Employees are happy, engaged, and productive when their individual needs and the needs of the organization are in sync. The extrinsic rewards of salary and benefits might be enough to get top talent in the door, but it will not be enough to retain employees or to bring out their best efforts. Employees reach their full potential when their job also brings intrinsic rewards—the feeling of doing meaningful work that is connected to their own personal and professional development.
Mentoring programs have become mainstream. About 70% of Fortune 500 companies have one (although only a quarter of smaller companies do). However, according to some observers, a formulaic, one-size-fits-all approach can do more damage than good. Moreover, a Harvard Business Review study of 30 professional firms found that, in a hypercompetitive world, it is easy for mentoring programs to become stale and bureaucratic.
An in-depth case study at Sun Microsystems is a good illustration:
Effect on diversity
Diversity and inclusion are significant challenges facing today’s workplace. All too often, and for a variety of reasons, workplace diversity programs are not successful. The good news is that mentoring programs have the best track record at making diversity a reality.
Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level by 9% to 24% (compared to -2% to 18% with other diversity initiatives). The same study found that mentoring programs also dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.
Types of mentoring
The overall mentoring program you adopt needs to be tailored to the specific needs and objectives of your organization. It also should take into account the individual employee and where there are in their personal and professional journey.
Generally speaking, there are three broad areas of mentoring:
It should be noted that these three types of mentoring are not mutually exclusive and that the same mentor can be of assistance in all three areas. While new employees are probably best off with a mentor within the organization, executives and CEOs may benefit from an outside voice—either a colleague facing comparable challenges in another organization or an executive coach.
Keys to a successful mentoring program
First and foremost, mentoring must be personal and not bureaucratic. If the program comes across as another obligatory HR program, mentees and mentors are likely to resent it or merely go through the motions.
According to Tammy Allen, author of Designing Workplace Mentor Programs, pairing an employee with the right mentor is the trickiest aspect of mentoring, and the one we know the least about. Some organizations use algorithms similar to those used by dating services, while others go for more random methods. The most effective programs give participants some input or choice—for example, suggesting three possible mentors and then letting the employee choose.
Clear expectations are also essential. The very term mentoring may carry different connotations for different people. Mentees should understand that it is not an automatic path to promotion, but instead an investment in their personal and professional growth. Mentors should know that their time is valued and that the benefits of mentoring are reciprocal.
Finally, some kind of suggested format or structure is helpful to get the mentoring relationship off the ground. If it is not part of a regular, ongoing conversation, you will never achieve the rapport necessary for successful mentoring. On the other hand, it is wise to allow the pair to customize their arrangement in a way that best suits them both.
A generation ago, mentoring was often built into the employer-employee relationship. A boss could be expected to see an employee as their protégé, not only supervising them but helping to steer their career. As that relationship has changed, companies are searching for other ways to create a meaningful connection with their employees. A strong mentoring program is a smart initiative for aligning your employees’ individual purpose with that of your organization. With those two interests in sync, your workplace culture will flourish.
She has visited Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay, but would like to see more of Australia and experience local culture once she graduates.
The young Norwegian is by no means alone. In March this year, 440,129 international students arrived on our shores in search of new educational opportunities and a taste of life Down Under.
Government data shows that students from China, India and Nepal collectively accounted for more than half (61 per cent) of all enrolments. However, all university sectors experienced declines for enrolments, down 15 per cent compared with March last year.
There’s no doubt that these students are spoilt for choice when it comes to an Australian university education, with many of the universities offering globally competitive learning experiences to maintain their position on global ranking lists. However, each ranking organisation measures institutions in different ways, using different criteria, and different weightings.
Rankings take into account the findings of surveys with academics, students and alumni, staff-student ratios, academic reputation and employer reputation. Comparing apples with apples can be a tall order for international students.
Rankings are important measures that provide students with the key information they need to decide whether a university is the right fit, particularly when they’re coming from the other side of the globe and need some hard data to decide where to enrol, Professor Suresh Cuganesan of the University of Sydney Business School says.
