Entries in "corporations"

July 24, 2007

addressing unfair compensation in US companies

What were the managers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber thinking, when they continued to keep Lilly Ledbetter's salary lower than her 15 other peers, who were also front-line supervisors doing the same work, for years and years and years?

Apparently, they were thinking that the government would be on their side, because Ms. Ledbetter had not smelled the rat quickly enough. She did not receive any hints from coworkers until late in her career that she was not receiving fair compensation.

A jury found evidence of pay discrimination, and awarded Ledbetter back pay and damages. Goodyear appealed that judgment and it was reviewed this year by the United States Supreme Court, where it was overturned on a technicality by a 5-4 vote. The majority justices were Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

On June 20, CA representative George Miller introduced a bill to remove that technicality for all future workers; it has already been approved by the House Education and Labor committee. His cosponsors in the House of Representatives included Andrews, Berkley, Capps, Clarke, Davis of IL, DeLauro, Farr, Hinjosa, Hirono, Hoyer, Kucinich, Loebsack, Maloney, McCarthy of NY, McCollum, McDermott, Nadler, Norton, Sanchez of CA, Shea-Porter, Slaughter, Van Hollen, and Woolsey. A press release from the Education and Labor Committee last month provides more details about the bill.

On July 22, MA Senator Edward Kennedy introduced the bill in the Senate as well. Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Boxer, Clinton, Dodd, Durbin, Harkin, Leahy, McCaskill, Murray, Mikulski, Obama, Snowe, Spector, Stabenow, and Whitehouse.

If your district representative and senator are not both on those lists, then I join with Law Blogger David S. Cohen in urging you to call the congressional members for your district and state to urge passage of the bill. If you happen to run across a chance to ask any other presidential candidate a question, ask them where they stand regarding pay discrimination -- with employers in covering up, or with employees in seeking protection within a reasonable time period after learning about potential discrimination.

More information about the case and the proposed law is available at CorrectTheCourt, along with an easy web form for contacting your legislators. Of course, a phone call or "snail mail" letter may have more impact than a form-based email.

Kudos for Lilly Ledbetter for continuing to combat injustice and to stand up for future generations who might face unfair compensation in US companies.

June 23, 2007

perhaps the iPhone is not underpriced!

On Thursday, this Wall Street Journal article by Walter Mossberg was the second-most-emailed item in the paper. Mossberg reviewed the Blackberry Curve 8300 and the Nokia N95, two alternatives to the iPhone, and raved about the N95 with its very high-end camera.

Perhaps I was not that far off base in considering the iPhone as a rival for the Blackberry in my previous post about the iPhone vs. the Blackberry and the Treo. There was another article in the WSJ highlighting how much pressure business IT managers are getting from their employees. Many current Blackberry users want to ensure that they can buy a new iPhone on their own, and still access their Blackberry-based work email when they want. Whether Apple and Research in Motion will work out a patch that satisfies security concerns is an open question... I'm fortunate that the outcome of that negotiation will not affect my ability to use an iPhone for email.

I do still want to know what the monthly charge will be from AT&T for data charges, though. That would make me think... but not for very long. I hope there are still some iPhones available in Cupertino on Sunday, July 1!

June 20, 2007

transformative cooperation book is now available

I came in to the office today for the first time in a while, and found a box addressed to me, Ron Fry, and David Cooperrider. Immediately, I knew that it was the first copies of the Handbook of Transformative Cooperation. I'll be carrying one around all day, and I'll be surprised if my feet touch the ground again before bedtime -- I'm floating in a cloud of happiness and relief!

June 16, 2007

iPhone takes on the Blackberry and the Treo

I am by no means a marketing expert, but it doesn't take much education on the topic to figure out that products anyone can acquire are less desirable to trendsetters. Perhaps most users of the Blackberry and the Treo are not trendsetters -- perhaps they like to just follow the crowd. They may even be required to do so. (I have certainly been told that more than one employer requires the use of Blackberry, a dubious policy for organizations to adopt if they are to recruit and retain outstanding employees in today's world of work.)

The question is, how many people want to be trendsetters? My guess is, more than the number who will be able to acquire an iPhone between now and Christmas. Probably by a factor of three or four.

I'm definitely a trendsetter-wanna-be. The demo of visual voicemail was appealing -- I hate having to wade through seven voicemails without knowing if any of them were left by anyone I'm really waiting to hear from, or if they're just lower-priority communications that should have been sent through email. Appealing, but not compelling.

