Women at work: the good, the bad, and the really bad.

“Queen Bees”, “Mean girls”, the Mentor and the Great Workplace Overlook.

I should preface this post with what I say here might not be popular with you. It is not on trend. It might trigger you, it might affirm your experience(s), it might enrage you, it might inspire you. Why am I writing this? This is not an article to bash others. I hope it might help others. But mostly I am writing to close a chapter (hopefully) on what has been a very painful learning experience and to move forward with nothing but hope and joy. A huge part of how I have overcome some of this pain inflicted upon me was by forgiving others and forcing myself to wish others well. And also learning, learning, learning, and swearing I will never be mean, passive aggressive, jealous, selfish, and cut throat to other women in the workplace. This piece is a form of therapy for me.

Women Harassing Women

So what am I talking about here? I am talking about women who deliberately or subconsciously are mean to other women in the workplace. This can be obvious- like saying something mean to a woman, “you know when you wear that shirt men are only looking at your boobs”, or throwing a woman under the bus, for example, accusing a woman of having an affair with the boss to get her job. It can be giving a woman work over the weekend because you had to do it so she needs to do it. It can be giving a woman twice the amount of work as her male counterpart because he just can’t multi-task like she does.


I don’t want to put a label on women who are mean to other women in the workplace. People make choices. Life is dynamic. If you have been mean, you can stop, or you can try. You don’t have to fill that role. I am sure I am not perfect or guilt free here. I have made plenty of mistakes. But I can change, I strive to change, and I hope you read this and strive for change too.

A few years ago I was about to give a talk at a Tile IX conference but it was right smack in the beginning of the Me Too movement. So women harassing women, not sexually, just wasn’t on the agenda. But it happens. More than we talk about. More than we deal with. More than organizations and businesses write into policy, and definitely more than places of work address. But we need to talk about it. We need to address this problem.

Have you heard of these stories? Women Firing For Being Too Attractive Upheld. Lawsuit of the Day: Woman Claims She Was Fired for Being Too Attractive. How many of you women hear or have heard about women suing for being discriminated against for being attractive and then immediately judged the woman, or felt no sympathy for the woman, or thought, well that’s rare? Ask yourself why this is.

When we talk about gender based harassment, we generally are referring to men who harass women. Or when a person is discriminated against because of their gender by someone who is not of the same sex. I am going to give you examples because I am sure about 90% of women reading this will think this does not apply to them:

  1. A woman spreads a rumor about another woman in the workplace. I personally feel this is worse among women in the workplace then men. Women will create rumors and perpetuate gossip when they are insecure, threatened, and/or trying to manipulate a situation.

2. Age-ism. It isn’t all happening to the older women. Younger women or younger looking women are easy targets for older women (so are unmarried women but I digress). There is a “right of passage” mentality for younger women by older women. Rare (luckily) have I met a man in the workplace and then he acted surprised that I had an idea, or knowledge, or professional experience. However, the number of times a woman has commented on or resented me because I “didn’t know my place”, knew something they didn’t (heaven forbid), or assumed because I looked young or was young, I couldn’t contribute in a meaningful way, is way too many to count.

3. Looks. You are damned if you do or damned if you don’t. My friend jokes that I dress like a librarian. I do dress like a librarian but not so women won’t use my outfits against me like a weapon (even though apparently the librarian look can be dangerous- one time someone accused my boss of making me wear only skirts). I guess I generally like the librarian look. But some women feel they have to dress very conservative or else they will be at minimum, judged by other women. They shouldn’t have to. Do men scrutinize other men in the workplace as bad a women do? Does your female boss get away with commenting on when you do or don’t wear makeup in Zoom meetings? Let a man try that and see what happens. But women get away with it all the time. Why? How about when a female co-worker calls a male client who is nice to you your boyfriend? Do guys get this?

Yes, I am old enough to know this movie.

4. A woman gives the new girl a ton of work or busy work. The stuff she should do or is pointless but is now passing the buck. Why not? She had to do it. Why shouldn’t the new girl? Everyone has to go through it. Except, the guys aren’t going through this. It’s just the women.

5. The woman who knows what could make another woman’s work easier. Knowledge that can help the other woman and benefit the team. But no one helped her. So why should she help her female co-worker? How many times has someone complimented your outfit, dish, etc. and you told her where you got it? How to make it? If you are the kind of woman who doesn’t share, I don’t want to be your friend.

6. She is trying to break that glass ceiling. She has worked hard and struggled in this dog eats dog world. She doesn’t care how she gets there. She doesn’t care who she hurts. As long as she comes up on top. That new amazing woman in the workplace is a “triple threat”.

7. She walks around eyeballing skirt lengths and gossipy around the coffee pot. Have you seen her heels? This is an office, not a bar. She is just trying to bag the boss.

8. “He is only talking to you because he thinks you are cute”… She tries to devalue what you offer as a professional or an intelligent human being.

9. One upper. Yeah, that’s great but one time…..

10. Excluding a woman from lunches. Ganging up on a woman so she feels isolated and alone from others in the workplace. It’s like high school but in the work place.

Have you done this? Have you experienced this? If so we are talking about harassment. It is inappropriate, unprofessional, and damaging.

Non-Sexual Harassment Defined?

According to Sidney L. Gold & Associates, non-sexual harassment is, “prohibited conduct under Title VII of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act. What constitutes non-sexual harassment are words, conduct, or actions that relate to race; age, over 40 years of age; gender; skin color; disability; ethnicity; and national origin.

