Why Aren’t More Women in Top Leadership Positions in Business?

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Despite the fact that women are in the majority in most western world countries in general and account for at least 50% of graduates from business degrees and MBA programs these days, it seems to be having very little impact on how many women occupy the top leadership positions in the business world. Although the numbers vary from country to country, in the US women are estimated to occupy only 17% of so-called “C-suite” positions and even then, these tend to be in the more junior C-suite roles, with CEO, Chancellor, Managing Partner, Agency Head and other top jobs being even more male dominated. This is also true in the fortune 500 companies in the US, where less than 5% of senior executives are women. So why is this still the case, with little apparent change for years it seems? For the most part, it is because of male “misperceptions” about women that continue to prevail and inhibit female progress. So what are the misconceptions that seem to prevail the most?

Misconception 1–Great progress has been made and it’s only a matter of time before equality in the C-suite or wider executive ranks is reached. In reality, while some strides were made in the period between 1970-1990’s there has been only incremental progress in the last 10-15 years and far greater numbers of woman middle management roles still hit the well-known glass ceiling at promotion meetings.

Misconception 2–The newer and younger generation of men is more sympathetic to women being promoted to senior executive ranks. In reality, there is no evidence for this view at all. The many arguments that would have been mounted 25 years ago (such as women are not tough, committed, focused and reliable enough amongst others) still abound in many studies of the majority of younger men who are in a position to potentially promote women. 

Misconception 3–Family/home responsibilities keep women from breaking through the glass ceiling to the C-suite. In reality, this is overwhelmingly an unsubstantiated statement made by men. When asked, less than 5% of female managers say that family and home responsibilities are a major reason and less than 10% admit to turning down a transfer in order to “stay home”. In addition, there has been an explosion in external help with home management and childcare in the last two decades. 

Misconception 4–Women executives who have children cost an organization more. In reality, research suggests that males in managerial roles take just as much time off as women when it comes to a child over the long term and therefore there is no evidence for greater costs being incurred. In addition, women now return to work much more quickly than they did a decade ago and will employ help when direct parental involvement is not possible. 

Misconception 5–Having more female executives means less opportunities for marriage and a greater chance of divorce. In reality, this is true for both male and female senior executives (meaning that there are more single and divorced people in these ranks for both sexes than the wider adult population at large). It is true however that a single/divorced woman is seen to be much less “secure” than a single/divorced man in senior managerial roles in multiple research studies. This is unfairly discriminating against women. 

Misconception 6–Women aren’t assertive/aggressive enough and lack the self-confidence required to be a “top decision-maker”.  In reality, these stereotypical views maintained by males (starting out mainly in the 1960’s as a response to feminism) have no foundation in any facts borne out by research. In addition, in modern management thinking, the more collaborative and inclusive management styles which are often stronger in women are much more valued. It is also the case that in studies of senior executives, the traits most in evidence or even most attributed to success in the job are the same for both men and women. 

Misconception 7–We have a total meritocracy today – both men and women can make it all the way to the top if they have what it takes and work hard for it. In reality, such a claim tends to be made by those who dominate the current order trying to communicate that a fair system is in place when much of the evidence points in a different direction. In practice, males executives still look to “groom” mainly male successors and women are only chosen to make up numbers or to demonstrate that they are in the running for job jobs when in fact the males are chosen much more often for senior roles.

Misconception 8–Many women who get to senior executive positions act like men and are poor role models to other women. In reality, the vast majority of senior women, as few of them as there are, are seen to be excellent role models for other women. In companies where women make it to CEO for example, it is considerably easier to hire women and many more of them will push for promotion.

Sadly then, all of the above misconceptions are still alive and active in the workplace and help to prevent more women from reaching the higher echelons of management. Other than to positively discriminate in favor of women (always a tough thing to do in a real meritocracy that women very much want too), it seems therefore that change in this area comes down to more men in positions of power becoming more enlightened. In other words, senor male executives need to “own up” to having the above views as deliberate or unchallenged misconceptions (even if it is only to some extent) and start to level the playing field. Will this happen more in the next decade? I suspect only if a few visible men at the top are prepared to lead from the front on this issue. – By Dr Jon Warner

 

CEOs Are Hired to be Fired, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

CEOs, like football coaches, don’t retire.  They always get fired.  Let me qualify that: For those of us unafraid to lead change in aging institutions, who must grapple with people in key positions who have tenure all their own, and are willing to take on the challenge of financial deficits and uncooperative teams, know this: in the end, we go out as we came in.  We get fired.  Everyone loves us on the way in because we’re going to fix things up and make their future more secure.  But once you do that, and in the process begin to demand productivity and accountability, you’re just a pain in the ass to people and they are not afraid to speak up about it.

