Category Archives: Career development

If I see one more irresponsible gender wage gap article, I’ll scream!

Link: These are the 30 office jobs with the biggest gender pay gaps

The link above is from Business Insider, but there are a ton more totally superficial, uninformed, and infuriating articles like it. (And from reputable sources. See Fortune, and USA Today, and Washington Post.)

Is there a reduction in income when women take time off to have kids? Sure! No one (I hope) debates that. But I’m not sure it’s such an awful thing. Articles use words with negative connotations, like motherhood “penalty” or “tax” to describe it, and some articles and organizations promote the idea that adjustments should be made to make up for the lost income. I don’t agree. If someone is paid appropriately for valuable contributions in a job, and that person takes time off and gives up experience and opportunity to do something else, I would not expect that person to be paid equally upon return to the work force. Simply put: value in = pay out.

Many oversimplify the issue by pointing to the woman who took five years off to raise kids and not work professionally at all during that time (which by the way, is probably rarer these days than people think given the economy and what it costs to raise a family). However, I think a large part of the gender wage gap explanation that isn’t discussed is about the woman simply choosing to work more flexibly (off hours, fewer hours) which translates to less pay. And that’s OK. I’m not sure that’s a “problem” that needs to be “fixed” as many (including President Obama in his State of the Union speech) argue.

Put it this way: If you asked me whether I would prefer (a) a job that will always pay exactly what my male colleagues get for valuable contributions but allows very little flexibility, or (b) a job that will pay for my valuable contributions but gives me all the flexibility I want, I will pick (b) every time. And I bet if you asked around, most women – especially moms – would do the same. And they do.

Gaps in pay are generally attributable to some common-sense factors, and these include things like experience, skills, educational background, standard of living where the job is, and risks involved with the job (hazard pay).

Beyond these factors, however, there is one other that helps to explain the gender wage gap that these frustrating articles never talk about: gender wage differences exist in jobs with the highest degree of what Claudia Goldin out of Harvard calls “temporal flexibility” – jobs in which women can control their hours more, still do valuable but scaled back work, opt out of certain traditional office hours in order to work off-line earlier or later, and so on. Goldin found that a lot of professional jobs where the wage gap exists do, in fact, allow for people to run individual practices or otherwise be self-employed, and it is in those types of professions where that temporal flexibility exists.

Here is a great interview with Goldin from Marketplace’s Freakonomics series:

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-true-story-of-the-gender-pay-gap-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

The temporal flexibility concept is very hard to control for in studies and analytics because (1) the data collection systems do not account for it, and (2) it is difficult to define appropriate proxies in the existing data to try to account for it. Really, all I would like to see is the mere mention of this very real factor in the reporting of the “flat” income numbers that are thrown out by the media all the time!

 

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How my business thinking (and talking) changed between ages 30 and 40

30: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I agree.
40: I don’t agree with you.

30: I should change what I’m doing because of their feedback.
40: I considered the feedback and will change only the parts I need to.

30: I should do it his way.
40: I’m going to do it my way because I think it will be more effective. If he doesn’t like it, T.S. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

30: If I make the wrong decision, I’m done for.
40: If I make the wrong decision, I have a plan to course-correct.

30: I’ve got to figure all of this out on my own to prove I’ve got the chops.
40: I’ve mastered what I know, and I’m aware of my blind spots. I’m going to stop wasting time and instead talk to people more informed.

30: I have to dress very formally and conservatively to be taken seriously.
40: I can combine professionalism and style and feel great.

30: I’m in competition with so-and-so.
40: My work will speak for itself.

30: I wonder what my boss will think of me.
40: I wonder what my daughter will think of me.

Have any to add? Share in comments!

Lesson learned: agreeing that there is a problem to be solved

At my weekly one on one meeting with my boss, the President and CEO of the firm I’ve worked at for the last 15 years, I ran a problem by him that I was wavering on how to address well.

In pitching to a potential client, I found two of our department heads speaking very expertly on issues in their particular domains, but talking past each other where those domains intersected. There was insufficient coordination between them in how their domains overlapped for this client.

After explaining the problem to the boss, brainstorming the various ways I could help them solve this problem both for this client and future clients, and asking for his opinion, he asked me a very simple question in response.

If you take a possible solution to them, do you think they’ll have any idea what you’re talking about?

He must have taken my slightly stunned silence for a negative. He proceeded to remind me that:

1. Individuals need to recognize that there’s a problem.

2. Individuals need to agree on what the problem is.

3. Individuals need to agree to collaboratively work on a solution.

Only then we can determine what to do, whether I have a role, and what that role  might be.

Afterwards, I tested the water by asking one of my colleagues involved how she thought the call went. She thought it was fantastic.

Huh.

