Friday, February 24, 2006

Harvard Post-Summers

Many women tell me they feel vindicated now that Lawrence Summers has been kicked out as President of Harvard University.

First, the sequence of events suggests instead that the intellectual tsunami about “innate gender differences” was but a tiny aftershock of a much larger underlying earthquake. Second, the women of Harvard have not yet impressed us with their ability to take $50 million and produce concrete, measurable results. Third, the post-Summers blow-back might be even more devastating.

We should ask ourselves whether we have made real progress. Which IS better: the devil you know or the devil you don’t know?

The Underlying Earthquake

By most measures, Lawrence Summers was a difficult man to work with at Harvard University.

In 2001, Summers spoke out against African-American Studies professor Cornel West for spending too much time on political activism. West left Harvard for Princeton University in 2002.

In September 2002, Summers suggested that proposals favoaring Harvard's divestiture of investments in companies in Israel might be considered anti-Semitism.

From 2001 – 2004, Summers advocated the reintroduction of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Harvard.

In June 2004, Summers again came under fire over a scandal involving a close friend, Andrei Shleifer, the economics professor who headed a US government-funded project chartered to help Russia establish and operate financial markets. Harvard settled a lawsuit again Shleifer for $30 M for allegedly violating conflict-of-interest regulations. No disciplinary action was taken against Shleifer.

On July 14, 2005, Conrad K. Harper, the only African-American board member of the Harvard Corporation (the university’s governing body), resigned in protest of not only Summers’ comments, but also an increase in his more than half-a-million-dollar salary.

At the end of January – early February 2006, Summers was accused of forcing the resignation of William C. Kirby, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

On February 16, 2006, the Boston Globe reported that Peter T. Ellison, Cowles professor of anthropology and former dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), attributed his own decision to step down in 2005 to Summers’ actions.

The Intellectual Tsunami About Gender Differences

At a January 2005 conference on workforce diversity, Summers mused that the under-representation of women in science and engineering might be due more to gender differences in “intrinsic aptitude” than “socialization and continuing discrimination.” Tenured women professors walked out, other women professors defended Summers on free speech terms.

Summers allocated $50 million in funds to assuage his gender activist critics. He established two major task forces to design and implement solutions to the issues identified. The two committees were established to assess the situation and publish their findings and recommendations.

In May 2005, two reports of the Task Force on Women Faculty and The Task Force on Women in Science and Engineering were released for comment through end of June 2005. The reports suggested work efforts and that more funding would be required.

The Resignation

Two votes of confidence in Summers' performance were considered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The first was in March 2005 and the second was scheduled for February 28, 2006.

Before the second could be held, Summers resigned February 21, 2006 citing “rifts between [himself] and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty.”

The Blow-Back

Former Dean of the Harvard Law School, Derek C. Bok, 75-years of age, was named interim president, a position he once held on a full time basis in the late 1970s. Are we better off or worse?

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences seemed to be out on a limb pretty much alone. The Harvard Overseers still had confidence in Summers. Surveys of Harvard undergraduates reportedly were satisfied with Summers by a 3:1 margin. Heads of the graduate schools appear to have been satisfied with his performance.

On March 4th, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported the comments of Harvey Mansfield 73-year-old tenured government professor and conservative elder statesman at Harvard. He said Summers was not acting “manly” enough to lead the university.

On March 5th, 2006, the LA Times and the NY Times reported “the return of the happy housewife”, according to research by two sociologists, W. Bradford Wilcox and Stephen L. Nock at the University of Virginia, whose research has focused on sustaining the evangelical Christian traditionalist female view of family.

Better the Devil You Know Or The Devil You Don’t Know?

We have three more months of this delightful limbo where we await the transition of Summers to Bok to whom? As the women of Harvard advance name after name of talented female presidential candidates, we will have to see if Harvard is really ready, willing, and able to change its colors that dramatically or if we find there are aftershocks yet to be felt.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gender Differences in Negotiations

Hannah Riley Bowles, assistant professor of public policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and Kathleen L. McGinn, professor of Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Group and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School collaborated on research about the gender gap in leadership and negotiations.

“Women struggle to claim the authority to lead.”1

Riley Bowles surveyed the research on women’s negotiation behaviors, drawing primarily on the work of Professor Kathleen Valley of the Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Group at Harvard Business School and Professor Deborah Kolb of Simmons College Graduate School of Management.

Not all negotiations produce results that can be explained by gender differences. However, two situation do emerge as factors where negotiated results do differ by gender.

