Teaching as a career

Being involved in education seems a worthy thought. It gives you a chance to be involved with the future generation. It allows you to shape the minds and the thoughts of those who will come after you. And that in itself is a very scary thought. There is also a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. If the children in the school leave without any worthy qualifications that will enable them to find proper careers beyond riding motorbikes and doing deliveries, it’s down to you – or at least, there must be some responsibility borne by you for the children under your care. But of course, it is not entirely your responsibility. After you deduct the hours of sleeping, eating and other matters of daily routine you may find that school roughly takes up half the time of a child’s daily life. The other is at home with the family, and of course if not much education is going on there, then the family has to share the responsibility of the overall culpability!

If you were ever thinking of a career in teaching or education then don’t be seduced by the advertising. Just like the Navy would love you to believe you enjoy the warm seas, sand, while lounging on the beach being watched by beautiful ladies in bikinis, nothing could be further from the truth. No one tells you about the mosquitoes, freezing oceans, having to ration your eating, always feeling cold and tired, and life on a ship and its boredom, and having to submit to the will of the captain, who is God on a boat. It’s the same with teaching. Depending on where you pursue it, you could be put on a pedestal. Or you could be treated like the scum of the earth!

Teaching does not involve just standing in a classroom. You could be a tutor, teach a class, or be some form of an instructor. You could be a music teacher by day, and a piano teacher by night like this Hornsey piano teacher here. It is about packaging your skills in a different way. And after you have become involved in music as a piano teacher, a good career move would be to branch out into other aspects like piano removals, publishing, home moving, event-organising. Leverage your skills and branch out!

How creativity in the music world relates to increasing global population

How many people are there on the planet? If you were asked this question without having fully known the answer, would you have come up with a reasonable figure? What sort of figure would you have come up with? Seven billion? Nearly eight billion? Or splitting the difference – seven and a half?

The latter answer is actually correct. Seven and half billion inhabit the planet. But what if someone assesses you on the rate of population growth? Would you know how long it would be for the world’s population to reach eight billion? What would your best guess be?

Astonishingly, if populations continue to rise we might be speaking of eight billion by the year 2024. Considering it took twelve years to reach the figure of seven billion from six billion in 1999, it may surprise you to know that the population of the world increases by a billion every fifteen years or less. We may be looking at a world population of nine billion by 2040!

These of course are only estimates. And why is it so hard to assess the world population accurately and the rate of growth? One major reason is that the rate of deaths is hard to measure. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons cause loss of life, and these affect future projections. Then there are also human disasters such as war and famine that affect population count. Lastly it may also be that in some countries – especially ones with rural populations – births and populations may not have been recorded properly. What would have to do to get a correct count, and do we need it at all? Would we have to all stand outside of our houses while drones fly over to take pictures of us, and then someone counts the number of heads in the photos? (Or if they have too much time, count the number of hands and divide by two?)

An increasing global population means more competition for jobs. Those in the younger generation have to be even more creative to distinguish themselves from their peers. Of course, those in current professions that are fairly competitive are already doing it. Musicians have much competition for the spending power of fans, and also compete for the airplay. It is no surprise that the Piano Teacher Finsbury Park website tells us how they have migrated simply from the job of playing music to actually other activities such as building a social fanbase, running courses, and doing all sorts of other things loosely connected with music in order to remain in the minds of those that matter – fans and industry professionals.

Teaching these skills to the young – how to be creative – may soon become a feature in the curriculum of tomorrow. Perhaps those of us already in the know – by virtue of experience – can impart some pointers to those after us!

Gender inequalities in the workplace are perpetuated from childhood

Women’s careers aren’t just in the ether, they’re on the front pages of newspapers, inside glossy magazines, on the radio, across the internet and they’re being discussed on a daily basis in governments all around the world. It’s amazing that there’s so much buzz around women and careers; people are really talking about women’s rights at work, and attitudes are changing.

Things are getting really exciting for women at work. Sure, if you look at gender-split job statistics, the situation is pretty much as depressing as it’s ever been. But – BIG BUT – the John stat doesn’t account for what’s swirling around the media, and is inside the meeting rooms and minds of career folk (women and men) across the globe. Women have been legally entitled to the same respect, pay and job titles as our male friends and peers for many years and slowly but surely the reality is catching up with the legal framework. We want equality, but we want something more than that too: we want to stay uniquely and wonderfully female. The same pay, yes, opportunities, of course, but we don’t want to have to abandon our femininity at the office revolving door. For us, gender parity does not imply gender uniformity.

