Want to give a better presentation?

I was recently reading a great opinion article by David Rubenson of “The Scientist” magazine where he provides advice on how to improve your skills for giving a biomedical research talk.

Although I completely understand why he specifically targets scientists (he is writing the “The Scientist”, after all), I think his points could well be applied to others looking to improve their talks. So please feel free to check out the link below to get a better grasp of giving presentations — whether it is for your next science talk, big board meeting or even job interview.

David Rubenson. Opinion: How to give better talks. The Scientist.


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DLF’s Career Events Package

Registration for DLF’s packaged events are here!  Receive a discount by signing up for all 3 events in advance rather than each individual one.  Registration for the February event will be available shortly.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014: How to negotiate your salary and get what you want.

Now that you’ve got a job offer, how do you negotiate to get the salary that you deserve?

Women today are making roughly 20% less on every dollar a man earns doing exactly the same job. Although there are many contributing factors, one of them is the ability to negotiate a fair salary. Learn some of the ways to determine a fair salary range, approach a salary negotiation, and get what you want!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013: How to effectively network for better opportunities.

Do you know the old adage, “It isn’t what you know, but rather who you know”? It has been recorded at various universities that less than 20% of students got their first job from a direct application to an employer. The other 80% received employment through networking. This remains true throughout one’s professional career.

Learn how to effectively network. It is easy enough to show up to a networking event, but talking to random people is simply not enough. Join us to discuss the How To guide to networking and develop a plan on how you will land your next job.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013: How to find the right career path for you if you had no fear. 

Having different career options is a good thing, but picking the best one is difficult. What do you wake up every day wanting to do? Does it even exist? If so, where and how do you find it?

We will be hosting Sarah Cardozo Duncan again as our guest speaker. Sarah is a highly regarded career strategist and will deliver a program that will help guide you in the development of your best career path.

* * * * *

Cost:   $35 to sign up for all three events in advance or $15 for each individual event

Date:   First Wednesday of even-month (Oct, Dec & Feb) at 6 PM

Location: The Broad Institute (Olympus Room), Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA

Dinner and wine will be provided.  Registration is required, check-in at front desk.

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The windy, curvy road to success

After reading an article written by Nathaniel Koloc for the Harvard Business Review (1) about being successful, I took a step back to think about my own road to success.  Was it as easy as many movies had lent me to believe it would be (Hello, Legally Blonde!); or was it a windy road full of obstacles that led me to become the person I am today?

Of course, it was a no brainer. I was a “windy-road” sort of girl. The road to success is never easy, but it is nonetheless very meaningful.

So what are the keys to success? Nathaniel provided quite a bit of advice on the topic in his own article (1), so I will just add a few of my own which I think we should all think about:

Be goal-oriented. Most of us have no idea what we would want to do for the rest of our lives. And that’s OK! I think this is most prevalent in women finishing with their PhDs in the biological sciences (of course, I am speaking from personal experience amongst me and my friends). Now that we have our PhDs, what do we do? Rather than thinking what do I do, think what CAN I do. Ladies (and gentlemen), you have gotten this far. You were driven, motivated and goal-oriented. And keeping those skills and using them in your new professional life can only help. So if you want to use your degree to, say, teach children about science, then research how you can get there.  Talk to other people in the area and network.

Talk to people. If you are interested in any sort of job, try to reach out to as many people as you can to learn more about it. For example, if you have always wanted to be a nurse, why not talk to the nurse at your doctor’s office about hers (or his) job?  If you are in the sciences, talk to more people at conferences. And don’t be nervous or scared.  The fact of the matter is that most other people are just as nervous or as scared as you.  Be outgoing, chat, and learn about what they do. At worst, they just won’t talk to you. At best, you have managed to get a new contact.

Network, network, network. They don’t have seminars on this for nothing, folks.  Networking is one of the most important tools we have in our job-search arsenal. Not only does it help you learn more about your prospective new job, but it also “adds a face to a name” when you are applying for jobs. Let’s say you talked to person X at a meeting. Months later, you send person X an email about this-that-or-another. The chances of you getting a response are much higher because this person will remember you.

