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Cultivating female leaders begins at childhood – what we can do better

Every parent has a different style and theory as to raising their children, but girls are often raised to be independent, but that’s not exactly training for leadership. Here are some things we can do better as parents.

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Female leadership

Although the number of female leaders in the business world is dramatically higher than just forty short years ago, the C suite is still male dominated. There are two schools of thought on female leadership- (1) the business world is against women and we need to speak up to change this or it never will change or (2) women must fight for their position just like any other employee.

I’m a member of the second camp and I am personally annoyed when someone complains “there are not enough women speakers on that panel,” yet when you look at the applicants for the panel, there were no women who raised their hands. When people say “men are holding us down,” I think back to one of my first jobs out of college as the Marketing Director at a commercial real estate group, overseeing an entire division and being the only female at executive meetings – I didn’t feel held down and I didn’t get the job because of gender equality but because I was the most qualified candidate.

In conversation, some find my position to be callous, but I argue that it was ingrained in me at a very early age that I was fully equipped to be a leader and it never occurred to me when I entered the business world that I was at a disadvantage. This naivete has benefited me in amazing ways- I didn’t know I was supposed to be “held down” or that the glass ceiling applied to me, so I didn’t let it. My personality has come into question before as overly ambitious, competitive and enthusiastic, and some have claimed those are not very feminine traits. But who says this of me? Mostly women. What a shame that women have found me not to be womanly enough, a position that implies the glass ceiling applies to me- these are the same women that complain that a speaker panel doesn’t have women on it. So very hypocritical.

Ignoring the glass ceiling

Why did I have this inherent refusal to acknowledge the glass ceiling? I trace it back to my upbringing. My grandmother taught me to read before I ever started kindergarten and out of boredom the summer prior to kindergarten, I read the entire Nancy Drew series not because I was told to but because I had this new tool called reading and the only books in my grandparent’s house that looked interesting was that colorful set, so I got started. No one knew I read the series, I did it for me. When I started kindergarten, I was very frustrated that everyone was learning the alphabet and it was everything I could do just to sit still. Tradition was to stay on track with the public school system, but my family didn’t believe in the conventional thinking and allowed me to move forward at my own pace on my personal time.

My grandmother was also the den leader of the local Girl Scouts, Brownies and Blue Bird organization over the years, and when my time came to join, I was ready. I learned crafts, outdoor skills and how to work in a team as well as lead a team. The mission of the Girl Scouts is that the program “builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” While there are a lot more organizations available today to girls, especially those that encourage girls to be interested in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) careers, in the 80s, the Girl Scouts was the best/only program available in the small town I lived in.

I hated selling cookies as a Blue Bird, and although I was nowhere near shy with strangers, I felt like I was imposing. Why did I feel like that? My dad getting angry at telemarketers calling during dinner- I equated the two and knew inherently it was annoying. I was taught “sales skills” through the program, but I didn’t learn how to negotiate (there was no “buy a full case today and get 10% off”), how to read buyer signs or buyer psychology, rather we had a script to read from and it ended in a yes or no proposition. My grandmother passed away after a year of my being in the program, and I quit. I didn’t quit because our den leader was gone, but because the selling process was boring to me and I had better things to do with my time.

I learned early on how to prioritize my skills and decide what my passion was. I hated sales, so I stuck with writing and was a published poet by second grade (after skipping first grade), which has come in quite handy in my career. Most children don’t know what their passion is, and there is no one around to inspire them. I happened to come from a family of creatives, but engineers don’t think their job is interesting to a child, so they don’t share what they do with their children. Single parents don’t have time to sit down every day with their child and ask about their dreams and then actually go through with shaping them, that’s left to the public school system which barely scrapes by with education since they’re required to focus children on short term memorization for standardized testing.

What we can do better – three things

The three things we can do as a culture to cultivate leadership in women are as follows:

  1. Teach girls how to read earlier than public schools require. Let them enter imaginary worlds and learn about environments other than the one they already know. Reading is critical to the expansion of the mind. Even though I grew up in a small town, I was very well educated about the world by the time I entered it. Reading helps girls to be creative which is a key component to developing leadership skills and helps with problem solving.
  2. Help girls identify interests early and help them develop them into passions. I hated sales, but I was asked what I don’t hate and that was writing, so I pushed forward with what became my passion. Don’t force girls to stay in a program they don’t like, even if it helps them develop other skills. Skills and passion aren’t the same thing, and sometimes parents and teachers tell kids, “don’t doodle” and stifle their creativity and teach them to ignore their own passions which can limit their ability to lead later on in life.
  3. We must teach our daughters that the glass ceiling doesn’t apply to them and that they can lead no matter what society says. This allows girls to become entrepreneurs if they end up in a field that is not female friendly, or helps them to have the confidence to sit in an executive board room without feeling self conscious. Telling girls that they have to fight to get to the top gives them an inherent sense of self consciousness as if they don’t deserve a leadership role when they actually earn one. Teach girls to work hard and bust their butts on anything they pursue.

There are many more things we can do as Americans without having to reform the school system, an impossible undertaking. Business leaders are great independent of their gender, ethnicity, age or religion, and some day, our culture will not teach girls that from day one they are at a disadvantage because that is one of the biggest things holding so many women back.