1. Ambiguity, uncertainty and secrecy create situations where opportunities and limits to negotiations are unclear.

Women negotiate differently for salary “and other packages” in situations that are much more ambiguous and salaries were not normative.

Women have lower expectations than men, entering into negotiations. This is described as the “entitlement effect”.

    “Women work longer hours with fewer errors for comparable pay and pay themselves less for comparable work” in conditions of ambiguity – where women are unsure of the standard of compensation. “In ambiguity, women perceive that they deserve less than men.”

    “Women are a lot more likely to compare themselves to women . . . to a group that on average makes less than the men. So, in conditions of ambiguity... the standards that the women are looking at are probably lower, on average, than the standard for men.”

2. Gender triggers: there are situational clues which, in ambiguous cases, trigger different behaviors by men and women.

Gender triggers for females are factors which persuade women to restrain or check their otherwise ambitious personal expectations in negotiating situations.

Women saying to themselves, “I don’t want people to think I’m too aggressive” is an example of a gender trigger.

Women perceive that they could incur a backlash from other women (or men) if they appear to be stepping into a masculine role (i.e., perform as a strong or assertive negotiator).

The recommendation is to reduce gender triggers by turning them around: “How am I going to be perceived if I don’t negotiate?” Why would someone hire a weak negotiator?

A variation on the gender trigger concept is self-satisfying behavior: how women like to perceive of themselves.

Reduce the tendency of self-satisfying behavior to limit one’s actions by finding external, satisfactory benchmarks. Find out what are appropriate standards for being paid based on experience levels or rank within the organization. Reduce ambiguity, increase viable alternatives.

Social networking among the right group: women talking with women friends may increase gender triggers and superimpose socioeconomically-acceptable social standards that limit women’s expectations. Women network socially for the benefit of the "tight emotional bonds". It is difficult to have tight emotional bonds across gender; but there may be more successful alternatives from which to learn.

Competitive negotiations can act as “gender triggers”: men outperform women in those environments where payoffs are determined by comparative relative performance (men’s perfomance rises in competitive situations; women stay at the same levels)

Negotiating for others can be a “gender trigger”: women outperform men when negotiating on behalf of others compared to the results when they negotiate for themselves.

Women executives were particularly energized when they felt a sense of responsibility to represent another person’s interests: when the beneficiary was someone other than themselves.

1“Claiming Authority: Negotiating Challenges for Women Leaders”, a chapter in the book, Psychology of Leadership: Some New Approaches, edited by David Messick and Roderick Kramer (2004: Lawrence Erlbaum Press)

See: “When Does Gender Matter in Negotiation?” Negotiation, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2005

Dina W. Pradel, VP of affiliate and networking development at Y2M: Youth Media and Marketing Networks, a Boston-based strategic marketing services company; Hannah Riley Bowles, assistant professor of public policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and Kathleen L. McGinn, Cahners-Rabb Professor of Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Group and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School.

From: The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge electronic newsletter:

Saturday, February 4, 2006

1 Powerful Career Strategy for Women: Stop Listening to Women’s Advice

Katherine Hansen is trying hard, I know. But her “10 Powerful Career Strategies for Women”, published for Quintessential Careers, really take the cake.

Let’s do the math, here:

  • She says female managers in the communications industry LOST 13 cents in earnings, compared to male counterparts, from 1995 to 2000. “Similar DROPS were reported in entertainment and recreation services; finances, insurance and real estate; business and repair services; retail trade; and other professional services.”

  • THEN, Ms. Hansen concludes that “our best hope to crash through that glass ceiling is to keep doing what we’re doing.”

  • She says women should get as much education and training as possible. Citing data that reports that women in 2000 were earning a MAJORITY of the degrees at associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

  • In the past 25 years, when women HAVE been getting the best education possible, women have LOST traction in the salary wars. So, she recommends that women should spend even more money doing the same thing?

Ms. Hansen suggests that, in addition to throwing good money after past unproductive (salary-wise) investments in traditional colleges and universities, women should ALSO spend even more of their hard-earned money on distance learning and to buy books she recommends about financial aid (most of which, still, does not go to women).

And after they have dropped good money there, women should ALSO sign up for professional organizations, conferences, and trade publications. Then she suggests women mention -- IN a new job interview -- their expectations that the company continue to ante up for your personal ongoing education and training. Won’t that give women great leverage in the salary negotiation competition with guys who don’t set out such pre-conditions to employment. That’s a real salary killer -– almost as big as the lactation room question.

