Courageous Women Leaders… and the Cultures That Support Them


Recently, I’ve read two excellent articles on why women stay quiet at work which clearly outline the challenges women can face in leadership roles, and the need and benefits for them to have a voice. One, a Harvard Business Review piece, “Women Find Your Voice,” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn and Mary Davis Holt, the other in The New York Times, “Talking While Female: Why Women Stay Quiet at Work,” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Both articles highlight key points and tools. Combining them with a few additional tools, as seen in our research and experience with leaders, can significantly increase individual, team, and organizational integrity and success and the integral role that women leadership can play in these outcomes.

Plan & Practice

First, the HBR piece stresses a key aspect of courageous conversations: be mindful, and plan what you’re going to say. Two common reactions people report having under stress: losing focus and adding superfluous words, both of which dilute the power and goal of the communication. Here’s the critical additional step: practice having the conversation with colleagues or a friend, repeatedly if necessary, before attempting it “live.” This is the key element of building skillful courage.

Most of us know “what” to do but not “how” to in a challenging situation, when the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin are pumping through our veins. “If we practice with some level of stress in a ‘social flight simulation we, like pilots, create the muscle memory to act in the way that we’ve practiced when the real situation arises,” says Dr. Lynne Henderson, author of The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Building Social Confidence, and creator of Social Fitness Training, a cognitive behavioral training program for teams. She adds, “That way stress becomes a cue for mindful, courageous action rather than avoidance or other unhelpful reactions.” Just as most of us would never turn in the first draft of an important document, every time we practice a courageous conversation, we evolve our thinking and strategy, while simultaneously increasing our behavioral flexibility for the real conversation.

Reframe Stress as Your Opportunity for Courage

It’s also important to frame our discomfort as something positive, rather than a negative. Our instincts tell us to move away from discomfort or stress. However, if we re-frame this challenge as, “my opportunity for courage – to support values,” we can actually stay grounded in our decision, and remain motivated to see it through. In Social Fitness Training™, like athletes, we use adrenalin as a cue to improve our performance. (Kelly McGonigal also does a compelling job illustrating the research and power of reframing our stress response in her TEDTalk and recent book, The Upside of Stress.)

The upshot of practicing these acts of courage? According to Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, “Brain research shows that practicing and imagining being courageous and resilient actually builds the neural networks for future courage and resilience.”

Build Courageous Alliances

Second, many people still think of courage as a lone act. But both articles emphasize and myriad research supports that you need to build allies to make a long-term positive difference. If one person speaks up, it’s easy to discount it as one person’s opinion (and if you work in a toxic environment, it’s easy to become a target for retaliation). Two people speaking up is better. But three people speaking up starts to represent a “point of view,” which creates the leverage to change a system.

Building allies also helps create understanding of the current perspectives and norms so that you can be more strategic and effective in communication. In addition, male networks or other majority allies can also help translate and build understanding and empathy within the majority. (Think of Thurgood Marshall and Justice Brennan. The sole black Supreme Court Justice’s relationship with the Chief Justice helped translate the black experience to the rest of the all-White Supreme Court – which changed the course of history.)

And women have an advantage in this area. Although the “fight-or-flight” stress response still gets most of the attention, in 2000, Shelley Taylor, PhD, and her colleagues, discovered a more common stress response for women: to “tend-and-befriend.” This response makes sense evolutionarily, when tending to the young or more vulnerable, and befriending: building alliances and social support, was the best way for women to protect their offspring and propagate the human species.

Under stress, we all produce oxytocin, but women produce more. Oxytocin is a powerful affiliative hormone that prods us to connect to others and reach out to give or request social support. This then releases more oxytocin, helping us to be courageous by giving us a sense of hope while quieting our fearful thoughts or predictions, such as “I can’t do it” or “It won’t go well.”

For individuals and organizations, one of the best ways to motivate women is to focus on something greater than the self. Having women speak first can therefore help prime the rest of the group to focus on a higher goal, such as the success and integrity of the team and organization, rather than self-interest. (A future blog will go into greater detail about how to leverage the “tend-and-befriend” response while avoiding its potential pitfalls.)

