Men’s guide to Ultimate Power – Chapter 2: Lean Out

Here is my Introduction to Chapter 2 from my upcoming book. I also list the 10 strategies in that chapter to get you excited about reading it. I welcome any feedback!

“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”

Introduction to Chapter 2: Lean Out

 Leaning In is not enough

In her recent best-selling book “Lean In” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, identifies many of the barriers that hold women back at work and in business. She recounts depressing statistics about women stalling mid-career up corporate ladders and being held down by the glass ceiling. She notes that discrimination and sexism are still alive and well, however, rather than attacking the institutional barriers she, like many before her, urges women to be tougher, stronger and more courageous if they want to stay in and become leaders.

Unlike Ms Sandberg, I do not ask women to become better climbers. I ask them to look at the ladder and to question why it is so hard for women to climb.  Why does it hold so many women back and yet propel so many men to the top? Although it does help to empower women, history shows us, that this is not enough – and it may actually slow progress. As women go about “leaning in,” the bigger and more resistant barriers facing women remain untouched. Not only do corporate institutions and policies flourish, but by continuing to call it a “women’s issue” rather than a societal or corporate issue, we burden women with both the responsibility and burden of trying to make things better. We expect them to change themselves when there may be nothing wrong with them at all.

This section identifies ten barriers that hold women back at work and in business.

Chapter 2: Lean Out

Table of Contents

  1. Deny the existence of the glass ceiling
  2. Tell women it’s just a matter of time (blame the pipeline)
  3. Hide the reasons why women leave
  4. Pay and promote woken less than men
  5. Make excessive and inflexible work hours the norm
  6. Blame women for self-sabotage
  7. Deny discrimination and sexism exist
  8. Pretend sexual harassment is a compliment:
  9. Limit access to mentors and the boys club
  10. Don’t provide family and life supports



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Yeah for the Senators who are pressuring Harper for women

I just read that Serge Joyal and Lillian Dyke, two Canadian Senators are pursuing a legal route to force our Prime Minister to look into the missing aboriginal women. So far the federal government has refused to do a full inquiry and Mr. Stephen Harper has suggested that the missing women issue is about  individual criminal matters and not a society-wide concern. This is a terrible shame. Why would we want to shy away from looking at how it happened and how we failed these women and their families.

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Mindfulness Made Easy – Why Practice and Mediate?

Here is the Preface from my upcoming book: Mindfulness Made Easy. I am looking for beta readers so email me if you want to read the whole thing.  It’s only 50 pages. I welcome any feedback!



 “Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposely paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moments thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness and insight.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living, 2004, 2

After ten years of practicing mindfulness, I am convinced that if you practice regularly you will not only be able to better deal with life’s stresses, but you will become a better person. You will feel more alive, joyful and even more productive. You will be able to truly smell the roses, no matter how busy you are.

I only want to do one thing with this book. I want to give you a taste of what mindfulness is so that you want to do it more and more. I don’t want you to wait until you have turned fifty, read thirty books or attended several workshops or retreats (like me!) .

My story

A few years ago I had a wake-up call while attending a talk on Stress and Anxiety at my teenage daughters’ school. I was greeted with shocking statistics showing that anxiety is almost epidemic in teenagers and that in one school alone eight teenagers had attempted suicide in the prior year.  This hit me particularly hard, having just completed my doctoral research and finding the exact same problem among lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Could it be that stress is not a personal problem and that we are all suffering in ways never seen in prior generations?

Anxiety is epidemic

According to recent research, anxiety is the number one medical ailment in North America today. Most of us are stressed-out walking zombies. We are moving a break-neck speed under enormous strains, pressures and expectations. As a result, we are frenzied, frayed, disconnected and filled with anxious thoughts. We rarely allow ourselves to slow down.

And worse yet, most people suffer alone in silence. Only a few seek therapy and learn a handful of coping strategies. Others get prescriptions or are urged to exercise and eat well. But those who seek help are few and the therapies can be costly, to individuals, families and workplaces.

Research shows it works

Yet the newest cutting edge research on anxiety shows very clearly that the concept of mindfulness-based therapy is completely shifting the way psychologists and counsellors look at the human condition and our responses to life pressures.