All this investment in top level education has really paid off in academia, at least? No? Women ALSO aren’t at the top at academic slots in the colleges and universities? Imagine that!

Then Ms. Hansen provides the same old recommendations to women that we’ve heard forever:

    surf the internet, improve your communication skills, improve you interpersonal skills, plan you career, network, find a mentor, project confident, self-promote, incubate your talents, be a free agent.

Why does this all sound like stuff from Mademoiselle, Elle, and Good Housekeeping -– only for the working girl? Because it IS the same stuff from the same writers -– only, now, for the working girl e-magazines and web sites.

Who among us believes that a guy would believe one shred of this drivel? Who are we kidding, here?

Why is it that women keep paying for this quality of advice? Why do women believe that paying MORE and MORE will somehow give them the value they seek?

What really works effectively are shortages. Shortages have a very dramatic tendency to focus the attention of the male mind.

Women could start by saving their money, stop spending it head over heels on garbage advice from magazines, conferences, coaches, advisors that continue to say the same stuff over and over again.

The best advice we could give to women is “STOP”. Don’t spend your money. Save it, girls. Stop spending it on “stuff” like the billions of dollars women spend on changing clothing fashions every quarter; hair, nails and beauty salon “stuff” every month; beauty and health supplies “stuff” every week; dietary “stuff” everyday. Stop spending the money, girls, just to see if anyone starts to pay attention to you as a customer, instead of a guaranteed “golden goose”.

Shortages, my dear, make people pay attention. If there were suddenly a shortage of, say, buyers of Barbie Dolls, don’t you think someone at Mattel might start paying attention and finally listen to some of the women who don’t like year after year of exorbitant executive pay going out to the bad boys at a dying doll-company?

Shortages, my dear. Think of the savings AND the impact if women stopped buying all the magazines they purchase religiously every month. These magazines really do keep saying the same thing over and over again. You could buy the same magazines from 1975, and they would still be saying the same thing: “Get the best education you can!” Go back and look! Prove me wrong!

Shortages result from conserving your valuable, scarce resources. Hold onto your cash until you find the best available opportunity, the highest possible return. While you’re waiting for the next best opportunity, you could invest your money into something that earns a return while you search out alternative opportunities. Maybe it is a savings account with a nice interest rate. Maybe it’s an index fund with a nice track record. Maybe it’s a bond with a nifty coupon.

“Husband your resources”, girls! That means “To use sparingly or economically; to conserve.” The “archaic” definition of husband is “A prudent, thrifty manager.” And I think we all know why!

Pursue only those alternatives with a high probability of a substantive return – in the currency you value. That includes “networks” and “mentors”. Two big wastes of money and time.

Ms. Hansen suggests that “the number of all-women networking groups is increasing enormously”. Not because women are necessarily getting hard dollar value from the networking groups, but because the networking groups are getting good hard dollars from the women.

In like manner, almost 60% of women in business followed each other, lemming-like, into the lowest revenue 4 sectors of the economy from 1995 to 2002. It looked good on paper. It sounded good when all the networking groups recommended it. But, it didn’t pan out in the numbers! Networking groups worked well, in the 70s, when there were few women in the workplace. Now, in the 21st century, women constitute a majority of the lower to middle rungs of the ladder, and networks have become the social or electronic equivalent of “soap operas” for women. And somebody is making good money off of women’s investments in networking.

Mentors are the fairy godmothers we never had. The tooth fairy. The Easter Bunny. Prince Charming in a suit. The frog to be kissed into the prince. The promise that Mommy and Daddy will always be there to take care of you, dear. Is there someone, please, someone to tell you how to do this? Someone, please, pretty please, to advise you, coach you; take care of you, and on whose coattails you can ride to the top of the mountain.

Wake up! Grow up!

Mentors find you when you are worth something to them – when it’s worth their while to use your labors rather than their own. Mentors clerk you when they need someone to do at least a portion of their work for them -– and if you’re smart, you’ll learn from the experience. Mentors are there for themselves -– not for you, dear. When you’re a success, maybe you can mentor someone else. When you’re not a success, probably nobody wants to waste their time on you.

So, here’s a different set of professional career recommendations:

Do the math.
Create shortages.
Husband your resources.
Look for the best return from the available opportunities.
Value yourself.
Don’t just follow the lemmings.
Define your own success and make it happen.
Don’t believe everything you read -– not even this.