Monday, December 12, 2005

Women Not At the Top in the Communications Industry

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania conducted studies of the communications industry's exclusion of women from top decision-making tiers of telecommunications, printing and publishing, entertainment, and advertising companies.


[The Glass Ceiling Persists: The 3rd Annual APPC Report on Women Leaders in Communications Companies by Erica Falk, Ph.D., Washington Research Director and Erin Grizard, Research Associate; December 2003]

    "While discrimination against women in all industries is of public policy concern, the role of women in communications companies is of particular interest because communications companies play a special role in society. The news, movies, television shows, websites, papers, advertisements, books, and magazines that we watch and read not only tell us about the events of the day through their content, but also tell us about our world in the way that content is presented. They communicate in subtle and often unconscious ways who and what is important and normal and who has status and power, and the media help tell us what our national agenda should be. Communications companies therefore play an especially important role, and the people who make decisions about what kinds of news, information, and entertainment get produced have additional power." [p. 7]


For three years running, the communications industry ignored the APPC survey findings. The industry leaders and management believed it was a "non-issue" -– not worthy of print or commentary.

Here are the facts from the survey of 57 telecommunications companies from the Fortune 500 firms in four industry sectors:

  • The odds of having ZERO women on boards of directors at telecom firms was higher (17.5%) than having any woman on the board (13%).

  • The odds of having ZERO women in the executive ranks at telecom firms was 12.3% compared to only a 17% chance of having any woman in the executive tier.

  • Tokenism on boards of telecom firms is rampant: 42.1% of telecom firms had ONLY ONE woman on their board.

  • Tokenism in the executive ranks also exists in 31.6% of telecom firms with ONLY ONE woman executive officer.

  • By combining the number of firms with ZERO women plus TOKEN (1) women, the result is 54.4% of all Fortune 500 telecom companies have little or no input from women on their boards of directors and 49.1% with little or no input from women in their executive ranks.

  • The average number of women per board of directors at:

    • telecommunications companies - 1.2 women
    • printing and publication companies - 2.0 women
    • entertainment companies - 1.2 women
    • advertising companies - 1.0 women


  • The average number of women in the executive levels at:

    • telecommunications companies - 4.0 women
    • printing and publication companies - 3.7 women
    • entertainment companies - 3.6 women
    • advertising companies - 0.3 women


  • The comparison over the past 3 years showed that the percentage of women on boards of directors at telecom companies went from 10% to 11% and back down to 10% in 2003.


  • The comparable 3 year comparison for women in executive leadership ranks at telecom companies went from 11% to 12% up to 15% in 2003.
  • Friday, December 9, 2005

    The Glass Ceiling Commission

    The most important lesson from reading the recommendations of The Glass Ceiling Commission is this -– they didn’t work. As a nation, we have not made substantial progress in over a decade of effort stemming from the commission’s research and reports, spanning 1991 to 1995.

    Sure, business instituted “inclusion” programs and published “diversity statements” in their annual reports and on their web sites. Governments “talked” a great deal about their support of affirmative action and studied women-owned business share of federal contract dollars. Hundreds of women, minority, educational and charitable organizations sponsored free information clinics and mentoring sessions for thousands of other women.

    And a decade passed with essentially zero change. Business still has few women in top corporate positions and on their boards of directors. Universities still have a miserable record of promoting women to the top ranks of tenured positions. Media, advertising, and entertainment industries still hype the “preferred” female as subordinate, slinky, and Stepford. Pick any industry, any sector, or any public administrative domain, and you will find little progress in the 21st Century. The emperor is butt-ass naked.

    In fact, you are more likely to find significant regression back to a 1950’s view of women with Harriet and June once again the poster Moms.

    If we made little or no statistically significant progress in the past decade, could women at least say they learned something in the process? Some did. Many did not.

    Carol Hymowitz, Wall St. Journal columnist did. She coined the expression “the glass ceiling” in 1986 and found from her research – back then – that men in leadership positions “felt uncomfortable” with women in the workplace. In 2005, she reported that she’d also learned that women buy into the stereotypes that society presents to them. She learned that that fact may be a significant explanation of why women have not advanced.

    If women are not expecting much of themselves, then they are fulfilling their own promises. If women fail to demand the education, experience, and opportunity for advancement, then society, the corporate environment, men and the power structure certainly have little motivation to supply it to them. If women insist that “math is so hard”, then math will always be hard.

    Anita Hill learned something. She believed that the legislative and regulatory world were based on truth, equality, and equity. She learned that our laws, our legislation, our political institutions are based on the efforts of “polis” – the people. If you do not have enough people supporting your view, on your side of the aisle, then you will lose your argument or case – even if you might be “right” in the eyes of God.

    Rosa Parks learned something. She learned that the only way to eliminate a true injustice is to stop helping it prevail. She learned that the only way to deal with prejudice is to face it down.

    Many more people did not learn anything in the past decade. Women who expected companies to provide family-friendly work environments did not learn basic economics. If you make it too costly for companies to hire you, companies will not hire you. Companies will go look to the global marketplace to find cheaper labor for whom a job without perquisites is better than no job at all.

    Organizations that awarded companies with “a best place to work” designation did not learn that quotas are quotas, regardless of how you color them. If you make the goal too easy to attain, then most companies will do just the absolute minimum effort necessary to look good in the public press. And they will go no further, once they “win” in the PR race.

    Women’s organizations tried to blend their “feminist” agenda in with other “inclusive” efforts in the hope that that would soften their message and win more hearts by appearing to be “nice girls” after all. By joining with these other “cultural cliques”, women found their message lost among the clamor of gay, lesbian, transgender, black, asian, latina, and native american rights advocates. So, we now “take ALL our children to work” rather than encourage our daughters to pursue excellence in their careers. We dummied down to PC.

    Instead of celebrating the professional success of our female leaders, we hyped female quitters from among the Fortune Top 50 Women. We blared out that “women don’t want power”. We only wrote about female heads of entertainment, technology, food service, or retail corporations when they were fired, imprisoned, resigned, quit to care for a dying parent or spouse, or tossed it all away to support some charitable avocation.

    We ignored the financial and professional success of thousands of hard-working adult women and focused instead on a handful of Yale or Princeton undergraduate girls who say they treasure procreation before they’ve even gotten anywhere near first base in their personal career development.

    An “older and wiser woman” told me the story of how, as a youngster, she and her girlfriends would phone each other and share the answers to the math homework. They’d ace the weekly assignments, then flunk the tests for the obvious reasons. The teacher, who had seen this before, wrote on one of her homework papers, “You are only hurting yourself.”

    Now, in her early 50’s “older and wiser woman” has chosen to return to school and face, alone, the math anxiety challenge that she avoided, decades ago with the support and encouragement of her “girlfriends”.

    If employment opportunities for women are limited by the educational choices they make early in their academic training, there are two choices:

    1. re-invest today in the academic training that women so undervalued when it was free and they were young and

    2. insist that the current generation of young girls do not repeat the cycle of un-enlightened educational choices.

    Why should we advocate the alternative that business, government, or society make more and preferential choices available to those who finally realize that they WERE only hurting themselves?

    The Glass Ceiling Commission’s most prominent conclusions were that “two types of societal barriers . . engender and reinforce a glass ceiling”. These are, first, The Difference Barrier – which is prejudice. And second is The Supply Barrier – which includes all of the jobs, positions, doors, gates, and opportunities to succeed which society has available to people of talent.

    What The Glass Ceiling Commission failed to note was the third factor that exists in the marketplace – The Demand Barrier.

    If tomorrow’s woman (white, black, latina, asian or whatever) wants to tap those jobs and positions; if she wants to challenge those doors and gates; if she wants the benefits of all the opportunities, then she will not simply “wait to be invited to the ball.” She will not merely “hope to be asked to the dance.” She will not wait for somebody to feather her nest or featherbed the job for her.

    Instead, tomorrow’s woman will challenge the prejudice and stop expecting paternalistic (i.e., daddy) or maternalistic (i.e., mommy) preferences, help, assistance, networking, mentoring or however else you want to call pampering, babying and molly-coddling.

    Tomorrow’s woman will simply go get the opportunity that’s right for her and not wait on the sidelines “like a nice little girl.” She will pursue HER opportunity. Just like Black Women do, and Asian Women do, and Latina Women do. And just like men do. Not like they ARE -– but as they perform in the marketplace. Tomorrow’s woman will make their demands of the marketplace, not merely wait for the marketplace to supply it to them.

    If one part of the marketplace treats tomorrow’s woman prejudicially, if even one company does not practice, in fact, the diversity and unbiased behavior that appears in their proxy statements, annual reports, or their advertisements, then women should not buy from that company. Women should not invest in that company. Women should not be willing to work for that company. And if the company, instead, pursues its case in legislation or political action, women should vote with their pocketbooks and economic self interest clearly in mind.

    Because if women continue “enabling behaviors” as they have for the past decade since we once said that “making full use of the nation’s human capital” was “a solid investment”, then we will find ourselves – a decade hence – looking back and wondering,

    “Why am I still at the back of this bus?”

    Tuesday, December 6, 2005

    And Another One Bites the Dust - 3

    Knight-Ridder, the San Jose Newspapers: Publishing & Printing company is looking to be taken over. Will major buyout firms like KKR keep the two female directors or swap out all of the firm’s board?

    Two out of ten of the firm’s directors are women:

    PATRICIA MITCHELL, age 62
    Director since 2002
    President and Chief Executive Officer, Public Broadcasting Service

    Ms. Mitchell has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Public Broadcasting Service, a private, nonprofit corporation whose members are American public television stations, since March 2000. Prior to that she served as President of CNN Productions and Time Inc. Television at Time Warner from 1992 to 2000. Ms. Mitchell serves as a director of Bank of America Corporation and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sundance Institute and the Women’s Leadership Advisory Council of the Kennedy School of Government.