Students also want to see evidence of the university providing support when they need it and want the ability to help build those connections to industry and other students, he says.
“On top of that, the key factor that students are really looking at when deciding where to enrol is which institution is going to help connect them with industry and help shore up their career prospects once they’ve graduated,” Cuganesan says.
“What we do is showcase the quality of the education and the impact of sustainability, technology and innovation we have here,” he says.
But the ratings systems and the slick marketing material aimed at luring international students only form part of the decision-making process.
Universities also spent up big on digital advertising campaigns to lure students back into Australia as international borders opened after a tough period during the pandemic, analytics by digital marketing intelligence platform Pathmatics found.
James Cook University in Queensland topped ad spend, with more than $400,000 in February this year alone, which is a key month for international student intake.
When students are sitting on the other side of the world contemplating studying in Australia, they’re looking for an opportunity to broaden themselves culturally first and foremost, according to Flinders University’s director of international recruitment, Matt Schultz.
“One of the main decision-making factors is that for a lot of international students coming from countries where English isn’t the main language spoken at home, they want to be able to come and understand and operate their life in English and look for that cultural immersion experience that they wouldn’t necessarily get in their home country.”
While university rankings are important indicators for countries, cultural immersion opportunities extend to the wish to work part-time in Australia while they’re studying.
“Students coming from other markets are genuinely looking at where a course will take them in terms of their future career aspirations,” Schultz says.
There’s even an employment office that helps students develop their CV and work on their interview skills. Local industries are also invited to pick and choose the talent they might like to extend work opportunities to.
While potential work opportunities form a part of the selling point, the chance to work is never guaranteed to students, Schultz says.
“Most universities will offer some sort of employment service or employment support for international students. This experience gives them a bit of a leg-up into something in the future.
“It’s about making sure that students are armed with the skills to be able to compete on the open jobs market.
“The parents of an undergraduate student are usually paying for the university experience, and they want to know that they’re getting a decent return on their investment,” he says.
On the other hand, postgraduate students funding their own studies are usually working hard to save up their money, so they want access to work opportunities as well.
Again, they want to be sure that they have enrolled in a good quality university so they can get that return on their investment in terms of career opportunities, Schultz says.
While students admit that university ranking platforms, testimonials from alumni and marketing collateral are important sources of information, claims to be the best educator aren’t necessarily a deciding factor for international students.
Aside from a world-class education, students want the ability to experience the great outdoors, access internships once they arrive and they want to make global connections.
Students admit they look beyond the polished messages from universities in search of more authentic sources of information.
Determined to make the right decision, Chinese student Yinfeng Shen recalls sitting in his home in Shanghai trawling through the social channels for Australian universities for comments from past and current students.
While he always knew he wanted to study in Australia, there were plenty of stellar universities to choose from. Narrowing it down to one was difficult, he says.
The ability to choose the electives that appealed to him, the prospect of professional opportunities and potential career paths ultimately led him to enrol in the University of Sydney.
“I liked the flexibility to be able to choose major courses. I have a big passion for the arts, and was able to choose all my electives under the school of contemporary arts,” Shen says.
It felt like an easy transition for him given his high school scores were accepted here. He landed in Australia in 2017, studying a bachelor of commerce, majoring in marketing and finance.
Shen didn’t want to return home yet, so he dived into more study, enrolling in a bachelor of commerce and master of international management. He’s currently on exchange and will be completing his last semester in Lisbon, Portugal.
German student Friederike Badenhausen had also always dreamt of studying in Australia.
“It’s a beautiful, diverse city with world famous beaches, skyscrapers, great cafes, bars and an absolutely stunning university. Nothing can beat that,” she says of Sydney.
She travelled to Australia to study management, drawn in by the prospect of quality teaching and global networking opportunities.
“I used this year to gain more experience in the industry, working for an impact start-up and joining PwC Germany’s start-up initiative.”
While the pandemic forced her to postpone her studies by a year, she’s enjoying study in Australia. She is now in her last semester with the University of Sydney.
