Five Friday Highlights: The Power of Shared Experiences

Gender Equity

There’s something really powerful about … shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief. A community creates belief.- Charles Duhigg

Today’s highlight selections all tie back, in one way or another to shared experiences. From Sheryl Sandberg’s revelations after becoming a part of the single parent community, to women who still are subject to unwanted touching at their employers, it is shared experiences which catalyze action. It is my hope these actions create a richer, more equitable world for everyone.

Acting on shared experiences can result in a richer, more equitable world for everyone! {TWEET THIS}

Sheryl Sandberg released a Mother’s Day message on Facebook about how her interpretation of “Leaning In” has changed over the past year, after her husband passed away and she became a single mother. In addition to sharing the evolution of her personal viewpoint, she says, “We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like.” I agree!

Sheryl Sandberg’s change of viewpoint was brought about by a change in her life circumstances. After her spouse’s death, her pool of “shared experience” had broadened. Shared experience, writes Georgene Huang, founder of Fairygodboss in Forbes, matters. Read more in Your Gender Matters at Work and That’s a Good Thing.

Some industries move more quickly toward gender parity than others, and Sydney Ember shares in The New York Times how advertising is not blazing a trail. In For Women in Advertising, It’s Still a “Mad Men” World, Ember writes “…in interviews with more than a dozen women, mostly executives, who work in advertising, many said they found it hard to believe how much their particular business still remained a white man’s world.”

Who is going to make a measured, mature contribution to the hard work of rethinking public and corporate workforce policies referred to by Sheryl Sandberg? I have to think the people willing and capable of doing that will exhibit the characteristics discussed in 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company. Like the article states regarding the emotionally intelligent, “…with the rates of change and pressures in the workplace rising, they’ll become even more sought after than ever.”

I believe those emotionally intelligent people can make a difference in the changes that will help bring about more fairness and, in all honesty, more profits! In Why Inclusive Hiring Practices Help Bottom-Line Earnings for Savvy Companies from Sharp Heels, guest contributor Heather Ready provided examples such as, “…investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63% better than … investments in all-male teams, according to a report released last year.”

Success in business is not, of course, all about monetary profit However, I don’t see why we can’t do both: be richly diverse and rich in the conventional sense. Who wants to help me try? Email me here with your ideas!

Image Credit: 123rf/gajus

Gender Cooperation in the Workplace: Let’s Stop Diversity Training and Do Something Productive Instead

Gender Cooperation Workshops

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In re-ignited the conversation about women in the workplace when it was published last year. Lean In has spread global awareness and significantly progressed the dialogue about women in the workplace. By now, most of us have heard the statistics and we all know there’s a problem – women just aren’t getting to the top of organizations, worldwide.

This has to change – and I am not just saying this because I am a woman. MSCI AC World index found that companies with a gender-diverse board outperformed those with only men by 25% over six years. Women and diversity are important for the growth and success of organizations. Period.

Certainly, men need to work on creating a more equal and inclusive workplace environment, but it won’t work unless women also take an active role. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book The Confidence Code, addresses the main tool women need to posses: confidence. Yes, the research says men’s and women’s brains work differently and yes, we have been socialized to behave in different ways, but ultimately women need to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Andeven more importantly, as Kay and Shipman point out, we need to understand that men and women perceive confident behavior differently. In some cases, what we think shows confidence, men see as exhibiting weakness (and vice versa).

Given all of this, I think companies are mostly taking the wrong approach. Networking groups, diversity training, and company events are the standard programs. These are important to support an initiative, but in my experience, none of these actually facilitate needed change in an organization.

What we need is a revolution in our approach to gender relations in the workplace: something that stimulates change, and truly improves communication between men and women,

Here are my suggestions to take action:

1)   Admit it’s an issue. Google and LinkedIn recently came out and publically stated that they had a challenge with regards to Diversity in their workforce. This is an excellent example of companies willing to be vulnerable. Lack of women in leadership is an issue most companies face today (especially in high tech industries) and it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers, yet. However, by making a public statement, Google and LinkedIn are making themselves accountable, an important step in ultimately finding a solution.

2)   Identify and suggest specific changes. Diversity training is not effective. We have tried it for years and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. If you want to see change, ask for it. Chances are, management is not going to magically change their unconscious bias. Go to the highest-ranking executives who will listen and offer specific and actionable changes you want to see made. Among other things, suggest they allocate money for a sponsorship program for women. (Contact us for more information on how sponsorship differs from mentorship.)

