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Community WELLNESS

A Conversation on Gender Inequality with Arianna Huffington


We are honored and thrilled to feature the ultimate boss woman, the incredible co-founder of The HuffPost, founder of Thrive and author of fifteen books (yes, you heard that right!) Arianna Huffington! We welcome Arianna to the Bene by Nina blog today to discuss how she addressed gender bias + inequality and the role of wellness in the workplace. You won’t want to miss out on this enthralling insight from this powerhouse!

Nina Westbrook: You are the co-founder of the Huffington Post, founder and CEO of Thrive, and the author of 15 books. Needless to say, you’re incredibly successful! What inspired you to address gender bias and inequality in the workplace? Were there turning points in your own professional journey that opened your eyes to how important this discussion is? 

Arianna Huffington: Like most women, I’ve been on the receiving end of behaviors that contribute to an atmosphere that makes it more difficult for women to be heard — things like being called “shrill” for voicing an opinion that would be called “bold” if a male did it.

Environments like this result in women being afraid of expressing themselves. Or even trying at all. It’s an internalized censorship of ambition. Which is all the worse because now more than ever, real leadership is too rare and too valuable to limit the pool.

NW: Another topic you address is the important role wellness and self-care play within our careers, which is something I’m constantly promoting! You’ve mentioned that the “always on” or burnout culture of our nation can actually fuel the gender gap. Do you feel women are less likely to prioritize their well-being than men when trying to “reach the top” of their industry? What are 2 – 3 ways women can combat this in their everyday lives? 

AH: It’s not that women are necessarily less likely to prioritize their well-being, it’s that many workplaces are still fueled by a culture of machismo. This becomes a backdoor way of excluding women or making it harder for them to advance. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, when the domestic burden of childcare and virtual school falls disproportionately on women, far too many women still feel like they have to choose between being successful at work and being successful in other parts of their lives. 

First, women need to get rid of the idea that they can “do it all,” and especially that they have to do it all perfectly. That simply sets us up to be susceptible to what I call the obnoxious roommate that lives in our heads, that voice of self-doubt and self-judgment.

The times when that voice comes out the most is when we’re depleted and exhausted and running on empty. That’s why it’s especially important that women prioritize their own well-being and not feel guilty about it. It’s not selfish — to the contrary, it’s the way to be at our best for all of our other responsibilities.

The foundation of Thrive’s behavior change platform is Microsteps — small, science-backed steps we can start taking immediately to build healthier habits that improve our lives.

Here are five of my favorite Microsteps that women (and men, too) can take to prioritize their well-being:

1. Pick a time at night when you turn off your devices — and gently escort them out of your bedroom! Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our inboxes, the demands of the day. So charging our devices in another room allows us to wake-up as recharged as our phones.

2. When you wake up, don’t start your day by looking at your phone. Instead, take 60 seconds — one minute — to breathe deeply, remember what you’re grateful for or set your intention for the day.

3. Neuroscience shows that we can course-correct from stress in as little as 60 to 90 seconds. And we can do this by focusing on our breath, which activates our parasympathetic nervous system, lowering our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The Navy SEALS use a stress reduction method called “box breathing.” All you have to do is inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and exhale for a count of four.

4. Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed your to-do list — and most women have endless to-do lists! But effectively prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions, knowing we’ve handled the day’s essential priorities. By taking the time to recharge, we’ll be more ready to take on the next day’s challenges.

5. One way to create a new healthy habit is through what researchers call “habit stacking,” which is to attach a new habit onto an existing one. This is how I do my favorite combo-Microstep: every time I brush my teeth, I think of three things I’m grateful for. Gratitude is one of our most powerful emotions, and the science shows it helps lower stress and anxiety. Practicing gratitude while brushing your teeth is an easy way to bring the amazing benefits of gratitude into your life without requiring any more from an already busy day.

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