Get started now. While it may seem like a daunting task, just simply doing a Google search or sending an email will not only bring you one step closer to getting the job you want, but it will also relieve some of the stress and concern with job searching. Why? Because you have started doing something. The worst that can happen? You don’t get a response. However, sending multiple emails will increase your chances of hearing back and learning more about your potential future career.

You can always change your job. The best advice I have ever received about careers was from my cousin, actually. As I was looking for jobs last year, he told me “Monica, do the job you want to do now. You can always change later.”  Even though that last sentence seemed so obvious, I never thought of it. And hearing it (and subsequently letting it sink in) was quite freeing. I can do the job I want to do right now.

Now, while that advice was what I needed to hear at the time, now, I realize that any job I have should be a stepping stone to the career that I want. Admittedly, I am not sure of what the career I want actually is at the moment. But I know that every job I have and every volunteer opportunity I take will help me to figure it out. And it will bring me one step closer to the career that will make me happy.


(1) Koloc, Nathaniel. Build a career worth having. Harvard Business Review. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/08/build_a_career_worth_having.html

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Frances Toneguzzo emphasizes that each career step is a learning opportunity

The quote “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder” by Patti Sellers, mentioned in Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, was definitely echoed at Frances Toneguzzo’s talk at our de la Femme event last night.

Frances shared the story of her career journey from academic science to becoming Executive Director of Partners Healthcare Research Ventures and Licensing.  It was refreshing to have Frances speak in such a candid manner, and to hear from an extremely successful career-oriented woman that she took a circuitous path in her career.

Frances divulged that she wasn’t necessarily successful in every stage of her career path, but she emphasized that she gained important skills each time.  She encouraged us to work hard and to view each step in our careers as a learning opportunity.  Also, we should realize that no decision is forever and that it can be changed so we shouldn’t worry unnecessarily that we are making wrong decisions.  The correct decision is the decision that is the best for us at that time.  And, yes, major decisions can be quite scary, but we need to trust in ourselves and our abilities and always work hard.

Another part of our conversation that was quite memorable for me and I applaud Frances for having shared it, was that she took time off from her career when her children were young.  She didn’t regret it and had always planned to go back to her career afterwards.  She suggested that we can and should stay current with what is going on in our field during time off and that this would help ease our transition back.  In Frances’ case, she maintained enough of a presence by doing some consulting that had a low time commitment.

Another lesson learned from Frances that resonated with the group was the importance of self-promotion and self-confidence.  She said that generally men are better self-promoters and they are not shy about asking for promotions and salary increases.  She also mentioned that women in general feel that their managers will notice their good work and they will be recognized appropriately, but this might not always be the case as the hard work might go unacknowledged if one does not self-promote.   Everyone in the meeting resonated with this topic and some members suggested practicing self-promotion among their peers in order to become comfortable doing this.

Frances also talked about career options in the technology transfer field and how to go about applying in this field for PhD graduate students.  She suggested they could gain some hands-on experience by applying for internship programs at tech transfer offices.  These careers could be viable options to gain valuable business skills.  And, besides the traditional role of licensing managers, there are emerging jobs such as project managers and alliance managers that can help accelerate research projects and partnerships with industry.

We thank Frances Toneguzzo again for sharing her amazing story and lessons learned during her career.

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A review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read Sandberg’s book, please do.  It was a thought-provoking and fast read.  Although Sheryl doesn’t go into extensive detail about many of the studies on gender inequality that she highlighted in her book, it was nevertheless a fantastic overview of the status of the current gender gap, with references for those who wanted to delve deeper.

I must admit that before I even picked up the book, I had read some opinion pieces that charged Sandberg with blaming women for the gender gap and so I already harbored some level of skepticism about her views.  However, having read the book in its entirety, I think she did a fantastic job of arguing that there are various causes that lead to gender inequality, with many obstacles imposed by institutional, social, and cultural norms.  All these things lead to a lack of support and encouragement for women in career advancement, leading them to think it is in their best interest to lean back from the work place, making it less likely that these women will become leaders that can change and remove those obstacles for future generations, thus generating a self-perpetuating cycle.

