When I was in San Francisco at the Wisdom 2.0 event I interviewed speaker Jeanine Becker.
Jeanine Becker: Women are often coming from this place of “the only thing that is going to get us there is our struggle and effort”. Switching that to “how can we be pulled by our joy and pulled by our passion?” …. Maybe with no less activity, but coming from an inspired place, coming from the desire of what we want to create, rather than coming from this idea of “if I don’t keep pushing I’ll never get there”.
Gina Lazenby: it’s funny, one of the reasons that women leave corporate life is that they have a bullying boss so they get out. They don’t always give the feedback that their boss has been bullying … but you can internalise that and be your own bullying boss and be very hard on yourself. We can’t afford to do that. And I think that’s why it’s important that we as women need to be connected, working and collaborating together, celebrating together because we can’t make ourselves ill with work, we have to enjoy it. We only have this one life, we might as well have work be an expression of our best us, and be a vehicle to bring our joy to the world.
JB: absolutely. I keep thinking about what Ariana Huffington said at the wisdom 2.0 conference about how we need to spend less time crafting our resume and more time creating what would be said in our eulogy. So, what is it that we want to be known for? What is the impact we want to make…. And it’s usually something bigger, big enough that it is beyond what I can do on my own, and so then it is about pulling in the right resources to help that happen and collaborating together.
GL: and that is something that women do very well, so we need to draw on every collaborative bone in our body and find others to work with, find out who they are, what’s important to them, and so expand our businesses, not just by our effort, but also by leveraging the skills of other people.
JB: I think the part that women do really well is that they enjoy building relationships. They don’t feel the need to do it alone, there is a desire to bring in others and there is often a willingness to see value in what others are bringing. Those are the pieces that I think women do really well…
GL: …. Seeing the value in others, yes, but not necessarily seeing the value in themselves!
JB: the second part is, they have to see as much value in what they are offering, in what they are bringing to the table and then being able to hold those as being equally valuable as they problem solve together towards a solution.
GL: thank you. We’ve had some benefit here of what your law students gets at Stanford. Forget working on your own, I think the new way of doing business is really to seek out as many collaborative partners as possible so that we’re not lonely, and we’re bringing more joy and more success.
JB: yes ….. more meaning and more joy. And real business results.
Watch another video interview with Jeanine Becker where she speaks about the key ways to make collaboration work
The Sunday Times headline intrigued me….. “Grandmother, 71, tackles slave traffickers for the Pope”. The mind boggles … have they been recruiting in the old people’s homes ? Read on and the front page article reveals that the Pope’s new crusade is actually going to be headed up, not only by a retired academic from Warwick University, but also the Vatican’s most senior woman. Well that sounds more like it! Who wants a Granny taking on that role?
So why did the newspaper refer to Margaret Archer as a “grandmother”? And not only that, not once in the lead article was she referred to as a professor. It said she “spent most of her career as an academic” and in the previous week’s edition the paper also carried a small appointments notice where she was called a “British sociologist”. Margaret Archer’s new role at the Vatican is as President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences where she says she intends to “use the pulling power of the Vatican to enlist experts from around the world” to support the Pope’s work against modern slavery.
It’s a big job with a big vision and one that caught the attention of the editors of the Sunday Times, enough to warrant placement of the story right under the masthead. Yet they could not see fit to use her previous job title as a Professor and they managed to diminish her, not so subtly, by introducing her as a grandmother which has absolutely no relevance to the story whatsoever. I doubt any man placed in that same job would have been referred to as a “grandfather”. In fact, when is a man ever introduced as a father in a professional context?
I had a similar thing happen to me. Back in the day … decades ago when I ran a PR consulting firm, I won an award from the Chartered Institute of Marketing for my work launching a hotel client. It was a prestigious award, there was a glitzy ceremony at a smart London five-star venue, and after the presentation, interviews were given with the media and press packs distributed. Somehow the story got piped through to the newspaper in the town where I grew up … Scarborough. My mother sent me the press cutting that subsequently appeared and I was shocked to read in it that I had been described as a former chamber-maid. I was horrified. I have never been a chamber-maid. They just decided that I must have started out life in the hospitality industry as a maid and worked my way up. Obviously, local girl makes good … at last, after making all those beds!
Is so little expected of us? Can we not be known for our professional work? Why do you think the Sunday Times wrote that headline?
