Views from Abroad (no, that's not a broad!)

In Jamaica the U.N. is demonstrating its commitment to advancing women onto boards. 100 women will be trained because a study...
"...found that in the last decade, women's participation on boards in Jamaica only moved marginally by two per cent in the private sector and four per cent in the public sector. It also found that while men believe overwhelmingly that women are prepared for senior decision making positions on boards and commissions, women themselves do not share this view as enthusiastically."
And with data about women and the quality of board governance that I hadn't seen before, Sandra Glasgow, executive director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, opened the program noting that...
"...a major study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada in 2002 on women and corporate boards, suggested a strong link between female numbers on boards and good governance credential. In this, researchers found that more female directors pay attention to audit and risk oversight and control; that women more than men tend to consider the needs of more categories of stakeholders and that 72 per cent of boards with two or more women conduct formal board performance evaluations, while only 40 per cent of all-male boards do."
As a strong advocate for getting more women on boards, I know that correlation isn't the same as causation and address explanations for this kind of finding. Nevertheless, it's important to broadcast this data widely. Read more about the Jamaican program here.

I continue to find value in Jim Collins Good to Great research, especially the qualities of "personal humility and intense professional will" that he noted as attributes of the executives he and his team of researchers studied. Adele Horin, writing an op ed for the Brisbane Times, has an interesting take on luck, humility and success in this age of economic turmoil.
"It's been unfashionable in the greedy years to give luck the credit it deserves in shaping destiny. For women in particular luck is a tricky issue. Research shows men attribute their success to talent and hard work and most women attribute their success to luck. Such self-effacement has not reflected well on women...

In the greedy years, the male explanation for success became the norm. Humility went out the window. Hard men like Mark Latham made it sound that anyone could succeed if they were "aspirational". Idealogues like John Howard put the onus on individual effort, and free choice. Those with the drive, the talent, and the plan could move deliberately and purposefully up the ladder. The word "loser" came into vogue to describe the people who lacked the moral fibre, the gumption and the strategy to succeed.

But now the best-laid plans are in tatters. If it is not plans for a well-remunerated retirement, it is plans for promotion that are in shreds, or for a career in finance for the thousands of commerce graduates coming through, or for the job-with-prospects in print media for the hundreds of journalism students. All such plans have been ripped apart by a tempest that was unforeseen."

In India, women entrepreneurs and CEOs have joined hands to form the first-of-its-kind social networking platform to encourage more women in becoming entrepreneurs.
"The organisation will be holding workshops, knowledge and training sessions across 15 cities in the next three months to encourage more women to start businesses of their own. The best of the lot, handpicked by a panel of leading women entrepreneurs, will be presented with the Stree Shakti Awards during June this year."
Stree Shakti, the women's wing of the world's largest non-profit organisation of entrepreneurs (TiE), hopes to have Melinda Gates and Indra Nooyi attend the celebration...great choices both!

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Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

The Week in Review

Boards are from Mars, Consumers are from Venus! ION has published its 2009 Report on women in boardrooms and the numbers are appallingly few. The report this year offers a very positive focus on actions to increase the number of women on boards in the face of what could be a wave of turnover due to tenure and age of current directors. Here you can find a link to vote your proxy to influence board composition as well. ION also posts the top 10 on the same page. Among them: Bare Essentials*, Estee Lauder, Kraft*, Avon*, Pepsi*, Xerox*. Do you buy their products? (* means woman CEO)

What's almost as bad as the lack of women directors is the lack of publicity the report has received. What is it about self-fulfilling cycles of old-boy advancement and incompetence that the media doesn't get? This could be a really big story - check out my earlier post on board short-signtedness here. I guess what I call "the myth of meritocracy" is a tough one to bust, even in the face of contrary evidence.