“When the border restrictions were lifted, I couldn’t wait to get Down Under, and my expectations didn’t fall flat. My time here has been a blast, full of great experiences, enriching courses and fantastic friends I’ve made along the way,” Badenhausen says.
Badenhausen contemplated not just the degree itself when selecting a university, but was also drawn in by the promise of being able to join a global community of management students with the drive to make the world a better place.
“Our program allows us to tap into a corporate partner network through real-life consulting projects for companies like Deloitte and WWF,” she says.
But the world beckons, and she plans to board a plane for Santiago, Chile, in an exchange semester in the coming weeks in search of another adventure.
The Great Resignation of 2021 raised the stakes of the talent war for employers. Now, the landscape is changing yet again. Nearly two-thirds of employers and three-quarters of employees believe a recession is coming, and 45 percent of workers say they fear the difficulty of finding work during an economic downturn.
But no two recessions are alike. Unlike the housing collapse of 2008–2011, when employees tended to stay with their employers even if they were unhappy, the job market in 2022 is still very strong. With an average of two job openings per unemployed person, it’s still very much an employee-driven market—and fear of a recession likely won’t be enough to make your employees stay. In fact, they seem to be doing the opposite—in the same study, eight in ten workers actually reported looking for a new job in anticipation of an upcoming market shift.
With this in mind, what should HR be doing to ensure robust retention today and in the near future?
Creating a workplace where employees choose to remain starts with caring about why they stay. In dark times, a steady paycheck may be enough—but when the sun comes back out, a job that merely pays the bills won’t keep people on board. They’ll be looking for work that provides not only stability but a rewarding experience that matches their personal growth with increased opportunity.
Helping employees feel heard, providing professional development, optimizing compensation and benefits and caring for mental health all contribute to creating an environment that will keep employees loyal in good times and bad. To prevent turnover, HR should make employees feel secure in spite of the changing world around them and optimistic about what lies ahead.
A recession can lead to fear and uncertainty among employees—fear for their jobs, fear of lost income, fear of struggling to find work to support their families. But don’t assume this will make them stay. If they feel their current employer is unprepared for a recession, they’ll look for a more reliable job in advance of possible layoffs. And if they feel unheard and unsupported, they’re going to start looking at employers who demonstrate a culture of communication. Fear and uncertainty can be alienating, but steady, consistent feedback can help reduce apprehension and make employees feel more secure.
By prioritizing transparency and honest communication, you can ensure you’re developing a culture of retention and employee engagement at your company. But feedback only improves engagement if there’s clarity on both sides of the employer-employee agreement— employees know you hear them and everyone knows how the company’s decisions lead to accomplishing your shared goals.
The employment landscape is always changing, but no matter where it goes, being the best option is always better than being the only option. A recession might keep employees from leaving, but relying on the economy isn’t a retention strategy. Whether your company is weathering a recession or dealing with a tight job market (or both at the same time), creating an environment where employees want to stay—versus having to stay—will be the best investment you can make in your future. With a proactive and employee-centric plan, you can create the kind of loyalty that will survive any economic storm.
BORN as missiles rained down on a conflict zone maternity hospital, three-month-old Bogdan Lazarska now gurgles contentedly.
Gripping mum Anya’s finger tightly with his little hand, it is a picture of harmony seemingly a world away from the horrors ravaging his Ukrainian homeland.
Yet eight short weeks ago the pair joined the terrified and teeming mass of refugees who have fled to western Ukraine as their home town was engulfed by fighting.
Today they have found hope and solace in Lviv’s Unbroken Mothers refuge, set up by the Ukrainian Red Cross with help from cash donated by YOU, our generous Sun readers.
Mum-of-six Anya, 30, from Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, told me: “Bogdan was born under shellfire. When I was in the hospital with him there was a huge explosion nearby which blew out all the glass in the windows. I was terrified my baby would be hurt.”
Then in July, police came to Anya’s home to tell her to evacuate west for her own safety.
