Can we ever reach gender parity in organisations?

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haniahLast week, I attended a workshop at my toddler’s nursery school and I was disheartened to see that there was only one father in a room full of mothers – most of whom had left their work early in order to attend. And I wondered, where is the change that was to come with the millennial men? Doesn’t all the research indicate that they want to become much more involved fathers? What is stopping them?

I have been researching the topic of gender parity for over a few years now, and it is extremely off-putting to see lack of progress we have made on this issue. Many large organisations are now on their second or third wave of diversity and inclusion programmes. However, a good number of them are still struggling to identify obvious improvements in the metrics they hoped to see changes in.

I feel we cannot move the needle on this issue unless we collectively stop viewing mothers as being primarily responsible for childcare. According to the 2016 Women in the Workplace Study, at every stage in their careers, women perform more childcare than men. The study also found a link between the quantity of childcare women do and their leadership ambition: the more work women do at home, the less interested they are in leadership positions. The main reason for this disconnect is that the combination of work and childcare responsibilities is difficult to reconcile with the dominant model in the business world, which demands total availability as well as greater geographical mobility.

Motherhood has long been a dominant explanation for the small proportion of women in corporate boardrooms. Some of the most compelling evidence of the motherhood penalty comes from experiments conducted by sociologists; Shelley Correll, Stephen Bernard, and In Paik. In the experiment, they asked college students to rate a pair of job applicants after examining their résumés and the notes from screening interviews. After establishing that the application materials presented the candidates as equally qualified, the researchers altered them to indicate that one applicant was a parent. When being considered for the same job, mothers were significantly less likely to be recommended for hire and, when they were, they were offered on average $11,000 less in starting salary, than childless women. Fathers were not penalised at all. The participants revealed that they assumed the mothers to be inherently less competent and less committed.

One school of thought suggests that the issue is down to women’s own preferences – that women value career less than men or that mothers do not want high-profile, challenging work. However, research indicates that women are certainly not lacking in ambition. In fact, they begin their careers with ambitions that are just as high as their male peers. Furthermore, the 2013 Life and Leadership After HBS study, which surveyed more than 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates, suggests that when women leave their jobs after becoming mothers, only a small number do so because they want to devote their attention to motherhood; the majority leave reluctantly, because they find themselves in unfulfilling roles with few prospects for advancement.

What is the way forward? Millennial men finally behaving in accordance to what they have been saying, and organisations actively enabling and not penalising them to embrace fatherhood.

Sources:

McKinsey & Company and LEanIn.org. (2016, September). Women in the Workplace Study. Retrieved from https://womenintheworkplace.com

Life and Leadership after HBS. (2013). Retrieved from

https://www.hbs.edu/women50/images/women_survey_preview_130402.pdf

Correll, S., Benard, S., & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a Job: Is there a motherhood penalty. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 112, No. 5

An LGBT-Inclusive Diversity Statement

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Last August, I had an illuminating conversation with an equal rights activist working in the hub of Toronto, Ontario. During this conversation, I spoke about the LGBT workforce and what could be done to ameliorate company cultures, making them more inclusive of the LGBT community. The activist turned to me and said “Have you heard of TD bank? They have phenomenal initiatives prioritising LGBT inclusivity at work. All of my LGBT friends who work at TD bank are filled with praise when it comes to inclusivity there.” Interesting; I was captivated. What made this company so appealing?

Inspired by TD Bank’s efforts of promoting LGBT inclusion, I began to consider effective strategies for inclusion, for organisations seeking to attract diverse candidates. I decided that it would be interesting to examine whether or not different approaches to diversity statements could influence how inclusive a company feels to prospective LGBT employees. In my research, I observed two ways in which diversity statements can be constructed:

  1. Through a focus on differences (you provide a unique and diverse contribution to the company)
  2. Through a focus on similarities (we value you equally to any other employee, everyone is valuable in the same way).

Interestingly, the results of the study (including over 200 participants) indicated that a value in differences approach was far more favourable than one with a value in similarities, for LGBT respondents. This is because, a value in similarities approach deemphasizes the group identity (being LGBT) for the individual, conveying intolerance of group member differences (Levy et al., 2005). In turn, valuing differences can reduce anticipated scrutiny and stereotyping. The language used in the value in differences approach emphasizes notions of valuing differences and mutual respect. In doing so, it acts as a cue to refute threatening identity contingencies associated with sexual orientation, developed through numeric underrepresentation, social hierarchies and stereotypes.

