Chitra Ragavan

Chitra Ragavan

How the Warmth vs. Competence Gender Dichotomy Shaped the Fani Willis Misconduct Hearing

Listen to Chitra’s interview with Ron Roberts on The Ron Show. Last week, I wrote a piece published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution headlined, “As Fani Willis shows, dominant, ambitious women leaders pay price.” In it, I argued that it is true that Willis, the District Attorney from Fulton County, Georgia, likely committed a significant ethical mistake in hiring Nathan Wade as special prosecutor in the Trump case, despite their romantic entanglement. It also is likely true that Willis was targeted as a prominent and aggressive Black female prosecutor attempting to bring to justice one of the most powerful and seemingly untouchable men in the world, election-denying former President Donald J. Trump and his merry band of cronies and enablers from the Republican Party. I wrote the piece in light of the evidentiary hearing held on Feb. 15 by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee. At issue was whether to remove Willis from the Trump election interference case she was prosecuting because of the allegations of misconduct filed by one of Trump’s co-defendants. Willis testified angrily and combatively for two hours, defending her reputation, describing the allegations as “lies, lies, lies,” and reminding the court that it was Trump and not she who was under trial. Willis has argued that the allegations are another smokescreen to hide the former president’s criminal conduct. The criminal case is one of four Trump is confronting and one of the most sprawling and complex, with a novel legal theory that he and 18 co-defendants took part in a sweeping criminal enterprise to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections and stay in power, despite losing the elections to President Joe Biden. My opinion piece got a lot of responses on social media. Ron Roberts, host of “The Ron Show,” (link at the end of this post) also invited me on his podcast on Atlanta’s progressive audio platform on AmericaOne Radio, to explore the question of whether there truly is a double standard in the workplace that judges women differently than men. The answer is an unequivocal “yes!” As I said in my opinion piece, the hearing came on the heels of a new research study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon that shows that while men benefit from networking with high-status people, women lose status in the eyes of their colleagues and damage their careers. Why? The study’s authors wrote, “People typically don’t like dominant and ambitious female leaders.” Willis can certainly attest to that. The authors also point to sobering but unsurprising statistics that women “continue to be underrepresented in the highest echelons of business and government.” I spoke about the study’s conclusion last week at a long overdue lunch with a friend, Christopher Graves, former global chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations and now, founder of The Resonance Code. Graves is one of the preeminent behavioral science researchers in the world. He has created a unique way to decode the human hard-wiring that prevents critical messaging (for example, vaccine adoption, climate change, or gun control) from reaching target audiences, whether through ads or public health messaging. Over lunch, Graves introduced me to some essential behavioral science research and concepts, which I’d like to share with you, foremost by the legendary Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University who has spent decades doing landmark research studying how “stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are encouraged or discouraged by social relationships, such as cooperation, competition, and power.” Central to Fiske’s research is her work on how “two crucial dimensions of social cognition,” warmth and competence, affect men and women differently in life, work and society. “Susan Fiske’s research reveals that we assess others across two axes: warmth and competence. Warmth is accessibility and likeability,” Graves said. “From an evolutionary stance, warmth takes primacy over competence because before we stick around to find out how competent you are, we need to know if you are an enemy or a friend.” To put it simply, for the caveman bent on survival, warmth and competence determined whether human A was likely to kill human B and whether A had the competence to do so. In dozens of studies, Fiske and many of her behavioral science colleagues and compatriots have determined that that hardwired dichotomy continues to manifest every day in society and the workforce in how men and women are perceived, hired, promoted, rewarded, and positioned for influence. “Warmth alone isn’t enough. It is the hapless bungler. Competence without warmth, at its extreme, is the evil scientist or Bond villain,” says Graves. “So the big win is scoring highly on warmth and competence. But there is a gender divide on how this works which comes to the detriment of competent women leaders and professionals.” Fiske and others have uncovered that a man who is perceived to be competent can also be perceived as warm despite no evidence to that effect. But, when a woman is perceived to be competent, “warmth and competence become a zero-sum game,” says Graves. “That is, a woman perceived to be competent is unfairly also seen as incapable of being warm. So she will be labeled “bossy” or “hard-edged” or a “b–ch.” In her blog, Musings on Media, Tech and Leadership, digital advertising expert Cecile Blanc wrote an article in 2020, titled, “The warmth/competence matrix for women, from the West Wing to the workplace.” Blanc notes how this matrix is pervasive including in pop culture. Blanc noted that some of the central West Wing male characters, for instance, “exhibit borderline antisocial behaviours, but all are leadership material. Their lack of warmth can be compensated by competence.” For the female characters, however, she says “a lack of warmth cannot be compensated by more competence or the other way around.” They are portrayed as cold, incompetent, or powerless. In their 2009 research paper, “Warmth, competence, and ambivalent sexism: Vertical assault and collateral damage.” Harvard psychology professor Mina Cikara and Fiske opened with examples of how presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was skewered