    KATHLEEN FOLEY FELDSTEIN, age 63
    Director since 1998
    President, Economics Studies, Inc.

    Ms. Feldstein has served as President of Economics Studies, Inc., a private consulting firm, since 1987. She serves as a director of Bell South Corporation, Ionics Corporation and BlackRock Closed End Mutual Funds. She is also a Trustee of the Committee for Economic Development, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and McLean Hospital.

    Arden Realty, Inc. (NYSE:ARI) is a buyout target of GE Capital. Arden is a self-administered, self-managed REIT that owns, manages, leases, develops, renovates and acquires commercial office properties located in Southern California. Arden is the largest publicly traded office landlord in Southern California, with 116 properties, consisting of 192 buildings and approximately 18.5 million net rentable square feet of office space.

    No big loss of women directors here as there are zero women on the 7 man board of Arden.

    Maxtor (NYSE: MXO)of Milpitas, CA will be bought out by Seagate (Scotts Valley, CA). Another no big loss of women directors: zero women on Maxtor's 6 director board. Maxtor's board asked Paul J. Tufano, it's largest share-holding board member, to resign November 2004 and director Roger W. Johnson died in February of 2005. Three directors were relected in 2005:

    Dr. C.S. Park – CEO, Board Chairman – Director since 1994 – Class I – term expires 2008 – age 57
    Charles F. Christ – Director since 1995 – Class I – term expires 2008 – age 66
    Gregory E. Myers – Director since 2003 – Class I – term expires 2008 – age 54

    Three others had terms expiring in 2006/2007:

    Charles M. Bosenberg – Lead Director – since 2003 – Class III – term expires 2007 – age 56
    Michael R. Cannon – Director since 1996 – Class III – term expires 2007 – age 52
    Charles Hill – Director since 1992 – Class II – term expires 2006 – age 68

    While Maxtor was slowly imploding on itself, San Jose Magazine named it one of the top 44 "best places to work" in Silicon Valley:

    "Maxtor is noted for numerous perks in an article entitled "Benefits beyond the Fringe" in the magazine's November issue -- including health and dental coverage, telecommuting, on-site gym, on-site cafeteria, tuition reimbursement, service awards, employee assistance program, lactation room, dry cleaning, health and wellness seminars, and discount tickets to local attractions. The magazine also cites Maxtor's support of employee volunteerism in paying for four hours per month for workers volunteering at non-profits."

    Monday, December 5, 2005

    And Another One Bites the Dust - 2

    Calpine, the electrical services company based in San Jose, CA is preparing for bankruptcy. This will mean the loss of 3 more women on the boards of directors of California-based Fortune 1000 firms.

    Two directors already have left –- the CEO was outsted by the board (Peter Cartwright, 75 years of age –- Chairman of the Board, President/CEO of Calpine) and the other resigned (Gerald Greenwald, 69 -– Managing Partner, Greenbriar Equity Group)

    Calpine had a 30% share of women on their board: 3 out of 9 directors. In 2005,
    2 of the 3 women ran for re-election to the board.

    - Susan C. Schwab, 50 – President, CEO, University System of Maryland Foundation
    - Susan Wang, 54 – Retired, Former EVP and CFO of Solectron Corp.

    One other woman was to have her terms expire in 2007:

    - Ann B. Curtis, 54 – Executive VP, Vice Chair of the Board, and Corp. Secretary of Calpine

    The remaining directors included:

    - Kenneth T. Derr, 68 – Retired, Former Chair and CEO of Chevron Corp.
    - Jeffrey E. Garten, 58 – Dean, Yale School of Management
    - George J. Stathakis, 74 – CEO, George J. Stathakis & Associates
    - John O. Wilson, 66 – Professor, University of CA, Berkeley

    Maybe Calpine could have used a few more financially savvy women and men on their board of directors rather than so many academicians.

    Friday, December 2, 2005

    OMB Drops CES Data: Women Weep

    Women’s eNEWS (womensenews.org) reported in April 2005 that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was going to eliminate the Women Worker Series from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, a monthly report from payroll data, by gender, of “who worked where.”

    See: (article, by Marie Tessier, WeNews correspondent)

    OMB finally dropped the data on August 5, 2005 on the grounds that tracking women at work was a “burden on employers.” See http://www.bls.gov/ces/cesww.htm

    Tessler's article is entitled, “Agency Flooded with Pleas to Save Data on Women's Work”.

    Wake up, girls! If we want employers and government to keep this data available for analysis, then:

    (1) we will need to be sure that more than our little girl-gangs of non-profit associations are out there demanding that someone retain the data,

    (2) we will need to be in the positions of power, politically and legislatively, to counter those who are making these horrific decisions to drop the information, or

    (3) we will need to be generating the data ourselves as economic entities.

    Or maybe ALL of the above.

    In short, we need to stop this little girl mentality of “Oh, please Big Daddy OMB – save our data! Please, pretty please!!”

    And in its place, we need to substitute the mature, economic female business case that, “If this data is worth something to women in business, then we’re going to make it happen ourselves. Damn it!”

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    What’s Going On, Here?

    Bill Cosby is doing a “Call Out” in Compton, CA. The Million Man March returns to DC ten years later. Young men are establishing a program, My Strength, in an effort to stop their bully peers from harassing (or worse) females. What’s going on, here?

    The message is all the same: what you DO, yourself –- for yourself -– is more important than what is DONE to you.

    Just because the messengers are Black Males doesn’t mean that we all cannot learn from their words. In fact, we should all listen and understand their message.

    What difference could it make? Why shouldn’t all of Southern California share the pride that Compton was home to 2 of the greatest female tennis players – ever – the Williams sisters?

    Why shouldn’t we all take pride in the efforts of hundreds of thousands of men AND women gathering in DC to re-commit themselves to rebuilding their heretofore broken families?

    What can we learn from groups of high school males who are willing, finally, to talk about how their futures too are harmed by the tragic increase in rapes to unprecedented levels in this country? They, too, are realizing that women cannot fight this battle of abuse alone. Women are merely the most obvious targets of abuse. When harassment and intimidation are allowed to run rampant, terror pervades and decent men are silenced. If young teens cannot find “My Strength” to deter the brutish behavior of a few, where will they find the courage to strive and succeed as men, themselves?

    Someone once described his sense, after touring the Museum of Tolerance in Washington, DC that the holocaust started much earlier than the actual marches, the death camps, and the gas chambers. It started with the slow, insidious verbal and written denigration of the Jews as human beings. It began with the subtle efforts to trivialize them and their contributions to society, to their communities, and to history. It started because too many people stayed quiet, on the side lines, and just let it happen.

    Prejudice, discrimination, bias, intolerance, harassment, abuse and intimidation all come in the same package, wrapped up in the same pretty bow:

    Silence.

    When one part of society develops a knee-jerk, automaton reaction to another (different) part of society; when it becomes intolerant of their views; when it tries to shut it up, then the bow gets a little tighter around the package.

    It doesn’t matter if the social segments are black-white, male-female, non-Jew-Muslim, conservative-liberal, Republican-Democrat, blue states-red states. Drawing the line is what separates us.

    The challenge ahead is how to keep us whole.

    In the face of that challenge, we can learn a great deal from all of those who are “different” from us.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2005

    Teach Your Children Well

    The 1970 song composed by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sends us a worthy message: “Teach your children well”

    “Can you hear and do you care and
    Can you see we
    Must be free to
    Teach the children
    To believe and
    Make a world that
    We can live in.”

    We teach our children how we believe they should grow up and aspire to their own futures by the way we, as adults, present desirable role models to them.

    With the 2005 Minerva Awards, given by California First Lady Marie Shriver at the recent Women and Families Conference, we are telling women to “be like” -- not Mike, as their male peers are encouraged -- but rather:

    • Janice Mirikitani, president and executive director of the GLIDE Foundation (SFO),
    • Sister Jennie Lechtenberg, founder and executive director of PUENTE Learning Center (LA)
    • Betty Ford, founding chairman of The Betty Ford Center (Rancho Mirage) and
    • Anita L. De Frantz, president of The Los Angeles Amateur Athletic Foundation (LA).

    Like Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa, these ARE great and sacrificing women, worthy of our appreciation and gratitude as a nation.

    But, like another song from 1969, by Peggy Lee, we have to ask ourselves,

    “Is that all there is, is that all there is
    If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
    Let's break out the booze and have a ball
    If that's all there is”

    In the 21st Century, can we women not find --- AS WELL AND IN ADDITION – real role models that would actually help us aspire and lead in the real world in which we function?

    I am tired of being shown only stereotypical women to emulate:

    Stepford wives
    Desperate housewives
    Dress for success clothiers
    Princesses awaiting the kiss
    Nurse, nuns, teachers
    Saints

    Women who are very good at begging for charitable donations no longer inspire me. I respect them and their choices. I do not deny them THEIR opportunity to do their chosen work. And I expect the same respect and opportunity in return.

    But, I will no longer be manipulated by advertisers or media that believe that women are only good for baby-sitting, for buying more clothes at retail outlets, for procreating yet more children to buy more clothes at retail outlets, or to stay home and ensure the sanctity of some artificial Ozzie and Harriet dream world that never existed and certainly does not exist today.

    In the real world, the real world of business, one has to produce a product or service that is perceived to be of sufficient value that customers will write a check to exchange real money for the opportunity to own or to receive that thing of value. The challenge of the business world is to envision that exchange of mutual satisfaction.

    What is the vision of the exchange in the worlds of:

    Glide Foundation?
    Puente Learning Center?
    LA Amateur Athletic Foundation?
    The Betty Ford Center?

    All four tell women that the real world to which they can aspire somehow is failing to meet the needs they define and that “someone must save these poor souls.”