These are their examples of non-sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Racist comments, jokes, nicknames.
  • Derisive remarks about another’s religious beliefs or lack of them.
  • Inappropriate statement about another’s skin color or ethnicity.
  • Remarks or mocking about a co-worker’s disability.
  • Offensive statements, verbal or written, about ethnic, racial, or religious stereotypes.
  • Derogatory comments another’s age, especially an older person.

But where is the part about when a person is harassed based on their sex?

Generally, if this happens to a woman in the workplace, or anyone in the workplace, they are told to report the incident to human resources. Whether a company has a policy or not, the company then makes a choice to do something about it. My experience is, unfortunately, if it does not make waves for them, then they dismiss it. The individual has the opportunity to report the incident to the EEOC. But guess what, it is just that, a report. Unless a person has a ton of money to sue their employer, it just goes down the toilet.

So really it is up to the individual to stop this doing this, the manager or supervisor to intervene, and the employer to not only create a clear policy and process for dealing with non-sexual harassment, but also to enforce consequences for when a complaint is founded.

Why Does This Happen?

I would love for some psychologist to tell me there is a name for my theory that women who have been verbally, sexually, and/or physically abused can feel so low or unworthy than they also look for or see other women as unworthy and inferior, and treat them as such. Meanwhile, I will just say that an insecure woman is the most dangerous woman, in my humble opinion.

Also, women in the workplace are stereotyped. As much as women hate them, we sure do buy into them. How many screen writers have included the pretty secretary having an affair with the boss? Here is another famous stereotype of women in the workplace.

A lot of women evaluate other women based on their own experience or judge women by how they were judged and not by their work, competency or potential.

And what happens when we express our hurt or concern at these things? Maybe you were told by your Mom or your boss, well she is just jealous of you. Guess what? Their jealously should not be your problem. There is no room for it in the workplace.

BUT there is room for everyone. Every woman. At every age. At every level.

What Can Be Done

You have a choice. You can either lift that woman up, or you can TRY to bring that woman down. If you are a woman being brought down, I am so, so, so sorry. It is not right. It is not fair. It is not nice. I am not going to tell you to get out and go find another job. Or tough it out. You should not have to. And we can’t just snap our fingers and land into a better job. Some of us stay because we need the benefits, or we care for someone else, whatever the reason. A woman should not be treated this way, ESPECIALLY by another woman.

Organizations and companies need to stop tokenism and make authentic and meaningful changes in the workplace. BTW workplace climate surveys are useless if 1. people don’t feel safe to voice their concerns or 2. management does nothing with the findings.


Men Don’t Ignore It


A lot of times men dismiss woman on woman hostility and harassment in the workplace because they just see it as a lot of “woman drama”. Knowing about it and doing nothing to stop it can make you not only liable , but more importantly, it can negatively affect your environment and team.

Stop comparing women in your workplace to your past experiences or other women. Instead look for their value, their strengths, and not their weaknesses. Instead show them through constructive feedback opportunities for growth, and only when you see how it can benefit THEM and the TEAM. This IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

Don’t repeat the cycle. By making women go through some horrible past experience of your own only perpetuates the wrong. It does not improve the person, the situation, culture, or society.

Stop judging and putting value on women the way you were were taught and showed. You hate being judged by your appearance and not your intelligence? Then stop yourself when you about to do the same to another woman. Try to look at each woman as their own person, with their own experiences, good and bad, and work to make at least your interaction with her better.

You know what makes women stronger? Building them up. Being their mentor. Including and engaging them. Giving them that knowledge to make their journey easier. Because you know what happens when you do? A happy employee, harmony in the workplace, more getting done, and better work. The smallest meanness or kind gesture can be leave the deepest wound or greatest memory. I want to note there is a difference in a woman who is intentionally and deliberately sabotaging another for her own personal benefit, versus one that maybe just does not realize how her comments and actions make you feel. The former has no place at work and this woman needs to be reported immediately. In the latter situation, try to speak with this person or their supervisor where applicable as a first start. Hopefully, this is all it takes.

Finally, to all the women I have worked with, but especially my younger women, I hope I have made your work life a little better. If I have wronged you, I am sorry. Thank you for allowing me to this space to share and check out some more reading below on the subject.

Call Me ‘Queen Bee’ Recognizing Title VII liability for female-to-female, non-sexualized harassment resulting from the Queen Bee Syndrome By Emily C. Wilson

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LbG-W7hjyLrVMldt-j8q7Vq7nCo_F0Gt/view?usp=sharingQueen Bees, Wannabees and Afraid to Bees: No More ‘Best Enemies’ for Women in Management? Sharon Mavin. Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Northumberland Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST, UK
Email: Sharon.mavin@northumbria.ac.uk

The queen bee phenomenon: Why women leaders distance themselves from junior women
Belle Derks, Colette Van Laar, Naomi Ellemers Utrecht University, the Netherlands, University of Leuven, Belgium. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1avacuLBTIzMPMy2v3_CNp0AuDeD5IGj4/view?usp=sharing

Top reasons for distracted driving-it’s not what you think.

And the top Distracted Driving Apps to help with it.

As some of you know, I am kinda big on driving safety. When I started my Master of Public Health my main focus was on sexual and reproductive health but the world was asking me to look at another public health issue- driving safety. Notice I didn’t say road safety. Getting involved in driving safety was a direct result of what I was witnessing every day in my neighborhood. And it wasn’t the roads, it wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t the school’s transportation policy, it was human behavior. Today I continue to research on what drives people to engage in risky, careless or dangerous driving behavior and the best, evidence-based practices to stop it.

Some quick facts to give you context. Florida is ranked number 2 in the United States for pedestrian fatalities according to the Governors Highway Safety Association Report for 2019

Doris Saves Lives (FL)- Poster Winner. FLHB91 Wireless in a School Zone

Florida holds 7 of the top 20 metro American cities with the highest fatalities for pedestrians. The Tampa Bay Area is 4th in the nation!

