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October 2019
« Aug    


The Women at Work Survey

Posted by: Alex Linley & Nicky Garcea


Following on from Female Leaders Month on The Capp Blog, in August we launched Capp’s Women at Work Survey – and if you’re a working woman, we’d love to invite your participation. You can still access the Women at Work Survey here.


We are interested in understanding more about why as a woman you do what you do at work, your achievements, your career progression and role models, the advice you may need, your learning and the legacy you would want to see for other women.


As a thank you to all the women who complete the Women at Work Survey, we will enter you into our prize draw for an iPad 3 or three runner up prizes of a Spa Day. We will also give all our respondents a sneak preview of our findings and results before they are published more widely.


Thank you – we’re keen to collect responses from as diverse a working female population as possible – so please pass on this invitation to your female colleagues, friends and family as widely as possible.


We appreciate it!

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Remembering Mothers on Father’s Day

Posted by: Alex Linley


Today in the UK, and many other countries around the world, we celebrate Father’s Day, a day that always brings me mixed emotions. Yes, it’s entirely right that we should celebrate, and be grateful for, the critical role that fathers play in the lives of their children.


But  I, for one – and I suspect I speak on behalf of many fathers when I say this – could not do what I do without the support, wisdom and encouragement of my wife, and mother to our four children.


So, here’s to you, Jenny Linley, and all the other wives, partners and mothers who are so often the linchpins of family life all around the world.

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Courage in Women and Entrepreneurs (Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener, Part 2)

Posted by: Alex Linley


To mark the UK release of his latest fascinating book, The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver, I caught up again with the “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology”, long time friend and Capp collaborator, Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener. In this second interview, we focused our attention on how courage manifests, and what might be different about it, in both women and entrepreneurs. See below for what Robert has to say about the findings from his research for The Courage Quotient:


AL: In your research on courage, did you find differences in the courage expressed by men and women?


RBD: I think that most people tend to believe that courage – at least stereotypically- is largely the domain of men. Fables, myths and modern movies all favour a fairly macho action-hero style of bravery. But movies such as Erin Brokovich, about a determined whistleblower, suggests that there is a place at the table for women as well. While researching The Courage Quotient I found a number of studies that suggest that women perform bravery as well as – and sometimes better than - their male counterparts. For instance, women are more likely to donate organs and are more likely to serve in risky overseas volunteer positions. It may be that men are placed more frequently in positions that require physical bravery – indeed, men overwhelmingly outnumber women in the military, police forces and in fire departments - but women do well with moral and social forms of bravery. [AL notes: We know from our work with the Fire Service that part of this difference is a result of different physical requirements in the role, which can be difficult, but not impossible, to surmount.]


AL: Why do you think this is? What impact does this have on male and female stereotypes in society do you think?


RBD: Men, because of their larger average size and access to testosterone, have long been at the centre of action especially when that action has been physical. In addition, wars and other physical feats tend to make for good narratives, so stories ranging from epic poems to modern movies tend to lionize the stereotypical form of male bravery. We tend to overlook that women have long been brave, but that women’s bravery has historically been outside of the battlefield. Women have spoken up as courageous advocates and often been the defenders of values. You see modern examples ranging from Benazir Bhutto to Mother Theresa to Maria Montessori. But it is more common that we overlook female forms of bravery because either 1) we do not agree with the values they espouse, or 2) their actions are often less “flashy” than those on the battlefield; taking the form of discussion, passing laws, and pioneering new fields.


AL: What about courage in organisations? Do you think that women need to use courage differently to men in order to succeed in organisational leadership?


RBD: I think that women – especially those in leadership – need to start thinking about themselves as courageous. I am not sure that it matters that their courage is similar to or different from male courage. What I really think matters is that female leaders truly accept the mantle of bravery. In many ways, women have an additional burden in the workplace. It is no secret that women shoulder a disproportionate amount of household and childcare responsibilities, that women are more likely to take time off following childbirth and that women in leadership work against the grain of a traditionally male-centric position. This means, in many ways, that women have to be able to advocate for themselves, speak boldly, and take risks. They will be scrutinized differently and are more prone to have life outside of work interfere with work. At every turn, I see potential for women leaders to bring bravery to the table.


AL: How about courage and entrepreneurship? Did you find that entrepreneurs demonstrate a particular type of courage?


