March 26th, 2014 | 6:00 am

When It Comes to Innovating in Tech, Age is Nothing But a Number

Woman with tablet computerBy Hadley Catalano

Unencumbered by regulations and potential failure, 35 and under innovators, powered by the unlimited potential of technology, are greatly appealing, prompting investors to jump on the branding bandwagon – but they are not the only show in town. According to Women in Tech Network founder Marina Lee, we are fixated on younger entrepreneurs “because of Silicon Valley successes” and the publicity Millennials receive for their innovations. “With that said, the stats support that there are more mature/experienced entrepreneurs creating successful businesses under the radar,” Lee said.

Successful innovators – and the irrelevance of youth as a factor in entrepreneurialism ¬ – for the high technology and information technology communities has been well documented by Vivek Wadhwa and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) in the MIT Technology Review. The message is clear: there is no age limit on innovation. The SSRN research team found the average and median age of the founders of successful U.S. technology businesses (with real revenues) is 39, with twice as many founders over 50 than under 25 years old.

“The age of 39 is interesting because it is an age where entrepreneurs are raising families, meaning that they are vetting and building companies that are less risky than their younger counterparts,” Lee said.

Additionally, according to a Kauffman Foundation report by Dane Stangler, successful entrepreneurs, with a “peak age” of 35 to 45, typically come from previous jobs in big companies or from institutions or universities. This observation “runs against the prevailing stereotype that entrepreneurs are, or should be, recent college grads or college dropouts, (but) helps explain the age distribution of entrepreneurs,” Stangler reported.

What Does This Mean For Women?
It can be marginalized road for middle age entrepreneurial women in technology, according to Flavia Sparacino, CEO of Sensing Places, but women are present and their stories need to be told.

“Women are innovating all across the spectrum of new technology companies, as founders, CEOs, heads of marketing, programmers, and as UX designers,” said the entrepreneur, who received her Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT.

“Together and in large numbers, as a community, we can start changing perceptions. Not only can women design and build innovative technology products and lead great teams. The cultural shift we’re aiming for is that women are also actually ‘entitled’ to do so,” said Sparacino.

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March 25th, 2014 | 6:00 am

The Case for Women Intrapreneurs

iStock_000019152998XSmallBy Robin Madell

While we read plenty about women leaving corporate jobs for entrepreneurial ventures, much less discussed is the option of female intrapreneurship. Being an intrapreneur simply means acting like an entrepreneur in terms of risk-taking and innovation while working within a large corporation.

The potential pros of entrepreneurship are often touted and well-known: the opportunity to be your own boss, to work more flexibly on your own schedule, and to have the chance to do meaningful work of your own choosing. A 2013 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that where personal satisfaction is concerned, those who start their own businesses rank the highest in the world in happiness scores. The report also stated that female entrepreneurs rated themselves even higher in their sense of well-being than male entrepreneurs.

While these stats are compelling, a 2012 report by GEM noted that the relatively small number of women launching new businesses worldwide—and fewer still who are running mature businesses—suggests a conundrum. This may stem from the fact that female entrepreneurs are less likely to receive funding to grow their businesses, which is a problem in itself. But what it also means is that women more often than not are failing to wield powerful resources and reach larger audiences at the entrepreneurial level.

As any basic business textbook confirms, the pros of larger companies generally include financial, labor, and audience advantages over smaller companies, whose main benefits are being nimble and reactive. When women leave the corporate arena, they aren’t just leaving behind their jobs; they are abandoning ample resources that could be used to enact change on the largest level. They just need to know how to access these resources.

Enter intrapreneurs. Unlike with entrepreneurship, intrapreneurs have a built-in corporate support system to help them reach their goals, if they know how to use it. Three companies that have strong intrapreneurial cultures are Google, LinkedIn, and Dreamworks. While intrapreneurship has traditionally been the purview of a limited number of people within a company, the trend is growing to extend this domain throughout entire organizations. Google and other tech companies, for example, have used “20 Percent Time” to give employees an allocated percentage of hours in their daily work schedule to tinker and innovate. This has led to some incredible discoveries, like Gmail and Google Earth, which affect hundreds of millions of users.

Here are some ideas on how to become an intrapreneur no matter which company you work for:

Look for problems to solve. Whether it’s a process that’s broken or you envision a way to build a better mousetrap, keep your finger on the pulse of the marketplace and your customers. Use your unique role as an industry insider to recognize new trends coming down the pike, and grab opportunities early to think outside the usual boundaries.

