Wounded Boys and Men – Masculinity in American Culture

Translation: Gauthier Nicolle-Chalot

We all ache. We all have wounds. I’ve never met anyone with a storybook childhood or adolescence. The gremlins of pain, loss and alienation spare no one. What may vary, however, is the extent to which individuals can express this pain to one another or even admit it to themselves. As a personal development coach, I have come to notice that men have a much more difficult time talking about their feelings than women. The truth is, in American society, most men may never have had many chances to practice.

It won’t be an easy page to turn and it may take several generations
American society is in turmoil. Hardly a day goes by when one doesn’t read about some kind of sexual or social violence. The recurrent school shootings is just one case in point. Violence and collective rage against the violence is constantly in the headlines. As an American, cross-cultural trainer and long-term European resident, I am often asked just what is it in US culture that fosters and ultimately triggers acts of violence by American men.

Some insight may be gained from information gathered by interculturalists. Forty years ago, Geerte Hofstede, pioneer researcher and sociologist, measured the level of masculinity in different countries around the world. The US came in with a score of 67 (out of 100) which is high but not as high as, say Japan (95). One important difference is that Japanese society is buffered by what Hofstede calls “a mild collectivism” which discourages open competition. What makes the US unique sociologically, is its extremely high score of individualism (91) which when combined with a high level of masculinity, creates a fiercely competitive “winner take all” mentality. While this performance-driven culture benefited the economy of a growing nation, it did come at a social cost, namely the isolation and wounding of too many boys and men.

Traditionally, most young men in the US have few real role models or even places where they can go to be vulnerable with others. I grew up in the 1970s and back then “sensitive” boys invariably got teased or bullied. Growing up in a culture which fostered cowboys and comic book archetypes (strong, silent and self-reliant) made one reluctant if not fearful of sharing one’s feelings. For teenagers there was always an ongoing pressure to conform to a certain idea of masculinity along with unspoken behavioral expectations, such as “Don’t feel!”, “Don’t cry!” and above all, “Don’t trust other men”. Those who didn’t want to play the game and try to “fit in” were either ostracized or isolated themselves. Several decades later, I have to wonder if the situation has really improved.

The weapons are only symptomatic of a deeper psychological violence in American culture
Recently I heard an interview of Warren Farrell, social psychologist and author of a book called, “The Boy Crisis”. He contends that the one common element in almost all of the perpetrators of school shootings was that almost all of them were/are fatherless. While this is certainly not be the only factor, I do believe it is an important one. Now as much as I support very strong gun control laws, this is only a partial solution. The weapons are only symptomatic of a deeper psychological violence in American culture. The root of the problem is emotional isolation and it desperately needs to be addressed.

Farrell is not the only expert who has been pulling the fire alarm on this growing social malaise. The past few years have seen dozens of psychologists make the rounds on the talk show circuit. They all advocate the vital need for men to find a form of emotional release and share their pain with others. Of course, the first and most important companion or “pal” for a young boy would be his father, yet too many Dads are absent or simply don’t feel comfortable opening up to their sons. This is probably because they only play out the roles that they learned (unconsciously) from their fathers.

But perhaps a more appropriate metaphor for violence would be to compare it to a weed in a garden: its roots are deep and not so easily unearthed. In a winner-take-all culture, it is the champions who maintain this power and display it unabashedly. James Hollis, the renowned Jungian analyst, probably comes closest to grasping the root of the problem. In his work, “Under Saturn’s Shadow: the Wounding and Healing of Men”, he identifies the power complex as “the central force in men’s lives…which drives them and wounds them…and each other.”

Archetypes cannot be so easily modified in the collective programming of the American mind
The good news is that I am beginning to sense a growing recognition and willingness among men to redefine these social roles and expectations. Indeed there are signs that American fathers have started showing up both physically and emotionally for their sons. One heart-warming manifestation of this trend took place last December in a small town in Texas. The Guardian reported that when a middle school decided to organize a “Breakfast with Dad” event for 150 young teenagers, school officials panicked at the thought of dozens of students sitting through the event unaccompanied. To ensure that every young boy would have at least a “stand in” Dad, they placed an ad in a local newspaper asking for 50 volunteers — to their surprise, over 600 showed up for the event.


Another more recent sign of a gradual shift in attitudes can be seen by the unexpected success of the low budget, independent foreign film, “Call Me By Your Name”. While it could never rival a comic book fantasy film at the US box office, its success was groundbreaking for two reasons: firstly, it featured a gay teenager who doesn’t shoot himself (or get shot) in the end and secondly, it portrays an understanding father who upon discovering his son’s penchant for other men, sits down and has a heart to heart talk with him – no anger, no shame, no judgment. It would be hard to overestimate the emotional impact that this last scene had on all American men, regardless of their sexual orientation. If suburban Dads in Colorado can look beyond Elio’s homosexuality and relate instead to the adolescent boy’s pain at the loss of a first and hopeless love, then perhaps we, as a country, are beginning to turn a page.

