August 26th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Paloma Wang, Partner, Capital Markets Group, Shearman & Sterling

Welcome the The Glass Hammer’s “Spotlight on Asia” week! We will be highlighting successful women working in Asia all week long!

paloma_wang_shearmanBy Michelle Hendelman

At just 37 years old, Paloma Wang’s rapid ascension to the partnership at global law firm Shearman & Sterling, where she specializes in initial public offerings (IPOs) and other corporate finance transactions in the firm’s Hong Kong office, is a tale worth telling. Her career achievements are a testament to the value of establishing a long-term vision and having the drive to make it a reality.

“You need to determine your own path and carve out your own unique identity,” Wang advises when reflecting on her career to date. “Don’t let anyone else dictate who you are as a professional or as a person.”

She adds, “By establishing your own priorities and doing the things that truly make you happy, you will drive your career path in the right direction. Don’t make concessions because you are junior or because you are a woman. Plant your feet firmly and set your sights on achieving everything you want.”

Career in Law
Born and raised in China, Wang graduated from a top law school and afterwards was offered a three-year, fully-funded scholarship to study law at Oxford. Wang received her training at a UK law firm in Hong Kong and in December 2005 she became qualified to practice law in Hong Kong.

Traditionally, the legal market in Hong Kong has been dominated by UK firms, but over the last five years, Wang explained, more and more US-based law firms are opening Hong Kong practices. Wang joined the team at Shearman & Sterling when the firm launched its Hong Kong law practice in January 2010. Currently, her practice focuses primarily on capital markets, representing both issuers and underwriters in IPOs. She also advises investors and corporates on private equity investments and listed issuers on compliance, general corporate and regulatory matters.

Although the majority of her practice is focused on Hong Kong, Wang noted that there is definitely an increase in large deals that require a lot of cross-border work and coordination with institutions in foreign jurisdictions, particularly the United States. “The integration of US law and Hong Kong law has been hugely successful at the firm’s Hong Kong office since many of the IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange have a US component as well,” she explains.

Changing Regulatory Landscape
According to Wang, the regulatory landscape in Hong Kong is very different from that of the US, but one of the most exciting aspects of her job recently has been witnessing the transformation of the Hong Kong regulatory regime.

Keep reading »

August 25th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Stephanie Hui, head of the Merchant Banking Division in Asia Pacific Ex-Japan, Goldman Sachs

Welcome the The Glass Hammer’s “Spotlight on Asia” week! We will be highlighting successful women working in Asia all week long!

Hui, Stephanie (1)By Michelle Hendelman

“Earlier in my career, I was more reserved about expressing my views,” said Stephanie Hui, head of the Merchant Banking Division in Asia Pacific Ex-Japan at Goldman Sachs.

“But over time, I realized we are in the business of taking calculated risks and just keeping my head down to produce top quality work while hoping others would notice would not make me a leader. Instead, I would have to effectively and respectfully influence outcome. I learned that being vocal in the right context is important,” she added.

Hui noted that being a Chinese woman who grew up in a conservative family in Hong Kong certainly influenced her professionally, but that finding her voice has definitely had a positive impact on her career.

Career Journey
Hui joined Goldman Sachs in the Principal Investment Area (“PIA”) as an analyst in New York after graduating from Harvard College in 1995 with a biology degree.

“At first,” she said, “This was supposed to be a short stint before graduate school, but I ended up staying, leaving and then returning again. Now, I am going onto my 18th year at the firm.”

After spending her first two years at Goldman Sachs in the New York office, Hui transferred to the Hong Kong office in 1997 for a year to be with her family and also to witness the handover of Hong Kong. Once this year was completed, Hui returned to the United States to earn her MBA at Harvard Business School.

“There, I met my husband and upon graduation, we both decided to return to Hong Kong to live and work,” Hui continued. “It was natural for me to seek out Goldman Sachs, since I wanted to continue to do private equity. Goldman Sachs’ Principal Investment Area was a pioneer in the field globally, but particularly in Asia, and I had an excellent analyst experience.”