    • Why should women alone be the only ones to care about these concerns?
    • Why are women alone supposed to address these needs through guilt, rather than purposeful intent?
    • Why do we believe that money is good enough to be donated yet we do not believe money -– when earned –- is good enough to address these very same problems?

    In fact, a marketplace also exists among charities –- we are just buying and selling “salve for a guilty conscience”. The charity marketplace looks like this:

    “I’m not doing enough” – so, I’ll write a check to the foundation and they’ll do it for me.

    “I’m not being good enough” – so, I’ll write a check to the church to make amends and feel better.

    “I’m spending too much time and money enjoying my sports on TV” – so, I’ll support amateur athletics to level the playing field a little.

    “I’m overdoing it on food, alcohol or whatever.” – so, I’ll support the rehab center and they’ll take care of the problems for me.

    “I’m not creating enough real opportunities for the advancement of women to top management” – so, I’ll give to Diversity Day at the office or we’ll try for a Catalyst Award to show how much we really care.

    And women have become and remain great enablers, perpetuating the myths that result in tokenism at so many levels throughout our society. As The Wall Street Journal columnist, Carol Hymowitz, and Catalyst’s Ilene Lang point out, women have become very adept at perpetuating the mythical stereotypes which keep them in “baby-sitting roles” in corporate, entrepreneurial, and other settings.

    “. . . women also have to push themselves and one another to stop believing they don't have what it takes to be great leaders, and to stand up to men who believe they don't.”

    [from “Women fall for stereotypes of selves, study says,” Monday, October 24, 2005; By Carol Hymowitz, The Wall Street Journal – see: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05297/594196.stm]

    “Teach our children well” -- especially our women. Teach them, by our choice of role models, that they need not merely focus on the sacrificial lambs, they need not just be helpers and beggars, that life on this earth is not merely a case of the “meek inheriting the earth”. Teach women ALSO that they may be leaders and business people and professionals and achievers in our society in our time.

    And teach women also that they have as much a right to excel and to succeed and to aspire as anyone on this earth.

    Saturday, November 5, 2005

    Women in Human Resource Positions at Top Corporations

    The June 2003 Tyson Report in the United Kingdom evaluated the large number of women in human resources and communications staff functions of top corporations and how that was both an opportunity and a challenge in the efforts of women to advance to the leadership ranks.

    “There are more women in the marzipan layer of corporate management than in its top ranks. And at management layers just below the top, women are more strongly represented in areas such as human resources, change management and customer care.”

    If employees and customers truly were the valued assets of corporate life, then women would be on the front lines, capable of understanding and assessing their importance to the business. But, are employees and customers the golden eggs we always read about in annual reports and corporate communications. Or are we just “being jived”?

    Geoff Armstrong, Director General of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK said,

    “There is a vast pool of talent within the HR profession. Such individuals would bring a new dimension to the non-executive [independent director] role and ensure that an organization’s key driver of value – namely its people – is taken seriously at the board level. They would bring a fresh and much-needed perspective to the decision-making process.”

    The Tyson Report also noted that women in HR functions are the best qualified to deal with compensation (and by extension, excessive compensation) issues:

    “Pay and reward is their [the HR practioner’s] stock-in-trade . . . Equally, selection, induction, training and performance management are areas of expertise which could be applied with value to both executive and non-executive directors.”

    Boards certainly could use the HR department’s help in the preparation and conduct of performance evaluations of their top tier of management as suggested by surveys by several accounting firms (most notably Deloitte & Touche and KPMG) who advise boards of directors on management development and compensation programs:

    “Performance evaluation for non-executives [non-management directors] is not currently common practice with only 12% of companies reporting that they have a performance management process in place.” [Deloitte & Touche]

    Firms face increased risk of lawsuits and personal liability for director and officer failure to implement known and recognized “best practices” in the area of human resource management and executive/board performance evaluations.

    Watson Wyatt Worldwide and Tillinghast-Towers-Perrin survey the incidence of lawsuits against directors and owners. Overall, 63% of all claims come from employees with only 23% from shareholders. The largest share of employee claims are for discrimination (25%) -- and who do you think that might include? [2003]

    The better corporations are at managing their human resources risks, the better they will be at managing their exposure to lawsuits.

    The challenge for women in human resource positions is to ensure that they are not merely drones following a leadership that does not understand the risks. Women in human resources positions themselves need to take leadership to ensure that company officers and the board of directors have full and complete disclosure, information, and knowledge in order to understand fully the sources of all their risks.

    Thursday, November 3, 2005

    Are Moms Less Likely to Be Hired?

    From ASK ANNIE , Fortune Magazine, November 2, 2005: http://www.fortune.com/fortune/annie/0,15704,1125384,00.html

    "”Are Moms Less Likely to Be Hired?
    New research suggests that women managers who have kids are less likely to be hired, and if they are hired, they’re likely to be paid less than those who don’t have children.
    by Anne Fisher

    Dear Annie:
    I am a 35-year-old woman CPA with extensive experience in finance and accounting. Now that the job market in my field seems to have picked up, I've been looking around for a better job, and I'm noticing something that keeps happening over and over again. In job interviews, everything will be going along fine until I happen to mention that I have two children (ages eight and six). At that point, the interviewer seems to lose interest, or his or her interest turns from avid to merely polite. My friends tell me I'm just imagining it, but I don't think so. Your opinion, please?
    —Proud but Puzzled Mom”"

    In re: “Are Moms Less Likely to Be Hired?”

    You’ve raised a worthy topic and should not be pilloried for opening up debate in a needy and important area. In trying to “think differently” about this subject:

    1. “Proud … Mom” should be a little more honest with us when she says she just “happen[ed] to mention that I have two children” during the interview. As a “Proud … Mom”, clearly she wants to know if the job has room for her to maneuver her priorities into the employment equation. Imagine the reaction in a job interview where the candidate just “happens to mention” that she has another fulltime night job, and you’ll get an idea of the likely response. She tested the waters her way, and they responded their way. That’s the economic marketplace. What she didn’t like was that her “bid” was not accepted.

    2. Why is there a double standard for male parents? Perhaps it’s a belief that a guy with four mouths to feed will feel greater pressure to hustle up more business in order to earn more to support his family. What do we believe a female parent with four mouths to feed will do?

    3. The more that corporations have invested in diversity sensitivity training, in Diversity Day events, in applying for Working Woman Magazine’s list of “the best places for women to work” or to win the Catalyst Award, the more money companies perceive they were expending on behalf of “working mothers”. Those expenses have to come out of somewhere, so when women with kids ask for work or promotions, perhaps companies respond with the equivalent of “Fine, but I already gave at the Diversity/Inclusion Expo on behalf of your ‘group needs’. So, we’ll just lop a little off the top of your salary to make up the difference.”

    4. Do we really know why we have NOT come very far from the days, now almost 40 years ago, when women seeking advancement at work were told by their bosses – straight to their faces -- “I can’t promote you because you will only get married, have kids, and leave the job.” The only thing that has changed is that it’s now “understood”, just not spoken. Is this really progress?

    5. Should the female parent be the only one to incur the “cost” of childcare – in the form of lower average compensation or higher barriers to entry in the job market? It’s “not fair,” but at least we’re finally talking about it – although we probably could do with a lot more honest about the subject.

    Annie, how could you possibly believe that “Now, however, comes evidence that what you’re experiencing may be a widespread phenomenon?” Have you young women been on some other planet for the past generation?

    Recruiters are imputing certain costs associated with hiring and working with female parents. That cost is the value of expected downtime they have experienced with other on-the-job-mothers who rushed off to tend to needy or ill children – a cost they have not witnessed on the part of male parents or single women. Probably that higher cost is described by the phrase from Correll: “Motherhood is a role held in very high esteem in our society.” So, it would seem that women want the high perceived value of parenthood, AND the flexibility to be able to respond to children’s daily, demanding needs, AND ALSO receive the higher compensation of those employees who have zero other jobs or demanding roles and responsibilities.

    Sounds like the old “want to have my cake and eat it too” argument. Didn’t “Proud … Mom” learn from her Mother’s generation that women could not “have it all” – could not be Super Woman in the real world? Did she also miss the message that the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass, that Clarence Thomas strafed the EEOC and then became U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and that the Glass Ceiling Commissions have come and gone with abandon? The surprising thing is that you young girls are surprised. And appalled.

    6. We’ve spent a generation trying the legislative and regulatory paths to enforce “equal” treatment and failed dismally. We’ve spent decades playing the so-called “enlightened corporate leadership game” which is rife with tokenism, marketing gimmickry, and false advertising of such stupendous proportions that women working in firms with the “great places for females” designation actually warn each other to “never tell anyone you’re pregnant.”

    No change. How sad. Perhaps the fault, dear Annie, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

    If women want businesses that can thrive and succeed by hiring women with kids and affording them the time to respond to those needs, then perhaps women need to build businesses capable of making a profit using that business model. I bet they can do it if they try.

    If women value the care of their children so highly, then perhaps women need to build businesses that are capable of delivering such services and support for women workers. I think they can do that too.

    If women are willing to pay exorbitant amounts to support their beauty and fashion tastes in the working world, then perhaps women need to demonstrate that they also are willing to pay the price to ensure that viable, successful service and support businesses endure and thrive long enough to benefit the next generation of child-bearing women. I see no reason why that cannot be accomplished.

    If women want the opportunity to participate on an equal playing field in the business marketplace, then probably they will begin negotiating, training, counseling, educating, and conditioning the men in their lives to perform equally, along side them, in responding to 100% of the demands of their jointly-borne offspring at home. If that means some male investments of time or money are diverted away from dominantly male-oriented entertainment or recreation activities, and into childcare investments instead, then perhaps we may begin to see dollars flow toward the support services we perceive to be of such “very high esteem in our society”. I’ve seen good men and women do this.

