Holiday Musings

Musings in the Holiday Season

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I recently attended The Boston Club corporate breakfast where Maureen Miskovic, EVP and Chief Risk Officer of State Street Corporation spoke about today's economic reality in the context of historic discontinuities and with an eye to opportunities in the future. Using the opening of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, she talked about the peril and the promise inherent in the times we face. I found her literary reference perfectly to the point:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

At Leading Women, we're staying focused on the promise of what we and our members have before us and on finding ways to support our members who are in transition. Keep your eyes open for upcoming FREE services for members in transition.

A Team of Rivals. Much has been made of Obama's selections for his cabinet and advisory teams. I'm reveling in the diversity (which has only increased since I wrote this blog entry). At the same time, I'm delighted in the example of leadership he's setting by advocating for robust debate. Vigorous dialogue has been cited as success factors by Jim Collins in Good to Great, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in Execution and numerous other successful executives and leadership researchers. Bringing this style of leadership firmly to the fore will benefit women - who generally favor this more collaborative approach to leadership over a command and control model.

Eyes on the Prize. On Saturday, I had the amazing experience of watching two bucks fight over a doe in the woods right outside my bedroom window. Listening to the clack of their antlers was a sensation and watching the escalation of effort was intriguing to me it was to the doe. Eventually she wandered off. I found it ironic that the bucks (having lost sight of their goal) kept fighting. The message to leaders in this: keep your eyes on the prize, when conflict escalates, bring the focus back to the customer, when adversity threatens, don't develop tunnel vision (see FedEx below).

Conscious Consumption and Giving. In RI, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts' Buy Local RI initiative made official an impulse that had been growing in me. Once during the height of the oil prices I realized that to fill my gas tank would be the equivalent working for a portion of time for the oil company. Boy, did that make me want to buy less oil - and that impulse caused me to be more conscious of how I was spending my money.

As the economy worsened, I found myself focused on finding ways to support local businesses before, during and after the holiday season. Instead of donations to the local food bank, for example, I went to my locally owned market and bought food to donate. When possible, I bought gifts from local stores. I focused my charitable donations on organizations that support girls and women. Instead of adding material to the land fills, I've continued to find ways to donate and recycle. Lastly, after this year of incredibly tight races (is MN decided yet??), I've made political contributions to candidates whose values resonate with mine.

Following the FedEx Lead. A standing ovation to FedEx CEO, Frederick Smith, for creatively addressing the economic challenges. Instead of laying people off and feeding the vicious downward economic spiral, he is taking a 20% pay cut. Other senior FedEx executives will get a 7.5%-10% reduction. FedEx's remaining U.S. salaried exempt personnel will draw a reduction of 5%. These moves are accompanied by a hiring freeze and other measures. At a time when CEO compensation is over 300 times what core workers make, this is a strategy that should be followed by every other company. I commend Smith's leadership - for FedEx and for business in general.

As we move into this year of remarkable challenges and historic change, may you stay focused on what's before you and the spring of hope.

I wish you all good things in the New Year.

Lead On!


Honor and Shame

Catalyst's 2008 reports on women on boards and women corporate officers was released this week. Among the information they released were lists of companies with over 25% women on boards and women corporate officers. The honor role includes these companies which are in the top 25 on both lists:
  • Kraft Foods
  • Macy's
  • Office Depot
Something to think about when you spend your dollars.

There are over 90 companies that have 25% or more women corporate officers and over 70 that have 25% or more women directors.

The halls of shame (companies with no women directors or no women corporate officers) include these well-known companies:
  • Hertz
  • Fidelity National Financial
  • GMAC
  • Hershey
  • Apple (darn, I LOVE Apple!)
  • Blockbuster
  • DELL
For links to the complete lists go here for corporate officers and here for directors.

For more on how Leading Women supports women's success and the activities of internal women's networks, visit our website.

Macho Cultures Driving Women Away

Human Resources Executive picks up on a study first reported in HBR in summer, 2008 that finds that women are leaving (or being driven from) science, engineering and technology positions in high numbers.
"Over time, some 52 percent of women working for SET companies have quit their jobs as a result of hostile work environments and extreme job pressures, according to the Athena Factor...

Hewlett and her team identified several of what they called the antigens in SET corporate cultures. They include hostile macho cultures, created by the male-dominated lab coat, hard hat and "geek" workplace environments, which exclude women or intimidate them through sexual harassment; isolation, in which a woman finds herself as the lone scientist or researcher on a team or site; and the systems of risk and reward, whereby women have trouble taking risks, often due to feeling a lack of support or mentoring.

"All these issues are interrelated," says Hewlett, "and very powerful when it comes to work/life balance issues: These are extreme jobs in which the average working week can be 73 hours, and women are also dealing with home and family issues. I think that cuts women to the core."

A February study on Women in Technology by Catalyst had similar findings.
"Women in technology were less likely than other employees to perceive that their companies had strong approaches to fairness and voice, with such things as advancement, promotion and salary," the study states."
To find out which companies are taking steps to address these problems and what the steps are, read the article here.

Uneven Progress

Many organizations around the country track local progress on women at the top of organizations and on corporate boards. Last week The Chicago Network released its most recent statistics and the results are mixed.

"2008 Census key findings:

  • Women directors increased from 14.3% from 15.0%, the highest level since The Network began tracking.
  • Six companies, up from four, have no women directors.
  • Women executive officers increased 0.4% to 14.4%, after falling for two consecutive years.
  • The number of companies with no women executive officers grew from 12 to 16
  • The number of companies with no women among top earners rose to 36, from 31."
Look for the report here.
Read the Chicago Tribune article here.

To Golf, or Not to Golf...

...that is the question for many women as they climb the corporate ladder. High profile women who golf include Dawn Hudson, former president of Pepsi-Cola North America, designer Vera Wang and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The source TravelGolf article notes the advantage of not being left behind when male colleagues hit the links and keeping your information flowing. And, it has several links to information about the Executive Women's Golf Association - a great resource if you're planning to take up the game or looking for opportunities to play.

Stopping the Brain Drain DownUnder

We have problems here in the U.S., and so do our sisters in Australia. Susan Heron, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management is quoted...
"...although women represented 50 per cent of tertiary graduates, the number of women in executive ranks was only about 10per cent. ''Research also consistently shows that women executives earn significantly less than their male counterparts in some cases they are paid just half what a man would earn.

''ABS data tells us that across the workforce women earn 16 per cent less than men.''

As reported in the CanberraTimes.