Hui was promoted to Executive Director, and in 2010, to partner. In 2012 she became the Co-Head of the Merchant Banking Division for Asia ex-Japan. “I am proud of being trusted to run a leading private equity business in Asia with a multi-billion dollar portfolio that continues to grow. I am also most proud of the team that we have developed and built,” Hui explained.

She added, “We have talented individuals who have a passion for investing, a strong desire to achieve excellence, and are just good and fun people. Being shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches with my esteemed colleagues makes each day a new and exciting adventure.”

According to Hui, one of the most exciting aspects of her job is working in the epicenter of economic growth. “Our job is to go around the region, sometimes to remote areas, meeting with entrepreneurs and searching for the next exciting company that would become the sector winner. There is never a dull moment,” she said.

Women in Private Equity
Hui indicated that from her experience, the most successful investors in private equity tend to be those who have had longevity in the industry and have witnessed many boom and bust cycles. This is one reason, she noted, that funds don’t have a lot of people movement. “Since teams are lean, recruiting at the junior level is sporadic and tends to be done via informal referral. Hence, to date, few women have been hired into the industry,” Hui explained.

Keep reading »

August 22nd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Summer Fridays!

Happy Summer Friday from The Glass Hammer Team!

You can catch up on this week’s content here:

  • Voice of Experience: Pamela Yeo, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, AIG PC Asia Pacific
  • Update: Spotlight on Asia 2014 – China and Singapore: Baby Steps Towards Improving Gender Diversity
  • Update: Spotlight on Asia 2014 (part 2): Japan Continues to Lag in Diversity Rankings
  • Voice of Experience: Anna Chung, Counsel, Project Development & Finance, Shearman & Sterling
  • Want to get these stories in your inbox? Sign up here for our weekly newsletter.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    August 21st, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Voice of Experience: Anna Chung, Counsel, Project Development & Finance, Shearman & Sterling

    rsz_anna_chungBy Irene Solaz

    To Anna Chung, landing your “dream job” is not a question of whether you are female or male but rather of how good you are. As a Singapore-based senior lawyer at global law firm Shearman & Sterling, Chung has demonstrated the ability to shine on client work throughout Asia and, increasingly, around the world.

    A project finance lawyer, Chung’s practice focuses on power, LNG, oil and gas, and petrochemicals projects. She began her career at a leading Australian firm but left after a few years for Shearman & Sterling.

    “To be honest, my career was not particularly planned out, but I’ve been fortunate in having opportunities come my way,” she explains. “I knew I wanted life experiences in cities beyond the city where I grew up, and with Shearman & Sterling, I’ve been able to work in our London and Shanghai offices and am currently working out of our Singapore office.”

    While she works on projects throughout Asia, Chung says it has been particularly meaningful to be one of the firm’s leading lawyers serving clients in Korea. She has been doing joint pitches, coordinating marketing trips to Seoul and preparing business plans as the firm expands its client base in Korea.

    “It’s meaningful for me as Korea is where I am originally from,” Chung explains. “Our global project finance practice is quite an integrated one, and from fairly early on in my career, I’ve worked with senior partners from different offices on projects involving Korean financial institutions or corporates.”

    She adds, “Korea is increasingly an important market for us with Korean financial institutions and corporates so active in the international project finance scene. We have been investing in our Korean relationships for some time now and it’s rewarding that as a firm and individually, we are getting significant market recognition.”

    Loving Your Job
    Chung has had two professional role models during her career to date – partners Bill McCormack at Shearman & Sterling and Michael Harrison at Minter Ellison. According to Chung, they are recognised experts in their fields but the real reason is that despite “the pressures and demands that come with such busy practices and management roles,” they manage to have a great sense of humor, treat every person with respect and be dedicated to their family.

    Just like her role models, Chung finds humor in difficult situations. Throughout her career as a lawyer she has learned that little details, such as the correct date of an overseas pitch, do matter.

    “Sometimes errors can work in your favor,” she explains. “One of my partners at Shearman & Sterling still teases me for getting the date wrong for an overseas pitch for a $1.2bn project. We arrived at the client’s offices a week early but still managed to win the pitch.”