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Stanley Alpert Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 14 — A federal prosecutor kidnapped at gunpoint fights for his survival and discovers what’s truly important in life / Stanley Alpert, Environmental Lawyer and Author. Federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was enjoying the cold January New York air as he walked to his Greenwich Village home when he felt the gun pressing into his back and realized he was being held up for money. But what started out as an armed robbery quickly turned into a kidnapping when the thugs learned of Alpert’s significant bank balance. In an instant, the prosecutor’s plans to spend his 38th birthday the next day with his family and friends changed dramatically. So did his life priorities. Alpert’s goal: Convincing his captors to let him go and learning enough to put them behind bars if he survived the ordeal. For the next 25 hours, as he was held hostage and his captors tried to empty his bank accounts and max out his credit cards, Alpert made some strategic and tactical decisions that convinced his captors to let him go. In the process, Alpert learned some vital lessons about himself. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra Ragavan:   Hello, and welcome to When it Mattered. A podcast on how leaders are forged in critical moments and how they overcome adversity. I’m Chitra Ragavan. This episode is brought to you by Goodstory, an advisory firm helping technology startups find their narrative. My guest today is Stanley Alpert, an environmental lawyer, among other positions in his distinguished career, Alpert served for 13 years as a successful federal prosecutor handling environmental cases for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Eastern District of New York. Chitra Ragavan:   On the eve of his 38th birthday, Alpert was kidnapped near his Greenwich Village home, and held captive for than 24 hours. He was lucky to released but not before his captors got his ATM password and withdrew large sums of cash from several banks. Alpert wrote a memoir about the incident and what it taught him, called The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival Chitra Ragavan:   Stanley, welcome to the podcast. Stanley Alpert:   Thank you for having me, Chitra. Chitra Ragavan:   So this was on cold January night in 1998, and you were walking to your house in Greenwich Village and you were in a really good mood. Stanley Alpert:   I sure was. I just met a young woman on the train. We’d gone and found some chocolate chip cookies. I got my box, and she got hers, and she went upstairs to go to her apartment and then I walked up the street going towards mine, and that’s when my life changed. Chitra Ragavan:   What happened? Stanley Alpert:   As I got to the corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, I felt a tug on my elbow. I spun around, there was an automatic machine pistol in my gut. Two men behind me with guns. They pushed me into the street into a car, and shut me in the car. They demanded my personal information, my bank information, my name, et cetera. And then they drove me to the bank where they began to withdraw my money. Chitra Ragavan:   Tell me a little bit about who these guys were. What did they look like, what did they sound like, what information were you able to get in those frenetic first moments? I’m sure you were terrified? Stanley Alpert:   I was absolutely terrified. It was a shock and I purposely kept my eyes down toward my knees in the car because I did not want them to think that I was looking at them, so I got only the barest glimpses of them. They were three young men, very agitated, very excited. The leader of the gang, who went by the street name of Lucky, had a very professional air about him. He spoke well. He demanded all my information, so he could take the money out of the machine. Stanley Alpert:   So they drove me to the bank and they asked me how much money I had, and I told them I had $110,000 in my savings account. And even though I was a federal prosecutor who did not make the most money one can make as a lawyer in New York, I had dutifully saved $110,000. I was really a saver in those days. Planning for the future, which is good, but I had planned a little too well and there was my money, sitting in the bank, waiting for these gangsters to take it. Chitra Ragavan:   You didn’t invest the money in the stock market, I guess? You kept it in your saving account? Stanley Alpert:   Yeah, well that was one of the many foolish things I was doing at that time in my life. And for some reason, I felt a sense of security. I think it probably came from my father’s depression era mentality. Somehow it felt a sense of security just keeping in a savings account and have it available in case of an emergency. Chitra Ragavan:   I want to backtrack a bit before we continue this story. Now, you grew up in rough and tumble Brooklyn long before New York underwent this giant scrub under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and you’d been held up for money many times before on the train and on the street and you’d always survived. Tell me a little bit about that time. I mean, you were a tough kid, not easily afraid. Stanley Alpert:   Each of us is formed by our circumstances. Each of us is formed by the environment into which we are brought into, which we are raised. And the environment into which I was raised, which I didn’t choose for myself, was one in which, when you walked the street you could expect that there would be other young men, a little bit older than you, who’d come up

