Tag: "Gender differences"

Pregnancy of newly appointed Yahoo CEO – has the glass ceiling been smashed?

Pregnancy of newly appointed Yahoo CEO – has the glass ceiling been smashed?

The announcement last week that the newly appointed CEO and supposed saviour of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, is six months pregnant has ignited much debate. Whilst there has been some backlash, most commentary has been positive, citing Ms. Mayer as a prime example of women “having it all”.

What is apparent however, is that a woman holding a senior position at a Fortune 500 company whilst simultaneously expecting a baby is still a story worth reporting and debating. It should not come as a shock that a woman is expecting a baby. Would a similar amount of news coverage be given if the new Yahoo CEO was a man expecting a baby with his wife?

Ms. Mayer represents only the 20th current female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and women, as a whole, account for only four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to make decisions on the terms of a worker’s employment on the basis of their pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are many cases where women are refused employment or promotions, or even dismissed (including selection for redundancy) just because they are pregnant or take maternity leave.

Ms Mayer was recruited by Yahoo in June 2012. She is said to have disclosed her pregnancy to Yahoo’s board at the end of June, noting that none of the company’s directors seemed to have an issue hiring a pregnant chief executive. Of course, had Ms Mayer’s pregnancy resulted in a decision not to offer her the role, this would have been contrary to equality laws and Ms Mayer, had she worked in the UK, would have had a claim for sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Successful claims for sex discrimination can open a company up to a claim for uncapped damages in an employment tribunal.

Ms. Mayer has stated that she intends to “work throughout” and to take only “a few weeks” of maternity leave. Whilst it is always positive to hear of female appointments to senior positions, particularly when that female is pregnant, Ms. Mayer does not represent the majority of working women. Indeed, the surrounding media hype and Ms Mayer’s approach to her maternity leave may suggest that, regrettably the ‘glass ceiling’ is very much still in place.

It is also apparent that shareholders and the public feel that they are entitled to be informed of Ms Mayer’s pregnancy furthermore, they feel they are entitled to comment and pass judgment. Hopefully, the appointment and confidence of the Yahoo Board will work to show that women, pregnant or not, are capable of working as whatever they choose and it is for no one to criticise their choices.

Author: Laura Molloy, employment solicitor at Manchester law firm Pannone

Business books for women

Research reveals – how can women get top jobs

BBC News figures show women still hold fewer than a third of the most senior positions in the UK. In politics this figure plummets to a fifth, and it is even lower in the top 100 companies. However, the Government is not going to implement the European Commission’s suggested quotas, and instead will encourage firms to hire more women in executive positions.

Recent research from Ashridge Business School exposes that organisational attitudes towards women frequently impede career advancement, and also outlines what steps women can take to make sure that they are best placed to be considered for top jobs.

Whilst women are becoming a higher percentage of the workforce throughout the world, significantly less than 20 per cent are getting into board positions globally.

The book Women in Business: Navigating Career Success, based on a survey of over 1,400 female senior managers and directors, reveals that 48% believe it is harder for a woman to succeed at work compared with male colleagues, while 49% think men and women are treated differently in terms of leadership and behaviour.

The continued existence of the old boys’ network and male senior teams who recruit in their own image, being fed up with “playing the games” that go on within boardrooms, having personal commitments outside of the workplace and lacking belief in their own ability, often lead to women turning their backs on the corporate ladder.

Having children remains one of the biggest hurdles to career development. A culture of long hours and extensive international travel can affect some women’s ability to fill certain roles. Other issues for executive women include being perceived as being “soft and fluffy” by colleagues and struggling to earn the same level of respect as a male leader.

However, when women have plenty of support and direction in their early careers they are more likely to excel in the workplace. Early career opportunities are crucial, and planning for a promotion and career overall will boost success.

Tips on how women can get top jobs and earn their seat at the top table:

1. Understand the role of others

Having a good line manager and supportive senior colleagues are key career promoters. Most importantly, identify sponsors – those people who will support and endorse you. Develop relationships with people willing to be a mentor and/or coach.

2. Take and create opportunities

Having an early opportunity to take on stretch assignments, work internationally, work in a different professional context and join a challenging project team in an area outside your professional comfort zone are all vital in building your credibility and reputation. Remember, don’t wait to be asked but look for opportunities and put yourself forward for tough, challenging projects. Also, ask for what you want – women often end up earning less because they don’t ask for that pay rise.

3. Have a plan

Set goals, have a timeline for achievements. Be clear about the job roles you would like and the type of organisations you would like to work for. One of the women interviewed for the research set herself the goal of being a main board director by the age of 30 – she did this by the time she was 28.