    Keep reading »

    August 20th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Update: Spotlight on Asia 2014 (part 2): Japan Continues to Lag in Diversity Rankings

    Welcome the The Glass Hammer’s “Spotlight on Asia” week! We will be highlighting successful women working in Asia all week long!

    iStock_000009030018XSmallBy Beth Senko

    For all of its years as a global economic power, cultural issues and possibly a protracted economic downturn have limited gender diversity in the Japanese workplace. Japan consistently falls near the bottom of the rankings for gender diversity in the workplace. Women hold 2% of board positions (GMI) and 9% of senior management roles (Grant Thorton) according to recent studies.

    Hiromi Ishizuka, Professor at the School of Management, Sanno University, recently wrote an article for the World Economic Forum’s blog entitled, “Are Women Really ‘Shining’ in Japan?”, outlining women’s position in the Japanese workforce and the outlook for gender diversity in Japan. Professor Ishizuka attributes some of the lack of gender diversity to “long-standing Japanese cultural norms, including an historic traditional split in gender roles and a slow pace of career advancement overall.”

    Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, believes that getting more women into the workplace will help Japan’s long sluggish economy. The government is supporting the “20-30” campaign, which aims to raise the percentage of women in management positions from the current 10% to 30% by 2020. However, when Japan’s gender gap is looked at more broadly, as in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap measurement, Japan ranks 105th of 136 countries overall. It is an even lower 118th in terms of “political empowerment” – which demonstrates a low percentage of women in decision-making government roles. All in, a sluggish economy, slow pace of career advancement and a low level of women in political decision-making roles suggest that Japan may continue to lag other developed economies in gender diversity for some time.

    South Korea Tries to Learn from Japan’s Diversity Shortfalls
    South Korea shares a number of characteristics with Japan, perhaps in part to the Japanese occupation from 1905-1945. The two countries also share political, economic and religious/social similarities. Like Japan, South Korea ranks poorly in terms of gender diversity in the workforce with just 2.4% of board members being women according to Korn Ferry’s study, The Diversity Scorecard 2013: Measuring Board Composition in Asia Pacific.

    But South Korea holds a few cards enabling it to increase gender diversity at a faster rate than Japan. Unlike Japan, South Korea has women in top governmental positions. South Korea elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, in 2013 and its first woman Prime Minister, Han Myeong-sook, served from 2006-2007.

    Women have embraced government work in South Korea for nearly 20 years. A 2010 article from The New York Times comments, “Last year, 47% of those who passed the state examination that selects midlevel officials to be groomed for senior posts in agencies other than the Foreign Ministry were women. In 1992 it was 3.2% percent.” The number of women applying for government jobs is so high that South Korea’s government revised its new hire quotas to ensure that at least 30% of the jobs (excluding police and military) go to men.

    South Korea has also had a more robust economy than Japan in recent decades, spurring the need for additional workers and opening the doors to women. In addition, South Korean business has embraced gender diversity. According to a 2013 study by Heidrick and Struggles, “In Asia Pacific, certain Korean companies have been clear leaders in their pursuit for gender diversity programs. One very early Korean pioneer was Samsung, whose decision in 1992 to remove gender discrimination in their recruitment policies was considered incredibly radical at the time. Over 50,000 women now work at Korea’s largest business group, with three women being promoted to executive positions in 2012 during a management reshuffle.”

    However, South Korea still lags Japan in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap measure, coming in at 111th of 136 (in 2013) based primarily a low score for economic participation (118th of 136 compared with 104th for Japan). But in terms of political empowerment, South Korea comes in 86th of 136 vs. 118th for Japan. It seems reasonable to expect that with both business and government on board for improving gender diversity, South Korea will continue to improve its standings more quickly than Japan in the next few years.

    Keep reading »

    August 19th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Update: Spotlight on Asia 2014 – China and Singapore: Baby Steps Towards Improving Gender Diversity

    Welcome the The Glass Hammer’s “Spotlight on Asia” week! We will be highlighting successful women working in Asia all week long!

    asian business woman writing on screenBy Beth Senko

    In last year’s Spotlight on Asia, we wrote about the sizeable gender gap in the Asian workforce and some of the hurdles that women face in narrowing that gap. Today as part of our 2014 coverage of Asia, we look at some updated statistics and take a deeper look at China and Singapore and then in part 2 tomorrow we examine Japan and South Korea – to see how women are positioned in each and efforts to improve the gender balance in the workplace.