In addition, Sheryl made it very clear that if a women chooses to lean back from her career to spend more time with her kids, she still has a full time career as a mother and not only is this OK but it is very admirable.  But the key word here is CHOICE.  What she does argue is that, in our world as it is today, women don’t yet have real choice.  Some women might choose to lean back from her career because the world has made it harder for her to continue choosing to have a career – so then is this real choice?  Lastly, she argues that similar attitudes can be seen for men, that our society still lacks full acceptance that it is perfectly normal for men to choose to lean in to raising their children in order to support the women leaning into their career.  I acknowledge that I’m not yet at the stage where I have to make the decision between a career and children, so I don’t know how difficult it can be, but I hope that I have real choice and no matter what that choice is, I also hope I am not criticized for it.

Overall a worthwhile read to get people thinking and discussing this important issue.  This topic is a deeply personal and emotional one, with vastly different viewpoints.  And, although I personally don’t agree with every one of Sheryl’s points, I think it’s admirable that she is speaking out about it.  The more conversations we have, the more likely we are to acknowledge that there still is a gender gap so that we can identify ways to close it.  There is not a single solution, and it will certainly take time, but hopefully we can all work together to help close it faster.  This is what de la Femme aims to do.  Together we can make a difference.

Please join de la Femme and our speaker Frances Toneguzzo, PhD, Executive Director of Partners Healthcare Research Ventures and Licensing at our next event on April 30th, 2013.  Frances will share with us opportunities and lessons learned in her career path from academia to biotech and startup companies to the tech transfer field, and advice on how to carve out your own career advancement opportunities.  Come meet Frances for an evening of insightful discussion over dinner.  Register at www.delafemme6ft.eventbrite.com

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Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

The de la Femme team is attending Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s talk on April 4, 2013.  Please join us if you’re free that evening.

Here is the event description from Brookline Booksmith (http://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/sheryl-sandberg-lean-in):

Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (In conversation with Robin Young)

Start: 04/04/2013 6:00 pm
At the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

Facebook COO and a regular on Fortune Magazine’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, Sheryl Sandberg explores why women pull back in the workplace, urging them to seek challenges, go after their goals, and lead. She tells her own story of success, recalling her own decisions, mistakes, and the struggle to make the right choices for all facets of her life. A call to action and a blueprint for personal growth, this book will spark discussion about working women. Sandberg will be joined in conversation with Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here and Now.

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Science, media and overcoming stigmas

Written by Monica Markovski, PhD, and de la Fember.

Often times women can face difficulty in succeeding in science because a persistent bias exists to undercut a woman’s self-esteem. Recently, a study has been published showing the gender bias reality that many women face in science (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109#aff-1). In fact, during my graduate career, I have also faced many of the stereotypes which prevent women from advancing in their scientific careers. While troubling, these hurdles definitely provided me with even more motivation to overcome this gender gap, if only to “to stick it to the man” (pun fully intended).

Another such comrade in arms is my former graduate school classmate, Christina Agapakis. Christina had always been a super star in my class. She joined a synthetic biology group where she designed biological systems to do just about anything she wanted them to. Not only did Christina do great scientific work, but she also loves to blog about all things science to make it accessible to the general public.

Recently, I got back in touch with Christina after she was named one of Forbes magazine “30 under 30” (http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2012/30-under-30/30-under-30_science.html) for science and healthcare. This is an amazing accomplishment, I thought! But how did she get to where she is today? What did she have to overcome in order to succeed? Well, why not ask the scientist directly? So I decided to pick her brain and ask her about her passion for science and all things art and media.


MM: Congratulations on being named both a L’Oreal USA Women in Science Fellow and for being a part of the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Those are amazing accomplishments. How do you think these have helped you further your career?

