April 11th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Young, female AND successful: What Stops Us from Becoming CEO?

Confident young business woman in black suit against whiteBy Nneka Orji

Age discrimination against older women has been widely discussed in the media. The assumption is that ageism applies mostly to older women however this is not necessarily the case. A 2011 report from the UK’s Department for Work and Pension (DWP) highlighted that those who experienced age discrimination were more likely to be in younger age brackets, “with under-25s at least twice as likely to have experienced it, than other age groups.” This has significant implications on our future female leaders – “Generation Y,” also known as “millennials.”

According to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, 40 percent of Generation Y women reported experiencing generational discrimination. The report stated, “Being female tended to intensify age prejudice and ‘double jeopardy’ was reinforcing rather than simply additive.” The report also found that both forms of discrimination –age and gender – led to female millennials being held to different standards, passed over for promotions, and most disturbingly, being perceived as less competent.

What is the impact on the future workforce if some of its future leaders are faced with at least two layers of barriers in the early stages of their careers? Moreover, if female millennials are part of the pipeline of future female leaders, what initiatives are focused on ensuring that ten years from now we still are not looking at such a heavy tilt towards male leaders as the norm?

After all, we have seen that investing in women in senior manager roles is clearly beneficial; Catalyst found a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between the top-quartile companies (those with 19-44 percent female board representation) and bottom quartile companies (those with zero female directors). With this in mind, organisations have introduced a number of initiatives to increase gender diversity, targeted especially at their senior management teams.

The good news is that female millennials are starting on a more equal footing with their male counterparts. The Pew Research Center published its 2013 survey results which reflected the narrowing of the gender wage gap. Although millennials are more confident in their abilities compared to previous female cohorts –and only 15 percent of those surveyed had experienced gender discrimination – they were still less likely to aspire to top management positions in their organisations. Compared to 24 percent of Generation Y men who showed no interest in top management roles, 34 percent of the female millennials surveyed shared the same sentiment. If over one-third of the world’s potential female leaders have no desire to be a leader within the organisation, surely something needs to change.

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April 10th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Catalyst Awards Conference 2014: Leaders Make the Difference in Diversity

Image via Catalyst

Image via Catalyst

By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

Last week marked the 2014 Catalyst Awards Conference, a celebration of successful diversity and inclusion programs. The two winning companies – Kimberly-Clark and Lockheed Martin – managed to substantially increase the percentages of women in leadership through innovative programming, target setting, and incentivizing management to promote and retain women through enterprise-wide goals.

Leaders from both companies were on hand to describe what worked. According to the speakers, the breakthrough was building the business case for diversity into the culture of the company, with programs strongly supported by active and vocal leadership.

“We’ve been doing diversity and inclusion for 30 years,” said Thomas J. Falk, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Kimberly-Clark, explaining that the company had done diversity initiatives when the time and resources were available.

But recently, the company began incorporating diversity goals into its business strategy. “That was a tipping point for us, making it about what we do every day,” Falk said.

Sue Dodsworth, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Executive Development at Kimberly-Clark explained that the goal of the program was to make sure employees and executives throughout the global organization looked more like the people who use its products – mainly women.

“It truly is a competitive strategy,” she said.

Likewise, Lockheed Martin’s program is also designed to capitalize on the strategic benefits of diversity.

“We realized several years ago… this is definitely a business imperative for us,” said Marillyn A. Hewson, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer at Lockheed Martin, pointing out that only nine percent of aerospace engineers are women. “We needed all the best talent at our table.”

“The more diverse perspectives we have on the issue the better our product is going to get,” she said. The company may have great facilities and laboratories, she said, “but nothing gets done without top talent. That’s what connected with the leaders.”

Shan Cooper, Vice President and General Manager at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, added, “We were very intentional in making diversity work part of our everyday work.”

Mentoring and Sponsorship
Speakers from the winning companies also touched on the importance of mentoring and sponsorship. Cooper explained how Hewson was critical in helping her get her job. “We have a formal mentoring program with a mandate that 50% of participants are women and minorities,” she said.