Smart Growth America recently published their latest Dangerous By Design Report and the results aren’t good. Pedestrian fatalities are up, by a lot. While this report focuses on road design to increase safety, distracted driving behavior is one problem we can’t design our way out of.


Did you know Florida passed a hands-free law?

So if you knew nothing about these statistics in Florida but live here, I am sure you have had at least one near crash incident as a pedestrian, cyclist and/or driver.

We are all guilty of it…

Bottom line. If you have a smart phone and/or an intelligent, smart vehicle loaded with a gigantic dashboard, you have probably engaged in distracted driving at least once. It’s very easy to judge the person who is texting on their phone and the reason you couldn’t get through the green light. But based on what I am hearing, the reasons for distracted driving may sound pretty well, reasonable and common to you.

  • I only answer my phone when my child or husband/wife/girlfriend/mother are calling me.
  • I look to see who is calling or texting, and if it’s not from someone important, than I don’t answer or text back.
  • I only use my phone for the navigation app.
  • I only use my phone to change the song on my playlist.
  • I only check my phone when I am at the light.

Whatever the reason, on average it takes a person 5 seconds to look at their device.

But 5 seconds doesn’t seem so bad, right? Try it. Close your eyes for 5 seconds while sitting at home or work (desk job) and imagine not looking at the road for those 5 seconds.

Now would you want the person behind you or at the intersection light doing that while they are driving? No.

So far in my research, what I am hearing is that people, in general:

  1. Don’t see looking at their phones as dangerous. They only perceive danger when they text back while driving.
  2. People don’t think talking on their phone while driving is dangerous. Even though cognitively multi-tasking reduces a person’s ability to concentrate on one specific task
  3. Most don’t perceive their in vehicle screens, calls and navigation systems as high risk distracted driving behavior
  4. Justify taking calls and texts when they are from close family members, partners and work (even though the majority of their calls or texts are from these same people)
  5. AND……………………………mostly are using their phones while driving for………………………………music. That’s right. Changing a song, changing a podcast, putting on music. etc.

And my research isn’t the only research that shows this. Parnell et al, (2020) also found that the top technologies that drivers interacted with and initiated were:

  1. music
  2. navigation
  3. calls
  4. texts

The top notifications they engaged with were:

  1. calls
  2. texts
  3. navigation

Parnell, K., Rand, J. & Plant, K. (2020). A diary of distracted driving behaviors. Transportation Research Part F., 74, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j/trf.2020.08.003

So what can you do?

There are a lot of things you can do. First, and foremost. You need to make a commitment to yourself. Checking our phones constantly is so embedded in our culture and engrained in our brains that this is no easy feat. So I am giving you some tips below.

“Hey Baby. if you love me, let me drive safely so I can get back to you sooner.”

  1. Tell your loved ones not to call you or text you while they know you are driving. If it’s an emergency, they need to call you three times in a row, otherwise it can wait. If they love you, they won’t want to endanger you, which is exactly what it does.

2. Offer to help when someone is driving. My child is my designated music changer. He is also my navigator. I am teaching him skills at the same time and staying safe. If you are in the car with a friend, offer to text for them, or look up directions. This is a lot easier than telling someone you are uncomfortable with them driving distracted but also let’s them know its not acceptable behavior to you.

3. Make a commitment to not use your cell phone while driving. This could be as simple as putting your purse in the trunk, your phone in the glove compartment, setting a playlist or podcast for the exact drive time of our journey, or setting your smart phone to Driving Focus. Using one of these apps or techniques below before you start the engine can potentially save your life and someone else’s and greatly reduced your susceptibility of being involved in a minor or serious vehicle crash.

4. Talk to people. Let your teenagers know that music, GPS and talking with all their friends in their car is just as dangerous as texting while driving. Tell your work that if you don’t pick up immediately it’s because you needed to pull over first. Ask your girlfriend not to get upset if you don’t text back immediately. Culture is hard to change but you could be the start of something that will start a rippling effect.

Keep reading below for smart phone applications that are recommended from various sites, but also I have started a list of features that can be used.

5 Driving Safe Apps according to Germania Insurance

  1. OneTap. Blocks calls and texts. Sends automatic message AND parents with teens can monitor the app with theirs.
  2. EverDrive. Rewards you and promotes friendly competition for the doing the right thing. Good app to share with friends to help with “social norming”.
  3. AT&T DriveMode. Above 15 mps it silences calls and texts. Not ideal if someone is actually going the speed in a school zone of 15 or less. Have to be a customer for the app to respond to incoming calls and texts. Good for parents of teenagers on an AT&T family plan.
  4. DriveMode. Different from the others. Helps the driver respond to a phone’s functions in less time by offering voice activated commands for navigation, texting, etc. as well as large buttons.
  5. Do Not Disturb Feature. This is one I have been using for a while. A lot of people do not know that there are ways to enable it, without missing important messages and calls, as well as a one-time setting change for just when you are driving. Of course, this isn’t much help when it comes to playlists and navigation systems on your phone while driving.

Here are others not mentioned in the above. ** means it was mentioned two or more times across multiple articles.

Farm Bureau Financial Services.

  • DriveMode**
  • EverDrive. This one is unique in that it also tracks braking, acceleration, speed, cornering and cell phone use. A little safe competition.
  • LifeSaver.** You can get weekly reports for employees and family members. Free. Android and ios.
  • TrueMotion Family.
  • TextDrive. Specific to all you Android users. Free.