Business Entrepreneur

15 tips to spot a toxic work environment when interviewing

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Interviewing can be tricky, but this new infographic will help you look for signs of toxicity before, during, and after the interview.

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Person in an interview

When we’re in the process of job hunting, we’re typically looking because we need a change, for multiple reasons. Any interview sparks hope. Because we’re sometimes so willing to make that change, we often put our blinders on in the hopes that whatever comes is the perfect opportunity for us.

With those blinders, however, it can be common to miss some red flags that tell you what you really need to know about the job you may be applying or interviewing for. Luckily, Resume.io is here to help.

They have developed 15 warning signs in their infographic: How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment Before You Take the Job. Let’s dive in and take a look at these.

First, the preparation before the interview. Red flags can shop up from the get-go. Here’s what to look out for before you even meet face-to-face (or over the phone/Zoom).

  1. Vague job description: If there is nothing substantial about the description of the job itself and only buzzwords like “team player,” be on alert.
  2. Negative Glassdoor reviews: These reviews on company culture are worth taking into account. If multiple people have a recurring issue, it’s something to be aware of.
  3. Arranging an interview is taking forever: If they keep you waiting, it’s typically a sign of disorganization. This may not always be the case, but pay attention to how they’re respecting you and your time.
  4. Your arrival comes as a surprise to them: Again, disorganization. This is also displaying a lack of communication in the company.
  5. The interview starts late: See the last sentence of #3. Not only are they disrespecting your time, but they’re displaying a lack of time management.

Now, for the high-pressure situation: During the interview. Here’s what you need to be keeping an eye on (while simultaneously listing your strengths and weaknesses, of course)

  1. Unpreparedness: If the interviewer is scattered and not prepared for your conversation, this may be a sign that they don’t fully understand the tasks and expectations for the job.
  2. Doesn’t get into your skill set: If they don’t ask about your skills, how can they know what you’re bringing to the table?
  3. Rudeness: If the interviewer is rude throughout the interview or is authoritative (either to you or to a panel who may be present,) be on alert. This is just a sign of what’s to come.
  4. Uncommunicative about company values: If it’s different from what’s on their website or they seem spacey about company values, this is a red flag.
  5. Your questions aren’t being answered: If they’re avoiding answering your questions, they may be hiding an aspect of the job – or the company – that they don’t want to reveal.

Finally, the waiting game. Once the interview is complete, here are some less-than-good things to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind that some of these may be hard to gauge seeing that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and many companies haven’t returned to their offices yet:

  1. Brief interview: If the interview was too short, they are either desperate or have already filled the position. Either way, bad.
  2. Quiet workplace: This may be a sign of a lack of teamwork or a tense environment.
  3. No tour: If you don’t get to see the office, again, they may be hiding something.
  4. Offer on the day of interview: Not giving you time to think may be a sign of desperation.
  5. Leaving you waiting: Again, if they leave you waiting on an answer like they did with scheduling, it’s a sign of disorganization and disrespect.

While one of these 15 things happening doesn’t necessarily mean the job is a bust, a few of these things happening may be an indicator to look elsewhere.

 

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Business Entrepreneur

This startup makes managing remote internships easier for all

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Internships during COVID are tough to manage for many employers, but Symba aims to present a unique solution.

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Internships could be becoming easier to facilitate remotely, wherever you are.

Internships are among the innumerable practices disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might argue that the loss of the corporate version of hazing that defines many internships is not something to be mourned. But the fact remains that internships are crucial for both employers and employees. Fortunately, a company called Symba might have a solution: Remote internships.

It’s a simple, intuitive solution for the times. That’s why big-name industries like Robinhood and Genentech are turning to Symba for help in constructing their own digital internship platforms.

Symba is, in and of itself, akin to any employee management system. Prospective employees sign into their Symba account via the landing page of the company for whom they are interning, after which point they are able to review their workload for the day. They can also see communications, feedback, other profiles, group projects, and more; they can even access onboarding resources and tutorials for the company in case they get lost along the way.

The key difference between Symba and other management tools—such as Slack—is that Symba was built from the ground up to facilitate actionable experience for interns at little to no detriment to the company in question. This means that interns have a consistent onboarding, collaborative, and working experience across the board—regardless of which company they’re representing at the time.

Symba even has a five-star ranking system that allows employers to create and quantify areas of proficiency at their discretion. For example, if an intern’s roles include following up with clients via email or scheduling meetings, an employer could quickly create categories for these tasks and rate the intern’s work on the aforementioned scale. Interns are also able to ask for feedback if they aren’t receiving it.

While Symba doesn’t facilitate communications between interns, it does include Slack integration for the purposes of collaboration and correspondence as needed.

On the managerial side, employers can do everything from the previously mentioned rating to delegating tasks and reviewing reports. All data is saved in Symba’s interface so that employers have equal access to information that might inspire a hiring.

While it’s possible that Symba will struggle to maintain relevance during non-internship months, the fact remains that it is an exceptionally viable solution to an otherwise finicky problem during these trying times—and some employers may even find it viable enough to continue using it post-pandemic.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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