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March 24th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Mary Beth Bosco, Partner, Patton Boggs LLP

Mary Beth BoscoBy Tina Vasquez

To Mary Beth Bosco, her former career as a graphic designer and her current as Partner at Patton Boggs LLP aren’t as diametrically opposed as some would assume.

“I was working in New York designing book covers, where you’re given limited space to get your message across. It’s the same thing when writing a brief or giving an oral argument,” Bosco said.

After growing tired of the “starving artist route”, Bosco went to law school and clerked at a D.C. law firm where her focus was government contracts, an experience she cites as invaluable.

“So much of law school is theoretical and for me, it was important to learn by doing,” the partner said.

As partner at Patton Boggs, where Bosco has been since 1985, she counsels new and experienced government contractors on matters involving contract compliance and opportunities in the federal marketplace, drawing on more than 25 years of experience with both regulatory and litigation matters.

“The federal government buys everything from paperclips to battleships, which keeps my work very interesting because you’re always learning about a new industry,” Bosco laughed. “I love solving problems as they come up. It’s not my job to say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ It’s my job to say, ‘This is how you can do it.’”

Diversity Leader
Bosco was the first female member of her firm’s Executive Committee, as well as the firm’s first Chief Diversity Partner. As the Chief Diversity Partner, Bosco is committed to starting over from scratch if that is what it takes to move the firm’s diversity goals forward. The partner is interested in driving diversity at the firm in real, tangible ways. This, she says, requires new innovations; something she’s calling “Diversity 2.0.”

“We want to recruit the best talent and if that requires pulling everything apart and starting over, that’s what we’ll do,” Bosco said.

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March 21st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Australia is Pushing for ‘Waves of Change’ for Women in Senior Roles

Feminine Business 2By Nicole V. Rohr

In November 2013, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) published the report Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Executive Positions: Improving Recruitment, Selection and Retention Practices, based on its July 2013 launch of the Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity. The report highlighted ambitious efforts to increase women in senior roles in BCA organizations from 46 percent to 50 percent by 2023.

As part of the proposed plan, the BCA published a letter to members, a checklist to help companies increase the number of women on senior executive boards, and a report to act as a support tool for companies as they review and change recruitment and promotion standards in alignment with the BCA plan. These documents include categories like “The role of the CEO,” which detailed the expectations of leadership in order to encourage gender diversity. According to the report, the role of the CEO is inclusive of including “the achievement of gender diversity within an inclusive culture as a significant strategic objective of the organization”, as well as overseeing the development and implementation of the strategy to achieve it.

It is also recommended that leaders “sponsor talented women into senior roles and participate in a socialization program with identified internal and external female talent [and] ensure and model the company’s approach to flexible working arrangements in ways that do not prevent progression of women within the business.”

The BCA report also outlines “waves of change” that can lead to improved business performance. “Given that talent is randomly distributed across both genders, there is a high probability that at least half of a talented workforce will be women, so to take 90 percent of company leadership from just 50 percent of the talent poll – the males – simply does not make sense,” the report noted.

Is the US Ready for a Similar Plan?
Could something like the BCA’s plan work in the United States, making senior roles more accessible to women, leaving CEOs more enlightened, and increasing performance? Jane Ott, President of North South Capital LLC, said that in order for aggressive action to be taken, citizens have to believe that the targeted group is in need of the assistance, and that that change in attitude has not yet happened in the United States.

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March 20th, 2014 | 11:00 am

The Outlook for High Potential Women in India and the 3 Approaches to Improve It

By Kayla Turo

Another demonstration of gender inequality is exposed in India, research from Catalyst shows in their latest report, High Potentials Under High Pressure in India’s Technology Sector. In general, even the most capable, post-MBA Indian women fall short of men in terms of pay and position in most of the country’s industries.

At first glance, however, the technology sector seems to be a light on the horizon for Indian women, hiring ambitious male and female graduates with an equal amount of pay, but according to a recent Catalyst report, within 12 years in the same job and all other factors being equal, women’s salary falls behind their male coworkers by an average of Rs. 3.8 lakhs (6,000 US dollars).

“We cannot blame the gender gap in pay and position to lack of aspirations on the part of women,” said Aarti Shyamsunder, Director of Research at Catalyst, and one of two contributors to the report. 79 percent of both men and women starting out in India’s technology industry aspired to senior executive positions. Data shows that throughout their careers, male and female workers received analogous amounts of training through formal programs, and were likely to “job hop” in search of greater career advancement, a common factor within the industry.

The Power of Social Pressures
One explanation for the salary decline is the lack of women landing “hot jobs” or long-term international assignments that lead to more opportunities for future career growth within their industry. Statistics from the report reveal that only 18 percent of women were able to relocate abroad for 3 or more years at a time, compared to 57 percent of men. Women with children were reported as less willing to relocate compared to men with children, and twice as many men accepted the international relocation positions they were offered.

