#25d – Will Business Celebrate, or Tolerate, Our Daughters?

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:

  • Energy
  • Values
  • Trust
  • Innovation

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.

Related links:

GE Awards

Shell on Glassdoor

2008 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work

SBTV’s Susan Wilson Solovic on Women’s Economic Impact

Sylvia Ann Hewlett – Are Your Best Female Employees a Flight Risk?

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14 thoughts on “#25d – Will Business Celebrate, or Tolerate, Our Daughters?

  1. This is a very thoughtful article, Hot Momma. I really enjoy the depth you bring to your writing by backing it up with thoughtful published pieces or by speakers’ quotes.

    Not only that, I truly enjoyed our exchanges during the World Business Forum.

    Keep up your good work. Daughters need it.

  2. Terrific review of some of the research on companies with women in leadership roles realizing increased business success. Thanks for putting the resources and links together. I will definitely pay them forward.

    On work-life balance: Ernst and Young implemented structural job changes when they discovered that senior women were exiting the company due to the impossible 24/7 work week. The cost of each exit is about 100K & customers don’t like the continuous change. After researching the cause of the problem, E&Y hired additional admin. assistants, banned weekend work, and implemented a work-life balance agreement as part of the contract between employee and manager.

    A sales VP- male- and coaching client of mine walks the talk, not for women, but because he is committed to be there for his own kids. Why? He lost his Dad way too young and committed to be there for his kids as a result.

    As long as work-life balance is seen as a women’s issue there probably won’t be much traction. Sad but better to know the reality and change the strategy. I think it may also be time to change the name and the approach.

    I’ve been advocating work-life flow as an alternative. Balance has never seemed quite right ;and has seemed like chopping yourself into parts – the Mommy part, the wife part, the friend part, the professional part, etc. Flow is being fully present and refueling on the go versus being drained. It happens when we use our greatest talents, doing work we love and find meaningful. Flow happens when we are fully engaged whether figuring out the best closing argument for a trial, digging in fresh dirt, or giving the kids a bath.

    Thanks again for writing and sharing this substantive piece.

    Dr. Anne Perschel
    Leadership Psychologist

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  4. Congrats on the ForbesWoman piece. Yes, they do get it. I was interviewed for an article in their first issue. Let’s keep the drum beat going! We are absolutely going to see more women in leadership roles. The culture of leadership and the culture of work will change as as a result.

    Congrats again!
    Anne Perschel

  5. Thanks so much for this thorough, insightful and powerful review of women, leadership, and the challenges women continue to battle against in creating and maintaining professional identities that work. We simply can’t do this alone – one at a time. It’s a fight…and it needs to be a collective, collaborative and cohesive movement in which women fight for what truly matters to them in life and work. The fight is also about bringing into being lasting social change – where women are included, embraced, and celebrated for what they uniquely bring to the workforce, to the boardroom, and to the leadership table. Thanks so much, Hot Mommas, for all you do to help women step up to being all they wish to be in both professional and personal life.

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