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Keeping your Pets Safe on Halloween

Hallie, Company of Experts' #1 fan, showing off her Halloween costume

Attention all pet owners! Halloween is just around the corner which means strange people wearing costumes, loud noises, lit candles, candy and candy wrappers, in addition to other temptations. While Halloween may be a fun time you and your loved ones, the change in routine, decorations, and smells can often stress out our little furry friends. As avid animal lovers, the Company of Experts’ staff would like to share some tips that can help avoid injury, reduce stress experienced by your pet, and ultimately keep your pets safe.

  1. Noises: Halloween is full of loud noises. Your doorbell is constantly ringing with trick-or-treaters, who are laughing and screaming with excitement, that can frighten your pet. It is suggested that all family pets are kept inside a quiet room within the house, during trick-or-treating hours, where they are insulated from the Halloween commotion. Equip this room with food, water, toys, and a litter box, if applicable. Check in on your pets throughout the night and let them know that everything is fine and reward them for their good behavior.
  2. Walk early: If you have a daily routine of walking your pet, make sure to walk your pet before it gets too dark, and before the trick-or-treaters are out in full force. Some kids may already by trick-or-treating, make sure to keep a firm grip on your pet’s leash as many dogs are frightened by people in costumes.
  3. Strange people in costumes: People of all ages have fun dressing up in costumes, however to your dog or cat, they may not look like people at all. Consequently, your dog or cat may react with fear or aggression if approached by a child or adult in a costume (one more reason to leave your pet home and indoors on Halloween night). Even the friendliest dog can snap at strangers if scared or provoked. Protect everybody’s safety by leaving pets at home. However, if you do decide to take your dog out on Halloween, keep your dog on a shorter-then-normal leash with a firm grip.
  4. Pet Costumes: If you do decide to dress up your pet, make sure its costume is not constricting, annoying, or unsafe. Your pet’s costume should not impede your pet’s ability to move, see, hear, breath, bark or meow. Examine your pet’s costume carefully to make sure it does not have small, dangling, or easily chewed off pieces that your pet can choke on. Have your pet try on their costume before the  big night. If your pet seems distressed, irritated or demonstrates allergic behavior, remove the costume immediately. Do not force your pet to wear a costume if it demonstrates discomfort. Undue stress and discomfort can cause aggression in even the nicest pet.
  5. Trick-NO-Treats: No matter how much your pet begs for a piece of candy, the bowl full of candy is only for trick-or-treaters. Explain to everyone in your home (including children) how dangerous candy, especially chocolate, are to pets. For younger children, take their Halloween candy supply put it somewhere out of reach of pets. According to the ASPCA:
    1. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate—and even seizures.
    2. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.
  6. Pick up the evidence: After enjoying some Halloween candy, it is important that you dispose of candy wrappers before your pets get to them. Make sure your pet can’t get into the trash. Swallowing tin foil or cellophane candy wrappers can be as harmful as the candy – potentially causing your pet to choke or experience intestinal blockage.
  7. Pumpkins: It is fun to adorn the house and yard with festive decorations such as pumpkins and corn. These popular holiday plants are considered to be relatively nontoxic to your pets; however, caution should still be exerted. Pumpkins and corn can produce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage can also occur if large pieces/portions are swallowed.
  8. Candles: While a jack-o-lantern is festive, it is important that you exercise extreme caution when choosing to add a candle. Animals are curious by nature and often investigate items that intrigue them. Lit candles left burning in pumpkins or decorative holders can be easily knocked over; burning your pet’s paw, wing, or tail on the flame. Animals should be watched around candles during Halloween and anytime of the year.
  9. Mischief Brews: It is suggested that you do not leave pets outside on Halloween night. Many animal welfare groups warn that pranksters will tease or abduct pets, some may even try to hurt your animals. Animal abuse happens everyday but kids are out playing tricks in full force on Halloween night, so be aware. Again, it is suggested to keep all animals indoors on Halloween night, if possible, to eliminate any chance of this.
  10. Update ID Tags: It is better to be safe than sorry. Whether you are letting your pet go out on Halloween or not, make sure they are wearing an up-to-date I.D. tag. If for any reason your pet escapes or becomes lost, a collar, tag and/or a microchip can increase the chances that your pet will be returned to you.

Fun Halloween Word Search

This word search features a variety of words associated with Halloween. There are 33 words to find. Play alone or with loved ones ~ Happy Halloween from the Company of Experts’ staff.

To Play:

  1. When you find a word, click on the first letter and then the last letter of the word you found.
  2. The word will highlight and flash red if it is an incorrect answer.
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The End of Men

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences

Author: Hanna Rosin

Photo Credit: John Ritter

Photo Credit: John Ritter

In the 1970s the biologist Ronald Ericsson came up with a way to separate sperm carrying the male-producing Y chromosome from those carrying the X. He sent the two kinds of sperm swimming down a glass tube through ever-thicker albumin barriers. The sperm with the X chromosome had a larger head and a longer tail, and so, he figured, they would get bogged down in the viscous liquid. The sperm with the Y chromosome were leaner and faster and could swim down to the bottom of the tube more efficiently. Ericsson had grown up on a ranch in South Dakota, where he’d developed an Old West, cowboy swagger. The process, he said, was like “cutting out cattle at the gate.” The cattle left flailing behind the gate were of course the X’s, which seemed to please him. He would sometimes demonstrate the process using cartilage from a bull’s penis as a pointer.

