Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Business Review’

When, over the span of little over a week, two huge studies find that, based on rankings by peers, supervisors, and direct reports, women are viewed as better leaders than men — and that, the higher the professional level, the wider the gap between the woman and her male counterpart (i.e., if you’ll pardon the grammar, the higher we are on the ladder, the, ahem, more better we are than the guy occupying the same rung)– but women are more underrepresented the higher up the ranks you climb, doncha start to wonder where the tipping point is? When those numbers will pick up some speed on the way to 50/50? Given these studies’ results, you’d think it should happen any day now.

In “Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?” Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, CEO and president, respectively, of leadership development consultancy firm Zenger/Folkman, write in the Harvard Business Review what they found in a survey they conducted of 7,280 leaders. These leaders were judged based on 360 evaluations (which take into account the opinions of those who work for these leaders, those who work with these leaders, and those who are the bosses of these leaders) rating each leader’s overall effectiveness and on “the 16 competencies that our 30 years of research shows are most important to overall leadership effectiveness.”

They note that some stereotypes were confirmed: one, that there are more men in leadership positions than women. And

Similarly, most stereotypes would have us believe that female leaders excel at “nurturing” competencies such as developing others and building relationships, and many might put exhibiting integrity and engaging in self-development in that category as well. And in all four cases our data concurred — women did score higher than men.

But the women’s advantages were not at all confined to traditionally women’s strengths. In fact, at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts.

And yet. We seem stalled. As Barnard College President Debora Spar said at a White House Conference on urban economic development recently, “We have fallen into the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector–be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent… That is a crime, and is a waste of incredible talent.” While women have made incredible progress over a pretty short amount of time, our speed ain’t what it used to be. It’s as though, while we’ve kept one foot on the gas, another has taken up residence on the brake.

The foot that’s on the brake looks suspiciously like this: the fact that, as we are wont to say, the workplace is still built for the 50s stereotype–the guy who has a full-time wife at home to take care of, you know, life. Despite the fact that near no one lives like that anymore, by and large, the workplace hasn’t changed. In fact, one could argue that it’s gotten worse: thanks to the advent of things like cell phones and email, we’re supposed to be on call, even when we’re done for the day, scrambling to make it to the pharmacy before it closes, or running to meet the plumber, or even to go to the bloody grocery store — you know, the things that phantom 50s housewife would have taken care of for us. The workplace is not set up for anyone lacking that friendly, wifely ghost; man or woman, married or not. The logistical wizardry that’s required to manage both work and a life is daunting: and, the more intense our job, the more insane the juggling act. The more insane the juggling act, the more likely we become, at one point or another, to lean out, as Sheryl Sandberg might say. Throw kids — and a comparably employed partner — into the mix, and something’s (someone’s) often gotta give. Often the decision as to whose career will downshift is financial — and, as women often make less money than men, you know what that means, whose career will move to the slow lane. Two words: Mommy track.

So, back to my original question: when will things change? We’ve shown we can play their game–and we’re beginning to show just how well we can play it. But it’s time to redefine the game itself, to make it ours. Imagine, for a second: what your company, your country, your world would look like if there were as many women in charge as there are men? Really think about it.

Last week, I came across Do Women Make Better Bosses Than Men?, a piece referencing yet another study. Here’s the lede:

The survey found that women bosses were more democratic and easier to communicate with, allowing their employees to participate in decision-making and encouraging feedback on management policies.

And one would have to assume that management policies adjusted to reflect employee feedback would reflect our current realities: that employers need to take into account that all of their employees have a life — and if they support their employees’ ability to have a life outside of work, those employees are going to be that much more productive and engaged when they’re at work. Just exactly the sorts of changes that’ll likely make it more realistic for more women to stay in the game.

The whole situation can sound suspiciously like a Catch-22: it’ll take more women at the top to make the changes that are needed for more women to get to the top. But look at how far we’ve come: surely, if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s us.

