Read Well: Women at Work

Image via The Huffington Post

This past weekend, during a routine, mindless period spent clicking through internet links, I ran across Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant's series of essays entitled "Women at Work." While I'm always up for a thoughtful New York Times piece (who isn't?), this series in particular piqued my interest because I find the topic of implicit biases in human interaction fascinating, particularly (and somewhat selfishly) when those biases affect women.

The pair have released three of four planned essays so far: one covering the dangers of educating about biases, the next about the problems women encounter when speaking up at work, and the third about the gendered double-standard when it comes to "communal" work.

 I thought the first essay did a deft job laying the groundwork for the rest of the pieces: in it, the authors discuss how studies show that simply discussing the existence of a stereotype does nothing to eradicate it. Rather, education about biases must be coupled with directives to no longer allow that bias to seep into your interactions in order to result in progress. The rest of the essays do exactly that: discuss a bias, and then suggest actionable ways to diminish it.

While at first I was somewhat inclined to read each of these essays and dwell on all the insidious ways that gender biases were affecting my life and work, I've come to the rather obvious conclusion that there is not much I can do to change the interactions I've had in the past or control the behavior of the people I encounter in the future. The thing I CAN change is whether or not I allow these biases to dictate my reaction to others. As has been widely documented, gender biases against women don't solely result from men actively discriminating against women. Instead, they result from the collective actions of the entire population, men and women, chipping away at the confidence and control of women one tiny interaction at a time. I (and you, too!) can stem the stereotypical tide by making sure I am not judging the women around me harshly when they exhibit traditionally male behaviors like speaking up at work or making direct critiques. Maybe it's naive, but I believe that limiting subtle, negative behaviors (such as taking a defensive tone with women who have direct managerial styles) can slowly improve the gender bias situation for us all.

Also: a humorous take on this topic.

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Speaking of women at work, I am freshly back from a business trip to Dallas! A lot of time and energy went into preparing for our meeting there, but everything went very well and I'm pleased to be able to count those 36 hours among my experiences.

I'm even happier now that I'm back in my own home in my own bed, with at least two weeks of down time before I have to head to the airport again.

I hope you all are having a similarly productive but enjoyable week. Back tomorrow to take us into the weekend.

Listen Well: My Favorite Album (as of late)

photo via bighassle.com

 I want to be abundantly clear: I am not one of those people who "loves finding new bands" and can talk for hours about my favorite music. I don't. I can't. My Top 20 Most Played songs on iTunes have barely changed in four years.

High school was near-torturous for me--while everyone else was WAY into talking about their favorite little-known, up-and-coming band or how they were totally legitimate fans of X or Y classic rock band, etc. etc., I was more than happy to listen to Top 40 and other popular dance/hip-hop music all day long. However, there's something socially unacceptable in high school about actually admitting that you aren't into music, so I tried to fake enthusiasm (with absolutely no success).

However, like any normal human being, I do like listening to music. And, as I suspect is the case for most people, what's on the radio now doesn't cut it for me the way it did when I was in my teens/early twenties.

So, every once in awhile I will hear a review of an album and I will seek it out because I need more variety in my music selection. Lee Ann Womack's The Way I'm Livin' was one of those albums. It's like her marketing campaign was custom-made to get to me: the album was featured in everything from Fresh Air to Texas Monthly.

I have a very natural affinity towards country folk music (this, by the way, is another entry in the column labeled "signs I am becoming my parents"), so when I heard just a few sad, gritty strains from The Way I'm Livin', I was sold. I downloaded it in December, and spent the entire month listening to the album on loop all day at work until it felt like the background music in my brain. It's sad and beautiful and well-sung--if folk is your thing, I think you'll really like it (although, what do I know, I'm not into music).

And, because I talk about music so rarely and seem to be in a recommending mood, I'm just going to go for it with another suggestion: Jason Isbell's album Southeastern. If my description of The Way I'm Livin' sounds good to you, you will also love Southeastern. 

Finally, to fully prove that mainstream music is my thing, my other favorite albums in 2014 were BEYONCÉ, Ed Sheeran's X, Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour, and Taylor Swift's 1989. Judge if you must. (But those albums are actually really solid, right?!)

And, little known fact learned while researching this post--Maya Angelou was a HUGE fan of country music, and a particularly big fan of Lee Ann Womack's mega mega mega hit "I Hope You Dance." So much of a fan, in fact, that Lee Ann Womack sang it at her funeral. Isn't that fascinating? I never would have pegged Maya Angelou as a country girl.

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Do you have any music recommendations? I would LOVE to hear them--as you can tell, there is very little musical variety in my life.

Back tomorrow! Have a great day.