Guyside: Men, health, and denial.

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in emotions, Guyside, Inspiration, men, work, Work/occupation | 1 comment

I can’t believe I’m writing a post here inspired by Rob Ford. And yet, here I go.

This is not about Rob Ford’s politics, or about his consumption of various substances both licit and il. This is about male denial around health issues. The famous (notorious?) mayor of Toronto’s 2014 re-election campaign was derailed by the announcement that a tumour had been discovered in his abdomen on September 9. The tumour is, apparently, being analyzed in preparation for treatment at a Toronto hospital.

One of the things that leapt out at me from the first stories about this latest roller-coaster development in the Ford story was this quote from a story in the Toronto Star:

 Ford was complaining of “left, lower quadrant abdominal pain” for three months before the pain became “unbearable” Wednesday morning, Devlin said.

Since the initial tests on Ford, he’s also apparently had a lung biopsy, and an update on his health is expected later today (September 17, as I write this.)

Combine this with two other facts: one, that Ford’s father died in 2006 of colon cancer, and two, that Ford had a tumour on his appendix in 2009 that necessitated the removal of his appendix and part of his colon, and you have what appears to be the classic case of a man refusing to seek medical assistance. I’m no psychic, but I don’t have a good feeling about this.

In this, Ford is far from alone. A 2005 literature review in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed that men are much less likely to seek medical help than women for disorders ranging from psychological disorders to physical disabilities. One UK study identified men’s refusal to seek help as the most important medical issue for men.  And another UK report points out that while men are considered “advantaged” in many areas (salaries, for example), our health outcomes are worse than women’s.

Whether it’s machismo, stoicism, putting work or other factors before health, or something else, too many men are ignoring symptoms, assuming they’ll go away, or simply lying to themselves about their health. And it’s costing people their lives. One of the saddest findings of the Men’s Health Forum report is that when men do present themselves for assistance, the disease in question is too often at a later, more serious stage. Another sad fact is that men are far less likely to seek assistance for psychological conditions like depression.

When I first saw blood in my urine in 2006, I did two things: told my partner and went to my clinic. My bladder cancer was discovered at an early stage, and I’ve been lucky enough to not require radiation, chemo, or catheterization from more severe forms of cancer. If I’d shrugged off that first sign, what might have happened?

For your own sake, and the sake of those who love you: go to your doctor, your nurse-practitioner, or whatever other health professional you ought to go to, especially when something unusual happens.

Creative Commons-licenced photo by Flickr user Alistair Gilfillan.

Read More

Majority rule? Time to express yourself

Posted by on Mar 24, 2014 in Work/occupation | 2 comments


Do women have an equal voice in groups?

Apparently the answer is no, especially when men comprise the majority at the table. And while this may appear to be trivial, it speaks volumes about what happens when men and women are part of important deliberating bodies, such as Advisory Boards or even political bodies. Who’s influencing whom, for example? Moreover, what can be done about?

I published this post a few years back and all the press about Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’  has me thinking that she may have a point. And while I do realize that there are distinctions between leading and being assertive (a point that some might argue the Ban Bossy advocates are missing), what is true is that taking the backseat can be a costly proposition.

Writing in the American Political Science Review, Assistant Professor of Political Science (Brigham Young) Christopher Karpowitz suggests that while more than 100 countries have mandated a 30% minimum quota for women on governing or political bodies, their voices are still not being heard and gender inequality is the rule, not the exception. Yet, the reason for this may be more complicated than at first glance; it seems that women don’t always speak up when given the opportunity. Toward that end, Karpowitz adds that “girls and boys are socialized to different gendered cultures of interaction and they carry these implicit scripts of behavior with them into adulthood.” Consequently, in a meeting where men dominate in number, they may also dominate in voice as the dynamic in the room shifts towards assertion, competition and dominance versus a spirit that is often considered feminine, i.e. cooperation, intimacy and inclusion.

Karpowitz and his colleagues point out that this paradigm of exclusion actually shifts when groups must come up with an unanimous decision. In fact, when the researchers challenged 94 groups of men and women to discuss the best way to distribute money that they theoretically earned together, they found that In the majority of cases and regardless of how proportioned the gender make up was, women spoke less than 75% of the time that their male peers spoke. When they were the minority, women consistently spoke less and were perceived as less influential by the group. However a shift took place when the majority rule was thrown out the window.