It occurred to me that perhaps what I believe (department heads shouldn’t talk past each other and should reconcile their respective services for potential clients) might not necessarily be what others believe (perhaps part of a department head’s job is to advocate for their services to a client and they are not responsible for other department’s service lines).

The aha! moment I had with the boss will definitely lead me down a different path in terms of a next step with these folks.

Still learning!

My definition of leadership

Isn’t leadership nothing more sophisticated than being a reflection of what matters to you and what works for you?

It seems to me that those who inspire feel inspired themselves, and are only reflecting their own passion and excitement. They don’t seem to be wrapped up in trying to be a leader.

What drives us as individuals can be the cornerstone to leadership. Therefore, if you are stifled or uninspired, being a leader will not result.

This also means that we can all be leaders in our own ways. No need to strive to lead the way another does; find your passions and you will lead in your own special way.

Three practical ways to say “No”

Juggling family and work – something’s got to give. All the work-life balance blogs, books, and articles say that you should learn to say no, but rarely do people talk about how to do so well so that it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re the bad guy or leaving people in the lurch. Here are some ideas – applicable to work AND home.

1. OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE. “No, but let’s do this other thing instead that will give us the same or similar result.” Often there is an alternative approach than my doing the specific thing I’m being asked to do. Can I do it differently than how I’m being asked that is more efficient? Or do I need to do it at all – are we just going through me because it’s always been that way? If I don’t need to do it, then what can happen instead? The trick to this is concentrating not just on the task you’re being asked to do, but stepping back and thinking about what youre collectively trying to accomplish in which your task is a part: is there a way to meet the objective that doesn’t require the task being asked, or at the level of involvement that is being asked?

2. PUT IT OFF A BIT. “No, I can’t right now. We should definitely get to this, but let’s connect tomorrow/next week/etc on this since I’m focusing on something else right this minute.” If it’s not urgent (truly urgent, which you’ll find few things actually are!) then you might find it resolves on its own or other things happen to get it to the next step if given some time.

3. HELP SOMEONE ELSE DO IT THEMSELVES. “No, I can’t do it myself, but I can definitely help you get to the finish line on this.” This one is my favorites because it’s a win-win. In order for this to work, you’ve got to have someone who doesn’t know how to do it and is willing to try. So many of my junior and mid-level staff are willing to try anything. GREAT! Let’s do it. I always give the baby a bath at night, but if my husband does it with me a few times, we can trade off and I can get some much needed down time. Is it going to happen exactly as you would do it? Probably not. Does this require up front investment in your time? Yes! But the ROI of saying no this way is typically realized fairly quickly.

Maybe there are other ways to say no in an effective way?

Female executives: Avoid being that Queen Bee!

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee – WSJ

The term “queen bee syndrome” was coined in the 1970s, following a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan—Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Carol Tavris—who examined promotion rates and the impact of the women’s movement on the workplace. In a 1974 article in Psychology Today, they presented their findings, based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in that magazine and Redbook. They found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. This occurred, they argued, largely because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.

This is infuriating to me for two reasons (just two?!):

(1) It’s lonely at the top. There’s nothing worse I can think of than being a female executive and not having a single other female executive around. My message to the Queen Bee: You think “you’ve arrived”? Until there are MANY women in positions of executive leadership, you will never know if you’re just a token, and I’m not sure how gratifying it is to have that word implied in your high-brow title.

(2) There is SO MUCH WORK to be done! Couldn’t you use a little help? I know I need all the help I can get. If others aren’t valuing women’s contributions to my company, my industry, my environment, you bet I sure as hell am because I refuse to be a slave to this “I’ve arrived” mentality of constantly proving that I deserve to be here by doing it ALL. No way, that’s not the way it goes. At the executive level, you’re responsible for making sure it all gets done, but not necessarily responsible for doing it all yourself. Where would that leave you? Burnt out, ineffective, perhaps unable to also prioritize family? Well that sounds like a bum deal to me. Why would you put yourself in that position? You’re setting yourself up to fail.

Helping other female colleagues up the ladder when deserved is such a better way of being a contributor, reinforcing your leadership potential, establishing your role as a mentor, and being effective in the workplace. A Queen Bee doesn’t break the glass ceiling; Queen Bees don’t even realize that the ceiling might have been opened for them and then perhaps closed right behind them by male executives. Don’t be fooled. You want to take credit for breaking that glass ceiling? Take all the worker bees with you and collectively smash it!

* * * *

As a side note, studies trace this concept of keeping your fellow female down to middle school and high school bullying. Now more than ever, the topic of bullying and its ill effects if unaddressed are making headlines. As parents, as educators, and as responsible community members and leaders, this is just another reason that we’ve got to nip that in the bud.