Read Full Post »

The other day, one of our Twitter followers sent me a link, with a “What do you think?”-type note. (Using 140 characters or less, natch.) A click landed me on Harvard Business’ blog, and a post entitled “Why Are Women So Unhappy At Work?” The piece (written by a man–just for the record) quotes the findings from an earlier post by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy. In that post, entitled “Are Your Best Female Employees a Flight Risk?” Hewlett writes:

We found that in the wake of last year’s financial crash, high-powered women were more than twice as likely as men–84% compared with 40%–to be seriously thinking jumping ship. And when the head and the heart are out the door, the rest of the body is sure to follow.

Hewlett goes on to cite examples of what various companies are doing in order to keep their ladies on board. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the subject of passion came up:

Intel created workshops aimed squarely at retaining one of its most at-risk populations: mid-level female engineers. Exit interviews revealed that many of these talented technologists were leaving not to spend time with their family but because they no longer felt challenged by or passionate about their work. In the 21st century, talented people of both sexes often feel stymied by a traditional vertical career path that follows a straight line up a narrow ladder. Rather, they’re interested in and open to lateral moves and a variety of “work style” options, such as flex schedules and telecommuting, as long as these options are intellectually and professionally challenging and/or satisfy personal obligations.

That’s surely a part of it. Now, consider this, from Russell Bishop, via the Huffington Post, still rumbling with riffs on the Paradox of Declining Women’s Happiness study:

The implication seems to be that if you were to gain more in terms of physical world success you would naturally become happier… My theory is that over the past 40 years, as American society exited the “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver” mentality of the 50s and 60s, we seem to have increasingly equated success and fulfillment with jobs, career advancement, position title, bank accounts, and other symbols of success. If you were one of those statistical women who took on job, career, or economic goals as your “symbols” of success, you just might have wound up sacrificing what mattered most in hopes of greener pastures at the eother end of job, career or economic goals. What if you won the race to the top: a better job, increased paycheck, more “toys” than the boys? Did you bargain for all that comes with it? Did you anticipate the sacrifices you would have to make to get there? How are those trades looking now?

An interesting take. Going back to the original post, the one our Twitter friend sent, author Sean Silverthorne writes:

Unfortunately, Hewlett doesn’t answer my burning question: Why are women more likely than men to consider jumping ship? Certainly there are career opportunity questions. If women believe they don’t have as good a chance as their male colleagues of advancing, of course they should be considering options. But a 2x factor suggests something much more deep seeded. Something about the nature of work in the modern company.

His post earned a slew of responses, citing reasons for our wandering eyes ranging from discrimination from the good old boys’ clubbers, to a need for more corporate support for work/life balance, to female “dogs in power that insist on running a place like a sorority.” No woman wants to take part in the proverbial workplace pissing contests–and even if she did, she’s not properly equipped. But this comment really made me think:

I also think there’s a fundamentally different paradigm that can exist in female-oriented workplaces and it takes us away from the whole aggressive, money and progress-oriented approach to work–it is collaborative, nurturing, fun approach which while achieving goals and earning a living isn’t centered or structured the same way–it’s like a circle not a hierarchy and goes to the heart of our culture.

Lest you think that sounds a little too kumbaya to actually work, consider these points, enumerated by Hewlett:

  • Research demonstrates that companies with significant numbers of women in management have a much higher return on investment
  • A study has shown that when work teams are split 50-50 between men and women, productivity goes up. Gender balance, the research posits, counters ‘groupthink’–the tendency of homogenous groups to staunchly defend wrong-headed ideas because everyone in the group thinks the same way
  • Another study–out of France–showed that firms in the CAC 40 (the French euivalent of the Dow Jones) with a high ration of women in top management showed better resistance to the financial crisis. The fewer female managers a company has, the greater drop in its share price since January 2008.

So, clearly it behooves everyone to keep women engaged, in the game. But if a whopping 84% of us are thinking exit strategy, what’s the answer?

I kind of think they all touched on a part of it: Hewlett pointed out the need for passion and challenge at work; Bishop noted the inevitable let-down that comes from chasing–and then catching–material things; and Silverthorne offered a tease, earning comments that allude to something deeper, something about the very way in which workplace structures are organized, a la Elizabeth Lesser’s suggestion I first wrote about here:

The conversation we need to have now is no longer about women assuming positions of leadership within the existing power structure, it’s about the power structures themselves, it’s about how to go about assuming power, how to change the structures.

But in order to change them, we’ve got to stick around.