    When women want this reality to change, then women will change it. And that change will not come about one nanosecond before then.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    More Women Leaders

    Marin Alsop wins the MacArthur Award, considered one of the most prestigious competitions recognizing creative genius in the music and arts with a $100,000 5 year unrestricted fellowship. See: www.marinalsop.org and www.mararthur.org. When most men receive this level of recognition, they bask publicly in the light of the award, the "genius" designation, the fact that they've beaten out all the competition for this special prize. Alsop, when asked about this outstanding acknowledgement of her achievements, said she's honored by "the grant" -- as if it were just one more stipend supporting a purposeful musical education.

    Wendy Oxenhorn, of the Jazz Foundation of America, where she is executive director, has been helping 150 displaced New Orleans musicians get “gigs” so they can support themselves with all the major “fundamentals” that are NOT being provided by federal emergency assistance people.

    Angela Ahrendts, formerly EVP with Liz Claiborne Inc., has moved over to Burberrry Group PLC as CEO.

    Charlotte Neuville has been named as EVP of design and product development for the Gap Inc. brand.

    Anne Faulk, former novelist, is successfully running Swingvote LLC, an Atlanta, GA company that helps major shareholders gather information needed to make proxy vote decisions – going head to head with Automated Data Processing Inc., the industry leader.

    Anne Stevens was named by Ford Motor company as Sr. VP and head their North American Operations.

    Katherine Ellison, author of “The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter” (Basic Books: 2005) received support from neuropsychology research papers submitted by Richard J. Davidson of the University of Wisconsin in the November National Academy Of Sciences. www.themommybrain.com

    Karen Sunday of Karen A. Sunday & Associates, A Tenant Representation Commercial Real Estate Firm Specializing In Office & Industrial Leasing In Orange County, was named The Irvine Co. Broker of the Year. www.karensunday.com

    The Wall Street Journal ran its fourth special report on Corporate Governance October 17, 2005. (Previous special reports on the same subject were published: April 13, 2003; October 26, 2003; and June 21, 2004). Dispelling the Barbie Myth (“Math is so hard!”) and its financial equivalent (“Investments are so hard!”), was the very impressive list of contributing reporters in this month’s series:

    Diya Gullapalli, Deborah Soloman, Phyllis Plitch, Mary Jacoby, Judith Burns, Joann S. Lublin, Beckey Bright, and Carol Hymowitz, In The Lead columnist.

    Also, giving credit where it certainly is due:

    John R. Emshwiller, Michael Rapoport, Worth Civils, and Laurence Rout, editor.

    Dr. Susan Aaronson, director of globalization studies at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, a unit of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, presented recommendations to a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on federal efforts to coordinate dispersed corporate social responsibility programs. The Committee was reviewing a GAO report on US governmental initiatives pursuant to Aaronson's recommendations in 2002.

    Martha Stewart will join KB Home, one of the nation’s largest home builders, in a joint venture to build 650 houses “inspired” by Ms. Stewart’s own homes in New York and Maine.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    If you can’t stand the heat, Mr. French, then stay outta the kitchen

    A Night at the Toronto Film Festival with WPP Chief Creative Director, Neil French [October 6, 2005] from: ihaveanidea.org – Advertising’s Intellectual Archive by Brett McKenzie, Lead Writer:

    “When questions came up from the audience, [Neil French] answered them with brutal honesty, even if some of his answers wouldn’t likely sit well with the person who asked. Such openness was to be expected; Neil has a reputation for being opinionated well beyond the realms of political correctness, and he was in fine form that evening.”

    ”For those who weren’t in attendance but heard whispers about the evening, you most likely heard about the part when Neil’s musings turned toward the topic of women in advertising. Yes, the tension in the room definitely raised a few notches when Neil had some pretty harsh words for the females in creative. A number of people squirmed in their seats, and a few even got up and left the event altogether. However, whether you agreed with Neil’s views or not, or whether you thought HE believed what he was saying, or just turned up his opinions for shock value (as showmen tend to do) the majority of the crowd hung on his every word. There was a great moment of levity when an audience member asked Neil what he’d come back as if reincarnation existed, and Boyko and Fenske answered “an accounts guy! A FEMALE accounts guy!” Neil sheepishly admitted that if karma were real, they’d probably be right.”

    Nancy Vonk, a senior WPP executive present at the dinner, said she was "still partially paralysed" by his comments. The "death by blog" comments of Nancy Vonk:
    See: http://ihaveanidea.org/articles/archives/268-Female-Like-Me.html.

    "What struck me so hard as he described a group that will inevitably wimp out and 'go suckle something' after their short stint in advertising, was that in his honest opinion he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in the senior ranks of our business," said Ms Vonk, who is co-chief creative officer of Ogilvy in Toronto. She added:

    "Neil did us the favour of voicing a widely held view, albeit an extreme version. It's an opportunity for us all - men, too - to confront something every bit as wrong and unacceptable as racism. Replace every comment Neil made about women with the word 'black' and take my point."

    In an interview October 20th, 2005 with the Toronto Globe & Mail, French said:

    "The woman asked why there are so few women creative directors. I said because you can't commit yourself to the job. And everyone who doesn't commit themselves fully to the job is crap at it . . ,"

    "You can't be a great creative director and have a baby and keep spending time off every time your kids are ill. You can't do the job. Somebody has to do it and the guy has to do it the same way that I've had to spend months and months flying around the world and not seeing my kid. You think that's not a sacrifice? Of course it's a sacrifice. I hate it. But that's the job and that's what I do in order to keep my family fed."

    In an interview October 20th, 2005, with New York Ad Age Magazine, French defended himself and his comments regarding his belief that some women in advertising are crap because of their inability to commit themselves 100 percent to the job due to childcare issues and that women with families aren’t as equipped as men to succeed in the advertising business.

    French said "women don't make it to the top because they don't deserve to," saying their roles as caregivers and childbearers prevented them from succeeding in top positions.

    French confirmed that he quit as worldwide creative director of WPP Group PLC, the world's second-largest marketing company where he oversaw famous agency networks including Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, Young & Rubicam and Grey Worldwide.

    French spoke from Miami with Advertising Age reporter Matthew Creamer about the controversy, defending himself:

    Creamer: Did you say “crap”?

    French: "Oh, of course, I did, yes. But I didn't say all female creative directors are crap. If you can't commit yourself to any job then, by definition, you're crap at it. If you can't commit 100 percent to your job, don't pretend you can. Nobody deserves a job unless they can commit to it."

    In an interview with the New York Times, October 20, 2005, French defended his remarks.

    "A belligerent question deserves a belligerent answer," he said. "The answer is, They don't work hard enough. It's not a joke job. The future of the entire agency is in your hands as creative director."

    French said he believed that the event was private and he was there to entertain the crowd. "I wasn't joking, but I was saying it in a jokey way, in a situation that was supposed to be entertainment."

    According to the New York Times, The One Club, (www.oneclub.com) a nonprofit organization that honors creative work in advertising, will induct a woman into its Hall of Fame next week for the first time since 1974. Out of 40 current inductees, 4 are women, according to the club's Web site.

    The average annual base salary for female creative directors is $4,000 less than that for men, according to a study by the National Association for Female Executives; men earned $123,000, while women earned $119,000.
    www.nafe.com/ef_fall.shtml.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    More Research That You Should Be Reading, Girl!

    The Accounting profession has now weighed in:

    See the AICPA Supply-Demand Report for 2005 (PDF file): look at the male-female splits for Bachelors, Masters enrollment, graduates, hirings -- then the share of partnerships. Located at the Accounting Education Center, maintained by the AICPA Academic & Career Development Team: ceae.aicpa.org

    http://ceae.aicpa.org/NR/rdonlyres/11715FC6-F0A7-4AD6-8D28-6285CBE77315/0/Supply_DemandReport_2005.pdf

    As Leaders, Women Rule: (1999): www.businessweek.com/2000/00_47/b3708145.htm

    Executive Businesswomen's Learning in the Context of Organizational Culture by Laura L. Bierema of Michigan State University (1997)
    www.edst.educ.ubc.ca/aerc/1997/97bierema.htm.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    2005 Hollywood Writers Report

    Dr. Darnell Hunt, Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies was responsible for the 2005 report on diversity among Hollywood writers, entitled "Catching Up with a Changing America?" developed for the Writer’s Guild of America, west. (www.wga.org/pr/1005/hwr.html). Dr. Hunt also is a Professory of Sociology at UCLA.

    The survey covers only WGAw-member groups: twenty-two major studio conglomerates and large independent studios examined in 2004.

    The data showing how poorly female employment and compensation has progressed among tv and film writiers is bad enough. The poor treatment of minorities predictably follows suit.

    Employment of female film and television writers:
    From 1998 to 2004, women writers’ overall (film and television) share of employment increased by only 2 percent over a 7 year period:

    1998 – 23%
    2004 – 25% (1,140) of 4,785 employed film and television writers were women

    1998 – 17%
    2004 - 18% (318) of 1,770 employed film writers were women

    1998 – 26%
    2004 - 27% (822) of 3,015 employed television writers were women











    Median salary of female television and film writers:
    Television Writers
    2002females$75,562 (96.4%, a gap of $2,860)
    2002males$78,422
    2004females$78,850 (87.6%, a gap of $11,191)
    2004males$90,041
    Film Writers
    1998females$62,500 (83.3%, a gap of $12,500)
    1998males$75,000
    2004females$65,966 (77.6%, a gap of $18,897)
    2004males$84,963

    Wednesday, October 5, 2005

    My Mother Told Me

    I have watched the flailing of women in the economic marketplace -- of women in business today -- and have read the "Dear Abby-like" advice that some women are giving to other women about how to "win a seat" on a board of directors in the 21st century.

