So I made it through my Travel Week from Hell not too much worse for wear. I wasn't able to meet my 8-hour sleep goal most nights but by sleeping on planes and grabbing power naps here and there, I didn't miss by much. And by sticking to the anti-jet lag rules I laid out in my last post, I was able to avoid the nastiest consequences of a globe-hopping schedule.
The other thing that helped was never shutting up about the importance of getting enough sleep. Wherever I went, from Toronto to Chicago to Washington to Davos, I kept talking about the sleep challenge and why we're doing it. I did this partly to spread the word, but also to keep reinforcing for myself the lessons I've learned over the past four weeks. It was as if I was acting as my own Sleep-Skippers Anonymous sponsor. "My name is Arianna, and I used to be sleep-deprived..."
Another reminder of the downside of not getting enough shut-eye came from Harry Reid, who was caught yawning during the State of the Union speech on Wednesday and got major flack for it. C'mon, Senator, it's not too late to join Sleep Challenge 2010. It may not keep Frank Rich from describing you as "the face of Democratic fecklessness in the Senate," but I promise you'll feel more up to the task of trying to prove him wrong.
The exaltation of exhaustion, particularly the effect it has on women in the workforce, was one of the things discussed during a panel on gender parity I took part in on Saturday in Davos.
Scheduled to be broadcast on CNBC on Thursday, "The Gender Agenda" focused on how we can get more women in charge -- and how that would affect businesses and the world. At the moment, only 2 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a woman in charge.
My fellow panelists, including Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain and Company, all agreed on the value of achieving gender parity in the workplace but not on how to make it happen.
I stressed the need to change a corporate culture that continues to equate workaholism with success -- and often leads to talented women jettisoning their careers in order to have a healthier, more well-rounded life.
My friend Pattie Sellers of Fortune, who has interviewed many of the world's female business leaders, says one of the main issues that arises is the fact that women tend to think about power very differently than men do. "Women think about power horizontally," she told me. "Women have a broader view of life and what fulfills them."
This horizontal view leaves many high-achieving women less obsessed with moving up the corporate ladder -- always in search of a higher rank, better position, bigger job -- and more focused on family concerns and the idea of doing something better for the world. For them, "advancing" means getting the chance to broaden their influence and reach -- and to use this influence in socially responsible ways.
When confronted with the prevailing "success = driving yourself into the ground" corporate mindset, many women either drop out or, thinking it's the only way to get ahead, embrace the destructive ethos.
As I told the audience in Davos, if we had a corporate culture where people were less stressed and had more sleep and more balance between their work and their lives, we might not have found ourselves on the verge of a complete financial meltdown (recall Matt Taibbi's observation that Wall Streeters often "talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.")
Given their "horizontal" view of success (and that includes getting horizontal for more hours each night!), I believe that women can lead the way to creating a culture -- not just in the business world, but in all aspects of our lives -- that is less toxic, less sleep-deprived, less addicted to sleeping pills that help us wind down and energy drinks that wind us back up, and less likely to burn out the best and the brightest among us.
This would not only lead to more women rising to the top, but happier lives for our male leaders as well -- and better results both for companies and for society.
Now that's gender parity we can believe in.
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