It won’t be an easy page to turn and it may take several generations. Archetypes cannot be so easily modified in the collective programming of the American mind. Nevertheless, efforts made to educate young people and create a more nuanced definition of what it means to be a man will relieve them of the pressure to conform to an impossible ideal. Granted, not all guys who “win” are bullies and some boys simply may not want to or feel the need to open up…  but there should be opportunities for those who do. Furthermore, both women and men need to speak up for the values of compassion and inclusion without fear of being labelled “soft” or “weak”.

As an American I am, by nature, an optimist. I know that we can do this. Showing empathy for the pain of groups which we would not normally or immediately identify with is also part of the American tradition. It all begins with reaching out to the excluded and initiating dialogue: teacher to student, neighbor to neighbor, mother to daughter, father to son. No texts, no tweets but real conversations where we listen with our heads and our hearts. It won’t feel comfortable at first but we simply have to. As I said, we all ache.

A letter from my Chinese student

One of my Chinese students, having taken my course of International Business Development at SKEMA BS in Paris, has sent me a kind letter telling me of her first experiences right after school.

Apart from the fact that I’m obviously proud and happy that my international students would want to stay in touch after only a 15-hour course, I immediately realized that I really should publish her thoughts for the sake of my current and future students. Her words would  make them think about and better understand just what Intercultural Intelligence is.  They would then realize just how useful it is in today’s globalizing world.



letter-from-chinese-studentHey Sir,

I have too many things to share with you.

So far my internship in Pakistan is almost finished and I have found another internship as a Business Analyst in a digital marketing company in Shanghai. Through my three-month experience in Karachi I was shocked by the cultural differences among China, France and Pakistan.

As a religious and underdeveloped country, Pakistan is actually going through a period which China experienced before the Reform and opening. But the difference is, at that time, Chinese government tried their best to improve people’s living conditions by both attracting FDI and developing national industries. While Pakistan government cares more about earning money to feed their officials instead of paying attention to people’s lives, which results in that the country relies on foreign investment and technology and cannot develop healthily.

The country’s political and economic background also influences its culture and people. People are tired of struggling in the crowded and chaotic traffic on the streets, the occasional shortage of electricity and water, etc. They figure out their own way to live there and I felt most of them live happily. In the beginning, I was very surprised that people can survive in this kind of situation, but then I realized that what the society and their family taught them makes sense to their lives.

And regarding the religion, it’s both the best and worst thing in Pakistan. Religion gives people peace and teaches them how to expect things in life. But it’s hard to deal with a not well-educated population, which represents a large proportion of this country. Without education they become Muslim unconsciously following rituals, without any understanding of what religion is and who they are.

Sir, I remember during the class you told us that there are no good or bad cultures, just their differences. But there are some bad aspects in cultures. Even so, I’m sure many students like and find your course useful in practice (after school) since we learn the method rather than the theory.

Now I miss China heavily. My studies in France have made me more independent and the experience here in Pakistan helps me in finding interior peace. We always question the meaning of life. But actually it’s meaningless to think about this when you cannot live a decent life. And now I just hope I keep my own pace peacefully and do my best to learn as much as I can. Time really flies and hope we can still keep in touch in the future!

2 months later:

My life in Shanghai is good, work is challengeable but interesting, with friends and convenient transport, compared to my life two months before. And I’m also thinking of my next destination, hoping to get more experiences in different countries. The good thing is the more places you have been to, the much easier you can go.

徐迎迎 — Yingying Xu


I want all my students to understand that Intercultural Intelligence (or Diversity Management) is not simply a set of concepts, or useless sociological knowledge to get a Masters in marketing or finance. This is :

  1. a really powerful tool to comprehend our world
  2. and it gives one the ability to think clearly and understand its real mechanisms without any political correctness.

The hypocrisy of asking ‘How are you?’

Some conversations really get one thinking. Like the one I had recently with a Russian friend and colleague, Anton Malafeev. In my usual curiosity about foreign cultures I asked him about one way Russians are different from the Westerners. So he started describing that Russians find it hypocritical when Westerners, such as French or Italians ask others “How are you?” when they meet, even if they don’t really care about the answer. Without mentioning when American shop assistants ask “How are you?” when complete strangers enter their stores. As a response, the typical answers are on the line of “Fine, thanks” even if it’s not true, or in Italian “Si tira avanti” (we are getting by).

‘Point de view’ or reality?


