Tag Archives: Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success

Are Men Finished? – Have Women Really Adapted Faster, and Better, than Men?

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
(paraphrased from Charles Darwin)

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Do you remember the TV show All In The Family?  In the episode Gloria and the Riddle, Gloria stumps Archie with a classic riddle:

A man and a son were in a car accident.  The son was rushed into the emergency room.  The doctor announced “I can’t operate on him.  He’s my son.”  The doctor was not the boy’s father.  Why couldn’t the doctor operate? 

Archie Bunker never could figure it out – but Edith did, and Archie did not like the answer!  It aired on October 7, 1972 (the year I graduated from college), and it seems utterly amazing that an entire show could be built around a riddle that stumped everyone then, and would stump no one today.

Our oldest son is a first year medical school student.  At his opening (very impressive) White Coat Ceremony, one of the speakers commented on how he remembered, years earlier, when women made up fewer than 8% of the class.  They did not announce this year’s percentage, but my brother and I began our unofficial tally when it became obvious – this year’s class was clearly more than 50% female.

I thought of all this as I read about this upcoming debate.  If I could be in New York next Tuesday (September 20, 2011), I would definitely want to attend the debate:  Men Are Finished:  the live Slate/Intelligence Squared debate on Sept. 20 at NYU. (Details here).

One of the two speakers for the motion is Hanna Rosin, author of the recent article The End of Men for The Atlantic.   Here are some paragraphs from an interview in Slate with Ms. Rosin.  I bolded some portions for emphasis:

Why are men finished, exactly? Rosin says they’ve failed to adapt to a modern, postindustrial economy that demands a more traditionally—and stereotypically—feminine skill set (read: communication skills, social intelligence, empathy, consensus-building, and flexibility). Statistics show they’re rapidly falling behind their female counterparts at school, work, and home. For every two men who receive a college degree, three women will. Of the 15 fastest-growing professions during the next decade, women dominate all but two. Meanwhile, men are even languishing in movies and on television: They’re portrayed as deadbeats and morons alongside their sardonic and successful female co-stars.

The question I always have to respond to (after her The Atlantic article) is, ‘[if women are taking over] why are there so many more men in power?’ If you look at Hollywood, or you look at the Fortune 500 list, or you look at politics, there’s a disproportionate number of men in the higher positions of power.

(Slate: Why is that, then?)

Men have been at this for 40,000 years. Women have been rising for something like 30 or 40 years. So of course women haven’t occupied every single [high-powered] position. How would that be possible? The rise of women is barely a generation old. But if you look at everything else, like the median, the big bulge in the middle, it’s just unbelievable what has happened: Women are more than 50 percent of the workforce, and they’re more than 50 percent of managers. It’s just extraordinary that that’s happened in basically one generation. It seems like whatever it is that this economy is demanding, whatever special ingredients, women just have them more than men do.

The overall message of the last 25 to 30 years of the economy is the manufacturing era is coming to an end, and men need to retool themselves, get a different education than the one they’ve been getting, and they’re not doing it.

One of the young guys I interviewed put it to me: “I just feel like my team is losing.” They feel like women have clocked them, and it came as a surprise to this young generation of men, so I don’t know that they can’t catch up. They might.

I wrote a piece in the Atlantic last week about the new TV season in which six different fall sitcoms are about men being surpassed by women.

I have presented synopses of a number of books on some of the difficulties/challenges women face in the workplace:

Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay. 

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski

(and my colleague Karl Krayer presented another Babcok and Leschever book:
Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

It is true that women are still underpaid, in comparison with men doing the same job/work.  And it is true that men are so very dominant at the very top of the ladder(s).  The glass ceiling is still quite real.  Consider this quote from the Brzezinski book:

“At the top of the capitalist pyramid, there are almost no women.  The areas where the real money and power reside are still occupied almost exclusively by men…  How many would picture a Wall Street titan in a skirt?  Most of the gain in income and productivity for the whole economy over the past decade, even the past couple of decades, is in the top one percent, and that’s where the women aren’t penetrating.”    (Chrystia Freeland, Financial Times).

But, as Ms. Rosin asserts, the tide is turning in so many ways.  This may be good (I’m genuinely all for equality) for women, and for society overall, but the men have some serious soul-searching to do, in my opinion.  Men, according to Ms. Rosin, have been too slow to adapt (see Darwin paraphrase above), while women have adapted with breathtaking speed to the new realities.

I think this will be quite a debate on September 20.

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You can purchase our synopses of three of the books listed above (Women Don’t Ask is not available), with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Women Approach Business Differently than Men – Insight from Christine Lagarde

Women in business do make a difference.  In Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay refer to a number of studies aboutways women impact the business environment.  Here are a few quotes:

A study in France found that companies with more women in management positions did better during 2008 – had higher profits – that those with fewer women.  “Feminization of management seems to protect against financial crisis…  In conditions of high uncertainty, financial markets value companies that take fewer risks and are more stable.”  (Michel Ferrary, Professor of management at the CERAM Business School in France).