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Dr. Robert Pearl Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 10 — A father’s death from a medical mistake propels his son to tackle the most serious problems in our healthcare system / Dr. Robert Pearl, former CEO, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group. Dr. Robert Pearl went to college to learn philosophy. But when his favorite professor was denied tenure, Dr. Pearl veered towards a career in cardiac surgery, naively believing it was devoid of politics. But his naivety was short-lived. Pearl says he quickly became disillusioned by the inequalities he discovered in his specialty and profession. He shifted course again and became a plastic surgeon, finding a renewed passion for medicine after he went to Mexico to help children with cleft lips and cleft palates. Later offered a chance to lead Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Pearl describes how he sacrificed his love of surgery to rescue the nation’s largest medical group from its dire predicament (when he took over as CEO, the group had just two days left of cash reserves, in violation of California regulations, which required three). In the process of turning the company around, Pearl realized with a shock just how broken the U.S. healthcare system really is today and how much effort it will take to set it right. Pearl’s disillusionment came full circle when his father died from long-term complications from an easily preventable medical mistake. And he began to grasp the financial, emotional, and social toll that medical mistakes cause, including 200,000 deaths annually. Pearl shares how he took his father’s death to heart and vowed to spend the remainder of his time as CEO of Kaiser Permanente and beyond solving some of these seemingly intractable problems. In concluding this compelling saga of the education of an American doctor, Pearl mentions some striking examples of companies such as Amazon that are trying to solve the healthcare dilemma. And he describes how he is continuing his mission and passion to transform U.S. healthcare today in his third career as an author, professor, and public speaker. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra Ragavan:   Hello, and welcome to When it Mattered. I’m Chitra Ragavan. On this episode, we will be talking to Dr. Robert Pearl. He’s the former CEO of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, the nation’s largest medical group. He also serves as a clinical professor of plastic surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, and is on the faculty of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Chitra Ragavan:   Dr. Pearl is the author of the bestselling book, Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Healthcare – and Why We’re Usually Wrong. Robert, welcome to the podcast. Robert Pearl :   Thank you very much for having me. Chitra Ragavan:   How did you enter the field of medicine? Did you always want to be a doctor? Robert Pearl :   I went to college to become a university professor. I expected to be a teacher of philosophy, but the professor that I thought was the best didn’t get tenure, not because he wasn’t excellent at the field, he ultimately became the chairman at Reed, but because of his political views. And I decided I didn’t want to go into something that would be based on politics; and in the naivety of a 20-year-old, I thought it would be medicine. Robert Pearl :   When people learn about my career, the CEO of actually the nation’s largest medical group, and thinking that I was going into it to avoid politics, they often laugh. But that’s how I saw it; it was life and death, and why should politics come into the middle? And so I went to Yale Medical School to become a doctor. Chitra Ragavan:   And what was your specialty that you wanted to pursue? Robert Pearl :   That’s also interesting, because not wanting to get caught in political crossfires, I thought that cardiovascular surgery would be the best. At the time, the mortality rate was moderately high, and those surgeons who could get the best results, the lowest mortality, I was certain would be the ones to get the patient referrals. Robert Pearl :   And, of course, if the mortality was high you had to look in the mirror and accept that, but I was prepared for that risk. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that the referrals didn’t get sent to the best physicians, and this was when I was now a resident at Stanford University; but instead they were sent to the people who could entertain the most lavishly, who belonged to the right country clubs. And I became very, very disillusioned with all of medicine as I had previously with university professorship. Chitra Ragavan:   But you stuck to the path. You didn’t quit. Well, what happened to keep you on the journey? Robert Pearl :   Well, I was very fortunate. The chairman of Plastic Surgery saw a potential in me, and he offered to send me to Mexico, where I had the chance to work on fixing children with cleft lip and cleft palate. And I fell in love with the specialty. I fell in love with the look on patients’ faces, when after hiding their mouths for their entire life, they finally took the bandages off, looked in the mirror and looked out at the world with a new pride. This is why I wanted to pursue medicine, and it ultimately became my clinical career. Chitra Ragavan:   And how many surgeries did you do of cleft lip and cleft palates? And were there any particular cases that you remember in particular? Robert Pearl :   So I probably did close to 20,000 surgeries across my surgical career, of which at least 1,000 of them were children born with cleft lips and cleft palates. There are quite a number that I remember extremely well. One of them was actually in Mexico, when I went there to do volunteer surgery as part of Interplast. Robert Pearl :   And the patient