Likewise, 54 percent of women reported taking leaves of absences (LOAs). This is twice that of men, who also tended to take much shorter leaves than women. The Catalyst report details that women were three times more likely to take LOAs for childcare related-reasons compared to men (not including childbirth and maternity leave), while men were three times more apt to take leaves for personal welfare. Even in dual-career marriages, almost three times more women took on the role of at-home caregiver compared to a small percentage of men.

Given the context of the surrounding cultural expectations, these findings are not surprising, according to Shyamsunder. She stated, “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect women to suddenly stop taking leaves to care for their children, or to overcome centuries of socialization of overnight.”

Changing the Corporate Culture
Shyamsunder suggests that in order to better support women in their careers, companies should evaluate the overall credentials and potential of executive candidates based on their abilities to perform the job, “not on proxies like tenure or role maturity,” insists Shyamsunder.

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March 20th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Don’t Freak Out: Why Upheaval Can Be a Good Thing

Businesswomen drinking coffee.By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

Innovative. Resilient. Entrepreneurial. Solutions-oriented. These are the 21st century career buzzwords that populate the average corporate performance review or resume. They speak to the expectations of today’s volatile economy. Today’s professionals are expected to take whatever upheaval the market throws their way, and not only deal with it, but spin it into an advantage.

In theory, most of us would like to say we inhabit this rarefied domain of serial innovators who thrive on constant change. But in reality, a big upheaval in your life can be pretty terrifying, especially if you have a family to support or other people relying on you.

What happens when our best-laid plans go awry? “People are going to expect you to freak out,” suggested Veronica Fisk, a former Vice President at a top global bank, whose position was eliminated due to restructuring a year after she and her new husband moved to India for her job.

“Look at it as an opportunity to show how strong and confident you are, especially as a woman. Project that confidence. Say, ‘I’m an accomplished professional and I think it’s an opportunity for me.’”

Here’s some inspiration and advice to help you move forward through your own personal or professional upheaval.

Taking Risks
It’s important to take career risks, Fisk believes. That’s why, when her company offered her a sales position in India, she jumped at the opportunity. That also meant convincing her then-boyfriend to accelerate their plans to get married so they could move abroad. Ultimately, she was managing a large portfolio of big-name clients when her company was hit by a wave of aggressive restructuring. “Suddenly the environment went from one of growth to making cuts. Thousands of jobs were eliminated,” she recalled.

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March 19th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Business Schools Create Programs to Make Women Board-Ready: Will it Work?

business schoolBy Irene Solaz

Can you teach the skills required to obtain a seat on a board? London’s University of Westminster believes so.

The University’s new intensive Women For The Board program, taught by Dr. Ruth Sacks, lasts six-days and purports to teach women the skills and tools required to be considered board-ready.

According to Sacks, the goal is to offer women who are a few steps away from a board role a broader and deeper understanding and awareness of the skills, competences, tools, and techniques that will enable them to become effective members of executive or non-executive boards.

Specifically, the program focuses on something Sacks calls being “board wise,” which includes Emotional Intelligence, self-presentation, chairing and managing meetings, and creativity and risk in strategic decision making. Finance at the board-level is also covered extensively, among other important topics.

“There will also be sessions on corporate social responsibility, governance, and due diligence, as well as the legal responsibilities of being a member of a board, including anti-bribery,” Sacks said. “The program also includes a session with a recruiter for board-level positions to explore the application and interview processes for such roles.”

The Strength of Weak Ties
Clearly, having the experience, skills, and knowledge are of the utmost importance, but as we’ve all heard: sometimes it boils down to who you know. This is why Women For The Board also emphasizes the importance of networking. More and more we’re hearing about the benefits of women-only networking groups, which is why Sacks is confident that just by participating in the course and meeting other women on the quest for obtaining a board seat, women are expanding their networks.

“They will not only develop new networks among themselves, but also be able to link to the networks of the facilitators and speakers,” Sacks said. “Networking is key to all careers, they support the development of professional relationships, creativity, and learning opportunities.”

There is something to connecting with other women. In a recent Forbes post, executive recruiter Stacey Gordon discussed how the benefits of networking arise from differences rather than similarities, saying those differences have nothing to do with race, gender, or nationality. Gordon says they have to do with the strength or weakness of the “ties” in the networking group.

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March 18th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Women Leaders Are High-Achieving, Underrepresented and Underpaid, Reports Multi-Sector Study

iStock_000009318986XSmallBy Mai Browne

How are women leaders doing in academia, medicine and other sectors of the U.S. economy?