CA: Thanks! It’s a great honor to be recognized. The L’Oreal For Women in Science program does amazing things to promote women scientists around the world, and it is so special to be part of this great group.

MM: Based upon your experience, have you found it difficult to be a woman in science?

CA: I’ve been really lucky to have never had to face any overt discrimination during my career, but I do think that the subtle biases against women in science and engineering can negatively affect all women. Because science is supposed to be objective and objectively meritocratic, these biases can be hard to identify and end up being self-perpetuating. Since there are fewer women in some science and technology fields, an objective assessment based on those statistics might ask whether women just aren’t as intrinsically interested or intrinsically able to do the job as men. These attitudes can actually harm women’s performance, as is seen in studies of stereotype threat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat), and can influence the opinions of the faculty that can then affect student admission, hiring, and promotion (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109), maintaining the skewed numbers.

MM: What do you think can help motivate more women to pursue science or other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields?

CA: I think that the problem lies less in the motivation of girls and women and more in the cultural biases and structural inequalities that can make it harder for women to advance in their chosen careers. I think even in [the Biological and Biomedical Sciences] program at Harvard the percentage of female students was at least 50%, so we definitely have tons of highly motivated women studying science, especially biology. The numbers are more skewed in physics and engineering early on, but I think that the drop off in the percentage of women at the highest ranking positions in science largely mirrors the drop-off that happens in other careers in business, politics, law, etc. These problems are all linked and have to do with much more than individual ambition, but also with how women are perceived and evaluated, the roles of women in family and home life, and the daily challenges of the majority of women that don’t have the opportunity to worry about high powered job statistics. It’s been a complex and difficult year for “women’s issues” in the news, but I’m optimistic about the fact that these conversations are happening so prominently and for the potential for feminism to help women in all of these areas.

MM: Social media now is a huge forum for scientific discussion and debate between scientists and non-scientists alike. And you have a huge web presence. Why did you decide to promote your science in this way?

CA: Blogging and twitter for me aren’t about promoting my own research or even synthetic biology in general, but about sharing, thinking through, and discussing ideas that excite me and that I want to learn more about. With social media I can communicate with and learn from people far outside of my field, from other scientists and engineers but also from social scientists, historians, artists, educators, and writers. These conversations have really shaped my research and have led to many great friendships, online and in real life.

MM: Speaking of social media, are there any blogs that are on your must-reads?

CA: Here is a very abridged list of favorites in no particular order:


Obviously Christina has gotten quite far in her scientific career. Her best advice on how to succeed? “[To] learn to read, learn to write, find great mentors, and never listen to other people’s advice. Young scientists have a lot of people telling them what they should be doing, what they should be reading, how much time they should be spending at the bench, and how many papers they should be publishing, which usually just translates into productivity neurosis and ‘I’m-more-hardcore-than-you’ competition rather than actual learning and good science. Do what you’re excited about, always have a side project, read widely, learn from your friends and colleagues, and don’t let the PhD-comics version of what a graduate student is stop you from being a good scientist.”

Great advice to live by. Maybe I’ll try them myself.

**Besides excelling in science, Christina also likes to have fun, whether it’s simply watching TV and doing yoga or expressing her creative side through art, reading books, knitting, or even just blogging about her scientific happenings. If you’d like to learn more about Christina or read what she’s blogging about these days, just visit agapakis.com and http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/oscillator


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Why so few women major in the STEM field?

Written by Susu Wong, MBA, de la Femme COO.

My company recently posted an entry-level administrative position, and I have been surprised to find that over 90% of the applicants are women with bachelor’s degrees who were predominately majoring in liberal arts, journalism, sociology, and business administration, etc.   One can argue that this is attributed to the weak economy and there is a lack of job openings, but if this is the case, why aren’t men applying?  Perhaps one of the reasons is because men tend to shy away from liberal arts type courses and pursue science and engineering degrees.