In the late 1970s, Ericsson leased the method to clinics around the U.S., calling it the first scientifically proven method for choosing the sex of a child. Instead of a lab coat, he wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and doled out his version of cowboy poetry. (People magazine once suggested a TV miniseries based on his life called Cowboy in the Lab.) The right prescription for life, he would say, was “breakfast at five-thirty, on the saddle by six, no room for Mr. Limp Wrist.” In 1979, he loaned out his ranch as the backdrop for the iconic “Marlboro Country” ads because he believed in the campaign’s central image—“a guy riding on his horse along the river, no bureaucrats, no lawyers,” he recalled when I spoke to him this spring. “He’s the boss.” (The photographers took some 6,500 pictures, a pictorial record of the frontier that Ericsson still takes great pride in.)

In this video: In this family feud, Hanna Rosin and her daughter, Noa, debate the superiority of women with Rosin’s son, Jacob, and husband, Slate editor David Plotz

Feminists of the era did not take kindly to Ericsson and his Marlboro Man veneer. To them, the lab cowboy and his sperminator portended a dystopia of mass-produced boys. “You have to be concerned about the future of all women,” Roberta Steinbacher, a nun-turned-social-psychologist, said in a 1984 People profile of Ericsson. “There’s no question that there exists a universal preference for sons.” Steinbacher went on to complain about women becoming locked in as “second-class citizens” while men continued to dominate positions of control and influence. “I think women have to ask themselves, ‘Where does this stop?’” she said. “A lot of us wouldn’t be here right now if these practices had been in effect years ago.”

Ericsson, now 74, laughed when I read him these quotes from his old antagonist. Seldom has it been so easy to prove a dire prediction wrong. In the ’90s, when Ericsson looked into the numbers for the two dozen or so clinics that use his process, he discovered, to his surprise, that couples were requesting more girls than boys, a gap that has persisted, even though Ericsson advertises the method as more effective for producing boys. In some clinics, Ericsson has said, the ratio is now as high as 2 to 1. Polling data on American sex preference is sparse, and does not show a clear preference for girls. But the picture from the doctor’s office unambiguously does. A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, is currently completing Food and Drug Administration clinical trials. The girl requests for that method run at about 75 percent.

Even more unsettling for Ericsson, it has become clear that in choosing the sex of the next generation, he is no longer the boss. “It’s the women who are driving all the decisions,” he says—a change the MicroSort spokespeople I met with also mentioned. At first, Ericsson says, women who called his clinics would apologize and shyly explain that they already had two boys. “Now they just call and [say] outright, ‘I want a girl.’ These mothers look at their lives and think their daughters will have a bright future their mother and grandmother didn’t have, brighter than their sons, even, so why wouldn’t you choose a girl?”

Why wouldn’t you choose a girl? That such a statement should be so casually uttered by an old cowboy like Ericsson—or by anyone, for that matter—is monumental. For nearly as long as civilization has existed, patriarchy—enforced through the rights of the firstborn son—has been the organizing principle, with few exceptions. Men in ancient Greece tied off their left testicle in an effort to produce male heirs; women have killed themselves (or been killed) for failing to bear sons. In her iconic 1949 book, TheSecond Sex, the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir suggested that women so detested their own “feminine condition” that they regarded their newborn daughters with irritation and disgust. Now the centuries-old preference for sons is eroding—or even reversing. “Women of our generation want daughters precisely because we like who we are,” breezes one woman in Cookie magazine. Even Ericsson, the stubborn old goat, can sigh and mark the passing of an era. “Did male dominance exist? Of course it existed. But it seems to be gone now. And the era of the firstborn son is totally gone.”

Ericsson’s extended family is as good an illustration of the rapidly shifting landscape as any other. His 26-year-old granddaughter—“tall, slender, brighter than hell, with a take-no-prisoners personality”—is a biochemist and works on genetic sequencing. His niece studied civil engineering at the University of Southern California. His grandsons, he says, are bright and handsome, but in school “their eyes glaze over. I have to tell ’em: ‘Just don’t screw up and crash your pickup truck and get some girl pregnant and ruin your life.’” Recently Ericsson joked with the old boys at his elementary-school reunion that he was going to have a sex-change operation. “Women live longer than men. They do better in this economy. More of ’em graduate from college. They go into space and do everything men do, and sometimes they do it a whole lot better. I mean, hell, get out of the way—these females are going to leave us males in the dust.”

Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed. Cultural and economic changes always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historical preference for male children, worldwide. Over several centuries, South Korea, for instance, constructed one of the most rigid patriarchal societies in the world. Many wives who failed to produce male heirs were abused and treated as domestic servants; some families prayed to spirits to kill off girl children. Then, in the 1970s and ’80s, the government embraced an industrial revolution and encouraged women to enter the labor force. Women moved to the city and went to college. They advanced rapidly, from industrial jobs to clerical jobs to professional work. The traditional order began to crumble soon after. In 1990, the country’s laws were revised so that women could keep custody of their children after a divorce and inherit property. In 2005, the court ruled that women could register children under their own names. As recently as 1985, about half of all women in a national survey said they “must have a son.” That percentage fell slowly until 1991 and then plummeted to just over 15 percent by 2003. Male preference in South Korea “is over,” says Monica Das Gupta, a demographer and Asia expert at the World Bank. “It happened so fast. It’s hard to believe it, but it is.” The same shift is now beginning in other rapidly industrializing countries such as India and China.