American Safety Council

  • AT&T’s DriveMode**
  • Drive.Safe.ly**
  • Sprint’s Drive First
  • Sprint’s Safely Go
  • Text No More
  • Canary

Other mentions.

  • DriveSafel.ly.** Not free. Voice freehand.
  • Sprint’s Safely Go. Ability to lock app on a minor’s phone.
  • Text No More. Get free coupons and its free. Instead of automatically detecting when you are driving, you set driving time for blocking incoming calls and texts. If you have a hands free device, you can still receive incoming calls.
  • Canary**. This app will actually alert you if your teenager is texting while driving and preset speed limit.
  • DriveSafe**. Android. Emergency mode turns off blocking if call comes in 3 times in a row from the same person.
  • HUM. Helps you track the driver location, speed, acceleration and vehicle health.

Technology or featureWhere it can be usedCreator or ManufacturerHow to Use
CarPlayVehicleApplePhone apps and services are transferred to vehicle screen.
Do Not Disturb (Under Focus)iPhone; anytime it is engaged;Apple- iPhoneSilences alerts and notifications, has to be manually turned on/off, unless set during “Focus Time”
Driving (Under Focus)iPhone, With CarPlay, With Bluetooth, While drivingApple- iPhoneAutomatically silences call and notifications when phone senses driving, can set auto reply message to select people, no one, or all people, can select specific people whose calls and notifications are allowed while engaged, can be activated when CarPlay is engaged, manually, or when car Bluetooth is engaged.
Flight Mode/Airplane ModeiPhone Blocks calls and texts messages when engaged.
Siri Dictate iPhone  Voice activated, “Hey Siri” and she looks things up and answers back for you.
BluetoothHeadphones, Vehicle, Phone, Radio Wireless- pairs with the vehicle sound/stereo system can be used without screen- connects through a charger cable in the vehicle if the vehicle does not have wireless.
Ask Siri/ Siri DictateiPhoneiPhoneSettings (siri & Search)- “Hey Siri”, Announcing notifications

Am I missing a great app or suggestion to help yourself or another? Let me know in the comments! You could potentially save a life. And please share! Research is no good if it does not get into the hands of those who need it. Drive safe everyone!

Choice to Change

Mindset and the power of the Big, Beautiful Brain

Whether you are looking to eat more healthy, dig out of depression, do better in school or improve organizational behavior-it’s all change! Very few people are 100% content or happy with themselves and their circumstances. Personally, I am always on a path to improve- whether its my own character flaws or a public health problem. So how do we change? How do we change THAT one thing about ourselves (or multiple things)? How do we change our child’s behavior to chores? How do we change a drug addict’s choice? I am on this journey to explore these topics from a psychological perspective and also as a Christian. You mean science and faith complementing each other? I believe it is happening.

Now I have learned in the first “real days” of e-learning that I need to be paying better attention to my child’s e-learning, as he was missing some things. And as I am diving into this topic of change and mind set, I overhear a TED talk my son’s teacher assigned him titled, “

The Power of belief — mindset and success” by Eduardo Briceno.

Serendipitous? I think this is a great example of synchronicity.

Synchronicity Meaning: Message from the Universe | Synchronicity, What is  synchronicity, Meant to be

In this video he talks about the “Fixed Mindset vs. the “Growth Mindset”. This idea of a “Growth Mindset” was first brought to my attention by Carol Dweck. For all my friends who are peeved by Millennials who can’t finish a day’s work should read this book.

But I digress. Dr. Briceno states if we are to fill our potential we need to change our mindset. The key to do this is to realize We CAN change.

So step 1: Accept that you CAN change.

Now I am currently reading “Switch on the Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Like Dr. Briceno, she too states that the brain is malleable. Not fixed.

A large flaw within our thinking and society is that we need to be born with natural gifts and abilities in order to obtain or perform. I know myself as a parent, have told my child numerous times, that God has given him the natural ability for music. Now the problem with this is, when my son plays something incorrectly, he gets really frustrated with himself, and instead of working through the problem, he wants to quit for the day. Some of us may feel like we can’t pick up a new hobby because we weren’t given the opportunity to learn at a young age. For example, a language. We are told time and time again that the brain is best able to learn a language at a young age. That once we get older, it is hard for the brain to learn and remember a language.

This is so wrong.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

In Dr. Leaf’s book, she works with patients and clients who have had severe brain injury and/or learning disabilities. How many stories have you heard of someone being told they will never walk again but yet they somehow defy the odds and baffle the doctors? This isn’t battling the odds. It’s that big, beautiful brain that continues to function in an amazing way. Now if you are a Christian or religious, you might think this is a miracle? Well, if we look at what the bible tells us, really it’s just how God designed us and the power he bestows on us through him.

2. Understand it’s a process.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1

Isn’t life a process? Aren’t we always trying to figure it out? We are constantly growing. And growth is beneficial and scientific. This is important to understand for many reasons. If you or someone “falls off the bandwagon” they may not get back on the bandwagon if they don’t understand that growth is a process. Which is why if you are in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) its a lifetime commitment, where if you take a drink, you can come back. If you are on a diet and eat a bag of cookies on Sunday, no one should tell you that you can’t get back on that diet on Monday. Many health campaigns have learned that in order for people to kick bad habits, we need to recognize failure and give people non-judgmental agency to try again, and again, and again.

Every Try Counts Campaign | FDA

Fall backs are an important part of the growth process and without them we do not grow. And God tells us this too.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

So what does a Growth mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset look like in practice. Here are some examples:

Growth Mindset

“Wow, you can really see that you studied and worked hard to get that score”.

“Its shows you have been practicing your 3-pointers on the court.”