I always appreciate it when white, business men over the age of 45 (and it helps if they're republicans) "get it" and advocate for women's advancement. Recently one who fit the bill, the CEO of Ernst & Young, James S. Turley used the bully-pulpit at the World Economic Forum and the release of his own company's Groundbreakers report to make the case for moving women up in organizations in order to solve and prevent future economic crises. He said,
"At a time when our global economy is facing its greatest challenge in decades, we have to capitalize on the contributions women make as leaders, entrepreneurs, and employees. Many corporations and governments have been making efforts to advance women – now is the time to accelerate those efforts. It's time to place renewed emphasis on women's advancement and women’s perspectives as a key tool in moving businesses and economies ahead."
F500 Women CEOs Rock! Two of my favorite F500 women CEOs have relatively new videos on YouTube. Check out Anne Mulcahy's Silfen Leadership Series discussion of the Xerox turnaround here and Indra Nooyi on CEO Stardom and more here. It's been inspiring to be researching them and the others for my upcoming book.

Great Places to Work NAFE's 2009 Top Companies have been chosen. Find them here. If you want to learn about the 12 strategies these companies use to get women to the top, read about it here. I was pleased to note that even though it's gone out of favor, some of the companies directly tackle issues of stereotypes, assumptions and gender bias.

Where to Work has a list of global companies supporting women's advancement. You'll find it here.

Shifting the Lens 1 In a speech I gave on Women's History Month, I spoke of the importance of thinking not only of women in history, but of shifting our lens to look at the experience of women's equality (or lack thereof) in history. Here's an example of what I mean, Britain's Green Party is led by Dr. Caroline Lucas. She is proposing a woman-centric slate of legislation that would address the 17% wage gap, get more women onto boards and make it easier to take equal pay lawsuits to court. Without looking through a lens of women's experience, these proposals wouldn't be on the table. You can read about them (called "radical" by the article's author) here.

Shifting the Lens 2 JFK established the first Commission on the Status of Women, every president had a similar body until George W. Bush disbanded Bill Clinton's White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Now President Obama has appointed Melanie Verveer as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues.
"The President's decision to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues is unprecedented and reflects the elevated importance of global women's issues to the President and his entire Administration."
He has also created the White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families. This year the council (made up of cabinet members and others) will focus on:
  • "Improving women’s economic security by ensuring that each of the agencies is working to directly improve the economic status of women.
  • Working with each agency to ensure that the administration evaluates and develops policies that establish a balance between work and family.
  • Working hand-in-hand with the Vice President, the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women and other government officials to find new ways to prevent violence against women, at home and abroad.
  • Finally, the critical work of the Council will be to help build healthy families and improve women’s health care."
Way to Go, Kiwis! News from my dream destination...not only is it lovely, the citizens have elected a woman as Prime Minister (but that's old news). The new news is that a Grant Thornton business research report finds that 27% of senior managers in New Zealand are women. This puts NZ ahead of the U.S., Great Britain, EU and Australia (also studied by GT).

If you're wondering why all the pink...I'm celebrating spring!

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Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

Happy International Women's Day

The statistics are stunning! Watch this slideshow to learn:
  • There is no country in the world where women’s wages are equal to those of men.
  • The value of women’s unpaid housework and community work is estimated at between 10 to 35% of the world’s gross domestic product — amounting to between US $4.7 trillion and $15 trillion in 2005.
  • AND more...
Brought to you by the International Development Research Centre.

As Hillary Clinton said during her confirmation hearing:
"If half of the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women's rights in every country, every region, on every continent."
This is why the World Economic Forum issues its Gender Gap report (see earlier post). This is why women's history month is worth celebrating - the history of women's experience must remain in our awareness.

We Got The Entire Cabinet!
I'm happy to report that President Obama created an interagency Council on Women and Girls. President Kennedy created the first Commission on the Status of Women. President Clinton created a White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach, which was abolished by President Bush. From NOW.

I follow the Women's Museum on Twitter and they sent a link to their International Women's Day blog. It's worth a look.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

Women MBAs Earn Less (Why am I Not Surprised?)

I didn't remember that the Equal Pay Act was signed by President Kennedy in 1963. I was reminded while creating a speech for Women's History Month. far we haven't come.

In yet another report on unequal pay (thank you Lilly Ledbetter for putting teeth into the Act), The Economist is reporting on a study on the earnings of men and women MBAs. From the National Bureau of Economic Research:
"The authors tracked the earnings of 1,600 MBAs who graduated from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business between 1990 and 2006; they attribute the differences to choice of subjects (women took fewer finance courses), that women’s careers were subject to more interruptions, and that the women worked fewer hours than the men.