Up to a point, the reasons behind this shift are obvious. As thinking and communicating have come to eclipse physical strength and stamina as the keys to economic success, those societies that take advantage of the talents of all their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest. And because geopolitics and global culture are, ultimately, Darwinian, other societies either follow suit or end up marginalized. In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success. Aid agencies have started to recognize this relationship and have pushed to institute political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes. In some war-torn states, women are stepping in as a sort of maternal rescue team. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, portrayed her country as a sick child in need of her care during her campaign five years ago. Postgenocide Rwanda elected to heal itself by becoming the first country with a majority of women in parliament.

In feminist circles, these social, political, and economic changes are always cast as a slow, arduous form of catch-up in a continuing struggle for female equality. But in the U.S., the world’s most advanced economy, something much more remarkable seems to be happening. American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind’s eye.

What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?

Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you. It can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. Some of these jobs will come back, but the overall pattern of dislocation is neither temporary nor random. The recession merely revealed—and accelerated—a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least 30 years, and in some respects even longer.

Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.

The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true. Women in poor parts of India are learning English faster than men to meet the demands of new global call centers. Women own more than 40 percent of private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs. Last year, Iceland elected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of state, who campaigned explicitly against the male elite she claimed had destroyed the nation’s banking system, and who vowed to end the “age of testosterone.”

Yes, the U.S. still has a wage gap, one that can be convincingly explained—at least in part—by discrimination. Yes, women still do most of the child care. And yes, the upper reaches of society are still dominated by men. But given the power of the forces pushing at the economy, this setup feels like the last gasp of a dying age rather than the permanent establishment. Dozens of college women I interviewed for this story assumed that they very well might be the ones working while their husbands stayed at home, either looking for work or minding the children. Guys, one senior remarked to me, “are the new ball and chain.” It may be happening slowly and unevenly, but it’s unmistakably happening: in the long view, the modern economy is becoming a place where women hold the cards.

In his final book, The Bachelors’ Ball, published in 2007, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes the changing gender dynamics of Béarn, the region in southwestern France where he grew up. The eldest sons once held the privileges of patrimonial loyalty and filial inheritance in Béarn. But over the decades, changing economic forces turned those privileges into curses. Although the land no longer produced the impressive income it once had, the men felt obligated to tend it. Meanwhile, modern women shunned farm life, lured away by jobs and adventure in the city. They occasionally returned for the traditional balls, but the men who awaited them had lost their prestige and become unmarriageable. This is the image that keeps recurring to me, one that Bourdieu describes in his book: at the bachelors’ ball, the men, self-conscious about their diminished status, stand stiffly, their hands by their sides, as the women twirl away.

The role reversal that’s under way between American men and women shows up most obviously and painfully in the working class. In recent years, male support groups have sprung up throughout the Rust Belt and in other places where the postindustrial economy has turned traditional family roles upside down. Some groups help men cope with unemployment, and others help them reconnect with their alienated families. Mustafaa El-Scari, a teacher and social worker, leads some of these groups in Kansas City. El-Scari has studied the sociology of men and boys set adrift, and he considers it his special gift to get them to open up and reflect on their new condition. The day I visited one of his classes, earlier this year, he was facing a particularly resistant crowd.

None of the 30 or so men sitting in a classroom at a downtown Kansas City school have come for voluntary adult enrichment. Having failed to pay their child support, they were given the choice by a judge to go to jail or attend a weekly class on fathering, which to them seemed the better deal. This week’s lesson, from a workbook called Quenching the Father Thirst, was supposed to involve writing a letter to a hypothetical estranged 14-year-old daughter named Crystal, whose father left her when she was a baby. But El-Scari has his own idea about how to get through to this barely awake, skeptical crew, and letters to Crystal have nothing to do with it.

Like them, he explains, he grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical “white picket fence”—one man, one woman, and a bunch of happy kids. “Well, that check bounced a long time ago,” he says. “Let’s see,” he continues, reading from a worksheet. What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral, emotional, social, and physical. “But you ain’t none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain’t even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she’ll call 911. How does that make you feel? You’re supposed to be the authority, and she says, ‘Get out of the house, bitch.’ She’s calling you ‘bitch’!”

The men are black and white, their ages ranging from about 20 to 40. A couple look like they might have spent a night or two on the streets, but the rest look like they work, or used to. Now they have put down their sodas, and El-Scari has their attention, so he gets a little more philosophical. “Who’s doing what?” he asks them. “What is our role? Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It’s toxic, and poisonous, and it’s setting us up for failure.” He writes on the board: $85,000. “This is her salary.” Then: $12,000. “This is your salary. Who’s the damn man? Who’s the man now?” A murmur rises. “That’s right. She’s the man.”

Judging by the men I spoke with afterward, El-Scari seemed to have pegged his audience perfectly. Darren Henderson was making $33 an hour laying sheet metal, until the real-estate crisis hit and he lost his job. Then he lost his duplex—“there’s my little piece of the American dream”—then his car. And then he fell behind on his child-support payments. “They make it like I’m just sitting around,” he said, “but I’m not.” As proof of his efforts, he took out a new commercial driver’s permit and a bartending license, and then threw them down on the ground like jokers, for all the use they’d been. His daughter’s mother had a $50,000-a-year job and was getting her master’s degree in social work. He’d just signed up for food stamps, which is just about the only social-welfare program a man can easily access. Recently she’d seen him waiting at the bus stop. “Looked me in the eye,” he recalled, “and just drove on by.”