So, no matter how anxious you are to jump in and get started at your new job, wait until you’re operating under a contract that protects your interests now and in the future.

There are many things to consider and I strongly suggest you get yourself a great human resources attorney to help you.  You want someone who works on the other side of the corporate line–the kind of attorney who, in other circumstances, might be asking you some tough questions.  I far prefer and recommend you hire an ass-kicking female attorney as in almost all the human resources litigation battles I’ve been in, opposing counsel invariably is female.  They seem to talk the talk better and also, in the majority of cases, they are talking to corporate human resources which, in my experience, is predominately where you find female executives.

Every CEO should have personal counsel that stays with you throughout your career.  He or she should understand your motives, your idiosyncrasies, your style and should help you in crafting an employment agreement that works.  Once you engage, your attorney should be kept up to date with any compensation and/or performance reviews (or the lack of same), and any other correspondence that you feel may at some point come back to harm or question you.  When you get in a jam, and you will, you don’t want to be playing dialing-for-help or worse, trying to convince a new attorney that you’re a good guy or gal.

If you’re going into a hostile environment, or if you’re going into an environment hostilely, you want a contract that basically says, hey, we all understand this is already hostile so you can’t come back later on and whack me when someone gets upset.  There are always people in organizations who are upset about change.  Where your predecessor might have let them slide a bit on meeting objectives, or let them take Friday afternoons off, you don’t; therefore, you eventually will become a thorn in someone’s side.  This can come back on you later and you want to be protected against these kinds of issues or potential allegations that come with the territory.  Your help and decisiveness that everyone loved the day you walked in are often soon forgotten.

You also need to think carefully about a parachute of some kind that keeps you going if someone pulls the plug on you.  Most contracts for the top executive will carry some sort of buyout clause.  People get sick of you, the board gets sick of you, whatever, you need to establish how much cash you have to have in order to complete the timetable of transition.  There are several tricks here.  Most attorneys will want a two-step out; the first for “good reason” or “no cause,” and the second “for cause.”  If you think you ever get a shot at the former, good luck and God bless you.  Boards always want to terminate you “for cause” and if they can get something that sticks, you lose your ability to negotiate a safe exit and you’ll wind up fighting them in court or in arbitration.   Your contract should maintain the same financial deal whether you go happy or you go being dragged down the hall on your ass.  Setting the stage up front while everyone is thrilled to be bringing you on board is a lot easier than it is when the chips are down and you are, too.  Remember, on the day they hired you they made the best decision of their lives, and that enthusiasm should work to get you the best deal for your exit on the day you start.

Another key point is to establish a travel and expense policy that meets your needs.  Write it yourself, take it to the board, have them ratify it and publish it with human resources, the controller, your executive admin, and your audit team.

Your company travel and expense policy needs to be written in accordance with your needs, which is the reason you must write it yourself.  No one in the organization understands what you do every day and also what you can’t do in order to do your job.  For instance, it is not the best use of your time to be sitting in coach, trying to find wi-fi and unable to open your laptop all the way because the guy in front of you put his seat back and is snoring happily away while you’re trying to get down the terms of a deal you just agreed to.  I always expected, both of myself and the executives who worked for me, to use flying time as work time.  There is a reason why they created first-class seats.

Make sure that the board expects the best from you and also for you.  This means you don’t always have to say who you had dinner with or who you met with in Los Angeles.  There are so many examples of how this seemingly small issue can really hurt an organization that it’s critical to your success, and the board needs to understand why.

To emphasize my advice: At one point I was actively interviewing candidates to replace two board members that had far outworn their contribution to the organization.  I had polled my executive team to discern their thoughts and we were all in complete agreement.  I set off on a journey to find suitable candidates. This required both travel and dinners, which at that level were not at McDonald’s.  Through some condition of fate, the board became aware of my actions and before I could act, they did.  In my exit interview, one of their claims “for cause” was that I failed to accurately record who I met with and where I met them.  In the interview, I refused to name the folks I talked to or where I was.  They called this insubordination and added it to the list of “for cause termination.”

In one job I had, in a company with a commodity-driven product, where I went and who I met with had the potential to move the market, and not always in a positive way.  Keeping my travel quiet and not always telling everyone where I was going was critical to my success.