    The Opportunity is Great but the Journey may be Long
    McKinsey’s June 2013 report, Women Matter: An Asia Perspective, noted, “women hold very few of the top jobs in Asia. On average, they hold 6% of the seats on corporate boards and 8% of those on executive committees. Moreover, although elements of a gender diversity program are in place in some Asian companies, the issue is not yet high on the strategic agenda of most.”

    Women have better representation in the senior ranks both globally and in Asia, but that level is unchanged in the past six years according to Grant Thorton’s 2014 International Business Report, Women in Business: from Classroom to Boardroom. The study shows that the proportion of women in senior management roles globally was 24% in 2013. What is unclear is whether this is a plateau before the next significant uptick – or whether women’s climb up the corporate ladder is stalled for the long-term.

    In Asia, women hold a higher percentage of senior management jobs (~35%) than the global average. This number however, varies widely by country and is heavily influenced by the large proportion of senior roles held by women in China. Japan ranks the lowest in the Grant Thorton Study with 9% of women in senior management roles; China ranks best in Asia with 38%.

    China Performs Strongly in Gender Diversity Rankings
    The high rate of women’s participation in the labor force and at senior levels likely stems from China’s socialist history as well as the high number of State-owned Enterprises (SoEs) in business. In many countries, women tend to hold a greater percentage of senior positions in companies/agencies that typically fall under government or quasi-government rule such as education. Given the still close ties between business and the state in China, it’s no surprise that China ranks well in gender diversity rankings. As noted above, Grant Thorton’s 2014 International Business Report, Women in Business: from Classroom to Boardroom counts women as having 38% of senior management roles in China, placing it near the top of all nations in the survey.

    The numbers, however, may not tell the whole story – or at least the story of women who are not in the top ranks. A 2013 article in the South China Morning Post opens with the statement, “Women professionals on the mainland face more sex discrimination now than they did 20 years ago.” The article tells stories from unnamed women who claim that they did not get certain positions because of their sex and/or that they were required to sign documents agreeing to not get married or pregnant for a certain period of time.

    Under the communist regime, workers were generally assigned to jobs and there were laws against gender inequality. Moreover, with a one-child only policy, more women were likely available to work outside the home. While market reforms have arguably resulted in greater employment and prosperity for the Chinese population in general, an article in the New York Times suggests that the Chinese government has used more subversive types of propaganda aimed at stigmatizing early-career professional women (the leftovers) in the workplace, creating a more challenging work environment for women. It is quite possible too, that China’s economic slowdown in recent years has increased pressure on women in the workplace.

    So while there is cause for hope in the early viewings of the statistics, a critical analysis illustrates there is still great progress to be made and roadblocks to overcome for the working woman in China.

    Singapore Pushes for Action
    Singapore ranks slightly behind China in terms of gender diversity in the workforce; however, like many countries across the globe, women are better represented in the public sector than in the private sector. Singaporean women do well in statutory/public sector roles, accounting for nearly 20% of board directorships and 36% of senior management positions. However, in business, gender diversity lags.

    Women make up only 6% of independent board directors for companies listed on the Singapore exchange. If non-independent directors are included, the number rises slightly to 8.3%. On a more positive note, women hold just over 21% of senior management positions. These numbers are particularly disappointing because of the seemingly high level of women who could fill those roles. In 2013, 58% of women were in the workforce – accounting for 45% of Singapore’s total residential workforce. Singapore’s young women are also well educated, with 76% having college (tertiary) degrees.

    In 2012, Madam Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament, launched Singapore’s Diversity Task Force (DTF) to address underrepresentation of women on boards and in senior business roles. The DTF’s efforts are supported by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and overseen by members of both private and public agencies.

