Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chapman v. Dell Inc.

Mildred J. Chapman, a 59-year old Director of Global Human Resources at Dell Inc. (Round Rock, TX) filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco’s Northern California District Court along with three other women alleging discrimination based on gender and age. Sanford Whittles & Heisler, LLP is handling the class action complaint on behalf of Mildred J. Chapman, Angela Hopkins, Julia M. Mahaffey and Bethany Riches.

Complaint No. 08-cv-4945 MHP (N.D. Calif.) filed October 29, 2008.


According to the filing, professional employees at Dell Inc. are categorized into grade levels in ascending order as follows: C1s to C3s (Managers and Senior Analysts); D1s (Senior Managers) to D3s (Directors); E1s (Vice Presidents) to E2s (Officers and Executive Leadership Team).

  • Mildred J. Chapman was a D1 in Dell’s Global Human Resources Department from November 2005 to April 3, 2008.
  • Angela Hopkins was a Senior Manager (D1) at Dell’s Global Human Resources Department from January 2006 until April 3, 2008.
  • Julia M. Mahaffey was a Manager (C3) in Dell’s Global Human Resources Department from 2000 until October 26, 2007.
  • Bethany Riches was a Senior Manager (D1) in Dell’s Human Resources Department from September 2003 until May 26, 2008.

    Despite receiving favorable performance reviews, the women repeatedly were "put off" regarding promises of promotion. As a consequence, they "complained repeatedly" to higher-ranking executives about pay that was lower than male counterparts.

    In the summer of 2007, Ms. Riches was also interviewed as part of an internal
    investigation or audit referred to as a "focus group" regarding gender discrimination at Dell. After that, she alleged suffering retaliation for her views.

    No women serve on Dell’s 14-member Officer and Executive Leadership Team (E2). Approximately 80 percent of all Vice Presidents (E1 level), the D3 (Director) level and the D1 (Senior Manager) level are male.

    The suit alleges that "The systemic means of accomplishing gender-based stratification include . . . Dell’s development, placement, promotion, advancement, training, performance evaluation, and termination/retention policies, practices, and procedures."

    Many questions come to mind.

    1. Didn’t Dell have a "Diversity Council?"

    Yes, and Michael Dell was its chair: "Michael Dell Chairs Company Global Diversity Council," Aug. 11, 2008.

    The diversity council consists of six executives, including three from the company’s executive leadership team [the presidents, listed below]. Only one member is a woman: Jan Uhrich.

    The Global Diversity Council members include:

  • Paul Bell, president, Dell Americas;
  • Kevin Brown, Vice President & Chief Procurement Officer;
  • David Marmonti, president Dell Europe, Middle East and Africa;
  • Amit Midha, president Dell Greater China;
  • Stephen Schuckenbrock, president of global services and Chief Information Officer; and
  • Jan Uhrich, vice president, Dell Global Commercial Support Services.

    2. Didn’t Dell win accolades from "working mothers?"

    Yes again. "Dell Makes the List for Working Mothers," Sep. 23, 2008

    "We’ve recently been named to the Working Mother 2008 100 Best Companies. We’re honored because Working Mother is known as the premier source for celebrating America’s family-friendly leaders. In fact, Carol Evans, CEO and Founder of Working Mother Media, had to say this about Dell:

    'In this sluggish economy, many employers are controlling costs by cutting back on family-friendly policies — but not the 2008 Working Mother 100 Best Companies. From flextime and telecommuting to backup child care and parental leave, our 100 Best Companies have made work/life balance a top priority for working moms and dads. This year, Dell won a place on our list for the first time. I am so proud to welcome Dell to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies.'"

    3. Weren’t there other women in Dell’s leadership?

    Yes: some of them are/were top technology and support service professionals. A few of these include:

  • Susan Sheskey was Dell’s Chief Information Officer from August 2005 until her
    retirement in 2007:

    "Susan Sheskey, a Dell vice president and 12-year veteran of the company's information-technology function, [August 1, 2005] was named chief information officer.

    Kevin Rollins, president and chief executive officer, announced Ms. Sheskey's appointment, which is effective immediately. She had been serving as interim CIO. Ms. Sheskey reports to Dell's Office of the Chief Executive Officer and becomes a member of its Global Executive Management Committee.

    'Susan has an exceptional understanding of our business model and the competitive advantages derived from a robust IT infrastructure,' Mr. Rollins said. 'Her team is skilled, knowledgeable and deep, and an ideal example to customers about capabilities and benefits from powering their enterprises with Dell standards-based technology.'

