In February, the New York Times published a feature on why gender equality stalled, drawing attention once again to the fact that despite this being the 21st century, men and women still aren’t equal in the workplace.
We know that in the US, women are paid 77 cents for every man’s dollar and that only 4.2 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by women – and this situation is replicated across the globe. So what’s stopping women getting a fair deal? And why don’t we speak out about it more?
Here’s a thought. I read yesterday about pop star Katy Perry who, upon receiving her Billboard award in December 2012, announced, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women.” Perhaps this is part of the problem. Many people today still regard the term ‘feminist’ as something derogatory. And Katy shows that women are in many ways the worst culprits for perpetuating this myth.
When did feminism mean anything other than getting a fair deal for women? It reminded me of this excerpt from journalist Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman:
When statistics come in saying that only 29 per cent of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42 per cent of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Did all that good sh*t GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?
It’s as if we’ve taken a step backwards. The word ‘feminist’ that once was short-hand for liberation, doing the right thing and creating a more equal society is now more generally associated with men-hating, making excuses and whining.
Another alarming fact is the increasing ‘lack of ambition’ in our young women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, quotes some surprising statistics in her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. For example, in a survey of 4,000 employees at big companies, 36% of men said they want to be CEO but only 18% of women said the same. Just think of the creativity, emotional intelligence and ultimate productivity that the global economy is missing out on if this continues.
At this point, I feel it’s appropriate to take some advice from an incredibly self-aware 16 year-old called Tavi Gevinson who says in her inspiring TED talk:
One thing that can be very alienating about a misconception of feminism is that girls then think that to be feminists they have to live up to being perfectly consistent in their beliefs, never being insecure, never having doubts, having all the answers…and this is not true and actually recognizing all the contradictions I was feeling became easier once I realized that feminism was not a rulebook but a discussion, a conversation, a process.
So my final thought is that we should reclaim the word ‘feminist’ not in an aggressive way, but in a conscious way. As women, aspiring to be the CEO doesn’t mean we have to be perfect or ruthless. It’s as simple as believing we can get there and working really hard. So let’s reclaim the essence of feminism at work, start shouting a bit louder about inequality and change some of the appalling statistics about unequal pay and promotion we keep reading about.
About the author: Sue Stoneman is CEO and founding partner of learning and development agency, NKD Learning. She is a change management, employee engagement and learning and development expert. Prior to setting up NKD Learning in 2005, Stoneman spent over 20 years in a variety of PLC and private equity businesses, including British Airways, Hyundai, Barclays and Terrafirma. She has a breadth of experience as a board director, having held senior positions in Marketing and Sales, Customer Operations and HR.
I happen to have a propensity for guilt. Although I am not sure of the origins of this tendency to own every hiccup in life, I battle it daily. Add that I am a working mother of two small girls and this doesn’t help with my guilt ridden personality.
When it comes to being a working mom, I often cannot quite tell what exactly I feel so guilty about. Do I regret not having as much time as I would like with my girls? Or am I feeling badly about the fact that I like my job, that it satisfies a core part of my personality? If the latter, what kind of mother does that make me?
I would like to think that every mom feels just like I do but the fact is they don’t. I have some amazing women in my life who are strong and confident in their choices to excel at work and raise really likable children. These women are wonderful examples to me and their advice helps me curb the guilt.
Recently I had coffee with a girlfriend who is not only successful but is raising two adorable boys. I asked her to share insight on how she gets through the day without nagging bouts of self-reproach.
- Stop apologizing for your choices. Yes you work. Yes you like it. Yes you love your kids. All of these things can go together without competing (well most of the time-perhaps not when you have to call in sick because your 2 year old caught some awful version of the stomach bug). Change your perspective and focus on what a great example you can be to your children by modeling work ethic, passion, and drive. These are important traits to possess and who better to teach your children than you?
- Be true to who you are. Follow your own path and not a prescribed path you think is correct. There are so many ways to “mommy” children. Do it your way and you will feel better about it. I spent the first year of my oldest daughter’s life trying to prescribe to every sleep ritual out there. None of them felt right to me and none of them worked well for my daughter. Once I accepted the fact that the
Look, I don’t often get political on blogs. My views are my views and unless they intersect with HR, I don’t typically put them out there. Despite loving a good debate, and by good I mean respectful and not shouting matches, I don’t like getting up on soapboxes because I have terrible balance and will likely hurt myself and others - metaphorically and literally.
But if you read this blog, I’m sure you’d understand why articles like this, To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’ just drive me batty. Let me lay it out there - I consider myself a feminist (Oh god, hide your children!).
I know that a lot of people seem to treat “feminist” like this horrible, dirty word. Vocal extremes on both sides of the argument aside, I don’t think at its heart that feminism is about forcing women out of the home, destroying families, and hating on men. That stuff ultimately is just a distraction from some serious and legitimate concerns that impact everyone in society, not just women.
Feminism has impacted:
- Women’s right to vote
- Women’s right to decide who and when to marry (if ever)
- Women’s access to education
- Women’s access to better health services, and yes, that includes contraception and abortion
- Women’s rights and options in the work place to include career choice, protections from harassment, equal pay, promotions, training, management, etc.
- Better protection and recognition under the law (e..g rape, abuse, right to own a business and property)
- Women’s ability to serve in the military and now (yay!) fight in combat.
And that’s just what I could name of the top of my head.
That list isn’t about taking away anything or forcing women to do or be something that they don’t want to. That list is about choices. That list is about freedom. That list is about giving women the same rights, access, responsibility, and yes, equality under the law. It’s about giving our daughters opportunities we never had, whether they chose to take advantage of them or not.