While everyone deserves to be received and treated equally at work, women must do it their own way, because being a woman is part of what makes you, you. The side-by-side vision of a naked female and a naked male validates the simple fact of life: we are different versions of the same species. There’s the obvious stuff and then there are the mysterious workings inside our heads. Our brain is arguably the most important thing about us. It makes us human and is the instigator of everything that we think and do. It’s our life control centre, and science tells us that for men and women there are brain wiring variations.

In the past, we’ve been wedded to the notion that men have better connectivity within each hemisphere, whilst women have better connectivity between the hemispheres. In an everyday sense, this explained why men excelled at spatial awareness and women at social cognition and multitasking. Neuroscience is notoriously complex but the latest large-scale research shows that gender brain differences may not be as clear-cut as we were led to believe. While some recent studies suggest no significant difference in crucial parts of the brain at all, the most recent research leads to the centre of the brain – the hippocampus, the part associated with emotion and memory. This is usually larger in men than women, but, without wanting to get too technical, some women have a larger, more male-style hippocampus and some men have one that is smaller and more female in style. This suggests the idea of a continuum of femaleness to maleness for the entire brain. Scientists found that the majority of the brains studied were a mosaic of male and female structures, meaning there is no one type of male or female brain.

I like this because it validates our own stance of overlap. The most successful person in the workplace, research says, is the woman who retains her female brain but who isn’t afraid to borrow some stereotypically male traits when the opportunity requires it. Success isn’t about pitting yourself against a man, it’s about learning to be your best – it’s about finding your place on the continuum and making it rock. Interestingly, brains aren’t fixed organs, they are constantly evolving and changing as we age, depending on how we use them. Neuroplasticity, as it is called, in part explains why little girls end up studying languages and the arts and little boys get filtered into STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects that frequently lead to more lucrative careers. Repetition reinforces the networks within our brains: baby girls and baby boys might start off with exactly the same brain software, but over time, as we unwittingly encourage boys towards Lego and trucks and girls into social situations that require capable communication skills, the map of association in our childhood brains is sculpted so that the function of the hardware is constantly altered by experience. We lead our girls to dolls and our boys to the top of trees, and then we wonder why society ends up treating women and men differently.

Hormones also play a part in this lifelong divide, as does parental nurture. More interestingly, though, this has a much more subtle impact – it defines what we believe about ourselves. We self-stereotype against ourselves as women, and then we live up to these restrictions.

There is a recent study using Asian-American women that perfectly illustrates the point. The group was divided and set a maths test. Just before the test commenced, half of the group were reminded that they were Asian, invoking the stereotype of Asians having a high maths ability. This half did better in the test. However, when they were reminded of being female (which invokes the stereotype of poor maths performance), they scored lower on the test than the control group. The point is that while men do tend to outperform women in assessments of mathematic ability, for example using the test results of American SATs exams, in reality women aren’t actually worse at maths (see here), we’re just stereotyped into thinking that way.

In the workplace, this presents as women not reaching for leadership positions, or being too conservative in their entrepreneurial expectations for the simple reason that we believe that we don’t belong at the top. We aren’t all professors in waiting, but we should all be able to imagine ourselves where we really want to be at work. Not where society or our stereotyped brains expect us to land. Your career brain, the one you rely on to muster confidence, the one that assists you in awkward networking situations, pay negotiations and everything else in between, may not currently be on your side and thats in part due to stereotyping and nurture. When you know the reasoning behind where your brain is at, it allows you to make positive changes to redirect those channels – to change the hardware, so that your brain (your unconscious thinking) is aligned to your reach-for-the-stars career dreams.

Glass ceiling? Or glass half empty

Have you achieved all of your ambitions? When you look at the senior management in your company, are there as many women at the top as there are men? And the very top job, is it usually held by a woman? It would be no surprise if you answered no to at least one of these questions. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the answer to all of these questions was no.

