Entries in "on the working world"

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 27, 2007

an alternative to the SMART goal framework

I wrote up a post at my new blog, Work-Life Chronicles, about the alternative to the SMART goal framework that I have developed and used in the last year of teaching MGMT 250 and 251. I call it START NOW, which stands for:

Support
Temerity
Awareness
Reflection
Trying Again
Notes
Options
Wise Action


To read more about each of the labels in the START NOW framework, and some funny stories about my adventures learning to ride my Vespa, click through to read "a different take on setting and achieving goals".

Please let me know what you think of the new blog, too! I'd welcome you to add it to your blogroll, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if you find the first few posts interesting.

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 19, 2007

competing in the war for talent

Susan Cantrell has written an insightful article in the latest Sloan Management Review highlighting four rules for retaining desirable employees in this age of tight competition among employers for knowledge workers and service professionals. Worth a read! I especially like her points about making HR policies more flexible, though of course that can always raise suspicions among employees about a lack of equity.

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 11, 2007

let 2008 be the summer when unpaid FMLA ends

I just came across a post I made a little over a year ago, which I rather grandiosely entitled "let this be the century when sexism ends." Similarly, I hope that next summer, the 15th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act, will be the summer when we see the act revised so that all working Americans are protected from job loss if they need to take time off because of temporary health issues, or to care for others with health issues. Why are so few Americans protected by this important act? Read this poignant first-person reporting by Margaret Lowry to learn the basics.

In 2004, California implemented a statewide improved version of the FMLA, which provides partially paid leave for the first six weeks of a medical or family leave of absence from work. The California Family Medical Leave Research Project at UCLA has documented some of the benefits of this expansion of protection, although the scholars are troubled at how few workers are aware of their new rights. The report also documents the high number of workers who needed to take a leave before the new CA law went into effect, and were unable to do so, because of the financial consequences of taking even a short unpaid leave.

In December, the Department of Labor issued a request for comments on the FMLA, and received many responses. The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave presents many arguments in favor of strengthening the law. Some businesses argue that the law is already too broadly applied, and ask the government to support limitations on who can be approved for leave -- see this article in the San Antonio Express-News online.

Sherrod Brown serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. I certainly hope that he has some interns at work on analyzing the comments received at the Department of Labor. It would be wonderful to see a well-reasoned revision to the original 1993 FMLA act introduced in congress in the coming months. Perhaps before its 15th birthday arrives, the act could be given the gift of meaningful power to help all workers who need to take leave for serious health issues or to care for others dealing with serious health issues.

May 20, 2007

academic rhythms

Last month, one of my old posts which received a very high number of hits was the one on work rhythms of academic and professional life. As a followup, I thought I'd write a bit about why I haven't posted in about a month, and comment on the academic rhythms of the end of the semester.

In a nutshell: students don't realize that when they finish their final papers and exams and presentations, a professor's work has just begun!

My last post was April 10. On April 12, the drumrolls of grading began, as my first student teams began delivering presentations to their classes about their final projects. This required that I send each team feedback on their presentations after class -- emails that require tactful phrasing, indeed.

By April 19, I began receiving end-of-semester papers. While I am fortunate to have teaching assistants for both of my courses, I still need to be involved in the grading process, which also takes time.

Classes ended on April 26. Then I needed to pull together my grading spreadsheets, deciding on a final point scheme for class participation, and resolving any problems with missing grades (it always happens, and not just because a student didn't hand anything in). By this point, I also had to deal with two teams in which the members gave each other less-than-satisfactory peer appraisals -- which means that I had to talk to everyone on each of those teams. This is no easy matter when students are cramming for finals and don't want to take time out to visit with a professor in her office.

I extended the deadline for final papers in one of my classes until April 30, which meant that the TA and I had less time to turn them around and get grades back to the students. On May 5 and May 7, those same students delivered presentations to their classmates in lieu of a final exam. There were 26 presentations in all over the 2 dates, and I had to grade all of those and enter the scores into Blackboard (our online course management system.) I finally filed grades on May 14.

For the rest of last week, I took time off, recuperating from the push of four 60-hour weeks in a row. While 60 hours of work in a week didn't seem like a huge burden when I was a college junior taking 21 credits, that was almost half a lifetime ago. Perhaps I'm also wiser, in recognizing the need for my body and my brain to recuperate after running such a mental marathon.

And if anyone comments to me that "it must be nice to have the summer off" I may just bite off their head. The ambitious list of papers to write and projects to wrap up that I composed in early January will be coming back to haunt me this summer. It is nice to be able to work at a coffeeshop or at the library or out on our screened porch, but I definitely have work to do this summer, and less time off than I'd like.

April 11, 2007

reviewing the reasons for the pay gap

Another book author is out promoting her latest conservative title, by publishing misinformed opinions about the reasons for the pay gap between men and women in the Washington Post. (If you have missed this, there's a good review of the recent events here, including links.)

I refuse to post to the original op-ed by said conservative book author, because, as I said above, she is misinformed. Basically, she argues that the pay gap can be explained by women's choices of more flexible work, but Elaine McCrate published a study in 2005 documenting that men have more access to flexible work schedules than women.