The men in that room, almost without exception, were casualties of the end of the manufacturing era. Most of them had continued to work with their hands even as demand for manual labor was declining. Since 2000, manufacturing has lost almost 6 million jobs, more than a third of its total workforce, and has taken in few young workers. The housing bubble masked this new reality for a while, creating work in construction and related industries. Many of the men I spoke with had worked as electricians or builders; one had been a successful real-estate agent. Now those jobs are gone too. Henderson spent his days shuttling between unemployment offices and job interviews, wondering what his daughter might be doing at any given moment. In 1950, roughly one in 20 men of prime working age, like Henderson, was not working; today that ratio is about one in five, the highest ever recorded.

Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer. Women have everything else—nursing, home health assistance, child care, food preparation. Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, “replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.” None is especially high-paying. But the steady accumulation of these jobs adds up to an economy that, for the working class, has become more amenable to women than to men.

The list of growing jobs is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes and habits. Theoretically, there is no reason men should not be qualified. But they have proved remarkably unable to adapt. Over the course of the past century, feminism has pushed women to do things once considered against their nature—first enter the workforce as singles, then continue to work while married, then work even with small children at home. Many professions that started out as the province of men are now filled mostly with women—secretary and teacher come to mind. Yet I’m not aware of any that have gone the opposite way. Nursing schools have tried hard to recruit men in the past few years, with minimal success. Teaching schools, eager to recruit male role models, are having a similarly hard time. The range of acceptable masculine roles has changed comparatively little, and has perhaps even narrowed as men have shied away from some careers women have entered. As Jessica Grose wrote in Slate, men seem “fixed in cultural aspic.” And with each passing day, they lag further behind.

As we recover from the Great Recession, some traditionally male jobs will return—men are almost always harder-hit than women in economic downturns because construction and manufacturing are more cyclical than service industries—but that won’t change the long-term trend. When we look back on this period, argues Jamie Ladge, a business professor at Northeastern University, we will see it as a “turning point for women in the workforce.”

The economic and cultural power shift from men to women would be hugely significant even if it never extended beyond working-class America. But women are also starting to dominate middle management, and a surprising number of professional careers as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising fast. A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts. It also requires communication skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge. Perhaps most important—for better or worse—it increasingly requires formal education credentials, which women are more prone to acquire, particularly early in adulthood. Just about the only professions in which women still make up a relatively small minority of newly minted workers are engineering and those calling on a hard-science background, and even in those areas, women have made strong gains since the 1970s.

Office work has been steadily adapting to women—and in turn being reshaped by them—for 30 years or more. Joel Garreau picks up on this phenomenon in his 1991 book, Edge City, which explores the rise of suburbs that are home to giant swaths of office space along with the usual houses and malls. Companies began moving out of the city in search not only of lower rent but also of the “best educated, most conscientious, most stable workers.” They found their brightest prospects among “underemployed females living in middle-class communities on the fringe of the old urban areas.” As Garreau chronicles the rise of suburban office parks, he places special emphasis on 1978, the peak year for women entering the workforce. When brawn was off the list of job requirements, women often measured up better than men. They were smart, dutiful, and, as long as employers could make the jobs more convenient for them, more reliable. The 1999 movie Office Space was maybe the first to capture how alien and dispiriting the office park can be for men. Disgusted by their jobs and their boss, Peter and his two friends embezzle money and start sleeping through their alarm clocks. At the movie’s end, a male co-worker burns down the office park, and Peter abandons desk work for a job in construction.

Near the top of the jobs pyramid, of course, the upward march of women stalls. Prominent female CEOs, past and present, are so rare that they count as minor celebrities, and most of us can tick off their names just from occasionally reading the business pages: Meg Whitman at eBay, Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard, Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns at Xerox, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo; the accomplishment is considered so extraordinary that Whitman and Fiorina are using it as the basis for political campaigns. Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the number has never risen much above that.

But even the way this issue is now framed reveals that men’s hold on power in elite circles may be loosening. In business circles, the lack of women at the top is described as a “brain drain” and a crisis of “talent retention.” And while female CEOs may be rare in America’s largest companies, they are highly prized: last year, they outearned their male counterparts by 43 percent, on average, and received bigger raises.

Even around the delicate question of working mothers, the terms of the conversation are shifting. Last year, in a story about breast-feeding, I complained about how the early years of child rearing keep women out of power positions. But the term mommy track is slowly morphing into the gender-neutral flex time, reflecting changes in the workforce. For recent college graduates of both sexes, flexible arrangements are at the top of the list of workplace demands, according to a study published last year in the Harvard Business Review. And companies eager to attract and retain talented workers and managers are responding. The consulting firm Deloitte, for instance, started what’s now considered the model program, called Mass Career Customization, which allows employees to adjust their hours depending on their life stage. The program, Deloitte’s Web site explains, solves “a complex issue—one that can no longer be classified as a woman’s issue.”

“Women are knocking on the door of leadership at the very moment when their talents are especially well matched with the requirements of the day,” writes David Gergen in the introduction to Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership. What are these talents? Once it was thought that leaders should be aggressive and competitive, and that men are naturally more of both. But psychological research has complicated this picture. In lab studies that simulate negotiations, men and women are just about equally assertive and competitive, with slight variations. Men tend to assert themselves in a controlling manner, while women tend to take into account the rights of others, but both styles are equally effective, write the psychologists Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, in their 2007 book, Through the Labyrinth.