Cradling little Bogdan, and accompanied by eldest daughter Sofiya, 12, she fled first by bus, then train, to rail hub Lviv, in Ukraine’s far west.
With her husband Gimgin, 33, a delivery driver in peace time, now fighting with Ukrainian forces at the front line, her remaining children remained in Dobropillia with their grandmother.
At the Unbroken Mothers refuge, a 20-minute drive from the centre of Lviv, Anya and her splintered family found relative tranquillity in a city that has escaped the worst of the fighting.
This week, however, a deadly wave of long-range missiles hit historic Lviv, disrupting power and water in some parts of this elegant city.
Electricity was cut off at the refuge for a couple of hours before being reinstated.
The mothers and children were said to be coping well in the circumstances.
The cosy centre — with plush kitchens, shower blocks, laundry rooms and comfy sleeping quarters — offers counselling to youngsters growing up amid one of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts since the Second World War.
Sitting on a sofa festooned with cuddly toys, Anya added: “It’s a lovely place to live. The mums talk together and the children play together.”
Like many at the refuge, the mum was forced to leave beloved family members, her cherished home and possessions in Donetsk.
Paying tribute to Sun readers who donated to the British Red Cross Ukraine Charity Appeal, Anya said: “Thank you so much to all who gave money.
“It’s given me a safe place to stay with my baby. Now I want to bring all my children to Lviv so we are all together again.”
Currently home to 12 mothers and 21 children, the welcoming centre is nestled in manicured gardens on the outskirts of Lviv, 44miles east of the Polish border.
The two-storey buildings were completed in just three months, with local authorities finding the land and overseeing construction.
Nurses are permanently on hand to care for the traumatised children and offer the mums advice as they prepare for childbirth.
In her neat bedroom, Olha Kravchenko, 32, pats her tummy and says she’s already named her unborn baby Igor.
The mum-of-two, who shares double bunk beds with 12-year-old daughter Alla and ten-year-old Volodymyr, said: “I’m expecting Igor this month.
I’m expecting Igor this month. This is a wonderful place. The men of Ukraine are defending our land and our lives. The women are staying strong and calm. It’s very appropriate that this refuge is called Unbroken Mothers.Olha Kravchenko
"This is a wonderful place. The men of Ukraine are defending our land and our lives. The women are staying strong and calm. It’s very appropriate that this refuge is called Unbroken Mothers.”
Olha, from Rogan village in the Kharkiv district in north east Ukraine, says she fled with her children after a neighbour’s house was turned to matchwood in a missile strike.
An emotional Olha added: “Our neighbours, a mother and her daughter, were killed in the bombing. Shells were landing everywhere. We hid in a basement, it was so scary.”
Today pens and school books lie on their dinner table and two teddy bears are positioned on a wash basket next to their bunk beds.
It’s a picture of ordinary domestic life a world away from bomb-scarred Rogan.
Manager at Unbreakable Mothers Liliya Kilchytska, 34, told me: “We have psychologists and social workers who talk with the children to help them cope with their experiences.
“Many of these youngsters lived in bomb shelters for a long time without water, electricity, gas and communications.
“Everyone has a different story to tell but the women are so supportive of one another.”
Pregnant Tanya Kondakova, 38, tells of living under bombardment in home city Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Having breakfast with children Anya, 15, and Anton, nine, the mum revealed: “Our house was literally shaking with bombs landing all around. My children were panicking and crying.”
Fleeing in April, Tanya added: “The children are very happy here and are able to study online with their former classmates who have gone to Britain, Germany and Belgium.”
“Thank you to Sun readers who have love in their hearts and donated to the Red Cross.”
Children’s laughter echoes through the wood-lined corridors as youngsters play games with donated toys.
Mum-of-four Olha Schevechenko, 32, from Lysychansk in Luhansk region with two-month-old Daruna.
Olha was caught up in the fighting as tens of thousands fled her city.
The mum said: “Civilians were being hit by rockets and tank shells. The whole city was under bombardment.
“We had to shelter in our basement for two weeks. The children were so terrified they wet themselves.