Here are some useful links to research explaining reasons for the gender pay gap:

And how do we solve the problem of the pay gap? Martha Burk reviews the slow movement of the Fair Pay Act.

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 26, 2007

"wasting time" at the office

As an update on my entry from early last Friday morning, here's a link to the WCPN podcast of last Friday morning's 90.3 at 9 show during which I was one of the guests to speak on the topic of "wasting time at the office".

My "maiden" experience on the radio waves as a guest was quite enjoyable, particularly because I had the pleasure of meeting the Friday host, Regina Brett. The show's producer, Paul Cox, and assistant producter, Marie Andrusewicz, both helped me to settle in at the studio. I even learned how to use a "cough" button!

Here are some background links to information I mentioned during the segment:


The piece on wasting time at the office is in the second half of the podcast, and the first half is also worth listening to, with guests commenting on population loss in Cuyahoga county and how we can take action to counteract the current trends. One of the guests recommends this report, The Vital Center, from the Brookings Institute. The guest who was in the studio with Regina Brett and myself, Mark Rosentraub, has a number of worthwhile pieces published on the topic of urban and regional renewal, also worth reading:

March 23, 2007

WCPN at 9 this morning: workplace distractions

I have been invited to be a guest of Regina Brett this morning to talk about the topic of workplace distractions. Tune in to 90.3 between 9 and 10 to listen, and call in to ask questions if you'd like!

From WCPN's website: "All around us people are filling out brackets in a buzzer-beating frenzy. This is the week offices everywhere turn into casinos. Beware the Ides of March Madness. It can make workers take their eye off the ball. Parts of Cuyahoga County resemble a dry lake bed. People are moving out, often times to neighboring counties. Join Regina Brett and talk about workplace distractions and Cuyahoga County's human ebb tide Friday on The Sound of Ideas."

March 22, 2007

Handbook on Women in Business and Management

I just received a copy, hot off the presses, of the book that Diana Bilimoria graciously invited me to co-edit with her two years ago. It is even listed on Amazon! With a wonderful jacket quote on the back from Jean Bartunek, a former president of the Academy of Management and one of the scholars whom I most admire in my field. I'm floating around on air...

Book Description
`This very impressive Handbook takes established research topics about women in management and treats them in fresh and novel ways. The chapters are intellectually interesting, sound, and provocative, and meet the editors' aspiration to stimulate high quality research on women's experiences in work organizations. I recommend it highly.'
- Jean M. Bartunek, Boston College, US

This comprehensive Handbook presents specially commissioned original essays on the societal roles and contexts facing women in business and management, the specific career and work-life issues of women in these fields, organizational processes affecting women, and the role of women as leaders in business and management. The essays shed light on the extant structures and practices of society and organizations that constrain or facilitate women's representation, treatment, quality of life, and success.

Despite decades of ongoing inquiry and increasing interest, research on women in business and management remains a specialized field without mainstream acceptance within business and management disciplines. The Handbook presents the current state of knowledge about women in business and management and specifies the directions for future research likely to be most constructive for advancing the representation, treatment, quality of life, and success of women who work in these fields. It provides the foundations for improved societal and organizational structures, policies, and relational practices affecting all in business and management. Thus, by enhancing the knowledge base that improves the work and life situations of women, it suggests ways to elevate the societal and organizational systems for all.

The Handbook will be an essential reference source for recent advances in research and theory, informing both scholars of organization studies, gender, diversity, and feminism; human resource specialists; and educators of and consultants to business organizations and management.

Contributors include: N.J. Adler, J. Beatty, D. Bilimoria, K. Bourne, R.J. Burke, M. Calas, C.L. Cooper, M.J. Davisdon, L.M. Dunn-Jensen, A.H. Eagly, C. Gattrell, L. Godwin, L.M. Graves, D.T. Hall, M.M. Hopkins, M.C. Johannesen-Schmidt, A.M. Konrad, M. Las Heras, D.A. O'Neil, S.K. Piderit, G.N. Powell, L.K. Stroh, V. Singh, L. Smircich, S. Terjesen, S. Vinnicombe, H.M. Woolnough, D.D. Zelechowski

I'm also having my first experience with the business of book publishing. I'm wondering who will ever purchase copies, given the astronomical price! (I'll be putting in an order in about 2 weeks for a big batch with my 50% editorial discount, so please let me know if you'd like me to reserve a copy for you.)

March 20, 2007

doodling, knitting, and generating creative ideas

Business Mom made a very interesting point in one of her recent columns (she has a blog, too) about the male culture of business. Why are there so many self-help workshops and advice books out there focused on helping women fit into the "man's world" of business?

Pragmatically, of course, it's because men do still dominate most business meetings in both numbers and airtime, and definitely make up the large majority of corporate board members.

Yet the tempered radical in me protests, and wonders whether I wouldn't be better off making small talk before or after a meeting about my knitting, rather than about the latest sports scores or even about my students' latest antics and accomplishments. After all, no matter how hard I've tried, I'm liable to confuse a football team with a basketball team if they're from out of town, and I have no memory for scores or great plays or bad calls by referees.