There’s an old say that ‘time is money.’ In the case of decision making, it appears that how many timse one voices one opinion is more important than how many opportunities one is provided with to do so. The underlying rule of thumb is that the rules are more stringent and the outcomes have a greater stake. If you wish to play a role, speak up. It’s essential, not only for equality but also, because women bring “unique and helpful perspectives to [issues] under discussion.” Karpowitz points out what many of us intuitively know: “We’re not just losing the voice of someone who would say the same things as everybody else in the conversation.”


Read More

Wednesday Bubble: Reinventing Women Open Call

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 in aging, Work/occupation | 3 comments

New Announcement

Did you catch Monday’s post about Hessie Jones and the path she’s taking to reinvention? If not, you don’t want to miss it!

I’m introducing a new series on Flashfree — Reinventing Women — and I want to talk to you! I want to hear about the career changes you’ve made in midlife, the ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ as well as any other nugget of wisdom that you might impart to others considering a similar reawakening.

Consider this Wednesday Bubble yours’ to burst; this is an open call.

If you are a woman, age 44 or older and want to share your story of your work transition (or transitions), drop me an email at Tell me a little about you, your age and what you used to do (and what you are doing now). I am hoping to find at least 10 more women willing to share their stories, their triumphs, their failures and their lessons.

Reinventing Women. It’s a new movement and it’s all about you!



Read More

Reinventing Women: One Part Courage, Two Parts Happy. Meet Hessie Jones…

Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in aging, Work/occupation | 14 comments

iStock_000010779625XSmallAccording to a recent article written by an economist in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s workforce is increasingly comprised of individuals who are older and more ethnically and racially diverse. There are also more women in the workforce than ever before, and by the year 2020, roughly 77 million women in the U.S. are expected to be actively working.

Yet, while the Pew Research Organization reports that having a family and children, and being a good parent still trumps career, women are not leaving their careers to marry or have children. Rather, most choose to balance career and family. However, what happens to that career as women start to age, children start to grow up or leave the home, marriages and partnerships break up and work that once fueled souls and passions no longer appears to do so? What drives the urge to change careers during midlife? What exactly is ‘reinvention?’

When I posed this question a few months back, one of the first women I heard from was Hessie Jones.  Hessie defines reinvention as “rethinking about your life, where you were, where you are and where you’re gonna go, i.e. having the courage to follow the path you were meant to lead regardless of your present state.”

A former VP of Marketing at Jugnoo and now in the process of yet another change, Hessie says that the first time she reinvented herself, she was only 39. That was 6 years ago, and since that time, she has used her drive and instincts to transform how companies view social media from simply another marketing or PR channel to an essential medium that can fuel organizational transformation and evolution. The key to successful reinvention, she notes, is being in the right frame of mind and possessing the vision to recognize when the timing is ripe for change. Yet, for Hessie, reinvention did not come without a price. “The hours away from home, my passion to meeting people with the same mindset, the need to network and experiment with different technologies/companies caused many disagreements at home. It also left my kids without an ‘attentive’ parent for a time. I received a lot of criticism from both sides of my family, especially when it was apparent that I was not fulfilling my responsibilities as a parent and spouse.” Still, her husband never asked her to step back, believing that her attempts at change are important to her personal progress.

All this disruption appears to have also yielded a deeper sense of self awarenesss. Hessie says that it’s most important to follow one’s heart but not at the expense of the rest of one’s life. “Don’t fight it. Let it guide you to making the right decision for yourself. But do not forsake your family in the meantime.” She shares a pearl of knowledge that was once shared with her; while passion may fuel change, it is important not to let the job take over; having no one to share one’s successes with is a lonely avenue.

Hessie’s courage to forge a new path several times over has yielded a few pearls of its own, including the fact that courage should be wrapped in a whole lot of happy. She says that it’s important to figure out what ‘happiness’ is and conduct a sanity check to see if your present situation is making you happy, adding that when her daughter asked what she should be when she grew up, she told her the following:

Do what you love to do not because of money, but because it makes you smile. Do not stay in a job because it’s safe. Move towards a job that challenges you. And never stop learning.

Is happy the mother of reinvention? Hessie Jones appears to be following her bliss.

What about you?


Read More

Who’s your advocate?

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in aging, women's health, Work/occupation | 2 comments

Do you have an advocate? Someone who understands you, knows  you well enough to read between the lines, trusts you and actually likes you?

If you do, luck is your lady. And if you have an advocate in your professional life? Boy, that’s the lottery, the gold ring, Nirvana.

So let’s talk about that, shall we?

I’ve written previously about becoming invisible in the work world as we age. I have written about friendships and the health benefits that can be gleaned. And I have written about how the transition can change our outlook on work and life. But what happens when all of these things converge? Is it the perfect storm? Or just perfect?