Ideally we want everyone to understand the issues, empathize, and then take action. However this is just isn’t practical. Social psychology has proven that by changing behavior – even if its mandatory — will eventually change mindset — one internalizes the attitude and then starts to believe in the new behavior.

3)   Consider hiring a true expert. This person shouldn’t just be a Diversity trainer, but a strategic consultant who understands gender relations and can take a hard look at your hiring policies, internal promotion, salary breakdown and team communication to give you the hard truth about the source of your challenges. In addition, consider hiring an executive coach to do some leadership development training with the women in your organization. A true expert will understand how a push and pull strategy in the organization will truly foster change, quickly.

4)   Look beyond the workplace. Sheryl Sandberg makes several points in her book, but one of the most important (in my opinion) that we often ignore is how we need to look at our relationship with our partner. If men were expected to do as much as women, we might not even be having this discussion. Women often feel guilty about not being the perfect wife and mother, and that ultimately affects our careers. It is important to leave the guilt behind and have an open dialog with your partner about how to share the other responsibilities in your life.

It may not be easy and it may not be comfortable, but at the end of the day women need to take a more active role and ask for what they want. At the same time, men need to recognize that they have unconscious biases and be open to being vulnerable and taking action. If we make actionable changes in our organizations, our minds will be soon to follow.

 

 

The Three Types of People Shifting Global Mindset in 2014

As we start a new year with personal resolutions to do better and work harder, what are we doing to make the world a more open, communicative place? It would serve our businesses, economies and governments better if more people placed value in cultivating the intellectual, social and psychological capital necessary to have a truly global mindset. That had me thinking: Who is really doing the work to change minds and shift conversations toward a more open perspective?

With these necessary shifts in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the kinds of people who not only cultivate a global mindset for themselves, but are also implementing it in their own spheres of influence.

1. The Female Executive: No single person made a greater impact on the spread of a global mindset in 2013 than Sheryl Sandberg. The internationally bestselling author and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook doesn’t just have an MBA from Harvard and a net worth of a reported $400M. In addition to being a savvy businesswoman, she is also a mother, advocate for women in business and the only woman on the board of Facebook. In her book Lean In, Sandberg has this to say: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

It’s this kind of mindset of true equality, and the spaces into which she brings that mindset, that make Sandberg such an influence in making others globally minded. She works in the male-dominated tech field, at the mostly male executive level. According to San Jose Mercury News, women hold only 10.9 percent of these highest-paid executive positions and board seats in California’s 400 largest companies. Yet Sandberg not only claims a definitive seat for herself: She advocates that more women rise to her level. Sandberg is a global mindset influencer because she is changing people’s minds, globally.

In 2014, there’s another female executive who is poised to change minds in a male-dominated industry. General Motors recently announced its first female CEO in Mary Barra, an electrical engineer and Stanford MBA. With her new position, she has the opportunity to not only shift assumptions about women in management and in the automotive industry, but also how people think about female scientists.

2. The Entertainment-Industry Feminist: In 2013, everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Lady Gaga denounced the feminist label in interviews. Whether because they’d rather identify as humanists or because they think the word is too angry, it has become popular for female celebrities to avoid the label, even as female leaders in society.

Because of this trend, it only makes the entertainment professionals who do embrace the term more influential. In her album released in December, singer Beyonce Knowles championed the term, sampling a TED Talk by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her song “***Flawless.” The second verse of the song, taken from the writer’s TEDxEuston speech entitled “We Should All Be Feminists,” uses the word explicitly and positively: “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In addition to being a definition of feminism, it’s also very close to the definition of what it means to have a global mindset.

In addition to Beyonce’s influence as an international entertainment icon and vocal feminist, mother and businesswoman, Adichie herself is poised to make an impact herself. The Nigerian-born writer has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the O. Henry Award. In 2013 she was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Leading Global Thinkers. It is these talented women, in an industry that avoids addressing the issue at all, who will continue to influence and change how we think about women, business and feminism.

3. The LGBT Athlete: The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will take place this February. But it hasn’t been smooth skating for this international event: worldwide criticism of Russian’s law against ‘gay propaganda’ has led to threats of boycotting by brands, athletes and international figures including German president Joachim Gauck. Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, which also caused the country’s Ministry of Justice to strike down a proposed LGBT welcome pavilion, are hardly promoting positive change for the athletic community and the world at large. They are also causing thousands of potential attendees around the world to choose against attending the games.