It was the demo of websurfing on the iPhone that was compelling. Clearly, I'm in the target market, because the webpage being surfed is not myspace -- it's the New York Times. The demo shows that Apple has applied the same attention to human-computer interface when designing the iPhone that they have become known for with their operating systems, laptops, and iPods. This commercial is really all the instruction in using the iPhone any typical user will need.

So, I have signed up for a Cingular/AT&T cellular account, and for email alerts with both the cellular provider and with Apple directly. I'm not going to be camping outside a cellphone store on the night of June 28, but I'd love to be able to figure out how to acquire an iPhone before I attend the Academy of Management annual international meeting in Philadelphia at the beginning of August. Perhaps I would not even need to take my laptop with me! It could be a new frontier in flexible work.

How much of the Blackberry and Treo market will Apple be able to take a bite of between now and Christmas? This report from last December doesn't even show Apple as a player in the "converged mobile device" market -- and in fact, the manufacturers of the Blackberry did not hold the top market share spot. That honor went to Nokia, with 38.7 million units shipped. Nokia also holds top honors in the smartphone market segment. The unknown is how Apple's exclusive partnership with Cingular/AT&T will affect trendsetters' willingness to go with the iPhone.

The logical followup question is, how much will the converged mobile device market grow between June 29 and the end of December? The 42 percent growth rate over 2005 sounds quite impressive. My bet is that the rate will be at least sustained, if not increased, through the end of 2006. In some ways, accelerating the growth of this market segment would be just as much of a victory for Apple as stealing market share away from the Blackberry or the Treo would be.

Once again, Steve Jobs' team will be creating an entirely new stream of Apple customers, who will almost inevitably be drawn to purchasing songs on iTunes and laptops at the Apple Store. Here's hoping that the product launch on the 29th doesn't cause any riots!

June 13, 2007

Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics

Our handbook (which I co-edited with Ron Fry and David Cooperrider) is to be released next week, according to its Amazon listing. (The other good news is that Amazon is quoting a price almost 30% off Stanford University Press' list price.)

Here is a list of chapters and contributors:

Continue reading "Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics"

April 03, 2007

benefits of welcoming work environments for all

Two quick links to recent studies suggesting that work environments where members of demographic minorities are welcomed and fully integrated into work culture yield positive performance benefits for all workers:

March 19, 2007

changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?

I commented last month on the push for workplace flexibility among fathers, and whether it is actually occurring or not. This morning, I found an entire issue addressing motherload, the overload that mothers face, in the American Prospect. (This is not a magazine that I normally read -- does anyone know something about it?)

The issue includes articles by Scott Coltrane (What about fathers?) and by Linda Hershman, What a Load, who indicts our nation's lack of progress in gender equity, and lays the blame firmly at the feet of fathers, who she says are getting a free pass.

Continue reading "changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?"

December 11, 2006

working in the 21st century

Another interesting article about Best Buy's results-oriented work environment popped up over the weekend, in Business Week. I wonder which types of employees adapt best to this type of freedom... since I would imagine that boundary-setting skills are required. It offers such tremendous promise for stress relief, though!

I will look forward to hearing what my students think, next semester.

(My earlier entry on ROWE can be found here. )

August 09, 2006

I'll be heading to Atlanta soon for the Academy of Management

I’ll be facilitating a roundtable in the ODC doctoral consortium on Saturday, and participating in the ODC board meeting on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, I’ll be giving a presentation with my colleague Latha Poonamallee as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 676 | Submission: 12162 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Monday, Aug 14 2006 12:20PM – 2:10PM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Inman

She’s Having a Baby!?: The Transition to Motherhood and Working Women’s Identity and Careers

Chair: Judith A. Clair; Boston College
Chair: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Discussant: Laura Morgan Roberts; Harvard U.

In this symposium, we explore how women make decisions about, move through, and negotiate identity and career as they consider getting pregnant, and progress through their pregnancy and childbirth at work. While as scholars we theorize about the implications of having children for women’s careers, we less commonly discuss or study this “middle period” when women move from “working woman” to “working mother.” We view this period as consequential for women in that it sets the course for the future relationship women have with their careers and organizations. In addition, we find the identity and career issues as women make decisions about and move through pregnancy (and their bodies literally “blossom” before their own and co-workers’ eyes) to be rich with possibility for theory building. In addition to building scholarly knowledge, further insight into this period of working mothers’ lives holds practical implications for women and policy makers as women’s decisions and experiences have implications for their work identities and careers. Our goal during this symposium is to spark interest among scholars to further explore the dynamics of pregnancy decision making and the movement through pregnancy and childbirth in the workplace and its implications for working women.