The main underlying reason for the second and third of these explanations is that once women MBAs had children, many cut back on hours, or dropped out—13% of the women in the study were not working at all ten years after graduating, while the corresponding figure for men was a mere 1%. The researchers stress that active discrimination is unlikely to have played much of a role in the pay gap—but the continued influence of gender roles in determining career paths is clear." (e.a.)

I beg to differ...women, weigh in: is thinking that the belief that "women take care and men take charge" counts as "active discrimination"? Do you think active discrimination still impacts career advancement?...wages?
Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

Recent News of Note and Happy Women's History Month

Reiterating that companies whose boards have the highest percentage of women directors outperform those with the lowest by huge margins (42% higher Return on Sales, 53% higher Return on Equity, and 66% higher Return on Invested Capital) margins, I have been hypothesizing why that is. I believe it's because outside women directors have a lesser stake in "we've always done it that way" thinking. I found this quote from Davia Temin, President and CEO of Temin and Company (she will be speaking to Women Corporate Directors on The Role of Boards During Times of Crisis) most interesting:
"Do you remember when 'Maximize Shareholder Value' was the mantra of corporate board directors? Today's mantra is much shorter -- Survive...In times of crisis, corporate directors' first responsibility is to cut through denial, understand that this is not business as usual, and begin to think through, with management, a full range of crisis scenarios. These days, every organization needs to fully develop a series of bad to worse case strategies, and it is the board's obligation to make sure that happens." (e.a.)
I continue to believe that we are facing a crisis of leadership competence in the financial and automotive companies that are dragging down our economy. Denying the market forces that put them in jeopardy is only one example of missing out on the fact that their failed strategies were based on "business as usual"...and an unsustainable house (pun intended) of cards.

It's Women's History Month and 98 out of the 100 news releases I've read about celebrations focus on the accomplishments, achievements and contributions of women. What's missing? A focus on the history of being a woman - the movements that have provided us with the vote, reproductive rights, civil rights, equal employment opportunities, equal pay legislation (note I didn't say equal pay). Would that the celebrations looked more clearly through that lens.

Excellent career advice from Down Under: The entire article is excellent - here's the first of 15 tips: to get ahead stop being so good at your job. GREAT counterintuitive advice!
A Harvard Business Review study "found that while women outshone men on most of the leadership dimensions measured, there was one startling exception – the ability to recognise new opportunities and trends, and develop a strategic direction for an enterprise.

Surely one exception should not matter – except that ability was the most highly prized by men when looking for leaders. Women, who are very strong on the technical elements of their job and have their nose to the grindstone, can be easily overlooked for promotion."

At Leading Women we've been beating this drum for 10 years! A whole chapter in my upcoming book addresses strategic acumen - as do modules in our leadership programs.

FORTUNE's Pattie Sellers is reaching out to mentor global women who have been part of Goldman Sachs' mentoring program. She writes,
"If you’re thinking now that Fortune is now in the business of helping the best and the brightest business women in developing countries, well, you’re right. But these are unusual times. And we’re all doing things outside our job descriptions."
To which I say, KUDOS!...and as a woman, caring about the status of women around the globe is part of all our job descriptions. History has proven that the improved equality and status of women rises families, communities and nations.

Dee Dee Myers' new book, Why Women Should Rule the World, has this fitting message for International Women's Day and Women's History Month:
"Without a doubt, the increased presence and power of women in public life has generated enormous, positive change. But getting to a place beyond double standards, where equality is not a slogan but a way of life, will demand more. It begins with acknowledging that men and women are different. And it embraces the idea that because they are different, women will bring with them a different mix of experience, values and points of view. That, in turn, will expand the range of what’s acceptable – and what’s possible. It won’t be easy; if it were, it would have already been done. But it’s in our economic, social and political interest to create a world that’s freer and fairer. Where women have more power – and are allowed to use it. Where everyone is judged by their performance – and their potential. Where double standards are only a distant memory."
Read the entire excerpt here.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.