I argued that in Italy it is common to ask each other “How are you?” if you meet someone you know, for example on the street or on the phone. Italians tend to be relationship oriented, and by asking that question we try to create a positive and friendly atmosphere. On the other side, Russians are more likely to be willing to listen to the “full” answer, whatever its content may be. The person who answers may say how things are, and if the answer is negative, the person who is asking may dig deeper to hear what is going on and why. As such, according to Russians, the exchange in the West comes across as empty, false and hypocritical.

I understood his point of view, but since I am Italian and am used to asking “How are you?” I didn’t really like the idea of considering my behaviour false and hypocritical… Especially because I had never meant it to be!

After reflecting about his words for a while, I cheerfully began dismissing this Russian perspective as simply ‘a different way to look at things’. Then my phone rang.

An acquaintance of mine was calling me, a person with whom I was organizing a small event. I answered the phone and automatically said: “Hi! How are you?”. And then I caught myself: I was secretly hoping she would not start telling me about all her troubles related to her aging dad! She didn’t, she just replied: “I’m ok, thanks. How are you?”. Relieved, I answered “I’m fine, busy but ok”. And then the real conversation about the event began.

So, there I was, realizing that for years I had been behaving in an insincere way, without even being aware of it!

Of course, I could argue that as long as the Italian way of asking “How are you?” is simply accepted as a norm by everyone else, then it’s ok. It doesn’t hurt anyone, does it? It is a positive demonstration that ‘I come in peace and without threat’, making the other feel welcome and safe, right? At least, the intention behind it is positive…

Who is right?

Even so, the realization of the Russians’ perspective on my ‘Italian’ behaviour gets me thinking. Who is right? The Russians with their value for straight-forward honesty, or the Italians with their value for making people feel good in their presence? Is there a right way and a wrong way? Who decides it?

Our programming

Our cultural conditioning is extremely powerful. Since our birth, like sponges we grow up absorbing values and behavioural norms that stem from the culture we live in, accepting them as right without ever questioning them. We are so unaware of these mental programming that we act on them automatically, like robots. And we are even ready to fight fiercely in order to defend what somebody else made us believe to be right.

What behaviours and ideologies are you defending with great passion? Along with your perspective, what different perspective could also be right, if you were open to look at it more deeply?

Why do collaborative economy players lack environmental communication?


High employee turnover in China is not a matter of money

This article has been used since 02.10.17 at SKEMA Business School (France) as part of ‘Intercultural Intelligence‘ (Managing Diversity) course


The widespread belief that money is the number one motivator in China has driven the strategic decisions of entire multinational organizations. One of the biggest challenges in China is high employee turnover, followed by low employee engagement. Both have an impact on productivity and costs. Since the worldwide economic crisis in 2008, organizations have been relying on the money-factor and have been increasing salaries in China in the attempt to contrast turnover and boost engagement. It is not uncommon to meet expatriate managers on a foreign contract earning much less than their Chinese peers, something that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Manufacturing costs are increasing, thus eroding competitivity and profitability. Some multinational organizations are already beginning to close down their Chinese subsidiaries and to move production elsewhere, like Adidas. How long can this system be sustained, before it implodes?


Let the data speak for itself

A study carried out in China by AON in 2012 showed an employee turnover rate of 18.9%. That year, average salaries had already increased by 9.1%. Four years later, despite continuously increasing salaries, AON’s most recent study shows that the average employee turnover went up to 20.8% in 2016, instead of going down. In some industries, turnover rate went even up to 40%.


On the other side, a study carried out by Gallup in 2012 showed that only 6% of employees were engaged, while 68% were not. Considering my experience working with Chinese and foreign leaders and teams in China, I doubt that this data has changed significantly over the past five years.

Why is employee retention still such a big challenge in China, despite the continuously increasing salaries? Maybe money is NOT the number one motivator in China?


If it’s not money, what is it?

William Wu, Vice President of Universum, an employer branding firm, states that young people in China are interested in more than just money. In an interview carried out by ClarkMorgan, a China-based management training company, William Wu explains that young Chinese employees are looking for a friendly, creative and innovative work environment where they can become more independent contributors. He says that they are interested in professional growth and development opportunities, as well as in a good work-life balance. According to Mr. Wu, all of these aspects are strong motivators for the new Chinese generation, and when they are present, money becomes less relevant in engaging and retaining talents.


Dr. Zhang Zhixue, Associate Professor of Organization Management at Guanghua School of Management, Peking University provides some thought-provoking points in an interview by Gallup Management Journal. He states that many employees leave their companies because organizations focus on performance, efficiency and effectiveness, without giving proper attention to employees personally – to their well-being, their needs, and what truly motivates them. Chinese employees are flexible, open-minded and eager to learn. Along with that, relationships and interpersonal harmony are still an important element, especially at top management levels. Another factor is that, despite being known as a collectivist culture, Chinese people have not been trained to set goals and share the workload, which impacts their individual and team performance. This is something else that Chinese employees need and want to learn. Furthermore, Chinese employees expect their leaders to be authoritative, paternalistic and decisive.