4. Strategically network

Be thoughtful and deliberate about where you put your networking energy. Be focused and tactical in your networking strategy ensuring that your network includes people you enjoy being with, can learn from, find challenging, or will be beneficial to you career success.

5. Build your personal brand

Think about how you describe your career aspirations and plans. Your reputation and credibility depends upon the impression you create.

Evidence suggests that women have to work harder to get respect and get top jobs. But women shouldn’t become like men. They must maintain their own authenticity and approach to doing business.

Business books for women

Authors: Viki Holton and Fiona Elsa Dent part of Ashridge Business School. Their full research is published in the book ‘Women in Business – Navigating career success’

You can WIN the book – Just sign up to the Mum & Career Monthly Update between 24th May -30th June 2012 and you will have a chance to win. Sign up in the box on the top right-hand side or click here to sign up. Signing up is free and easy, no strings attached. Read more about this competition.

For more practical advise we would like to invite you to our next Mum & Career workshop  “Navigating your career around children” on Tuesday 9 October in the City of London. We have got some fabulous speakers lined up.

Managing perceptions when returning to work: taming the alpha male

Managing perceptions when returning to work: taming the alpha male

When you work in a male dominated environment and become a mum you will have to deal with a whole set of unhelpful perceptions. Working mums can be perceived as: no longer focussed on their career or no longer committed or able to stay late and be flexible.

My first brush with these perceptions happened when returning to work after having my first child. One Thursday at 6 pm, having finished my work for the day, I stood up to leave. My boss jokingly said “Thanks for popping in!” I reflected for a nano second and quickly responded “well apparently you get to leave at 6 if you do a five-day week”. And with that I said my goodbyes and left.

The next day I was the first to arrive and sat catching up on my emails when ten or so minutes later, my boss walked in. After exchanging pleasantries, he asked what I had meant the night before – my comment had clearly got him puzzled. Whilst I declined to spell it out, the answer was simple. Our five single male colleagues spent most Thursdays after work at the pub meaning most Fridays they came in late, with varying degrees of hangovers. Fridays were frequently spent with them regaling the tales of the night before which were highly entertaining, but not a lot of work got done and the same five would slope off at differing times after lunch.

Quite frankly I didn’t care that they did this. The team was hard-working and our results were always good. That they chose to work flat-out till Thursday and then have a more leisurely Friday was up to them. The format just was not one I followed and it wasn’t appropriate to be measured in the same way.

In fairness, my boss was a good-natured, affable guy. His comment could easily just have been a throw away remark that meant nothing. But ask yourself this – how would an alpha male react if that comment had been made publicly to him? Do you think he would have let the comment go? I sincerely doubt it. He would have defended his territory pointing out in some way or other that he had stayed late all week or that given his amazing results it was the quality of the time spent and not the amount that was important.

So yes, I could just have let the comment wash over me, but here is an important lesson for women looking to succeed in an alpha male environment: set your boundaries, just like alpha males do. You have to start building the foundations of your boundaries little by little, and then you can start erecting the wooden fence. Only when you have 6 ft of barbed wire at the top can you rest easy. This is a slow process and has to be done one step at a time. However, it will bring you respect and gain you the freedom you so badly need as a working mum.

Imagine if you left the front door and the windows of your house wide open with all your valuables on display for a whole day. When you came home would you be surprised to find a burglar in your house? You wouldn’t, would you? If you then started screaming at the burglar blaming him, do you think they may consider this a little irrational? Guarding your territory is critical in the alpha kingdom. Anyone who is not establishing these boundaries and building these fences is seen as either disinterested or an easy target. And like with a burglar, if you want back what you lost, you have a serious fight on your hands.

So that’s all very well I hear you all cry but if women tackle this conundrum the same way as men aren’t they simply exposing themselves to criticism? I am not advocating copying their methods – but you do have to find a way that gains you respect and that works for you.

Be creative, and remember to follow the ground rules for setting boundaries:

  • Start instantly – it is easier in the long run. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue – it won’t go away and will build up till you explode, which will only serve to undermine you further.
  • Keep it concise – make your point quickly and cleanly – too many words will either confuse the issue or will lead to you tripping yourself up and saying something you’ll regret
  • Avoid using “I” or “me” – de-personalise it. (Re-read the dialogue above) If you make it about you, you will be viewed as either whiney or a victim – or both!
  • Use humour – humour is a great way to make a point that will subtly hit the mark, and it will certainly make others wary of trying again!
  • Accept you may not be able to sort it out in one go – focus on fighting the battle, not on winning the war.
  • Don’t let a setback put you off: Rome wasn’t built in a day, just keep at it.
  • Always learn from it, then move on, regardless of the outcome.

So did it work out for me? Well later that day, as one of my colleagues tried to sneak out at about 3pm my boss called out loudly to him “Thanks for popping in!” The foundations for my boundaries had been laid.

