I recently read a headline that made me pause: “Why America needs more female cops” in the Nov. 5, 2015 issue of Time magazine.
This was not an article about equality in the workplace, I soon found out. It was about the unique contribution women make in a profession currently shrouded with problems of violence and tragic misconduct.
The author mentioned two videos that have recently gone viral. In the first, a police officer reacts to a mildly disruptive high school student in a classroom with unnecessary violence.
In the other, a police officer gets a group of fighting teens to disperse by challenging one teen to a dance-off.
The second incident was a refreshing change from the reports of police aggression we have been reading about this past year. And did I mention that the police officer who used a creative way to inspire teens was a woman?
Of course a single incident doesn’t prove anything, but the following statistics do make you wonder. It seems that women police offers have been involved in only 5 percent of complaints of excessive-force complaints, and that’s a low percentage considering that they make up 13 percent of the police force nationwide, a 2002 study by the National Center for Women & Policing found. A similar ratio was found in the New York City police department in 2014 (9% complaints against women officers, who make up 17% of the police force).
The difference, says Tampa assistant police chief Mary O-Connor, is a woman’s tendency to use strong communication skills. “It’s not that women aren’t capable of using force,” she says. “We’re just more inclined to use it as a last resort.”
This got me wondering if there are other distinctly feminine skills that women bring to the workplace. According to a 2013 research study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, “More Female Board Directors Add Up to Improved Sustainability Performance,” companies that hire more females on boards of directors actually see a boost to their bottom line. Additional research shows a similar result when companies value gender diversity and embrace the distinctive skills of female employees in their organizations.
What are these skills? Like the woman police officer, women are found to be good communicators, good listeners, and persuasive leaders, research shows.
Second, because they tend to value relationships, women are more inclined to build teams. According to a study published by talent management company Caliper titled Qualities that Distinguish Women Leaders, female executives use relationship building and listening skills to lead their teams, and at the same time make their team members feel that their contributions have been valued. In other words, women are great at inspiring and uplifting those around them.
It’s interesting that this research goes against the stereotype of women in the workplace as portrayed in movies and TV—of fierce competition between women and a tendency to undermine each other. This exact point was highlighted by Elle UK recently, in a video and website devoted to increasing the number of women in powerful positions in the world.
“The story of how women in positions of strength continually support and empower each other is consistently ignored while the myth that we pit ourselves against each other perpetuates,” says the campaign website. “We want to change this narrative in our feminism issue and create a more positive conversation – to reflect the power of women, and to support and grow each other as we push for global equality.”
Joe Keefe, president and CEO at Pax World Funds is advocating for the inclusion of more women in executive roles, because research shows inclusion benefits the bottom line. “When women are at the table, good things happen,” he says. “The conversation is richer, the decision-making process is better, teams are more innovative and collaborative, and the whole organization is stronger.”
While I certainly support more women rising to prominent positions in government and the workplace and receiving equal pay for equal work, I think that we should also remember that every one of us can make a difference.
Every woman—whether she is working as a police officer, a teacher, an executive, or staying at home to raise her kids—is a force for good in this world.
There are many ways we can increase our positive influence on others. Here are just a few.
- Take steps to reduce stress. We all know that when we’re relaxed, everything goes better. Have you ever noticed that your most chaotic days happen when you’re tired or stressed?
- Women who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique experience a deep state of rest that naturally dissolves both day-to-day and deep-rooted stresses. Just 20 minutes of TM twice a day can create an amazing sense of renewal and revitalization.
- Former CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien did not think it was possible for her to meditate. “I have a crazy schedule, I have four small children and I am always going, so the idea of calming my mind I thought, ‘not possible!’” she says. “But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind. So that’s all my own personal experience.”
- This is not a matter of talking yourself out of feeling stressed. This is a very real and immediate shift in your mind and body to experience the opposite of the stress response. When you’re stressed, your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens and stress hormones such as cortisol surge through your body, wreaking havoc. When you practice TM, it’s just the opposite. Research shows that the heart beat slows, breathing slows and serotonin and other hormones associated with well-being spread throughout the brain and body. It creates such a profound state of rest and heightened state of awareness that it creates a domino effect of positive change, from greater creativity and mental clarity to reduced heart disease, blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
- Over 380 published research studies in prominent journals back up these experiences of over six million people of all ages, cultures and religions who have learned TM. In fact, if you look at the seminal research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by KR Eppley, which compared seven different self-help techniques, you can see that TM is the only one to exceed the placebo effect—and it does so by a wide margin.
- TM can also help with severe stress, such as PTSD. In fact, women police officers, veterans and first responders have found that practicing the TM technique helps them recover more quickly from the extreme stress of their jobs, allowing them to respond to new challenges in a calmer way.
- “When severe stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which is like the commander-in-chief of the brain, TM rebalances the brain chemistry and creates the brain waves associated with settledness,” said Dr. Sarina Grosswald, the late researcher who published extensive research on TM’s effect on PTSD and ADHD. “As you repeat the experience of TM over and over, these brain connections get stronger, and the connections related to trauma begin to fade away.”
- Do something nice for yourself. Women tend to be givers—in the workplace, as we have seen, and especially at home. With so many responsibilities to nourish others, we can often forget our most important responsibility of all—to nourish ourselves. If you have a crazy schedule, take heart. Try scheduling one outing a week with a cherished friend to take a yoga class, receive a rejuvenating massage or attend a group meditation at your TM Center. Whatever gives you a break and makes you happy—make it a priority. Peace is based on happiness.
- Support education of girls and women. As we have seen, in the US we need more women at the top to help businesses thrive and countries to flourish. And we need to support women throughout the world to become educated to stop the cycle of poverty. Research shows that in African countries, educating women translates to higher economic productivity, reduced child mortality, improved family nutrition and the prevention of AIDS. When a woman is educated, it changes not only her life but those of her children, her family and her community.
It’s important to remember that a peaceful world is made of peaceful, happy individuals. So by creating more happiness within ourselves, our families and all those around us, we are making a positive and powerful contribution to peace in our troubled world.
And it’s also important to remember that the source of peace and happiness is inside us.
As the actress Cameron Diaz says, “TM is helping you tap into something that’s already inside of you—that’s you in essence.”
In his book The Science of Being and Art of Living, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of the TM technique) wrote, “The only golden gate to peace in life is the experience of Transcendental Bliss Consciousness and this great glory of life is easy for everyone to achieve and live throughout life.”
Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Health Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy.