Category Archives: Global Gender Gap rankings

Playing without the Queens. Women and Talent Management

 

Women and talent management: economic common sense

For many it takes a small, personal, micro situation or relationship to highlight underlying macro, philosophical issues. Mine was nothing to do with any immediate connections, childhood experiences or friends. It was by interacting with total strangers in one of the most impersonal spaces – an airport.

Stranded

Recently, I was stranded at the departure gate of a regional British airport, waiting for a flight which was seriously delayed. Passengers got twitchy, as somewhat worryingly, engineers crawled over the open hood of the engine of the plane clearly clutching what bore more than a passing resemblance to maintenance manuals. Just like the movies, in consternation, small crisis support groups were formed. In my group, in addition to myself, were a teacher and very happily a pilot and an aeronautical engineer. All women.

This is a true story!

Crisis Management

With their inside knowledge, backgrounds and expertise the pilot and engineer stepped up. They told us they were not going to get on any plane where the engineers were looking at manuals. And guess what? If they weren’t, neither were we. Passes were duly flashed and these professionals very competently dealt with the airline and airport authorities, their leadership /management, hitherto visible only by their complete absence. These women obviously succeeded in coming between the passengers and a night spent on a hard airport lounge floor. The teacher and I sat suitably impressed. Did we care if the achievements of these ladies followed John C Maxwell’s maxim “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” or Drucker’s manager “ doing things right”? No we didn’t.

An individual story

While the other two women became paragon leaders and/or managers, whichever view you take, somewhat superfluous to the task in hand the teacher and I talked about her daily life. She lives in a deprived industrial area, with high levels of up to fourth generation unemployment. Her primary (elementary) school services a number of “sink level” housing estates, where most children live below what would be considered to be the poverty line. Many of the mothers are single parents with addictions issues and many are victims of abuse. The children are exposed to every type of heart-breaking deprivation that you and I can think of – too many to list here.

Inspiration

The teacher had created fun segments just to teach basic life skills that the children had never encountered before, like holding a knife and fork, or saying “thank you.” The only meals some of the kids ever eat are in school, so she set up breakfast, lunch and snack programmes. She talked about these small victories in the face of budget and staffing cuts: Holding fundraisers, persuading local shops and organisations to make donations of products and materials (quite often food) and even paying for some things out of her own pocket. Her greatest achievements were the children who had been through her programme and had eventually gained university places, one recently entering Cambridge.

A real leader

She is obviously creative, innovative, has vision and could have certainly pursued a career in education management and policy; but had stayed where she was “for the sake of the children.” About 1500 children have passed through her programme over the years. This is surely the John Quincy Adams type of leader: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”I would have been delighted to have named her, but this special lady wanted to stay completely anonymous. So although there are no extravagant trappings or perks of corporate life, I saw in the space of a few hours three skilled, competent and inspirational ladies who simply stepped up and led.

Aren’t those qualities ones we should look for in leaders?

Time for change

The root of my problem is that together with many others, I’m starting to question the value we assign to certain specific leadership qualities which are considered to be significant in our organisations and culture. I ask myself if the characteristics we seem to look for in our top leaders are no longer what we need in today’s world. Should we be focusing on constructing different leadership models instead? If women make up more than 50% of the workforce and 60% of graduates, yet less than 15% of senior positions, then the issue should not only be why is this demographic is not being tapped into and developed – but why the delay? Isn’t it time for our leaders to implement change, to establish what our communities and organisations need to succeed and to maximise the contribution of this massively under utilised demographic? This is no longer about gender and diversity – but about economic common sense.

Cave men

At one time in our cave dwelling days with all those lions, tigers and bears, men in their 30s, in the peak of physical condition became designated leaders. I can understand this. There were situations when brute strength, risk-taking and the odd club wielding skill were useful. The life expectancy of a Palaeolithic man, made him at 30 years old, a tribal elder. However, in the 21st century, in a knowledge-based economy, when a deft flick of an iPad might work just as well and life expectancy has more than doubled, those physiological qualities are no longer key. So times and requirements are a-changing and that gives us lots more flexibility to decide what leadership skills we need in our society and how women and talent management can be better combined .

Never has this been more apparent than during the recent global recession and the attempts at reconstruction. One example was what we saw with the financial services wunderkind Fabulous Fabrice Tourre . Was I the only one thinking: What is wrong with this picture? His gender is actually irrelevant, but what seemed critical to me was why was a graduate from the class of 2001, seemingly left unsupervised, to run amok in the sand box, taking incredible financial risks? Was it because we admired and valued his skills? Or just because he made some people a lot of money before he bankrupted them? If so, perhaps we should be identifying different types of skills worthy of admiration.

Plus ça change

I watched post holiday commercials enticing us to take out quick, “no credit check “ loans with A.P.R.s in excess of 2500%, for those “much needed luxuries.” I see bailed out bankers rewarding themselves with bonuses in the billions and economic gurus telling us that it is “back to business as usual.” I wonder why our leadership is so resistant to change. The word bank is commonly recognised as being derived from the word “banca”, or bench when medieval Italian money lenders set up business on benches in the market place. When a banker failed, the populace broke his bench – hence our word bankrupt. Not today it would seem. So truthfully, I am at the point where I actually wonder if we seem to have lost the collective plot.

Vicious cycles

If doing what we’ve always done gives us what we always had, then why is the populace not screaming for change, rather than simply whimpering from the side lines? It’s clear that long-term talent management strategies need to be evaluated and reconstructed in many sectors for our organisations to flourish. Leadership is supposed to be about people, innovation, challenging the status quo, inspiring trust and seeing the big picture. Even The World Economic Forum analysis of global skill set shortages only fleetingly suggests the development of women as part of any strategic solution. There seems to be a basic need for change. But if leaders are failing to innovate and lack long-term vision then using their own criteria, are they really leaders?

As Georgia Fieste said to me on Twitter

So why do our organisations think differently?

 

Forbes Global Power Women: Buzz or Bull?

Going global? I don’t think so
For the uninitiated , The Forbes list, a compilation of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women was published last month with a gallery of a 100 “power women”. Like many I have issues with it, although I don’t want to detract from any woman, anywhere, having any degree of success. All of these nominated ladies are clearly talented with signficant achievements in their fields, but to claim that this makes them powerful in a global context seems a huge stretch and at times simply nonsense.

Michele Obama comes in at # 1. Irene B. Rosenfeld is second as Chairman and CEO of Kraft (Revenue $40 billion, employees 97000). But Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, the country ranked 3rd or 5th in the world in terms of GDP ( depending on which stats you use) and a population of 82 million people, lags behind at #4, a drop of 3 places from 2009. This is a nonsense bit – or at least one of them.

US bias
Even a quick count indicated that 70% of the nominees are American. There are also no less than 4 US show biz personalities in the top 10. About a quarter are celebrities, some major and some pretty minor. One of the reasons I suspect this has happened is because Forbes confuses the notion of power with influence, but perhaps we’re all confused anyway. The term power has become so overworked and overused in current vernacular which doesn’t help. We have power hose, power hitter, power nap and now we have ” power women.” The line between power and influence has always been fine, however, one thing I believe is that power is perceived to be direct and influence as indirect.

Global Gender Gap Report
The World Economic Forum report on gender equality, examining 4 main areas: education, economy, health and politics. came out within days of the Forbes report. The United States moved into the top 20 this year for the first time (up from #31). This progress mainly comes from the number of women appointed to the Obama administration. Many of those are on the Forbes list, but ranked lower than some celebs! I’m not sure they should be acknowledged in front of Scandinavian women leaders who succeeded in reaching between 80% and 83% equality in the four areas under analysis for their countries.

Michele Obama
I’m a huge fan of Michele Obama. She’s bright, intelligent and she hugs. However, does being the wife of the world’s most powerful man, make her the world’s most powerful woman? I don’t think so. She earned this position because she is the wife of Barak. Does it make her a very influential woman within a certain sphere? Yes of course it does. This will also apply to Melinda Gates #27 ( wife of Bill richest man in the world). Do they have more power than say Elizabeth II (#42)? I think even non Brits would dispute that.

Buzz factor
Seemingly the list was compiled around a “buzz factor “, moving away from wealth and corporate achievements as the main male focused KPIs for inclusion on this list, as Moira Forbes, the vice president and publisher of Forbes Woman elaborates ” The women on our list, through their respective realms of power and influence, are shaping many of the agenda-setting conversations of our day,” This is where it goes horribly wrong in a global context

So why not call it ” Women who generate buzz primarily in the USA”?

What is ” buzz” anyway?
There are many women who generate buzz as anyone who picks up a tabloid in any language, in any country in the world would know. This doesn’t necessarily make them influential and especially doesn’t make them powerful. Will the traction of these US celebrities and many of the politicians be the same in Brussels, Berlin or Bangalore? I don’t think so. I’m not sure Ellen Degeneres’ influence would extend to Essex let alone Egypt. Christine Lagarde, Finance Minister of France, #43, comes in behind Chelsea Handler seemingly a talk show host #33. Who do you think generates the most buzz in France? We might talk about Martha Stewart ( #97 Lifestyle guru) but possibly more about her jail time. Some lifestyle!

Influence
So how do you measure, qualitatively assess and define this concept “buzz” anyway? Column inches? YouTube or TV mentions, paparazzi pics? Pay check? Direct reports or population counts? Do Beyoncé and Lady Gaga generate more significant agenda setting conversations than Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf President of Liberia, coming in at #78. Possibly not in Africa or Julia Gillard Prime Minister of Australia #58. I doubt it. We may not sit around discussing Angela Merkel’s outfit or diet at the last G20 summit, but does she have more global clout than Michele Obama or Oprah Winfrey? I think so.

Negative Perceptions
So where does that leave the average woman skimming through this list as one does, possibly no further than the top 10 entries? The choice of Michele Obama as #1,re-enforces the age-old stereotype that a woman’s power and influence is directly related to the position of her husband. It encourages us yet again, to buy into the culture of celebrity, in this case with a strong US bias, which for most women is light years away from their daily lives, even to the point of being misleading. I also wonder if it seems to attach lower value to political and other achievements than the media and fashion. This is not to deny the influence of some of those listed women, but to show the limitations of this type of list.

Most women I have discussed this concept with have suggested that the most powerful women in their lives have been local: women they have worked with or have had some impact on them in a direct sometimes even fleeting way, professionally, socially or some other personal relationship. There’s no way to put that in a list.

However, Beyoncé does come up on the spell check. Perhaps that’s the new global metric of having power.

What do you think?

Don’t be afraid of “NO”.

” No” is your friend. It creates an opportunity to counter.

That’s when negotiation starts

There was an amazing, interesting  and almost global response to my last post “Let’s go girls…. negotiate”. All sorts of questions and issues were raised around gender differences  related to salary negotiation. Many complex topics were covered  connecting  cultural and historical barriers that prevent women stepping up to self advocate. But I’m not even going to attempt to address those wider topics here and just want to concentrate on the immediate and practical. I’m  also just going to focus on negotiating for a new job  and will  deal with existing situations  later,  although the principles are  still broadly the same .

So let’s deal with what can anyone  of us do.. NOW.

Women are relationship builders

One  of the first  points  raised was that women are  relationships builders and as a consequence we are not good at “winning ” individual encounters and are therefore disadvantaged from the get go.

So OK… let’s look at this in real terms.

Yes,  we are excellent relationship builders – but  all good  functional relationships I believe  are not about winning. In fact if anyone feels like a “loser” in a deal (male or female,)  that connection is predicated to be dysfunctional long-term.

It is constructive communication between two parties to find a mutually satisfactory outcome. Women excel at win/win solutions. Do male managers really see all negotiations as adversarial? Wise and effective ones surely don’t. I have actually tried to find some management theorists who might support this line of thinking – but couldn’t locate any, except perhaps when discussing situations impacting international security – which we’re clearly not. And even in those cases, as we have historically seen, punitive negotiations don’t always work then either.

Many women  also wrote to me and to paraphrase said   ” … You don’t understand ….negotiating a salary is different to other  types of negotiations.”

NO it isn’t.

Be confident

This is about confidence. Without confidence we will always find a way to lose, so it is important is to normalise and neutralise  the negotiation process in our own minds and to understand that  as women, we all do it, all the time without a second thought.  We just don’t even notice. Once we realise what an integral part negotiation actually plays in our daily lives, half the problem has been overcome.

 Test yourself:

1. The TV repairman says “Can’t come for 3 weeks”

2. You have a 4 figure quote from a supplier for a job you feel pretty sure should cost 3 figures

3.  Your 15-year-old wants a party

So what do you do? Do you roll over and  wait for 3 weeks to get your TV fixed and say to your contractor  “sure no problem I’ll pay over the odds for that job?” or leave town and turn your house over to your teen for an all night rave?

No. Of course not.  You negotiate.

You research the market, evaluate what you need doing, decide what you can comfortably afford to accept. If it doesn’t work you let it go or change.

So salary negotiation isn’t different.

By becoming a candidate you have already made that  psychological commitment  to change and have taken that leap into the unknown. You have imperceptibly started the negotiation process. You have researched the company,  identified your skills, know your value in the sector and must have marketed them well , because  here they are now wanting to make you an offer. You are in a good place! If the hiring company lose you,  they may have to start the process from scratch or fall back on candidate number two. That is an additional cost, not just in terms of  search fees,  but also in terms of elapsed time before a new hire is effective , which equals lost revenue. They will have done their homework and will know what the salary range for your skill set is on the market.  Generally everyone  should  be looking for successful outcome. Most companies settle at least 10-15%  above the initial offer.

The pre-question

When I started selling,  my boss at the time, a guy called Mike Lowe, the best sales person I have ever met and a formative personality in my career and personal development, gave me a  simple  nerve conquering mantra before I embarked on any project. The pre-question.”What is the worst thing that can happen?”

Mike also tried desperately hard  to teach me to ski where injury, pain and death featured in my option choices (not necessarily in that order.)  But these downsides, generally speaking, don’t tend to happen around a negotiating table discussing anything legal.

In any ordinary negotiation process, the worst  case scenario is  usually and I always  unhapppily thought,  pre “Mike” , was a firm ” no” .  But Mike also taught me that “no” is my friend and how to use it .

Make “no” your friend. Negotiation doesn’t start until “no” has been clearly stated.

So even within this negative messagethere is a  hidden bonus which can open up a dialogue and lead you to make informed decisions. So instead of fearing “no” – it’s now a word you feel extremely comfortable with. Take a lesson from your own kids. If you say no to a pre-schooler – what do they say? Exactly.  “Why? ”

It hangs around with “no”. It allows you to take each objection and calmly overcome them with your elevator sound bites, which incorporate all your CARS,  USPs and overall added value. So you love “NO.” It can work for you! The evolved adult  you  have become,  may not stamp her foot  like a five-year old  and petulantly pout “why”, but you will counter with something  more grown-up, neutral and reasonable like “What makes you say that?”

Mike  taught me to de-emotionalise “no” and view it as a vital part of the process. It wasn’t about me. “No” doesn’t mean that my value or self-worth are on the line and reduced in any way, or I’m some sort of mini-failure.  It’s only about the transaction.

Research & preparation

But first you have to deal with negative thinking  and examine the facts and take steps to avoid  being over come by fear ( False Expectations Appearing Real.) So research and preparation are key. Understand the economic viability of the company and know your own market value.

Silence

Mike also taught me about the use of silence. It’s the last member of the  “no / why” trinity. We women are not great at silence. But there are times when the prudent use of silence can be as effective as delivering a great elevator speech. Used wisely it is a great negotiating technique. Deliver your pitch …. and wait….and wait…. and wait….

 Fall back position

It maybe that you will not reach your  first goal  – but  you should always have a secondary goal  in mind  before entering any negotiation.  In the words of Karl Albecht  “Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.”  If anyone in a negotiation situation that feels their back is against a wall, trouble and resentment  are going to figure largely in their futures.

But if a compromise still  isn’t possible then that leaves one  option – seriously consider voting with your feet.

Is it this final step, which we as women fear most? That primal, risk taking side to our personalities that keeps us in the metaphoric  “cave”  and prevents us taking that leap into the unknown which separates us from the guys?

The irony  is of course, that  it is the ability and willingness to walk away which can be the single most powerful negotiating tool in any deal.

What do you think?

Special thanks to Wally Bock,    Ava Diamond, Colin Lewis, Rebel Brown , Susan Mazza,  Tim Douglas , Ellen Brown  Anne Perschel    Susan Joyce , Sharon Eden for stimulating contributions!

Let’s go girls … negotiate!

Why do women earn less than men for doing similar jobs?

Why women should negotiate. This post became the first in a trilogy on women and salary negotiation.  See the sequelsDon’t be afraid of “Noand “Cave in… or leave the cave” 

I’ve  come across a few  things in the past two weeks which have left me unfortunately,  pretty sad ,  frustrated and frankly in a state of confused wonderment.  It’s all centred around  the issue of gender  divide and salary. Or to put it less esoterically –  why do women earn less than men for doing similar jobs?

I’m not even talking about glass ceilings, women on boards or any other more complex and contentious  issues that are perplexing a generation of management gurus, where  there are whole biz school courses  and grad theses  devoted to the topic.  No, all I’m talking about is basics:

These might include education,  qualifications, experience and age being the same

Background

I started my early career  as a Corporate HR  trainee in the steel industry  when  the ability to legally  advertise lower rates  of pay for women was sadly a pretty recent memory. At that time trades-union officials would  even ask why there was a  woman at the meeting! True! In any negotiations  it was not uncommon for all the men  (large numbers) to exit the  meeting room en masse,   leaving me with the metaphoric handbags, gasping in a Dickensian fug  (smoking  in buildings was legal too)  to go to the gent’s bathroom. They would come back with  a resolution agreement which  bore only  minimal resemblance to the previous two hour discussion which I had religiously minuted on my crisp trainee notepad. I was left  bemused and bewildered. These were the days when feeling a hand on your bum in the  photocopy room  was par for the course and the term sexual harassment  hadn’t even been invented.

Has anything changed?

So imagine my distress when I found out that despite the passage of time (…. not saying how much) this sort of unequal treatment  seems to be ongoing. Today, according to Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Science and Research 60% of European graduates are female,  so in real terms women should indeed be a force to be reckoned with on  any job market. However,    I read a few days ago,  that I am living in a country which now holds 60th placing in the  World Economic Forum  table on the  Global Gender Gap rankings  sub index,  relating to economic participation and job opportunity.

Marcus Buckingham in the Huffington Post  tells us that  it is the failure of women to  actually step up  and negotiate which is at the root of the problem : “according to a study at G.E., men return to the negotiating table on average six times, while women average between zero and two” . Cumulatively over a career he estimates that this shortfall could mean as much as  $o.5m  loss of earnings in a female employee’s bank account.

In their book  Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide,  Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever give some further worrying statistics about the context and long-term economic  implications of this passivity.

In Belgium, Isabella Lenarduzzi — founded  Jump,  an initiative  to  support women in the workplace  in Belgium,  which has achieved incredible success in providing a secure environment for women to pursue personal development.

Negotiation is a learned skill

But despite these efforts, unfortunately, as a recruiter I come across this discrepancy all the time with monotonous and disheartening regularity.   I do  believe that negotiation is a skill that can be learned and as a coach I have a segment  in my programme covering salary negotiation,   but  as divorce rates rise and single parenthood households are also increasing, the need for women  to work rapidly towards economic parity  is more signficant than ever before.

 So ladies,  consider this:

  • If a person cannot successfully negotiate for themselves it  can bring into doubt their ability to effectively negotiate for their company.
  • Ineffective or inconsistent negotiation practises leads to general vulnerability- not just in the work place .
  • To be consistently paid less than the market rate  can indicate a lack of  lack of self worth  – as above,  leads to vulnerability.
  • Good fair negotiators are respected. Self respect fosters confidence
  • Despite what you think , there should be nothing you eventually can’t walk away from.

So what do you have to do to get to this happy place?:

  • Understand and be able to articulate all your areas of added value. This enhances self respect and confidence and increases your expectations, because you now believe in yourself.
  • Salary research  –  be aware of your own market place and know your value in it. Calculate any shortfall. Facts talk!
  • Don’t take any discussions personally –  get into business neutral.  Negotiation is only a process, nothing else.
  • Build a business case
  • Look at fringe benefits as well as financial incentives. Benefits can eventually have a high monetary value and also play an important role in work/life balance issues. There is a caveat in the sense that  generally benefits do not count toward pensionable earnings if there is a  scheme.  Factor this in fully.
  • Evaluate any rejection neutrally  – the question should be not be ” do you want to stay in this job?” – but  “when would be a good time to leave? My employer doesn’t value me”.

If you discover that you are paid below the market rate , need to negotiate a salary to start a new job only to  find yourself struggling with that process you have 2 options only:  find yourself a career coach a.s.a.p.  or  find yourself another employer.