“If I start jogging and add 1/4 mile each week, I can build endurance, work on my breathing and increase my distance.”

“I was not a good communicator in my last marriage but I am going to ask my fiance to hold me accountable to a weekly date night where we talk about anything we need to.”

Fixed Mindset

“Wow, you must be so good at math with a score like that.”

“You must get your basketball skills from your Dad.”

“I just don’t have an athletic build and won’t ever be called a runner”.

If I messed up this marriage, who says I won’t mess up another.”

3. Make a deliberate intention to develop your abilities to change.

What does this look like?

  • Make feedback process related.
  • Listen for your fixed mindset. Listen for toxic thoughts. Negative thoughts.
  • Consciously change it. Talk back to it.

Dr. Leaf says to “catch those thoughts”. As Missy Misdemeanor Elliott says,

Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book provides a 21-Day Brain Detox Plan. As I continue to read this book and work through my own 21-Day Brain Detox, I will continue to share my own personal insights and its application in my life and work. I want to reiterate that this is a process. For me. For you. Whatever journey you are on. And each of us are on a journey. Whether we are religious/spiritual or atheist. Whether we feel perfect or flawed. And all good things come with time and practice. But know that you have it in you.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

Final thought for my public health campaigners and social changers out there. How can we use this knowledge for positive, impactful social and behavioral change? For me, it reinforces the idea that SHAMING and GUILTING to not work. Knowing that Growth-Changing mindset is a key for change, how can we incorporate these into health campaigns? Providing actionable steps? Feedback loops? Positive reinforcement? How does this challenge us with reward and incentive products in a health campaign? Are growth-process campaigns better for specific target audiences? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading!

Changing Behavior by Tali Sharot

How to motivate yourself to change your behavior

This TED- Cambridge talk was posted 5 years ago but it is still applicable today. It’s always good to have a refresher on a subject matter or be exposed to a new way of thinking when tackling a current issue. This TED Talk by Dr. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at the University College London, provides “3 key ingredients” on how to change your behavior, however, some of the examples she provides are organizational behavior change and customer behavior change.

The 3 key ingredients are:

  1. Social incentive;
  2. Progress monitoring;
  3. Immediate award.

One big take-away I got from this is fear appeals, shaming, threatening, warnings, etc. on the whole are not effective in changing behavior. Many impact evaluation studies have shown where negative messaging and fear appeal marketing campaigns are ineffective in changing behavior, however, some fear appeal social marketing campaigns have proven effective in road or driver campaigns. I think this is something we really need to dive deeper into. Think about social norming of face masks during COVID-19. What if 99% of people are wearing a face mask in a grocery store but one person approaches a non-face mask user and yells at them for not wearing a face mask. What happens? Do they decide to wear a mask next time? Ummm, no. What if they are told that they may have a pre-existing condition in the future or may pass the disease unknowingly to a loved one later. Does this change their mind? Probably not. Now what if the manager goes over the intercom and says, “Congratulations shoppers at so and so grocery store, we are at 99% compliance for wearing face masks and we are outperforming the grocery store so-so five miles down the road”. Does this change the non-mask user’s behavior? More likely. What if the manager says, “we are passing out $2.00 off your coupons for all mask wearers”. We got a winner. The messaging is positive. It demonstrates social compliance, progress monitoring and incentives. The benefits are immediate.

We seek positive information! We want to know we are okay and WE CAN change the outcome. Positive intentions are REWARDED and socially ACCEPTABLE.

“Kids and teenagers are the worst at learning from bad news”. Plug for the ever growing trend towards positive behavioral therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, in schools. How does this work in real life? “Son, you are getting better at picking up your toys, could you finish the job so we can go outside and play?” vs “Son, you still haven’t picked up your toys and you can’t play outside until you do”.

We get too much information and filter out what we don’t want or need by focusing on the positive information, giving us a distorted view of the reality. Self-denial anyone? I don’t know about you but my new thing is to tune out PEOPLE who don’t give me the information I want (anyone want to take a wild guess who it might be?). This is why it’s important for organizations to put out specific, timely, relevant and targeted messages with BEHAVIOR SCIENCE. Go beyond thinking about information or education.Don’t just put out anything to stay relevant. You won’t be.

Informational campaigns and education are not enough. We must get the word out to organizations and agencies that applying behavior science to impact change is a must-do and the more cost effective way to achieve results.

Racism Today: 101

A white person’s explanation of racism today for white people who do not see it, experience it and/or understand racism.

If you are watching the news or reading the news online you may be hearing a lot about “systemic racism”. For the average, white person, this may be confusing. Racism may be far removed from your day to day reality. When you see the video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer, this may look like obvious racism. It is wrong. We can see this. But how is this connected to the larger picture of racism in America? Let me help explain. According to Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones**, there are three levels of racism: institutionalized racism, personally mediated racism, and internalized racism.

Institutionalized racism is defined as “differential access to goods, services, and opportunities of society by race”. Where do we see this? Black people have fewer healthy food options due to “food deserts”. For example, in urban areas, large grocery store chains do not want put their stores in poor, urban black communities. Medical care. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance, and employee sponsored health insurance, and therefore less access to preventative health care services and medical treatment.

Institutionalized racism is the silent norm we don’t see until we take a look at the numbers and ask why? A black person is exposed to institutional racism before they are even born. They inherit it from no fault of their own. Ever heard the expression, you can’t chose the family you were born into? Same thing goes for a black person born in this county.

This is the structural or systemic racism the media is currently talking about. Often, this racism is codified and legal. Research the Prison Industrial Complex. It is corporate (ALEC). It is even purposefully built into our legislation. It’s sneaky and the worse kind of racism in my opinion because it is hard to pin on one person, it plays off the fears of the naive and/or ignorant people, and it kills in large numbers. One might even call it genocide.