Better Later than Earlier? Age at First Birth and its Impact on Perceived Career Success
Author: Jamie J. Ladge; Boston College
Author: Monique Valcour; Boston College

Private to Public: Emerging Images and Identities for Pregnant Women in the Workplace
Author: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Author: Judith A. Clair; Boston College

Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity: Breastfeeding and the Return to Paid Employment
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Latha Poonamallee; Case Western Reserve U.

and on Tuesday my colleagues will present a paper on which I am a co-author, as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 992 | Submission: 14998 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 15 2006 8:30AM – 10:10AM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Cairo

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit

Chair: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.; [E-Mail This Contact]

Hewlett and Luce’s (2005) recent study suggests that women are leaving the corporate world (off-ramping is the term they use) in greater numbers than men. An alarming finding from their study is that when these women want to get back into the corporate world (on-ramp), zero per cent of those who were previously in the business sector want to return to their former employers. Such a finding indicates that the women were not happy with their experiences in their organisations. The kaleidoscope career model (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) suggests that women face three career issues (authenticity, balance and challenge) that they then shift for a best fit at different career stages and thereby create different patterns, much like the kaleidoscope does. In mid career women are coping with family/relational demands and hence issues of balance move into the forefront. They continue to seek challenge and authenticity, but those issues make way for the need to achieve balance. In late career, women have resolved the balance issues to a large extent and the questions of authenticity take center. They continue to wish for challenge and want balance, but authenticity moves to the forefront. Researchers seem to agree that the mid life stage involves a re-evaluation and rebalancing of both personal and professional aspects of a person’s life. However, there are very few studies that have attempted to understand the nature and components of this rebalancing act.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Halla Tómasdóttir; Cranfield U.

Turning a Blind Eye: Executive Women Conforming to the Gendered Organization
Author: Nurete Leor Brenner; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Lindsey Godwin; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Diana Bilimoria; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Deborah A. O’Neil; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Exit
Author: Deirdre Anderson; Cranfield U.
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Voice Through Women’s Corporate Networks
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Savita Kumra; Oxford Brookes U.

If anyone would like to see a copy of either presentation, please comment here, or send me an email.

August 01, 2006

Best Buy's best bet: Results Oriented Work Environment

I missed a really interesting NPR piece while I was out of the country, focusing on how Best Buy has implemented flextime. Here's the link to the audio of Wendy Kaufman's report. (The story is just over 3 minutes long, and includes an introduction by Renée Montaigne.)

Listening to the piece makes me long to learn more about how this change is really rolling out within the company. I assume that it is overseen by the company's top HR officer, Lori Ballard. I wonder how I could get connected to her for an interview that would let me write a little mini-case for my course next spring... any suggestions?

July 06, 2006

our rights to our own time

This is an excerpt from a very interesting new book, called the Motherhood Manifesto. The particular excerpt can be found here:

"It's Not Just Mothers"
by John de Graaf, National Coordinator of Take Back Your Time

Though working mothers may be the most pressed for time and in need of relief, America’s time poverty crisis affects nearly everyone. American work hours have been climbing slowly, but steadily since the mid-1970s and today, the average American works nine weeks—350 hours—more each year than the average Western European.

Increased working hours threaten our quality of life in many ways: Americans increasingly recognize the impacts of time poverty on their lives. According to a November 28, 2005, Fortune magazine study, even corporate CEOs now want more time outside work (84 percent), even if it means making less money (55 percent). The same article pointed out that many European countries are actually more productive per worker hour than the U.S. is. And a recent report of the World Economic Forum found that several of the world’s most competitive economies are in Scandinavia, where shorter work hours and generous paid leave policies are taken for granted.

Europeans enjoy multiple legal protections of their right to time, including four weeks of paid vacation after a year on the job, paid sick leave, limits on the length of their work weeks, generous paid family leave benefits (which also apply to fathers), and increasingly, the right to choose part-time work, while retaining the same hourly pay, healthcare, opportunities for promotions and other, pro-rated, benefits.