The research clearly shows that mindfulness helps people deal with both physical and emotional pain, stress, anxiety, depression and ADHD. The hugely successful Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has not only been rigorously tested, but is now being taught over 250 hospitals across the United States. Cutting edge therapies, like acceptance therapy, which have emerged from the work of Dr Daniel Siegel’s and his mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are being used extensively by psychologists and counsellors across North America.

But to the general population, mindfulness is foreign.  Very few people know about mindfulness and the powerful impact it can have on stress, anxiety and life. Although it has found its way into hospitals and therapists offices, it is only recently emerging in classrooms (through organisations like the Goldie Hawn foundation) and it is almost non-existent in workplaces.

So I wrote this book, not to tell you about all the amazing research, but rather to give you a quick and practical introduction to mindfulness so you can experience it yourself.

Here is the secret

Even after ten years of practice I still find it very difficult to sit still and meditate.  Luckily, I now know that it’s not necessary to sit on a pillow in order to become more relaxed, calm and focussed. The secret is to commit to trying your best to stay awake. Completely awake to all that is happening.  This means  staying in the present moment, here and now. And although it’s quite easy to learn this skill, its not so easy making it a habit. In fact being mindful is often more about un-learning our bad habits, like rush, panic and clinging and replacing them with new habits like accepting and loving.


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Mindfulness Made Easy – I need feedback on my new book cover

Here is the Cover from my upcoming book: Mindfulness Made Easy. I am looking for beta readers so email me if you want to read the whole thing.  It’s only 50 pages. I welcome any feedback!



 The way to find peace in our stressful world is through mindfulness. These 50 easy-to-use practices introduce you to mindfulness and engage you in the tried and true exercises of the sages. Each one moves you toward ease, joy and focus – through your body, your mind and your senses.


Join the millions of people who are benefitting from this scientifically proven method for calming your thoughts and emotions while living fully in the present moment. Mindfulness Made Easy is a collection of best practices based on the work of experts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron, and Daniel Siegel, include:


  • How to calm your “monkey mind”
  • How to breathe deeply
  • How to scan your body for relaxation
  • How to meditate – sitting and walking
  • How to eat mindfully


Select one each day or practice with others! Share them with your friends and family, use them in the classroom or keep them in your office desk.


Fitzgerald, a former lawyer, professor and peacemaker describes how mindfulness can change your life and leads you step by step through each practice, describing what each one is, how to do it and what to notice afterwards. As Fitzgerald says, “When people pay attention to their body, their thoughts and their emotions, they wake up to a totally new way of interacting with the world and change in amazingly positive ways.”


If you are looking for an introduction to mindfulness or for easy tools to help your daily practice, this book is for you.


Praise for this book:


“These are great quick and easy practices to use in the classroom to create calm. A must read for teachers who want to be mindful and to bring mindfulness to their students.” [DW, Author]


“As a busy mom, this book provided easy and fun excercises  that I could do with my children” [A mom]


“If you know nothing about mindfulness and want to start practicing right away this book is for you. It makes mindfulness both practical and fun.” [Mindfulness Coach]


“If you only have five minutes a day, like me (a stressed-out lawyer) buy this book, try one exercise each day and you will not only be calmer, but more awake to all of life!”[Lawyer]


About the Author


Maureen F. Fitzgerald, PhD has been meditating and sharing mindfulness techniques for over ten years. She practiced law for 20 years and has written eleven books, many articles and hundreds of blogs. She has a business degree, two law degrees (one from the London School of Economics) and a doctorate degree in philosophy.In her former life, Maureen was a policy lawyer, mediator and professor at two universities. As a leader of thoughts and people, Maureen writes and speaks often about social justice, equality and mindfulness. Her motto is: Sharing the right ideas at the right time can change the world. You can find her at

[copyright Maureen Fitzgerald, PhD,,]




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Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power – Strategy #5

Here is the 5th strategy of 50 strategies from my upcoming book. I am looking for beta readers so email me if you want to read the whole thing!  I welcome any feedback!