RBD: I am particularly fascinated by entrepreneurship.  I have a hunch that those who have an entrepreneurial spirit are actually genetically wired a bit different and are more prone to be extroverted and risk taking. To make the leap into starting up a business, I believe that people also have to be possessed of a certain degree of optimism and self-confidence. It is an interesting case where multiple strengths might converge to create a new meta-strength (let’s just label it “entrepreneurialism”). I think we can learn much from small business owners and those who jump from start-up to start-up. They likely have a very high tolerance for uncertainty and a very high level of confidence that they can handle new situations and even small mistakes and failures. I think the entrepreneurial mindset is a terrific test case for courage.


AL: Based on your findings, do you think anyone can develop the courage to be an entrepreneur?


RBD: I would like to be able to say “yes, anyone can develop courage.” Even the sub-title of my book is “How science can make you braver.” I do believe that - that people have the ability to overcome personal limitations and learn skills around emotion management and other techniques that can make one braver. I might stop short at claiming we can turn someone into an entrepreneur though. Entrepreneurs happen to have a values-based mission that makes taking a risk seem worthwhile. They tend to have an optimistic disposition such that they believe that their idea will become a success. Finally, they have a huge tolerance for uncertainty and can thrive in an anxious state that causes other people to freeze up. Rather than trying to radically transform someone into an entrepreneur I would recommend the strengths strategy that I have often heard from Capp: collaboration and complementary strengths partnerships. If a person is weak in one area, I believe they can counteract this weakness by collaborating with someone for whom it is a natural strength. That is, generally speaking, a good message about courage. Courage need not be an individual phenomenon. We tend to be a little braver and a little less inhibited when we are in groups and when we get support.


AL: Finally, a big question for us to conclude with, what would you like to see people achieve with courage in the 21st century?


RBD: I love this question! I think of courage as being the shortest route to the good life. I think a full and engaged life includes risks and even occasional small failures. In the coming years we will collectively be faced with a number of challenges related to the environment, the structure of capitalism, and ethnic, religious and political conflicts. I believe that it is courage that allows individuals, groups and communities to stand up and demand change, to work for reform, and to make the big changes. I think the courageous leaders of successful movements, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., are terrific examples of how we have to be willing to take personal risks to make worthwhile change.


Thank you, Robert. As regular readers of The Capp Blog will be aware, Robert has been a diligent responder to your comments and questions. Please let us know any more by using the Comment box below!

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Get Along or Get Ahead? The Gendered Implications of Being Nice

Posted by: Alex Linley


Women are in a “no win” situation. If they are agreeable (as women are stereotypically expected to be), they are less likely to speak up for themselves, and more likely to risk being exploited and taken advantage of by others. If they are disagreeable, they are viewed more negatively by their peers – because they are violating the gender norms that (whether we like it or not) exist for women, but that exist in reverse for men (who are more expected to be disagreeable).


These are the politically inconvenient facts as demonstrated by Tim Judge and colleagues in a recent paper that examined the impact of sex and agreeableness on income. If you’re nice (i.e., agreeable), you earn less, whether you’re male or female. If you’re nice and you’re female, ouch, you earn less than anyone.


The six facets of agreeableness – trust, straightforwardness, altruism, modesty, compliance and tender-mindedness – give a good idea of what this personality trait is about. If you’re high in agreeableness, you’re a stereotypical “nice person”. If you’re low in agreeableness, you’re not. You might think that less agreeable people are the “jerks” (the most polite alternative I could find to the usual word) of organisational folklore, but in fact this doesn’t have to be the case.


In reality, less agreeable people who are more successful, simply tend to be less agreeable at certain times and in certain situations. For example, they are much more prepared to make the case for themselves when they need to (such as in pay negotiations), as opposed to going along with others and accepting the status quo in order to keep relationships harmonious.


The net difference: less agreeable people (or at least people prepared to be less agreeable in pay negotiations) are more likely to negotiate higher salaries and so have higher incomes. And on balance, they are more likely to be men.


As a result, we might conclude that if you want to be less agreeable (at least in certain circumstances), you should choose actively to:

  1. Stand up for yourself and your own interests (rather than accepting the status quo or avoiding anything that could upset others or cause conflict).
  2. Value individual achievement (at least slightly more than you value time with family and friends).
  3. Make decisions that are based on your own competitive individual success (rather than maintaining harmony and pleasing the people around you). 

Easy, right? Change your behaviour in this way and the world is your oyster.


Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as this. How people evaluate you is based as much on the other person’s gender expectations, as it is on your own behaviour. This led Judge and colleagues to conclude: “Closing the gender gap seems to hinge less on changing women’s behavior than it does on changing the minds of decision makers” (p. 405).


With such a complex web of factors at play, the only sure thing is that there are no easy answers or simple prescriptions for what to do.