This is confirmed by a leadership survey that was carried out in China by ClarkMorgan a few years ago, which measured the qualities that Chinese employees value most in a leader. 203 managers working across China in multinational organizations answered in a way that may sound surprising to a Westerner: the number one quality was ‘Caring/Considerate’, number two ‘Powerful/Authoritative’, while number three was ‘Visionary/Strategic’. Bear in mind that ‘authoritative’ does not equal ‘authoritarian’, a forceful top down approach that many Westerners mistakenly considered the most effective leadership style in China, based on the assumption that people are used to it due to centuries of oppression.


What this looks like in practice

These aspects may sound trivial or too abstract to some. Or too theoretical. Based on my experience working with several Chinese and foreign leaders in China, I have seen the concrete positive impact generated by shifting the focus from money towards the above mentioned motivating factors. Here is an example.

One year ago a large Italian multinational organization asked me to coach an Italian General Manager, who had the task of building a subsidiary in China in partnership with a Chinese company. He needed to deal with a variety of key stakeholders, both in Italy and in China, as well as hire and develop the right management team. When we started working together he discovered the real reasons for his struggles and high stress levels, and he realized what had been preventing his team from being truly engaged and performing. He also realized how he was being perceived by his Chinese employees, as well as by the other stakeholders, and changed his approach in order to achieve different results. Here are a few highlights of what he experienced afterwards:

  • boss-ou-leader-leadershipHe recently interviewed a candidate for an additional management position, who said something astonishing to him: “Pay me whatever you want. I want to work here because of you”. This candidate had heard about the positive work environment that the General Manager had created, and was demonstrating a high level of trust and potential loyalty even before being hired.
  • Due to a governmental requirement, a certain number of people within his subsidiary must hold a specific certification in order for the company to be approved. The General Manager shared this information with his management team, expressing his feelings about the vital importance of having enough people with that certification. However, he did not make any request. To his surprise, a few weeks later some of his reports informed him that they were going through the certification process, and since then the other reports are being certified as well. These employees had taken initiative and were proactive, without the leader’s need to give any specific orders.


Reality is not always what it seems

Money is a strong driver in China. It is a fact. It is reality. (But where it is not?) Organizations have based their hiring and talent retention strategies on it. But it’s not working. Increasing salaries is not decreasing employee turnover, on the contrary, it is damaging organizations’ profitability as well as China’s economy. Without mentioning employee morale, as well as the perception of the Chinese culture in the eyes of foreigners. So is that reality true? Partially yes, although it looks like there is a parallel reality, for the ones who are willing to recognize it: China is changing rapidly, both economically and culturally. Chinese employees are eager to learn how to work with high professionalism and within a team, they are eager to develop their management and leadership skills, they are eager to contribute by blending the best of their culture and the best of Western culture, they are eager to work for leaders who care about them as a person, and guide them and their organization in a clear and decisive manner.

We already have all the answers, we know what motivates people, what makes them loyal and engaged. So what is missing then? The willingness to accept ‘this reality’ and turn it into action. Fast. If organizations want to see something change in China, they need to be willing to shift their focus and change their approach. This requires agility in thinking and acting, within management boards, HR, Learning & Development, and leaders at all management levels. Agility in questioning one’s own assumptions and changing the own behaviour, strategies and processes. That way, everyone benefits: your Chinese employees, your organization, your shareholders. Too idealistic? Try it for one year, the right way, and then we can speak again.


Cultural Analysis Of Economic Paradoxes

This article has been used since 02.10.17 at SKEMA Business School (France) as part of ‘Intercultural Intelligence‘ (Managing Diversity) course



INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION — Germany, France, Spain, Italy

At the risk of being criticized, I want to deliver my culturally based analysis of the given economic chart: here’s a perfectly noticeable difference between Latin (France, Spain, Italy) and Germanic cultures. Until 2001 there is clearly visible parallel and relatively homogeneous industrial production—whatever the economic situation through the shown period of time since 1974. Many economic and political explanations could be given to argue this relatively homogeneous and sustainable industrial development, carried out with independent currencies.

But since 2001, when the Euro entered into use, Germany masterfully kept progressing compared to the Latin group of countries. Could it be argued with different cultural attitudes and behaviors of these two cultural groups?