How many of you have heard or even said, “our school is no longer good because they are busing in kids from poor neighborhoods?” Racism watch dog would have a barking fit. In an effort to increase access to better education for minorities and poor Americans, we balk at it because it brings our Great-Schools.com ratings down.

Let me give you a more relatable example. Ever had a legal issue? Someone, perhaps a landlord take advantage of you or needed to fight a speeding ticket? You may have hired a lawyer, or not, depending on how much money you had to do so or perhaps you knew someone in charge. You had ACCESS to power. Black people as a whole are systematically denied or have less access to power because of quality education, gainful employment, their physical environment, and personal safety. Like women in the workforce, it is harder to gain access to power and make positive change if there are less of you in numbers AND have less number of people in positions of power. How many people have filed for divorce? Every little thing you do has a huge price tag! People may lose access to their children in a custody case because they can’t afford the legal fees. Only people of wealth have access to a fair, legal justice system. It’s unjust. Minorities as a whole have less of a fighting chance in today’s systems of power.

But you may say, what’s happened in the past is no reflection of what is happening today. Yes it does. And unfortunately, it hasn’t gone away because bad, racist people still exist, and old, racist ways are ingrained into our systems and have never changed or dissolved.

I encourage everyone to view this movie to see how vulnerable we are to media framing and how institutionalized racism is in the county, especially in the prison system.

The Impact of Ava DuVernay's '13th' - Prison Fellowship

Internalized racism is defined as “acceptance by members of the stigmatized races of negative messages about their own abilities and intrinsic worth”.

Examples, if a black person feels less beautiful because their skin is darker than a lighter shade of black. Counter-racism, beauty ads showing women of color with varying shades of black and dark black women. Below is a short film which embraces natural black hair and I love it.

Another example, a black person using a racial slur as a nickname. Counter-racism, don’t use the n-word.

It is also a helplessness, a hopelessness and a resignation that because you are a certain color, there is no point of finishing school or voting, or taking care of yourself, because there is no point. This type of internalized racism is what I believe a lot of minorities are feeling today, what minorities are internally combating every day, and also the driving factor for radical behavior. When any marginalized people feel their cries are not heard and they continually face injustice, some no longer take a peaceful route of protest. I am not going to argue for or against violent protest, as this is not what this article is about, but I will ask that we remove our “white lenses” and try to understand the perspective of people who continually witness and experience racism and how this affects their mental, physical and emotional health and well being.

Personally mediated racism is defined as prejudice and discrimination. This is what most people see as racism. If someone is refused to be served because of their color, this is personally mediated racism. If your parent tells you not to date a black person, or vice versa, this is personally mediated racism. If you see a Muslim or Arab on a plane and immediately wonder if they are a possible terrorist, this is personally mediated racism. Derek Chauvin acted from personally mediated racism when he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and murdered him. He may have been influenced from his personal upbringing (personally mediated racism) and/or told by his police department to target black men (institutionalized racism), in a predominantly black neighborhood (institutionalized racism).

What can we do right now?

First, reading and educate yourself. Leila Hakimizadeh shared these recommendations:

I am also adding some references at the end of this post and wanted to add “Devil In The Grove” by Gilbert King. A must read especially if you live in Florida. Personally, this book was so hard to get through because the injustice and hate are so awful. So I will commend you now for your efforts.

Second, recognize that just by being white, you are privileged. This is a hard pill to swallow for some. It’s like telling a young German person they are associated with the Holocaust. Ouch. I remember when I went to New Zealand and I was told that white people were referred to as “pakeha” and it meant white settler. Not me, please. But the truth of the matter is that until I learn from our past and understand how being white affects my life differently than a person of color, I can not begin to be the change I want to see. Here is a good read to help you get started…

Recognizing your white privilege doesn’t mean you are admitting to be a racist. It helps you recognize implicit bias, or your unconscious beliefs, stereotypes, actions, attitudes, etc. that are racist. It doesn’t mean that you are personally responsible for every act of bigotry and racism in America or anywhere. It makes you conscious and that my friend, is a good start. Acknowledging, recognizing and remembering our racist history helps us build a better future for everyone. And helps create positive, constructive change for our future.

Third, dialogue and relationships with people. Here is the catch…with people not like you. Bridge the gap. Here is a NextDoor post.

“Please, someone, tell me what I can do to help. I want to help.”

I like because it is intentional, honest and authentic. It’s getting the conversation started. Caveat… despite believing that social media is a power tool for change, I encourage readers and social media lovers to get out from behind the words. A brilliant idea?! Listen. Be prepared to listen with an open heart and an open mind. And better yet, choose before you walk into the room not to react. This is my own personal struggle, I react. I let instigators and haters get to me. Where can you listen and lend a helping hand? Organizations like the Boys and Girl Club. Churches.

Walk the talk. This reminds me of the London PSA you can hear at the train stops, “If you see something, say something”

From a NextDoor neighbor…“I appreciate this post, Jason, and love the sincerity in it. I don’t know if i have an entire answer for you but I have to tell you that calling it by name is the first step. Calling it by name every time you see it, hear it, feel it, or even benefit from it is the first step. Then, once you’ve done that start to research some of the brands, companies, organizations you’ve aligned with financially… See where they put your dollars. Identify if they truly do align with your personal values, then encourage others to do so too. Everyone in this room has mentioned the universal truth: racism is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean small steps can’t be done that may impact someone or something across the world. Lastly, donate to local organizations fighting racism. Small steps make a big impact. Thanks again”.