Read Full Post »

Here’s a newsflash. Women and men are different. This, I realize, is likely not news to you, but an item I came across yesterday might be. The piece in question, “Why Corporate Women Are More Likely to Blow the Whistle” by Maureen Tkacik, appeared on Slate’s DoubleX, and saw me go from zero to completely riled up by the end of the first page. In it, Tkacik talks about “a veritable Davos of Bitches Who Told You So,” including Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins, Brooksley Born–former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who spent three years pushing for derivative regulation only to be shushed by Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin; Sheila Bair, the only government regulator who can credibly claim to have seen the crisis coming; and Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot, an SEC attorney who smelled a rat in Bernie Madoff-land, way back in 2004.

Such examples are all the more amazing when you consider not just Who and What these women were speaking out against, but when you consider how few women there are in the position To speak out on such issues in the first place. But back to Watkins, who, post-Enrongate, was named one of Time magazine’s 2002 “People of the Year.” At that time, when asked whether she thought women were somehow more ethical than men, Watkins said no. But it seems that, with the passage of seven years, came a change of heart. And perhaps a willingness to claim la difference. Tkacik writes:

She thinks women are more likely to blow the whistle than men, for reasons that have as much to do with nature as with nurture…. Watkins became convinced whistle-blowing was one of the few types of “risk” that come more naturally to women after meeting Judy Rosener, best known for a somewhat controversial 1990 Harvard Business Review article that encouraged working women to stop imitating men and embrace a “women’s way of leading.”

Now, it’s long been believed that, in the battle of the sexes, men are the natural-born risk takers. But, according to Rosener, it depends on what kind of risk we’re talking about: one, which one takes with the encouragement of an audience (think Deal or No Deal… or shortsighted shareholders) is where men tend to excel. The other, which Rosener calls “moral risk” is the kind that one takes in spite of the audience’s disapproval. And that kind is where women excel. Tkacik continues, saying:

In addition, when women see wrongdoing, they try to fix it within their own organizations. Men, by contrast, tend to alert the media–even though women whistleblowers are the ones more often portrayed as opportunistic “media darlings” chasing Erin Brokovichian adulation.

So yes, in that respect, women are often damned if we do, and damed if we don’t. But that’s not my point (today). Today, my point is this: plotted against a timeline of the modern workplace, women are relatively new to the game. And it made sense that, upon our initial entree, our strategy was to blend in, to play like the boys, even to look like them (one word: shoulderpads). We downplayed our differences, fearing that, if the men smelled fear, insecurity, or Chanel #5, we’d be at an immediate disadvantage. Or maybe kicked out of the club for good. But it seems to me that every time we choose not to own our womanness — and all the differences (like the willingness to blow the proverbial whistle and the tendency to be discreet about it, all despite the fact that we’ll likely be vilified for it) inherent to that womanness — we do ourselves and our gender as a whole a disservice. Several months ago, I came across this interview with Elizabeth Lesser, founder of the Omega Institute, which really gets to the core of the issue. Among other things, Lesser considers how Hillary Clinton’s reluctance to have a “Gender” speech on par with Obama’s “Race” speech — a legacy of the early working woman’s Pretend You’re One of the Boys mantra, perhaps — as a significant factor in her undoing. (On the other hand, look at the treatment Sotomayor received for being forthright on the subject, and who can blame Madame Secretary?) When asked about the recent formation of Omega’s Women’s Institute, Lesser says:

We’ve had centuries of power and leadership where men have been at the helm. There’s some real serious gaps in representation in the world. And also the world’s in trouble. What would happen if women became empowered and could lead from their core basic values? Not just let’s put women into a structure that is about up-down power, like I have power over you. But what if women could actually influence the way power was wielded in the world, from a core feminine place. … The conversation we need to have now is no longer about women assuming positions of leadership within the existing power structure, it’s about the power structures themselves, it’s about how to go about assuming power, how to change the structures.

Which leads us right back to Rosener’s words about embracing a “women’s way of leading,” nearly twenty years old, and still, so much easier said than done. And she and Lesser are talking about change on the macro level. But I think it’s relevant on the personal level, as well. Because it’s a choice — and maybe acknowledging who we really are and where we’re really coming from is one way to make every other decision we face just a little bit easier.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers