Tag Archives: women

Hard Work Pays Off for Gen Y

Cheryl offers: I frequently hear people talking about our young generation graduating from college these days. Many times the comments just aren’t generous. My teaching experience at SMU has been just the opposite, so I’m often puzzled by this apparent gap in perceptions. The story coming out of Indiana from the University of Notre Dame to be precise is just another reminder that today’s young people are hard working, smart trailblazers. Katie Washington, will be the first black student to graduate with the honor of being the class valedictorian. She’s a biology major with a minor in Catholic social teaching carrying a perfect 4.0. And I can tell she’s a leader; her comment regarding her honors tell it all. “I am humbled. I am in a mode of gratitude and thanksgiving right now.” Does that sound like someone who feels entitled, is lazy, or lacks a work ethic? Not to me. And if you think this is no big deal, think again. Research tells us this is a monumental accomplishment because being a woman of color “combines the stereotype about race with gender stereotypes to present even greater challenges for women” according to Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode.  I cannot fathom how much hard work, determination and guts achieving this great honor must have taken this young woman. She’s off to study medicine at Johns Hopkins and some day she’ll likely be a great researcher or physician. I can only hope to live long enough to be the recipient of her good work.

No and No

Cheryl offers:  Last week Randy sent me a link to an article “Are We There Yet?”  This Newsweek article by today’s generation of female writers challenges the progress made since the early 1970’s by a similar group of frustrated young female writers.  Both have found their ability to make significant contributions to their employer, based on more reasons than there is space here to list. Did you know that last year men wrote all but 6 of Newsweek’s 49 cover stories?  And that comes from a company and editorial staff that is 49% female. Odd to say the least; particularly considering a quote from Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, “Until eight weeks old, every fetal brain looks female.  A huge testosterone surge beginning in the eight week will turn the unisex brain male by killing off some cells in the communication centers and growing more cells in the sex and aggression centers.”  She goes on to explain women actually have 11% more neurons for use in language and hearing.  Now, I’m no journalist.  Most of you have figured that out if you read my blog. But it does seem to me that listening and hearing would be really important to investigating and interviewing people; then being able to write a magazine article. And it seems that increased capacity for language, the basic blocks of writing, would make women even more qualified for being great writers.  It was actually the little note at the bottom of the last page that caught my attention. “Like this article? Subscribe to Newsweek…”  I believe my answer to both will be No.

Olympic Flowers

Cheryl offers: I began to wonder as each Olympic athlete stepped to the podium to be awarded their medal if they were using just a few bouquets of flowers and passing them around between events. They all looked the same! As it turns out, my friend in Canada, Lyn Kyneston, solved the mystery for me. Each bouquet of green spider mums with hypericum berries surrounded by leather-leaf fern, monkey grass, and aspidistra leaves, was made by Just Beginning Flowers in Surrey, B.C.  This florist is much more than a florist; they are also a non-profit that teaches people with significant social barriers to be florists, provides them with experience, and then helps them find jobs. The many women who worked on these 1800 bouquets might be recently released from prison, formerly abused or recovering drug addicts. It made me remember what Marcus Buckingham wrote in his book, First Break All the Rules, which in many ways, this florist is doing. He said “Every role performed at excellence deserves respect. Every role has its own nobility.” High five to the Olympic committee that chose this extraordinary florist and bestowed not only medals to athletes, but also bestowed opportunity, confidence, and respect to these women in need.

“Excuse me”/“I’m sorry”

Cheryl offers:  I consider myself a pretty savvy business woman. I’ve read a lot of books, have an EMBA from SMU, had a great career at IBM, on and on. I have lots of reasons to tell myself so. And yet, with all the information I’ve read and know about women in the workplace, I find myself committing some of the very behaviors I advocate women release to make themselves more powerful. Take yesterday for example. I am in downtown Dallas at a busy street corner during lunch. As I approach the corner and start to cross the street, a young man approaches from a different direction and wants to cross to a different corner than I do. We do the imaginary “dance” of positioning to sort out our intentions without really speaking. As we “dance” he says “Excuse me” and I respond with “I’m sorry,” Whoa! I realize a few seconds later I’ve just committed one of those behaviors Gail Evans warns all women about in her book Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman. Evans claims women’s apologizing with “I’m sorry” is a “female addiction”; that sorry is a sorry word for us to use. Women need to drop all the apologies because in a business environment, a man hearing them infers a mistake has been made and it’s the woman’s because she apologized. This is one of those subtle ways we undermine our power and future opportunities.  I’m beginning to think she’s right and I’m working on retraining my brain and tongue. Oh, I’m sorry, did I offend anyone?