Business Mom makes the point that men doodle and play with their Blackberries and cellphones during meetings -- why can't I knit? It really does help me listen (really listen to others, rather than focusing on my next response in an argument) and develop creative ideas. I can still make eye contact with others, interject my ideas when appropriate, and even stop to jot down notes. And yet, when I have occasionally done this at work, I have been subtly discouraged.

Perhaps in the future there will be classes for men about how to make small talk with women about their knitting or cross-stitch or quilting projects, just as women are now tutored to speak footballese and encouraged to play golf. That would be a whole new world of work.

doodling, knitting, and generating creative ideas

Business Mom made a very interesting point in one of her recent columns (she has a blog, too) about the male culture of business. Why are there so many self-help workshops and advice books out there focused on helping women fit into the "man's world" of business?

Pragmatically, of course, it's because men do still dominate most business meetings in both numbers and airtime, and definitely make up the large majority of corporate board members.

Yet the tempered radical in me protests, and wonders whether I wouldn't be better off making small talk before or after a meeting about my knitting, rather than about the latest sports scores or even about my students' latest antics and accomplishments. After all, no matter how hard I've tried, I'm liable to confuse a football team with a basketball team if they're from out of town, and I have no memory for scores or great plays or bad calls by referees.

Business Mom makes the point that men doodle and play with their Blackberries and cellphones during meetings -- why can't I knit? It really does help me listen (really listen to others, rather than focusing on my next response in an argument) and develop creative ideas. I can still make eye contact with others, interject my ideas when appropriate, and even stop to jot down notes. And yet, when I have occasionally done this at work, I have been subtly discouraged.

Perhaps in the future there will be classes for men about how to make small talk with women about their knitting or cross-stitch or quilting projects, just as women are now tutored to speak footballese and encouraged to play golf. That would be a whole new world of work.

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?"

March 18, 2007

the rhythms of work and life

Remember when Sunday was a day of rest? Now, it seems, Sunday too is being eaten up by the 24/7 workload and the neverending workday. I find that if I don't check email on Sunday afternoon, Monday can be completely overwhelming (even though I don't physically head for campus until Monday afternoon).

Of course, consultants have long begun their week of travel on Sunday nights, so that they can arrive at their client's locations on Monday morning. The drawback of such travel is....

Continue reading "the rhythms of work and life"

March 16, 2007

when do managers decide based on evidence?

In my workplace flexibility course, we had an interesting discussion of Bob Sutton and Jeff Pfeffer's Harvard Business Review article on evidence-based management a few weeks back.

More recently, I stumbled across the blog for the Evidence-Based Management book, and was intrigued by this entry on Lovaglia's law. Professor Lovaglia, a sociologist, asserts that people are least likely to make decisions based on evidence when it seems most crucial -- when the outcome of the decision seems most important.

With my students, I discussed when managers make use of the evidence about the benefits of flexible work practices, and when they ignore the evidence (and suffer the consequences in terms of lower morale and productivity, higher turnover and worker stress and burnout).

We also talked about the kinds of evidence available to managers, and the possibility of gathering evidence as organizational changes are implemented that would allow managers to assess wither the interventions are having the desired effects.

I'd be curious to hear from managers about how and when they use evidence in their decision-making, and from others about how they see businesses making decisions. What kind of evidence counts for you? What kinds of evidence get ignored?

February 28, 2007

telecommuting and the neverending workday

One of the themes in my course on workplace flexibility is the need to push back against corporate demands for a 24/7/365 workload. Doctors carry pagers, managers carry laptops and cellphones. How do they fight back when their coworkers or bosses seem to expect them to be available constantly?

There's a good blog entry at Web Worker Daily on 5 ways to get work under control. They are the basic tips, of course, and yet not practiced by many.

During my recent medical leave, I was off the computer entirely for about 10 days, and then checking email only intermittently for another few weeks. I was amazed by how much new time opened up in my day! In particular, about 40 percent of my email could be deleted unread if it was more than 48 hours old. So now that I have returned to health, I have resolved not to chase after the ephemeral, the seemingly-urgent, or the request-of-the-moment. I now check email only once I day (or at most, twice) -- and never after dinner.

While it is wonderful to have the flexibility that carrying my new laptop anywhere allows, it is important to use that flexibility to my benefit as well as my employer's.

Anyone who needs me more urgently knows my cellphone number. (And I do turn that one off, sometimes, too!)

So, how do others manage against the neverending workday?

telecommuting and the neverending workday

One of the themes in my course on workplace flexibility is the need to push back against corporate demands for a 24/7/365 workload. Doctors carry pagers, managers carry laptops and cellphones. How do they fight back when their coworkers or bosses seem to expect them to be available constantly?

There's a good blog entry at Web Worker Daily on 5 ways to get work under control. They are the basic tips, of course, and yet not practiced by many.

During my recent medical leave, I was off the computer entirely for about 10 days, and then checking email only intermittently for another few weeks. I was amazed by how much new time opened up in my day! In particular, about 40 percent of my email could be deleted unread if it was more than 48 hours old. So now that I have returned to health, I have resolved not to chase after the ephemeral, the seemingly-urgent, or the request-of-the-moment. I now check email only once I day (or at most, twice) -- and never after dinner.

While it is wonderful to have the flexibility that carrying my new laptop anywhere allows, it is important to use that flexibility to my benefit as well as my employer's.