A major report into the proportion of women on boards was published in late 2015. The Davies Report examined the approach to increase representation of women on boards in the UK and around the world. The UK is doing better than it used to. Appointments of women at board level to FTSE 100 companies have reached a new high at over a quarter: now 26 per cent are women. Look down a level, and the FTSE 250 has a proportion of just under 20 per cent.

The report’s author, Lord Davies, a former banker in his sixties, is delighted at this progress. New targets are being set for a third of directors to be women by 2020. The last time we looked women made up more than 50 per cent of the population. The proportion of women on boards is evidently rising. Yet most of the women on boards in the statistics are in non-executive, part-time positions. There are only 26 executive women directors on FTSE 100 boards – that’s just 9.6 per cent. This does not indicate a pipeline for executive women on boards. Nor does it show that there is a level playing field for women to get promoted, and to achieve the careers that they deserve.

Women in work in the UK – and there are 14.5 million of them – are still not getting the same opportunities to reach the top as men. Outside the UK, the Davies Report shows a similar picture. Norway, where a quota system has been adopted, has the most women on boards, at 35 per cent. Denmark and Germany have just over one-fifth. Then numbers dwindle. The USA has 16.9 per cent, Australia 16.2 per cent, Ireland 12.7 per cent and India 12.1 per cent. Again, let us remind ourselves, these are in countries where women have always made up at least half of the population.

Not everyone in work wants to be managing director or CEO. And not every woman wants to be managing director, CEO or in any senior role. But if they do want to, then they should have the same chance to do so as men. With such large proportions of women in the workforce overall, so many millions, it is really difficult to believe that so many of them lack the ambition or ability to reach senior levels of management.

Women are not a minority in any respect, apart from in the boardroom. What is really going on, and, more to the point, what can we do about it? There is a secret that no one wants to admit. Thousands of words have been written, numerous courses have been run. In workplaces across the world the recurring questions of ‘Why did that happen?’, ‘Is it just me?’ and ‘Does that seem fair?’ play in the minds of women of all ages and roles. The fact is that there isn’t any fairness in the way that the workplace functions for women, and women need tips, tactics and strategies that will help you get the career they deserve. Not necessarily to get to the top of organisations – because lots of women don’t see that as the path they want to follow. It is about getting you a career that you enjoy, with the seniority you deserve, and in which your contribution is recognised. We also know that there are men in the workplace who want the tools to make this contribution possible. They see the talent pool around them, and they see the individuals that can help the organisation thrive. Their difficulty is in being able to understand what is going on and how they can contribute to making it better, and in ensuring that they are part of making long-lasting changes that create permanent shifts in the workplace.

The workplace isn’t the only part of society where women have failed to play a full part. In the UK, women have been able to stand for Parliament since 1918. It was only in 1997 that the number of female MPs reached double figures. To date there have only ever, in total, been 450 women MPs, a figure below the number of men elected in 2015 alone (459). Worldwide, there are only forty-four countries where the representation of women stands at 30 per cent or more.

In Germany, a country led by one of the world’s most powerful women, the percentage of female representation is 31 per cent. So it isn’t just your problem. In the 1980s, there was a good deal of talk about the glass ceiling and the fact that it was now shattered. There was a woman prime minister in the UK. Equality for women in the workforce was a legal fact, ever since the gender equality act in 1970. There were a few women bosses around, and there were sure to be more of them as they came through the system. Although most bosses were middle-aged men in suits, it was clear that the future for women bosses was bright. A new dawn was on the way, a future where you would expect half of the management of every company to be women, and that every other CEO would occasionally wear a skirt to work.

But has the equality perceived in the 1980s materialised and evolved since then? You be the judge. My opinion is that we still are a long way from that.

Female attitudes in the workplace

Why do smart, capable women act in ways detrimental to their career mobility (not to mention mental health)? During my career, working with literally thousands of professional men and women and comparing their behaviors, I found the answer to that question through inquiry and study: From early childhood, girls are taught that their well-being and ultimate success are contingent upon acting in certain stereotypical ways, such as being polite, soft-spoken, compliant, and relationship-oriented. Throughout their lifetimes, this is reinforced through media, family, and social messages.

It’s not that women consciously act in self-sabotaging ways; they simply act in ways consistent with their learning experiences. Even women who proclaim to have gotten “the right”messages in childhood from parents who encouraged them to achieve their full potential by becoming anything they want to be find that when they enter the real world, all bets are off. This is particularly true for many African American women who grew up with strong mothers.