Nonetheless, here are my recommendations for how you can both get along and get ahead:

  1. If in doubt, be nice. Being nice builds favour power – and you then just need to remember when to call those favours in.
  2. Be prepared to be less nice – and even not nice – when you need to be, and when you judge it’s appropriate.
  3. Be clear about what you want and why you want it. Agreeable people are more likely to value relationships over success, and there is nothing wrong with this – as long as you recognise that this means you’re likely to earn less, and you accept the consequences.
  4. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and be unpopular on the occasions, and in the situations, that warrant it. People will respect you more – as long as you get the balance right and choose your situations wisely.

So, while it certainly isn’t easy, there are strategies you can adopt to ensure that, nice or less nice, male or female, you can both get along and get ahead.



Judge, T. A., Livingston, B. A., & Hurst, C. (2012). Do nice guys – and gals – really finish last? The joint effects of sex and agreeableness on income. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 390-407.

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Celebrating Women’s Strengths on International Women’s Day

Posted by: Nicky Garcea, Alex Linley & Celine Jacques


To mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strengths of women everywhere, and especially the 90 women included in The Strengths Book Hall of Fame, whom we are proud to list below:


Action – Angelina Jolie & Freya Stark

Adherence – Queen Elizabeth II & Vanessa Mae

Adventure – Louise Arner Boyd & Valentina Tereshkova

Authenticity – Cheryl Cole

Bounceback – Paula Radcliffe & Wilma Rudolph

Catalyst – Whitney Houston

Centred – Vera Lynn

Change Agent – Germaine Greer & Beverly Naidoo

Compassion – Diana, Princess of Wales & Mary Seacole

Competitive – Billie Jean King

Connector – Julie Pankhurst & Therese Prentice

Counterpoint – Rachel Carson & Vivienne Westwood

Courage – Aung San Suu Kyi & Harriet Tubman

Creativity – Tracy Emin & Beatrix Potter

Curiosity – Marie Curie

Detail – Zaha Hadid & Arlene Phillips

Drive – Amelia Earhart & Margaret Thatcher

Efficacy – Joan of Arc & Oprah Winfrey

Emotional Awareness – Kiran Desai & Karen Horney

Empathic Connection – Esther Rantzen

Enabler – Maria Montessori

Equality – Emmeline Pankhurst & Eleanor Roosevelt

Esteem Builder – Jane Addams

Explainer – Susan Greenfield & Delia Smith

Feedback – Marva Collins

Gratitude – Halle Berry

Growth – Florence Bascom

Humility – Susan Boyle

Humour – Tina Fey, Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders

Improver – Mary Anderson & Elizabeth Fry

Incubator – Dorothy Hodgkin

Innovation – Jacqueline Gold & Mary Kies

Judgement – Sandra Day O’Connor

Legacy – Wangari Muta Maathai

Listener – Xian Zhang

Mission – Camila Batmanghelidjh & Anita Roddick

Moral Compass – Rosa Parks

Narrator – J.K. Rowling

Optimism – Anne Frank & Barbara Windsor

Order – Betty Boothroyd, Kim Woodburn & Aggie MacKenzie

Persistence – Ellen MacArthur & Cha Sa-Soon

Personal Responsibility – Irena Sendler

Personalisation – Katharine Cook Briggs

Persuasion – Karren Brady

Planful – Marina Raskova

Prevention – Kylie Minogue & Stella Rimington

Pride – Judi Dench & Donatella Versace

Rapport Builder – Mo Mowlam

Reconfiguration – Madonna

Relationship Deepener – Yang Wan

Resilience – Helen Keller & Jane Tomlinson

Resolver – Violeta Chamorro & Marjorie Proops

Scribe – Jane Austen & Alice Walker

Self-awareness – Kate Adie

Service – Clara Barton & Florence Nightingale

Spotlight – Shirley Bassey

Strategic Awareness – Catherine II (the Great) & Marjorie Scardino

Time Optimiser – Lilian Gilbreth & Ruth Lawrence

Unconditionality – Mata Amritanandamayi & Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Work Ethic – Mary Robinson & Queen Victoria


To discover more about these strengths heroines, and to find out why we selected them as exemplars of these strengths, please see The Strengths Book and explore the Hall of Fame. At Capp, we are discovering unique insights into women’s strengths and how they can make the most of them. Watch out for more on this topic in our future blog postings.


Who would you add to our list of female strengths heroines, and why? This could be someone close to you, or it could be someone more well-known in the wider world. Share your thoughts on The Capp Blog.

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