We think of power being at the top of our most visible structures …. government and large corporations. And that’s where the 80:20 balance persists and in some cases women don’t even reach the 20% number. The ratio of women to men as CEOs of the top 100 companies (FTSE) in the UK is still only 2 to 98 so that’s a proportion of 98:2 instead.
How will we ever create change? It’s coming up to a century since women were first given the vote in the UK (1918) and I am sure they felt that the job was done when they finally achieved that but not so. 100 years later and women are still marginalised at the top levels of government (now only 3 women in the Cabinet, as of last week) and business.
The question is …. do we need to be in those top Ministerial and CEO and Company Board positions to create change and have influence? Well yes, I think so, but perhaps not entirely ….. BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has just published their 2014 list of women who they are calling Game Changers, the top 10 most influential women and none of them are in Government, and only one is a business CEO.
The women selected this year seem to be using their influence to challenge power. Baroness Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered Stephen Lawrence, has been named ‘most powerful woman’ and most of the women on the list are activists or campaigners. They are getting on with things outside the system, doggedly and passionately working for change.
That’s definitely something to think about. As more and more women demonstrate their skills and abilities in the public service, volunteer and social change arena, perhaps they will be “seen” and invited to change the game where it desperately needs change … inside the system.
Let’s think about what we can each get active, or more active, in ……. what cause can we take up or align to with greater energy, passion, vision and action? Women focusing on the greater good are making a difference and getting noticed.
The 2014 list in full from BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour is:
1. Doreen Lawrence, OBE – anti-racism campaigner
2. Julie Bailey, CBE – campaigner and founder of Cure the NHS
3. Professor Nazneen Rahman – geneticist and cancer specialist
4. Carmel McConnell – activist and founder of Magic Breakfast
5. Julie Bentley – chief executive of Girlguiding
6. Nimco Ali & Leyla Hussein (jointly) – anti-FGM activists
7. Dido Harding – CEO, TalkTalk Group
8. Francesca Martinez – comedian, actor and disability campaigner
9. Laura Bates – founder of the Everyday Sexism Project
I feel for Maria Miller, I really do. And her family…. she’s not the only one affected by this. I can’t imagine how she has managed to keep it together this last week since resigning last Tuesday. If I were her I would indeed feel badly for what I had done but also totally mortified if I had read the press coverage about myself. She paid a high price for her mistakes, not only losing her job but her reputation is in shreds and that is not something that can easily be recovered, if ever.
What I have been churning over is the reaction in the press. So many people have felt free to release a lot of nastiness in her direction.
How can this STILL be an issue?
I think the first thing to say is that I was extremely disappointed that expense mis-claiming at Westminster is still an issue. After the expense scandal blew up five years ago, surely they got it all sorted out? No, it seems they haven’t (and apparently there is more to follow). The opportunities for misunderstanding about what is appropriate to claim apparently continue.
It can’t be that difficult for an MP’s accountant to sit down with a Westminster official or a Rule Book and get clarity on what IS and what ISN’T appropriate for their client to claim? And why have all these huge mortgage claims anyway? Why not give every MP the same daily ‘living-away from home’ allowance for them to spend in whatever way they chose? MPs, particularly busy Ministers, need better financial advice than they are getting. The Evening Standard called it a “complicated eco-system”. While we are at it, the whole culture of Westminster needs a major re-think but that’s a MUCH longer conversation.
A Witch Hunt? Bullying from the Press
Reading the headlines and the miles of columns devoted to her, this was a really big issue last week. From what I have discerned, I think it would have been difficult for her to remain and resigning was the best option. My concern is the level of negativity directed at her from ALL quarters (other than the Prime Minister himself who was resolute in his support). The nature of the press coverage was brutal, nasty and personal. She was criticised way beyond the expenses … everybody had a go calling her arrogant, a philistine, bad at her job as Culture Secretary and failing in more ways than one.
Ouch! To me it felt like it was open season to criticise and to throw out any insults they felt like, which really is a form of bullying. If I had been a young woman considering a career in politics I think I would have decided against it last week. Maria Miller was hung out to dry by the system and ripped to shreds in the media ….. MPs in her own party actually spoke out against her (that has not happened before as they almost always close ranks), although they were the same MPs as those who voted against the recent Bill she drove through to enable Gay Marriage. Even the party Vice-Chairman felt it fair game to take a swipe and tweet “About Time!” when she did resign. That was totally unnecessary. Prime Minister David Cameron thought so too and promptly sacked him. That added to the drama.
Are we getting upset over the wrong things?
The media went crazy over Maria Miller and her “arrogance” and seemed determined that she should resign. I am sure we could sit down and argue over this for many hours but I do wonder why there is no similar outcry over other issues which for me are way more important. Take the issue of the Government spending over £500 million stockpiling two drugs that have turned out to be no more effective than aspirin. This news made the front page as a sub-story underneath Maria Miller. After the Bird Flu alert the Government bought Tamiflu and Relenza which have subsequently been shown, not to prevent flu, but to reduce its occurrence from 7 days to 6.5 days. Is that all??? I ask you, £400+ million spent on that … now THAT is criminal.
And yet where is the outcry? We’re too busy fretting over a few thousand that potentially was over-claimed for a Minister’s house. Yes I know it’s not the money it’s the principle … and it comes down to ethics and trusting politicians. I think we lost trust in politicians long ago but where is the public enquiry and debate about the wasted money spent with the pharmaceutical companies that was for nothing??! And this is just one story …. what about the £100 million investment by the BBC now lost after the Digital Media Initiative was scrapped. Why aren’t we jumping up and down about that one….?
The Claim or the Apology? What upset people the most?
Not all MPs/Ministers with expenses issues have had to resign and Maria Miller was the first one to be asked to make a formal apology in the Chamber. I wondered in my previous blog if the real issue was the expense problem that got to people OR ….. whether it was the apology which was quoted everywhere as being “graceless” and only 32 seconds.
The Guardian says she “conveyed no contrition”. I watched it again and I don’t agree but yes it was short. It was this criticism which made me think that if the Minister had been a man people might not have been so upset by this brief, concise apology. Professor Shelley Correll from Stanford University speaks of women being held to a higher standard of niceness than men (watch her video interview). Perhaps this was a factor in the reaction. Maybe. Francois Hollande is still President of France after lying and cheating on his partner and she was the one who came away with the bad press. Now that one is a real mystery!
Following a fascinating conversation with Professor Shelley Correll, head of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, I was reflecting this morning on what she said about women being held to a higher standard of niceness than men … and whether this had any impact on the just-announced resignation of UK Cabinet Minister Maria Miller MP. Her resignation, somewhat forced onto her by screaming newspaper headlines and several colleagues in Westminster, follows an investigation into her expense claims and what is now being quoted over and over again as her 32-second apology which was labelled as “graceless”.
I am wondering if it was the expenses claim and the need to pay back certain monies OR… the fact that she was not contrite enough in her apology. I am somewhat suspending judgement as I don’t know the details, only those conveyed through the media which may not have been entirely neutral. It was Maria Miller who was in charge of two very controversial areas of reform: press regulation and gay marriage, both of which seemed to make her many enemies, enemies who now seemed very vocal in her hour of difficulty. The MPs in her own party who spoke out against her were the same ones who voted against Gay Marriage.
I am wondering, in the light of what Professor Correll shared in our video interview, if Maria Miller was being held to a higher standard of niceness than if a male Cabinet Minister had issued the same brief apology? Is she out because she was not contrite, or nice enough? There are so many other occasions where ranks are closed around government leaders by their colleagues but not in the case of this woman. I have watched the apology on the BBC website and it sounds straightforward, she does not sound arrogant but more likely nervous. Her supporters say she was trying not to cry. The atmosphere in the Westminster chamber is not one that is conducive to anything but direct lucid communication, not a place to make an emotional statement.
So do watch the interview … see what you think?
Transcript of conversation
Shelley Correll: This is another one of these really hard problems ….. the unconscious bias literature shows us that women are less likely to be perceived as competent than men are. One of the things a woman might do if she feels people aren’t seeing her is to promote herself a bit
Gina Lazenby: we are told to toot our own horn!
SC: exactly. .. And so what happens when they do that, it does raise their level of competence with which they are seen, so it really does help, but at the same time people do not like self-promoting women.
What happens is they see them as more competent but at the same time they like them less. We see this with women leaders as well. Enacting a leadership role requires women to act in a more assertive, competent, confident way. In doing so people often don’t like them. They see them as pushy, selfish or bossy, and not being very likable. This comes about because one of our stereotypes about women is that we should be nice ……. we hold women to a higher standard of niceness than men.
Acting in a leadership role doesn’t look so nice to us when a woman does it but it looks perfectly fine when a man does it. So there is a trade-off there when a woman looks confident and is self promoting – people don’t like her. If she backs off and acts more meek and mild they like her but don’t see her as being very competent. And the problem is, to be effective, it is better to be seen as both competent and likable, and not have those be a trade off.
GLspoke about how reports published in the Harvard Business Review say that people now want leaders with empathy and warmth who are much nicer that previous versions ….
SC: I don’t think the changing way we view leaders is going to automatically benefit women. I think we are going to have to do more than just hope that that is going to take us somewhere.
GL: there are a lot of conversations out there following on from John Gerzema’s book about the traits people want in the modern ideal leader. 8 out of 10 traits are listed as feminine.
SC: Being empathetic is seen as being feminine and is also associated with other low status groups like ethnic minorities who are seen to be more empathetic, even if they are men, than their white counterparts. Again, this is what people say they want from leadership.
A group that is in power has the ability to redefine themselves in ways to maintain their position. I am not optimistic that this on its own will bring about higher representation of women leaders
The biggest gains that will be made is in reinforcing that when women are in leadership positions, it’s good for creativity, it’s good for team problem solving, it’s good for a company’s bottom line …. Those are the kind of things that are going to motivate firms to want to really go out and get more women. That is where the biggest attraction is.
You can pass all the laws you like about equality of the sexes but until we tackle our own internal stereotyping about what we ourselves think about men and women, progress to real and full equality will continue at the current glacial pace.
There is an almost daily conversation about advancing women to the top and getting more of them onto Boards. Forcing companies to rebalance gender at senior levels with legislation around quotas has few fans as women, and men, want everyone to succeed through merit but the odds are often stacked against women without any of us realising.
According to Professor Correll from the Michelle Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford university, an unconscious gender bias against women has replaced the blatant sexism of previous decades. It’s invisibility makes it much more difficult to counter yet its effect continues to hold women back without … and we all seem to be part of the unconscious thinking that drives our judgements and decisions.
A Leaders Club Event in London April 10th
If you are in London you can join a conversation about the steps we can all take in correcting the gender balance at the top of business. Thursday April 10th the Leaders Club has an invite – do join us – find out more on this blog posting. WATCH THE VIDEO:Transcript of my conversation with Professor Shelley Correll
Gina Lazenby: I wanted to talk to you about your work around unconscious bias, where you share the findings from sending out the same CVs, with one set had a man’s name on and the other set had a woman’s name on.
Shelley Correll: the progress that we have made around the world that is where blatant bias and sexism has gone away. What we’re left with is the more unconscious kind of bias. This is harder to deal with because it is subtle and of course unseen. The blatant stuff is easier to see and root out. At the Institute we have been doing a lot of training is to reduce the unconscious bias. One of the studies that we cite a lot is one that was done in the field of psychology, is where CV’s were sent out to universities applying for a brand new PhD faculty position in a psychology department. They got the receiving Department to rate the CV. Half of the CVs had a man’s name on, the other half had a woman’s name on. A perfect design to check out if a bias was there.
With a man’s name, the applicant is a much higher chance of success
Not only did the researchers find out that people greatly preferred the man over the woman – that is they saw him as being worthy of hire – the gap was astonishingly large. It was a 30% gap between recommending the man be hired versus the woman be hired. That was in 1995. Have things got better since? In 2012 a similar study was done in the USA for a person applying to be a Science Lab Manager. The same research design and it was sent to science faculties all over the USA. Sure enough in 2012 we found the same patterns. The faculty doing the rating said they were more likely to hire the man and the woman; if they were going to hire the man they were going to pay him a higher salary; and they said they were more likely to mentor the man should he be hired.
20 years after the study, research shows women are STILL disadvantaged
We see women being disadvantaged across all those dimensions, even in 2012, even in a Science Faculty where we might expect more objectivity. There is no reason to believe that these people set out to do bad things, it’s just that gender is affecting how they see the applicant, even without them being aware of it. And that is a really tough problem that we have been working on.
