Gender Equity

August 22, 2017

Do You Suffer from Built-In Bias?

I wish I could tell you that I don’t have biases. But as hard as I have worked, there are still some that sneak out of my subconscious sometimes. I am appalled when I find myself about to tell my grandson not to do something “like a girl.” Like that’s a bad thing.

I was raised in a big family in the 60s and 70s. My older brother played football and got lots of attention for that. My sisters and I excelled in academics (he refused to do the work), and we were VERY involved in clubs and groups. But we didn’t play football. So by college, I was pretty sensitized to the whole “girls can do as well as boys” stuff.Photo of young girls playing

Or so I thought. Recently, I was watching a episodeof the Graham Norton Show with Rachel Weisz. She was about to hit a punching bag (as were the Olympic heavyweight champion and actor Martin Freeman). But before she did that, she noted that she should take off her heels so she wouldn’t “hit like a girl.” I caught it pretty quickly.

Do I think Rachel Weisz has an issue with gender equality? I don’t know her, but I’d guess not. I think she fell victim to built-in bias, those subconscious things we’ve learned along the way that are hidden in our brains, waiting for us to stop paying attention so they can sneak out of our mouths without us thinking about their deeper meaning.

I know that I am working hard with my five-year old twin granddaughters not to chastise them for being “bossy” (OK, you should meet the older twin) and to be clear that they sometimes do bad things instead of saying that they are being “bad girls.”

Our words have power, especially as we raise that next generations of women. We should use that power to ensure that they have what they need to stand in their power and demand equality. Let’s keep them from developing these unconscious biases that I, and perhaps you, sometimes still deal with.

Join us at our Salons and book clubs as we talk about issues just like this.

July 17, 2017

How to Thrive in a Competitive World

There are FIVE things you can do to thrive in today’s competitive world. Of the five, there are some that come naturally and some that will have us stretch out of our comfort zones:

  1. Continue to Grow and Learn – You can do this by reading, getting more involved with peers, employees- keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
  2. Find your Niche and Excel – So many women are good at so many things, sometimes it is difficult to find your niche. CREATE IT! Then excel in it – be the best.
  3. Focus on Communication – this is one of the skill sets we do a deep dive into in our Boot Camps. Communication is the key to being a great manager or leader.
  4. Expand Your Expectations and Horizons – expect more from yourself. Surround yourself with people that will push you and you can learn from.
  5. Focus on Yourself – invest in yourself (training, coaching, self care). Be that well-oiled machine- mentally and physically.

To learn more on all of these topics, look for our upcoming Boot Camp for Women Leaders starting October 20th and our Great Manager Series starting in September.

February 22, 2017

Have You Been Silenced?

What was your reaction when you heard that Elizabeth Warren had been silenced on the floor of the U.S. Senate? It turned my insides cold.

My reaction had nothing to do with the politics of what she was talking about. Rather, it was that several men made similar protest arguments. They were allowed to speak. But when a woman’s voice went up in protest, she was shut down, hard.

I flashed back to the many times in my life when I have had “voice-stifling” experiences. I thought about the times in meetings where the thoughts and ideas that I expressed were ignored, until a man expressed similar, or near identical, ideas and was applauded. Has that happened to you? I thought about dismissive attitudes and being told to “sit down and be quiet” (yes, that has happened in the workplace).

I thought about how in my family and in my childhood classrooms, the boys were treated with far more deference than the girls. Their words mattered more. Their voices were expected and accepted.

But I thought we were past that day. Until Elizabeth Warren was silenced. And that made me angry!

What about you? Have you ever been silenced? Is it still happening to you today, or have you found your voice?

January 11, 2017

Hidden Figures

The Movie “Hidden Figures” is in the headlines. It is about three black women responsible for making great strides in the success of NASA and the space program back in the early 1960’s. It is a piece of history we haven’t known about for many reasons. In an article this weekend in Parade magazine, they gave two reasons:

  1. A lot of the work these women did was considered classified and they couldn’t talk about it
  2. “We were just doing our job” as the lone survivor, Katherine Johnson says.

The second reason is why women should step into their power. There are too many of us that “just do our jobs”, yet either have so much more to offer OR don’t take the credit we deserve!

The title “Hidden Figures” is so apropos for various reasons.

