How Quotas for Female Leaders in India Impacts their Society

September 24, 2012

While in NYC last week, I had a meeting with Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies in order to discuss a potential teaching opportunity in their leadership labs in 2013.  This picture includes Nathalie Molina Nino and Erin Vilardi of the Athena Center and my business partner, Cindy Tortorici and myself at this meeting.  This center is headed by Kitty Colbert (the civil rights attorney who is responsible for Roe v. Wade’s very existence).  Upon reviewing the center’s literature on my flight home yesterday, I uncovered a fascinating piece of research by MIT’s Esther Duflo whose work seeks to answer the fundamental question:

Would greater equality in gender representation change the perception of women business leaders and make it easier for women to follow in their path?

The current state of gender inequality in government and business leadership:

  • The percentage of women in the top ranks of US corps has barely moved in the last 2 decades.
  • In 2008, women accounted for less than 3% of CEO’s of US firms, an increase of 2% since 1992.

Given this slow progress, is it time for bolder remedies?

  • While there is no direct method of predicting the economic consequences of imposing gender quotas on US corporate boards; Duflo’s study of the far reaching shift carried out in India’s system of village government offers unexpected insights about the effects of quotas on a population.
  •  In 1992, India passed a constitutional amendment to assign 1/3 of the village council seats to women as well as 1/3 of the councils would have a female council leader, or pradhan.
  •  More than 100 countries have adopted some form of mandatory quotas to accelerate women’s representation in government.
  •  The only way that the # of women in politics worldwide has increased is through the adoption of some form of quota policy.

 Upon reviewing how a leader’s gender influenced a council’s agenda (265 village councils in the states of West Bengal & Rajasthan), Duflo revealed:

 1. Women villagers were more likely to speak when there was a female leader in charge.

2. The presence of a female leader encouraged more participation by both men & women.

3.  Women leaders were found to take less bribes than their male counterparts.

4. The second generation of female leadership of villages, proved to be more effective (since the compounding effect of the women’s efforts to invest in public works infrastructure was now taking effect).

5. In villages that had experienced 2 cycles of women leaders, girls were more likely to say they wanted a career, and that they wanted to serve as a pradhan.

The overall societal impact of imposed quotas for female leaders in Duflo’s India research:

  •   Quota policies can be very powerful in changing attitudes, though the effect might be less than desired: men might not admire women leaders any more than they used to, but there is an increase in respect.
  •  Avoiding half the population is a waste of talent and potential. It is also a question of social justice-of giving all people the opportunity to lead their societies” noted Bruce Kogut, the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics, Columbia Business School.

 I am so happy to have uncovered this study and I am eager to hear from you if you are equally struck by its findings on how these quotas can make the needed shift in perception, attitude and visioning that is critical in order to embrace this long overdue societal shift.


Why My Meeting with Katie Couric Today Matters

September 20, 2012

Ever since I lived in New York City in my late 20’s, I was told repeatedly how much I resemble the likeness of Katie Couric as well as embodying her bubbly personality. The fact that my name used to be Katie Curran was simply the icing on the cake.  We used to park in the same garage on the Upper East Side and without prompting, the garage attendants would insist we were sisters and were always trying to coordinate us running into each other.  I even submitted a video to the Today Show when they hosted a contest for people who were told they reminded them of her.  Sadly, no such luck in getting to meet her then.

Fast forward a decade and here I am in town for 3 days for a work event. I figured why not give meeting Katie Couric one more shot while I am here. So, I went onto her new show’s website and submitted a request to see her new show. Would you believe that her assistant called me and said they’d offer me tickets for today at 3 p.m.. Of course that is right when I have to begin to run the seminar I am here to teach at Google. So, alas another chance meeting lost.

In light of the fact that I am a regular contributor to a morning ABC show in Portland, I arranged to observe “Good Morning America” this morning and who unexpectedly was a drop in guest? That’s right, my alter ego Katie!!!! I literally thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest with excitement at finally being feet away from her.

She did a quick 4 minute piece about Yeardley Love, the UVA Lacrosse player who was violently murdered by her estranged boyfriend in 2010. This is a story near and dear to Katie as she is a UVA Alum and is trying to bring attention to the fact that 1 out of 3 college aged girls are victims of dating violence.   Admittedly, it was a bit awkward segueing to my fan worship interlude.  However, I was determined not to let this chance meeting go undocumented so I was able to get this picture snapped of us before she was shuttled out with various handlers. I simply told her how much I look up to her and appreciate her work (minus having Jessica Simpson on as her debut guest last week). She was exactly they way I imagined her to be, very warm and sweet.  She kept repeating how nice it was for me to so clearly googley-eyed for her.  I imagine she get’s that reaction alot.

Here is why my meeting with Katie Couric today matters to everybody else:

  • As trite as it sounds, anything is possible. Who is your Katie Couric? What are you doing today to make inroads to meeting them?
  • I was able to make this happen through my relationships and by continually asking questions. Never stop uncovering the path towards your pie in the sky.
  • There is no such thing as a dead-end.  I have been trying to meet Ms. Couric for over a decade. Ironically, my chance brush with her today was totally unexpected and complete serendipity.
  • Now that I have met my namesake, I can clear the path for even greater heights. The overall meaning I take from it is that the only thing getting in my way of achieving my long-term goals is……..nothing at all.  “To the moon Alice!!!”