A new campaign, TAKE BACK YOUR TIME, has called for a “Time to Care” legislative agenda for the United States, including paid family leave, paid sick leave, three weeks of paid vacation, limits on compulsory overtime and policies making it easier to choose part-time work with healthcare and other benefits."

June 21, 2006

encouraging men to use flexible work policies

Lisa Belkin's column of June 18 in the New York Times provides a very interesting update on the efforts of a consortium of employers to share ideas about retaining and promoting qualified women professionals. The idea that I found the most creative was the reframing of flexible work policies which allow Lehman employees to work from home -- the policy is now framed to appeal to employees' patriotism, suggesting that testing work-from-home technology helps the company be prepared for another terrorist attack.

It'll be interesting to follow the initiatives that Belkin describes to see if they have the desired effects!

April 28, 2006

farewell, MGMT 251 students

Yesterday was the last class of the semester for both sections of MGMT 251 students. As is our tradition, the teaching team spent most of the class session listening to students give "one minute speeches" in which they identify highlights of the course experience, and recognize classmates who contributed to their learning.

For many of the students, their team project performing an analysis of a local company as a potential employer was a highlight. Some students noted how much hope they felt about learning that the Cleveland area is still home to so many different types of employers that appeal to their desires for career opportunities and positive workplace cultures. The companies that were profiled included...

Continue reading "farewell, MGMT 251 students"

April 21, 2006

responsible capitalism: employee-owned companies, and how they support one another

Did you know that Ohio is home to a Center for Employee Owned Corporations? Are you planning to attend their conference today in Akron?

Companies with ESOPs suggest a more socially responsible variant of capitalism, where the interests of the stockholders and of the employees need not be divergent. When employees have a stake in the corporation, the long-term interests of investing in a particular region can be taken more seriously when members are elected to the board of directors, and when decisions about relocating facilities or changing working conditions for employees are considered.

Want to learn more?

Continue reading "responsible capitalism: employee-owned companies, and how they support one another"

March 08, 2006

let this be the century when sexism ends

Today is Blog Against Sexism day, and as promised, I'm going to write something about pregnancy discrimination. It's by no means the only manifestation of sexism in our society, but it's one that I have thought about a lot over the last few years, especially since I began teaching my undergraduates the basics about nondiscrimination in employment interviewing.

In a great post on BlogHer about ten days back, Jory DesJardins told a story that sounded all too familiar to me:

Recently I helped a friend get a position at a firm where I knew the principals, who were both men. She already had a small child, and they'd agreed to flexible hours. She worked from home but was enormously structured, starting work at 5am to begin sales calls on the East Coast and taking breaks in the middle of the day to be with her daughter. The situation was working well, until she got pregnant again. Her voice was low and secretive when she called. "I'm pregnant," she nearly whispered. "Congratulations!" I said. She didn't sound as happy as I was for her.

"Thanks," she said. "I haven't said anything yet to my boss."

Sadly that is often what women think upon hearing such news--how do I make it look like having another life in the house won't have any effect on my work performance?

Yes, many employers consider it a bad thing if a worker gets pregnant, and it's such a short-term and narrow-minded point of view. Forget the joy of bringing a new life into the world, forget the long-term contribution that the mother and her social support system will make by raising a young citizen with untold promise, forget that all workers eventually retire and we do need, as a society, to nurture the next generation of productive workers... are you going to be able to deliver your tasks on time to me over the next six months?

I understand that it is disruptive to the normal flow of work to deal with someone going on maternity leave, to find a temporary replacement, to manage the uncertainties of when the new mother will be ready and able to return to full-time work. But let's not forget to be human when we are managers -- let's not forget to say "congratulations!" and mean it. After all, most women are already confronting a lot of stress and challenges when they are holding down a job and growing a baby simultaneously, especially in countries like Papua New Guinea and the United States, where they have no guarantee of paid maternity leave. The least you can do, as an employer, is not add to that stress with a selfish, short-term reaction to the news that an employee is expecting.

According to Carmen Armenti, many women academics either attempt to hide their pre-tenure babies by having May babies or delay having children until after they have earned tenure. In both situations, women are hiding their maternal desires to meet an unwritten professional standard that is geared toward the male life course. While I did not go this far with my first child, I did make a conscious effort not to conceive at a time when I would have gone on leave in the middle of a semester. I didn't want to develop relationships with students and then "leave them in the lurch" when I went into labor, and I didn't want to develop any complicated system for my colleagues to cover for me through the second half of a semester.