“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”

Strategy 5. Expect women to walk the tightrope of double binds

“To get ahead, women must not simply demonstrate they are qualified; they must be better qualified and willing to work harder than men. It is much like being guilty until proven innocent. Men, on the other hand, are automatically assumed to be competent until proven otherwise – and sometimes not even then.” (Solovic, 2001 p 6)

A few years ago I won a big legal case and was walking back to my office with my client, the owner of a  manufacturing business. He told me how great it was to work with me. He told me that I did great legal work, that I really listened and that I was both direct and considerate in my approach. I was deeply flattered since it was my aim to balance the harsh adversarial climate with compassionate approach. But then he said something that I will never forget. He said, “The whole process was amazing.  You were amazing. I just wish you had pounded your fist of the table a few times, to show them who’s boss.” Although I laughed at the time, the words stuck with me, even to this day.

Almost every professional woman has faced the assertive/aggressive double bind. We tell women that pounding fists and being aggressive is effective, yet we have trained them all their lives to never show any sort of hostile emotion. We ask women to be more cut throat but abhor the slightest violence perpetrated by females. We are told to be tough but not too tough, out spoken but not too opinionated.   We tell women to play hard ball but not so hard to “burn bridges.”

Women struggle with these types of expectations day in and day out. These are just a few of the tightropes or “double binds” that professional women face. They force us into no-win or catch 22 situations.

As most women know, if they act too much like a man, they will be rejected for being  aggressive or pushy yet if they do not act assertive enough they will been seen as spineless or simply invisible. If they act too much like a woman they will be ignored but if they do not act feminine enough, they will be called a bitch. This double bind comes in many forms. For example, women must be:

  • Outspoken but not too loud
  • Tough but not a ball breaker
  • The boss but not bossy
  • Career oriented but not ambitious
  • Powerful but not more powerful than a man
  • Individual but also inclusive
  • A leader, but preferably from behind
  • Ambitious but not a braggart
  • Nice but not too touchy-feely
  • Attractive but not too sexy
  • Friendly but not “chatty Cathy”

In simple terms these double binds tell women that they should act as masculine as possible without going over the fine line that makes them look like a man (e.g. strong and powerful) and at the same time act feminine but not so far as to be seen as a woman (e.g. weak and ineffectual).

If you look closer, you may notice that many of the “double binds” involve males telling females to do things “their way” based on their own male-based personal experience. In doing so they not only put women in an impossible position but they also suggest a single narrow way of doing things and assume women want to do things that way.

First, the double binds assume that the masculine way is the ideal way and actually works. It suggests that women who show masculine characteristics are most effective and efficient.  Yet most people know that things like aggression can work on occasion, but not all the time.

Secondly, these double binds assume that women actually want to play this way and desire to be more masculine. This, I seriously doubt.

Thirdly, they assume that women have the ability be more masculine and can do so in an instant. They assume that we have both the knowledge and skills to act in a masculine manner. Yet as most people know, only a few women are truly effective at this (think Margaret Thatcher). As well girls are shunned for using their masculine strengths, like a loud voice or physical strength.  Beginning in early childhood girls learn what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. “Sugar and spice and everything nice.”  Males on the other hand not only learn early how to be aggressive and competitive but are encouraged to be so. In fact most men are proficient at the masculine skills and love to use them.

And here is the real catch. There is no one “right” way for a woman to behave. Every single situation commands that the woman become a chameleon. She will be perceived as direct in one situation but pushy in another and so on.  The tightrope is different for every single situation and so the amount of effort and skill required becomes overwhelming and absurd. To adhere to these double binds would make anyone completely neurotic. There is no winning, even if you do it perfectly it’s often not worth the amount of effort you had to spend doing it!

But the real cost of the double binds comes at the loss of the feminine. In an attempt to be more masculine, women forget that there is a feminine approach that might be more effective or efficient. They sacrifice their true feminine strengths and abilities like sensitivity and intuition, which are actually very powerful.  And the irony is that women somehow believe that acting masculine will give them access to the masculine world of power, status and influence but, as noted in other parts of this book, this rarely happens. Sadly most professional women have been acting our whole lives trying to be something we are not and may never be.