“Now they go to school close to the refuge and have smiles on their faces once more.”
In the communal kitchen area of the refuge nurse Vira Nazarevych, 28, cuddles four-month-old baby Daniil.
The medic revealed: “When the children first arrive here they are usually in a bad psychological condition.
“It’s such a shock for them to be shot at or forced to live in a bomb shelter basement for weeks or months. They find it hard to understand this conflict.”
But nurse Vira says professional help and the community spirit in the refuge works wonders, adding: “All the families help each other out.
“And we provide counselling to help the children forget about the awful things they have witnessed. You can see them improving every day.”
After reporting on the millions of weary and bedraggled refugees fleeing through rail terminus Lviv last March, we launched The Sun’s Ukraine Fund, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross’s vital humanitarian work.
When the children first arrive here they are usually in a bad psychological condition. It’s such a shock for them to be shot at or forced to live in a bomb shelter basement for weeks or months. They find it hard to understand this conflict.Vira Nazarevych
Almost 15million people have fled the fighting in Ukraine - just under half that number remain dispersed in the country with the rest escaping abroad as refugees.
The Red Cross has helped more than five million people with emergency aid, including distributing £56million in financial help.
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “People have suffered unimaginable hardship. Red Cross teams have been on the ground in Ukraine, working around the clock, from the outset.
“Generous donations from Sun readers have helped them to provide life-saving aid such as food, clean water, shelter and medical aid.”
“The Red Cross has also distributed £2million in financial support helping around 13,000 refugees from Ukraine who have fled to the UK.
Mr Adamson, who described the Unbroken Mothers project as “incredible”, added: “Sadly, this crisis is expected to last for months and years to come.
“The Red Cross will be there for people, for as long as we’re needed.”
PICTURES of women and children fleeting the horror of Ukraine’s devastated towns and cities moved Sun readers to tears in February.
You donated in your droves to support Red Cross work in Ukraine to provide shelter, food and water to those trapped.
Your cash also helped the International Red Cross restore water supplies and support medical facilities. It also helped Red Cross workers aid those fleeing across the borders to neighbouring countries.
Readers donations to our fund were also boosted by cash from firms like Camelot who gave £1million and Barrett Developments who gave £50,000.
Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of Red Cross said: “We thank Sun readers for your kind support.
"Anything you can gives makes a difference and will help us to provide life-saving assistance and essentials, like food, water and healthcare, to the people caught up in this crisis.”
If you would still like to donate, click here.
The Ukraine Crisis Appeal will support people in areas currently affected and those potentially affected in the future by the crisis.
In the unlikely event that the British Red Cross raise more money than can be reasonably and efficiently spent, any surplus funds will be used to help them prepare for and respond to other humanitarian disasters anywhere in the world.
For more information visit https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/disaster-fund
Let's talk tofu.
It seemed like such a simple, honest food when it caught your eye in the grocery store. But later, after you checked it out online, you began to worry that a long-term relationship might get complicated.
The value of an internship is unmistakable. It teaches marketable skills, it builds professional networks, and it helps students test-drive careers.
But the benefits are not available to all: Close to half of all internships are unpaid, putting them out of reach for students who need wages to keep up with their bills, even if the work has nothing to do with their intended careers.
Unpaid internships are facing new scrutiny from colleges, state lawmakers — and even the White House, which announced its interns this fall will be paid for the first time to help remove " barriers to equal opportunity " for low-income students.
And students are leading the effort — saying they can’t afford to meet internship requirements, and shouldn’t be expected to work unpaid to make it in a given field.
Denice Brambila, 26, last spring completed an unpaid internship that was required by her social work master’s program at San Diego State University.
To support herself, she worked 12 hours a week at a paid job at an elementary school office. That was on top of the 16 hours a week she spent at her internship, all while trying to keep up with her studies.
“It was pretty hard, especially on those days when I felt really drained and stressed out,” Brambila said.