Over the years, researchers have sometimes exaggerated these differences and described the particular talents of women in crude gender stereotypes: women as more empathetic, as better consensus-seekers and better lateral thinkers; women as bringing a superior moral sensibility to bear on a cutthroat business world. In the ’90s, this field of feminist business theory seemed to be forcing the point. But after the latest financial crisis, these ideas have more resonance. Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions. The picture emerging is a mirror image of the traditional gender map: men and markets on the side of the irrational and overemotional, and women on the side of the cool and levelheaded.

We don’t yet know with certainty whether testosterone strongly influences business decision-making. But the perception of the ideal business leader is starting to shift. The old model of command and control, with one leader holding all the decision-making power, is considered hidebound. The new model is sometimes called “post-heroic,” or “transformational” in the words of the historian and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns. The aim is to behave like a good coach, and channel your charisma to motivate others to be hardworking and creative. The model is not explicitly defined as feminist, but it echoes literature about male-female differences. A program at Columbia Business School, for example, teaches sensitive leadership and social intelligence, including better reading of facial expressions and body language. “We never explicitly say, ‘Develop your feminine side,’ but it’s clear that’s what we’re advocating,” says Jamie Ladge.

A 2008 study attempted to quantify the effect of this more-feminine management style. Researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland analyzed data on the top 1,500 U.S. companies from 1992 to 2006 to determine the relationship between firm performance and female participation in senior management. Firms that had women in top positions performed better, and this was especially true if the firm pursued what the researchers called an “innovation intensive strategy,” in which, they argued, “creativity and collaboration may be especially important”—an apt description of the future economy.

It could be that women boost corporate performance, or it could be that better-performing firms have the luxury of recruiting and keeping high-potential women. But the association is clear: innovative, successful firms are the ones that promote women. The same Columbia-Maryland study ranked America’s industries by the proportion of firms that employed female executives, and the bottom of the list reads like the ghosts of the economy past: shipbuilding, real estate, coal, steelworks, machinery.

Source:

Rosin, H. (n.d.). The End of Men. The Atlantic. Retrieved June 30, 2010, from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/

Now is the Moment to Seize your Opportunity

Author: Luke Johnson, Financial Times

Published: May 5, 2010

The hour is always darkest before dawn. I have a gut feeling that now might just be a great time to take the plunge. There is plenty of negative news about deficits and double-dip recession. But technology and global markets are creating real advantages for anyone tempted to give it a go. And a new concern will not be weighed down with the legacy issues like property and pension obligations that are holding back incumbent players. Among my reasons why now is the time:

* The internet has made it easier to experiment than in the past. Building an online presence costs less than it ever did. I just redesigned my website for less than £2,000 in a few weeks. With that you can reach the whole world. Yes, the web is crowded, but there are billions of consumers connected to it who might see your ads or buy your products. And if your idea fails, too bad – shut the project down and try another; it is cheaper and quicker to discover what works than at any time in history.

* The corporate life seems less appealing . Jobs for life have gone; occupational pensions have gone; and who wants to slog away in a suffocating hierarchy their whole career? The freedom and satisfaction of self-employment are hard to beat. Of course there are risks – but then you might get sacked anyway if you work for someone else. Starting a company gives you the chance to achieve independence and self-determination – and if it succeeds, you really will get the rewards of your efforts.

* The world needs entrepreneurs more than ever. New jobs and wealth creation spring principally from new companies. I predict governments will do more to encourage entrepreneurs in years to come – from lower taxes to a reduced regime of bureaucracy. Every policymaker I speak to understands that only private enterprise can tackle unemployment and generate the tax we need to deal with our problems.

* There is more advice and support than ever before. Books, online, agencies, magazines – you name it, there are hundreds of places to go to find ideas, recruit staff, secure premises, source IT, deal with legal and accounting issues and so forth. There are more clubs and networks – more ways to access funding, find partners and reach customers. There are many more role models and mentors around than when I started out in the 1980s.

* It is easier to freelance and subcontract than before. Virtual businesses are common. Almost everything can be outsourced – manufacture, R&D, fulfilment, logistics, administration, IT – you name it. And providing these services offers endless niche markets.

* There is talent galore looking to join in a new venture. Now is a wonderful time to recruit able staff. Big business and the state are shedding personnel – people will be more willing to throw in their lot with an emerging company than during the good times.

* Premises and plants are plentiful. Rents are lower, machines are in surplus – there is more choice than there has been for years in terms of premises and equipment.

* Redundancy should be a beginning, not an end. Thousands do seize the day when they lose their job – and while not all find it a pushover, for many it allows them to pursue their dream and follow their passion.

* Part-time is a way to get going. When I worked for others, I moonlighted for several years, participating in various schemes at weekends, evenings and during holidays. It gave me experience, confidence and helped generate capital – so I was better prepared when I left employment for good after a few years.

I recently became chairman of the Advisory Board of Fast Track, which ranks Britain’s fastest growing companies. There I am endlessly impressed by the vision and energy displayed by the founders of so many of the companies surveyed. They know it is worth it.

No one believes starting something from scratch is a breeze. But as Samuel Johnson said: “He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking has his fatigues first supported by hope and afterward rewarded by joy.”

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Source:

Johnson, Luke. “Now is the Moment to Seize Your Opportunity.” Financial Times. N.p., 5 May 2010. Web. 5 May 2010. <www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3f720290-57dd-11df-855b-00144feab49a.html>.

