"Thanks for a great date. I’d love to see you again. Are you free Friday?”
“Great meeting yesterday. Here’s my proposal based on our conversation. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!”
Sound familiar? Nearly everyone has encountered one, or both, of these exchanges at some point.
Ghosting — or a sudden disappearance with no reply and no explanation — has been on the rise for years, and shows no signs of waning. We do it in our personal lives, after a first (or several) dates, but it has seeped into our professional lives, as well. Even after multiple meetings and customized proposals and pitches, responsible professionals will just completely disappear, without the courtesy to simply say, "Thank you, but we’re not a fit," or, "The timing isn't great." Instead, they leave the other party to pursue them incessantly.
Technology is the easy scapegoat, and it certainly is at the root of the problem. Technology makes communication easier than ever, which collectively lowers our value of the individual interactions. It also overwhelms us with the volume of pings and messages nagging for a reply each day. So we mentally block and prioritize, and, inevitably, there are winners and losers in that hierarchy of exchange.
But technology does not excuse this bad behavior, and not holding ourselves accountable is a lose-lose approach. Here are two main reasons why we continue to ghost and what we can do about it:
1) We have a false sense of our networks.
We value numbers over the quality of connection, and think that just because someone is a Linkedin contact or a Facebook friend, that that relationship doesn't need to be nurtured. But relationships are not a “one and done” operation. The digital point of connection is merely the springboard for the actual meat of the relationship. We’ve all had someone fail to respond to our personal correspondence, but continue to “like” our posts on social media. It’s maddening, to say the least.
Research indicates that both close and loose ties are important in building a valuable network, but we forget that close connections and loose ties alike require ongoing effort to continue to deliver value. Relationships, just like everything else worth having, are hard work. And laziness — however appealing in the short-term — yields an equally disappointing outcome over time.
2) We want to be wanted.
In business and in pleasure, we like the feeling of being pursued. Someone might reach out 2, 3, or more times, and yet we still don’t take a moment to respond and give them clarity. The time it takes to say “no thank you” is far less than the time and mental energy spent processing the on-going requests and pursuit. And yet, we continue to let others chase us. It feels good to be wanted.
Social media does us no favors in this department. Likes and follows fuel our ego, and we wrongly think that relationships are one-directional or can be turned on and off when beneficial to us. But relationships are two-sided enterprises. Valuable intros, time spent mentoring or consulting, or merely showing up to an event or always responding to a note — the cumulative effect of these small acts matters in the life of a relationship, but when only one party consistently holds up their side of the bargain, an imbalance ensues.
Sure, there are moments of great hardship or times when we simply can’t rise to the occasion — but most of the time, it’s not an emergency that fuels the ghosting. We all know people who perpetually embrace the “I’m busy” excuse and disappear, but don’t hesitate to ask for what they need when it’s beneficial.
So what's the solution?
For years I mused that I wanted a life sponsor — someone to help bankroll all my creative pursuits. A patron of sorts. Then I realized I had many, albeit in a slightly different format. Entrepreneurs seek funding from venture capitalists (VCs), but everyday people have investors, too. In my new book,Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, I talk about the value of creating "life VCs" — people in whom you mutually invest, over time, to create reciprocal relationship returns. But rather than check writers, they are our strategic advisors and unofficial mentors. They’re the individuals who make time to share life lessons and dole out advice. They include us in their lives and make introductions — or just counsel us when we’re down.
This isn’t just everyday networking. Enlisting life VCs involves relationship building that goes far beyond a business card exchange or a Linkedin request. These relationships evolve and experience varying degrees of intimacy over time, but for them to really work, the investment must be mutual, even if each party fulfills a different function at different points in time. It is a feedback loop of value in which everyone benefits — but only if they continue to participate.
And fair warning: Life VCs aren’t always obvious. The intro that leads to your dream job or life partner could come from a connection you least expect, when you least expect it. Which makes ghosting dangerous and myopic.
So as you navigate an already complicated 2017, put an end to ghosting. If not out of courtesy for others, then out of a selfish desire to maximize the human capital in your life. You’re far richer than you think you are, but cashing in isn’t free.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.