  • We, as a nation, have even gone backwards when it comes to women in computing. Women account for 24% of computing jobs today, down from 37% in 1995. According to studies by Accenture and Girls Who Code, the solution is to develop more tailored programs that appeal to girls’ interests in middle school. Getting more women into computer science could boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 BILLION and help fill the growing demand for computing talent.
  • Women tend to “hide” in the background or on the sidelines. Giving girls and young women self confidence and support early on can serve as catalysts (pun intended) to stay in STEM programs.
October 12, 2016

Our Internal Bias

According to McKinsey & Companies most recent report on gender equality, one result wouldn’t surprise most of us:

Women don’t get promoted as often as men

Internal BiasBut, the most significant finding is that we are less interested in seeking the promotion – 40% vs. 56% for men. At first, the question was “not as ambitious?” But, it turns out that our experiences at work gradually lead us to believe we won’t have equal opportunities for growth and development, and that our gender will diminish our chances of getting ahead. Those accumulated years of inequities and frustrations have led many of us to conclude that the end doesn’t justify the means.

The study found we are also less likely than men to think that becoming a top executive will give us a chance to significantly impact the business.

Three unconscious assumptions appear to underlie this thinking:

  • Women tend to believe they’re the ones responsible for managing all aspects of family life, which keeps them from investing fully in their careers.
  • Women assume they should keep their heads down and focus exclusively on their immediate work, which can make management roles seem less appealing.
  • Women are often perfectionists. Studies have shown that men will apply for a job they feel 60% qualified for, while women hold out for 100%.

We are also more comfortable leading as the hub of a wheel vs. the hierarchical top-down model. We feel we can make more of a change this way, but in reality, we don’t have enough experience at the top to understand our power to impact change using the hierarchy model.

So what do we do? We need to re-frame our own unconscious biases-an exercise made easier by having strong female colleagues. There is power in numbers.

August 24, 2016

Women with extreme purpose and passion

This Friday, August 26, is Women’s Equality Day. It’s the day each year that we commemorate the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Are you aware that in 2020, we will mark 100 years of the 19th Amendment?

Have you thought about the leadership skills, the courage, and the self-motivation the suffragists must have had to change America in this way? Every leader of the suffragist movement has a unique story (just as we all do). Many were wives who stood up for the movement in opposition to their husbands and their communities.

Silent Sentinels picket the White House.

Silent Sentinels picket the White House.

Imagine the sense of passion and purpose these women must have felt as they stood as the Silent Sentinels, picketing the White House to gain the right to vote and participate in our government. The women picketed six days a week for two-and-a-half years, from January 10, 1917 until June 4, 1919. June 4 was the day Congress passed the amendment (which still had to be ratified by the states).

They stood in silence for long days, through rain, scorching sun, and bone-chilling cold and snow. And they stood even as police began to arrest them for “obstructing traffic,” as they were sentenced to jail, and as they became the first Americans to be force-fed by their jailers.

Their years of dedication and incredible self-motivation were rewarded when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.

If you are impressed by this incredible display of purpose and passion, share the story of the Silent Sentinels with young women in your life.

July 27, 2016

The Significance of the Moment

Regardless of your feelings about Hillary Clinton, it is important to take note of the historical context of her nomination to be president of the United States.If you mark time from the Seneca Falls Convention, then we are looking at a 168-year road to this nomination. Clinton isn’t the first woman to run for president. In fact, 144 years earlier in 1872, Victoria Chaflin Woodhull became the first woman to run for president of the United States, nominated by the Equal Rights Party, before women had the right to vote. In 1971, Representative Shirley Chisholm made a presidential run in the Democratic primaries.

Let’s set the context. Earlier this month, July 19-20, was the anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, during which Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott presented the “Declaration of Sentiments.” In that Declaration, they demanded full citizenship rights for women, including equal representation in government, equal rights in holding property, and equality in education, employment, and divorce.

(photo from National Women's History Museum)Suffragists have traveled a long and difficult road. Wyoming (1869), Washington State (1910), and Illinois (1913) were early adopters of this new right for women. In 1917, the same year that Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin took her seat as the first woman in the U.S. Congress, suffragists known as the Silent Sentinels were picketing the White House for the right to vote. Their pickets got more that 200 of them arrested for “obstructing traffic,” and sentenced to the notorious Occoquan workhouse. Some of those imprisoned went on hunger strikes. For the dedication to their cause, they were force-fed raw eggs in milk through tubes down their throats. And in one “Night of Terror,” 33 of them were beaten and tortured.

