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.