Be sure your travel and expense policy allows you to move with stealth, and act to your station which may mean expensive nights out with potential execs, or flying first-class with the folks you’re making a deal with, or buying someone an expensive gift or a bottle of wine.  In short, if your board trusts you, you need to spend what you need to spend to get the job done.  Having such a policy in place helps the board remember the agreement when it comes time to part ways.

When that time comes, try not to wallow around too much in it and never allow the mud to stick to your feet.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive. You can follow him on http://ceopointblank.com/

How to Handle Difficult People in Your Workplace

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It took years to develop, but I was finally able to figure out how to handle difficult situations and how to work with difficult people.

I’ve worked with:

  • The decisive, smart and friendly executive type
  • The 9-to-5 do everything I’m asked with a smile and actually enjoy my work type
  • The let me know if I can help you with anything type
  • The we all know I’m the smartest one in the room type
  • The you cross me, and I promise you it will be the worst mistake of your entire career type
  • The please give me another day to make this decision type
  • The let’s be real, I don’t really give a damn, just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it type
  • The please don’t ask me to do anything for you because it’s not in my job description type
  • The OMG she’s walking near my cube, I better act like I’m doing something before I get fired type
  • The you used this word incorrectly in a PowerPoint, therefore I will call an all hands meeting to get this settled type
  • The I trust you Robbie to make any decision you see fit type
  • The if I don’t get a summary email at 8 p.m. every day I’m going to assume you didn’t do anything all day type
  • The I’m going to cry instead of making an important decision so please back off type
  • The I don’t really care what you think about me or my decisions, just do what I tell you type
  • The who the hell left an unclean spoon in the sink, your mother isn’t here to look after you so I’m going to leave a passive aggressive sign above the sink and another on the refrigerator in addition to an email blast to the entire office type
  • The give me your date of birth so we can celebrate your half birthday type
  • The I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear you the first time so I can make this conversation as awkward as possible type
  • The I’m going to agree to everything said in the meeting then complain privately once the meeting is over type
  • The I literally, figuratively and hypothetically do not care what anybody thinks about me, so just keep paying me every 2 weeks and we’ll all be happy type
  • The if I hear one single piece of constructive criticism about my work I’m never going to open up my mouth again type
  • And finally my favorite: The holy crap lady I can hear your nails click clacking on your keyboard from across the office type

For the person who creates those passive aggressive, “If you’re leaning, you’re cleaning” signs above the sink, I purposely don’t clean dirty spoons and put them in the sink so they can be even more upset. I’m evil like that.

The uncomfortable truth is that not all of these types are easy to deal with. In fact, many of these types make it much harder to get anything accomplished.

Deal with difficult people before they deal with you

Difficult people are an interesting breed. They tend to be the last person in a workflow who has the authority to approve a particular process, purchase order or contract, so they’re the final decision maker. They are nitpicky, irrational, insanely busy people who don’t understand how many hours the team has put into completing an activity.

They ask questions at the last minute about verbiage in a contract when they could have asked the question when you first started on the project. They make you start all the way from the beginning negating all that time you and your team spent on it.

And yet instead of engaging this person right away, most people wait all the way until the end to get their approval, then are in complete shock when this person demands that additional edits be made.

Why?

Easy. People hate working with difficult people unless they absolutely have to. Instead of getting answers to their questions right away, they take the easy route and make assumptions hoping the difficult person won’t ask questions once they review it. Nobody likes awkward conversations and would rather show the decision maker a “finished product” so they don’t get negative feedback on something that isn’t finished.

Then when it comes time to review the finished product, the difficult person becomes well, difficult. Of course, this story isn’t complete without the standard everyone blaming each other for a missed deadline when the executive asks why that task was delayed.

Step up and deal with the decision makers even if they make you uncomfortable. Don’t do it to impress your boss or your teammates. Do it because you want to make the final approval process easier, and do it to learn how this decision maker operates.

Do it because no one else will.

Difficult people are often misunderstood. They’re difficult because their job requires them to be detail oriented and they have stake in the outcome of certain activities or projects. They don’t care how much time you spent on an activity. They care about the outcome.

If you can figure out what makes them tick through early difficult conversations, you’ll not only have better answers early on, but also a relationship with someone who others refuse to connect with — or can’t. – Robbie Abed author of “Fire Me I Beg You”

The Peter Principle: Why Incompetent People Get Promoted

Peter Principle

Have you ever looked at your boss and wondered “Who promoted you?” or “How have you not been fired by now?” If you have, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone — many of us have to deal with bosses that seem in over their heads.