But the world is responding with a more global mindset than Russia has put in place. The official US delegation to the 2014 Olympics includes tennis legend and LGBT advocate Billy Jean King. In May 1981 King was the first professional athlete to be open as a lesbian. The delegation also includes Brian Boitano, a gold-medal figure skater who announced he is gay on December 19 just after it was announced he would be joining the official group. King and Boitano join two-time U.S. ice hockey Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow, who also is openly gay, in the closing ceremony delegation.

These three athletes, and President Obama who selected the delegation, are putting in the work to change the minds of the people who enact laws like Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Even in 2014, being a gay athlete is a statement, and not an easy one to make. The first openly gay NBA player, Jason Collins, remains unsigned to a team roster following his announcement in April.

As one can tell from the issues each of these influencers is addressing, there is still a lot of work to be done to shift more of the US and the world toward a more open, intellectual consideration. These executives, entertainers and athletes make it clear that having a global mindset isn’t optional, but rather a necessity to be successful in the professional world or their professions today.

 

 

Women in Leadership, Women in Business: What Glass Ceiling?

Women in Leadership, Women in Business
Interview by Melissa Lamson
Interviewer: Hana Al-Abadi

Q: Why are women in business such a hot topic right now?

A: I think that we have thought – at least in the US and Europe – that we fought the battle for equality in the past but when we looked around a couple of years ago and saw that positions, money, and treatment still wasn’t always equal, the subject came up again. Women finally see ourselves as equal business partners and we want careers equally to men. Because of that there’s a lot of pressure on individuals to find flexible solutions to create that equality in the workplace as well as at home. The topic of women in the workplace is big because of that pressure and that evolution. Women tend to be really spectacular working globally because they are good at developing relationships. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are going global successfully because we are good at it.

Q: Do you believe women still bump into the glass ceiling?

A: Yes I do. I would say there are two challenges. The first challenge is that women are trained to not focus much on self-promotion because we will be seen as a threat, an opportunist, or simply not a “nice girl”. Different from men who are admired for self-promotion; its expected from men. So we’ll sabotage ourselves and not promote our accomplishments enough to be seen for that promotion or next project. The other challenge is that as women we are very focused on performance, mostly because we are socialized to be perfectionists. So we have a perfectionism issue, we need to be more conscious of not being too much of a perfectionist but to pull ourselves out of the weeds, look up, and develop those key relationships, particularly with men.

Q: What are the top 3 keys to women being successful in the workforce? Anything special they need to consider when working globally?

A: 1. Don’t be a perfectionist. 2. Self Promote. 3. Build targeted relationships. (Don’t just socialize with those people you like.)

Q: As a successful business woman, author, and consultant who travels all over the world, would you say women are more or less successful in business outside of the US/in other countries?

A: I wouldn’t say more or less successful. In the US, women have been at a disadvantage in the last 20 years because many believed the whole issue of equality in business was fixed and no longer an issue. But there is still inequality we need to think about consciously, proactively and collaboratively with men. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most well-known people who recently came out and said “it’s still not equal and we need to be conscious of this”. She also was the first women to admit publicly that a major success factor in a woman’s career is determined by the support of their partner.

Globally, it’s interesting to see the gender roles in parts of Asia and the Middle-east. They are very distinct between women and men. Men don’t try to do what women do and vice versa. It becomes an advantage because when we see the male and female roles, people just tend to leave each other alone in their roles. It doesn’t get messy because men get a little nervous when you’re in their territory and it’s in their nature to be more competitive. So if you don’t have people stepping on each other’s toes then it’s easier to get things done so I think women have more opportunities in some other countries because of that. Having said that, women all over the world are speaking up, getting an education, and want to use that education to launch their careers. It’s economically driven, in many cases, young couples or families need or want more money and material possessions and a more luxurious lifestyle than their parents had. Its also emotionally-driven, where women want to use their brain, invent, create and shape the world.

Q: What is your advice to women wanting to start their own business?

A: Find  people who have done something similar and who are successful at it and either go meet them, work for them, and/or model yourself after them. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Also, it’s helpful if those role models are women so you know how to overcome specific challenges. Further, I would find men who are successful and ask them to be formal mentors to you because they will always give the male perspective. When you’re interacting with clients who are male, they will be able to help you. Particularly when negotiating money or asking for the sale, men tend to do that differently from women and its good to learn both styles.

For more information about women in business, contact info@lamsonconsulting.com