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April 9th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Salary History: Gender Pay Gap’s Holy Grail

paycheckfairnessGuest contribution by Katie Donovan

The saying “culture eats strategy over breakfast”, attributed to management guru Peter Drucker, has a place in the women’s pay gap issue. It seems as though much of the talk around eliminating the gender pay gap is aimed at changing culture. Examples from the recent Boston Closing the Wage Gap include recommendations of getting young girls to major in STEM and helping recruiters and hiring managers overcome biases. The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink looks at women’s financial status encompasses but is not limited to the gender pay gap. This report does include similar types of recommendations such as putting college education ahead of having children to help the overall financial strength of women. These recommendations are admirable but slow. It’s been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed and The Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects the pay gap will close in 2058 at the rate we have been making progress.

Instead of changing culture, is it possible to find solutions that will work regardless of the culture? To me, this is the Holy Grail. The existence of such a Holy Grail would reduce the 44 more years of inequality greatly. I propose there are. The primary Holy Grail is the use of salary history as a grading system and as a benchmark.

Headhunters have admitted in private to me that they never submit a candidate if their current pay is too low compared to the pay of the job they are filling. Let’s put this in perspective. I know of a woman who works in STEM with a doctorate and 10+ year of experience. A few years back she discovered she was making $30,000 less than her male colleague with the same title and less experience. This difference was inline with the industry gender wage gap. Assume, both this women and her male colleague apply to a job. Headhunters using pay as one of the grading criteria would never judge the person with $30,000 less on par with the higher paid colleague. The highly educated, experienced women in a well paid STEM job would never get out of the pile of resumes and get the chance to interview for her next job in STEM.

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April 8th, 2014 | 6:00 am

When Hiring a New Team Member, Do You Hire People Like Yourself?

Business meeting.By Irene Solaz

It is well established that diverse teams avoid the dreaded “groupthink”, the practice of minimizing conflict and reaching a consensus decision without thinking critically about alternative ideas or viewpoints. According to Irving Janis, the social psychologist who coined the term, groups are most vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.

In your team there are probably 20-year old interns eager to learn and coworkers with different life experiences and varying perspectives stemming from different backgrounds, cultures, and even religious beliefs. You will probably hear all of their suggestions, but are you really listening? Will you write them all down, or give precedence to opinions expressed by those who share a similar background with you? This has historically been an issue for women, who have found that when they speak up in a meeting, it is often ignored until a male coworker voices the same idea.

Last year, Harvard Business Review interviewed 24 CEOs from around the globe who ran companies and corporate divisions that had earned reputations for embracing people from all kinds of backgrounds. Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work featured Ernst & Young CEO Jim Turley, who delves into the uncomfortable realization that he was allowing these groupthink dynamics to take place at EY when a woman at the company pointed it out to him. He immediately corrected his behavior.

It’s not just men who can be guilty of allowing these conditions to take place. Even members of marginalized groups can silence the voices of those who are not like them. As a matter of fact, for 30-years there has been research conducted around the “think manager, think male” phenomenon. Women have been proven to be just as prone to assigning leadership traits to men and not other women like themselves.

Reducing Your Bias When Hiring
Hiring someone with whom we share similar backgrounds, beliefs, or values is usually done unconsciously, and it is important to stop hiring workers simply because they are similar to us.

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April 7th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Edith Cooper, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Human Capital Management, Goldman Sachs

cooper_edith_gsBy Michelle Hendelman

For the last six years, Edith Cooper has been the Global Head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs. In other words, she is responsible for the well-being, development and promotion of Goldman’s 32,000 employees worldwide. While this is no small task, Cooper loves the people-centric aspect of her role. “Our people are our number one asset,” said Cooper.

She continued, “This is a dynamic business and our priorities evolve alongside the markets. As a result, there is an increased focus on managing people, leading people, and leveraging the diverse set of experiences that our people bring to the table.”

