Mothers Betrayed?

I have to confess to being more than a little disappointed at the views expressed by Nichola Pease  in the press recently suggesting that women were ‘wrecking their careers’ by taking their full 12 months maternity leave.  Ms Pease , who a mother of three is deputy chairman of JO Hambro was giving evidence to a treasury select committee investigating sexism in the City.  “Legislation  is turning into a nightmare – I think we have got too long maternity leave – a year is too long!”  She also felt that the practice in Norway, where businesses are required by law to give 40% of their board positions to women, are flawed.

What really disappoints me is the implied view that the legislation we have in place is there in some way to pander to the fact that women have children.  What about the business case for harnessing and retaining the skills that so many women have in the workplace?  And what about the hard evidence?  US research has shown that Fortune 500 companies with the highest proportion of female directors are more profitable and efficient than those with the lowest. And according to research by McKinsey, the strategy consultancy, European organisations with the highest proportion of women in influential leadership roles, showed better than average financial performance.

Perhaps Ms Pease ought to take a look! 

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Clever Decision Making

We’re looking forward to our next event, “Clever Decision Making”, which is taking place next Tuesday 27th October in London. Ahead of the event, we surveyed the female technologists that signed up, about their thoughts on decision making in the workplace. Here are some of the findings:

• 55% of women thought that they influenced their manager’s decision making well or really well. However many also cited convincing and influencing management as their biggest challenge with regards to decision making in the workplace.
• The majority (88%) enjoy making decisions and being responsible for them
• When asked about their main difficulties with decision making, another common answer was having the confidence that their decision was the right one, and making this decision quickly and effectively.
• 52% said individual judgement was more important than company policy when making a final decision

As always, we got some great comments too. A few of them are below:

• “I do often find it difficult, after weighing up the positives and negatives of each, to feel confident about the decision I’ve made and always wonder ‘what if?’ with the other options – I’d like to be less hesitant.”
• “I have to know everything before I am comfortable making a decision”
• [Challenge is] finding the key decision maker – getting them to say ‘yes’ and once they say ‘yes’ getting the follow up and key steps committed.
• “it is one of the biggest challenges in decision making – not getting swayed by the person that is better at putting his / her point across.

It’s great to see that the majority of the women we surveyed feel positively about something that so many people struggle with. What is really interesting is how many of the respondents commented that they wanted to make sure they had all the information and had considered all options before they made a final decision. This is a prime example of how women are less prone to taking risks than men, another reason why a gender balance is so vital to a successful team.

“Clever Decision Making”, which we’re co-hosting with Bank of America, will be held at the Merrill Lynch Financial Centre in London on 27th October. The keynote speaker is Julia Thrul, Founder of V.G.L. Ltd and there will also be a panel Q&A and networking session. It promises to be a great event so book your place now here! Hope to see you there.

Women vs women

It has certainly been a busy week when it comes to female related news. So many things have caught my eye that I have wanted to blog about, I don’t know where to start. So I’ll start at the beginning!

I saw this article in HR magazine saying that over a third of young female employees suffer from bullying at work. This abuse ranges from excessive monitoring to insulting remarks and two thirds of the women affected said the bullying came from more senior women. At first I found this shocking, but then I recalled some quotes we’ve had over the years from women who have faced problems, not from their male managers, but from female colleagues, and realised that maybe the problem of women vs women is more prevalent than we thought. So I pulled out some quotes from female technologists that we have surveyed over the last couple of years that have touched on this issue:

  • “The biggest obstacles that I have had to face have all come from women, not men. Some women see it as their solemn duty to bully, bribe, undermine, tease and generally obstruct in any way possible a woman who chooses a technical career. This starts in junior school and continues all the way to the boardroom! We need action to re-educate the ignorant section of the female population that it is not a threat to their femininity if some girls choose this career path.”
  • “As an ambitious single woman in a technology company, I sometimes get frustrated by the extent to which some working mothers are carried by their peers.”
  • “Female managers who do not have family are often ‘worse’ than men towards the needs of mothers.”
  • “Most women senior managers have come up the ranks making enormous personal sacrifices and see no reason why the rest of the female population cannot do the same.”
  • “[Men and women’s leadership] styles differ totally! Generally much easier to work for a man!”

Of course there are lots of women that have faced problems from male colleagues too, especially in IT as it’s such a male dominated field. But it struck me how many women were working against each other, when in fact female solidarity is crucial if we want to work together and break the glass ceiling. We need more positive female role models, encouraging women and helping them, not providing yet another obstacle.

Have you experienced a tough time from a female manager? Share your experiences – and your words of encouragement – here!

The Female Economy

I read Lady Geek’s recent blog post about the ‘Female Economy’ with interest, about how women represent the biggest market opportunity in the world. With female income totalling $13 trillion, this figure is larger than the GDP of China and India combined!

female economy

This got me thinking about how this is relevant to women in the workplace, women on the board and more specifically women in technology. What these figures show, and what this article in the FT also highlights, is that women have a huge amount of purchasing power and this could be a way of helping us out of the recession. With women representing such a big proportion of society and controlling so much consumer spending, how can companies afford not to have women on their teams and management? How are predominantly male teams going to be able to relate to their customer base effectively and understand its needs? The simple answer is: they can’t. Ultimately it’s going to be the forward thinking companies that employ and promote plenty of women that will have the edge when it comes to boosting sales, keeping customers happy and staying ahead of the competition.

New podcast

Are you getting bored with the music on your MP3 player? If so, now is the perfect opportunity to download the new podcast by Computing, which features me talking about career development for female IT professionals and the gender pay gap. I give my best advice for women wanting to reach the top in IT and also give my thoughts on what companies can be doing to help reverse the shortage of women in the profession. Click here to download it – it might make that gym workout or commute go a bit faster, and hopefully you’ll find it useful!

Equal Pay Day

A date for your diaries – 30th October is equal pay day, as I found from the new blog by the Fawcett Society. It’s not just a day to highlight the gender pay gap, it’s the day when effectively women in the UK get their last pay cheque of the year. And no, unfortunately we aren’t getting two months off to start Christmas early. It’s because the gender pay gap of over 17% is equivalent to men being paid for the whole year, and women only getting paid up until the end of October. Shocking statistic isn’t it?

If you want to get involved, go to the Equal Pay Day blog equalpayday@wordpress.com and see what you can do.

Women of the board

As we reported back in August, some research was released showing that having women on the board could have a negative effect on the bottom line. The survey of 2000 companies in the USA showed a correlation between firms with more female board members and lower profitability and lower market value.

But a report launched today is entitled “women improve boardroom effectiveness” – it’s amazing how different research on the same subject can come up with such conflicting results! Boardroom consultancy IDDAS interviewed a fifth of women on boards of FTSE 100 companies to quiz them about their success.

The report’s findings are not too surprising and highlight all the main attributes of successful women that I would expect – that women are good at teamwork, non-confrontational, less ego-driven and so rare at this level that they excel under the spotlight. It also said that characteristics of successful women directors include energy, courage, resilience and social intelligence.

It’s nice to see some more positive research – it seems like we’ve had our fair share of negative PR lately! I think that other qualities it’s important for successful women to have are confidence, political savvy, strong negotiation skills and the ability to network. From your experiences, do you agree? For some top tips on political savvy you can see our white paper – just click here.