As such, in addition to mentioning LGBT members in a company’s diversity statement – which is practiced at TD Bank and many other companies – the approach taken in the statement itself, also plays a significant role in whether or not prospective employees feel comfortable joining a company. In fact, my research showed that highlighting a value for differences, improves prospective LGBT employees’ perception of trust, comfort, belonging and ability to express their sexual orientation in the workplace.

When people feel comfortable and can express themselves authentically at work, they perform better, have increased engagement and increased productivity. Having a diverse and inclusive culture at work can also promote better employee satisfaction, talent management, corporate reputation and collaboration. As such, fostering a culture of inclusivity, should be a top priority for companies today.

All of the outcomes mentioned above have serious practical implications for a company’s success. Specifically, an increase in LGBT employee members coming out, for example, is crucial as currently over half of LGBT employees choose not to even disclose their sexual orientation at work. In turn, research has shown that coming out to colleagues decreases distraction, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and stress at work. As ‘coming out’ is often held back because of perceived negative social identity contingencies, diversity statements catered towards reducing such negative social identity contingencies are crucial.

The research outlined above illustrates one approach companies can take to promote an inclusive company culture to prospective employees. By articulating inclusive cues, such as through the approach taken in a diversity statement, companies can best prepare themselves for the future by attracting and retaining the best talent from the LGBT community, and other minority groups.

If you would like to share your own thoughts or questions about company culture and inclusivity, contact Raphael Korine, a member of our research team, here.

What to do about Learning?

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At what age do you think you’ll stop working? I’ve asked this question to executives at the peak of their career, and to MBA students in the early stages of theirs and it seems like we’re finally getting it. More and more, the answer I hear is ‘never’, or at the very least ‘well into my 70s’. It seems we’re coming to terms with – embracing even – the prospect of an extended working life.

But here’s the catch. What about the next logical questions: What skills will you need to build to be employable in the future? How will you build them… and who’s going to pay?

At this point, the room tends to go quiet.

While we’ve figured out that we need to be working for longer, we are far less certain about what it takes to stay employable in an ever changing world of work. This is exacerbated by the disruptions we see around us in our roles, organisations and industries as technology displaces some jobs while augmenting others; as new competitors enter the landscape and fundamentally shift how customers and clients engage with our products and services.

It’s clear then, that much will have to change — both in how we as individuals understand and anticipate the evolving nature of work, and how we then respond:

Anticipation. As part of my research consortium, The Future of Work, I recently launched a survey asking people in large corporations how they were addressing learning. I was fascinated to see that many of them scored highly in terms of investing time and energy into regularly learning new skills. However, they scored lower on anticipating which skills would be valuable in the future. Essentially, they were investing a lot of resources into learning, without knowing in which direction they should be going. This is concerning.

Response. What do we need to do differently to learn over the course of a longer working life? Here again, it seems that we are experimenting at the edges of the system with online learning modules and mentoring, but are yet to make the fundamental shifts required to maintain our employability.

What’s the answer? I firmly believe that this is a societal shift and must be addressed at every level and by multiple stakeholders – individuals, governments, educational institutions, organisations. For now, however, let me focus on organisations.

Work is a major place of learning, and it is incumbent on organisations to be active both in the anticipation and response stages:

  • Anticipation: is your organisation analysing how jobs are changing and then translating this into guidance for your employees?
  • Response: does your organisation provide people with the time and resources to act on this by embracing lifelong learning?

There are some organisations already leading the way here: media and telecoms company, AT&T, anticipates future job profiles through the mapping of job categories. This then demonstrates which areas will grow and where jobs may be at risk. Westpac, the Australian bank, enables response with a platform-based approach called LearningBank, which has been rolled out to 40,000 employees. This is a social learning environment where employees co-create and share their own learning material as well as accessing training curated by the company.

Where does this leave us? It took time for us as individuals to come around to the reality of longer working lives, and perhaps it will take time too for organisations to fully appreciate the challenge ahead and their role in addressing it. In the meantime, however, those organisations that anticipate and respond fastest, have much to gain from an informed and employable workforce.

 

 

Guest Blog – Why Would You Receive Reassurance?

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No one ever admits this. But everyone craves for it. Reassurance. The politician from his voters. The entrepreneur from his clients. The subordinate from the superior. The managers. from their talent. A business model from its environment.

Unfortunately reassurance in VUCA times has to pass through a re-certification by the appropriate stakeholder group. Except parental, there is no blind reassurance today for anything. How do we earn the reassurance?