The fact is, while your inept boss may drive you nuts, it may not even be his or her fault — or even the fault of your company for promoting your boss in the first place. Your unsuspecting employer had no idea that your boss would become a full-blown case of the Peter Principle in action.

So who is Peter and what did he do to make your boss so frustrating, you ask?

Well, Dr. Laurence J. Peter is a former professor who published a satirical book based around his theory that “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,” and that “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.” Or, basically: We do a job well, we’re promoted. We do that job well, we’re promoted again. This happens in succession until we eventually rise to a position that we can no longer do well — or our level of incompetence. There, we either stagnate, revert back to a lower position, or are fired.

While ‘The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong,’ was originally meant to provide a sort of absurd-yet-true comic relief to the overworked, the practicality and pertinence of the Peter Principle was not lost on the working world, and the theory has since become a hotly debated human resources phenomenon.

Four Reasons to Quit Your Job

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What criteria can you use to determine if you have been with the same company too long?

A friend of ours, an investment manager at a highly regarded company in the Midwest, who drove to work one morning, parked his car in the usual spot, and then found he simply could not bring himself to get out of the car. “I guess I stayed on the farm one day too long,” he joked later. When we asked him what went wrong, he answered, “It wasn’t one thing. It was everything.” No wonder he drove home and called in his resignation.

Obviously, most people don’t decide they’ve overstayed at their companies in such a dramatic fashion. Usually, angst about work creeps in, and then builds until it consumes you. And that can happen early or late in a career. Gone are the days when, after graduation, you took the best available job and stayed for as many years as you could possibly stand, frustration be damned. These days, it is not unusual to hear of perfectly legitimate careers built on multiple job stints.

So, to your question, how can you tell when it’s time to move on? We wouldn’t set out specific criteria as much as offer four questions to help sort out an answer.

The first is so simple it almost goes without saying, but the fact that a lot of people don’t confront it, including our friend who ended up stuck in his car—a Harvard MBA, by the way—suggests we should go ahead and put it out there: Do you want to go to work every morning?

This is not a matter to be over-brained. Does the prospect of going in each day excite you or fill you with dread? Does the work feel interesting and meaningful or are you just going through motions to pull a paycheck? Are you still learning and growing?

We know of a woman who worked in consulting for seven years. She loved her firm and had originally planned a career with it, but suddenly started noticing that she wished every weekend was five days long. “Basically, I felt like we were putting together massive books in order to make recommendations to people who knew more than we did,” she said. “Every day at the office, I felt a little bit more of a hypocrite.” She now happily works on the “front lines,” to use her phrase, in the marketing department of a retail company.

Second, do you enjoy spending time with your coworkers or do they generally bug the living daylights out of you? We’re not saying you should only stay at your company if you want to barbecue with your team every weekend, but if you don’t sincerely enjoy and respect the people you spend 10 hours a day with, you can be sure you will eventually decide to leave your organization. Why not make the break sooner rather than later and start cultivating relationships at a company where you might actually plant roots?

Third, does your company help you fulfill your personal mission? Essentially, this question asks whether your company jibes with your life’s goals and values. Does it require you, for instance, to travel more than you’d like, given your chosen work-life balance? Does it offer enough upward mobility, given your level of ambition? There are no right or wrong answers to such questions, only a sense of whether you are investing your time at the right or wrong company for you.

Fourth and finally, can you picture yourself at your company in a year? We use that time frame because that’s how long it usually takes to find a new, better job once you decide to move on. So peer, as best you can, into the future, and predict where you’ll be in the organization, what work you’ll be doing, whom you will be managing, and who will be managing you. If that scenario strikes you with anything short of excitement, then you’re spinning your wheels. Or put another way, you’re just about to stay too long.

To be clear: We’re not suggesting people quit at the first inkling of discontent. No matter where you work, at some point you will have to endure difficult times, and even a deadly dull assignment, to survive a crisis or move up. But it makes little sense to stay and stay at a company because of inertia. Unlock your door and get out. – Jack and Suzy Welch

Why people really leave their jobs

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There’s an old career adage that says people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.

While that conventional wisdom may be true in some cases, people actually do leave companies — especially if they aren’t given opportunities to advance their careers. At least that’s what 7,350 LinkedIn members across five countries said in an “exit survey” of professionals released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by LinkedIn, found that the No. 1 reason workers left their jobs was because they wanted greater opportunities for advancement.

There are two things interesting about that finding. For one, it means many workers may not be aware of the formal programs their companies have in place to promote and retain people in-house. Another recent LinkedIn survey found that 69 percent of human resources managers in the United States said employees were well aware of such “internal mobility” programs, yet just 25 percent of the departing U.S. employees in the new survey said they knew of them.