That many academic women feel these pressures to minimize the visibility of their motherhood and its impact on their work productivity in the first few months after childbirth is problematic, particularly since that many academics pursue long careers -- 30, 40, or sometimes even 50 years long. Why must their first 10 years follow a lock-step pattern of 4 years earning their doctorate, followed by 6 years of incredibly long hours spent on research, writing, and teaching, in order to earn tenure? Why must people who wish to pursue an academic career, but would prefer not to work 55, 65, or 75 hours a week, be treated as second-class citizens?

Many women entering professional work face these challenges, not just academic women. In consulting, twice as many women exit the big companies from the middle rungs of the career ladder as do men. In medicine, a whole wave of new entrants into the field are seeking ways to combine careers as doctors with family or other personal interests -- both men and women. The organizations which can figure out how to rework traditional male career patterns and create options for their professional employees, both male and female, are the ones which will succeed in retaining outstanding talent in the coming decades, when baby boomers will retire and there will be smaller numbers of new professionals entering the US workforce.

Let this be the century when biased attitudes toward working women who get pregnant fade away, replaced by an appreciation for the value that childbearing and parenting have in our society in the long term.

Let this be the century when shards of the shattered glass ceiling are swept up and shipped off to be recycled, and the maternal wall is demolished for good.

Let this be the century when employers learn to manage employees flexibly, allowing them to structure their own days so they can be most productive.

Let this be the century when women (whether mothers or not) come to be treated as true equals, in the workplace and in their homes, and our global society learns the meaning of equity.

Let this be the century when sexism ends.

(If you want to participate in Blog Against Sexism day, just make a post in your own blog, and put a tag on it that says "blog against sexism". Then you can read other posts made in honor of the cause via Technorati.)

December 17, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans with a wifi network

I had missed this post by Youngjin Yoo about the plan to blanket New Orleans in wifi, which I think is a wonderful way to go about rebuilding downtown in a new and better way. As Professor Yoo writes, however, there are questions about how it will be implemented:

"This is an interesting idea, but leaves several questions."

"1. Does New Orleans have full power throughout the city? Do they have other basic infrastructure in place? Or is free WiFi being considered a part of basic infrastructure now?"

[snip]

"3. It is one thing to have free WiFi throughout the city, but it is another to have plans how to use them. Even if you build them, they may not come, or will they?"

Click through the first link above to read the full original post by my colleague.

October 07, 2005

What Women (and Men) Want: Flexible Workplaces

In my previous entry about how young women's expectations regarding work and family roles, and what it will take to level the playing field for mothers and fathers in the workplace, I suggested that Louise Story's New York Times article suggesting a new trend toward full-time at-home motherhood might have some flaws. This new Alternet commentary by Linda Basch, Ilene Lang, and Deborah Merrill-Sands encourages other writers to correct the bias in Louise Story's reporting by refocusing public attention not on the anecdotally-documented preferences of elite women, but on the statistical patterns evident in the American workplace as a whole.

Some of the statistics in the commentary spoke particularly eloquently to me, so I am quoting them here:

Continue reading "What Women (and Men) Want: Flexible Workplaces"

August 31, 2005

Apple customer service rocks!

My laptop screen started acting strangely last Saturday, and disappeared entirely by Saturday night, so on Sunday, we took my iBook out to the Apple Store at Legacy Village. They verified that I needed a new logic board, confirmed that the repairs would be covered by Apple, and asked whether I wanted the repaired laptop to be shipped to the store or to my home. I had the use of a Windows-based laptop, courtesy of the Weatherhead Help Desk, for just long enough to drive me nearly insane, and provoke me to make a solemn vow that I will never, ever go back to the dark side again. My iBook arrived on our doorstep a few moments ago, good as new, and I am so happy with the very quick turnaround time that I am likely to forget that the laptop ever was broken in the first place.

July 28, 2005

new ways of organizing work time

When I called for new ways of organizing careers in my previous post, I neglected to mention the desirability of new ways of organizing the work day. Both will help to address the underrepresentation of women in the upper echelons of business. For one interesting idea about reorganizing the work day, check out a recent article in Time magazine that talks about Best Buy's ROWE (results-oriented work environment) which sounds like the next generation of flextime. Yesterday on Talk of the Nation, Phyllis Moen (a prominent scholar of work-family issues) and two other guests discussed why so few workers are eligible for flextime and Best Buy seems to be finding a way of addressing those inequities -- their ROWE initiative is implemented for a whole work group at a time.