3 simple suggestions to reflect over:

  1. Ensure your relevance: your skills must still have currency. They must not have a diminishing marginal utility . Build emergent ones, divest redundant ones. Acquire the ones that will be needed as you look at your future risks and opportunities. Reinvent yourself, however painful it may seem.
  2. Build wider networks: the world is far more networked today than we can ever imagine. Collaborate, connect, communicate, co-create with various network groups. Staying only tethered to a function, industry or geography is inadequate. The reassurance demands a wider connecting of the dots.
  3. Stay hungry: stay hungry for ideas, for talent, for learning, for leadership. Hunger drives a very different passion. Many unfortunately are satiated and still expect reassurances. That is not going to be.

 

Prabir Jha, Global Chief People Officer at Cipla

Thriving in a World of Distractions

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Hannah Blog HeadshotDuring my final year of university, every Monday morning at 8:30, you could find me meditating amongst 20 peers and an unconventionally laid-back German professor. To be clear, I am not by any means a morning person. As a self-diagnosed insomniac, my only motive at that hour was to get away with stealing a nap under the guise of meditation. However, the premise of the course instantly captured my attention and interest. Later, the intangible transformations I noticed within myself managed to hold and heighten my curiosity.

Words have limited utility when understanding mindfulness. It can be roughly defined as the awareness that comes to mind when paying attention to the present moment – but this in itself doesn’t encompass the breadth of the mindful experience. One of my favourite metaphors to describe the mindful mindset is the following:

Imagine yourself alone in an empty room. No furniture, no windows, no technology. Just you. You’re deep in thought and enjoying your own company. Perhaps you’re meditating, or imagining a brilliant idea, or visualising a beautiful space, or just allowing your thoughts to lead you down unexplored pathways.

And then suddenly… your attention is drawn to a distinctive buzzing sound. A fly appears to have emerged out of thin air and now you’ve lost your train of thought. How dare this fly disrupt your creative space! You instantly decide that this persistent buzz needs to be destroyed. How else will you regain your state of peace?

You soon discover an unexpected issue: every time you successfully swat the fly, two more take its place. Eventually you’re surrounded by fly chaos – an orchestra of buzzing – without escape. You’ve spent all of your time and energy opposing the fly, and now you’re exhausted.

Maybe you shouldn’t have opposed the original fly, you think to yourself, but that infuriating buzzing surely would have driven you mad.

So really, what other option did you have?

Most of us operate in a reactive state, processing information on ‘auto-pilot’. When a fly enters your personal space, the automatic reaction is to judge it as an annoyance. This stems from an embedded belief that the fly should not be present – it should be resisted. Yet as Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, asserted, “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size”.

The same goes for distracting or distressing thoughts. Humans are genetically primed towards a negativity bias, meaning that unhelpful ways of thinking are easier to engage in. Through attempting to resist or eliminate negatively judged events, these events are more likely to leave lasting impacts on the human brain. This notion is exemplified through interpersonal relationships, where an estimated five warm and positive interactions are needed to counteract just one loss of trust interaction.

Mindfulness aims to change this conceptual mode of processing from automatic to intentional. Rather than eliminating negative emotions or stressors, the mindful perspective changes your relationship to them, allowing us to non-judgmentally accept their presence. In other words, worrying about, trying to eliminate, or distracting yourself from the fly aren’t your only options. Instead, by expanding your awareness to permit acceptance of the fly, adaptive growth and transformation can arise.

Hannah Blog Image

So, how can we embrace the mindful mindset? How can we begin to welcome the unwelcome distractions we experience on a daily basis?

The good news is, you don’t have to commit to three hours of meditation and reflection every Monday morning. You do, however, need a certain level of commitment in order to notice significant transformations in the way you think and react. Short daily practices have shown to have lasting impacts on mood and attentional control at both the behavioural and neuronal level. This mindfulness practice encompasses the classic breathing and body-scan meditations, but can also include mindfulness of routine activities (such as eating, walking, or running), or mindful movement (i.e. yoga).

I noticed the impact of mindfulness on my stress levels almost immediately. After class on Mindful Mondays, I was uncharacteristically alert and energised, and felt a general spike in mood. This translated to amplified focus and productivity throughout the day.

Picking up on these intangible transformations motivated me to practice independently. I began using that mindfulness app I had downloaded ages ago but never felt the need to open. When lying in bed restlessly, thoughts and plans encircling my mental arena, Headspace’s sleep meditation became my go-to fix.

From my perspective, one of the few things we have control over in life is how we react to things outside of our control. This is the core of what mindfulness taught me. But I’m still not a morning person. 