I want to share a story. When I was in my Twenties, just starting out in my career, I worked for a NYC PR agency. After the head of our department sadly passed away from AIDS, he was replaced by someone from our parent company who was very competent but very insecure. I was already a fixture so she had to deal with me and reluctantly she did. And then she brought in a woman who I was supposed to hate. Seriously, those were her words. And that person? She was told she would hate me.

Guess what? Not only did we not realize pretty quickly that we did not hate one another but it turned out to be one of the most productive and functioning professional relationships I have ever experienced. More importantly, I gained a friend.

And, after many decades, while the friendship has remained, fate has brought our professional relationship back into being. Who would have thunk it when both of us were in our twenties and living in NYC and two women who were theoretically not destined to get along?

I’m tough to work with at times. No, I am downright difficult and impatient. But I have a birdseye view of things and can see waaaay into the future of a project, which is an important asset. And her? She’s really smart and patient and has really good instincts. And is really strategic, like me. Together, we make a pretty fine couple. And a fantabulous team and probably should have always been merged into one. A professional one.

What a concept!

So, I digress. Because I want to share that advocates are SO important as we grow into our professional roles. I have been fortunate to have several in my life. Really fortunate. But more importantly, when you find that special advocate (or advocates), don’t let them go. Let them know how much you appreciate them. And nurture them as they nurture you.

Hey Melon. You are da bomb. No really!

Thank you. I love you through and through.

We ain’t 26 or 27 anymore sister, but we still are. Wow! How lucky am I?



Read More

Midlife mishap: blurring the boundaries between work and home

Posted by on Dec 7, 2012 in aging, work, Work/occupation | 3 comments

Telecommuting is the new black, right?

Not so fast.

Researchers say that while telecommuting (i.e. working regularly but not exclusively at home) has gained traction in the American workplace, the foothold remains elusive and the proportion of workers with flexible work options has been essentially flat over the past decade and a half. Additionally, the number of hours that workers actually telecommute on a weekly basis is less than one full day, a mere six hours. Although the reasons for this are numerous, it appears that managers remain reluctant to relinquish supervisory control, even though on average, telecommuters work harder and longer than their colleagues who are tied to their office chairs.

Do the math: Fewer telecommuting hours still equates to longer working hours.

What this brings to mind is the potential impact that telecommuting has on our lives outside of work, especially when work takes place at home? And how does this impact in turn, affect stress, which of course, has been linked to worsening of menopausal symptoms such as weight gain, hot flashes and depression?

I have been working at home for 20 years now, having started a business in 1992. While I am not a telecommuter, I am very aware of the black hole that one can fall into and how that has affected my ability to shut it down after a certain time of day. This ability has grown more difficult the more connected the world is and I find that I am consistently interrupted by clients during gym workouts, breaks, early morning coffee reentries and late day ratchet down.

Data demonstrate that my experience is often the norm and not the exception.

Let’s take a look at what the research shows. Analyzing trends from two national data sources — the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Panel and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Study — Sociology Professors Mary Noonen and Jennifer Glass from the University of Texas at Austin learned that while the number of weekly telecommuting hours is relatively modest (just 6 hours, per above), most of the 30% of respondents who work from home add at least five to seven hours to their work week. In fact, 50% to 67% of telecommuting hours reported in these surveys push work hours past the 40 hour workweek model and are essentially overtime work. Just think: if you feel that you are already pushed to the brim in the office and volley for work at home hours, you may actually be relocating hours but not eliminating them. Moreover, your employer may be raising his or her expectations not only of what you deliver but when, including evenings and weekends.

Study findings also show that there is a misconception that telecommuting is more prevalent among parents with dependent children. In fact, parents are not likelier than the general population to work from home; rather authority and status in the workplace appear to drive telecommuting hours.

The researchers note that “telecommuting is intrinsically linked to information technologies that facilitate 24/7 communication between clients, coworkers and supervisors [thereby] potentially increasing the penetration of work tasks into home time.” A 2008 Pew Study supports this contention, demonstrating that the majority of ‘wired workers’ use technology to perform work tasks, even while sick or on vacation.

The perils run deep when the boundaries become blurry between work and home. Moreover, over wired means overload, and the ability to shut off our brains becomes increasingly difficult. Adrenal fatigue may set in, where after prolonged periods of cortisol production overdrive, the adrenal glands can no longer keep up with outside stressors and the body’s demand to handle stress and protect the immune system. In turn, the ability to handle life stressors declines.

Do blurred boundaries yield diminishing returns, midlife mishaps, a mishmash of expectations?

What do you think?



Read More