Build a Courageous, Inclusive Culture

Last, both the individual and the organization need to take responsibility and make the changes necessary to ensure that everyone can contribute. Too often, women are given individual coaching without accompanying efforts that encourage input from all team-members – particularly those who normally aren’t heard, and that raise the awareness of the rest of the team on the how and why of giving and receiving feedback. Sometimes the most courageous act for those with dominant voices is to be quiet and invite others to participate.

Effective leaders create shared leadership with shared power and responsibility to initiate and experiment with changes that improve collaboration and achieve both individual and shared goals. They develop processes that are designed to ensure ongoing exchanges of important ideas, information and data that enable individual, team and organizational success.

The upcoming blogs will focus on specific examples of courageous women leaders and actions in the workplace. If you would like to join in this important conversation, please share any of your own examples or stories of others’ courageous actions using the hashtag: #thecourage2lead. We look forward to hearing about your sources of inspiration. Remember, courage is contagious. Your actions can inspire others and help to create cultures of courage.

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Volvo North America chief says pushing for rapid growth in U.S.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina, May 28 (Reuters)- – Volvo Car Group aims to rebuild the brand’s U.S. sales to 100,000 vehicles a year “as soon as possible,” with help from a factory the company plans to…

Android M makes another attempt at automated device backups

We’ve got the Android M preview installed on some devices already, and we’re beginning to dig down past the major improvements that Google announced on stage earlier today. One of these is an improvement to Android’s backup system—if you choose to back up your device with a Google account, apps that target Android M and newer will have all of their data and settings backed up by default. That data can then be downloaded and restored to your phone if you get a new one or need to wipe it for some reason.

It should be noted that this isn’t Google’s first stab at a more comprehensive backup solution for Android, however. Android has had a backup API for years, but it required more effort on the part of developers. Lollipop was another step forward, though in practice it only really restores a limited number of things—Wi-Fi settings, wallpapers, language and input settings, and a few others are restored reliably, and Android is good about restoring the specific apps you had installed from Google Play. Backup of app data and settings usually doesn’t work, though, since developers need to expend more effort to make it work. The Android M backup system is opt-out rather than opt-in, which should help with adoption.

All data is backed up to a private folder in Google Drive, and data kept in that folder does not count against your regular Drive storage quota. Developers can use an XML configuration file to explicitly exclude or include certain data, and users can opt out of the backup service altogether. Google also says that “large files” and temporary files generated by your apps won’t be backed up by default.

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No Achilles heel, resource sector has super-sized impact on economy

Canada’s reliance on natural resources – particularly oil and gas production – is constantly held up as an economic and environmental weakness that needs to be fixed.

But a new study from the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute provides a much-needed reality check: resources are more important to Canada than many realize – or want to admit.

Philip Cross, a senior fellow at the think tank and the former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, said natural-resource industries directly contributed $260 billion or 16.6 per cent of GDP in 2010 alone (the most recent year for which figures are available), with mining and oil and gas leading the way.

Among the surprising conclusions is that resources also account for a big part of Canadian manufacturing – 46.2 per cent of all manufacturing output in 2010 – and affect all industries in Canada, such as business and financial services that keep large urban areas productive.

“The growth of natural resources has been integral to the transformation and growth of manufacturing in Canada, contrary to fears of Dutch disease affecting the sector,” Cross writes in Unearthing the Full Economic Impact of Canada’s Natural Resources, released Thursday. “The resource economy has extensive linkages with other industries, notably commercial services in large cities.”

When it comes to business investment, natural resources punch way above their weight.

They are now Canada’s dominant source of business investment, with the energy sector far outpacing the rest. In 2013, resources accounted for $144.5 billion or 61 per cent of all business investment in plant and equipment in the country, up from 38.2 per cent in 1999.

They also account for the majority of Canadian exports, or 58.3 per cent of all merchandise exports in 2014 – or $308.4 billion – up from a low of 39 per cent in 2000.

Resource industries employ about 14 per cent of Canada’s workforce, which is a smaller proportion than their contribution to GDP and a reflection of their capital-intensive nature. In 2013, 304,200 people worked in natural resources – nearly a third more than in 1987.