Their suffering was not in vain. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote. In 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross became America’s first woman governor (Wyoming). Many years later, in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as the first woman on the Supreme Court. Now, 35 years later, a woman heads the ticket for a national political party.

I said it’s been a long road, didn’t I?

September 24, 2015

Is your company woman-friendly?

The world has changed significantly over the last 50 years, and so has the American workforce.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2022, 50yearsLaterwomen are projected to represent nearly 47% of the workforce.

As of 2013, there were 72.7 million women in the labor force, which is 57.2 percent of the working-age women. The infographic show a 30% increase in the number of working mothers.

But have our workplaces adapted and changed to accommodate this growth? One way to know is to look at your own workplace and ask these questions:

  1. Proportionally, do women receive an equal number of promotions to manager, senior manager, and executive levels?
  2. Does your company have a program to identify high-potential women?
  3. Does your company provide leadership/management training (internal or external) for women?
  4. Does your company actively support a culture of work/life balance, including flexible working arrangements?
  5. Are you able to determine if there is salary equity between men and women throughout the company?

If you answer no, then it’s time to raise a flag. It is important for us as women leaders to challenge perceptions, and to be willing to speak up. We know that more women in leadership is better for organizations, the economy, and our families.

It’s up to us to challenge the status quo … to be leaders.

Are you up to the task?

March 12, 2015

Are Women Afraid of “Leadership”?

I was talking with a friend about the upcoming UnLocking Leadership Secrets workshop and she asked if I thought the word “leadership” would keep women from registering?  Her thought was that many women might find Me? A Leader?the word  “leadership” too much … too intimidating … too “that’s more than I want.”  That made me think, what does leadership really mean.  A good definition of leadership is “the process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in accomplishing a common task.”

Now let’s think about that.  As women, we do that day in and day out.  At home, we constantly are enlisting the aid and support of family members to achieve all sorts of tasks, from keeping their rooms clean, to packing for trips, to organizing everyday life.  We organize our friends to join us in social activities, Tupperware parties, and baby and bridal showers.  If we are involved in children’s activities, perhaps we organize summertime outings, teacher appreciation events, cookie drives, or the end of season team party.  In volunteer or religious groups, we organize social gatherings, volunteer projects and events, fundraising drives, and so much more.

All of these things are leadership.  And thousands of thousands of women are doing this every day!! Leading.  If the word is intimidating, perhaps it is just because women haven’t come to terms with the fact that they do it constantly.  They just need to recognize that and build on more of their innate skills for the workplace.

At Mountain Laurel Leadership, we want women to step into the power they already have.  To own what they know.  To take the leadership they use in their everyday lives and use it to the greater benefit of themselves and their families.

“Leadership” … not a scary word, but a valuable resource!

August 26, 2014

43 years and counting…

Women’s Equality Day is August 26th

Women’s Equality Day will be 43 years old this year when we celebrate it on Tuesday, August 26th!  But as we are marking this day, let’s pause for a moment and put context around it.

We know that in 1920, women earned the right to vote. That was 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention and the ratification of the Declaration of Sentiments.

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. That took 43 years.

In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug got Congress to establish Women’s Equality Day.  That took 51 years from the passage of the 19th Amendment… from 1920 to 1971.

In 2009, President Barak Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

  • That was 38 years from the establishment of Women’s Equality Day.
  • That was 46 years from the time President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963.
  • That was 89 years from the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Does it feel like a long time to you?

  • 72 years to get the vote.
  • 51 years to get a day to commemorate that day (and to remind us we have work to do)
  • 43 years to force at least SOME equity pay


  • The wage gap stagnates at 77%.    
  • It will take ANOTHER 43 years until we reach pay equity in the year 2057 (according to current estimates)
  • It will be the END OF THIS CENTURY before women have equal representation in the U.S. Congress

If you don’t like these estimates, here are four things you can do.

1. Be informed — pay attention.  Get on a list to find out about issues affecting women.

2. Contact your elected officials.Yes, your one voice does make a difference! Letters, emails, phone calls…they all count, more than you realize.  And don’t forget your local city council or county commission.

3. Share the her-story with the younger generation.  Younger women often have no idea how different things are today, nor how far we have still to go.

4. Share a link to this post. Bring other women into the conversation.

Don’t wait another 43 years. Stand in your power. Ask for what you want.  And let’s make change now.

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