Add ONE woman to the Supreme Court? Big deal!

Cheryl offers: I’d like to say I am encouraged or even amused by the recent hoopla over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the hoopla seems more focused on finding ways to prevent a woman from obtaining this seat than what I believe is the real topic for the Supreme Court. Over half of our nation’s population is women. In the past year, the number of working women has surpassed men in the workplace. Almost 60% of all graduating law students are women. What’s wrong with this picture? Why are we so proud we are thinking about putting a woman on the Supreme Court? And if the media and their allies can find a way to prevent it, they will. Why aren’t we asking ourselves where are the rest of the women who should be seated next to her? Canada gets it. Women serve in four of the nine Supreme Court justice positions. Our situation isn’t amusing or encouraging to me; it’s downright devastating. And by the way, this embarrassment includes the limited presence of minorities on that lofty bench (with acknowledgement to Justice Thomas.)  It reminds me of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. What got us here, our current economic and political situation, is NOT where energy needs to be invested. Our future is far too vulnerable and important to risk to time bound ideas of the past.

 Sara adds: This whole political circus around Sotomayor points out (for me) the need for recognizing our biases.  First, let me offer the definition of “bias” I am using – “Biasnoun; an inclination of outlook.”  We spend our entire lives perfecting our biases.  Even well-intentioned people are guided by lifetimes of biases.  Blind bias is the culprit here – the kind of bias that shows up when a middle aged white woman thinks she can respond in a gender and ethnic neutral way.  It can’t be done.  Ever been cut off in traffic and look to see who did it to you?  Was it a redneck or a thug or a well dressed executive in a fancy car?  And once you spotted them, was it comforting to be able to think, “That’s just like their kind!”   Dr. Sondra Theiderman nails it in Making Diversity Work, “No one is blameless when it comes to bias.  Sure, some biases are launched by the most powerful and hit their target with greater force.  But ultimately, bias is bias.”   We have two ways to blunt the impact of bias.  The first is to become mindful of our biases and manage them.  The second way – and this is what needs to happen in the United States Supreme Court – is to be inclusive.  Make sure people of variety have a seat at the table.  It seems so simple.  Simple should never be confused with easy.

Women Don’t Ask

Cheryl’s Thoughts: The Sunday Dallas Morning News, May 5, 2009 ran an article on how challenging the current job market is going to be for graduating college seniors this year. What keeps coming to mind is how less likely women are to negotiate a starting salary. Given the current economy and job market, I suspect their normal propensity to not even attempt negotiations will widen the current pay gap where women earn 76 cents to every dollar a man earns. What a big mistake this will be!
In the book, Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Lasechever, the authors share the following:
• Women’s salary expectations are 3-32 % lower than their male counterparts
• Women’s estimates of “fair pay” for equal work average 4% lower than men and as much as 23% less at their career peak
• Women compare themselves to women, men to men, rather than looking at the profession or job as the basis of comparison
• Women frequently view negotiations as an activity they will do for others, but not themselves
The bottom line result is women will likely lose about $1M in compensation over the course of a career. Does this mean one should not even attempt a negotiation in today’s economy?

Sara’s Thoughts: The authors go on to guide women to more success in negotiations. “Rather than a battle between adversaries, negotiation has increasingly been seen as, ideally, a collaborative process aimed at finding the best solutions for everyone involved.” Collaboration is a place where women excel! Here are some ideas for negotiating successfully in the business environment we face today. These ideas work for both genders.
• Know the story before you begin. Research the market place. Know what current salaries are and what would be a fair range for the job.
• Consider what is valuable for you. Be ready to negotiate salary, vacation, benefits, and whatever would be in an ideal package. If salaries are frozen, there may be other incentives you would like to see.
• Breathe deeply to manage your emotions and ask lots of questions. There can be a tendency to get caught up in our own babble of “selling ourselves” or to say “yes” too fast. A deep breath and time to think can go a long way in negotiating a better deal.
• Be bold. Ask. They may say “no,” but they may say yes. And at least you will keep the conversation open!

The question we would pose to you is, when is a woman being assertive and when is she being a pushy broad? What do you think?