    In July 2013, the DTF reported the results of its first report, “Gender Diversity on Boards: A Business Imperative.” The report included recommendations for increasing diversity in the workplace, but stopped short of recommending quotas noting, “the causes for the low percentage of women on boards are complex and intertwined. Instead, the DTF recommends measures to address the underlying root causes and prefer to allow these measures to run their course before assessing if quotas should be imposed in future.”

    The DTF appears to be making some early strides. In its most recent data, the percentage of board directorships held by women increased from 7.3% before the DTF to 8.3%. However, the DTF report comments that the pace of diversification remains too slow, “At the current rate of growth, the proportion of women-held directorships will only reach a mere 17% in 2030. Concerted action needs to be taken.”

    Economic Growth and Political Empowerment will drive Gender Diversity in Asia
    While gender diversity remains an issue in Asia as well as in many parts of the world, we believe that strong economic growth, a need for more workers and a continued shift to a consumer-based (as opposed to manufacturing-based) economy will bode well for a rise in women in the workplace over the next ten years.

    August 18th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Voice of Experience: Pamela Yeo, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, AIG PC Asia Pacific

    Welcome the The Glass Hammer’s “Spotlight on Asia” week! We will be highlighting successful women working in Asia all week long!

    pamela_yeo_aigBy Michelle Hendelman

    “Be open in your career,” advised Pamela Yeo, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, AIG Property Casualty Asia Pacific. “When you realize that everyone around you can teach you something new, and you become receptive to knowledge sharing and connecting, this can have a big impact on your advancement.”

    This is one thing that Yeo wishes she had recognized earlier in her career. She urges young professionals to put themselves out there by taking the initiative to establish important connections.

    Career Path
    Before she became General Counsel for the Asia Pacific Region at AIG , Yeo had a long and successful career working as a lawyer in the private law sector in Singapore where she climbed the ranks from associate to partner and focused mainly on insurance litigation. Yeo transitioned into corporate counsel work after 12 years of private practice. “My work in private practice was very rewarding,” said Yeo, “but when I became aware of the opportunity available at AIG, I knew it was the right fit for me at that point in my career.”

    Now, Yeo plays an instrumental role in developing the legal team in the Asia Pacific region for AIG. “We have one of the most talented teams in Asia,” said Yeo, “covering 17 jurisdictions across the continent and having counsel located in most countries.” Helping to build this team of fifty lawyers has been a major source of pride for Yeo, who is looking forward to the next chapters of growth and development for the group.

    “As we continue to grow, it means that leadership opportunities and stretch assignments will be created for my team, which makes me very satisfied,” said Yeo.

    According to Yeo, the emerging markets hold a lot of opportunity going forward as the industry will begin to respond to regulatory and economic developments, especially in the area of consumer protection. “It is an exciting time in the industry right now and as a company, we can identify opportunities and lead change in the future,” said Yeo.

    Developing her team is something that Yeo takes very seriously. She has recently encouraged team members to participate in AIG’s pro bono program as a way to give back to the community and even develop new skills. “It is easy to get caught up in the rat race,” said Yeo, “but it is vital to take a step back and give your time and expertise to people who need it.”

    Women in Business
    Yeo considers herself to be lucky because she never felt any obstacles in her career advancement as a result of her gender. “I always gave my best effort,” explained Yeo, “and my talents and skills combined with my strong work ethic allowed me to progress consistently in my career on the back of tremendous opportunities presented by AIG.”

    According to Yeo, AIG’s commitment to diversity has played a big role in her positive experience. She participated in the firm’s Women’s Executive Leadership Initiative which provides training, coaching, and sponsorship opportunities for executives with senior leadership potential. Yeo explained, “The program encourages 360 degree feedback through which you learn about what you are doing well in addition to the areas where you might need to improve.”

    She continued, “Women benefit immensely from this type of honest feedback.”

    Outside of the formal programs and the Women’s Chapter of the AIG Employee Resource Group focused on women’s career development and networking, Yeo emphasized the importance of having a supportive network of colleagues –both male and female – with whom you work every day. “Both of my bosses are male and have given me a tremendous amount of support and encouragement throughout the course of my career,” said Yeo, who said that her sponsor is also male.

    “The senior management at AIG has a vested interest in the company’s diversity efforts,” Yeo noted. “They really have an active role and the amount of support they provide to all groups is truly impressive.”