Learn more about how mindfulness can engender individual and organisational transformation by contacting: Hannah@hotspotsmovement.com

Digital Myth Debunking – Here’s why digital natives may not be as savvy as you think…

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RaphOn a summer’s day in 1994, I was born in Paris as a ‘digital native’ – part of the generation born into a world where technology was readily available – through smartphones to laptops to social media platforms. By the time I reached High School, technology was moving swiftly into the education experience and we were told that we would be required to use laptops in the classroom for note-taking instead of using paper. Rather than celebrating this advance – as you might assume a millennial would – me and my peers saw it as a ‘counterproductive’ system ‘ruining education’ whilst our Principal at the time, in his early 50’s, narrated to us just how great technology was for society and education.

Was this clash between my grade and the Principal predictive of millennials and how we feel about technology today? Given that the older generations developed, introduced and fostered this digital world, would it not make sense for us, millennials, to be most critical of it? With these questions in mind I highlight the importance of questioning the assumption that millennials prefer and work better with the digital world than previous generations.

Let’s have a look at some of the myths or assumptions about the older generations and their interaction with digital:

Myth #1: They have more difficulty using technology than millennials

Older generations do not necessarily have more difficulty using technology than millennials in the workforce. A study by Dropbox and Ipsos Mori surveying over 4,000 information workers in the United States and Europe found that people over 55 use 4.9 forms of technology per week, compared to an average of 4.7. More importantly, older workers have less trouble when working with multiple devices compared to millennials, with just 13% reporting issues when working with multiple devices, compared to 37% of millennials.

Myth #2: They find technology in the workplace to be more stressful than millennials

Older generations do not necessarily find technology to be more stressful in the workplace than their younger counterparts. In fact, the same study found that older workers experienced less stress at work because of technology – 25% experienced stress compared to 36% of 18 to 34 year olds. The findings in this study were also replicated in a State of Workplace Productivity Report published by Cornerstone onDemand. This study focused on information and technology overload and found that 38% of millennials reported experiencing technology overload compared to only 20% of employees from older generations. These figures again challenge the existing myths about younger people and their engagement with technology.

Myth #3: Millennials are naturally gifted when it comes to technology as they are born ‘digital natives’

Perhaps the most interesting myth however is that millennials are naturally gifted when it comes to technology as they have been exposed to it for their entire lives. This myth brings me back to the story about my underclassmen in high school being told to use laptops in class instead of taking hand-written notes. If this generation were indeed working with computers so closely throughout their upbringing, would this correlate with how tech-savy they would end up being in the workplace? Pew Research Center found that when it comes to knowledge about the web, there are very few differences between millennials and older generations. Whilst millennials knew better for example that Wikipedia was collaboratively edited, older generations had better knowledge on what the acronym, URL, stood for, and so on. In addition to knowledge about the web, studies have also shown that actual knowledge about computer skills is also not significantly higher for the younger generation. A recent study in Austria, for example, indicated that only 7% of 15-29 year olds had very good computer skills. Fuelling this myth is millennials’ own misconceptions about their abilities when it comes to technology. Whilst 84% of surveyed millennials expressed that they had ‘good’ or ‘very good’ computer skills, over 40% scored ‘badly’ or ‘very badly’ when it came to the actual practical test. In fact, the study added that the biggest gap between perceived and actual skills was consistently found in the 15 to 29-year-old participants.

It is incredibly important to question the myths around generations and the digital world. The question remains however as to why millennials may have more difficulties with technology in the workplace than older generations. Here are some ideas:

• First, millennials may have more difficulty with technology than older generations as they are more likely to get distracted in the workplace due to technology. For example, a study by Nextrio found that whilst 50% of employees younger than 43 access personal websites and emails at work, only 13% of employees aged 44-60 do so. With technology creating more distractions for millennials at work, this could explain why stress levels associated with technology are higher for millennials and why difficulties may arise when millennials try to handle multiple devices, as they are overloaded with distractions online.

