Entries in "social"

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 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 21, 2007

is the world testing you?

I've been struck recently, in my observations of students and of others at work, by how powerful the drive to please others by meeting high standards can be. Sometimes, even when the standards are outrageously ridiculous, we just keep trying to leap over the bar, slamming our heads on the upper limits of reality, recollecting ourselves, and then leaping again. Especially for students, the semester can become a series of hurdles to run up to, leap over (or crash through), and repeat, without time to catch their breath.

It's so rare to see someone mature enough to approach a challenge or a set of really high expectations with calm consistency in their attitude and in their performance. What we often forget is that striving too much can actually reduce our effectiveness. Even hurdlers take a breather at the end of a race, before approaching the starting line for another 100 meters. Sometimes, they even drop out of a race, if they have crashed into the third and fourth hurdles, and fallen at the fifth.

What makes a difference between those who chase high expectations frantically and those who can approach them with calm consistency? Well, to an extent, maturity comes with age... and part of the reason is that the typical 40-year-old is less wrapped up in a desire to please others than the typical 20-year-old. There are some undergraduates who really don't care what I think of them, or what grade I give them, but most have almost a blind desire for approval and positive reinforcement. In some cases, there are signs of almost an addiction to the positive reinforcement of grades. I can only imagine what the voices in their conscience tell them when they fall short of their expectations for themselves, which sometimes are even higher than my expectations for them.

Even John Mayer now has a song about the pursuit of success and distinction, and the price we pay for giving in to the pressure that others (and our own internal voices of conscience and of compulsion) put on us to chase perfection in our work... it's an invitation to reflect on how to keep our own "vultures" at bay.

Here are the lyrics from the song "Vultures", off his latest album, Continuum, and a link to the album on iTunes.

Continue reading "is the world testing 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.

November 20, 2006

Concern for the triple bottom line: From margins to center

On Saturday, I participated in a conversation about how to strengthen locally-owned businesses and deal with the challenges represented by national chain competition. (I invited my blog readers to participate in Unchained America day, which was the reason that the conversation at Phoenix Coffeehouse on Lee Road took place.)

One of the assertions I made during that conversation was that the values of the Millennial generation suggest that they are going to care more about the social and environmental impact of the businesses where they shop and work. This press release outlines the results of a survey supporting my assertion. Here's a quote:

"66% will consider a company's social/environmental commitment when deciding whether to recommend its products and services."

Another piece of data, more anecdotal, would be the article about giving circles like the Cleveland Colectivo, which I believe is made up of Millennials and some younger Generation Xers.

Want more background on the Millennial generation?


I would be curious for any suggestions about where to find information on the positions of millenials regarding their preferences for shopping at, or working in, local vs. corporate businesses.

November 08, 2006

metaphors for social change

Remember back in May, when I wrote about the metaphors of motivating change? We need a whole new set of metaphors for understanding how social change occurs, as well -- metaphors that acknowledge the relational dynamics that accelerate or dampen social change processes.

Political social change seems to be occurring in the United States. The timeframe for that change ranges from the year (2006) to the generation (1980 to 2006), at least according to Joe Kein at Time Magazine. (Thanks to John Ettorre for his blog post bringing this article to our attention.) Klein's article is headlining 2006 as "the year the Democrats punched back", suggesting that political social change occurs in part as a battle of the fists (or at least of the political ad blows and counterblows). Klein's article ends with a very different metaphor, though -- the metaphor of tides cresting and receding:

"2006 may be remembered as the year that the Reagan Revolution finally crested and began to recede."

I recognize that some may consider 26 years more than a generation, and yet Strauss and Howe's 1992 book Generations called 1982-2003 the Millenial Generation. In political writing, this notion that great waves of right-oriented and left-oriented governing alternate is a familiar one, suggesting that perhaps no social change actually occurs; instead we are just watching a pendulum swinging back and forth very slowly... or, we are the grains of sand on the beach, washed first by one wave, and then by another.

And yet our individual experiences suggest that social change does occur, within one lifetime or less, and that relational dynamics are an important part of how social change occurs.

A generation from now, will history acknowledge that the BAWB conference in NEO two weeks ago was actually the tipping point for how business and academia began to act differently together, to make themselves agents of world benefit? Nadya Zhexembayeva is convinced that it was a tipping point, October 25, 2006. She has been watching for this tipping point for a long time -- she heads up the World Inquiry, an action research project of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB). She also served as the host of the Virtual Conference that extended the BAWB Global Forum to additional 500+ participants from all over the world.

Be sure to read what Nadya Zhexembayeva wrote for GreenBiz about BAWB and the tipping point. Read it not just to explore some of the metaphors for social change she evokes -- but also to become your part of the social change that is happening among us and around the world.

September 04, 2006

changing the world, and expanding academia along the way

The past graduates of the Ph.D. program in organizational behavior are certainly impressive. You may have read recently about the two projects on which I collaborated with current students, recent graduates, and colleagues, which were presented at the Academy of Management in Atlanta. Last fall, I wrote a little about working with recent graduate Ned Powley, who taught two sections of MGMT 250. (This fall he will be joining Leslie Sekerka and Frank Barrett, also graduates of our Ph.D. program, on the faculty at the Monterrey Naval Postgraduate School.) In May, I participated in the graduation ceremony for Latha Poonamallee, who will be "CEO" for the simulated companies in MGMT 250 this fall, and who is also teaching two SAGES First Seminars in the Case undergraduate program. She is also my collaborator in the founding of NEOBEAN. Our recent graduates are certainly poised to change the world through their teaching, writing, and activism.

So too are our current Ph.D. students. For example, one of our students, Bonnie Richley-Cody, has coauthored a very exciting book.

Continue reading "changing the world, and expanding academia along the way"

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 24, 2006

welcome, first year students!

My daughter and I enjoyed the last Wade Oval Wednesday last night, featuring Revolution Pie, a Beattles cover band, and we certainly noticed the return of Case students to University Circle. To facilitate Orientation activities for Case's 1,031 newest students, there is a large tent on East Boulevard, next to Kelvin Smith Library and across from the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Institute of Art. Welcome, to all those students, and congratulations to the Office of Undergraduate Admission staff who brought us such a diverse class!

PS -- don't miss the last Wade Oval Wednesday, coming up on 8/30, and featuring a favorite from Parade the Circle -- the Steel Drum PANic Band!

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 08, 2006

what is an organization?

David Pollard says it is "an instrument for doing something a particular way."

This is a great definition, very similar to the one I use in my introductory classes in organizational behavior. (I talk about an organization as a group of three or more people, working toward a common goal or set of goals, in a consciously coordinated way, on a more-or-less continuous basis.)

Pollard goes on with a provocative argument:

Organization does not mean order or structure. When we say "let's get organized" we are not saying let's decide how to structure ourselves, we're saying let's make ourselves an instrument to do something specific. The fact that the first step in so many new organizations is establishing a hierarchy shows how well we've been brainwashed to believe that 'anarchic' self-management is impossible, when it is the natural order. This is perhaps why Open Space is so subversive and unaccepted in the political and corporate mainstream -- if frees people from the false belief that they need someone else to impose order and structure on them in order to be an effective organism, an instrument of action.

What do you think? Can groups of people organize themselves organically, without hierarchy? Do you question that assumption that self-management is impossible in larger groups, or do you accept it unthinkingly? Do you believe that you can be effective outside of an authority structure imposed by others?

Be sure to click through and read the rest of Pollard's entry on the meaning of words, including community, family, freedom, and wisdom.

July 02, 2006

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

Continue reading "evolving notions of a mother's place"

April 30, 2006

outcomes of the Global Night Commute

There was an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday about plans for the Saturday night event. Similarly, in California, KGET reported on plans in Bakersfield and 10news reported on plans in San Diego. In Seattle, over 1000 people were expected to participate.

News is also beginning to come in about attendance at the events around the world. In Rochester, NY, there is already a report from WROC, a local television station, saying that 200 people in that city participated in the night commute last night. In Augusta, GA, more than 25 people participated in the march, and in Aiken County, GA, participants numbered over 200 (story here, login required or use bugmenot.com). In Austin, TX, the Austin American Statesman reported that hundreds of college students walked from the clock tower at the UT campus to the grounds of the state capitol to participate in the night commute. There are also photos of this event available at Flickr already, and here's a story from an Austin TV station. In San Francisco, over 500 people gathered, according to the local CBS news station. In Chicago, over 2000 people gathered in Grant Park, including one teenager from Uganda who now attends a private school in the US thanks to the folks at Invisible Children. And here's a personal account of the San Diego event, which was huge -- 5000 people in Balboa park! Participants in other cities have been checking in on MySpace with updates about what the Global Night Commute was like for them. The pictures are really inspiring!

Unfortunately, I can't find any information from anyone who was at the Free Stamp last night. If you were there, would you please leave a comment and let me know what it was like?

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 22, 2006

framing your inquiry

My colleague Ron Fry has a new book out, coauthored with Frank Barrett (an alumnus of our Ph.D. program, now on the faculty at the Monterrey Naval Academy).

The press release aboout the book, in the link above, describes the approach that Ron Fry takes to combining problem solving and appreciative inquiry: "I don't try to avoid ever focusing on the problem, deficit or the negative. I just try to live more often in conversations that are unbalanced in terms of having more attention, questions and imagery that relate to possibilities, hope and the positive."

I think that is really a key element of understanding the role of positively framing an organizational change intervention. A positive frame is chosen because of the momentum and energy it can unleash, not because there is any desire to avoid a problem-focused frame.

This is a subtlety that I am still learning, in the context of my work with NEOBEAN, as is evidenced in my earlier entry about when to trust a consultant.

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 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.)

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 02, 2005

Deye mon gen mon

"Deye mon gen mon" is Haitian saying which translates as "beyond mountains there are mountains" and the saying is explained in this way: "as you solve one problem, another problem appears, and so you go on and try to solve that one too."

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a book by Tracy Kidder which tells the story of Paul Farmer, a doctor who works at Harvard and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and at Zamni Lasante, a clinic he founded in the mountains of Haiti.

This book was selected as a common reading for the Case community for the coming academic year, the fourth year of our common reading program. My colleagues selected this book to inspire, I am sure; Case is involved in a variety of ways in fighting poverty and disease, and recently won a multi-million-dollar grant to do research on fighting tuberculosis, and there is much work left to be done. First-year students were invited to submit essays in response to several prompts, and upperclass students were invited to address equally tough questions.

I will be taking the book with me on vacation for a slow rereading, since it was almost too intense to absorb on my first read, back in June. [I did eventually write up an answer to an essay question; see my post from several months after this one, on my areas of moral clarity.]

By the way, this idea of a common reading is not Case's innovation. Duke students were invited to read the same book last summer, and this year Case students will be joined in spirit by members of the LaRoche College community in Pittsburgh, by campus residents at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and by first-year students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, among others.

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."