The Dynamic Space of Human Capital Management
Cooper’s role at Goldman Sachs has also evolved over the last 17 years as she has transitioned from sales and trading into managing clients and people. According to Cooper, the last five years have been especially challenging, however, new opportunities to serve clients continue to emerge. She noted, “as markets and organizations continue to expand and globalize, we now more than ever must pay attention to and respond to global trends.”

“Clients need us to have 24/7 awareness of market drivers and opportunities in order to facilitate growth, and part of my role is to ensure that our people are well positioned to add that value to our clients,” Cooper added. She explained how important it is to attract people to the organization who are not only individually excellent, but also embrace the fact that delivering client satisfaction is very much a collaborative effort.

According to Cooper, technology is changing the human capital management space in a number of ways including by enhancing and expanding recruiting efforts. “The connectivity is constant,” noted Cooper, “and our reach is global due to online tools and advancing technologies.” This is elevated by the fact that the Millennials who are beginning to fill the halls at Goldman Sachs have been raised around technology, and incorporate it into everything that they do.

“The challenge used to be in gathering information, but now that so much more information is easily accessible, the opportunity to add value is by connecting information and leveraging it strategically,” said Cooper.

Expanding the Dialogue of Women’s Career Advancement
Cooper acknowledged that there has been significant progress for women in the workplace, but that there is more work to be done. “In order to be successful, an organization must ensure that there is diversity at every level,” she explained. According to Cooper, the ongoing conversations around professional women encourage people to broaden their perspective and expand the dialogue.

For Cooper, a great source of pride comes from the fact that she has had the opportunity to grow her career at Goldman Sachs while also maintaining a great home life. She attributes this to the fact that her support system –both at work and at home –has been strong and steady. While this has worked for her, she encourages women to determine their own degree of work-life balance by recognizing that there are multiple paths to take and choices to make throughout the length of your career.

“Women who believe that they can go out and be excellent at every single thing on a daily basis are likely setting themselves up to fail. You must pick your spots and create your own definition of success,” added Cooper.

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April 4th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Intrepid Woman: Nell Merlino, Founder and President, Count Me In

nell_merlino_headshotBy Michelle Hendelman

When Nell Merlino created Take Our Daughters to Work Day, it was a natural extension of the work she always envisioned herself doing – that is creating opportunities for women to advance themselves and showing them the pathways available to achieve their goals. “For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in the role women play in the economy and helping women understand their own economic impact,” said Merlino.

According to Merlino, both of her parents always emphasized the importance of being self-sufficient and acting as a change agent within the community. Now, Merlino, the Founder of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence –the leading non-profit provider of resources for female entrepreneurs who want to grow their business into a million dollar enterprise –is accomplishing both of those things very well.

“The structure of Count Me In gives aspiring female business owners the opportunity to focus on the growth of their business by giving them a robust peer-to-peer community of other ambitious women to work through the challenges with,” said Merlino. “I am so proud of creating a group where women can learn from each other,” she added.

According to Merlino, a central tenet of each Count Me In program is teaching women how to pitch their business succinctly and persuasively. “We challenge women to condense their business idea into a two minute pitch, which forces them to drill down to the essence of who they are and what they have to offer,” she said.

On Having a Rewarding Career
Merlino stressed how important it is to understand the value of coupling your passion in life with the prospect of making money. “Many people think that in order to enjoy the freedom of entrepreneurship, you have to let go of the idea that you will make a lot of money,” said Merlino. She continued, “You can find something that you love to do, or that you are really good at doing, and figure out a way to make a great living out of it.”

This is one reason why Merlino believes it is important for young women and girls to see professional women being successful. She noted, “Young women need to be able to see themselves in that role and be shown the pathways to get there.” By exposing young business women to conferences, meetings, or networking events where they can visualize what their own future can look like, they will begin to believe in the possibilities and opportunities available to them in their own career path.

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April 3rd, 2014 | 11:00 am

Closing the Leadership Gap for Women at PwC


By Jarod Cerf

According to Jennifer Allyn, the Managing Director of PwC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “The problem is not just about women or about companies. It’s an interaction between the choices that women are making and the opportunities that companies are providing. And the question is ‘how can we work together to close that leadership gap?’”