Between 2000 and 2008, the total number of 4-year engineering degrees awarded in the US increased from 59,497 to 69,895. Of the over 10,000 additional degrees, nearly all of them went to male students. While the number of degrees awarded to females remained constant at around 12,500, those awarded to males increased by about 1,200 per year; from 47,281 in 2000 to 57,977 in 2008. This increase in turn reduced the percentage of women receiving engineering degrees by about 2 percent, from 20.5% to 18.5%. [1]

According to the statistics from the National Science Foundation, half of the workers in science and engineering occupations earned $70,600 or more in 2007, more than double the median earnings ($31,400) of the total U.S. workforce.  Workers with science and engineering degrees, regardless of their occupations, earn more than workers with comparable-level degrees in other fields. [2]

There seems to be a direct correlation in wage gap because women are starting their early careers in lower-level administrative positions while their male counterparts are pursuing science and engineering fields, hence men are advancing their careers at a much faster pace.   This is one of the reasons why women are generally making less money than men and can’t seem to get ahead.

In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), women’s progress has been slower, especially in engineering, computer science, and physics.  According to a study conducted by AAUW, the findings are organized into three areas: social and environmental factors shaping girls’ achievements and interest in math and science; the college environment; and the continuing importance of bias, often operating at an unconscious level, as an obstacle to women’s success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Middle school and High school teachers have to proactively cultivate girls’ achievements, interest, and persistence in science and engineering.  Many girls show aptitude and interest in math and science through middle school. Whether driven by social pressures or other factors, a large percentage of these girls do not persist through high school in taking the necessary courses needed to major in science and engineering in college.


Possible solutions:

We need to have more female role models and mentors who have demonstrated success in science and technology.  We have to break the stereotype that women engineers are geeky and unpopular.

  1. Internship: Female students tend to go to liberal arts programs because they are often undecided in declaring their majors.  One of the best ways to explore options is internship.  Programs and flexible course options that allow students to explore both a STEM field and a non-STEM field major as a freshman may encourage more women to select a STEM major.
  2. Get college involvement: College professors need to create college environments and develop programs that support women in science and engineering, and counteract bias.
  3. Conduct informational interviews: Conduct informational interviews or meetings with practicing professionals for the purpose of learning more about their jobs. This type of interview provides a rare opportunity to gain invaluable, up-to-date knowledge about a specific business or industry from an “insider.”
  4. Find a mentor: There are a lot of resources on mentorship. For example, The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) offers local Mentoring program, resources.  Another good site to consider is MentorNet, which offers a matching service for both mentors and mentees.

Ultimately, the decision rests on the individual’s preferences and interest, but at least she is choosing her field with eyes wide open.

[1] American Association of University Women article:  Why so few? http://www.aauw.org/learn/research/whysofew.cfm

[2]NSF Statistics on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/


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Breaking down stereotypes: Can there be gender equality in the workplace?

Written by Brandy Houser, PhD, de la Femme co-founder.

Thanks to Betty Friedan, the voice of the 1950’s housewife was finally heard.  “There has to be more than this, more than cleaning after a husband and the children.”  Women, and society, have come a long way from this – but are we there yet?  The second wave feminist movement women fought to grant us reproductive rights (Roe vs. Wade, 1973), advanced educational and extracurricular opportunities (Title IX, 1972), and equal places in the workforce (affirmative action, expansion in 1967 to include gender).  Yet, have we really reached true gender equality?

Today, girls are outpacing their male peers throughout their education.  But we have yet to see a female president or even a board comprised of at least 50% women in a fortune 1000 company.  Strong women leaders who challenge their male opponents are often ostracized (since women are supposed to sweet and compliant) leaving only derogatory names to suffice as adjectives.  Beyond demeanor, women are still noted for clothing style (The Male Factor).  Women not only have to work harder than their male counterparts for the same job (Gorman and Kmec, 2007), the same wage (CNN, 2010), but they have to look good (but not too good) while doing so.  Not even Jackie Kennedy could have pulled off what Sheryl Sandberg does on a daily basis – and in such nice attire!  Even beyond career, clothing, and dealing with men who cannot handle emotion – women still manage nearly 70% of the childcare responsibilities at home (Sheryl Sandberg, TEDwomen).  How can workplace equality exist when it doesn’t even exist at home?

