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Tear Down This Wall: 4 Ways to Fix Business and Tech’s ‘Women Problem’

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion ArticleInformation technology (tech) is at the epicenter of the world’s economy. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are the foremost companies in the world. But women in tech, as in other industries, face obstacles from entry-level positions to the C-suite.

If industry truly wishes to fix this, it must stop retreating into seemingly noble expressions of sentiment, and instead evaluate and adopt specific procedures and programs. That is particularly true of tech, exhibit “A” in the corporate failure to hire and promote women. Re-allocating burdens, from women who aspire to the companies and industries that would employ them, and adoption by those companies of specific programs, is what my book is all about.

Women can lean in, education can push STEM, states may enact wage gap and family leave legislation. But those developments mask the more fundamental issue. From startups to the largest firms, firms themselves actually hire and promote females. In contrast, many of these companies have gender aversion baked into their DNA. Tech, for example, has been unable to support women at any level. A mere 5 percent of Tech’s senior executives are women. Branches of the industry, such as video gaming, are overtly misogynist in governance, in culture, and in product content.

Can tech and other industries redeem themselves? Here are four steps companies could take:

Change the mindset, reallocate the burdens. Bookshelves are overloaded with advice books for women who aspire in business. Get a mentor, network, don’t be a “bully broad,” be strategic, lean in, lower your voice, don’t be a “queen bee,” dress conservatively, and so on. Now is high time to look at the other side of the equation, what responsibilities companies and industries bear and what sorts of measures they should be considering. The onus shouldn’t be solely upon women anymore.

Adopt specific programs and procedures. Professional advice books emphasize that women should obtain mentors. Women have, and it has not moved the needle at all. Women in business complain, “I have been mentored to death and I am still in same position I was 7 years ago.” Recently, emphasis in Australia has shifted to corporations themselves and to mentoring plus sponsorship. It has moved the needle – significantly. Ideas include comply or explain requirements (“if not, why not?”), certificate programs, pledge regimes, quota laws (Norway, Spain, Italy, France, Germany but probably not for the United States), mandatory disclosure, voluntary disclosure, structured search (Rooney Rule) adoptions, and more.

Cast a wide net. Compared to other countries around the globe, the U.S.’s progress on gender diversity issues has slipped below the global median. Governments, stock exchanges, and industry groups in Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, for example, are very active on gender diversity issues. Surprisingly, promotion of women in business and in governance is hot-button issue of in the Peoples’ Republic of China (not in Japan, however: fewer than one percent of corporate directors are female). On the Atlantic side, proposals and programs proliferate in the countries of the European Union and with the EU itself.

Look to the future: pay attention to the pool problem. We now appreciate that executives must balance maximization of shareholder value with sustainability. Long-term sustainability requires gender diversity. The pool problem speaks to that issue. The pool consists of the women from among whom boards and executives will choose senior managers — not now, not next year, but 10 years, 12 years, or 15 years in the future. Compared with today’s meager pool, the future pool will be markedly inferior, unless companies put in place steps to deal with the deficiency. One vital strategy is to ease the off ramps and ease the on ramps for women as they find it necessary to step aside from their careers, temporarily, often because of childbirth and child rearing issues. Dial up, dial down, alumnae, and welcome back programs, among other things, can ease those on and off ramps. Companies must think about these type of measures.

When it comes to promoting women to leadership roles or positioning them for executive roles in the future, tech is the most backward of major industries. Even lower down the ranks, the number of women tech companies employ has declined – from 37 percent in 1995 to 24 percent in 2016 — and is predicted to decrease further in coming years.

Neither does the future appear as hopeful as we have wished. Yet there are steps and programs that might brighten that future significantly.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert ContributorDouglas M. Branson is the W. Edward Sell Chair at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the Universities of Washington and Hong Kong, and Melbourne University, among others. He was a State Department–sponsored corporate governance consultant to New Zealand, Indonesia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. He is the author of 23 books on gender and corporate governance. His new book is The Future of Tech Is Female: How to Achieve Gender Diversity (NYU Press, July 2018).

Recommended Resources – Mood-lites

Mood-litesMood-lites
A Mood-Factory product
www.themoodfactory.com

About the Product

Mood-lites are light bulbs that emit soft, colored ambient light; helping to positively influence affected individuals’ mood. Mood-Factory introduced its first incandescent Mood-lites in 2004 and expanded the line to include flood, porch, and compact florescent bulbs in 2012.

Mood-lite colors were developed by applying expert color research concepts to lighting. Colors and their corresponding mood affects include:

  • Mood-litesRed = Passion (shown)
  • Dark Pink = Sassy
  • Orange = Energy
  • Yellow = Happiness
  • Green = Renewal
  • Light Blue = Serenity (shown)
  • Deep Blue = Tranquility
  • Purple = Creativity

Mood-lites are most effective when used in lamps with shades that permit the bulb’s color and ambiance to shine through. White or translucent shades are ideal. They can be inserted directly into fixtures, wall mounts, and any other bulb socket that uses the base standard for each particular bulb.

Why We Recommend This Product

StrategyDriven Contributors tested the Mood-lites for over a month and found that their soft ambient glow did, in fact, positively impact the mood of those affected by the light. Our personnel working in the ‘Energy’ (orange) light reported feeling more alert throughout the day and, in particular, during the mid-afternoon slump. (We actually stopped consuming our mid-day caffeinated and energy drinks.)

Our research and personal experience suggests there is merit to the notion that the color of light can affect how individuals feel. As a former U.S. Naval Officer, I’m familiar with the Navy’s use of color (light pastel green) to help create a calming atmosphere within the otherwise stressful environment onboard submarines.

Mood-lites are easy to install and provide a soft, consistent light. The 25W bulbs tested provided ample lighting to perform office tasks (hard copy document reading, email, other computer work) within a 12 foot by 12 foot space with no other lights on. We found the impact of the Mood-lites to be significantly diminished with white lights turned on within the same space.

For their positive impact on workplace mood, Mood-lites are a StrategyDriven recommended product – and we will keeping our Mood-lites on!

Mood-lites can be purchased at a Lowe’s Home Improvement Retailers.

Recommended Resources – Promote Yourself

StrategyDriven Recommended ResourcesPromote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success
by Dan Schawbel

About the Book

Promote Yourself by Dan Schawbel provides tangible advice for gaining the visibility necessary for career advancement without appearing to be overtly self-serving. Dan delves into the hard and soft skills needed for success in today’s professional world as well as what managers are seeking when deciding whom to promote. Once presented, Dan provides actionable advice for developing those skills required for advancement.

Some of the specific topics addressed within Promote Yourself include:

  • Hard skills required to be more than your job description
  • Soft skills necessary to make every impression count
  • Online skills to use social media to your advantage
  • Gaining visibility without being a self-promoting jerk
  • What managers look for when deciding whom to promote
  • Building a network at work and beyond

Benefits of Reading this Book

StrategyDriven Contributors like Promote Yourself because it provides immediately actionable steps to take charge of one’s career in a positive and effective manner. Dan tackles the unique challenges of today’s workplace environment – social media, advancing technology, generational gaps, and workforce mobility – revealing how to successfully deal with each by leveraging resources and opportunities internal and external to one’s company. He also provides an insightful discussion of addressing the need for change with one’s boss and knowing when it is time to move on. Dan’s recommendations align with our personal professional experiences, many of which are echoed on the StrategyDriven Professional website.

Promote Yourself focuses on professionals within the workforce and, in our opinion, would not be as useful to non-professional workers. Our experience also suggests Dan’s insights best apply to management consultants and that some additional and/or modified actions would better support those professionals working in more traditional, hierarchical organizations. Lastly, we believe Promote Yourself more ideally fits entry, lower, and mid-level professionals than second tier managers and above.

Promote Yourself reflects many of the professional development and career advancement principles recommended on the StrategyDriven Professional website making it a StrategyDriven recommended read, particularly for college seniors and professionals below the first-line manager level.

Recommended Resources – Freakonomics

StrategyDriven Recommended ResourcesFreakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and
Stephen J. Dubner

About the Book

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner challenges conventional thinking by using economic analysis to uncover the underlying causes of everyday life events. Steven and Stephen reveal that economics is simply the study of incentives and that by understanding incentives one can reveal the hidden truth about why people behave as they do and the results consequently achieved. Freakonomics examines the commonly held myths surrounding:

  • Campaign finance
  • Cheating schoolteachers and sports players
  • Crime rates
  • Child-rearing

Why You Should Read This Book

StrategyDriven Contributors like Freakonomics for its logical approach to cause and effect analysis. Steven and Stephen examine problems from an unconventional viewpoint, unwilling to accept conventional wisdom as to why the world works as it does. Through their relentless pursuit of the truth, they expose many of society’s falsely held beliefs and reveal the incentivized behaviors driving the results we observe.

While sometimes controversial, Freakonomics represents the questioning attitude StrategyDriven promotes. Steven and Stephen push to find the highly quantified correlations between cause and effect necessary for sound decision-making. And although based on strong analytical principles, Freakonomics is written as a collection of easy-to-understand stories.

Freakonomics does not present a step-by-step method of performance improvement common to those books we typically recommend. However, it clearly conveys the importance of relentlessly asking those questions and performing those analyses necessary to gain an understanding of the true drivers of performance and is therefore a StrategyDriven recommended read.

Recommended Resources – Little Red Book of Sales Answers

StrategyDriven Recommended ResourcesLittle Red Book of Sales Answers: 99.5 Real World Answers That Make Sense, Make Sales, and Make Money
by Jeffrey Gitomer

About the Book

Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer addresses the questions all sales people ask, particularly those questions holding them back from making the sales and the money they should. Jeffrey’s 99.5 answers address:

  • Personal Improvement that Leads to Personal Growth
  • Prospecting for Golden Leads and Making Solid Appointments
  • How to Win the Sales Battle AND the Sales War
  • Sales Skill Building… One Brick at a Time
  • Building the Friendship. Building the Relationship. Earning the Referral. Earning the Testimonial. Earning the Reorder.
  • Building Your Personal Brand
  • The Final AHA!

Why You Should Read This Book

StrategyDriven Contributors like Little Red Book of Sales Answers for its practical, easy-to-implement actions that help expand one’s relationships and earn more sales. Jeffrey goes directly to the core of doubt many sales people harbor and provides them with the tools needed to create confidence and immediately improve sales performance.

Each of Jeffrey’s answers provides a step-by-step common sense approach to selling that anyone can implement. Truth be told, we at StrategyDriven have successfully implemented many of Jeffrey’s recommendations.

Little Red Book of Sales Answers actionably addresses sales persons’ questions and doubts; enabling them to achieve more for their clients, their organizations, and themselves. For its immediately actionable sales methods, Little Red Book of Sales Answers is a StrategyDriven recommended read.