Sometimes, as Allyn explained, the right solution involves a combination of feedback, responsiveness, and adaptability. The Full Circle program that PwC launched in 2008, for instance, was developed to address the on- and off-ramping needs of high potential professionals at the firm who wanted to take a few years off to focus on parenting or elder care.

“Concrete programs matter,” Allyn stated. “They signal to people that it’s okay to take a non-linear path. Because if we want to retain talented people who want to step out for a period of time, we should be able to stay connected to them, keep their technical skills current, and when they’re ready, bring them back to the firm.”

She added, “In fact, we just had our first Full Circle participant admitted to the partnership: she took two years off, returned, stayed on the partner track, and was admitted in June.”

Advancing Careers Through Sponsorship
There is often a divide, Allyn remarked, between what is ‘easy to accomplish’ and ‘what should be done’ about the leadership gap. At PwC, the core issue was one of how to develop and enable talent, women included. “Talent is the firm’s primary asset,” said Allyn. To that end, PwC reinforced the importance of sponsorship by creating a mandatory program through which partners can preserve their individual legacy as well as the organization’s culture.

“Our partners are owners of the firm, and their legacy is the next generation of leaders,” Allyn affirmed. She added, “In their partner plans, which they fill out annually, each of them has to select three diverse professionals—women, minorities, LGBT—that they are sponsoring and investing in, and they have to list those people by name.”

By the end of the year, partners report back on the specific actions they took on behalf of their candidates, as well as the results of those actions. From there, partners adjust their plans accordingly, with particular emphasis on career trajectories for the upcoming year.

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April 3rd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Women in Engineering: Providing Pathways for Future Generations

iStock_000008675366XSmallBy Michelle Hendelman

By now, we have all heard the facts and figures about women in STEM fields. There have been gains, as evidenced by the high profile appointments of Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg to the C-Suite. However, there have also been setbacks, such as Twitter’s bold move to announce their IPO last fall without a single female on their corporate board.

There is plenty of media attention surrounding women and the boys club of Silicon Valley, but what does the bigger picture look like for women in other STEM fields, such as engineering?

A recent survey conducted by TE Connectivity found that the vast majority (87 percent) of respondents identified engineering as the leading profession sparking innovation and invention in the United States. Yet, women make up only 14 percent of the engineers in the United States. As society is recognizing the positive impact of engineering, what role will women play in sustaining the growth of this industry? Furthermore, what steps can be taken to make sure the pipeline of female engineers remains strong and consistent?

Untapped Potential
According to Jane Leipold, Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources at TE Connectivity, “Women can play a huge role in the future growth of the engineering field. Right now, there is nothing but upside potential in terms of attracting new talent.” Leipold added that as more female role models in engineering emerge, there will be a trickledown effect resulting in finding talented women interested in pursuing a career in engineering.

Attracting female engineers is only one half of the equation. The other –equally important –half of the equation is retaining women who enter the field by providing them with tools and resources that support career advancement and professional growth. Research on why women leave engineering revealed that one of the most important factors cited for driving women out of the field was workplace climate.

What’s more, one-third of women who graduated with an engineering degree never entered the field professionally due to the perception that the industry as a whole was unsupportive of women. In order to reverse the trend of women opting out of engineering, Leipold emphasized the value of investing in programs that support the advancement of women. She noted, “It is important to develop women as they move up the ladder into executive and leadership roles.”

The perception that engineering, and STEM fields in general, are not welcoming to women creates the well-documented psychological phenomenon known as “stereotype threat” that can prevent young women from entering and advancing in their careers. For example, when idea that women are not as good in STEM subjects as men is perpetuated, women will subconsciously internalize this notion and begin to lack confidence, even if they have proven their competence.

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April 2nd, 2014 | 6:00 am

How Developing Effective Communication Skills in Yourself and Others Leads to Success

Three serious business people talking in boardroomGuest contribution by Curtis Sprouse

When it comes to communicating, there are effective and ineffective ways to go about it. There are factors that exist that affect how someone communicates, whether they communicate poorly or effectively. The primary factors impacting how effective one is at communicating are listening, open-mindedness, and actively engaging in the conversation. Secondary factors include conflict resolution, and proactively and effectively providing and receiving feedback.