    I'm beginning to realize that, maybe, in order to accomplish the goal of bringing women onto boards of directors, we're going to have to stop believing some of the more popular "myths" being bandied about concerning "winning a seat on a board of directors". Instead, it's time women began to focus on how they can "earn a seat on a board of directors".

    What You Will Hear (WYWH) #1: Network, girl!

    What You SHOULD Know (WYSK): When asked by The Corporate Board Member Magazine about the processes that boards of directors use to recruit future directors, existing boards said that they use industry/association networks barely 24% of the time.

    To get on a board, you need to be known and valued, consistently -- by your peers, your superiors, and your subordinates -- for a significant and meaningful competence.

    WYWH #2: Let the CEO know you're interested.

    WHSK: In the post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, the board itself has become primarily responsible for its own organization, performance, recruitment, operation and selection criteria. In some cases, a recommendation from the CEO could undermine your independence and suggest you cannot make it on your own merits.

    To get on a board, today, you need to be seen as an asset to the complete organization.

    WYWH #3: Become visible, make public presentations.

    WYSK: Most of the women on today's boards of directors are not that visible outside of the profession where they did make, and are making, a significant and meaningful contribution, for the long term. Women who came onto boards with "soft" presentation-only skills are leaving in droves as they realize today's larger board responsibilities.

    To get on a board, today, you need the skills, and to be willing and ready to educate and inform men and women in your area of expertise.

    WYWH #4: Bone up on board issues and regulations.

    WYSK: Today's board members invest, themselves, in ensuring that they have a continuity of personal and professional executive education in the field of governance, about how the regulatory and exchange standards and practices are changing; and about the wealth of new resources - within and without the organization - that can pinpoint "best professional practices" to guide strategic decision-making.

    To get on a board, today, you need to study, investigate, and understand governance both in its current form, but also in how it is changing today compared to even 2-3 years ago.

    WYWH #5: It's an opportunity to travel, meet, and confer with leaders.

    WYSK: Boards today are required not only to select and review the performance and compensation of the CEO, but also "to put their feet to the floor" and visit the corporate halls and gatherings, the customer and suppliers, to get to know the stakeholders and how this entity works. Boards are also responsible for establishing and appraising their own performance as a group chartered with oversight of the entity, its management development, and its several constituencies.

    To serve on a board, today, entails hard work.

    WYWH #6: Get on a well-funded non-profit as a stepping-stone.

    Think about it! How can an entity, which is NOT driven by economic motives possibly train you to serve as a strategic decision-maker in a profit-oriented globally-competitive corporate environment? How is an organization with little or no management talent going to provide you with practical governance experience?

    How is an under-staffed and under-paid entity going to give you opportunities to demonstrate your competence in overseeing a profit and loss center?

    To qualify for service on a board, you need to invest your time and money in business entitles, ventures, operations, and other business interests to get real business experience. One of the best untried opportunities for women interested in board service is for women-owned businesses to build boards that tap women to serve on their boards and ensure that women-owned businesses start to grow, thrive and succeed.

    If women don't put women on their boards of directors, first, then how can they expect men to put women on their boards of directors?

    Business is not a charity or a church. It can do "good things" after it has succeeded, first, as an economic business entity.

    WYWH #7: Look for a company where directors stepped down.

    WYSK: A crucial pre-requisite for accepting board service is to conduct complete due diligence about the firm, its current board members and practices. If directors are leaving, vacancies may portent significant problems with the entity that are known only to the insiders.

    To serve on a board today assumes knowledge and a willingness to identify and manage risks that come from myriad directions. The rewards are extremely generous; and the expectations of preparation similarly are high.

    WYWH #8: Hob-nob with executive recruiters.

    WYSK: The Corporate Board Member Magazine surveyed boards, asking them how they themselves would recruit future directors. Over 92.5% of boards say they rely on internal Board contacts; another 68.7% report that management contacts are used. Fewer than 45% of boards rely on fee-based recruiting firms.

    Historically, female executives within corporations have reported since the early 1990s that they climb their way up the corporate ladder, on the inside track, only to be ignored when top management brings in traditional recruiting firms who seem only to present traditional males in their search results.

    Today's boards of directors must publish their existing competencies as well as the skills and capabilities for which they are searching. They must also identify the source(s) of nominees for board of director candidates. And, boards are responsible for the development of the "leadership gene pool" of top management talent within the corporation. If women aspire to board roles, there are many direct ways to access and contact the board from inside the corporation, itself.

    It is NOT about "winning" a board seat. Rather, it is all about "earning" a board seat.

    If you own stock in a corporation, you want to know that the board talent leading that entity is qualified, competent, and capable of making the best investment decisions for all of the shareholders - not merely the CEO or the top rung of management, but all the institutional investors, all of the employee investor, all of the community investors, and all of the individual investors.

    If you use or consume the products or services of this corporation, you want to know that the board leadership is capable of making sound, long-term, safe and sane decisions about where, how, how much the entity produces in this country or elsewhere.

    If you work for this entity, you want to be able to look up and have confidence that the board of directors will take the steps necessary to keep this entity viable, to use the labor and the capital available to it in an economically sound manner.

    If you live in the community in which this business operates, you want to be able to trust that the decisions made at the very top will be consistent with those decisions that are in your economic best interests.

    Women have a valuable and appropriate role to perform on the stage that is at the very top of our public organizations. Women have the resources, capabilities, and competence to serve as directors on the boards of our major corporations. Within the next 10 to 15 years, women will earn an estimated 40% of the public corporate board seats among top American firms. They will do so not by playing games or by being coy, cute little things. They will take their appropriate seats because they have an important contribution to make.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2005

    Women in Management Networks

    At a recent women’s professional networking gathering, we began by answering the leader’s request, a la Chris Mathews – “Tell me something I don’t know.” After a round of female business pitches, the tone gradually changed. Instead of the women tooting their own horns, they began to regress to the style of “giving it all away.”

    It started with one woman reminiscing about how much fun she had at another’s craft- painting party. This, at a “professionals’ networking group”?? She was followed by a second woman praising another for a sharing or caring incident. As each one spoke, the next one seemed to try to “one-DOWN” the previous speaker by mentioning the most un-professional and un-business aspect or behavior of one or another of the women in the group. At the end of the turn around the circle, it felt as if one had been transported to a first grade game of “Everyone Build Everyone Else’s Self-Esteem”.

    This is the style that many women prefer as they spin off “women in management networks” from their male counterparts.

    This is how one business journalists described the emerging trend:

    “Female members of the professional networking group recently formed their own networking group in order to make contacts and to share experiences in an environment they believe is better suited to their style. . . The women’s group provides support and mentoring they don’t often find among male-dominated networking groups.” [Shelly Garcia, San Fernando Valley Business Journal]

    It IS important to have the female-network experience. At the same time, it is also important to know the price you are paying for this luxury. There are several important aspects of this “payment” that women need to understand as they go head-first into the all-female-networking experience. Here are a few of the lessons.

    First, women may be conditioning themselves to sing only one part of the chorus. And, in like manner, the absence of women among male networking groups means that men might be conditioning themselves to sing only the masculine, locker-room chorus, in the absence of the harmonizing influence of women.

    Men and women might be better off if each learned to listen to, to understand, and perhaps tune our thinking and speaking a little better to the other gender. We have a lot we can learn from each other if we could do a better job of both speaking up for ourselves (women especially) AND of listening to the others (men especially).

    A second part of the price women might be paying, by going on their own in networking groups, is that we are re-enforcing typically female behavior. One example is this tendency to “one-DOWN” each other – also known as “the power dead even rule” – where women verbally make sure that no other woman is allowed to rise higher than her peers. This is the style of female conversation that, when one woman speaks well of her achievements, other women often think, “Who does she think SHE is anyway, the Bitch!”

    It is a style very similar to the Japanese, where the saying is “The nail that tries to stick out gets hammered down.” In Japan, the hammer usually comes down from the top of the corporate hierarchy. The hammer that pounds down the uppity female more often is held in the hands of every other female she knows.

    Third, by effectively beating back the female achiever, striver, and competitor, women are failing to acknowledge their trailblazers. The results are:

    1. we lose the benefit of the pioneer woman as a role model

    2. we train other women to behave cautiously for fear of similar ostracism

    3. we end up having no examples of women challengers and achievers from whom we can learn how to solve our own problems or how to overcome our own barriers

    4. we ensure that great and exemplary women and their contributions are ignored and forgotten.

    Thus, women are condemned to repeat the errors and mistakes of the past – even when those trailblazing women faced the same challenges before and successfully slayed those demons. Women may not learn the lessons from the past.

    Since men will give little enough recognition to the contributions made by women, the fact that women ALSO don’t give credit to achieving women means we lose our female verbal and written history – our HER-story.

    And why? Why are we afraid of great and achieving women? Why would we rather focus all of our attention on either (1) sharing our “ills”, our “troubles” or (2) finding our lowest common denominator of “sugar and spice and everything nice?” Because both will generate sympathy.

    So, when you start networking with professional women, prepare yourself not to conduct business, but to engage in the “sympathy and comfort game”. And that goes a long way toward explaining why women do not conduct as much business – real business – with other women. Because they are focusing less on the substantive business needs and wants of the individuals with whom they are networking, but rather on trying to evoke business from them out of sympathy, comfort, guilt, obligation, or similarly subtle expectations of non-achievement.

    And for those women who aspire to find the lowest possible common denominator among professional women in business, they can only expect to succeed in achieving their goal.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    C200 3rd Annual Business Leadership Index

    The Committee of 200 (www.c200.org), in Chicago, released their 2005 survey of “businesswomen’s clout”, showing how women are faring compared to men in 10 categories. It's called The 3rd Annual Business Leadership Index.

    Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is parity with men, women scored 5.06 measuring such variables as venture capital, gender wage gap, women on corporate boards, women in top corporate positions, number of women-owned businesses, and size of women-owned firms.