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Bryan Cunningham Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS  Ep. 9 — A teenager suffers his small-town’s wrath and scorn when his house burns down. He grows up to become a privacy and cybersecurity lawyer with a passion to protect victims of bullying, both by countries and criminals Bryan Cunningham will never forget the day his Norman Rockwellian childhood in a small town in Ohio came to a cruel end. It was the day when the family’s small wooden rectory burned to the ground and he was falsely accused of causing the fire.  Cunningham shares the trauma of the ensuing bullying and excoriation by the town’s small-minded residents. A trauma that he overcame when he stumbled upon his love and talent for playing drums. He talks about how becoming a professional drummer from age 14 on up helped him regain his confidence and pride and helped him pay his way through college. Even as music helped him restored his self-confidence, Cunningham says the most important career development move he made was the two years he spent in the Iowa Fiction Writer’s Workshop, which gave him lifelong skills and confidence in writing and helped him throughout his career in government, law, and academia.  Cunningham examines how the life-altering crisis over the house fire deepened his empathy for victims and shaped his career as a privacy and cybersecurity lawyer. He reflects on the dangerous trends in cybersecurity warfare and the implications for governments and citizens around the world. And he shares some valuable advice on how to protect oneself against cyberattacks. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra:   Hello and welcome to When It Mattered. I’m Chitra Ragavan. On this episode we will be talking to Bryan Cunningham. He’s an international advisor to companies and governments about cyber security law and policy, emerging technology, surveillance and privacy issues. As a senior CIA officer and federal prosecutor, Cunningham worked closely with the 9/11 Commission and provided legal advice to the President, National Security Advisor, and the National Security Council in the Bush and Clinton administrations. He was a principal contributor to the first national strategy to secure cyberspace. Bryan, welcome to the podcast. Bryan:   Thank you. Thank you for that generous introduction. Another way to think about that as I can’t hold a job. Chitra:   Well, you have been a globetrotter for the past decade as an international man of mystery and cyber security expert. I usually catch you at airports between flights, but where are your roots? Bryan:   They could not be more Norman Rockwell. I grew up in a small town in northern Ohio population 12,000, give or take. My father was an Episcopal minister in this little town and my mom was the librarian. So it was very Norman Rockwell. But as behind every Norman Rockwell painting, there was a lot of undercurrent that was happening in the town. There’s actually a novel by Sherwood Anderson called, Winesberg Ohio, which a lot of folks read in middle school and it tells the behind the scenes story of one of the small towns and all the crazy stuff that was going on and that real town was about 30 miles away from the town I grew up in. It’s not actually called Winesberg, but the book is fairly accurate about the kind of emotional and small-minded stuff that goes on in those little towns. Bryan:   And I was a bit of a victim of that when I was about 12 or 13, we lived in a wooden house rectory provided by the church and my dad was somewhat controversial. He had a large parish in Cleveland a few years before this, invited Dr. King to speak from the sanctuary and he didn’t get the permission of his boss at this very white, very conservative church and so he suffered a lot of repercussions for that. And eventually, the Bishop sent him to the small town in Ohio, where he continued with his agitation for race rights as the locals would have called it, his agitation. Bryan:   So there was a lot of scrutiny on him in this small town. And when I was 12 or 13, our house burned down, burned to the ground. And the local newspaper, without any facts, reported that the cause of it was children playing with matches. And even though I wasn’t home at the time it happened, my younger brother was way too young to have been the person and my older brother was in college. So, then I was that, I was the person and the whole town assumed that, and believed it, and really made my life difficult for the rest of the time I was there. Fair amount of bullying, a lot of undercurrent of attacks and things like that. Bryan:   And so that was a very formative experience in the sense that in a little town like that, when you get tarred with something like that, very difficult emotionally, I can’t even imagine what it would be like now with social media, not sure I would have survived it. But I did two things that really sustained me for the rest of my life. One was I started playing the drums and I was able to lose myself in music and that also turned me to a whole nother circle of friends and acquaintances that weren’t part of the little town system. And every time in my life that I’ve had a dark moment, that music has been able to help me get past that. And then the other thing is, I learned that you can be the victim of something very bad and very painful, and it will pass, and you’ll get through it, and you’ll be able to move on. Chitra:   And how did you move on? What did you do next? Bryan:   Well, I started playing drums professionally at age 14 and that occupied a lot of my time, and also made me some money because my