Also noteworthy is that of the respondents who stuck around and changed jobs within their companies, more than two-thirds said they found out about the job through informal chats with coworkers, such as meeting up for coffee. That’s either further evidence that employees aren’t aware of formal retention and advancement programs at their companies, or are electing not to use them.

Finally, what’s also interesting is that other recent LinkedIn research found that the No. 1 reason employees (those not actively seeking a new job) said they’d be willing to head for the exits was for better compensation or benefits. That’s different than the biggest reason most actually did leave, which was to take a step up the career ladder.

Meanwhile, the desire for a better relationship with one’s direct boss didn’t rank very high. Matt Grunewald, the LinkedIn research consultant who managed the study, said in an email that three times as many employees cited “lack of advancement opportunities” over “poor relationship with supervisor” as their top reason for changing employers. Though “better leadership from senior management” came in second among reasons departed employees chose to leave, a better immediate supervisor didn’t make the top five on either list.

Washington Post – By Jena Mcgregor

 

 

Sometimes, the boss ….is the one lying in the job interview

job interview, culture

We often hear about job candidates exaggerating their accomplishments. Somewhere between their resume and the interview, the truth takes a back seat.

This stretching of the truth, however, is not a one-way street. Many new employees have told us that they felt they were misled in interviews about either the responsibilities of the position or the culture of the company. Small untruths on working hours, flexibility, dress code, or employee numbers can even translate into big slights for a gung-ho new hire who feels he’s been deceived.
 
It should be obvious that a false start is no way to start a professional relationship.
 We’re not suggesting that employers intentionally misrepresent their company or the opportunities for new employees, but somewhere inside the ritualistic dance where applicants and employers are both trying to put their best feet forward, they can wind up tripping over each other. And that can lead to an atmosphere of distrust for new employees.
 
So how can leaders build a foundation of trust with new employees from day one, and ensure their long-term success and satisfaction?
 

Start with the job description

When it comes time to filling an open position, hiring managers are often in a mad rush. Someone has just given a two-week notice and there is a chair to fill. And from the employer’s perspective, that empty chair is seen as costly. So the old job description is quickly dusted off and posted in the hopes of attracting a top-flight replacement. That’s where the first mistake occurs.

 What this approach does not take into account is that today’s jobs are constantly evolving. A job description that is a just few years old may have long become irrelevant. As a hiring manager, it’s critical to ask yourself questions about the position, such as: How has it changed since we last hired for this job? What new tasks are critical to the role? What would I like a new person to do differently? How will success at this job be measured?
 

Revisiting the role before the hiring process and having a clear grasp of its responsibilities and expectations are the first steps to ensuring that you find the right person. This also makes it more likely that your new hire understands exactly what he’s signing up for and won’t hightail it out the door the first chance he gets.

 Don’t rely on the resume

Resumes, understandably, are a key indicator for many hiring managers to determine whether an applicant will make the short list for a particular position. But resumes are just advertisements for the past. What you are really looking for is a crystal ball into the future. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that you are not just hiring someone for a particular job, you are hiring them to grow with your company.

 So, what will success on the job look like? You need to be upfront with job applicants and explore that question during the hiring process. Tell candidates what will be expected of them and ask them what their definition of success is and how they hope to attain it at your company.
 

Look for insights into what makes applicants tick, which will provide clues to their potential, strengths, and development opportunities. Those attributes, which can be further gleaned from an in-depth personality assessment, will help hiring managers identify individuals who can succeed in the job and thrive in the company’s culture. Combine that with a behavioral interview and referrals, and you get a comprehensive, integrated approach to hiring. When expectations are clearly defined in the interview process, it’s an exercise in trust building.

 Build trust upfront

Once a new employee is hired, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Particularly in the first week, it is important that the new manager takes the time needed to create a real connection and ensure that trust is firmly in place.

The first few days on a new job are what you might call “the Goldilocks time.” New employees are trying not to be too hot or too cold, but come across as just right. New hires are keenly aware that they are being evaluated by their colleagues, so there has to be someone who can provide a solid understanding of how a worker can best contribute in her new environment.
Trust between a manager and new employee doesn’t happen overnight, but the first impression can be a make or break point. Be clear about the requirements and expectations of the job. Be genuinely interested in who they are (don’t multi-task when you are talking to them), and let them know you are interested in their aspirations and their growth within the company. And be open about how you like to work—your habits, quirks, strengths and the things you are working on improving. – Patrick Sweeney