    Advice for Professional Women
    According to Yeo, networking remains one of the most powerful career advancement tools. However, she indicated that as much as you receive from your network you should give back in the way of making yourself available to others who might need advice, guidance, or assistance.

    “The Global Legal, Compliance, Regulatory and Government Affairs office, for example, has launched an Office Hours initiative where you can reach out to colleagues if you have a question or need advice,” explained Yeo, who makes an effort to volunteer to speak to participants.

    Yeo also encourages young professionals to seek out as many different experiences as possible, especially working in an industry as broad as insurance. “Speak to people, get their input, and gain exposure to all of the different business areas and paths available to you,” she added.

    In Her Spare Time
    It is important to make time for yourself, said Yeo, who likes to attend church on the weekends as a way to clear her head and restore clarity. “This gives me peace of mind,” Yeo added. She also enjoys traveling and reading when she is not at the office.

    August 15th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Summer Fridays!

    iStock_000007154239XSmallHappy Summer Friday from The Glass Hammer Team!

    You can catch up on this week’s content here:

    Want to get these stories in your inbox? Sign up here for our weekly newsletter.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    August 14th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    Offices without Borders: The Nine Ways to Overcome Team Language Barriers

    Senior business man discussing project on laptop with staffBy Cathie Ericson

    Offices without borders: The Nine Ways to Overcome Team Language Barriers
    Today’s professionals are accustomed to working with multi-national teams in our pervasively global workspace. While most quickly learn to navigate logistical issues, which might include teams’ diverse geographic locations and time zones, there is an element to global teams that is even trickier – forming functional teams when people speak different languages.

    The impact of diverse languages on team outcomes should not be overlooked– language can form a barrier that makes it challenging to create trust and work cohesively. Today’s manager needs to know how to navigate this situation for the benefit of team success – and the company’s bottom line.

    What are the barriers?
    A study conducted by German researchers and reported in the Jan. 2014 issue of the Journal of International Business Studies revealed some disconcerting realties about multi-national teams. Based on 90 interviews with team members, leaders and senior managers in three automotive companies located in Germany, the authors made two important discoveries:
    • Multi-national team members’ cognitive and emotional reactions to language barriers influence their perceived trustworthiness and intention to trust, which in turn affect trust formation.
    • Surface-level language diversity may create perceptions of deep-level diversity.

    Another study covered in Harvard Business School’s article, “Language Wars Divide Global Companies”, explored language and its connection to power dynamics on global teams. “It’s volcanic, waiting for something to ignite it, and then it explodes—and this is what we see in these global teams,” says Tsedal Neeley, an associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School, who conducted the study Language as a Lightning Rod: Power Contests, Emotion Regulation, and Subgroup Dynamics in Global Teams.

    Us vs. Them: Getting to “we”
    Are we really on the same side? That’s the underlying query that most teams have, establishing territory even though they are ultimately presumably working toward the same company goal. When language presents a barrier, it can be easy to fear the worst – that others on the team are talking about you; or are less qualified; or somehow not contributing equally.

    Here are nine ways that multi-national teams can help vault the language barrier to work more effectively.

    Set ground rules. Meetings run smoother when you have created an expectation of what language will be spoken. Often that ends up being English as the most widely known global language. Discuss how and when side conversations should take place. “They are certainly entitled to speak their language. It’s just sometimes infuriating because they’ll just break into it in mid-meeting…,” one American explained during the Harvard Business School study. Having an expectation upfront for keeping language neutral can avoid that conflict.

    Set up meetings for success. Once you’ve set guidelines for the language that will be used, remind team members to speak slowly and clearly so that everyone can understand. Making language more formal can help as well, to ensure that people avoid using slang or colloquial terms that others might not understand. Remember that often the language barrier is not just actual language, but what you mean. In a lighthearted example, Americans can get confused when they order chips at a British restaurant and get fries!

    Write it out. Written tools can help aid the work – make sure that an agenda is created prior to a meeting and that someone distributes complete notes after. Using formal grammar in the agenda and notes can help promote understanding among team members who have learned “proper” language.