Aaron Shaffer commented on my previous post on the glass ceiling, asking how much of a change I would find reasonable, given the differences in testosterone levels between men and women (he linked to this 2000 article from the NYT magazine by Andrew Sullivan). I think the argument here is that men (with higher levels of testosterone) are more likely to aspire to win at all costs, and thus may have higher ambitions or more persistence in pursuing their ambitions, even in the face of competition from others who also aspire to sit in the CEO chair. However, there are specific elements of Sullivan's article that might contradict that argument -- in particular, his finding that blue-collar workers have higher levels of testosterone than white-collar workers. He offers no specific evidence that testosterone levels of successful venture capitalists or business leaders in other sectors are higher than they are for school principals or directors of nursing. In an unpublished draft of a chapter by Linda Dunn-Jensen and Linda Stroh, they present evidence from several studies that women's levels of ambition are as high as men's at the beginning of their careers, but may lessen over time. This is much more consistent with the notion of ambition being constrained by socialization as it is by the notion that ambition might be determined by hormones. Testosterone may be an influence, but I would expect it to be a small one.

What is most important to me is to see women rise to the top of the corporate world in sufficient numbers that they will be treated as individuals, and not as tokens. Here's a good summary of Rosabeth Moss Kanter's ideas about tokenism. With women representing less than 8% of top managers in the US workforce (as documented by the Economist article which prompted my comments yesterday), we are definitely still in the token role. We may not need that number to rise all the way to 46%, to be exactly proportional to women's representation in the overall workforce, but I think it's reasonable to expect it to rise to 30% or more.

July 27, 2005

Speaking of glacial change...

... last week the Economist published an article about the conundrum of the glass ceiling, stating that although "research by Catalyst found a strong correlation between the number of women in top executive positions and financial performance among Fortune 500 companies between 1996 and 2000" the following facts still hold true:

  • Women account for 46.5% of America's workforce and for less than 8% of its top managers, although at big Fortune 500 companies the figure is a bit higher.
  • [In a] large sample of British quoted companies, 65% had no women on their board at all in 2003.
  • Female managers' earnings now average 72% of their male colleagues'.
  • The management-consulting business.... loses twice as many women as men from the middle rungs of its career ladder.

How do they explain the persistence of the glass ceiling? They mention women's inability to access informal social networks, stereotyping of women as less capable of leadership, a lack of visible female role models, the flattening of corporate structures (which may make it more difficult to get promoted), and women's greater struggle with work-life issues (including taking time off to care for children, parents, and household demands). They also explore the possibility that women are less ambitious for top jobs, and that corporations are losing their best women to the more flexible world of entrepreneurial businesses.

What leverage do we have as a society to change this finding? And no, I don't believe the finding that diversity is associated with increased performance will be enough on its own to overcome stereotypes and unconscious patterns of informal social networking. We need to work from at least three angles:

  • We have to start young, and we have to work on males' beliefs about themselves, not just women's beliefs about their capacity. Some of that work is already being done -- my husband, for example, pulls his weight with the "second shift" tasks in our household. Still, he's uncomfortable with the idea of taking a paid paternity leave, even though his company offers one, and women will never make it to the top in large numbers if men continue to believe it's their responsibility to take care of their households only through paid work.
  • We have to find new ways of organizing careers that appeal to many (rather than being relegated to minority status as mommy tracks) and that allow people to move into and out of full-time work. In the US, that may mean moving away from associating health insurance with employment -- a huge political task.
  • And we have to build networks of supporters for these initiatives which include members of the current, largely male, elite. This probably involves appealing to the generational protectiveness of CEOs and corporate directors who are fathers of daughters.

This is a much bigger change than simply aiming to raise breastfeeding rates in Northeast Ohio. It will probably still be underway when my daughter gives birth to her first child. Nevertheless, the same principles apply, beginning with Margaret Mead's axiom ("never doubt that a small group...") and including some of the additions recently suggested by Zaid over at WorldChanging. He suggests this addendum to Mead's famous quote:

"For a small group of thoughtful and committed people to change the world, they must believe that change is possible. They must be ready to act the moment a stuck system becomes liquid. They will only be effective if they display collective intelligence. Finally, they must live in a small world."