    Women show progress in only two areas: (1) as keynote speakers and (2) as chair of charities and foundations. Women showed an absolute decline in their access to venture capital compared to a year ago.

    I’m not sure that chairing a charity or foundation is a real measure of “business clout”. Nor am I persuaded that women as keynote speakers is a measure of clout rather than corporate unemployment these days. If we’re going to include charity leadership and the often thank-less jobs heading (usually non-profit, low-compensation) foundations, why not include some measures from sports which represent a major selection of the contemporary business economy (i.e., golf, tennis, anything ending in –ball) as well as a major indicator of female inate abilities.

    For example, we could include the percentage of women entering and/or finishing the top major marathons at major metropolitan areas. Women tend to be at about 40 to 45% of marathon contenders, so the parity measure would be somewhere around 80 to 90% for a change. This would show us that, if you give women an equal chance and no barriers to entry, they can train and compete.

    Or, we could even use marathon records for the top ten women and the top ten men. Again, the woman’s best world record time for a marathon, today, is 2:15:25 compared to the men’s best time of 2:04:55 –- a difference of merely 10 minutes and 30 seconds – giving us a parity ratio of 92%. Now you’re talking.

    We could also compare the top tennis winnings for males vs. females and see how the big leagues pay off. First, women have achieved parity with men among the top ten earning positions. Second, their total winnings by gender average about 72% for the women compared to 100% parity for men. But, still not too shabby a performance by the women (2005), especially when you consider that 39% of the men’s earning were taken in by one man, Andre Agassi:

    • Andre Agassi - $26.2 M
    • Maria Sharapova - $18.2 M
    • Roger Federer - $14.0 M
    • Serena Williams - $12.7 M
    • Lleyton Hewitt - $10.3 M
    • Andy Roddick - $9.7 M
    • Rafael Nadal - $7.2 M
    • Venus Williams - $6.5 M
    • Lindsay Davenport - $6.0 M
    • Anna Kournikova - $5.0 M

    Source: Forbes.

    Maybe we really should start including the share of federal contracts that go to women-owned businesses – 3% compared to the legally mandated 5% (WOW, be still my heart!) authorized by Congress, but totally ignored by the Small Business Administration.

    Or maybe we really should include the share of women participating in tax-supported athletic programs at public education institutions across the nation. Wouldn’t it be nice to start tracking that data, nationally? Or do we want to just wait until the Department of Education finishes their job of totally abandoning Title IX support?

    What you measure, you manage. What you manage, you tend to achieve. When you neither measure nor manage toward equitable goals, you achieve neither.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    How It Is Done

    Desi Arnaz did it at DesiLu Productions. Esteemed US judges such as Chief Justice Rehnquist did it with John G. Roberts. Successful leaders throughout history have done it. Women need to learn “how it’s done”.

    It goes by different names: cameo roles, clerking, apprenticeship and journeyman roles. It’s work – not a favor. It’s experience – not just training. It’s paid – not charity, not just volunteering. Not just helping, supporting, or being nice.

    It happens when those in the know, those with the resources, those with the good fortune to be relatively (or obscenely) successful in what they do ALSO create windows of opportunity where the next generation of talent can try to succeed (or bomb). Yet, in all respects, “how it is done” is through the creation of real world learning experiences. And, even during the learning phases, people of talent deserve to be paid for their work.

    I keep seeing TV or movies from the earlier days, and there is the young face of talent trying its wings. Tom Cruise before the dental work. Dennis Hopper in the early years. Candice Bergen in a small part, but big in talent. John G. Roberts in the enthusiasm of youth, writing large opinions.

    The role must be real. It cannot be “play” or “make believe”. If the experience is to build for the future, there must also be the potential that one may fall down on one’s face. The part must allow room for the individual to define her or his own source of creativity. It is not enough simply to be reading someone else’s script -– doing the job as someone else did it before. This must be one’s own part to play.

    The role must be visible, must have the potential to last as a benchmark defining the stepping stone path of progress toward professional talent.

    Finally, women must cease looking to “others” to provide such opportunities for the next generation of female talent. Don’t look to CEOs to do it for us. Nor look at the SBA. Not the bankers. Not the federal contractors. Not the “old boys’ network”.

    Who first told justices to hire and train clerks to do parts of their work, to ensure the success of the judicial network? Would clerks learn as much if they only volunteered to help, compared to what they learn with compensation?

    Who first told trades professionals to create a support network of ever-increasingly trained and competent skilled workers, to pay them at a differential but respectable wage scale, and enable them to climb the ladder of experience?

    Who first told film or music moguls to include cameo roles for small, supporting talent where methods and styles and character could emerge? And, as small as their first roles might be, they were not performed “for free” –- the actors were compensated even during their learning years.

    Perhaps because women have been so alone, historically, in the birthing rooms and in their caring roles, they have not learned the value of delegating and collaborating and team-building as well as their male peers. But, these are learnable skills. They are skills that build the base on which future generations can, in turn, place their individual bricks and altogether create great and might pyramids for the future works of art and skill and unique technical achievement.

    Perhaps, too, because so many women have worked so long and so hard without compensation, women too readily accept the argument that, if it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for others.

    But, that is not always “how it is done”. Today, women can learn the value of their cameo roles, their apprenticeships, their clerkships, and their journeyperson status. And women can be proud of the part they play in this great evolving, experiential drama.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    We Have Only Just Begun

    First, came the announcements and billboards that ABC would air on September 27, 2005 a show entitled Commander in Chief – a series starring Geena Davis as the first female President of the United States.

    Then, there were the photos of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco at the head of her state’s efforts to meet the incredible challenges of another lady, Hurricane Katrina.

    Next, there was the announcement by UCLA Anderson School of Management that Dr. Judy Olian had been named to head the business school.

    And today, there was the front page headlines in the L.A. Times saying that East German-born Angela Merkel was leading Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the polls and could become Germany’s 1st female chancellor.

    Earlier, Zoe Cruz was named as co-president (ok, so it’s a shared deal, but we’ll work with that) at one of the largest securities firms in the country.

    All of this began to give me the impression that we might just be seeing “a tipping point”, to quote Malcolm Gladwell. Perhaps, today, we were beginning to see women take their position along side other leaders of the nation and the world.

    But, wait. Watch ALL that is happening around these headlines as women rise to the positions of public prominence. It is the background noise and static that tells us even more than the foreground successes of these –- and many other competent, talented, and successful –- women.

    During Katrina, we first saw the inevitable snipes starting when one commentator began his insidious efforts to chip away at Governor Blanco’s credibility and competence as she led her state in its most difficult times. “She was almost in tears,” he derisively commented, as if watching half a million people thrown out of their lives and well-being should have engendered smiles and cheeriness and hopefulness. “Does she have the strength to lead Louisiana in these trying times?” he said, in an immediate attempt to undermine public faith and confidence in the one person who at least led, acted, and was at the helm, working on behalf of her constituency, not her image.

    Then the reviews of Commander In Chief, the TV series, began to pan the show even before it came out. Why did they not believe the program would last 13 episodes? Because it talks about issues such as “What would her HUSBAND do?” and “What will her DAUGHTER think?” And how long, after all, does it take to address THOSE really important issues that a female president would have to address? Would HAVE to?

    Next, the local press began to include its usual “balancing” ads and articles, depicting uber-feminine, sleeky, and slinky counter-weights to what the editors assume were those other hard, tough, probably bitchy women of achievement. (Why DO they assume that? Do they even KNOW these women?)

    Note, too, the rise in the number of photos of soft, beautiful women tenderly caressing cute, little puppies. And, too, observe the increase in articles about beautiful –- no, make that Drop Dead Gorgeous –- TV and movies stars: Angelina Jolie and the Ultra-Youthful Olsen Twins.

    Then come the larger than life department store ads that – hard as it is to believe – actually increase the amount of bare legs, cleavage and reminders of “What makes you happy?” Of course, it’s MORE SHOES! Come! Buy at Macy’s. “Find out what DREAMS are made of” in your lingerie-draped bedroom ad.

    The media skin flicks seem to literally ooze off the printed, broadcast and billboard pages whenever there’s even a hint of the existence of an achieving woman.

    I had heard of this theory many years ago from one of our earlier women’s networking speakers. Her topic title, then, was: “But, What About Her Feet?” She demonstrated how advertising honchos were not satisfied with decades of selling women self-uncertainty about every other square inch of their anatomy and being. These masters of marketing had to create yet one more doubt in the minds of women. Not only might you be inadequate in every other physical, mental, and emotional aspect of your life, women, but you overlooked YOUR FEET! “Don’t Forget To Buy Stuff To Fix Your Feet, Too!!!!”

    I keep asking myself why this marketing ploy continues to work. Why cannot women easily accept the ascent of other women to positions of success and prominence and cheer their achievements and arrival at the pinnacle of their careers? Why do women not applaud the achievements of other women with grace, with joy, and with the hopefulness that others -– including themselves -– might follow in their footsteps?

    Perhaps it is because women are being conditioned –- still -– to view achieving women as less than the other whole women who are depicted by the advertising industry, the media, and marketing professionals -– all those charlatans who benefit from women’s uncertainty about seeing successful women advance. Look at how it works.

    At a recent business networking group, women expressed their fears about taking risks, trying new ventures, and testing untried waters. Ok, that’s reasonable -– all of us hesitate to try new things. But, for these women, the more important message was what they feared.

    One said she was afraid because there were so many others with the same idea who could probably do the job better than she.

    Another said she feared being seen by other women as not up to the task as they were, as not as competent as they were.

    Still another did not want to generate the predictable negative feedback from family and spouse were she to tell them about her business idea. She was sure they would speak ill of it.