Effective communicators engage in an appropriate exchange of information. They feel a need to receive information, but also have the ability to provide information at the appropriate level. Because they have good listening skills, they know how to actively engage in listening, which means instead of just hearing what others say, they are actually taking in what someone is saying—comprehending, retaining and relating to what is being said. People that manage these behaviors are good at rephrasing what they have heard. They have well-developed or well-managed dominance and energy. These are genetic behavioral traits that, when not managed, cause people to be controlling, impatient, and present with a drive to win a position while rationalizing why it is acceptable to operate in what is clearly an ineffective way.

Now this is only the tip of the iceberg, as listening requires that one seek the appropriate amount of information regardless of the presenter’s skills. This includes the ability to be open-minded, and not overly critical of the sources grasp of information. Effective communicators are also able to engage in conflict resolution, because they are typically emotionally prepared and have actively listened to what the other person has said. Rather than shutting down during conflict, or tuning out what the other person is saying, effective communicators listen and engage in the situation properly. Lastly, the key influencer in being an effective communicator is being relevant in both providing and receiving feedback—not providing or seeking too little, or too much.

Those who are below the effective range of communicating do not share information or feedback well, if at all. They are also not looking for information. Typically, there are very few advantages for people who are ineffective communicators. The only benefit may be if someone was involved in a job that required a lot of confidentiality, otherwise the disadvantages far exceed the advantages in being an ineffective communicator.

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April 1st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Are You Dutiful or a Disruptor? Career Advice for the Innovator in All of Us

iStock_000009286763XSmallBy Nikole Grimes

A recent six-year study observed the habits of innovative entrepreneurs revealing a set of discovery skills that distinguish the most creative executives. The most entrepreneurial and innovative CEOs spend 50% more time on these discovery activities than leaders without a track record of innovation. The discovery skills highlight that innovative entrepreneurs connect disparate ideas and concepts, interact with diverse people from all walks of life, ask questions of the world at large, keenly observe behaviors, and test their ideas.

So what are these discovery skills? They are associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking with one sub-trait underpinning all five of the discovery skills. What is this subtrait? Disrupting.

The most innovative leaders – those leading inventors whose ideas and businesses literally transform the way our world works – continually assess, evaluate, and analyze existing perspectives. Subtly and not-so-subtly, these leaders challenge the status quo.

Innovators disrupt traditional ideas through the skill of associating. They connect seemingly unrelated issues and concepts, resulting in fundamental shifts in perspective.

They disrupt the assumptions that underpin existing systems through the skill of questioning – asking “why”, “why not”, and “what if.” In order to get the most complete view on a topic, they will frequently take a position that is opposite their own initial perspective. They ask challenging questions that push themselves and others to break through to new ideas.

Visionary leaders disrupt even small things by observing common everyday behaviors and then considering alternatives to the standard ways things are done.

This sub-trait, disrupting, is also expressed through the skill of experimenting – by literally trying new things, testing new concepts, and doing old things in new ways, they explore and encourage the exploration of alternatives.

When they are networking with a wider array of people from all walks of life they disrupt the hierarchical culture of most businesses. Instead of limiting their network to their peer group, transformative visionaries actively seek the cross-pollination of perspectives across fields, cultures, and countries.

The greatest innovations are inherently disruptive and the sub-trait of disrupting underlies all of the discovery skills. In a Forbes piece, “Disruption vs. Innovation: What’s the difference?” author Caroline Howard wrote, “Innovation and disruption are similar in that they are both makers and builders. Disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day.”

Women & Disruption
Disrupting is increasingly valued by corporations and is now frequently covered in business-related media. For example, the theme of Deloitte’s just-released 2014 Technology Trends report is Inspiring Disruption. The report provides a deep analysis of ten emerging technological innovations. By identifying disruptive technologies as they are developing, you can best plan for and even capitalize on them.

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