    Ms. Sheskey has had broad management experience at Dell, including serving as vice president for Global Sales, Services, Manufacturing and Fulfillment IT before being named interim CIO in July.

    Prior to joining the company in 1993, Ms. Sheskey compiled key planning, development and operational experience during 20 years with Ameritech's corporate and services functions and at Ohio Bell. She is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio."

  • Karen Bruett, is Vice President of Dell's K-12 business and from 2004 – 2006 was Director, Education and Community Initiatives.

  • Sally Stevens was Director, Dell PG Enterprise Marketing/Product Mgmt and is Director of PowerEdge Servers

    "Sally Stevens joined Dell as the Director of Server Product Management. Sally comes from AMD, where she served as Director of Commercial Platform Solutions, responsible for driving Commercial solution requirements and awareness into AMD mobile, desktop and server designs. Prior to AMD, Sally spent 10 years at Compaq/HP in various marketing management and executive roles including Director of ProLiant Marketing, and Director of Strategy and Business Planning, and was key in defining and launching HP's blade solution. Sally has also held various product management and software engineering roles during her 10 years at NCR."

    4. Doesn’t Dell have two women on their board of directors?

    Yes, Judy C. Lewant and Sallie L. Krawcheck.

    Judy C. Lewant
    Age: 58
    Director since May 2001
    Board committees: Finance (Chair), Leadership Development and Compensation

    Ms. Lewent is the former Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer of Merck & Co., Inc. She retired from Merck on September 1, 2007. She served as Chief Financial Officer of Merck since 1990 and has held various other financial and management positions since joining Merck in 1980. Ms. Lewent is also a director of Motorola, Inc. Ms. Lewent is a trustee and the chairperson of the audit committee of the Rockefeller Family Trust, a life member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corporation and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Sallie L. Krawcheck
    Age: 42
    Director since July 2006
    Board committees: Finance

    Ms. Krawcheck is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Citi Global Wealth Management. Until March 2007, Ms. Krawcheck served as Chief Financial Officer and Head of Strategy for Citigroup Inc. She is also a member of the Citi Management, Operating and Business Heads Committees, as well as the Citi Foundation Board and Citi Business Practices Committee. Ms. Krawcheck joined Citigroup in October 2002 as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Smith Barney. Prior to joining Citi, Ms. Krawcheck was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. She also served as an Executive Vice President of Bernstein's parent company, Alliance Capital Management, from 1999 to 2001. Ms. Krawcheck is a member of the Board of Directors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Foundations, Inc., Carnegie Hall and the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School; and the Board of trustees for the Economic Club of New York.

    5. Didn’t Dell have a Leadership Development Committee with responsibility for monitoring all aspects of leadership development?

    Yes, the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee met 8 times during 2008. The members in 2008 were:

    Alan (A.G.) Lafley (Chair)
    William H. Gray, III
    Michael A. Miles
    Sam Nunn

    Most recently, Judy Lewant was added as a Leadership Development committee member.

    The charter of the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee reads:

    Acting pursuant to Section 141 of the Delaware General Corporation Law and Section 1 of Article IV of the Company's Bylaws, the Board of Directors has established a Leadership Development and Compensation Committee for the purpose of reviewing and (except in the case of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) approving, on behalf of the Board of Directors) management recommendations regarding all forms of compensation to be provided to each executive officer and director of the Company, including any perquisites and equity compensation, and salary, bonus and equity compensation guidelines for all employees. The Committee will also have responsibility for reviewing management succession plans and leadership development strategies."

    6. Did the four women complainants appeal to any of the above corporate resources while they were employed at Dell in order to try to bring this situation to the attention of the leadership and seek remedies during the period that they were employees of the firm?

    I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Billie Jean King

    Another addition to your “inspirational” recommended reading list:
    Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I've Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes by Billie Jean King with Christine Brennan (192 pages, LifeTime Media Inc.; August 12, 2008)

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Nothing Personal, Mrs. Palin

    It mystifies me how some women might prefer Sarah Palin over a host of other competent, capable, educated and experienced Republican women who might have been chosen as a Vice Presidential candidate. Why would anyone prefer a journalist, beauty pageant contender, small town Hockey Mom and globally-isolated individual to stand so close to the office of President of the United States of America rather than an educated, experienced and tested woman leader? Why would women or men prefer an obvious token to right wing zealots over any number of far more talented Republican middle to centrist women who currently serve in government? The Republican party has an abundance of women leaders at the gubernatorial to the Congressional level. Why Sarah Palin?

    Because she does not threaten or scare the average female of voting age. My theory is that large percentages of women – from both parties – feel threatened by other women, especially women who have risen higher than they. Strong women (anything "more" than, say, Monica Lewinski) might take the attention of the men in their lives (or even the potential men in their lives) away from a focus on themselves. Women see competition differently from the way men view competition: women see it as daughters capturing the attention of their husband. Women see competition as potential devastation not the opportunity as men perceive it.

    If you can assess a woman’s perception of her mother -– whether it is a relationship of respect or one of fear and jealousy -– then you will be able to assess how that woman will view her female peers, subordinates and superiors. If she is afraid of her mother or views her mother with disdain, then probably her perspective of contemporary women will mirror that attitude.

    Is it possible to change a woman’s view of her mother from negative to positive? Is it possible to change a bigot into a tolerant human being? Absolutely, but not without effort will old biases and uncertainties abate. Is it possible for a woman to leave intact her inter-familial prejudices while also constructing new unbiased external views? Possibly, but the internal conflict probably needs genuine resolution before real in-depth acceptance can be allowed to blossom. A woman cannot hold two dramatically viewpoints simultaneously and remain healthy. A woman cannot long espouse one view externally, while sustaining an opposite, undoing view internally. Something must give.

    The struggle to find an appropriate personal path is evidence of the failure to examine and address that internal conflict. Women who quit, or “opt out,” women who cannot quite make up their minds or who cannot choose for themselves are examples of women who persist in not addressing their quandary: am I myself or am I my mother? To extricate one’s own personality from that of one’s mother appears to these uncertain women as a rejection of all things feminine, good, warm, comfortable and caring. It seems to be a journey out and away from safety toward the unknown, risk and danger.

    Women like Sarah Palin because she appears to "boldly go" back to a time when things were simpler, when mothers comforted us, when the biggest issues to be addressed were what to put on the dinner table or how to comfort a wayward daughter or tend to a truly helpless baby. Because, if women like Hillary Clinton are allowed to rise to public prominence, then other women ("women like me!") might also be compelled or expected to address the far more complex issues of how to prioritize among contending healthcare costs and benefits. "Women-like-me" might need to comprehend subprime loans, collateralized derivative obligations or credit swaps. "Women-like-me" might need to choose between shopping and saving for that very long term future all women will face. "Women-like-me" might actually need to cut back on discretionary consumption in order to invest more in quality education -– including our own.

    Sarah Palin represents a very strong emotional bond to a much simpler past, when Mother stayed in the background, quietly telling us that “Everything will be just fine, dear, because Father Knows Best.”

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Women Who Dare

    This is my recommendation for the Christmas present of the year:

    Women Who Dare
    ® (2009 Calendar Hardback from Pomegranate Publications in collaboration with the Library of Congress).

    This is an impressive collection of 53 biographies of women of achievement from many eras, many nations and many professions or avocations. Plus each day in the calendar also has a birth date or anniversary celebrating some woman of achievement.

    Over ten years ago, I spoke with a woman to try to get her help in publishing a book of women of achievement. Her uninspired response back then was, "Why would anyone read this?" This calendar is the answer: "To inspire the next generation of women leaders." "To inform today’s young girls of how many women overcame many obstacles and challenges so that they could have the great opportunities that exist today!" "Because traditional media so ignores the accomplishments of incredible women!" "Because these women are inspirational!" And furthermore, "Because these women have earned our recognition and our thanks!"

    Click on this link and order a copy of the Women Who Dare 2009 Calendar for every young woman in your life who has asked, “Where are the women to inspire me?” “Where are the women in leadership, today?” “Who are the women role models of our future?”

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    I Have Two Kids

    Let's assume that I have two kids. One is a boy, and the other is a girl. When they brought homework to the dining room table, we didn’t provide different answers to one or the other because of their gender. We didn’t counsel one how to take advantage of the opposite sex on a date, but tell the other how to play coy. We didn’t tell him he could be whatever he wanted to be, but tell her that she needed to set her sights only on a hausfrau future. We didn’t tell her to wait for Prince Charming to kiss her and make the world a wonderful place to live forever after. We didn’t tell her to wait for “some nice man” to give her everything she could possibly want.

    We taught them both that they could succeed at anything IF they were willing to work hard, become competent, learn from their experiences and be in touch with their own humanity and that of the world around them. We didn’t exactly tell them all that. We tried to live those examples and let them learn from what they observed.