Fifth, legislation and politicians. Know who represents you. Research HOW they voted. Find out where their financial support is from. Not what they say they support. And VOTE. Know what is on the table and lend your support or disdain. Look into the legislation. Stand Your Ground. Citizens Arrest. A lot of legislation is implicitly biased or strategically engineered to further oppress person’s of color.

Sixth, raise your little ones right. Help them to understand racism at an age appropriate level. Don’t just leave it to your child’s school lesson on Martin Luther King or a Black History month assignment. Encourage them to make friends with everyone. And help them build empathy by sharing stories of why not everyone has what they have. Here are some books you can read to your little one:

It's never too early to talk to kids about race. Use these children's books about race and racism to spark powerful conversations with kids and teens. #race #weneeddiversebooks

Finally, I want to talk about the word “race”. Camara Phyllis-Jones, MD, MPH, PhD said, “‘ race’ is not a biological construct that reflects innate differences, but a social construct that precisely captures the impacts of racism”. We are in a conundrum of wanting to move to a place where color is no longer seen but in order to get to that place we have to recognize that color is both a privilege and barrier.

I once had a Canadian professor in New Zealand say we needed to stop using the word “race” because we are all of one race, the human race. And people who choose to identify based on their genealogy are identifying based on their ethnicity. I ask this question, can we stop using the word “race” in order to create a new social norm where our shared belief is that we are all human? While at the same time recognizing color as a barrier and the effects of the 3 levels of racism? Maybe we start by identifying by color on a census, not by a race? I’d love to hear from others on how we can move forward as one race while acknowledging the inherent privilege of whites and the barriers of persons of color.

Thank you for reading and please share.

**Levels of racism: a theoretic framework and a gardener’s tale by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/

Reducing health disparities: critical preconception health now for better outcomes later.

We are in very stressful times. Whether it is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national state and/or the continued racial crimes committed against African Americans, a lot of people are in a heightened state of stress and feel helpless to help themselves and others. Like many others, I want to see long term positive impact for the improvement of black people and minorities in this country. And it is hard to see that in this moment. So I am offering today what I can as a public health advocate to improve the health of black Americans, create health equity and reduce health disparities.

As important as it is to show the general public police brutality and demonstrate against racial inequality, I also see how it fuels health risks among African Americans. Not only are peaceful protesters, rioters and police increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, they are creating bodily stress which can have long-term health impacts. Combined with a lifetime of systemic racism for black Americans, its a deadly combination. So in this moment, it is more important than ever that black Americans take care of their physical health.

Black Mothers in the US Are Dying at Alarming Rates

You may be hearing a lot about health disparities and health equity. Why is this? “According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”.


And why is this? Systemic racism and discrimination can cause something known as the The Weathering Effect.

The Weathering Effect


Arline Geronimus coined the term to mean a sense of erosion by constant stress- how health is affected by big and small stressors in their life.

Infant mortality rates among African American babies are twice as high as those of the general population.


What can we do about it?

  • Health is determined by an interplay of:
    • Genetics
    • Behavior
    • Psychological factors
    • Social factors
    • Environmental factors

…across an individual’s lifespan. This is known as the Life Course Perspective. Already black women and their babies are at a disadvantage because of the weathering effect, social factors (racism/discrimination), and environmental factors.

  • Each life stage influences the next
    • Each life stage impacts the subsequent stages, an integrated continuum
      • (infant → adolescent → young adult → adulthood → senior)
  • Social, economic, and physical environments interacting across the life course have a profound impact on individual and community health.

Hence the need for preconception health.

What is Preconception Health?

Preconception care is a set of interventions that identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health and future pregnancies. It includes both prevention and management, emphasizing health issues that require action before conception or very early in
pregnancy for maximal impact.

If you or your partner are planning on having a baby in the future, Preconception Care can have a beneficial psychological effects on performance in labor, for both mothers and fathers.

So what can you do right now as an African American to protect your health, the health of your loved ones and your future children?


There are so many resources online for free, guided meditations, yoga videos, etc. I personally follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and have subscribed to a free Fitbit premium membership, which last 2 months. Or you can choose to pick up a book with exercises. If you have an Alexa or a smart phone, you can ask Alexa or Siri to play relaxing music, guided meditation music, even yoga videos. Now more than ever, stress relieving help and guided healthy, nutritional plans are at your fingertips.

A copy of my preconception presentation is open to the public here

If you would like me to share this presentation with your community group or organization, please contact me. If you would like to become a Preconception Peer Educator yourself in your community, the Office of Minority Affairs has more information. If you are a university student and would like to teach other students about preconception health, please also reach out to your state Office of Minority Affairs or contact me as well. And of course, feel free to share this information. Information is power. Empower yourself and others to make positive impact now. Be well and stay safe.

What if a COVID-19 tracking app was as popular as Pokemon Go?

As a public health practitioner, contact tracing is a vital tool and measure used to track and contain the spread of COVID-19. A few countries are using tracking apps to help with contact tracing and slowing the spread of COVID-19. But even within those countries, more participation is needed in order for the apps to be most effective. Given participation is voluntary, how to you increase their popularity and usage?

In this article, “Contact tracing apps: a behavioural economist’s guide to improving uptakehttps://theconversation.com/contact-tracing-apps-a-behavioural-economists-guide-to-improving-uptake-137157 , Drs. John Hawkins and Ben Freyens, from the University of Canberra gives us a few “nudges” in the right direction.