Anyone who needs me more urgently knows my cellphone number. (And I do turn that one off, sometimes, too!)

So, how do others manage against the neverending workday?

February 27, 2007

workplace flexibility for dads

Brian Reid, also known as RebelDad, wrote about an interesting question recently. Are there daddy wars coming in the suburbs, and have the mommy wars (stay-at-home vs. employed mothers) been resolved, or at least declared a truce?

One of the most challenging research questions right now in the arena of workplace flexibility is why there is such a big gap between organizational policies which permit flexibility, and the percentage of employees who take advantage of such policies. For instance, paternity leave. Very few men take it, even though there are several different options other than a six- or eight-week leave, typically unpaid, just after a baby is born.

I wonder what dads really say to each other about balancing work, family, and personal interests. Do they discuss it with each other, the way stay-at-home moms do at playgroups (wishing they had time to join a book club or get exercise more regularly) and the way that employed moms do at lunches (wishing they didn't have to rush home to relieve the nanny or make dinner, or that they could take a vacation without kids)?

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. )

November 10, 2006

a noble profession

Which is the most noble of professions? Certainly, medicine is a top contender -- and one of the reasons is the Hippocratic Oath. In the next 100 years, though, it's possible that management will give medicine "a run for its money", so to speak. Here's a quote from my colleague, Julia Grant:

"all business schools are under an imperative to try to get better at teaching strong ethics, at teaching strong business values that do have to do with creating a better world. Business cannot be just about profit."
(from Peter Krouse's October 28 article in the Plain Dealer, "Honor among managers")

The dean of Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, told the story of Thunderbird's new oath during the BAWB conference in Cleveland last month. Some are skeptical about the ability of a voluntary oath taken by students at one management school to change the practices of managers around the world. Normally, I'm known for my skepticism. In this instance, though, I believe it's more important to match the high intent of those students with practical actions which will reinforce their intent.

I'm lining up beside those recent Thunderbird graduates who signed their oath, and beside any Weatherhead students who will draft and then sign our own version. I will do whatever I can to make management practice more ethical, day by day, so that we can truly say, 100 years from now, that management is a noble profession.

November 06, 2006

responsible capitalism and ethical behavior in the face of discrimination

One of my posts from last spring which gets a lot of traffic is on responsible capitalism and ESOPs. This morning I decided that I wanted to reinforce the connections between responsible capitalism and individual proactive behavior in organizations.

What is responsible capitalism? William Pfaff wrote about it in 2002 in the International Herald Tribune (and Common Dreams provides the text online). He provides a history lesson, distinguishing responsible capitalism from the popular capitalism that was championed by Henry Ford. Responsible capitalism is about more than simply paying workers well so that they can afford to buy the products they make in their workplaces. It is about decisions for the long-term benefit of all, rather than for the quarterly earnings reports. It probably even involves regulation of businesses, rather than assuming that the invisible hand will always reward the companies which act ethically.

In business schools, there is a trend to return to the teaching of ethics. We now realize, after Enron and Worldcom and other scandals, that we have not done enough. It is not enough to assume that all our students have already learned the Golden Rule. It is not enough to mention ethics at the beginning of the semester. It's not even enough to address it through one required course in the MBA curriculum dedicated to ethics in business.

I have always discussed ethical issues in my teaching of organizational behavior, and I'm sure that I will continue to improve the effectiveness of those discussions. Last week, in MGMT 250, both class sessions were focused on ethics.

Click through to read more about students' responses to Thursday's class session.

Continue reading "responsible capitalism and ethical behavior in the face of discrimination"

October 23, 2006

BAWB open to all in NEO!

This is an update on my recent post about BAWB.

Anyone who is a blogger is welcome to attend BAWB tomorrow -- Tuesday -- provided you are willing to write something about your event on your blog. Simply show up at the Veale Center on the Case campus, enter the main door, and turn to your right for the media registration table. State that you are a blogger, and George Nemeth or Sandy Piderit referred you. They'll get you a nametag and you can join us! It will be worth it -- guaranteed or your money back.

There is an event on Tuesday, tomorrow, from 4:30 till 6:30, that is specifically focused on telling the stories of the sustainability movement in NEO, and propelling the movement forward and to a higher level. It will also be in Veale, and my understanding is that anyone may attend.

October 20, 2006

Mena Trott evangelizes personal blogs

This is a quick, reflective post in the role of the web in general, and blogs in particular, in how adults learn, make and keep connections to friends and family, and get things done (both for heir hobbies and avocations and in their paid work).

Yesterday, I taught a MGMT 250 class session on the training design process. Twelve different student teams prepared and delivered 3-minute impromptu speeches on different training methods. The list of 12 different methods included: distance learning, learning portals, and at least one other method that involved the use of technology in some way. I was really struck by how differently this semester's group of 40 students respond to the different training options, in terms of their perceived advantages and disadvantages, than the group of students I taught back in 1998 or 1999 when I first came to Case Western Reserve.

I think I first started using blogs as one way of getting students to capture and share their reflections with me and with their classmates sometime around 2002 or 2003. Lots more students, this fall, have some previous experience with blogging. But there are still some who don't blog, and may not read any blogs on a regular basis. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been a few students in my class who were very internet-savvy in high school, learned to do web design for fun, and then converted their new skills into a way to make money. Things are clearly changing.

And yet, our local paper of record still seems to portray the dominant culture image of blogs -- they're just personal diaries on the web, they're not worth reading, they aren't going to change the entire media industry.... all while developing their own site for the newspaper, which now includes blogs by a few reporters.

I just came across Mena Trott's blog recently (click through to read more)

And will someone please post a comment on this entry, so I can be reassured that the Blog@Case spamfilter isn't overfunctioning again?

Continue reading "Mena Trott evangelizes personal blogs"

September 06, 2006

the evening news

I do remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news as a child. I think I also watched Dan Rather for a while, and Tom Brokaw -- but of course, right about at the age when I would have started to pay more attention to current events, I moved to Switzerland, so I was removed from the high-stakes world of the American news media. That was in 1982.

Even after I moved back to the US in 1987, I don't remember often sitting down to watch the evening news. Certainly, I didn't do so once I started graduate school and got married, in 1993. Well before my daughter was born, my husband and I were accustomed to getting our news primarily via NPR during our commutes, and to eating dinner between 6:30 and 7, with the tv off so we could reconnect at the end of our workdays.

Once we became parents, in 2001, we didn't want our daughter exposed to the ugliest of the bad news in the world via video, so we made a special effort not to watch news shows while she was awake. Occasionally, I had time to catch the Today show at the top of the news hour at 7 am, when Katie Couric or Matt Lauer would send their viewers over to Ann Curry's desk for 5 minutes of headlines (or maybe it's only 2 minutes?) Sometimes I watched Katie and Matt for a few more minutes, but typically, I had to keep moving in order to get through my morning routines and out the door by 8:30 or 9.

When I heard that Couric was jumping from NBC to CBS, and from morning to evening news, I was intrigued. Would she be given a chance to reshape the evening news anchor role to fit her personal style? I created an account on CBSNews a few days ago, because I wanted to see how the network was preparing for Ms. Couric's official debut as news anchor for the 6:30 national news. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to set up the Tivo to record the debut show, thinking I'd be able to watch it live... but when I asked my daughter to change the channel, and she saw that I wanted to watch a news show, she asked why. I noted that the reporter in charge of the show was a woman, and she said, "So what? I want to watch Animal Planet."

(Hurray for the world she will grow up in, where it is not unusual to see women in positions of influence on television. May that be even more the truth by the time she begins making choices about what to pursue for her first career.)

So, I ran upstairs and turned on the second tv, and Tivo'ed the show.

Continue reading "the evening news"

September 03, 2006

employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?

Equal rights for women have come a long way in the United States, since the Declaration of Independence over 240 years ago. Even in the 86 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution, inequities between men and women have narrowed. No longer are women expected to quit their jobs when they marry, or when they become pregnant. Between 1960 and 1999, the percentage of of working mothers with infants had risen from 27 percent to almost 60 percent. And yet, huge inequities between mothers and other workers, and among women of different backgrounds still exist.

In an effort to draw attention to such inequities, last year WorldWIT initiated the Breastfeeding at Work Week, which highlights actions employers can take to level the playing field for mothers and others in the workforce, and encourage new mothers to continue breastfeeding their infants after they return to work. Since I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, and for supporting working women in equitable ways, I am writing this blog entry as my first effort to honor Breastfeeding at Work Week for 2006.

Perhaps you have read about some of the challenges that mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding face, when they return to work. Recently, Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times about the differences between new mothers in white collar and working class jobs in terms of their access to support for pumping breastmilk at work. Kantor noted that "federal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job", despite the efforts of Congressional Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has repeatedly introduced legislation which would create such a protection.

Why wouldn't Congress want to protect a woman's health after childbirth, and specify that new mothers who return to the workplace must be protected from harrassment? Read on for some historical background, and some predictions for the future.

Continue reading "employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?"

August 23, 2006

how to use voicemail productively

There's a lot I don't agree with in Guy Kawasaki's recent post, Twelve Things to Learn This School Year (yep, there are 12, even though the title is 10 things, and I'm just the kid of prof to niggle you about stuff like that). Like his point #4, suggesting that students should never make time to go to office hours or work in study groups --I disagree, quite vehemently. I also have some serious quibbles with his assumptions in #10, though I agree with his main point that learning to be a team player is important. I have NO idea who he is talking about in #11; none of MY colleagues have ever pasted textbook passages into THEIR Powerpoints...

However I definitely agree with his point #12, learn how to leave a good voicemail:

"First, slowly say your telephone number once at the beginning of your message and again at the end. You don’t want to make people playback your message to get your phone number, and if either of you are using Cingular, you may not hear all the digits. Second (and this applies to email too), always make progress. Never leave a voicemail or send an email that says, “Call me back, and I’ll tell you what time we can meet.” Just say, “Tuesday, 10:00 am, at your office.”

Finally, I absolutely agree with his concluding comment. Go, read it. Then come back here and tell me which of his points you find compelling.

August 04, 2006

why reducing unsustainability fails

From John Ehrenfeld, a just-released Change This manifesto:

Beyond Sustainability: Why an All-Consuming Campaign to Reduce Unsustainability Fails

After a quick skim, this looks like a must-read. What do you think?

July 28, 2006

online impression management

I attended a UCITE seminar yesterday given by Jeremy Smith and Heidi Cool. It included a brief overview of how to use websites and blogs to help raise your online professional profile. While the audience for the session was primarily faculty and administrators, I believe that much of the same ideas apply for management students.

Jeremy promises an audio file of the session soon, and I hope my students will listen to his pitch, which focuses on the importance of understanding and shaping the information that potential employers will find about you if they google you before inviting you in for a job interview. Many students do not understand that things they write on their social blogs or on facebook may be visible to employers and help shape others' impressions of them.

Heidi has also provided some useful tutorials on the Web Development blog, including this on how to learn HTML and this followup on how she completed her suggested homework assignment. Heidi has also made a number of other valuable contributions to the Web Development blog, so if you are thinking about developing your own website, be sure to poke around!

What do you think -- is it important for a prospective employee to have an online presence? Why or why not? Do you google prospective employees? When and why?

June 23, 2006

rethinking the pre-tenure process

A friend emailed me a link to a very interesting blog entry in an academic librarian's blog, commenting on the significant stresses that seem to descend on librarians pursuing tenure. Steven J. Bell asks an important question in his entry:

"Admittedly, the tenure track and its associated pressures are all about weeding out under performers to create an academic organization that benefits from having the best of the best. But what can be done to allow those on the tenure track to enjoy the process of research and publication, the way it was meant to be be experienced, without being made to feel as if they are on a vicious treadmill"?

I think it's time for this question to be asked in business schools as well. Some of the suggestions that Bell advocates for academic librarians might also be relevant in the b-school context, but we will have to come up with other remedies on our own.

I know that when the Weatherhead School here at Case extended the tenure clock from 6 to 9 years, one of the arguments for doing so was that the time that papers spent in review before being accepted for publication, and the time between acceptance and actual publication, had been increasing for the major journals in our field. I wonder, though, if this response of simply accepting the lengthening lead times and postponing the decision about a scholar's quality was really the wise choice. Perhaps we could instead lobby the major journals to set up a quick-response reviewing process, for those papers with authors who are untenured? Perhaps those papers could be given priority when moving from acceptance to publication? Since I have never edited a journal, I have no idea whether or not this kind of proposal would be considered realistic.

April 26, 2006

reinventing jobs, careers, and the w

"Reinventing Jobs, Careers, and the World of Work"

It's a good sign when three posts emerge in the same morning of blog reading, all ready to be packaged up in a theme. It probably indicates that all the cultivation I have been doing of online relationships -- reading blogs, adding some to my Bloglines so I can read them again later, commenting, making my own posts -- is starting to yield fruit for intellectual enjoyment.

Click through to read on if you'd like to learn more about Diane at Zaadz, Miriam Peskowitz, and David Pollard, and how the different social movemnts they help to advance are converging.

Continue reading "reinventing jobs, careers, and the w"

April 25, 2006

developing a career, growing a family...

How can one develop a career and grow a family at the same time? Especially in academia, this is a sticky question. The Tomorrow's Professor blog recently explored the question of whether there is a global warming trend toward women in academia, but concludes that in many traditionally male disciplines, the climate for women is still chilly. And in all this focus on women, the broader point about how men in two-career marriages can play more egalitarian roles in their growing families while moving into academic careers sometimes gets lost. (This is a more specific version of the broader question which I addressed yesterday in my post on what fathers want.)

I was particularly struck by this series of posts at Mommy Ph.D....

Continue reading "developing a career, growing a family..."

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"

April 04, 2006

is MacDonalds socially responsible, or is it marketing greenwash?

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up for the week, and one of the highlighted posts is about MacDonalds. Steven Silvers offers mocking commentary on the blog that MacDonalds makes available to consumers with the tag line "Open for Discussion". His teaser summary asserts that "If McDonald's thinks selling salads constitutes social responsibility, they must figure clean bathrooms deserve the Nobel Prize."

The potential that companies might just appear to change their behavior, when in fact all they are doing is disguising themselves as socially responsible, is what makes me skeptical about buying products marketed as supporting particular values, like the Reebok breast cancer eradication sneakers that I wrote about last week when I asked how company values affect consumer behavior. It is why I think new portals like Alonovo which empower consumers with a deeper analysis about whether companies are walking their talk are going to be forces to reckon with in the future.

What do you think about the MacDonald's blog? Is MacDonald's a company you admire? Or do you boycott it on principle?

March 29, 2006

how do company values affect consumer behavior?

I've noticed some interesting tidbits lately about how we respond to corporate actions that communicate social responsibility, and I'd welcome a chance to generate a dialogue about these issues. Take this poll, in the right sidebar of the Case (family) Foundation Spotlight, for instance: it asks, when is a company's commitment to a social issue most important? and suggests that the company's values might influence the products we buy, where we work, or how we invest. Which would you choose?

(Go ahead, click over there, and then come back and tell me! And if you have a hard time deciding, check out these Reebok sneakers, and let me know if you would be more likely to buy them because of the cause you'd be supporting....)

Another datapoint: the online shopping portals that are springing up to allow consumers to donate a portion of their purchases to worthy causes. The latest one I've come across is Alonovo, which allows each user to indicate which social and environmental issues are most important, and then get data about the companies which supply books, music, computers, electronics, etc. that you might want to buy. For instance, you can choose to buy products from companies which share their profits with employees, or which have a better representation of women and ethnic minorities on their boards.

A third datapoint: businesses which have fully embraced sustainability, like the ones that students in the green MBA program visit on field trips, or like Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company and nearby Wooster's Hartzler Dairy. Will the new business ideas emerging from the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability network in Northeast Ohio find that they are favored by consumers because of the values which guide their business development?

What do you think? Is this a blip, or a genuine trend?

March 13, 2006

the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Continue reading "the work rhythms of academic and professional life"

March 04, 2006

working women stretched to the limit

The New York Times does not have the greatest track record in writing about workplace trends regarding women's participation. Last fall I wrote about Louise Story's flawed article, and later about the response from AlterNet and the National Council for Research on Women highlighting fact vs. anecdote contrasts in the media's portrayal of women in the workplace.

This week's article at first seems to be more grounded in scientific research, and less in subjective assessments of trends. The article, by Eduardo Porter, is entitled "Women in the Workplace: Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work". It attempts to explain why the rate of workforce participation of women, which rose from about 40 percent in 1960 to a peak of 77 percent in 2000, has dropped off in the last 5 years.

The single explanation which resonated the most with my experience is the statistic provided by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed."

I am definitely feeling this limit this week. The stress of uncompleted tasks wakes me up in the middle of the night, especially during the workweek, though in my case the uncompleted tasks I stress the most about are work-related, rather than housework-related. I spend the wee hours of the morning catching up on emails to students, literature searches, data analyses, and drafting and revising research proposals. Then the early morning wakeful hours devoted to work tasks leave me worn out when the weekend rolls around and the opportunities to play with my husband and daughter open up.

The article seems to suggest that I am atypical, and provides statistics from sociologists arguing the balance of unpaid work between men and women is still unbalanced. I do not live the trends described in the article regarding housework -- we hire out at least half of those tasks, and the rest are unevenly divided, with my husband carrying more than half of the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, etc. I don't want my experience to invalidate that of other women who do want their husbands to wake up and do their share -- but I suspect that there are other dynamics at work as well.

The article does not mention another potential explanation for changes in women's workforce participation, which focuses not on husbands as a problem, but on the increasing demands made by employers on their staff, especially at professional levels. I'm surprised that the article did not include statistics about the increase in total work hours for both men and women in the last 45 years. Take a look at these statistics for the UK in the last decade, for example. Also, this background information from PBS is informative about the US experience generally. The presentation given on campus last week by Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.

The long work hours being put in by professionals, and the unwillingness of employers to validate professionals who seek part-time work opportunities, seem like a much more likely explanation for the drop in female workforce participation than any gender war within marriages. They may also explain the high proportion of women experiencing mental health challenges, and our society's decreasing ability to eat well, exercise, and manage stress.

I hope we see followup articles in the New York Times exploring these issues.

February 21, 2006

problem solvers wanted

In a faculty meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues argued that we could measure our degree of success in developing our students' skill levels by assessing the difference in their salaries before they entered a degree program and after they left. He asked a rhetorical question, something along the lines of this: "Isn't anything we do that will have value for students going to get translated into more money for them after they leave here?"

I could not help myself. I bellowed, from the last row, "NO!"

I feel quite strongly that an MBA is not just a ticket to corporate success. It should also be a ticket to superior problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how businesses can be used as vehicles for solving world problems. When I ask my students what their top 5 values are, relatively few of them say "getting rich"... most of them talk about things like honoring their family, enjoying time with friends, and pursuing meaningful achievements. The value of our degree programs must lie in the extent to which we develop the skills that students need to live noble lives, acting in accord with their values.

James Cascio at Worldchanging makes an impassioned argument that environmentalists need to be working on solving the poverty problem, and I would argue that businesspeople should be working with them. CK Prahalad argues in "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that pulling those in poverty out and into a class of entrepreneurial consumers is the next great challenge for business. I would argue that pulling all of us into the status of sustainable producers and consumers is fundamental to the question of whether our global society will remain healthy, or implode within my daughter's lifetime.

CK Prahalad's book argues that working at the bottom of the pyramid is profitable. I'd assert that even if it yields lower lines of financial return than other types of work, it's still worth pursuing. There are more important things in life than making more money, and solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation are two of those most important tasks for my generation and those that follow.

More information about companies pursuing this strategy is available here and here and here, and I'd appreciate receiving links to other similar collections of information, as well.

December 14, 2005

journalism: not dying, but definitely morphing

Dick Feagler of the Plain Dealer might benefit from reading the op-ed piece in USA Today yesterday by Don Campbell, a lecturer in journalism at Emory University. Campbell asked whether newspapers can weather the techno-storm, and answered:

"There will be a market for serious reporting and good writing. But the future belongs to those with ink in their veins who can get beyond nostalgia and live on the cutting edge."

Feagler demonstrated in his column on December 11 that he cannot. I certainly hope that his assessment of blogs is not the majority opinion at the Plain Dealer, because I don't think it'll be a good thing for NorthEast Ohio if our major daily newspaper bites the dust.

Feagler let his fear that blogs may be taking over the mindshare that newspapers used to hold among young people get the better of him. In the process, he demonstrated that he does not understand blogs, wikis, or the differences between them.

Feagler's column has generated a lot of artfully derisive comments in the blogosphere.

Hugh Hewitt, author of a book called Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World has even named an award in Feagler's honor. The Feagler Award will be inaugurated later this month, when Mr. Hewitt will select from among the nominees emailed to him the dumbest thing written about blogs in the last year.

If you're feeling charitable toward Mr. Feagler, perhaps you will find other dumb things that have been written about blogs, so he doesn't have to win the award that Mr. Hewitt has named for him. (I'm sure he'll get an honorable mention anyway, but perhaps he won't feel like such a fool if he's in relatively honorable company.)

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"

September 21, 2005

the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it

Poor Louise Story. The young Yale graduate who wrote a story for yesterday's New York Times which landed on the front page is getting pummeled throughout the blogosphere (even in the comments), in Slate, and probably, by "many" of her friends. Yes, I pity her, even though I know that the critics speak the truth, because I remember being just out of school and having the sense that the trends among my peer group were newsworthy, without realizing how circumscribed a peer group I had constructed around myself.

I do not remember talking much with my college friends about our plans for marriage and family. I just assumed that I would work and raise a family with my husband. I knew that I needed to stay employable, in case of divorce or an illness that might incapacitate my husband. I had the sense that my mother had not been happy when she was not employed (she returned to the workforce part-time when I was 10 or 11), and I couldn't imagine living a life without a public role of respect. The problem is that parenthood is still not seen as a role of public respect in our society.

Continue reading "the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it"

September 14, 2005

how was MGMT 250 designed?

I am seeing evidence in the first blog entries made by this fall's MGMT 250 students that the course is having some of its intended effects. One of the things I wanted to accomplish when we began redesigning our curriculum for management and accounting majors was to give students a sense, early in their undergraduate career, of what the lives of managers are like.

(Click to read more, including some links to student posts.)

Continue reading "how was MGMT 250 designed?"

July 31, 2005

Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States

What does the US have in common with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland? No guaranteed paid maternity leave. Read all about it in an Associated Press article by Peter Svensson, reprinted on the front page of the business section in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Perhaps if Ohio wants to address the poverty level of its citizens, particularly in cities like Cleveland, we could follow the example of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. They require employers to offer short-term disability insurance, which covers six weeks of postpartum income replacement for new mothers. Or maybe not... maybe we are content with the thought that a waitress or a cashier might have given birth three weeks ago, and returned to work as fast as she could in order to ensure that she can pay rent to keep a roof over her new baby's head.

It's probably too much to ask that we follow the example of California, which introduced paid family leave at 50% of workers' income levels last year, funded by a small tax on all employees. And we certainly aren't likely to follow the example of Canada, where the maximum paid leave for new mothers was extended from six months to one year in 2004, up to a maximum of C$413 per week.

No wonder that the modal number of children born to a mother in the US has dropped from 4 in 1976 to 2 in 2000, and the percentage of women without children has grown from 10% to 19%. With 55% of new mothers participating in the workforce within a year after their child's birth, the lack of paid parental leave has a dramatic effect on women in the United States. (See this census report for details.)

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."

July 06, 2005

a culture of dialogue

This little snippet from Fast Company online does a great job of highlighting what it takes to create a culture where people can really learn from one another. I'm going to remember these tips when I go back into the classroom, and I hope that by modeling these behaviors, my students will learn by observation how to contribute to such cultures in their workplaces.

It's very easy for legal concerns, fears about competitors, and lack of trust to get in the way of building a culture of dialogue. The downside is not always so easy to see at first -- but eventually, the culture of posturing and self-censorship which is the alternative to a culture of dialogue becomes corrosive.

June 30, 2005

the merits and drawbacks of laziness

Dave Pollard defends laziness and argues in favor of natural enterprises which do not require long work hours (while also criticizing corporate media for pandering to their audiences with bias). I found his argument shocking at first, so at odds with the Catholic values in which I was raised, which glorify hard work.

As I read his words again, though, I began to question those unspoken values. Why is it better to work long hours? There is more to life than a choice between hard work and idle hands. Relationship building takes time, and relationships must not only be built within work organizations, but all across the community. So, I invite you to read Dave Pollard's essay and consider the merits and drawbacks of laziness.

June 28, 2005

Recruiting young doctors

This article from HealthLeaders.com discusses the ways that some hospitals are changing their recruiting strategies to appeal to the values of generation X graduates of medical school. Apparently, the current crop of new doctors are looking for family-friendly work environments, and they know enough to get the scoop on working conditions from their potential peers rather than accepting an administrative recruitment tour. As the Tom Peters Wire Service points out, with a shortage of physicians growing, the hospitals and clinics recruiting the new graduates are facing an increasingly competitive market. New doctors are more and more likely to receive multiple offers, and to accept the one which best corresponds with their image of desirable work.