Author: Jacqueline Frost – Business and Career Coach, Professional Speaker – Having worked in derivatives for 15 years, with her last role being European head of the group, Jacqueline is well versed in what it takes to forge a successful career in the City. Through this experience, she learned the do’s and don’ts of working in a highly pressurised, male-dominated environment. Now, she delivers unique and refreshing content as she reveals the “unwritten rules” of business and provides her clients with a step-by-step guide on how to use this knowledge to their advantage. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Superconference series. Download for free from her website:  The Secret Weapon – every woman in business needs to know...

Promotion women

How to fast-track your career in spite of the economy

Are you wondering how to get promotion? Would you like to be better valued and rewarded at work? Review your mindset and beliefs and follow these ideas to help you get proactive about your career.
The past few years have been an uncertain time for many people, with redundancy and the threat of job losses hanging over businesses in many sectors. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that women manage their careers proactively and are not backward in coming forward. To progress your career, you may need to change your mindset and underlying beliefs to be more like a man’s.

According to Dr Val Singh of the Cranfield School of Management, women’s lack of assertiveness can hold their career back: ‘The way business works is not the way women work. Women believe in a fair system in which the promotional and work structure will work for them if they do their job well.’ This is in contrast to men, who will make sure that their managers know they have performed well and will do more self-promotion.

Nobody likes people who continually blow their own trumpet, but there are lots of ways to be proactive and keep visible within your organisation. The mindset of believing in your own self-worth, what you have to offer and what you have achieved is key, so that you’re motivated to think proactively about your career.

Tell your boss about your ambitions

Firstly, talk to your boss about how you would like your career to develop – he or she is not a mind reader and this can demonstrate your commitment to your work and organisation. Don’t let your boss assume that, just because you have children now, your career ambitions are any less.

Then, stretch yourself. If there have been redundancies in your organisation, the people left will more than likely have to do more. Offer to take on things that interest you and could develop you, rather than waiting to be dumped with something you’re less keen on.

Develop yourself

Developing yourself is vital, too. Employers will always want people who are confident, can communicate well, are technology-savvy, work well in a team and are organised. If you feel you could do better in any of these areas, make sure you take advantage of any training inside or outside your organisation, as well as developing your technical or work skills. This way, if you do need to find another job, you have up-to-date transferable skills to offer.

Be visible

Keep your visibility high by participating actively in meetings, presentations and training. If you prepare well beforehand and research relevant issues, you can ensure you have a good contribution to make. Other ways to get known outside your own team could be to get involved in any exhibitions, events, or charity work your organisation does, to write an article for the in-house newsletter or volunteer for cross-team projects.

Build your networks

Contacts are also an important resource for your career, so build your networks inside and outside your organisation. There are plenty of professional networking groups that are industry-specific, or on-line and off-line networks for women, such as Every Woman, Women in Business, Ladies at 11 and Athena – for more information look at Mum & Career – Networking. Networks can be a good way of accessing training as well. And don’t underestimate the importance of building excellent relationships with customers and suppliers.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel

Make sure your boss knows when you’ve done well. Keep any positive feedback you get and note down your achievements throughout the year, so that when it comes to your appraisal or performance review, you have plenty of examples of successes to draw on. Then if jobs cuts come near, you can demonstrate your value to the organisation, or if the worst comes to the worst, you will know how to promote yourself to a new employer.

Author: Anne Williams has a background in HR and coaching and now works as a hypnotherapist. She helps people overcome fears and negative thinking patterns that hold them back in their work and personal lives. For more information about how hypnotherapy could help you, visit Transforming Health.

Women and the 'vision thing'

Women and the ‘vision thing’

Research shows that women leaders are not perceived to be as strong as men when it comes to articulating a vision of the future and translating that vision into a strategic direction for the organisation.

Read the research by INSEAD professor Herminia Ibarra and PhD candidate Otilia Obodaru

Boys Rules, Girls Lose – Women at Work

Boys Rules, Girls Lose – Women at Work

Do you know what women need to know first, before they embark on the road to the top? Make sure you do, and then go for it! And make sure to teach your daughters too.

Read this amazingly insightful blog by FC Expert Blogger Steve Blank.

Unwritten rules, why doing a good job might not be enough

Unwritten rules, why doing a good job might not be enough

Professional women wished they had spent more time finding mentors, building networks, and showcasing their work from the very beginning of their career. Many also wished to have participated in career coaching. Read the full research report by Catalyst Europe

Read more

How male or female is your brain?

How male or female is your brain?

Do the test and find out for yourself! Just check out your Empathy Quotient and your Systemizing Quotient.

The tests are published in the book The essential difference, by S. Baron Cohen. And you can also read our review of the book