The people who can take unpaid internships have financial safety nets, and that means they tend to benefit students who are wealthier and white, perpetuating wealth gaps. Three out of four unpaid interns in 2020-21 were white, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“Let’s just face it, it’s very difficult to take an unpaid internship, unpaid work experience, when you’re from a lower-income background. That’s why we’re pushing for more paid internships, less reliance on unpaid internships, and in the hopes that it helps diversify the workforce and these industries,” said Joshua Kahn, associate director of research and public policy at NACE.
Unpaid internships can be found across industries. More than two-thirds of internships in state governments and at nonprofit organizations were unpaid, according to the 2021 study by NACE. At universities, professional programs in fields like social work, teaching, and journalism are among those that commonly require field work that is often unpaid.
In some fields unpaid internships are likened to apprenticeships because they are considered essential training for careers.
“We really don’t believe students can learn how to work with people, unless they have some practice working with people,” said Darla Spence Coffey, president and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education, the accrediting body for social work programs.
The council calls for undergraduates to spend 400 hours on internships, and 900 hours for master’s students. The goal, Coffey said, is for students to “learn how to toggle back and forth between what the theory says and how to apply it.”
But many of the underfunded nonprofits and clinics where students work cannot afford to pay them. “Students would love for the accrediting body to say you must pay your students, but that is something we just can’t do,” Coffey said.
Shannon Swanson, 23, has seen firsthand the disparities in who can afford to take unpaid work.
As an unpaid intern in the California State Capitol, she worked up to 40 hours a week, well beyond the 15 hours expected of most interns. She wanted the experience and could work longer hours because she had paid campus jobs with flexible hours and financial help from her parents.
Some of her peers had to take paid, full-time jobs to get by and couldn’t devote more than 15 hours to their Capitol internships.
After she graduated from Sacramento State University, Swanson was hired as a legislative aide in the same office where she interned. She went on to get a job in higher education policy. As much as the experience helped her career, she bristles at the attitude she heard from staff that newcomers should slog through unpaid internships like they once did.
“We really need to retire this attitude of ‘It was hard for me so it’s going to be hard for you,’” she said.
A legislative measure under consideration in California includes a $5 million fund for stipends to help 650 low-income students and latest college graduates take unpaid work in the state Legislature and other state departments.
“It’s important we focus on those who need it most and have been historically excluded,” says state Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, a Democrat, who plans to introduce the bill early next year.
Some businesses are exploring new ways to make internships accessible. One company, Parker Dewey, has partnered with college career centers to connect students with “micro-internships” -– short-term, paid projects that can appeal to students from different backgrounds who may need more flexible hours.
Colleges also have taken steps to make internships more accessible to their students.
Start your day with the top stories in South Florida.
At Pomona College in California, students can apply for stipends for internships that offer little or no pay to help them explore possible careers.
Marina Aina, a Pomona student majoring in American Studies, has had paid internships in politics and leadership development in the past. Last summer, she was able to intern with a nonprofit organization that works with Tongan Americans -– an opportunity she saw as a chance to help give back to people like her.
Without the stipend, she could not see herself taking an unpaid opportunity over a summer job.
“If I felt that it wasn’t compensated then I wouldn’t go for it because I wouldn’t have the funds to cover it,” said Aina, 21. “I wouldn’t want to ask my parents, who are helping me pay for college, to pay for something I’m doing over the summer.”
The internships also gave her insight into a potential career.
“It was nice to see a grassroots organization predominantly run by a woman that is serving the community and they’re successful,” Aina says. “I personally wanted to see what that looks like because I could see myself in it.”
The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
More than a few of us are convinced that the authoritarian threat to democracy is real and serious. It seems to be bearing down on us like an unstoppable locomotive. Some believe the train is moving slowly and that there is enough time to warn others.
In Republican-dominated Western Colorado, it will take Democrats, Republicans and independents working together to stop political extremism. Yet many Republicans here, who privately say they are against extremism, are publicly silent. They are afraid they will lose business, or lose friends, or lose the next election. Instead, some just hope extremism will go away on its own, like the flu. Others think they can finesse change by electing a few good people and quietly make changes without confronting extremism directly.