In addition, the picture unwittingly recalls the known belief that globally the Southern cultures have a tendency to be “more lax” than the Northern ones. Indeed, this is a very generalizing and stereotyping analysis, which should not be ubiquitously applied. Even so, this tendency/difference is visible enough in other cultural differences ‘North-South’ all over the world.


Germanic cultures

Chaos-German-style-cultural-analysis-economic-paradoxesThe “Chaos, German style” shows in a funny way a quite different approach of Germanic cultures (estimated at approximatively 30% of the EU population) from the Latin one (42%). Undoubtedly the Germans are known for their punctuality, order, effectiveness, task orientation, deadlines respect and penchant for the money saving at a state level. The same attitude may be naturally seen in Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland (particularly their German-speaking part), as well as in the Dutch part of Europe. But those are not the first values of Latin cultures.

By extrapolation and to a lesser extent, Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), originally belonging to the same cultural group and, thus, having the same ethno-cultural heritage, may be identified with a similar cultural / economic behavior. By the way, in the modern-day geographical and cultural subdivision, Scandinavia is not to be confused with Nordic countries which comprise Finland and Iceland, in addition to the three mentioned.

Interestingly, English culture has also Germanic roots in its DNA. So to an extent the modern English culture societies all over the world are supposed to be unconsciously guided by a similar behaviorism, in accordance with the anthropological theory of cultural conditioning.

Germanic Cultures




Nordic Countries


Religious influence

It is useful to notice that despite the historical division of Europe into linguistic groups, religions played a very important role in the influence of these 2 major cultural groups, without mentioning, of course, a multitude of other factors.

The Latin cultures, or Romance-speaking Europe, include mainly Catholic countries like France, Italy, Spain and Portugal (as well as those small principalities: San Marino, Vatican, Andorra and Monaco), and Orthodox ones like Romania and Moldova. To some extent Latin America (Central and South America) is considered like a sort of parallel to the European Latin group, thanks to its Neo-Latin languages spread in Central and South America. The small part of Canadian French-speaking provinces is not included in the Latin America. Thus South America has the same ethno-cultural heritage as Romance-speaking Europe.

And Germanic cultures are mainly composed of a Protestant ramification, evolved into Anglicanism (in England) and Lutheranism (representing at least ¾ in the Nordic countries). Even if today 30% of the German population are Roman Catholic (the South and West are predominantly Catholic), and only 29% are affiliated with Protestantism (the North and East are predominantly Protestant) — Germany was the source of Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther. Since XV-XVI centuries this contributed to the expansion of Protestantism among Germanic culture countries.

Todays’s Latin Countries In Europe


Latin America


Distribution of Religions Today


Map legend

Incontestably, these religious movements played a very important role in people’s conditioning, as did the languages and other multiple parameters (climate conditions, historical events, cultural mixtures, wars, etc.). Thus, Europe gave birth to 3 major religious ramifications derived from Christianity: Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy. All evolved differently and left its print in the concerned cultures along our complex history.

My perspective

As was said at the beginning, many economic and political explanations could be given to argue that homogeneous industrial development, carried out with independent currencies until 2001. In the same manner one can comment the curves’ cleavage since Euro entered into use:

  • different lobbying in Brussels which led to such a difference in industrial development;
  • EU policy privileging Germany and, therefore, softly tearing down other countries;
  • poor national politics in Spain, France and Italy (compared to Germany);
  • different national inflation within these countries, due to the different political and economic choices;
  • loss of competitiveness (which might be explained by hundreds of reasons and presuppositions);
  • more socially oriented economy and policy in Latin countries, particularly in France;
  • etc.

The above arguments are not mine, this is what one can find on a everyday basis on TV, in newspapers and magazines providing innumerable experts analysis and opinions. But I see something different in this chart, particularly when I think about the well-known Germanic quality of all their products (German cars, Swiss watches and knifes, etc.), when I analyze organization, values and attitudes within Germanic cultures which are significantly different from the Latin ones. These differences and forces of the given cultural group make me presume that cultural attitude, which is guiding a group of people in all aspects of their life, rules their economic development whatever the political conjuncture and global economy are. Some cultures, taking into account their particularities, are keener to adapt to all economic situations—with or without common currency.

By the way, among the countries mentioned in initial chart, Germany has the lowest public debt (certainly due to their economical attitude), even if the German public debt is not the lowest in the EU. So, considering that fact and the aforementioned curves, it is not surprising that the Germans don’t want to pay for the Greek debts (the first public debt in the EU) as well as for the other countries in the European Latin group.