Women deliver profits, often in big numbers, and we are worth hanging on to…  By every measure of profitability – equity, revenue, and assets – Pepperdine’s study found that companies with the best records for promoting women outperform the competition.

Companies with women in top leadership positions have “stronger relationships with customers and shareholders and a more diverse and profitable business.”  (University of California at Davis study).

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde

On Sunday, 10/10/10, Christiane Amanpour interviewed French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.  (Article and video here).  Here’s a key excerpt:

“You were a former CEO. Do you think women have a different way of approaching business or approaching the public sphere?” Amanpour asked.

“Yes,” said Lagarde, who is the only female finance minister in the Group of Seven industrialized countries. “I think we inject less libido, less testosterone …”

“Less libido?” Amanpour asked.

“Yes. And less testosterone into the equation,” Lagarde replied. “It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, making our point across, convincing people, reducing them to, you know, a partner that has lost in the process. And it’s probably over generalized what I’m saying. And I’m sure that there are women that operate exactly like men,” she said.

“But, in the main, and having had nearly 30 years of professional life … and getting closer to 60 than 50, I honestly believe that there is a majority of women in such positions that approach power, decision-making processes and other people in the business relationship in a slightly different manner,” she said.

The world really is different when there is genuine diversity in the decision-making rooms.  And when women are in on those decisions, the impact is unmistakable.

 

The Story – We Need More People Choosing to Work in the “Real Economy”

“Huge numbers of Harvard grads poured into finance during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, but all that’s changing now…”
Richard Florida, The Great Reset

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I have commented often that there are some rather obvious themes that crop up, often enough, from enough divergent voices, that one begins to think that they represent truth.  In Womenomics:  Write Your Own Rules for Success, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, two journalists, confirm this idea with the language of their discipline.  They are writing specifically about the rise of “Womenomics,” but the underlying truth is “pay attention to rising themes shared by many.” Here’s the quote:

As journalists, when we start to read successive reports that come up with similar conclusions, we call it a story.  When the results are this conclusive and this notable we may even call it a headline.

So – here is the theme that I am now ready to put in the category of “this really is a story!”  We have too many college graduates, and other workers, choosing disciplines that do not build our “Real Economy.”

I posted about this a while back with The Rise and Fall of Finance and the End of the Society of Organizations (a little “serious reading”), quoting from The Rise and Fall of Finance and the End of the Society of Organizations by Gerald F. Davis; and recently with “Traders” vs. “Builders” – the “Fantasy Economy” vs. the “Real Economy.” And the theme is cropping up seemingly everywhere.  For example, here are some excerpts from a recent column by David Brooks, The Genteel Nation:

After decades of affluence, the U.S. has drifted away from the hardheaded practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.

The shift is evident at all levels of society. First, the elites. America’s brightest minds have been abandoning industry and technical enterprise in favor of more prestigious but less productive fields like law, finance, consulting and nonprofit activism.

It would be embarrassing or at least countercultural for an Ivy League grad to go to Akron and work for a small manufacturing company. By contrast, in 2007, 58 percent of male Harvard graduates and 43 percent of female graduates went into finance and consulting.

Then there’s the middle class. The emergence of a service economy created a large population of junior and midlevel office workers. These white-collar workers absorbed their lifestyle standards from the Huxtable family of “The Cosby Show,” not the Kramden family of “The Honeymooners.” As these information workers tried to build lifestyles that fit their station, consumption and debt levels soared. The trade deficit exploded. The economy adjusted to meet their demand — underinvesting in manufacturing and tradable goods and overinvesting in retail and housing.

These office workers did not want their children regressing back to the working class, so you saw an explosion of communications majors and a shortage of high-skill technical workers. One of the perversities of this recession is that as the unemployment rate has risen, the job vacancy rate has risen, too. Manufacturing firms can’t find skilled machinists. Narayana Kocherlakota of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank calculates that if we had a normal match between the skills workers possess and the skills employers require, then the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent, not 9.6 percent.

There are several factors contributing to this mismatch (people are finding it hard to sell their homes and move to new opportunities), but one problem is that we have too many mortgage brokers and not enough mechanics.

Where people work really matters.  Not the company, but the industry — the end product.  When our smartest people built things that were tangible, usable, exportable, it really mattered.  And it can again.

We’ve got a story here (to use the language of the journalists).  And the bad news is that we can’t fix this by tomorrow afternoon.  It will take a while.  We have to champion and applaud jobs that represent and build the real economy.  We have to reward people who go into such work.  And it will take a few years of graduates shifting their plans and dreams to pull this off.

The Brooks article, and the Florida book, reveal that the movement away from “finance” has already started.  But it has not yet created movement into the jobs that build the “real economy.”

I’ll end with this, another cautionary paragraph from Brooks:

The shift away from commercial values has been expressed well by Michelle Obama in a series of speeches. “Don’t go into corporate America,” she told a group of women in Ohio. “You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. … Make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry.” As talented people adopt those priorities, America may become more humane, but it will be less prosperous.

