My intern, Amber, is at the World Business Forum with me today. I look at her, and wonder what type of workplace she’ll be stepping into after college. Of the 18 speakers, one is female. Women are not on the radar screen topically. Here are some repeated themes:
I am hoping we’re part of the “values” and “innovation” category, but can’t be sure. Women must be part of the conversation. Leading corporate strategy expert Gary Hamel is speaking RIGHT NOW at a conference. This guy gets it. He says, “No one is going to give you permission to be a revolutionary.” Here are some facts to support your mission:
1. A GEM study shows that economic growth correlates highly with female entrepreneurship in that country. So, women and entrepreneurship is good for your country’s economy no matter where you are.
2. A Harvard/Pepperdine Study shows Fortune 500 companies that promote women to top executive positions are 69% more profitable than the industry median.
Companies saying good things
The CEO of Shell spoke this morning. While he didn’t mention anything about women, I happen to know that Shell has done a good job of participating in diversity conferences and initiatives. I was impressed years ago when a US-based executive spoke of the company’s work in the community. This was before the gas price hikes. It was just good business. I continue my due diligence of this, and other companies, that “get it.” If I were an employee at Shell, I would approach senior leadership, share the facts above, establish a diverse task force of workers, and obtain permission to start a pilot to test a new work model with measurable outcomes. (Note: Hamel says, “Don’t use the term pilot. Call it an experiment“).
Companies saying bad things
I didn’t bother to cover the former GE exec speaking at the conference I’m attending because I found Jack Welch’s recent comment about work-life balance inappropriate. Jack Welch essentially said that work life balance doesn’t exist, and that it’s a choice an executive makes. This basically says to me, “Follow the linear, male-defined vision of success or get out.” This statement makes me angry, but, it also gets at a big fear of mine: Is he right? I started the Hot Mommas Project to help showcase new definitions of success: The various ways women were putting together their work, life, and handling of challenges. As it turns out, women everywhere seemed to be craving these stories in a way I’d never imagined. We want validation that we can do it. We want recognition for the ways we’ve engineered our work and life for success. Is it good enough? No one would debate the success of Hot Mommas Project case-writers Brenda Rhodes or Saranne Rotherberg’s achievements, even in a male-defined model. The real question is this: Can there be a new currency for success?
Is balance the new currency? Last year The Hot Mommas Project research uncovered something fascinating when we surveyed 269 working women. We termed the top 10 percent “master balancers.” These were women who rated “high” or “very high” on both personal and professional drive. Here’s the clincher: Master balancers rate themselves “very high” on their ability to BALANCE both these high-drive areas inside and outside of work. Do this quick test:
- Rate your expectations for your personal life (outside of work): 1-5, with 5 as the highest
- Rate your level of professional drive 1-5, with 5 as the highest
- Rate your ability to balance both of these areas, 1-5, with 5 as the highest
The women who have high drive, and the ability to balance that drive, tend to feel more successful. Thus, the perception of success was correlated to their ability to balance high personal/professional drive. Are they living in a parallel reality of denial, or are they onto something which can serve as an anchor for a new definition of success?
So back to Jack. What if he’s right? What if we don’t have the hours to invest, so we’re not going to be as successful? The truth is, I think this could hold true in large corporations. Clearly all is not solved as indicated in this Washington Post Magazine chat on work life balance. I’d like to believe it’s different, and this Boston Globe article indicates positive trends, but my fear is that flex-time and other such workers are tolerated, not celebrated. Is it the entrepreneurs who will lead the way? They are taking the traditional work model, putting it on the floor, stomping on it, hitting it with a baseball bat a couple times, then putting it back together again to suit them, their lives, and their economic needs and desires.
What’s the solution? Here’s a dirty little secret: An expert in my women’s leadership circle told me many companies pay consultants to get on the best places to work lists. Do you know of a company that fails to walk the talk? What’s the solution? Leading corporate strategy expert Gary Hamel says:
No more than 21 percent of employees surveyed globally felt engaged with their work. We need to create a workplace that our employees want to come to, and where they want to share their talents… That’s a very very different way of thinking about the role of management….Could the technology of management change in the first part of this century as radically as it changed in the last century? I think it could.
Do you? Will women in business be a part of this? We must be.
Unpacking a new model – Gore, A Case Study
Hamel discussed the makers of Gore-Tex, and their different and successful approach:
- Leader perspective: I want to build an organization where the whole company feels like a “skunk works.”
- Business cards with no titles (Hamel notes, “I didn’t know who to suck up to.”)
- Leaders nominated by teams
- Every commitment is voluntary
- Lattice-work structure, no hierarchy
- Workers choose their own projects, but have to show what value they’re providing. Like the internet and social media, power is on the move – flowing to people who add value.
- Results: 2.5 billion in revenue, 9000 employees, 50 locations
Management innovation is not an option, it’s a necessity to ensure our daughters are not merely tolerated, but celebrated. Hamel asks, “ Who are the true management pioneers today?” Maybe it’s you.
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