Therefore, it seems quite interesting to me how one can explain the nowadays economic indicators, as well as numerous political and geopolitical mechanisms, which still keep being influenced by our secular cultural programming. And the most interesting above all—this programming, conditioned by secular religious history, is still guiding the 21st century’s society known for its high edge sciences, which proved the Big Bang reality and is discovering the quantum physics…

Your reflexion

  1. Has this religious division conditioned the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic countries to be more accomplished in business and, subsequently, to achieve a better economic level?
  2. Has the cultural development of the Protestant ramification given birth to a truly differently organized culture, compared to the Catholic and Orthodox (all 3 being ramifications of Christianity)?

I let everyone draw your own conclusion, bearing in mind that there is no best culture!

Do women contribute to the glass ceiling and how?

What Happens In The World?

The first time I heard that women are paid less than men it was in Germany, in the early 90’s. As an Italian, I was astonished because in my perception Germany was much more modern and open-minded compared to sexist Italy. Twenty years later, it is a fact: women earn less than men. Even though calculating the pay gap is very complex, according to the European Commission in 2013 the average gender pay gap in the EU is 16.3%, ranging from a minimum of 3.2% in Slovenia to 23% in Austria. In Germany the pay gap is 21.6 compared to 7.3 in Italy. In the US, the average gender pay gap is 17.9%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). So, not better than Europe. What about China? Researches show that Chinese women earn on average 35% less than men for similar work. Outrageous data.



How is it possible that in today’s progressive world there is still such
a discrimination towards hard-working and intelligent women?

In Saudi Arabia, the main reasons for the 20% gender pay gap are social and cultural. Men are meant to earn money outside the house, while women are expected to take care of the household. Even though the number of working women has increased due to some gender reforms introduced by the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz, so far only approximately 16% of Saudi Arabian women are working. Women’s work is not considered as valuable as men’s work, even in case of female engineers and lawyers. This results in lower salaries for women. Is this a matter of culture, misogyny, or cultural misogyny?

But let’s look at Europe. Why do women earn less than men? Even though the number of working women is much higher than in Saudi Arabia, in Italy for example you can still find many people who believe that women should actually stay at home, even though, of course, most men would deny it. The reason why so many women are working in Italy is mostly due to the fact that two salaries allow a higher standard of living, compared to having only the husband who earns money. For many Italian women that is the strongest motivation, and it has little to do with real career ambitions. Since they (are supposed to) care about their families, they often choose positions with lower responsibility, and hence the lower salary. This also applies to the average German working mothers. Part-time work opportunities are common in Germany, and many working-mothers choose that option. Of course there are exceptions.

When I was working at Daimler in Germany, my last superior was a woman. When she became pregnant with triplets she and her husband decided that he, a lawyer, would stay at home and take care of the children while she would continue her successful career, thus earning money for the family. Today she is the CEO of a Mercedes-Benz subsidiary. The gender pay gap was never an issue for her.


The Glass Ceiling

It looks like for some women the glass ceiling does not exist, while others find it impossible to break it. One question arises: do women earn less because they are paid less, or because they don’t ask for what they are worth? There is a big difference between the two. In the first case, women are paid less because someone else decides it. The employer/recruiter acts based on his own belief that women are less capable than men, or that women will be absent from work more frequently than men, and that would justify a lower pay. Or he believes that women are equal or better than men, but will accept to be paid less just to get the job. Here begins the fine line between the men’s responsibility for creating discrimination, and the women’s responsibility for allowing it to happen.

As a matter of fact, if a woman does not ask for what she is worth, or she doesn’t ask in the right way, earning less is often her own responsibility. And here is why.

I have seen at least two ways in which women unconsciously sabotage themselves when it comes to salary negotiations. For example, they pull together all their courage and ask for a higher salary, but deep inside they believe that their request will be rejected. When they eventually hear a “No”, they simply accept it and return to their desk grudgingly, thinking “I knew it”. Their own deep insecurity prevents them from considering the possibility of negotiating further or trying a different approach.

On the other side, very persistent ambitious women fail in their salary negotiations because they unconsciously create an environment for a fight. They believe they are considered outsiders in a men-dominated business world, and that they must act like men in order to be accepted in the inner circle. They enter the pay negotiation arena with the unconscious aim of challenging men and proving their value, exuding self-confidence and determination. Without being aware of it, they trigger a neurological reaction in their own and in the man’s brain, similar to what happens to two alpha-males confronting each other. That way, women don’t achieve their objective because the discussion does not remain rational, but moves to a primordial level where each party fights to demonstrate that they are more powerful than the other. Eventually, one wins, the other loses.


A Different Perspective

women-glass-ceilingIf women want to break the glass ceiling and earn what they believe they are worth, they need to view things from a different perspective. They need to shift the focus from the eternal ‘men-women social battle’ to a purely commercial point of view. The primary purpose of organizations is to sell products and services that customers want to buy, thus generating profits for the shareholders. Organizations can be considered clients who are looking for a high quality professional, who can help them solve a specific problem, in order to generate those profits.