Councilwoman Creates New Rules – no permission required!

Cheryl offers:  Not only is Angela Hunt the youngest person, elected at age 33, to serve on the Dallas City Council, she’s also the first to have a baby while in office.  What’s even more interesting is what she plans to do next. In today’s DMN, she says “I’ll be bringing her (she had a girl) to City Hall.” Whoa! And it’s better still later in the article when she says she plans to work from home a couple days a week. Who did she ask if this was OK? No one as best I can tell and I applaud her for taking charge, being a trailblazer for women who serve later, and for being the kind of leader and role model we need today.  I don’t know if she’s read Womenomics: write your own rules for success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, but she certainly gets the concepts from the book. As they convey in their book, “Instead of feeling guilty, as we imagine our female predecessors might think about our choices to scale back the work hours, or what our ethnic community or even family might think, we need to understand that most of those people would be awed by what we’ve already accomplished, which is that we’ve earned the ability to decide. And in fact, exercising this ability will help build a world our successors will be thankful for. “No kidding! Angela Hunt has been and is continuing to create new precedents. I suspect the women who follow in that path will be forever grateful for offering them choices they might never have imagined.

The changing American workplace is changing in the direction of women – Womenomics Has Arrived, and is Here to stay

The times, they are a changing

The times, they are a changing

The changing American workplace is changing… in the direction of women.   This is no longer debatable.  (It is also changing in the direction of Hispanics, but that is another subject for another entry on this blog).

For last week’s First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of Womenomics:  Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.

• Womenomics n.  1.  Power.  2.  A movement that will get you the work life you really want.  3.  The powerful collision of two simple realities:  a majority of women are demanding new rules of engagement at the very moment we’ve become the hot commodity in today’s workplace.

Here’s a paragraph that gets at the heart of the book’s argument:

We worried that anything that smacked of lack of ambition, of working but not always aiming for the pinnacle, just wouldn’t be professionally correct.
The overwhelming majority of women are longing to kick down that corporate ladder, flee the 8 A.M.–to-day-care-closing dash, but at the same time hang onto some real status…  We’re the ones who want more time – for our children our parents, our communities, ourselves.
Most educated women don’t want to quit work altogether, even if they could.  We want to use our brains and be productive professionally, but we don’t want to keep tearing at the fabric of our families or our lives outside of the workplace.  We need to slow down.  We want to slow down.
The situation is so dire that a majority of us will opt, when asked, for less responsibility.  We will trade duties, a title – even salary increases – for more time, freedom, and harmony.  We don’t want to quit – far from it — but time has become our new currency.

But it’s not just about the needs of women.  It is about their value.  As good journalists, they discover the trends, and make their case.  And the case is this:  the more women take positions in leadership and the more women fill key roles, the more successful companies will be.  Here is one summary paragraph (quoting one of many studies referenced in the book – this one from Pepperdine University):

Women deliver profits, often in big numbers, and we are worth hanging on to…  By every measure of profitability – equity, revenue, and assets – Pepperdine’s study found that companies with the best records for promoting women outperform the competition.

The authors, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, are both working mothers.  They are both accomplished journalists, Claire Shipman with ABC, and Katty Kay with the BBC.  (She is also frequent guest fill-in for Diane Rehm on NPR, which gives her all the credibility a journalist could want).  They have both negotiated flexible work-arrangements that allow them to be home with their children at key times, while maintaining their professional edge and fulfilling their responsibilities.  It is the new way of working in America for a large and growing number of women. They even argue that someday, soon, men will like this new flexible approach.

Claire Shipman & Katty Kay

Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

Here are many of the key findings and points from the book, which I pulled together from numerous chapters:

• women “at the top” produce more profits and success in all economic categories
• women have more college degrees (undergraduate:  57% cited in book — now 60%; graduate – 58%)
• to be successful (i.e., truly useful and valuable) women should act like women, not try to act like men…
• women have “a more open and more inclusive style of management;” more likely to encourage participation in meetings; more nurturing of subordinates; prefer consensus to confrontation; prefer empathy to ego… — and women superstars take their abilities to other companies better than men superstars do (because women are better at building new relationships)
• the war for talent favors women because of their education and their unique gifts/style
• we’re time-famished – but scared
• even men want more of a life
• “The millennials are influencing expectations for the entire workforce”  (“the next generation has no interest at all in the sixty-hour work week”)
• time is the currency of Womenomics
• women need to learn to say “no,” without guilt…
• Set meetings, deadlines, schedules early – and on your own terms.
• at times (maybe frequently), aim at “good enough”
• Learn to, and actually do, delegate – hand things off

I seldom say this in a blog post this directly:  you should read this book.  Women should read it to think about their own work arrangements.  Men should read it to understand the value of and the needs of women in the workplace (and, maybe, think a little about their own needs also).

{Click here to listen to an interview with the two authors on the Diane Rehm show.  This interview was rebroadcast on Labor Day, 2009.}

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We should have my synopsis, with audio + handout, up soon on our companion 15 Minute Business Books site.