These things come about because we are quickly categorising people without even thinking about it. And if we didn’t do that then we wouldn’t be able to make it through the day. When you go to sit down in a chair you have never seen before you don’t stop and puzzle over it being chair. You couldn’t get through life without being able to take these shortcuts … that’s what’s happening here, unfortunately it is introducing bias into our evaluations. It is the kind of thing that we have to be very diligent about paying attention to – how it is that we are evaluating men versus women and very much self-monitoring our decision making.
We have to think about what we think about! GL: I think that is right, when you point out about shortcuts in our thinking. This is where we can pause and be more conscious of our thinking. On the basis that this is happening, and you have done this research in America, I am sure it will be the same in the UK … what about this question of quotas that people talk about. If I was a senior woman in a senior position in a large organisation and they talked about quotas, if I project myself out into that situation, if I got promoted I would wonder “is it because i am good or is it because I am filling up the numbers”? So I can see the resistance but the rate of change is so glacial, what do you think about the conversation about quotas?
Increasing the numbers of women is important, we need to find more creative ways SC: It really is a double-edged sword. On the one hand change has been so slow and so putting a quota up there immediately starts to change the numbers and changing the numbers are extremely important … I think we know that getting more women into positions of power is extremely important not only for equality but for our societies, for our businesses and all of that but you’re right it comes at a cost and the cost is that you as a woman might think “oh, was I really talented enough to be here?”.
Even if you think you were, those people around you might suspect that you are there because of the quota not because you are talented. And so I think that is the negative side of it … to me if there was some other way to get women into those positions without a quota that’s what I would prefer. It’s just I don’t know what that is. I think we have to manage the stigma that could become associated with women if people think they are in those positions just to fill a slot.
It reminds me of one of my colleagues here who was the first female law professor at the Stanford Law School. Someone asked her when she got the job how it felt to get the job because she was a woman, she said it feels a lot better than not getting the job because I was a woman. As that has been my experience before!
GL: You are right, it is a challenging discussion, but I think even just talking about it pushes the agenda forward. The threat of it, the possibility pushes the conversation forward.
Young people now seeking careers in more gender equitable companies
SC: In the USA, with quotas, it’s a bad word .. I think similar things that have been done are where people publish data about law firms, with the percentage of partners that are women … they put them up when students are looking for jobs and the companies respond to that because young students today want to work in places that are gender equitable. You put those numbers up there to shame people and draw attention to it. I think that helps as well.
GL: Providing information, being transparent, I think that is the key isn’t it.
Read about another conversation with Professor Correll on the Motherhood Penalty and watch the video.
Join us at the event in London on April 10th to discuss actions we can rake to start leveling the playing field.
The conversation about why more women are not at the top of corporations, as CEOs and Board members continues to gather momentum, both in the UK and in most developed countries.
Next Thursday April 10th in London, the Leaders Club (TLC) presents an important event aimed at driving this conversation forward and debating practical actions to recommend that will come from a cross-section of the business community.
Two events were originally held in London and Liverpool at the start of the year focusing on the conversation “Women in Business: where is the level playing field?” and were attended by over 80 professionals involved in management, coaching, human resources and training development.
A report of the two evening discussions highlighted many issues but a clear strand emerged that showed a need to move beyond discussion and outline clear practical actions. Quite clearly the playing field is not level so creative conversations about new actions are necessary. What ideas will emerged to be championed?
The Conflict Dilemma – where WORK is seemingly at odds with LIFE, how this affects everyone not just women
The Confidence Issue – from some angles it looks like women need fixing or changing. What can women do, how can the system support them and what needs to change in the system.
Looking Ahead: The Next Generation of women leaders prepared now
What can we actually DO to create a more level playing field for women in business? The focus of the discussions will take on these 4 areas:
Celebrate differences, reward performance and focus on outcomes: how can we impact business culture to be more accommodating to the integration of work, life and family?
Leadership development and culture change.
Reality check on what it takes to get to the top.
The “Quotas and Representation” issue: what creative alternatives can we come up with that build on the idea of quotas but which do not involve legislation?
If you have an interest in Leadership then you are welcome to join the conversation on Thursday April 10th. The Leadership Club is a unique forum for members to exchange ideas and best practice and develop new approaches. It is an unparalleled networking organisation, where members are encouraged to use their expertise and experience to inspire leaders of the future. The Club’s exclusive membership is made up of leading practitioners in top management, leadership and learning and development. Members are drawn from key organisations, large and small, from the private, public and services sectors, as well as the military.
From my first participation in January I can report that I met some very interesting people and found the group