“Jim’s of Wisdom”

looking-through2What do you dream? What does your dream look like? My dream is to give every individual the opportunity to be a student. My passion is to provide students the skills to become learners. Where do we start? Does every learner learn the same as you? Some years ago I was asked, “Did you see Aristotle today”? I was taught by Artistotle, not in my primary years but in those years that followed. I experienced a series of lectures, required readings and assessments based what I had learned. In most cases we still expect learners to follow Aristotle. “Learners vote with their feet”. The students of today are no different than ones of yesterday. The only difference is they have the opportunity of choice.

In our K-12 schools the choices range from private, public, charter, home schooled or online. Today is yesterday with tomorrow presenting a different beginning. Today’s learner has the opportunity to choose where they go to learn and how they learn. A professional acquaintance asked, “How do we identify or locate the polished stones”? His definition of a polished stone is a learner that academically excels in content and subject matter in a specific discipline. The question is not, how do we find the “polished stones” but how do we create them? What is your dream today? My dream is taking a kaleidoscope, holding it to my eye and “Imagining more than I can see”.

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About the Author:

Jim Pulliam retired after thirty-four years of public service in the California community college system and four years in the K-12 system in California. Jim’s professional experience includes serving as a faculty member, dean, provost and founding Superintendent/President of a California Community College District. Jim has been certified by Company of Experts.net as an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator. Read More>

Living Card of Appreciation for Jeanie Cockell

Jeanie Cockell picture

Don’t believe what you read in the newspaper and see on television. People all over the world are achieving their dreams to improve their communities whether that is a school, hospital, or corporation, for profit and non-profit. It is amazing how many terrific, caring and inspirational people we meet and the stories that we hear from them. Stories of grace, of style, of engagement – awe inspiring stories. Unique stories about people and the people that they work with.

We have an amazing Expert on Call – Jeanie Cockell. Many of you may know of Jeanie as an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and trainer from seeing her name on our website or from stories of success written by those who have worked with Jeanie. Jeanie has that special magical personality that lights up the room and invites you in to converse and to become friends. People gravitate toward Jeanie like a hummingbird to a flower.

We are so fortunate that Jeanie is with us. A few weeks ago Jeanie was involved in a horrific automobile accident and had a punctured lung, fractured pelvis and a leg broken in several places (I am not a medical person and do not mind if anyone corrects me!) It is awesome that Jeanie had no head injuries and remains positive about her recovery and is already looking ahead to returning to the work she loves. Working with people and introducing Appreciative Inquiry whenever possible.

Jeanie has physical rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and how long that will be we are not sure of. We just thought it might be nice to start a Jeanie Cockell Living Card to express our appreciation and wishes for her return to full health.

To send Jeanie your wishes, please follow this link to Facebook (click on the discussion tab) or Linkedin – if you are not a member, you will need to join. Jeanie will be able to visit her Living Card of Appreciation when she is able and as often as she wants. You may leave messages as often as you like – check often to see what others have to say.

How to Tell Creative Tension From Team Bickering

Author: Wayne Turmel, bnet.comReading the rather contentious comments back and forth between two readers on a recent blog post (check out How to Write Emails That Will Get Read) got me thinking. The life of a project or line manager would be so much better if the team just got along and never argued with each other. Right? Not necessarily. Blind agreement can be almost as destructive to your team’s success as ugly friction.

There are times when you feel like a parent on a long car trip. You just want to turn around and yell, “If I have to stop this project and turn around, you’re both in big trouble!” Before you step in between team members, though, you might want to take a deep breath and see what’s really going on. Here are four traits to look for that differentiate creative tension (i.e., positive, constructive differences of opinion) from unproductive bickering (the workplace equivalent of your kids calling each other a big cootie head).

  1. Is the argument about the work? Smart people don’t always agree on the right way to approach a problem, so disagreement is the only way for differing opinions to get a fair hearing. As the manager, watch the tone and the language choices. If the wording (spoken or written) is about the project, you’ll see inclusive, positive language: “our outcomes,” “project success,” “what this means to the department is….” If it’s getting personal and petty,  you’ll hear “you guys in QC,” or “Here you go again.” In simple terms, personal language means it’s getting personal.
  2. Are people asking you and others to pick sides? Public disagreement, whether on email or on wikis and blogs, might be unseemly. But you know you really have a problem when you as the manager start to receive private emails asking you to side with one party or the other. Don’t get sucked into the middle of it. First, have them talk to each other. If you think they can keep it civil, air the conversation in a more public forum like a discussion thread, so they can get input from others. Moderate if you have to, and watch for inappropriate behavior like name calling.
  3. Is it impacting the quality of outcomes? Your team doesn’t have to be best friends, and sometimes competition and one-upsmanship can lead to great work. When timelines get missed, or the quality of work suffers, however, it’s time to speak to both parties together – out of earshot of the rest of the team. If you have to, speak to them together and listen to what they have to say.Make sure they’re focused on the work and they know how their dispute impacts the team and their work overall.
  4. How’s your blood pressure? You as leader have to monitor your own reactions, as well as those of the team. Is the tension starting to impact others? Are they commenting on it to you privately? What’s your personal tolerance for conflict? When you have to step in, make sure you talk about not only the behavior you’re seeing but how it impacts you, the team, and the outcome of the project.

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Source:

Turmel, Wayne. “How to Tell Creative Tensions From Team Bickering.” On Leadership: Management and strategy ideas from executives and thought leaders. CBS Interactive Inc., 26 Mar. 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://blogs.bnet.com/management/?p=665&tag=nl.e713>.

