Gender shouldn*t matter, but*

“Gender shouldn’t
matter, but…”
Alexia Panayiotou
University of Cyprus
27 June, 2012
HBR study 2011
(Zenger and Folkman)
O Survey of 7280 US company leaders
O We know very few women at top posts and
that underrepresented in specific functional
areas of the organization; also stereotypes
about expectations, but…
O Women at every level perceived by bosses,
colleagues, and their direct reports as
“superior” on ¾ of the competencies
considered crucial for superior leadership
effectiveness (360-evaluations)
Disparities even more stark in the
aggregate at the extremes…
So what is going on?
O Maybe makeup pool (ie more male engineers
than women)
O Also maybe women at top from an extremely
selective population
O BUT surely to some extent these numbers are
also reflective of upper management’s
subjective beliefs about how each person would
perform in these roles– beliefs not backed up by
O So what do we take away: women excel when
given the opportunity, but so do men in nontraditional roles when they must “prove selves”
2011 UK Sex and Power Survey
O In UK’s 26,000 most powerful posts according
to Equality and Human Rights Commission,
women missing even if more women than men
graduating from uni (also better degrees)
O But with unemployment on the rise also missing
out at other end also
O Why?: “part-time work, inflexible orgs, outdated
working patterns, but also women less likely to
build networks, focus on career and spend time
on their own PR”
O So structural inequalities that start from day 1!
“The glass cliff”
O Can stereotypes be turned around?
O Experiments by Bruckmuller and Branscombe
(2011): when a company is doing well, people
prefer male leaders or those with stereotypically
male characteristics; if bad, they prefer women
to turn things around ( in real life, Fiorina at HP.
Now Meg Whitman, also Carol Bartz at yahoo,
Kate Swann at WHSmith)
O Also, when get used to female lead, no need for
O Question: Can we use the crisis to our benefit?
Sobering numbers
O Only 15 of Fortune 500 companies are headed by
Women only 14.4% of senior executives in Fortune
500 companies (according to Catalyst, an NGO
focusing on women in the workplace)
That number barely budged since 2005 after ten
years of slow but steady decreases
In EU, only 13.7% women on major company boards
(Brussels target is 40%!)
In Cyprus about 12% women in managerial positions
So, does voluntary adherence to targets work?
A closer look
O Mc Kinsey report:
O 53%F/47%M gender balance at entry
O was followed by a drop to 35%F/65%M at
director level
O then 24%F/76%M at senior VP
O ended 19%F/81%M in the C-suite
O no glass ceiling but rather preference that
starts early in careers!
O So must look at this middle and listen to
women’s voices!
Demand-Supply framework
O Why are there so few women in leadership
O A demand problem: discrimination (but with a
new name and face)
O A supply problem: women not coming forward
(but why?)
O Can also look at pay gap as an example–
glass ceiling, sticky floors, glass walls
“Entrenched sexism”
O Social norms are gendered:
O for ex., men tend to be promoted based on promise,
but women must prove themselves multiple times
unintentional bias in review systems (think of an
ideal candidate as “aggressive”)
all male committees
Even linguistic styles (Deborrah Tannen)
no networks; no one to “vouch” for women– women
are undermentored and undersponsored
In Ibarra’s study of 700 MBA grads of top bus
schools, a mentor in 2008 meant promotion in
2010-- but only for men. So women need sponsors!
How hard to push?
O Quotas? Norway 2008, Spain, France,
Netherlands, Italy followed and EU
Commissioner Viviane Reding is pushing
O Power of investors? recently NY City public
pension fund nudged Goldman Sachs and
MetLife to disclose their gender balance
stats (they have millions of shares in these
comps)– pretty bad!
Why should companies care?
“Studies have shown the benefits of a diverse
work force on company performance and longterm shareowner value, and many companies
say they are making serious efforts to recruit,
retain and promote women and minorities. But
without quantitative disclosure, shareholders
have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of
these efforts.”
— John Liu, NYC controller
Why should companies care?
O Numbers! Workers needed. By 2040 Europe will have
a shortfall of 24 million workers; raising number of
women cuts gap to 3 mil
O In US baby boomers retiring means large numbers of
senior execs will retire at same time
O Mismatch of skills- in UK 70% of women with tech
background not working in the field although yet
there is dearth of workers in IT and engineering
O EC study showed 58% of companies with diversity
training programs had higher productivity due to
improved employee motivation and efficiency; 62%
said it helped them attract and retain high talent
O Company performance: comps with 3 or
more women on senior mngt teams scored
higher on 9 important organizational criteria
(McKinsey study 2011)
O Also better financial performance (data from
1500 US comps 1992-2006); ie return on
assets, return on equity, etc
So what can be done?
O Companies must commit!
O Difference between awareness and action:
managers must be held accountable
O Mentors ok but…
O Sponsors: protegees? Make this an integral
part of culture so no misunderstandings,
esp in regard to sexual dynamics
O Self promotion as crucial skill: “get angry!”
(Sylvia Hewlett of Center for Work-Life Policy)
And more…
O Rethink HR: ie don’t focus on hires 28-35, a
common practice
O Rethink advertising: replacing a photo in an ad
by an EU technical sales-oriented company
increased applications from women by 5 to 40%
O Watch the language: aggressiveness and
competitiveness vs enthusiasm and innovation
O Use data to create transparency and challenge
entrenched mind sets (ie Shell, part of
performance appraisal)
And even more…
O The role of mentors: what does this mean?
O Measurement and accountability: explicit
O Retention rates: can you still have a life?
O Flexible hours
O Child care leaves
O Coaching to ease the return
Reframe diversity as a strategy issue!