    Now that we’ve turned them over to the workforce and to their communities, it is somewhat surprising to see that some people suggest we should give one of them preferences, special treatment or help -- over and above what is available to the other.

    In California, we tried to legislate that in the 1990s, calling it “affirmative action.” The belief then was that we had to do something to compensate for past discrimination, a little something to make up for past oversights. Call it a contemporary form of social reparations.

    The only problem was that we learned that we could never quite pay off today for sins and errors incurred yesterday. You can only learn from the past, never replay it. Like revenge and retribution, we can never really get calculations quite right and no one is ever satisfied. A better strategy is to focus on ensuring that past errors are never repeated.

    So, Californians passed Proposition 209 in 1996 to amend the state constitution and bar BOTH discrimination and preferences in choices, decisions or actions made by any entity that received money from the public at large. Since those who pay taxes in the state are on a level playing field -– men and women -– those on the receiving side likewise should be on an even playing field. Like it or not, the law of the California land prohibits public institutions from considering race, ethnicity or sex (gender).

    An interesting consequence in California is that our state has the highest number of women added to public company boards of directors, based on press release announcements tallied by (a blog managed by Alice Krause of New York). We believe the state generates the greatest amount of investment in new venture creation which builds businesses and attracts talent -- and that includes a lot of very competent women.

    So, should we be telling our children to sit back and wait for someone to hand them gender reparations on a silver platter, or should be showing out next generation (both our daughters and our sons) case studies and business examples of how successful women (and men) make a positive, economically viable contribution to our economy?

    Should we be expecting this president or that to make the world some perfect place for our kids to play? Should we wait for Congress to act or the Courts to decide who will be winners, who will be losers and who will pay? Or should we be teaching all of our kids how to stand up for themselves, fight for their rights, negotiate for their economic opportunities, save for their long-term futures, study the mistakes and successes of their elders, build careers and families and communities of which they can be proud and raise the next generation of kids as if equality of opportunity existed?

    Let’s teach our children well.

    Sunday, October 5, 2008

    Top Fortune Women in Leadership - 2008

    There’s a change in tone at the top, and Fortune Magazine is “getting it,” finally. Rather than the usual emphasis on the skirts, makeup or fashion at “The 50 Most Powerful Women” in the Fortune Magazine October 13, 2008 issue, we finally have the opportunity to read about the money, the products, the industry sector, the value and the profits these talented, competent women are generating for their companies.

    Finally, we are beginning to see new faces and impressive credentials. The average age of the most impressive women leaders of 2008 is 50.5 years for the domestic U.S. listing and 51.4 years for the Global listing. The youngest is Marissa Mayer, 33, VP of Search and User Services at Google and the oldest is Cathy Black, 64, of The Hearst Group of magazine publications.

    In the Global listing, the youngest is Kristina Stenbeck, 31, Chair of Sweden’s Kinniveck entertainment/media enterprise while the oldest is Yoshiko Shinohara, 73, of Tempstaff, Japan’s staffing/recruiting firm.

    Technology and Investment firms dominate the U.S. top 50 listing with 8 women in each category, while Investment and Banking firms dominate the Global top 50 listing with 8 and 5 women in each listing, respectively. We’ll see if those sectors remain on top for long, now that the credit markets have imploded.

    France was home to 9 of the women in the Global listing, followed by Britain (7 women) and China (6 women). Singapore, Sweden, and India each had 3 women. Netherland and Israel each had 2 women. Fifteen other countries had 1 woman each. Interestingly, Norway -- which has a law mandating 40% of the public company board seats be occupied by women -- had no women on the top Global listing.

    The magazine also compared the top 2007 salaries for men and women. On average, the top U.S. listed women earned about $14 million, including Safra Catz, co-head of Oracle, who earned $34.1 million and Shailyn Gassaway, EVP/CFO of Alltel (the only woman from that company on either list), who earned $38.6 million. The lowest salary for the top 25 women earners was $8.9 million.

    The top salaries for the men ranged from a high of $350.7 million to a low of $41.9 million – both earned by Blackstone executives (of which there were 4). Included in the top male earners were four each from Alltel and Goldman-Sachs. Only one woman working for Goldman-Sachs in Britain, Isabelle Ealet, made it to the Global list, and none made it to the U.S. list.

    As ever, incredible talented women are beginning to achieve internationally recognized positions of leadership. We genuinely congratulate them and Fortune Magazine for helping to change the tone and the attitudes that we exhibit towards women in leadership in the 21st century.