    As I listened to them describe their ideas and dreams for their business, I had one clear feeling and impression – EXCITEMENT! Each of their “visions” was a real and viable possibility, a true opportunity which -– if refined and massaged and developed with appropriate guidance and experienced input -– carried within it the potential as a successful business concept or venture or at least a personally-satisfying undertaking.

    But, each woman in the group had become too accustomed to “turning the mental page” or “clicking to another mental channel” where she would find:

    • Buxom, beautiful babes to whom she was being programmed to compare herself unfavorably –- to encourage her to buy something to make her look more like them

    • Successful Ozmans, Oprahs, and Marthas against which standard she was being negatively compared as “not quite as large as TV-life” –- to encourage her to tune in tomorrow for more messages re-enforcing this same idea that you’re inadequate.

    To each of these women in the group -– offline –- you want to say,

    “You GO GIRRLLL! You have a great idea! It’s worthy of your efforts. And YOU are worthy of the idea. Just try it. Just start. Just take that first step toward your dream. We’re here, cheering for you to succeed!”

    This is what needs to happen -– no more allowing advertisers to take advantage of, or to feast financially upon, female doubts. Toss out the paper and the Macy’s ads that hype to feminine underfed self-esteems. Stomp on it on your way out the door to your artistic venture in the South Pacific Islands.

    Turn off the messages from TV-land, selling the Cialis-Viagra-Botox-Nip/Tuck dream world of fixing feminine fantasies for a small fortune. Erase those Tivo programmed mental images demeaning female self-esteem and re-write that web site telling the truth about great women doing great things everywhere you look ITRW (in the REAL world)!

    What IS that sound we hear? What IS that growing thunder, that roar? It is the sound of many hands, coming together, to applaud the achievements of today’s women of the world doing marvelous things, great and small. It is the sound, not of one hand clapping, alone, silently in the wilderness, but rather of thousands and millions of hands cheering for the change that women are bringing about today.

    We have only just begun.

    Friday, September 9, 2005

    May You Live in Interesting Times

    The September 9, 2005 Los Angeles Times had a brief, 3 inch column on page 2 of the Business Section, reporting the news that UCLA Anderson School of Management just named their new dean. As you read this, try hard to resist the temptation to fall asleep:
      "The UCLA Anderson School of Management said Thursday that it had appointed Pennsylvania State University business school Dean Judy Olian to lead the school.

      As dean of Pennsylvania State's Smeal College of Business since 2000, Olian oversaw the school's undergraduate, MBA and PhD programs, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale said. She led a fundraising campaign for a $68-million facility for the school that opened this summer.

      "Dr. Olian brings to her new post a commitment to interdisciplinary education, which is a priority at UCLA," Carnesale said.

      A native of Australia, Olian holds degrees in industrial relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an undergraduate degree in psychology from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

      Olian succeeds the current dean, Bruce Willison, on Jan. 1, pending approval by the University of California Board of Regents.

      The Anderson School, founded in 1935, is ranked 11th in U.S. News and World Report magazine's 2006 survey of the top U.S. business schools."

    The LA Times editors once again stripped away everything and anything that even hinted that intelligence, competence, or leadership might ever be possessed by a female executive -- academic or otherwise.

    At a minimum, one should at least compare the Times’ naked copy with UCLA’s more complete version in the press release, which led with the title, “Distinguished Scholar and Leader Judy Olian Named Dean of UCLA Anderson School of Management”. See their web site for the complete press release: www.anderson.ucla.edu/x9664.xml.

    One should also research the substantial and innovative credentials of Dr. Olian -– a simple task which could have been accomplished by nothing less than a little “googling” of her name.

    Most noteworthy is the August 2002 citation: Management Education at Risk: Report of the Management Education Task Force to the AACSB [Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business] -- International Board of Directors – a task force that she headed in 2002. See: www.aacsb.edu/publications/metf/METFReportFinal-August02.pdf".

    We can also review her many contributions to business news, since she has been a nationally syndicated columnist writing on contemporary business topics and the challenges facing globally competitive, technologically-savvy corporations and knowledge-workers, alike. Again, this is a simple research undertaking that could be accomplished by looking through the article citations at Dean Olian’s Smeal web site at Penn State: www.smeal.psu.edu/news/dean/index.html.

    We could hear selections from her talk show, “About Business”, a monthly call-in show hosted by Dr. Judy Olian and aired on the first Tuesday of each month, with audio and video clips available on local Pennsylvania radio and TV station sites as well as on the Penn State site. [No longer available.]

    In other words, this is one sharp lady; one savvy educator; and one proficient and prolific communicator. UCLA Anderson School of Management is fortunate and honored to be able to welcome her to Los Angeles, to work with her to bring the best and the brightest to our city and our community.

    And maybe one day, not too far into the distant and remote future, if the editors of the L.A. Times work really really hard, apply themselves and do their homework, perhaps some day we actually WILL be able to say that we do have “interesting Times”.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    Lead, Follow, or Get Out of The Way

    Thus read the slogan of the project team chartered with a huge corporate restructuring at a major financial institution some years ago. That message had a marvelous way of focusing our attention on our appropriate role in the undertaking. To all of the firm’s employees, it said – “Choose ONE!” Only one. You cannot do it all. Don’t even try. I suspect this was the precursor to Nike’s “Just Do It.”

    In the days following Katrina’s devastation through coastal America, I am reminded of this very potent message and all of the lessons that were given to me by those tough people, men and women, who served that project in the trenches so many years ago. I see the same faces as I look out among the many men and women working hard to deal with today’s challenges.

    First: LEAD! Be prepared to lead . . ALWAYS be ready to be among the few willing to take the first and crucial steps forward out of chaos. Some must lead. And IF you are prepared, then it must be you who leads.

    ALWAYS be ready to be capable and able to take those first essential steps. First responders set the tone. Leaders take the course that might save lives and, after all, that is what counts. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and by your God-given talents -– however you define the source of those gifts –- be prepared to lead.

    I am in awe of the simple decision by one woman business-owner from New Orleans who managed to give her employees five weeks’ advanced pay and told them to leave town before the storm hit. That is leadership.

    As New Orleans crumbled into chaos, I saw Governor Blanco stand at a mike telling looters and rapists that her soldiers WOULD shoot to kill if any of the marauders dared step beyond the lines of civil order. That is leadership under incredible duress.

    The lesson to all of us is that we, too, in all likelihood will face the possibility of some man-made or natural disaster. Even more important than our little disaster-readiness kits is our personal disaster-preparedness and capability to lead others to safety should the circumstances require that of us as individuals.

    First: Lead.
    Second: Follow. If you are not in the appropriate position or role to lead, then the next most important contribution you can make is to support those who ARE leading. Follow appropriate instructions. Do as you are told by those who have the skills and resources to guide, direct, save, secure, and lead.

    Follow includes support, help, augment, and bring wisdom and perspective to the collective whole, making it stronger and more secure by your efforts.

    The woman who owned a sports RV company filled up over half a dozen of the vehicles with medical and personal supplies and arranged to deliver them to emergency organizations in New Orleans for them to use, at their discretion, for those they identified as most in need. She counted on those who were closer to the problem being better able to make the right choices.

    Follow also includes listening and being open to good ideas from the community. A writer to the LA Times realized that New Orleans’ evacuees declined the offer of the cruise ships and suggested instead that the ships be used to house and relieve emergency medical and rescue teams.

    Others realized that European airlift planes would bring emergency materiel to the US, and then fly back empty. They suggested that containers of grain from the central US, which were at risk of rotting because the grain could not be transported through the Gulf ports, instead be re-routed by airlift to Darfur in Africa where civil genocide by starvation is occurring.

    Water brigades work because followers follow effectively. Medical teams are massive collectives of finely-skill and –tuned followers. There is no shame in following. When informed that evacuation was required as a local health mandate, the only appropriate response is to follow orders.

    Even when someone junior in an organization has found within herself or himself the capacity to lead, you do not waste time asking about the bureaucratic pecking order or the niceties of position. YOU FOLLOW. You act. You support. You do not waste time on gamesmanship. You suck up your ego, and you get on the water line. You save lives.

    First: Lead.
    Second: Follow.
    Third: If you cannot do either of the above, then at least get out of the way of those who can and are doing so. Do not make their jobs more difficult. Do not become part of the problem. Do not require that they cease leading and following and saving lives, but instead that they give you one fraction of a second’s attention which you do NOT deserve if you are neither leading nor following.

    Looters, rapists, thugs, gangsters, and price gougers all fall into the third group -– taking advantage of the uncertainty, the weak, the helpless. Those who repeatedly resisted orders of the Mayor of New Orleans to evacuate a submerged city drowning in fetid, poisonous waters were merely adding to the already horrific burden being placed on emergency rescue and medical teams. Get out of the way.

    Scammers are setting up fraudulent financial aid web sites, phony rescue-aid programs are preying on the sincerity and generosity of a giving and caring nation.

    The message is this: to those who perpetrate these sick frauds, your day of reckoning will come. To those who mindlessly help them succeed in duping thousands, think for yourself and check for yourself. Do not come crying to authorities later that you were conned during this chaos because you did not have the simplest intelligence to verify whether this was a credible and reputable aid source.

    Get Out Of The Way -– do not be part of the problem. Do not make the job harder by failing to use your common sense. Do not try to be a hero, a cowboy, or the Lone Ranger, merely adding to the chaos when you could have accomplished more by working through the established, trained, competent entities on the front line.

    Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.

    I’m sure, somehow, this message has as its origin the AA saying,

    “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can change,
    the patience to accept the things I cannot change,
    and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    “What Holds Women Back?”

    So was titled the article written by Dean Laura D’Andrea Tyson for the October 27, 2003 issue of Business Week Magazine. Dean Tyson, of the London School of Business, and formerly of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, should know the answer to the question, “Why do so few women reach the top echelons in corporate America?”