The University of Denver’s Colorado Women’s College (CWC) addressed this question in a new study that analyzes the representation of women in top positions across 14 sectors. Researchers found that, on average, women hold only 20 percent of senior roles, earn less than their male counterparts, and in many sectors, outperform them as well. The report also suggests actions organizations and individuals can take to increase representation of women in senior leadership.

Titled “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in the United States,” the CWC study builds on a groundbreaking survey conducted in 2009 by The White House Project, the nonpartisan organization focused on advancing women’s leadership. When The White House Project closed down in 2012, CWC took on the task of updating the previous survey, which explored only 10 sectors. The new report shows that since the last study, the number of women in leadership positions, across sectors, has essentially remained flat, reflecting slight increases as well as decreases.

About the Study
The CWC report expands the scope of research –examining 14 sectors, and drawing comparisons between the prevalence of women leaders and the performance of their organizations or sectors. It also correlates female leadership with individual achievement, as measured by awards, grants received, return on investment and other accomplishments. The study gathers the latest data from each sector, and focuses on the top echelon of each industry, including the number of female senior leaders in the top 10 organizations and businesses.

“One of the most interesting findings from the data is that women, on average, comprise a higher percentage of senior leaders among Fortune 10 companies than among Fortune 500 companies,” said Tiffani Lennon, lead researcher of the study and chair of the Law and Society Department at CWC.

Lennon continued, “Other studies have found that women tend to lead smaller organizations and institutions, suggesting that women lack presence in the largest, most influential organizations in the U.S. Our study did not find this to be the truth in nearly all 14 sectors. There was a higher percentage of female leaders in the top echelon, although significant disparity in compensation still existed between women and men.”

She also explained, “My team and I also examined industry-specific performance metrics, such as sales, revenue, size, and profitability. While there may exist several ways to measure performance, we found, by using industry standards, that women are outperforming men. To illustrate, 60% of the bestselling authors are women; 55% of female academicians earn national research awards and grants, and yet comprise only 28% of research professors. While I did not expect to find that women are outperforming men, for a variety of reasons it makes a good deal of sense. For women to be considered for top positions it is not enough for them to perform as well as their male counterparts; women must perform better.”

The study found this trend to be particularly striking in the hedge fund industry, where women in senior management have been performing at much higher proportional rates than men: From 2000 – 2009, hedge funds predominantly managed by women produced an average return of 9.06 percent, compared to the broader composite of hedge funds, which produced an average return rate of 5.82 percent. That being said, in 2011, women managed a mere 3.3 percent of the 9,000 hedge funds in the United States.

Key Numbers from the Study:
Higher Education. Women earned more than 56 percent of the field’s most prestigious awards in 2012. In spite of this record, women, on average, hold only 29 percent of tenure-track positions at doctoral institutions.
K-12 Education. Women hold 75 percent of teaching positions but only 30 percent of educational leadership roles. More women teach math and science; more men teach physical education and social studies. Women superintendents earn just 81 percent of what men earn in that job.

Publishing. In 2012, women produced 63 percent of bestselling books, yet they earned about 40 percent of industry earnings

Politics and government. Less than one-third of federal judges are women. Women hold 18 percent of seats in the 2013 Congress. But they’re more productive than the men, cosponsoring about 26 more bills per Congressional session and bringing about 9 percent more federal spending to their districts.

Business and Finance. One of the greatest discrepancies occurred in the hedge fund industry. As we noted earlier, from 2000-2009, hedge funds managed by women consistently outperformed the industry as a whole. Yet today, women manage only about 3 percent of the nation’s 9,000 hedge funds.

Fortune 500 Companies: In 2013, women held 51 percent of jobs, 51 percent of professional and managerial positions but only 15 percent of executive positions in Fortune 500 companies and 13 percent of the seats on Fortune 500 boards of directors.

Law. In 2012, women comprised 47 percent of law school graduates, 15 percent of law firm equity partners and 5 percent of managing partners. Women represented 60 percent of law school assistants and associate deans, but only 26 percent of deans.

Medicine. The number of women physicians has doubled in the last 20 years. At not-for-profit hospitals with the highest gross revenues, women CEOs earned 57 percent as much as male CEOs. Among winners of a highly competitive research grant, women earned $360,000 less than men over a 30-year career.

Technology. Of the top 10 technology companies in the U.S., three had female CEOs in 2012. These 10 companies had an average of 16.6 percent of executive positions held by women.