Why Relating is More Powerful than Transacting

September 16, 2012

Welcome back friends and a very wonderful Sunday to you all.  How was your week?  I had a particularly eventful and meaning-rich week (September 11th, published my first paper with my father, attended my first ‘Back to School’ night for our daughter’s preschool) and did not have to work hard at all to see a critical way that last week’s inquiry rang true for me.  I will take this as a rewarding sign that this newly established and evolving format, which I am letting my intuition and my heart guide me with, is exactly where I need to be and, I hope it is for you as well.

This week’s photo: Also in following with the theme of this blog, I am going to share pictures of my life, not random stock photos from the internet that highlight my theme.  This post’s picture is the last decent photo I can find of my family and I. This was a celebration night after my brother had successfully defended his dissertation from University of Washington (yup, I have a brother who is a PhD in genetics).  Sorry to my dear husband who is not included in the photo! I wanted to pay homage to my Dad this week in honor of our article.

Last Sunday, I left off asking you to reflect on two related questions for your week ahead:

How can you begin to share a deeper side of yourself at work and at home this week?

What gets in your way of doing this more frequently and honestly?

It was fantastic to hear from a variety of you through various channels that you were curious if it was appropriate or even relevant to share more about yourself or your opinions about the content of your work with your peers and customers. We talked about your concerns for the implication of doing so and what the costs could be for taking such a risk. You were boldest in voicing your curiosity of the benefits of sharing a deeper side of yourself as work.

My related AHA moment this week that re-enforced to me the lesson of why it is so powerful and critical to disclose personal meaning along with the content of your work:

I taught an all day seminar this week with my business partner.  I was the lead instructor this week and this is our second time to run this particular seminar series.  My partner is always helping me better streamline and blend my curriculum as I am a research nut and if left to my own devices I would do a data dump.  My partner, Cindy is fantastic at providing me with feedback but this week when we were debriefing she said to me, “Katie, it can feel transactional sometimes when you simply cite other people’s research.  You have so much personal and professional experience to draw from as it relates to the research you share.  You need to take a moment and reflect for your students on what each takeaway means for you.  This way, your students will be more comfortable sharing their own experience and less self-conscious of their own reactions, etc.”


There it is, there is the golden egg, that I wanted to provide to you with this last inquiry. And my universe, simply dropped it in my own lap for us all.  The key lesson here is that by being less transactional and more relational, you will connect and resonate with your peers on a level that aids in their particular adult learning process. As adults, we need to personalize our learnings in order to truly make a transition that is long-term and not merely cerebral.  Being able to do this for and with your clients and partners will stand you miles apart from your competition. I guarantee it.

Let me know if this resonates with you and if you have any other questions around how the entire group benefits when you take the time to offer your personal reaction and feelings about a matter at work.

My inquiry for this coming week is:

How do you elevate your game?

When tasked with an unprecedented (meaning bigger or higher profile than you have ever taken on before) role or project—how do you successfully prepare and execute?

Contacting Katie:

I am eager to hear your response to this inquiry as well as other questions you have.  Please email me at

Have a fantastic week friends.  I can’t wait to hear about all your successes and breakthroughs.


Does Getting Personal at Work Matter?

September 9, 2012

What is this blog all about?

Thanks to the encouragement of a new business friend, Justin Krane, (that’s Justin and I to the left)I have resolved to do my best job at posting more intimate blog posts for you all for a variety of reasons.

I believe I do my best work when I am working privately and one on one with a client. My hope is that I can create and offer the same kind of experience in this setting as I do for my particular clients.

Secondly, I am in the throes of what could be a longer process of writing my first book and I would rather share chunks of my ideas and inquiries to you all now, versus waiting for an eventual release of a larger body of work.

My hope is to evolve this regular blog format into a podcast, YouTube web series or radio show when the timing is right. However, rather than waiting for that right time, I am embracing the challenge of moving into the unknown when the timing in not necessarily perfect and my format is not totally clear so that we can be engaged and begin our sacred conversations. Because, the heart of the matter here, is to connect and seek resolve for a better way and better days. So, today, we begin.

In order to make this venture a success, I need 3 investments from you:

First, I need for you to email me directly and let me know what is weighing on your minds and souls when it comes to moving your life, career or overall joie de vivre forward.  I want to know what specifically you both believe and feel is holding you back from moving into your zone of genius more often than not.  By no means do I have all the answers, but I will attempt to provide you with some different ways of  viewing your situation and perhaps some alternative strategies to engage in order to move into your challenges with greater clarity and confidence.

Secondly, I ask you to kindly sign up for my blogs by entering your email in the box at the top right hand side of my blogsite: Sign up to receive Katie’s blogs.

And thirdly, in order to spread the word about this new outlet, I ask that you kindly, share the link that you found this blog on and encourage your friends and family to sign up to receive these posts as well.

I thank you kindly for joining me today and I will leave you with a question to ponder this week that embodies the spirit of this particular invitation:

Your Inquiry of the Week:

How can you begin to share a deeper side of yourself at work and at home this week?

What gets in your way of doing this more frequently and honestly?

Contacting Katie:

Katie is eager to hear your response to this inquiry as well as other questions you have for her.  Please email her at

Have a fantastic week friends.  I can’t wait to hear about all your successes and breakthroughs.