    There are three things that "hold women back", according to Dean Tyson:

    1. Women and men have different attitudes about competition. Men like it, women don’t. Competition is still what drives success in corporate America.

    2. Men are more likely to negotiate for pay, promotions, and recognition in the business world. Women just don’t like to negotiate.

    3. Many professional women state that they are not willing to pursue senior leadership positions if it requires them to give up having children or spouses.

    Maybe it’s time for women to “open their minds” and consider some alternative views of this same reality.

    First, “competition,” as men know and love it, is “a game” or “a battle”. Competition is the setting in which one can only win or lose, at the expense of another – the old “zero-sum game”. Competition is the thing that keeps the adrenalin surging among those alpha male types of corporate America.

    It is NOT the only way to operate. Economists today speak of the “zero sum fallacy” in describing the false belief that everything in the world can be viewed as a win-lose game. Yet, for some reason, we still believe that all business situations are or should be a zero-sum competitive game.

    Most economic activities, especially in more complex, specialized and interdependent societies, tend toward NON-zero sum decision-making situations. Today, especially, global trade scenarios seek to maximize mutual benefit, not benefit one nation exclusively at the expense of another.

    Women are more inclined “to prevail,” “to endure,” and “to survive”. Women live longer. Today women even are showing tremendous endurance in ultra-marathons, and their times in marathons are beginning to approach those of male competitors.

    Women are more inclined to take the long-term perspective. Isn’t that exactly what attracts and interests shareholders the most – success and viability over the long term? Safe, enduring, and secure returns on investment? As opposed to the thrashing, volatility and high-turnover/high-costs of trying to tweak results to short term, quarterly dreams and wishes?

    What women do need to learn is how to be clear that they are in a corporate setting that focuses on the long-term, rather than the short-term, benefits and economic gains.

    Second, “negotiation,” again as men know and love it, is yet another “game” or “battle” in which they can “prove themselves”. Synonyms include “haggle” or “chooney” in Farsi – suggestive of yet another battleground where the men can take up arms to separate themselves from the boys.

    The real question is whether “negotiation” is undertaken with an objective of “the zero-sum game” or “bargaining for mutual gain”.

    Women certainly need to learn the ropes of “bargaining for mutual gain” in order to assert their own self-interest. Negotiations are a learnable skill.

    Women have become a clear majority in the human resources, communications, and legal professions – all of which rely heavily on negotiation skills and performance. The challenge is to find the “beneficial mutual gain” in which men, too, have a vested beneficial interest in participating as a negotiator.

    Third and finally, some women argue that the challenge of “work-family balance” is a barrier to their long-term success and survival in corporate America. Let’s think about this and consider a few unique perspectives.

    If there were a better dialog with both sides of the “work-family” equation, different results might occur. If there were better “task delegation” among work and family partners, then different results might occur. If there were greater investment in “support services”, different results might occur. And if women invested more in their own personal career planning, then different results might occur.

    Women can develop more effective dialog strategies that involve spousal partners in a mutually-agreeable allocation of tasks and responsibilities. The failure to hold this dialog, in too many cases, represents an assumption on the part of some women that their spouse either cannot or will not participate in the process. Perhaps too many women are making unilateral decisions about “work-family” options when they should be discussing these strategies for the long-term benefit of their families and their relationships.

    Once the “work-family delegation” deal is struck, the challenge becomes how to ensure follow-through and no reversion to the status quo. If husbands and wives cannot trust each other to keep their agreed-upon work-assignments (or to accommodate short term adjustments), perhaps this is an indication of a far more serious failing in the relationship than originally was thought.

    If the “work-family” negotiated settlement cannot be had with reasonable contribution of labor-sharing on the part of both parties, then some sort of economically-viable alternative service mechanisms needs to be considered.

    If Mom and Dad decide, together, that she MUST home-school the kids for free, that’s one economic decision. If Mom and Dad decide they both prefer day care, then there’s a price to be paid by the family duo to implement it. What is not acceptable is to make the choice AND NOT be willing to pay the appropriate price – whatever that price turns out to be.

    One should also be aware that only 52% of the adult population (male and female aged 15 to 64) consist of married individuals with spouse present. Another 34% of that same population have never been married. Another 16% are men or women without spouse present. So, there are a number of family choices. And, the marketplace should respond by creating a number of alternative choices -– not merely try to accommodate those few who insist on one solution –- that she be the sacrificial lamb on the altar of some theoretic and perfect work-family balance.

    The marketplace should not be penalizing those who choose to not have children or those who choose to have children and not hold their employment hostage to their family choices.

    Women also have the potential opportunities of a wide variety of career opportunities at various stages of their life that could provide them –- if they used them creatively -- with great personal and professional satisfaction. The prerequisite is that they stop trying to “do it all” and “do it all at once”.

    Which is wiser: to try to tend a child and a full-time job simultaneously or tend a child and study some subject that expands one’s future value as a human being or as an income earner?

    Which is smarter: to try to tend an elder family-member and support a full-time job or to tend an elder family-member and invest oneself in a related support-service endeavor?

    If women really cared that much about child care services, then women would be creating more cost-effective child care service businesses as part of the economic marketplace. But, we suspect that women do NOT really want cost-effective child care services as much as they prefer someone else, preferably the government or “others”, to subsidize it for them and for their benefit.

    If women can spend millions on fragrances, personal nail care, hair treatment, bosom augmentation, facial surgery, shoes, clothing, and the like, but women cannot invest in the creation of self-sustaining child or elder care services, then we must conclude that women prefer all of those former things over the latter. If that’s what women prefer, then that is exactly what the marketplace will provide for them.

    While Dean Tyson and I may disagree on "what holds women back", we do agree that women must meet their challenges through the supply-demand mechanisms of the marketplace, because we cannot expect the solutions will somehow miraculously appear, phoenix-like, out of the embers of morally-persuasive arguments -- unrealistic, unsupported, and uneconomical.

    Friday, August 5, 2005

    Have We Made Progress, Yet?

    While interviewing women on boards of directors at top US corporations in 1991, Anne Clark Ronce found that many of them refused “to be named or identified in anyway . . . [preferring] to stay in the background.”

    Clark Ronce understood their positions very well:
      “Their reluctance to speak for attribution … was consistent with their sense that being a woman or minority board member brought extra attention, and required due diligence on their part to preserve privacy and to be viewed as models of appropriate behavior by their colleagues on boards and by others in general.”

    So, here we are 14 years later. Back then, only about 5-6% of the top seats were occupied by women. These rare, anonymous women reported that their peers, the male directors,
      “don’t want someone who will shake the tree too much.”

    Boards in the pre-Sarbanes-Oxley environment were driven by,
      “Caution and conservatism about picking a woman who will not embarrass the company and who will interact successfully with the rest of the Board. . . “

    This provides unique perspective for the 21st century woman candidate for a board role. We should ask ourselves why anyone would have wanted a woman on board if they only wanted her to “just be a nice girl and sit quietly in the corner.” We should probably also ask the even more obvious question of why any WOMAN would have wanted to be on a board that required her to act and behave as a Stepford Wife?

    Even a decade and a half ago, the women directors were telling us that change was in the air. They told Clark Ronce that,

    • “. . . one route [to qualify women for board service] that was common in the past – community service – may no longer be an option.”
    • “. . . community service and participation on non-profit boards is being devalued or rejected altogether.”
    • “. . . this academic route . . . will also become obsolete.”

    Have we made any progress in the campaign to improve diversity on boards of directors of top US corporations since Clark Ronce’s interviews? Perhaps. Back then, one women board member said,
      “. . . anyone who would look for ways to increase the number of board members [is] ‘Don Quixote in a dress'.”

    Today, there are many independent efforts underway, in the states and around the globe, to advocate and to advance women to top board of director positions at major public and private corporations, not as tokens and not as an impossible dream. Rather, these efforts are underway because it’s good for business.

    In the early 1990s, the most likely woman to be placed on the board of a major US public corporation was the woman who ALREADY was seated on a Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 board of directors. How did they get on the first board, initially, still mystifies most of us.

    Until just recently, most board members came from the CEO ranks, until today’s demands on CEOs escalated, and companies responded by insisting that CEOs “stay close to home and do that job first”. Now, boards are taking a closer look at the next level of top executives as a resource of candidates for independent directors.

    Back then, the question was “why aren’t there more women CEOs?” We still ask that question, but now we ALSO ask, “why aren’t there more women among the top 6 executive positions in the corporate management gene pool?”

    In the early 1990s, Clark Ronce’s interviewees said that, “the most important, and perhaps only, determining factor in whether a company has a woman on its board, is the attitude of the CEO.”

    Today, the momentum favors separation of the CEO position and the Board Chair position; consideration of a lead director; and independence of the board in determining how it will govern itself, evaluate its own performance, and seek, select and induct its own board members.

    What really has changed over the past 14 years is that, back then, there was most likely just 1 woman director who might have tried to persuade her company’s CEO to institute “glass ceiling reviews” as part of the management development review process. Back then, there likely was just 1 woman director who might use her own assertive effort to get to know the company’s senior management by initiating an annual review – by the board – of the progress women throughout the company were making in their careers.

    Today, these are described as “best practices” to be considered and implemented by all public companies. And today, there are at least twice as many women asking the probing questions and providing the appropriate leadership and teamwork required by today’s global economy.

    Have we made progress? Absoluletly, the answer is "Yes!" Are we satisfied that we've made ENOUGH progress. Absolutely, the answer is "NO, not yet!"

    Having women on boards of directors is the best way for a company “to send a message to other women that the opportunities are there” -- to all the women in their corporate sphere of influence: customers, employees, shareholders, and stakeholders. Because that is where women are today.

    See Anne Clark Ronce’s complete online work at www.cyberwerks.com/dataline/.