In reality, the train is moving faster than we think. As Politico reports, many Republicans are planning ways to obstruct 2022 voting. In Michigan, there are plans to train volunteers to challenge voters in Democrat-majority precincts. At the same time, Republican-friendly district attorneys may attempt to block vote counts in those same precincts.
In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, Republican candidate for governor, says that if elected, he will have the power to decertify a democratic victory just by saying he thinks fraud occurred. Other Republicans are making similar plans.
But the railway system in India can teach us what must be done.
In Mumbai, India, about 10 years ago, 10 people a day died getting hit by trains while crossing tracks. The government, after several failed attempts at solving the problem, turned to Final Mile, a group organized around behavioral economics and neuroscience.
Final Mile dug in and studied how the deaths were occurring. They reviewed the safety strategies used. Then they came up with three important insights and three life-saving solutions.
First, people were hit not because they didn’t see the train coming, but because of something called the Leibowitz hypothesis that says people cannot accurately gauge the speed of oncoming large objects.
As a solution, Final Mile had groups of railway ties painted at places where people were crossing the tracks. They painted every other tie with bright yellow paint, creating a series of bright yellow stripes. The stripes attracted attention, and as the train approached and hit the striping, the brain was able to understand how fast the train was moving. People then stayed out of the way.
Second was signage. The existing, ineffective text-based warning signs were scrapped. In its place were posters with a close-up photo of an actual person, capturing the horror on their faces the moment before they were hit by the train. People got the message. They didn’t need to know the “victim” was actually an actor.
Finally, the Final Mile neuroscientists recommended changing the way train engineers used their warning horns. A study showing that brain attention peaks during the gap between two musical notes, led to a recommendation that train engineers change the one long warning blast they were using to two short blasts, awakening the brain with the second blast.
As a result, the 10 deaths a day along Mumbai’s rail system were reduced to about one.
What does this have to do with saving democracy here? Yes, it’s a metaphor. But once we recognize that events are moving faster than we originally thought, we can take action. We must be the people painting the stripes, creating the posters, and producing those warning blasts alerting people to the danger. Here is what we must do:
And finally, we must understand the best time to save democracy is before we lose it.
Steve Mandell is a research professional living in Montrose. He is a founding member of Restore the Balance, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about the dangers of political extremism.
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In glossy photos on Instagram, a manicured hand pours powder into a liquid that turns pink, gleaming in the sun. Crushed amber specks shimmer under stubby capsules beside the caption: “Two pills a day can help keep the UTIs away!” A cartoon heart twinkles alongside boxes of pills and powders — with “UTIs Suck, You Don’t,” scrawled at the center.
Drinking cranberry juice has long been the prevention strategy du jour. Now, women looking to ward off urinary tract infections can sip pink lemonade and berry-flavored concoctions, or pour pills out of pastel bottles.
Over the past 10 years, products with cutesy names and slick branding marketed to women — UTI Don’t Think So, Happy V, VeeTract, Uqora — have dangled the potential of a future without these infections (though they are careful to state that their products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases). But gynecologists and urinary health experts aren’t sure whether supplements can protect against these infections.
“It could be that you’re just making expensive pee,” said Dr. Erin Higgins, an OB-GYN at Cleveland Clinic.
Bacterial cystitis, the most common type of UTI, occurs when bacteria like E. coli travel from the rectum, genital area or vagina, settle in the urethra and enter the bladder, where they multiply. This can cause abdominal cramping and burning, bloody, frequent urination.
Most UTIs are uncomfortable but largely innocuous, said Dr. Benjamin Brucker, a urologist and urogynecologist at NYU Langone Health. In rare cases, however, the kidneys can be infected, leading to fever, chills, lower back pain and vomiting.
Anyone can develop one, though women have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to reach the urinary tract and then spread to the bladder. Over half of adult women will get at least one at some point in their lives, and roughly 25% will get recurrent urinary tract infections, which usually means three or more cases within a year.