Whether by example or encouragement, if a woman exhibits confidence and courage on a par with a man, she is often accused of being that dreaded “b-word.” Attempts to act counter to social stereotypes are frequently met with ridicule, disapproval, and scorn.

Whether it was Mom’s message—“Boys don’t like girls who are too loud”—or, in response to an angry outburst, a spouse’s message—“What’s the matter? Is it that time of the month?”—women are continually bombarded with negative reinforcement for acting in any manner contrary to what they were taught in girlhood. As a result, they learn that acting like a “nice girl”is less painful than assuming behaviors more appropriate for adult women (and totally acceptable for boys and adult men).

In short, women wind up acting like little girls, even after they’re grown up.

Now, is this to say gender bias no longer exists in the workplace? Not at all. The statistics speak for themselves. Additionally, women are more likely to be overlooked for developmental assignments and promotions to senior levels of an organization. Research shows that on performance evaluation ratings, women consistently score less favorably than men. These are the realities.

But after all these years I continue to go to the place of “So what?” We can rationalize, defend, and bemoan these facts, or we can acknowledge that these are the realities within which we must work. Rationalizing, defending, and bemoaning won’t get us where we want to be. They become excuses for staying where we are.

Although there are plenty of mistakes made by both men and women that hold them back, there are a unique set of mistakes made predominantly by women. Whether I’m working in Jakarta, Oslo, Prague, Frankfurt, Trinidad, or Houston, I’m amazed to watch women across cultures make the same mistakes at work. They may be more exaggerated in Hong Kong than in Los Angeles, but they’re variations on the same theme. And I know these are mistakes because once women address them and begin to act differently, their career paths take wonderful turns they never thought possible.

So why do women stay in the place of girlhood long after it’s productive for them? One reason is because we’ve been taught that acting like a nice girl—even when we’re grown up—isn’t such a bad thing. Girls get taken care of in ways boys don’t. Girls aren’t expected to fend for or take care of themselves—others do that for them. Sugar and spice and everything nice—that’s what little girls are made of. Who doesn’t want to be everything nice? People like girls. Men want to protect you. Cuddly or sweet, tall or tan, girls don’t ask for much. They’re nice to be around and they’re nice to have around—sort of like pets. Being a girl is certainly easier than being a woman. Girls don’t have to take responsibility for their destiny. Their choices are limited by a narrowly defined scope of expectations.

And here’s another reason why we continue to exhibit the behaviors learned in childhood even when at some level we know they’re holding us back: We can’t see beyond the boundaries that have traditionally circumscribed the parameters of our influence. It’s dangerous to go out-of-bounds. When you do, you get accused of trying to act like a man or being “bitchy.”

All in all, it’s easier to behave in socially acceptable ways. This might also be a good time to dispel the myth that overcoming the nice girl syndrome means you have to be mean and nasty. It’s the question I am asked most often in interviews. Some women have even told me they didn’t read on because they assumed from the title that it must contain suggestions for how to be more like a man. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it literally five hundred times in the last ten years: Nice is necessary for success; it’s simply not sufficient. If you overrely on being nice to the exclusion of developing complementary behaviors, you’ll never achieve your adult goals.

Learn to have a wider variety of responses on which to draw. When we live lives circumscribed by the expectations of others, we live limited lives. What does it really mean to live our lives as girls rather than women? It means we choose behaviors consistent with those that are expected of us rather than those that move us toward fulfillment and self-actualization. Rather than live consciously, we live reactively.

Although we mature physically, we never really mature emotionally. And while this may allow us momentary relief from real-world dilemmas, it never allows us to be fully in control of our destinies. Missed opportunities for career-furthering assignments or promotions arise from acting like the nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood: being reluctant to showcase your capabilities, feeling hesitant to speak in meetings, and working so hard that you forget to build the relationships necessary for long-term success.

These behaviors are magnified in workshops at which men and women are the participants. My work in corporations has allowed me to facilitate both workshops for only women and leadership development programs for mixed groups within the same company. Even women whom I’ve seen act assertively in a group of other women become more passive, compliant, and reticent to speak in a mixed group. When men are around, we dumb down or try to become invisible so as not to incur their wrath.

Recognize these traits in yourself. And never put yourself down again!