The bottom line. In addition to crushing standards of perfection and beauty, women also face many  “double binds” or no-win expectations. Women are told to be assertive but not aggressive, the boss but not bossy, pretty but not sexy.  We are told to be tough, but not too tough; direct but not too direct; powerful but not too powerful. We ask women to be feminine, but not too feminine.

Not only is this profoundly confusing but to walk this fine line is a full time job and ultimately impossible. In effect women are told: Do not act like a (weak) woman and do not act like a (strong) man. It’s like expecting women to walk a tight rope while running and at the same time balancing a tray glasses. Not only that, but women are told to reject the very strengths they have perfected over their lives and their feminine intelligences.

What to do. First we must notice the torturous double-binds we place on professional women and question them. Why do we expect women to be assertive but not aggressive?  This is not as simple as it sounds because these double binds are rooted in the basic assumption that the male-based way is the best and only way to be successful. And sadly we sees the feminine as weak or bad. So we must both question the masculine and elevate the feminine at the same time, so we can tap the best of both. We must stop making women continually feel bad about themselves for not being able to walk this ridiculous tightrope every day. Eventfully we will honor both masculine and feminine approaches.

[Copy only with permission. copyright]


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LEAF is fighting in the SCC today for pregnancy rights

I love LEAF (I was once on the Board). Today LEAF lawyers are appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada to fight for mothers rights. It always amazes me that we capitalists don’t understand that mothers do all the work of raising our next generation with no income! Luckily LEAF understands social policy, the law and fairness! Here are some excerpts from the press release.

“Our goal is to remind the Court that women have historically borne the burden of both the physical and social aspects of reproduction, which has limited their roles within the labour and public spheres. We are here to ensure that the law moves forward in equalizing of this burden. …

We believe that where an employer offers a benefit scheme for pregnant women and new parents, that scheme must recognize that women who give birth need time and resources to recover from the physiological impacts of birth.  In addition, all parents, including birth mothers, need time and resources to bond with and meet the needs of their new children.  To deny additional time and resources to pregnant women means that birth mothers will disproportionately bear the burden of social reproduction. Any scheme that perpetuates this historical burden on women is discriminatory.”[Source:]

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Woman harasssed 108 times on a walk in NY

Good for Hollaback an anti-harassment advocacy group – for a video that got 15 millon views! Filmmaker Rob Bliss placed a video in his backpack and accompanied one woman for 10 hours walking the streets of New York City. They counted how many times she got spoken at by complete male strangers. It was 108 times! OMG. It seems that harassment has become so common that we don’t even notice it any more! The take away: Do men really think that shouting,”Hey baby you are CUUUUTE” is a compliment?” “Do they have any idea how insulting this is and how vulnerable it makes women feel?” [Source: Gail Sullivan, Vancouver Sun, 30 October 14]


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Lawyers in BC make the world a better place

Here is the TWU news. I love how lawyers as individuals stand up for human rights. 75% of lawyers is an all time record!  I love it when a Law Society that regulates lawyers uses its muscle to ensure that those who educate lawyers do so in a way that is consistent with our laws (discrimination based on sex is not legal). I love how each of us can continually challenge our out-dated thinking that harms others. I hope you read Thomas Berger’s Op Ed in the Vancouver Sun this week.  Way to go!


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Must listen to why women attacked don’t speak out

This is a great CBC interview with an amazing woman at Vancouver WAVAW (women against violence against women). It explains why women don’t report. Think of three years under the legal microscope.  This is so sad.

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Four RCMP officers had sex with potential witnesses

Okay am  I crazy or is this the most offensive thing ever. Is it possible that four men (not one!) who are paid to defend our laws and our lives did not know that they might be doing something a bit wrong when they had sex with women they were interviewing for a 6 person murder trial? There are only two reasons: they either did not  know or worse, thought they were above the law (so privileged and powerful). Either way this is so wrong at so many levels I am speechless. Officers Danny Michaud, Paul Johnston, Derek Brassington and Dave Attew should be ashamed.   [Source Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, 30 Oct 14]


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