Entrepreneurship. Women owned 40 percent of all privately held U.S. companies in 2008. Women were 20 percent of the top entrepreneurs in 2011 but received only 11 percent of venture funding.

What Can Organizations and Individuals Do to Increase Women in Senior Leadership?

To increase female representation in leadership across all sectors, the study urges organizations to exercise “far greater objectivity” in hiring procedures, promotion practices, and merit increases.

The CWC report also calls for men to partner with women to achieve greater gender parity at the top, arguing that everyone benefits from this mission. In the introduction, Lynn Gangone, Dean of Colorado Women’s College, writes: “Addressing the complex challenges of the 21st century requires diversity of thought, experience and perspective. And yet, as my students often remind me: how can our nation meet those challenges when 80% of our organizational leaders are men? The time has come for women and men to share leadership for the sake of our families, our organizations and our nation.”

The Glass Hammer agrees that a more equal allocation of power may be a good start!

March 17th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Marie Chandoha, President and CEO, Charles Schwab Investment Management

rsz_2marie_chandoha_3By Tina Vasquez

Looking back, it’s clear to Marie Chandoha that finance was the field for her. As a little girl, Monopoly was her favorite game and she can still remember telling her aunt that she wanted to be a banker. The declaration came from her nine-year-old self and though it wasn’t exactly where she would end up, it was close enough, as Chandoha is currently president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management where she manages $241 billion in assets.

“I was always good at math and although I had some other aspirations along the way, I wound up studying economics in college and a few years after graduating, I read an article about mortgage-backed securities, which seemed like a great way to apply my analytic and math skills,” Chandoha said. “I was able to land a job as a mortgage-backed securities analyst at Morgan Stanley in the mid-1980s and the rest is history.”

A Distinguished Path
Over the course of her career, Chandoha has worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, spending the first half of her career working on Wall Street. Afterwards, she would leave her mark at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, where she eventually became the managing director in charge of Global Fixed Income and Economics Research at Credit Suisse. She eventually shifted her career to managing money, but instead of advising clients on how to invest, she found she preferred to put her ideas to work and do the investing herself. So Chandoha became the Senior Portfolio Manager at Montgomery Asset Management and later went on to lead Barclays Global Investments (BGI’S) Global Fixed Income business.

“There are a few things that I think distinguished my career path. First, I had a willingness to take risks and that has helped me take meaningful steps in my career. There were several roles I accepted where my manager or a new company was looking for significant change in a short period of time and in some cases, there had already been failed attempts to implement the change or a turnaround,” Chandoha said. “I remember being told at one firm, ‘I admire you for taking this job. It seems impossible.’ In some cases, I knew that if I didn’t succeed, I’d be out of a job. But I love a challenge. These situations aren’t always the most comfortable, but if you succeed, there’s nothing like it to demonstrate a track record of results.”

Chandoha says that when preparing for a senior-level role, it’s important to gain exposure to a variety of roles and functions in the field to evolve your skill set. At one time or another, she has been an analyst, computer programmer, securities analyst, trader, and a portfolio manager.

“I’ve managed everything from research departments and technology groups to a global asset management business. Taking on a global assignment is an invaluable learning experience in many ways, and can open up a range of opportunities,” Chandoha said.

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March 14th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Give It To Us Straight: Your Soft Feedback Isn’t Helping Us

Senior business man discussing project on laptop with staffBy Nneka Orji

Feedback is a core part of self-development and all too often male colleagues and managers are reluctant to give direct feedback to female colleagues 79 percent of the time. Why? According to Barbara Annis and John Gray, authors of Work with Me, it’s because men felt they have to walk on eggshells around women and hold back criticism to women during performance reviews out of concern they may upset their female colleague and provoke an “emotional reaction.”

The issue was also highlighted in a September 2011 McKinsey Quarterly, which reported that despite the best intentions of senior executives from a diversity agenda perspective, “unintended performance bias and softer feedback” mean that the paths of female and male colleagues will diverge.

Are the majority of our male colleagues justified in their apprehension to have performance conversations with women? Are women more sensitive to feedback?

The Facts
The short answer to the latter question is yes. Women are more “sensitive” to feedback, but let’s be clear: “sensitive” isn’t always associated with anger, tears, or other supposedly gendered forms of emotionality.

A 2007 study by Soussan Djamasbi and Eleanor Loiacono found that women are more influenced by feedback, which means taking feedback more personally. This can be beneficial, but also potentially damaging.

The results of the study demonstrated the impact of negative feedback on the decisions men and women make and found that “women attach greater emotional value to rejection.” So, why not change the way feedback is given to ensure it is treated as an opportunity to grow and not as an outright rejection?

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