• Second, millennials have more of an expectation of technology to work all the time. Growing up with immediate access to simple technology (Facebook, iPhones, Google etc), millennials may be less tolerant of issues with technology at work, causing more stress and difficulty with digital programs. In turn, older generations who have seen the development of technology first hand, witnessing the struggles of slow servers, crashing programs and more, are more tolerant of technological issues and better at navigating around them. Almost 60% of millennials would bring their own device to work compared to less than 40% of older generation employees.

pexels-photo-267392Returning to my story with the laptops being introduced for note-taking, I personally believe that older generations have less difficulty with technology as they are more likely to actively choose to incorporate technology into their lives without assuming it to be the only way. As a millennial who has not had the option of technology, I cherish human face-to-face interactions with as little technology imposed on me as possible. In fact, I believe that being a millennial makes me appreciate opportunities away from the chaos of the digital world in the workplace even more than older generations, as it is something quite rare and special. Five years have passed since my graduation in 2012 and I still firmly believe that my school’s addition of laptops for note-taking was a terrible and detrimental idea for its students. What would be interesting would be to give the students an actual choice about whether to use technology in the classroom or not and then explore which of these students perceive and interact with technology most positively in the future.

By Raphael Korine, Research, Hot Spots Movement

To find out more about generational myth debunking, contact me on raphael@hotspotsmovement.com

References:

  1.  http://www.cio.com/article/3103893/it-industry/think-older-workersstruggle-with-technology-think-again.html
  2. http://logicaloperations.com/insights/blog/2013/11/11/114/are-youngpeople-struggling-with-technology-in-the-workplace/
  3. http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/11/25/web-iq/
  4. Ronald Bieber “Survey: computer skills in Austria (2014)”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtAFgBiTb5g.
  5. http://www.nextrio.com/generation-gap-technology-workplace/

Guest Blog – Discharging my ‘Loyal Soldier’

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Beth Bundy Image

Over the last few years I’ve been working with a fabulous mentor who has been instrumental in helping me find strategies to deal with my ‘inner critic’ or ‘imposter syndrome’.

Initially, my interest in this area was entirely personal and driven by the experience of the ego ride first appointment into a senior executive role. But, as I read more and shared more articles online, it became clear that I’m not alone. Maybe it’s the taboo subject of our generation, and is in some way linked to our connected device driven world where our social media lives belie reality. However, my experience is that when I raise it as an issue professionally it’s as if I just pointed to the elephant in the corner of the room and everyone wants to talk about it, just not in groups. So, I’m raising it here, with some reflections on the practices I use to manage it.

Being accountable to a mentor

Just having a mentor has helped me to identify the problem, and be held to account about what goes on in my inner world. I need to do this monthly, I’m a better person for it.

Understanding the internal voice

Possibly my mentor’s greatest gift to me was ‘Falling Upward: How to live the second half of life well’, by Richard Rohr. Richard is a Franciscan priest, and boy is he calm. In this book my epiphany moment was his description of our need to ‘discharge our loyal soldier’. This is the voice that served us well as we grew up, through our 20’s and into our early 30’s. It regulated our behaviour, guided us through what was ‘right and wrong’ and set us ‘the rules by which we should live in order to be something’. However, once we’ve got there, this voice isn’t as helpful. Once we can learn to recognise this, we can thank that voice when it makes and appearance and discharge it.

If I’m bluntly honest I think my loyal soldier only got louder when I got to that place where it had nothing to really regulate, and therefore became more of a distraction. So I’m also interested in how it can interfere with the work of an executive team who are all managing their own inner critic and their sense of place around the table, or ego. It’s definitely still a taboo subject in that setting, but maybe its the reason why so many organisations now provide mentors to their executive teams.

Healthy habits

I’m also on the mindfulness wagon. In the same way that I avoided WeightWatchers for years because ‘I don’t need that’, I had avoided this. Then along came ‘HeadSpace’, again like WW it grabbed me because it’s an app. It means I can do this completely solo when it suits me. I recently had a conversation with my husband at the end of a work day, we both have big jobs and our end of day debriefs can be intense. On this occasion I had done a HeadSpace practice, he hadn’t. After a few minutes of listening to him ramble, I gently said ‘honey, go do a HeadSpace’ then call me back. The subject matter changed completely, and for the better. Finally, I journal now, I have a routine / structure to the content and it involves active gratitude.

Beth Bundy Featured Image - Final

Reality check

Managing the inner critic is a bit like physical exercise. When it’s going well, life is great, but let’s be real we get thrown off balance a lot. So I’m also not going to say that my life is a bed of roses. Even with all these great strategies, I recently reached a point where sleep was just not possible and the inner critic was in charge at 1am, 2am, 3am, you get the picture. So in this world where we’re connected 24/7, we have to give intentional thought to how we can disconnect individually and how do we model this as leaders because I’m certain the alternative is not sustainable. I’m sure it starts with talking about it, taking the temperature of our team regularly and figuring out what works for each person.

Beth Bundy is Group People & Organisation Director at Auckland University of Technology