Tag Archives: confidence

Tough as Nails

January 4, 2017 by

Here in Nebraska, many of us have mothers, aunts, or family friends like Lorraine. Lorraine bought a farm with her husband, Norman, in the mid 1960s. Both were third-generation immigrants, steeped in the agrarian ethos of hard work, honesty, and reluctance to interfere in someone else’s life unless absolutely necessary.

The Lorraines of the world are stoics. They get on with life, never complaining about aches and pains, only about the weather. They drive tractors and load pigs for the slaughterhouse. They wear boots for the mud, heavy coats for warmth, and seed caps…just like the men. They run the farms by keeping the books and selling the crops.

The Lorraines of the world are tough as nails.

Ranch women and cowgirls are anomalous to female social norms. In the United States, and across the globe, females are supposed to be feminine (remember, this is a norm, a generalization, and not true in every case).

What does it mean to be feminine? According to Sandra Bem, creator of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, a reliable and validated instrument in most every country, feminine characteristics are those judged to be more desirable for a woman than a man. Femininity includes being affectionate, sensitive to the needs of others, eager to soothe hurt feelings, tender, gentle, yielding, cheerful, and soft-spoken. And femininity also includes (gotta love this one) not using harsh language.

Indeed, the Lorraines of the world are not stereotypically feminine. Instead, they are self-reliant farmwomen—independent, assertive, willing to take risks, aggressive, analytical, self-sufficient, competitive, and ambitious.

But according to social norms across Nebraska and the world, and the BSRI, these are masculine traits. So, ranch women and cowgirls tend to be masculine.

But masculine females don’t only exist on the ranch.

I have had corporate-employees-during-the-day, going-to-school-at-night female students complete the BSRI in my graduate business ethics courses since 1991. And I have used the BSRI across Omaha for many female professional business association workshops. What is true about the Lorraines of the world is true for the female business practitioners I have studied. Overall, they tend to be masculine rather than feminine. Additionally, some are androgynous.

Androgyny, according to the BSRI, is defined as having strong masculine and strong feminine characteristics. So females who are androgynous are both ambitious and gentle, independent and sensitive to the needs of others, assertive and cheerful.

Sounds exhausting to me.

Arduous as it may be, female business practitioners need to practice character traits, skills, and tools that are effective. So what characteristics should we strive toward to be great managers and leaders?

First, a large body of research suggests that females should have at least an average level of femininity. But…and this is an important but….strongly feminine females are perceived to be less effective by both males and females. Too much tenderness, too much yielding, and soft-spoken mannerisms do not convey confidence and an ability to lead during tough times.

However, what if strong femininity is tied to strong masculinity? Would that be effective? Though controversial, another body of research indicates that striving for androgyny is not the answer. Trying to balance or integrate strong femininity and strong masculinity can send mixed messages during negotiations and for most other management and leadership responsibilities. It is anxiety-producing and can lead to self-derogation and depression, which does not result in a perception of effectiveness.

So it looks like masculinity with a moderate level of femininity prevails. Indeed, professors Gary N. Powell and D. Anthony Butterfield have consistently shown across time and for very large samples of subjects that “the general perception of the stereotypic good manager is one of masculinity”—for both males and females. If true, females need to acknowledge and develop their masculine character traits to be seen to be effective.

The tough as nails women have it right. Thanks for being a role model, Lorraine.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

This article was printed in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B.

Strike Zone and MVP4Life

March 14, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Learning life skills through baseball.” This is the tagline for MVP4Life, a new nonprofit organization aimed at keeping Omaha’s youth in school and helping them succeed in life. MVP4Life has joined forces with Strike Zone Omaha to form school programs, camps and clinics, coaches’ clinics, and the Upper Deck League.

The goal of MVP4Life is to instill a sense of work ethic and teach kids about the importance of contributing to the community. It’s not just about baseball. It’s about producing a rewarding program that encourages kids to work together.

Joe Siwa and Teri Cissell, partners at Strike Zone Omaha, realized the need for after-school programs in the community. It was Cissell who thought up the idea behind MVP4Life. As the nonprofit’s director, she has been working hard on the program for about a year and a half and says it’s almost ready to launch. “We have it where we want it to be and now want to hit the ground running,” Cissell says.