Let’s say that a company is facing the problem of opening a manufacturing plant in China, and is looking for a General Manager who has a good network of relationships in that market and knows how to manage the various local and global stakeholders. That would allow the company to speed up the process and begin operations within, let’s say, six months instead of one or two years. Considering what that would mean in terms of revenues, market share and competitive advantage, the salary paid to the General Manager becomes a minor issue. If the company trusts that the person is right for that position, no matter whether it’s a man or woman, they will do anything to hire and retain that talent. At this point, the salary negotiation will simply have the purpose of finding a mutual agreement between equal partners: a company (the client) that wants the precious support of the right professional, and a professional who wants to provide her valuable contribution to the client for the right amount of money. The same applies to a comparingly simple business as a bakery. If the bakery hires a new baker who is capable of producing such delicious bread that the amount of customers and revenues doubles within a few months, a subsequent increase in salary for the now invaluable baker can be reasonably justified.


A Conscious Choice

Even though in many cases salary discrimination is a fact, women need to become aware of two things: 1) how they unconsciously contribute to the problem themselves, for example by believing that they are disadvantaged, and thus playing small or approaching the salary negotiation with a defence-attack mechanism, and 2) that they have a choice. Women can choose to focus their energy on feeling like victims, being upset and fighting against the unfair system, hoping that someone else (organizations, men, etc.) will rescue them and bring justice. Or they can choose to break the pattern by viewing themselves as intelligent, capable and equal partners who can help a company to achieve their goals. Being an equal partner does not mean that women should behave like men, but rather that they themselves recognize their own unique invaluable talents and characteristics, and utilise them consciously and constructively, in synergy with the people they work with (men and women), always keeping an eye on the realistic commercial contribution of their work.

Even so, let’s bear in mind that this does not apply to all women and every situation. In several jobs salaries are strictly regulated, equal, and are not subject to any negotiation, no matter whether you are a man or a woman. And sometimes the boss is a woman. In such cases the negotiation depends on the whole range of social, professional and personal settings of that female decision maker.

What is the right strategy to win a tender and why?

A recent post in HBR France reports an interesting and very realistic fact:

according to research, a firm answering to a request for tender has almost no chance to win it.

It is hard to tell whether it applies to both the private and public sectors all over the world, but still… From my own experience in France, Spain and Russia (as well as other ex-soviet countries) the fact is undeniable: bidding a tender is in 90% of cases a loss of time. And the list of countries where this rule applies may be much longer.

So is it necessarily corruption? Based on experience one could say “yes, of course”. Even if this French article argues with a really prosaic reason, which appears to be quite true as well, and even somehow useful, as it was a strategical weapon in the competitive globalisation.

Accompany the client in his problem’s conceptualization…

right-strategy-to-win-tenderFrequently, the issuer of a tender (potential client) is already in a relationship with a supplier, who is often a favourite one. This supplier / provider very often helps the client to technically formulate the tender and even sets his tendering service. And, what is most important, at the very beginning, the existing provider helps the client to become aware of the issue / need that the client is experiencing. This allows the client to identify a problem they wouldn’t detect on their own without being facilitated. This is a positive / useful way of functioning.

According to the French author of the article, there is only one reason to bid: if you are almost certain to be able to interfere between the client and his current provider and to change things…  So, in the global competitive war for the contracts, the logical and strategic chain to get the job is:

  • build a relationship with your potential client
  • make the client aware of an existing issue
  • orientate him towards a few directions to solve it
  • organise the tender
  • participate in it
  • or simply skip the two previous steps and get the contract

Even more! The share of technology transfer between a supplier and a customer is estimated at 25%, even if the supplier is not retained in the end. Meaning: in addition to the lost time and energy, the supplier loses 1/4 of its strategic knowledge to the client’s benefit, who neither acknowledges it nor thanks for it.

That’s why it is strategically important to be upstream in order to wisely guide the client and win the contract. To some extent, this is an intelligence specializing in soft power in order to cause sales. But then: what is marketing? And what is competitive intelligence? Doesn’t a somehow aggressive soft power do exactly the same?


Even if…

LOLsometimes a provider could be a friend, and even a very close one. In this configuration the friend gets the contract without any tender. However, if the process of tendering is mandatory, eventually the friend’s bid turns out to be the best… And this doesn’t happen only to Russia and in the ex-soviet republics, if you know what I mean…



© Feri Latief


© ?

Palm oil is an ingredient in thousands of products we use every day — shampoo, snack food, toothpaste, chocolate, detergent, breakfast cereals… In the nutshell, it is used in virtually everything (link 1, link 2). But palm oil means forest destruction.