How to Lead Under Fire

Author: Steve Tobak, cnet.com

stressed-while-at-workIf you’re not periodically under fire by your management and peers then your career’s probably not going anywhere. It’s sort of like “no pain no gain.” If you push the envelope and take risks, then you’re going to get mercilessly grilled from time to time. That’s just the way it works. And if you seriously want to get promoted and make something of yourself, you have to learn to handle it. No, I’m not talking about growing thick skin and becoming a human punching bag. I’m talking about learning to handle getting fired upon like a true leader. Everyone will walk out of the room thinking you’re the next Lou Gerstner or Jack Welch. Okay, maybe not, but they’ll definitely think more of you and will more readily accept your ideas, proposals, and most importantly, promotions.

How’d I learn this stuff? By spending much of my career selling innovative strategies to risk averse CEOs, CFOs, and management teams. Sure, I probably came across as whiny and defensive in the early days, but in time I learned the ropes. Here they are:

How to Lead Under Fire

1. Don’t get emotionally attached to your ideas. It’s good to be passionate about your ideas, but if you’re emotionally attached to them, it’ll come through when you’re getting grilled. And managers are incredibly distrustful of ideologues trying to shove things down their throats. It’s all about positioning. In your mind, you have to be willing to walk away. That little separation will give you the appearance of perspective and poise under fire.
2. Learn to embrace alternative views. The best way to respond to most objections is by first embracing them, then explaining why your plan is better or at least equivalent. Again, it’s a positioning game. But there’s a subtle but significant difference between, “My approach is better and here’s why,” and “That’s an interesting idea; here’s why I think this might be a better approach.”
3. Master the art of zinger retorts. When you’re getting grilled there will inevitably be some real zingers. Well, there’s only one way to beat a zinger and that’s with a zinger retort. How do you get good at zinger retorts? By getting good at thinking on your feet, which is really equal parts knowledge, experience, preparation, and of course, self confidence. Also, it’s essential to maintain a sense of humor under fire.
4. Know your stakeholders. Of course you need to know your material cold and expect the worst. Unfortunately, that’s not even close to good enough. You also have to know the stakeholders, aka your audience, and have a pretty good idea of their likely objections. A few one-on-one premeetings are a good idea. Then you’ll be ready to counter effortlessly.
5. Never, ever lose control of the meeting. It’s your meeting, or at least your time to present, so you’re in charge and you need to act like it. I don’t care if the CEO and CFO start going down a rat hole on some mindlessly trivial point. You have to be adept at all the usual techniques for keeping meetings on track, on topic, and on time. Come to think of it, that’s probably a topic of its own.

Source:
Tobak, Steve. “The Corner Office mobile edition.” BNET Blogs mobile edition. CBS Interactive, 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. .

How Brain Science can Change Coaching

Author: Ray Williams, Psychology Today

Coaching is the second-fastest growing profession in the world, rivaled only by information technology, as I reported in a National Post article. The profession owes its success both to the personal development movement and the huge global economic restructuring since the 1980s. Competition within and among companies, flattened management structures, shrinking talent pools and ineffective leadership have all contributed to the demand for executive coaching.

Executive coaching is an outgrowth of leadership development programs. An article in The Economist concluded executive coaching had become a significant human resource strategy. Recently, the Harvard Business Review noted executive and business coaching is worth US$1-billion a year.

Coaching pre-dates Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Tom Peters and Ken Blanchard. It is rooted in a range of philosophies and practices that can be traced back to Aristotle, Buddhist thought, Gestalt theory and various management and business gurus. It reappeared in the late l950s, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s. Although coaching gained widespread acceptance by organizations in the 1990s, it has only flourished in recent years.

When executives and professionals, with predominantly analytical training, look at coaching from an investment perspective, they often want theory-based, evidential criteria. Behavior-based coaching, as practiced and advocated by programs such as Dr. Skiffington’s 1to1 Coaching, have focused on behavior change as the basis for effective coaching.

Brain science research in the past decade has significant implications for coaching practices. David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership, and Jeffrey Schwartz, author of The Mind and the Brain, addressed the issue of brain research and coaching in an article in The Journal of Coaching in Organizations. They argue that a brain-based approach to coaching may provide more legitimacy to the coaching profession, which would require coaches to have deeper understanding of brain functions and behavior.

The focus of coaching is often individual change and transformation, including dealing with fear, motivation, successful performance, relationships and a myriad other behavioral and attitudinal issues. Brain science research in recent years has provided key findings that should inform coaches regarding the focus of coaching and their methodologies. So too, are the implications for coaches in organizations, such as executive coaches, who work with leaders.

Rock and Schwartz argue that getting people to change is important, because life–both individual and organizational life–is rapidly changing in our world. The traditional view of change management has focused on two levels. The first, at the individual level has traditional focused changing people by providing critical feedback and judgment, or through the work of professional help, on analyzing peoples’ problems. The second, at the organizational level, has focused on introducing leader-led organizational change initiatives, which assumes by their nature, are expected to create employee buy-in’ or alternatively, focuses on increasing employee motivation and productivity through the traditional “carrot-and-stick” approach, with particular emphasis on financial rewards. The evidence is clear that those approaches have failed to produce meaningful and productive changes.

Brain science research, Rock and Schwartz argue, tells us a lot about why change is difficult and what approaches can work best.

Schwartz argues that our brains are built to detect changes in our environment and are more sensitive to negative change. Any change that constitutes a threat can trigger fear causing the brain’s amygdala to stimulate a defensive emotional or impulsive response. Altering our reactions to change is very difficult for the brain, even though logically we may want to. Rock cites a study of 800 HR professionals in which 44% of them preferred to not follow new directions from the boss and 15% were actively obstructionist. The lesson for coaches and leaders here is the harder you push people to change, the harder they will push back. That’s the way our brains work.

So, how can coaching work effectively with the brain? First, brain research reveals that focusing on problems or negative behavior just reinforces those problems and behaviors. Therefore, the best coaching strategies focus on the present and future solutions. This requires the development of new neural pathways in the brain and new thinking patterns.

Schwartz has identified five main areas of brain research than can inform coaches:

Because the brain operates in a quantum environment, our perceptions and self-talk alters the connections and pathways in our brains. Whatever we focus our “attention” on changes or creates new brain connections;

The connections in our brains form mental “maps” or reality. Whatever we expect to experience, is what we actually experience.

Focusing our attention on solutions or new thinking is a better strategy than focusing on analyzing existing problems because the latter will only reinforce the problems;

If leaders want to more effective coaches themselves, they need to learn to stop giving advice to people, or if it is given, to be unattached to their ideas and present them as options to people. The implications for coaches is obvious, and most coaches are adept at having the clients take responsibility for their own journey or choices;

Coaches need to be adept at reading peoples’ body language, particularly when they have “insights” about their behavior. These insights are visually accompanied by changes in facial expressions. Schwartz has developed a four-part model of facial expressions that indicate emotional states from awareness to illumination. Leaders too need to be sensitive to facial changes as an indication of employees’ mental state.

Coaching has evolved into a much more sophisticated profession based on knowledge from any other disciplines. Now brain science research has the potential for having the greatest impact on coaching individuals and leaders in organizations.

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Author:

Williams, Ray B.. “How brain science can change coaching | Psychology Today.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201002/how-brain-science-can-change-coaching>

Why We Need an Optomistic America

Last week, an author called Barbara Ehrenreich spoke at the Royal Society of Arts, an organisation that I chair, about her latest book, Smile or Die: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America .

I profoundly disagree with her theory. As Michael Skapinker wrote in the FT yesterday , optimism built America, and without it the country will never recapture its glory. Aldous Huxley said about the place: “The thing that most impresses me about this country is its hopefulness.”

Yet there appears to be a disturbing and broader case of doubt in the US. In December, Time magazine carried a front cover with the headline: “The Decade From Hell”. And meanwhile, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that the past 10 years had been “The Big Zero”, because average wages, stock and houses prices in the US had stagnated.

Even the American far right has doom-mongers. I appeared on the Glenn Beck show on Fox News last year. I found it difficult to take his apocalyptic views seriously, yet he has a huge following. Everywhere it seems there is a feeling of pessimism that recalls the dark period in the 1970s following the Vietnam war.

I’m afraid the US remains mesmerized by the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, even nine years later. The recent overreaction to a bomb on an aircraft on Christmas day is proof of an inability to put such threats into perspective. The Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are part of this disastrous pattern. Those ill-advised wars have fed the sense of gloom.

Meanwhile, arch-defeatists such as Al Gore have created a vast “global warming” propaganda machine to frighten us all into submission about climate and energy. And the financial crisis, with its after-effects of unemployment, bankruptcies and debt, appears to have compounded the national feeling of misery – or at least that’s how it appears to a foreigner who has always been an unremitting admirer of the US.

The west needs a confident America – indeed, capitalism demands an America that is bullish about the 21st century. More than anywhere ever, industrial inventions and technological advances originated there. The US needs to recapture its hope and vision, its enthusiasm and vigour.

It should not look to Europe for examples. The Old World has a tendency to be cynical. The loss of empires, the end of deference, the rest of the world catching up, an inevitable diminution of economic and political might – these trends have inclined too many Europeans to fear the worst and be nervous about the future. This attitude to life is not good for the soul, and it makes progress seem like a concept from the past.

Because progress is precisely what the US – and even Britain – has been making in the past 10, 20 or 50 years. Be it in health, real standards of living – you name it – in more or less every aspect of work or leisure, there has been improvement in a pretty relentless fashion, thanks to free enterprise, science and democracy.

Unfortunately, many of these advances are incremental and do not create headlines. I suspect that the media and politicians believe they get more mileage from worrying us. And plenty of left-of-centre academics and commentators prefer the spectre of decline and fall to the idea of rising prosperity. It gives them something to complain about, in their masochistic, gloating way.

So, for example, California, which has always been at the cutting edge, needs to get a grip, shrug off the blues, ignore the depressives – and help lead the recovery. Despondency cures nothing. America has space, it has ingenuity, it has freedom, it has scale. By most measures it remains the best place on earth to start a business. A spirit of adventure, of limitless possibilities, of manifest destiny, lies at the heart of the American psyche. The rise of China must not dim the American zest for growth. And in spite of Barack Obama’s “audacity of hope”, I do not believe big government is the cure.

How would intellectuals such as Ehrenreich have us behave? Life provides its share of cruel and inescapable truths, but despair or denial are surely not the answer. Give me a belief in the power of opportunity any time.

Works Cited

Johnson, Luke. “Why We Need an Optimistic America.” Financial Times 20 Jan. 2010, sec. Business Life: 10. Print.