Summed up, here are top tips for applying behavioural economics for uptake in contact app tracing, and my own tips using other behavioral science theory.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Top Social Marketing Nudges for Contact Tracing Apps

1. Repetition in Messaging. Repeat consistent messaging. Messages are reminders. Applying the Transtheoretical Model, if people have made a commitment (the Maintenance Stage), reminders are important to keeping commitments. “They” say it takes 30 days to form a habit. A one time decision doesn’t seal a long time behavior change.

By repeating messages, you are also reminding potential users in the “Preparation Stage” to try out the app and can motivate users in the “Contemplation Stage” to move into the Preparation stage.

2. The Messenger. Chose them wisely. They are vital. In order to build trust with users, you must have a trustworthy messenger.

3. Social Influence. Normative beliefs. Observational Learning. Communicate what people are doing and how they are doing it. It educates and informs while shaping the social norm. For increasing users on tracking apps, now would be a good time look at how the Diffusion of Innovation theory could increase new users. Tap into what “innovators” are saying and doing to generate new buzz around the product.

4. Incentivize. Insurance companies using tracking apps can offer discounts on insurance or products for amount of trips taken and distance traveled. I know if my health insurance company offered me a $5 monthly rebate to use an app, I would. What if we got a coupon or rebate for ordering groceries and local food take out online? Count me in! Already companies are wavering delivering fees and restaurants are offering special discounts for curbside pick up.

Singapore launches contact tracing mobile app to track coronavirus ...

If you are curious what COVID-19 tracing apps are available for you area, here is a list of a few I have found:

Australia – CovidSafe

Hong Kong- StayHomeSafe

Signapore – TraceTogether

Israel – Shield

Utah, US – Healthy Together- COVID-19

North Dakota and South Dakota, US – Care19

PrivateKit (MIT) – allows you to share your tracking if you would like, can you where ever you are.

Norway – Smittestop

UK (currently under trial in Isle of Wight) – NHS Covid-19

South Korea – Corona100m

Other articles related to contact tracing include:

Curbing Coronavirus With a Contact-Tracing App? It’s Not So Simple.


How Europe splintered over contact tracing apps


Tech expert warns government shouldn’t rely on untested apps for contact tracing


Health Officials Say ‘No Thanks’ to Contact-Tracing Tech


Happy Tracing!

Using Company Clout To Drive Social Change

Recently I read a great article, “Marketing Meets Mission” https://hbr.org/2020/05/marketing-meets-mission on how companies, such as Carling Black Label Beer, are using their brand to help promote social change. Written by Myriam Sidibe for the Harvard Business Review, she explains how marketing can be used to change social norms and adopt positive new behaviors, such as handwashing. This growing corporate trend generates “shared value” or when companies build economic value in ways that promote social good. Creating social impact does not just equate with brand awareness and profit, but it can “energize employees”, promote positive social norms, and improve social, environmental and physical well being. Take a look at the article to see some great examples from companies doing great social good, and how other companies can incorporate the “purpose tree” to create “brand advocacy”.

I will definitely be picking up a copy of Myriam Sidibe’s new book, “Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose” https://www.amazon.com/Brands-Mission-Myriam-Sidibe/dp/0367428334

Social Marketing for Behaviour Change during COVID 19.

Behavioural Science application in the UK. Interview with Dr. Rowena Merritt.

Dr. Rowena Merritt is a research fellow from the University of Kent, a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford, an affiliate professor at the University of South Florida, and Director of the National Social Marketing Centre.

Today she sat down to a Zoom meeting with me where I was able to ask her some questions relating to how the UK has applied behavioural science towards its policy and strategy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. She graciously answered some questions and we were able to compare applications of social marketing between the two countries, as well as hopes for ongoing lessons learned.

A big thank you to Dr. Merritt and I apologize for the rushed editing. I wanted to get the interview out as soon as possible, and I am not an expert on Premiere Pro…yet 🙂

New Tampa Road Safety Group Update

April 24, 2020

The very helpful Mike Flick from @HillsboroughCounty Traffic Engineering called today to give me an update on some of the requests we made in New Tampa and near the University of South Florida at Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and Fletcher Ave.

The counts for the Cross Creek Blvd. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd. intersection study were completed before COVID-19. This is good news because driver numbers have significantly dropped since the pandemic outbreak and slow counts would prevent the county from continuing with the study. However, the study is not complete. JMP, the consultant to Hillsborough County is still completing this survey. FYI, these are the improvements we are asking the county to make at the intersection of Cross Creek Blvd. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd.:

1. Reassessing pedestrian clearance interval for the crosswalk along Cross Creek Boulevard on the east leg of the intersection

2. A “No-right-on-red” light when the Crosswalk button has been activated for both the right onto Cross Creek Blvd. from BBD and the right onto BBD from Cross Creek Blvd.

3. Adding barriers or bollards in or near the bike lane on Bruce B. Downs right hand turning lane into Cross Creek Blvd. to prevent cars from cutting into the right hand turning lane

4. Extending the median on Cross Creek Blvd. to create a Median Refuge Island for pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross Cross Creek Blvd. at the intersection;

5. Adding appropriate signage. For example changing the current sign that says yield to pedestrians to include cyclist (symbol of bike and pedestrian, as shown on other BBD signs).

Good news….

1. The Kinnan Street pedestrian/cycling/emergency vehicle path construction starts in May! Lighting has begun on this new path by TECO.

2. Plans are in the works to continue adding lighting poles on Kinnan between Wild Bassett Creek and K-Bar Blvd.

3. Advent Health is working with the City to create a 10ft. wide concrete path from Fletcher Ave. to 138th! In addition, 1 pole/2 luminars will illuminate the path and Fletcher Ave.

I might be heading into work on a bike after all this is said and done.

Thank you to Mike Flick with Hillsborough County Traffic Engineering for your help and follow-up!

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