in using blockchain to connect users. Leveille believes that “blockchain will give [women] not only the ability to communicate, but also…to [fully realize] themselves in ways that we can’t right now.”
To Banish Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias causes gender discrimination due to ingrained cultural notions concerning a woman’s role or ability in the workforce. But artificial intelligence is stepping in to conquer these patterns. For instance, the Seattle-based augmented writing company, Textio, uses automated technology to write job listings with gender-neutral phrasing. It helped one of their clients increase female recruits from 18 to 57 percent. Mya Systems, an AI recruitment tool, incorporates AI-based chatbots that interview and evaluate job candidates to ask objective, performance-based questions which could help avoid unconscious bias in the early rounds of hiring.
In addition, companies like Ideal are helping to eliminate bias from the hiring and promotion process. Their AI-based software connects to a resume tracking system, screening prior candidates and external databases to source outside candidates for open positions (and current employees for promotions). These tools help reduce bias during the screening process, allowing more women to take that crucial step towards a face-to-face interview.
To Create New Career Opportunities
As automated technology disrupts all industries, more and more people are getting pushed out of jobs. Women are no exception. At the same time, however, automated and intelligent technologies are creating new educational opportunities for self-starting women.
According to a recent PwC report, using intelligent tech like big data creates strategic support systems — helping women advance economically. These technologies create career advantages, lowering the costs of starting new businesses and also providing more flexibility during working hours.
Big data solutions and cloud computing innovations offer unique opportunities to connect working women in any field to educational opportunities with other industry professionals. Big data analytics help educate women in their fields, providing predictive analysis on consumer insights, real-time data and trends so that they can be on the forefront of emerging talent. EY’s Analytics and AI Academy is one such learning program seeking to educate its female employees on big data.
Companies use big data analytics to help organizations close the pay gap, too. Data reporting tools help businesses audit salaries that allow them to assess if they’re closing pay disparity on a regular basis. When used transparently, the technology can give women access to data that clarifies if they’re earning equal pay. Gapsquare, for instance, uses machine learning and cloud-based software so companies can match finance data with HR data in systems like payroll. The tool is already implemented by major companies like Conde Nast and Vodafone. With these tools, employers have no excuse for keeping men and women at separate and unequal pay scales.
Power Up and Power On
Gender parity is crucial to help all entrepreneurs, including female business leaders, create more agile and innovative growth opportunities. Emerging technologies will be a crucial driving force that helps women across all sectors achieve this equality. At the same time, major companies and society must hold each other accountable when we use technologies that reiterate gender bias. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to create an equitable legacy so women aren’t struggling to keep up for another two centuries. It’s time to power up those devices so we can use them to empower everyone.