    Don’t create rivalries. Whoever is most adept at the language chosen should be particularly deferent to everyone else. Think about what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot. (Aha! There’s an example of what not to say!)

    Hold video meetings. Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine found that most successful groups assembled regularly for in-person meetings, or video conferences if that’s the next best option. They found these gatherings were essential for building trust and establishing a shared vision for the project, and certainly that would be even more important for a multi-national team.

    Let everyone take the lead. Just because you have chosen one language as the dominant one doesn’t mean that non-native speakers are automatically cut off from leading the team. Allow them to take control when appropriate, just as you would if they spoke the same language.

    Foster respect and interest in each other’s cultures. Is one of your teams celebrating a holiday of historical or cultural significance? Take the time to wish them a happy celebration and take care to avoid scheduling calls or deadlines that fall on that day. Think how an American team would feel if a crucial deadline was scheduled for Independence Day, for example. Acknowledging their special customs can help foster a spirit of team camaraderie.

    Ask for feedback. How’s it going? Find out! By encouraging teams to speak out if they feel confused or slighted, you can eliminate the rivalry and “insider discussions” that can threaten to topple a team dynamic.

    Expect some roadblocks. And finally, don’t be discouraged if things don’t immediately run smoothly. Every team has its own dynamic challenges and throwing a language barrier in only serves to amplify them. But by working together for the common good of the organization, teams can realize that they can and must overcome the language issue.

    Today’s workplace is becoming exponentially more global. The teams that learn to recognize the language barriers inherent in multi-national teams and deploy techniques to overcome them are the ones that will win on the global stage.

    August 13th, 2014 | 6:00 am

    The Imaginary Precipice

    iStock_000013882253XSmallGuest Contribution By Deborrah Himsel

    Are women leaders being pushed and pulled toward an organizational glass cliff, toward jobs that no man in his right mind would take but women grab out of naiveté or desperation?

    Former University Of Exeter researchers, Michele Ryan and Alex Haslam, coined this term to explain their findings that organizations facing a dire crisis or turn around situation were more likely to select a potentially expendable woman than a man to try and fix things. They also suggested that in many cases, this sacrificial female would be pushed aside for a male if things went south or when things stabilized.

    In the wake of General Motors’ problems with their faulty ignition switches and CEO Mary Barra’s well-publicized attempts to deal with these problems (including testifying at Congressional hearings), this glass cliff term has caught on once again. It has raised the question of whether women leaders such as Barra are being set-up as scapegoats or placed in no win situations by male leaders.

    Let’s examine two hypotheses currently circulating that attempt to verify the existence of a glass cliff.

    First, some researchers such as Susan Brockmuller and Nyla Branscobe in a 2010 article have theorized that women are more likely than men to say yes to taking on a crisis leadership position because they lack the powerful network that can inform them about the underlying problems with the position or within the organization. For instance, no one told Mary Barra that the faulty ignition switch crisis would erupt on the next CEO’s watch.

    I find this hypothesis unlikely. Even though women may have different networking skills than men, their networks are no less strong than those of men and my experience has been that they pay more attention to the buzz that builds on them, especially if they want to get underneath what may be getting in the way of their advancement. Perhaps more to the point, women leaders often relish the challenge of crisis or turnaround situations—they don’t naively venture out onto the glass cliff but go willingly. When Andrea Jung took over Avon in 1999, she did so with her eyes open, accepting the CEO role from a man amid a tumbling stock price, take over rumors and low employee morale. Ms. Jung, at 40 years of age, certainly did not say to herself, “I don’t have any CEO experience, and I lack the network necessary to clue me in to what’s really going on here.” Instead, she grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, recognizing it was a great opportunity to prove herself.

    The second glass cliff hypothesis that Ryan, Haslam, Mulcahy, Linehan and others have postulated is: Boards or decision makers want a candidate to clean up a mess who has more stereotypically female skills such as inclusion, empathy or engagement. I don’t buy this hypothesis either, though certainly on occasion women CEOs are hired because the previous male leader was arrogant and exclusionary and the company seeks a more empathetic and inspirational replacement for morale purposes.

    Keep reading »