Every year, thousands of hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforest and peatlands — some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, delivering 85% of the world’s palm oil — are being destroyed to make way for new palm oil plantations.

In just the last 20 years 90% of orangutan habitat has already been destroyed in the name of the cheaply produced palm oil. And it is not even healthy food. It is bad for the heart. And this is not to mention too many people of 3.5 milion working in that industry suffer sever human rights abuses.



Check the tag, if the products you are buying contain palm oil — DON’T BUY IT — this is the best way to reverse the damn cycle.



Some Advice to Theresa May on Dealing with Russia



© Sven Prim | www.svenprim.com

The below article was written in early September 2016 (two months after Theresa May became the Prime Minister) by a British consultant in cultural intelligence from London. A year and half earlier I translated (into French) his highly relevant and realistic analysis on the Ukrainian conflict.

Upon reading this quite independent and non-instrumentalized Western perspective (and until very recently European too), it seemed to me interesting and useful to share it with my French and Russian  readers. The author was actually relying on Anthony Brenton’s post (former British ambassador to Russia) in The Telegraph.

How Theresa May can facilitate and improve the relationship with Vladimir Putin, utilising the basic cultural knowledge, discordant with global political correctness? This analysis, based on cultural elucidation of the Russian mentality is obviously not complete, given the brevity of the article. As such, I bring to your attention to avoid any kind of hasty judgments, as an article of just 800 words cannot capture an entire culture. In addition, this post is not really a subject to a sociological analysis.



Why people are (always) looking for a new job?

Despite the fact that this is an American study of 2014, we can easily guess that this tendency keeps rising and may be applied to every country. What might it tell us sociologically speaking?


Over half or maybe even three-fourths of the population in the nowadays “modern & globalized” world is not satisfied and undergo constant discomfort in their professional environment:

  • under-appreciated,
  • stressed-out,
  • overworked (which hardly concerns the French workers with the 35-hour work week),
  • underpaid,
  • bad work-life balance,
  • no career advancement,
  • glass ceiling (essentially for women).

In fact, few people really fit into the existing system. So, should we possibly start thinking differently?

Instead of that, thousands of articles are popping up on the web about “Why You SHOULD ALWAYS Be Looking For A New Job“ and “what to say to the new employer about why you are (constantly…) looking for a new job”. This is so American…

And in some countries, if you change jobs too often, headhunters will tell you “You are not stable”. No, really?

Sorry for this well-worn reflection, but what is going on in this so-called “not perfect but the best ever coined economic system”—capitalism? Will people one day wake up and realize we need to rethink and modernize the system, based on the ownership of the capital as the highest meaning of life, theorized and implemented more than 250 years ago?

Bloody money. Always more. No limits. I’m not promoting communism. If someone works more or has better skills, it is normal he or she earns more. But what normal person who has millions, for instance, may need even more? Who may need one billion? What for?

I don’t think egalitarianism is good or even possible in human society. Even in the animal world there are hierarchy and adjacent rights. But this blind race for money (capital) destroys the human race from the inside and everything that surrounds us at the same time!

The new trend of the sharing economy and socially responsible management is trying to bring a new business approach to people, but is it enough for a global change in our capital-based society? Do you have anything to say in your defense, Ladies and Gentlemen capitalists?


What value is most important to people in each country?


What Matters Most to People Around the World

Have you ever wondered how each country contributes to forming your beliefs about what’s important in life? More than 80,000 people from around the world expressed their opinions on what they value most in life and this infographic map shows their No.1 priorities in almost every country in the world.




The data above has been collected on a continuous basis by OECD Better Life Index since 2011. To date there are over 60,000 responses from over 180 countries.

Interestingly, most developed nations, including USA, Canada, Western and Central European as well as Nordic countries tend to value life satisfaction and health most, countries that on the happy planet index did not rate quite as high as those in Central and South America. Why do you think is this?

South America, on the other hand is the continent where education is by far the top priority in life. Is it the low disposable income that encourages people to view education as means of succeeding in life, is it cultural or is it maybe something else?

In Europe, the vast majority of countries value life satisfaction and health most. It’s quite interesting that people from countries that are placed close to each other tend to have the same priorities. In fact, only a few Eastern European countries have different priorities compared to the rest. Only Slovenia and Georgia put the environment as their top priority on the list. Romania is the only country that values education more than anything else and Albania and Ukraine consider income to be most important. Moldova is also the only country to consider jobs most important.

Surprisingly, Monaco residents are primarily concerned with their safety, as are the respondents from United Arab Emirates and Japan. Australia is perhaps one of the very few developed nations that puts the work-life balance as their top priority.

There may be quite a number of patterns to explore in this map and a number of explanations for why people from different countries pursue different things. Why are people from different countries have different priorities?