The study offers some reason for optimism for resource industries, despite the pullback in commodity prices that is causing many companies to shelve plans.

“There is (no) reason to believe the recent slump in commodity prices, which has been mild compared with some downturns in the past, marks the end of the long-term upward trend of output in resource-based industries,” Cross writes. “Only by embracing our rich endowment and history of natural resources will Canada extract their full value.”

Recessions in resource industries are different from those in other sectors, like manufacturing or housing, Cross writes. In other sectors, downturns tend to lead to lower output. But resource industries adjust to lower demand through lower prices and profits, not production cuts.

Resources are more important to Canada than many realize – or want to admit

“Already one can see this response occurring for oil output in 2015,” Cross writes. “Despite sharply lower prices, oil output so far in the first quarter of 2015 rose 4.4 per cent from a year earlier. The effect of slumping commodity prices, especially for oil, is to reduce investment, which shows up with a considerable lag.”

In his study, Cross takes a broader view of resources than other researchers. He includes primary extractive and agricultural industries (agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining), as well as utilities and industries that rely on resources for greater than 17 per cent of their inputs, such as primary metal manufacturing, pulp and paper manufacturing, and pipeline transport.

His conclusions are not news for resource sectors like oil and gas, which has often highlighted its super-sized economic contribution as a way to gain acceptance for infrastructure growth plans.

They underscore it would be folly for Canada to move away from resource extraction, whether to diversify the economy or because of environmental concerns, to focus on industries with fewer advantages.Financial Post

Will Putting Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht Behind Bars Accomplish Anything?

Friday Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht will be sentenced. He faces the possibility of between 30 years to life behind bars because drugs were bought and sold on his website. The prosecution is painting him as a major drug dealer and blaming him for the deaths of six people who overdosed (without acknowledging that our current drug policies lead to 35,000 accidental overdose deaths per year).

On the eve of his sentencing, it’s worth considering: what will we actually accomplish by putting this man away?

The fact is, the existence of Silk Road proved something we all know to be true: millions of people around the world want to use and buy drugs. As many have argued, including my former colleague Meghan Ralston and Phil Smith on Alternet, Silk Road’s online marketplace actually reduced the harms of drugs in several key ways.

  • Silk Road reduced the potential violence associated with buying drugs. By taking away the need for face-to-face interaction, Silk Road reduced the violence commonly associated with drug purchases. It also took power away from cartels.
  • It allowed for better knowledge about content and purity. One of the greatest dangers of drug use is that it’s very difficult to know if you’re getting what you intend to get, especially with today’s rapidly diversifying synthetic market. Using a review system similar to what you’d see on Yelp or other sites, a seller who was not representing his or her product accurately would not have customers long, and a user could be sure about his or her purchase.
  • It encouraged harm reduction among users. Silk Road had a whole section of its site devoted to safer drug use practices. It’s relevant and important that this kind of content reach people at the very place where they are making purchases.

Ulbricht’s defense recognized this and included these arguments in their memo to Katherine Forrest, the judge handing down the sentencing. If nothing else, a shorter sentence might help acknowledge the reality that no matter what your opinion about drug sales, Silk Road served as harm reduction for these marketplaces.

Friday, the path of Ulbricht’s life will be determined. But his sentencing will have little to no impact on those millions of people who will still buy and use drugs. Other online drug marketplaces will arise and the violent, wasteful drug war will carry on unchecked.

Unless we end 40 years of failure, and consider the lessons from Silk Road, and think about a new approach to drug use and sales.

Stefanie Jones is the nightlife community engagement manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

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Snarky Journalists Have Crude, Wrenching Public Debate About Unionization

Last month, some editorial members of Gawker Media, owner of various web properties including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and of course,, announced they planned to form a union.

Now, with an election scheduled for next week that will decide whether the company will unionize, Gawker writers have made their votes and opinions on the plan public in a post published Thursday. The discussion offers a rare look at how wrenching labor organization can be. Some pro-union writers have been so turned off by the process that they’ve decided to cast their ballot against unionization efforts.

“I am an avid proponent of unions, a leftist, and am perpetually distrustful of those in power—especially those that hold sway over my own employment,” writes Deadspin staff member Kevin Draper. “Yet on June 3rd, I am going to vote against Gawker Media editorial staffers unionizing. That is how f— up this entire process, from start to apparent finish, has been.”

Draper goes on to list a set of grievances that turned him against unionization, including a perceived lack of communication and transparency from union supporters and an election the writer feels was scheduled too soon.

Those issues are echoed by a number of other staffers, including Deadspin columnist Drew Magary, who added that the push toward organization had turned many staffers against one another (“This has created a GALACTIC amount of acrimony within Gawker”). Magary also voiced concerns about the everyday implications of unionization (“I f***ing hate meetings.”). Stef Schrader, an editor for Jalopnik, questioned whether a raise that would include union dues could force the company to cut into other benefits. “I don’t agree that we need to pay an outside entity to negotiate these things for us,” posted Schrader.

Most staff commenters appear to support unionization.

“I am voting yes on the union,” wrote Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest-tenured writer and a major force behind the drive to organize. “This has been a truly ‘grass roots’ organizing process in the sense that we’ve been making it all up as we go along. There’s no doubt all the communication efforts have not been perfect. But I really, really hope that everyone will think about the big picture: a vote for this union is a vote for unity. It’s a vote to meld all of our interests together as one. And beyond the practical benefits for us, it’s a really important symbolic vote for our entire industry. It’s the first step of a movement that could end up helping a lot of people.”

If the pushback against organization by some writers comes as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Online media companies, despite being populated by many young city-dwellers who, as a demographic, tend to skew towards the left, have generally been reluctant to unionize. If Gawker does become a union shop, it would be the first major new media company to do so.

Why is the digital press so reluctant to band together? As the Washington Post explained in January, a combination of generational and economic forces tend to make unionization less palatable to online scribes. Younger workers are typically less familiar with unions and more apt to see themselves as personal brands instead of as part of a collective.

Another reason for web media’s union-phobia may just be that many journalists don’t feel they have it quite so hard. “They tend to think that because of their education and their talent, they don’t need [a union],” said Freddy Kunkle, the co-chair of The Washington Post’s Guild unit, in an interview with the Post. “What they’re doing is not coal mining: It’s not dangerous; it’s not dirty. What are they going to get out of it?”

You May Soon Be Able to Buy Amazon-branded Milk, Cereal and Baby Food is getting ready to take its fight with the likes of Costco Wholesale, Target and Walmart deeper into the grocery aisles.

The online retailer is planning to expand its private label lineup into groceries like milk, cereal, and baby food, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The newspaper also reported that Amazon filed for trademark protection in early May for more than two dozen categories under its existing Elements brand including coffee, soup, pasta as well as household products like razor blades and cleaning products.

Amazon has approached some private-label food manufacturers to partner including TreeHouse Foods, a major player, according to the Journal’s report. Amazon did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment.

The foray into private-label grocery comes as food is becoming ever-bigger business for major retailers. Groceries can bring higher profit margins despite the lower retail prices some retailers charge because the companies save on the marketing costs.

Such in-house brands are also finding more acceptance with customers, many of whom are increasingly looking for bargains and are more open to buying store brands. A case in point is Costco’s Kirkland brand, which generates $15 billion in sales from coffee, chicken breasts, and cleaning products.

Amazon’s Elements portfolio began last year with diapers, which it has since dropped, and baby wipes that are sold exclusively to members of its Prime subscription service. Among other things, Prime offers unlimited same-day delivery in certain markets and two-day shipping — all for a $99 annual fee.

This would be Amazon’s first try at selling its own line of food, a far more complex business than some of its other private label products because of food safety issues. And Amazon would be going up against experienced competitors that have plans to improve their own brands. Target’s Archer Farms, for one, will undergo an overhaul in the next year.

Still, the move makes sense for Amazon as it looks to capitalize on and built out its Fresh grocery delivery.

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official in the U.S. directed the Qatar question to the company’s headquarters in Korea, where the FIFA sponsorship is managed. We will update the post if we hear back. Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.