Over eight weeks, the school program will teach life skills to fifth through eighth graders. The goal is for students to graduate from MVP4Life with a set of essential life skills. “This is a full-circle program,” Siwa says. “Everything is connected with helping these kids become more productive citizens in life. We are giving them that foundation to live upon.”

“We’ve put a lot of thought into this and have really built a strong program,” says Cissell. Cissell and Siwa have created a complete curriculum based on the HOMERUNS life skills: Handle diversity, Overcome challenges, Make good decisions, Encouragement and leadership, Responsibility and respect, Understand and accept situations, Nurture self-esteem and confidence, and Stay focused on personal goals.

“Research shows that if kids are kept in organized school activities, they do much better in school and in life,” Cissell says. “Douglas County Sheriff’s department did research that determined if we could keep just 10 percent of male students from dropping out of high school, we could save Nebraska taxpayers $65 million per year.”

The nonprofit also includes the Upper Deck League, a competitive league for college players in their offseason. These players mentor youth on how to be successful college athletes, as well as attend a leadership conference in exchange for playing in the Upper Deck League. Siwa stresses the importance of giving back to the community and hopes that these 120 college baseball players are passing on a strong work ethic to the kids.

“Our job is to get these kids involved and teach them how to listen to instruction, take criticism, and gain a work ethic. We want to put a desire into these kids…great things happen when you work hard,” Siwa says.

The program will begin in the Omaha Public Schools and filter out to the rest of
the community.


Fathers and Daughters

July 22, 2013 by

Men hold incredible power over the future their daughters will experience. Sometimes, I have to wonder how many fathers realize that. And how many grieve for realizing it too late?

I’m not just talking about financial security or educational opportunities. The way a father treats his daughter molds her as a person, and especially how she sees herself as a woman. It’s a unique relationship, unlike that between mothers and sons, dads and sons, and mothers and daughters. How fathers choose to manage their relationships with their daughters has a lifelong impact that can be devastating if it doesn’t go well.

“A little girl first learns how to relate to men though her father,” says Pegg Siemek-Asche, statewide administrator for behavioral health at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. “If that goes badly, it sets a stage for difficulty as the young woman ages.” If a father never pays attention to his daughter, never spends time being playful, or never expresses his approval of her—her looks, her actions, her behavior—it can create a vacuum of positive self-esteem that the young woman will eventually seek to fill in other ways, most likely negative ones.

Through their actions (or inactions), a father teaches his daughter how she should expect to be treated by men, both good and bad. Young women blessed with warm, loving, and encouraging relationships with their fathers will seek the same in their partners.

Conversely, those who do not have that kind of support will struggle and likely seek to find that approval in unhealthy ways. Young women who report negative relationships with their father say they often have trouble dating, flirting, or even forming true romantic relationships. They simply never learned how. It’s not unusual for these girls to become promiscuous in their frustrating search for masculine approval.

This explains why so many smart women end up in unhealthy and even abusive relationships. It’s what they are used to and comfortable with. They instinctively choose partners who treat them as their father did—and believe they deserve no better. So what, specifically, can a father do to help his daughter towards a healthy adulthood?

“Girls need to hear they are attractive, capable, and smart—from their father,” says Siemek-Asche. “Girls are hyper-sensitive about their appearance and abilities, and they want Dad’s approval.” One misplaced or misspoken comment about her weight or looks can be heartbreaking, and a thoughtful dad will realize he should tread carefully. This sets the stage for positive self-image that will benefit her for a lifetime.

One-on-one time is very important. “You are teaching her how others, especially men, should talk with her, how she should expect to be treated,” says Siemek-Asche. This starts young but becomes even more important as she approaches pre-teen and teen years. Around age 10, especially, girls are incredibly vulnerable and insecure. “That’s when you start seeing a lot of the ‘mean girl syndrome,’ as girls start taking their insecurities out on each other. Dad can really make a difference by being supportive and engaged with his daughter.”

And finally, the relationship between mom and daughter can become very strained during the early and mid-teens, as the young woman seeks her own path away from her mother. It can be hard for both of them, but the father can be a tremendous help in creating a bridge between the two as they get through those trying years. Even if the parents are no longer together, it remains important for the father to treat his daughter’s mother with integrity and respect. Little girls pick up messages from that relationship as well.

And perhaps the most important message of all for dads? Be there for your daughter. Make the effort to be present at every age. She’ll notice. And finally, your daughter will never be too old for a hug and to hear that you love her. Tell her.