Stereotypes come in all forms- from cultural to religious and certainly including gender.  Women leaders are seen as supportive while male leaders are seen as influencing upward movement (Catalyst).  Why?  And, how does this cultural perspective affect women (and men) in the workplace today?  In Shaunti Feldhan’s The Male Factor, male colleagues who see a female colleague become even marginally emotional, automatically distrust their ability to think clearly.  However, it has been shown that women can process emotions at the same time that they need to be clearly thinking.

How will we move past these stereotypes?  Work.  Men and women today need to recognize the power that all women harness in the workplace and how leveraging these untapped skill sets will lead to more successful business operations, better work-life balance overall, and economic prosperity for our world.


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The Gender Divide in Academics

Shared by Brandy Houser, PhD, de la Femme co-founder.

I thought that this was a great article to share:


Gender divide in physics spans globe

This article was originally published in the journal Nature 473 , 547-547 (2011) doi:10.1038/nj7348-547a 

Virginia Gewin

Published online 25 May 2011

An international survey comparing the career experiences of 15,000 physicists from 130 developed and developing nations finds that women around the world experience a tilted playing field. Across the board, the study finds, men have greater access than women to opportunities and resources, and their careers suffer less when they have children.

The survey is the third global poll in a decade to address the experiences of female physicists, but is the first to include men. Global Survey of Physicists: A Collaborative Effort Illuminates the Situation of Women in Physics was produced by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland, with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation in New York. Rachel Ivie, assistant director of the AIP’s Statistical Research Center and a report co-author, says that the data on men allowed her to compare experiences. “We knew things were unequal, but not this unequal,” she says.


The survey reveals few differences in the degree of gender inequality between developed and developing countries. Women consistently describe getting fewer international offers than men, less access to lab space and travel funds, and fewer invitations to speak and calls to serve on important committees. They also report that having children slows their careers to a greater degree.

Ivie says that two factors contribute to these problems. First, physics remains a male-dominated field, operating through an old boy network. “It’s not that senior people actively exclude women; they just don’t think of recommending them for key posts or inviting them to speak at conferences,” says Ivie.

Elizabeth Freeland, a physics postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agrees. “This is an unconscious bias — which makes it harder but not impossible to get past,” she says.

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Why de la Femme?

Written by Michael Hoffman, MBA, de la Femme CFO.

I’d like to expand on why I’m taking special (professional) time out for women and why I chose de la Femme.  With many years of experience interacting with women from different vantage points – as colleagues, classmates, subordinates and bosses – I am struck by a strange situation.   I actually find women in general to be more competent, more effective and more enjoyable to work with than men, again in general.  Yet it’s men who almost always are entrusted positions of leadership.  Men enjoy the hunt, are good launching things and with our healthy (?) egos like to lead with authority.  Yet it’s women, again in general, who can lead for the long-term, as stewards who can nurture and lead organizations with compassionate intelligence.  It is this  large divide, the gender gap, that keeps the upcoming competent woman from rising the ranks quickly and from getting her deserved opportunities, that needs to be addressed.   The wiser organizations understand  that when both men and women have ample opportunities for leadership and responsibilities, the best things happen.  I view de la Femme as one healthy initiative to get us there.

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Are women really better leaders?

Shared by Brandy Houser, PhD, de la Femme co-founder.

In my usual way of perusing any literature that has to do with gender gap, I came across this article:


Interestingly, it discusses the difference between men and women and their leadership styles.  Honestly, I have had both positive and negative experiences from each gender.  However, I must admit that my most positive and my most negative was always a man – whereas the ladies landed somewhere in between.  With all of this being said, I only recently began working in the Boston area with leadership and guidance from an amazing woman.  Perhaps this experience will fall in line with the results from the article.  Check it out!


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