Doctors typically recommend prescription antibiotics to treat UTIs, although in latest years scientists and physicians have raised concerns about infections becoming drug-resistant. Antibiotics remain the leading way to treat the infections, but concerns may lead patients to seek alternatives for treatment and prevention, said Dr. Stacy Lenger, a urogynecologist at UofL Health and the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration does not closely regulate supplements, which means there is limited data on whether they are effective. And, without results from large-scale clinical trials, it’s unclear whether UTI pills and powders actually prevent infection. (Uqora started a clinical trial for its UTI supplement but canceled the study in March 2020 because of the pandemic, a representative from the company said. The company has plans to reinstate the study.)
Still, there is some evidence that the individual ingredients in these supplements may provide a slight benefit, especially for people with frequent UTIs — and they’re unlikely to have significant side effects, said Dr. Monica Woll Rosen, an OB-GYN at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Cranberry, the most common ingredient in UTI supplements, has been touted as an at-home elixir to ward off the infection. There’s encouraging, but scant, data to support this: A 2017 meta-analysis found that cranberry reduced the risk of developing a urinary tract infection by 26% in otherwise healthy women with a history of the infections, but the studies had small numbers of participants.
The American Urogynecologic Society issued a Best Practice Statement that says “the preponderance of evidence does not support routine use of cranberry products in the care of women with” recurrent UTIs.
In 2020, the FDA concluded that there was “limited credible scientific evidence” to suggest that certain cranberry supplements and beverages would lower the risk of recurrent infections.
Many UTI supplements also contain d-mannose, a simple sugar related to glucose. A review of previous studies on the chemical found that it may provide protection against recurring UTIs.
“Overall, d-mannose appears to be effective when compared to a placebo,” Lenger, the lead author of the review, said. “But that’s taken with the caveat that this is a small amount of data.” In large doses, d-mannose may cause gastrointestinal side effects, like diarrhea and flatulence, she added, but most people tolerate it well.
Vitamins, especially vitamin C, are also present in many of the supplements that claim to protect against urinary tract infections. Some doctors think vitamin C can combat bacterial growth, in combination with other supplements, by theoretically acidifying the urine, said Dr. Jerry Lowder, a urogynecologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“With any therapy, you’ve got to think: What’s the risk, what’s the benefit?” Brucker said. “If there’s a low risk, and there’s some data that says it might work, it might be reasonable for a doctor to say, let’s consider these remedies.”
However, because these products are not subject to rigorous oversight, supplement ingredients can vary in quantity or quality. And without the guidance of a medical professional, a patient may inadvertently take a supplement that interacts with their current medication.
“The big problem with any of these things is quality control,” Brucker said.
Doctors aren’t certain why some people experience recurring UTIs and others never have them. Those who frequently contract UTIs are often prescribed low-dose daily antibiotics. For the general population, though, there are simple steps to help protect against these infections.
Basic hygiene is essential: Women should always wipe from front to back after using the toilet, to ensure bacteria from the rectum does not travel near the urethra. For both men and women, it is important to stay hydrated, and to urinate throughout the day — don’t try to hold it for long stretches, Higgins said.
During perimenopause and menopause, women may be at higher risk for UTIs as estrogen levels decrease. Topical vaginal estrogen is the “gold standard” nonantibiotic treatment in this population, Lowder said.
And, true to conventional wisdom, urinating after sex can reduce the risk of developing a UTI by flushing bacteria out of the vagina, Rosen said, although evidence is thin.
“There’s really no data for it,” Brucker said.
Doctors cautioned against assuming all vaginal irritation or pain is a UTI. Common symptoms can also indicate bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections, urinary incontinence and bladder cancers.
If a patient experiences the symptoms of a UTI, and especially if blood is in their urine, they should seek a medical professional.
If you assume you have a UTI and reach for a supplement to treat or prevent the infection, “there’s harm in not making sure you have a right diagnosis,” Brucker said. “A simple exam can assess for these things. A cranberry supplement can’t.”