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Nina Totenberg Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSSEp. 8 — An award-winning reporter struggles with balancing a demanding job and managing a family crisis and learns the true meaning of duty and family / Nina Totenberg, Legal Affairs Correspondent, National Public Radio (NPR) In this episode, NPR’s Nina Totenberg confesses that her youthful admiration for teen fictional detective Nancy Drew played a formative role in pursuing journalism as a career in an era when female reporters were a rarity. Totenberg reveals how she broke free from the confines of fashion and wedding news reporting via press releases and became one of the most acclaimed and celebrated legal reporters in the country. And she compares the challenges she and other working women of her generation faced to how women are handling sexual harassment today in light of the #MeToo movement. Totenberg describes what it’s like to have covered the U.S. Supreme Court for decades, and she reads the tea leaves on where this increasingly conservative court may be heading in the coming months. And she walks us through her difficult days holding down a high-profile job and taking care of her late first husband, Senator Floyd Haskell (D-Colorado), after he suffered a serious head injury from a fall and battled for his life for months in an intensive care unit. Totenberg shares with us the advice that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her to help her through those trying times. And she talks about her own survival from a snorkeling accident when she was hit by a power boat during her honeymoon with her second husband, who just happened to be a trauma surgeon. Through these crises, Totenberg reveals how she came to have a renewed appreciation for friends and family and the importance of duty in life’s journey. Last but not least, Totenberg ends the conversation with a heartwarming anecdote about her virtuoso violinist father Roman Totenberg’s stolen Stradivarius. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra Ragavan:   Hello, and welcome to When It Mattered. I’m Chitra Ragavan. On this episode, we will be talking to Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Totenberg’s coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs have won her widespread recognition and acclaim and earned many awards. She’s often featured in Supreme Court documentaries, most recently in RBG. As Newsweek put it, quote, “The mainstays of NPR are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the créme del la créme is Nina Totenberg.” Nina, welcome to the podcast. Nina Totenberg:   It’s my pleasure, Chitra. Chitra Ragavan:   What was your path to becoming a reporter? Nina Totenberg:   Well, when I was a girl, really a girl girl, I was a great fan of Nancy Drew, and Nancy could do everything. And, of course, she had no mother. Her mother was dead, so she didn’t even have to compete for her father’s affections. And she had a boyfriend, Ned, and a roadster, and she solved all kinds of mysteries and could do a jackknife dive. And I wanted to be Nancy Drew, and I thought the mystery part was something that I could do. And so I think that that made me, at first, interested in journalism. Nina Totenberg:   And then later, when I was teenager, I read Theodore White’s, The Making of a President, 1960, and I thought, “That’s really what I want to do. I want to be … ” The elegant way of saying it is, “A witness to history.” The inelegant way of saying it is, “I want to be a gossip,” in the most regal sense. I mean, my colleague, Cokie Roberts, often says that, “Historians get it wrong. They make it boring.” But history is gossip. It’s what’s going on and the story behind the story as well as the story in front of the story. And that’s what I wanted to do from the age of about 16 on. Chitra Ragavan:   So how did you go from being a fan of Nancy Drew to actually becoming a real reporter? Nina Totenberg:   Well, it was very difficult when I started out because people just told you they didn’t hire women or, “We don’t hire women for the night shift,” which was a classic way to get a first job. It’s true. The Civil Rights Act was in place, but it was pretty young then, and most employers really didn’t think that they had to abide by it for women. So it was very hard to get the first job. Nina Totenberg:   My first job was on the women’s page at then the Record-American in Boston, now known as the Herald-American, and it’s now a Murdoch paper. It was a Hearst paper then, and it was unbelievably boring. I mean, I just wrote fashion but not like we read in the newspapers today. It was sort of rewrites of press releases. I wrote stories about weddings, but they were just rewrites of what people sent in about the seeded pearl gowns and things like that. Nina Totenberg:   And so I would go out at night to cover other stories with other reporters. I was their, “Leg-man,” as it were, and they could leave the story to go back to file, and I would call in with new details about the fight at the school committee or the latest, or I went around with a photographer all night long for most of the night. We would have a police, fire, and state trooper radio in the car, and we would just go where the action was. And I would phone those in to go with a short story to go with the photograph. And that’s how I got my first job. Nina Totenberg:   And then I went to work for the Peabody Times in Peabody, Massachusetts. It was a paper that published twice a week and was part of a chain in that area of Massachusetts, and I covered everything. And there was even a day, I think,

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