Is it perfect? No. Will it ever be? No. But it’s something to work towards and there is a lot still left to be done, Gay rights for one, but laws don’t change people’s hearts and minds. That only happens through societal change. Everyday people, including feminists, are the ones who have gotten us to the point we are at today.
Society is facing a lot of challenges right now and it is going through some major upheaval. But no, that’s not a bad thing either. Why? Because I don’t understand how someone can look at the state and status of women in this country or across the world and think that Feminism, of all things, is what is wrong with our world today. I think it’s long past the point that we need some societal upheaval.
But the most ironic aspect of that article espousing that men and women are not, and should not, be treated equally is that if not for feminists and societal change she would have never been allowed to write that article, much less be a published author in her own right. I’d think that at least she would have to agree that is a good thing.
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.
As busy HR professionals we use the word focus in many ways, whether it be in terms of what project we need to focus on next, what the focus of our next meeting should be or where our overall focus should be to keep in line with strategy.
What if we find ourselves having trouble with focus in the more literal sense though? We have very full schedules to maintain, and at some point we may lose sight of what is at the center of our day and miss a cue. Here are some tips that I employ to keep my productivity up when I find myself having trouble zeroing in on the task at hand:
Get organized. If your mind is racing and all you can think about is everything else you need to accomplish it will be hard to give your full attention to what you need to work on right now. Take a few minutes to organize your work area and update your to-do list. Prioritize, update deadlines if necessary and cross off tasks you’ve completed. When you have things in order it is easier to give your full attention to one specific item on the list so you can complete it and move on to the next.
Get a small project out of the way. Now that you are organized look at your list and see if there is something simple you can cross off right away. Perhaps there is an email that can be easily answered, a meeting quickly scheduled or some papers cluttering your desk that can be filed. Knowing that you got something accomplished, no mat
ter how small it may be, will give you a boost of confidence to tackle something bigger.
Refuel and recharge. Think back to your last meal; did you skip it altogether or was it not satisfying? If your stomach is grumbling or you are feeling light-headed it will be tough to make progress in your work. Take time to eat lunch or fit in a small snack. With the proper nourishment we have the energy necessary to make it through the rest of the day.
Not hungry? Get up and take a walk instead. Move around the office to check in with co-workers or step outside for fresh air. Either way, when you come back to your desk you’ll be reinvigorated and ready to tackle your inbox.
Turn on the music. This may not work for those that require quiet to get their work completed, but I’ve always found that putting light music on in the background can drown out all of the other office noise and allow me to focus in on my work.
Everyone has a different approach to get back on track. Find what works best for you and make your day as effective as possible.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 7 years experience supporting top organizations' HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.
It begins on Friday. “Got any plans this weekend? What are you doing? Are you going to the
big game big concert craft sale at the VFW? Will you be having a cookout party crawfish boil for the holiday weekend?”
And it ends, momentarily at least, on Monday. “How was your weekend? What did you do? Did you go anywhere? Did you do anything?”
It’s office small talk that allows people to appear somewhat interested in the lives of their fellow cubicle dwellers. More than likely, Glen in Purchasing could really care less that Carmen from Marketing is attending the Annual Furry Convention to be held in Pittsburgh (well, ok, that might intrigue him a bit…), but he feels the need to ask.
But I’ve noticed, throughout my working years, that this idle chatter can turn into yet another form of workplace one-upmanship. I’ve heard the sanctimonious inflection in a woman’s voice as she answered “I retiled the bathroom Saturday morning, applied weed-and-feed to the lawn, hosted a small gathering for 8 on Saturday night and then, after church on Sunday, tackled that smoked salmon w/ foie gras recipe I’ve been meaning to try. It was a light weekend.” And I‘ve witnessed the blank-stare and faintly disguised superiority from the questioner when someone (oh wait, that was me) answered “I did absolutely nothing.”
Perhaps it’s a cliché because it’s true when we admonish people to “take time to smell the roses.” Why must we feel the need to be doing-something-every-minute? After a busy, hectic and structured work week filled with meetings, appointments, phone calls and tasks, isn’t it just enough to stop, relax and not feel the need to DO?
In our quest to appear busy and engaged a
nd active and plugged-in we seem to have collectively embraced the viewpoint that just being in one place (i.e. HOME) for a span of time longer than it takes us to sleep and bathe is now seen as some sign of societal disengagement. Weekends spent cuddling one’s children on the couch under a comforter, reading a book for the pure enjoyment of it or even mindlessly watching VH1’s marathon of “100 One-Hit Wonders” are all perfectly acceptable ways to spend the weekend – aren’t they?
Yet, I’m convinced; we sometimes ask others how they spend their leisure time for the primary purpose of making judgments about either their lack of ambition or their lack of creativity.
Occasionally I pull my car into the garage on a Friday evening and don’t venture out beyond our property line again until Monday morning. I eat cold pizza for breakfast and cereal for dinner. I watch The Princess Diaries and Sex and the City reruns. I read Happy Hollisters books and pretend I’m in 2nd grade. I deep cleanse my pores. I take a nap in the morning and then, just for good measure, I take another one in the afternoon.
Then, come Monday morning, I go along with the small talk and ask my colleagues what they did over the weekend while I answer their queries as well.
And when I state “I did absolutely nothing” I do so with pride.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Robin Schooling likes gadgets, coffee, wine and football and insists upon surrounding herself with people who are curious and have a desire to try new things. After 20 plus years in HR, she is fully aware that HR is fun, frustrating, rewarding, maddening and important … and she loves most-every minute of it. You can keep up with Robin at her blog HRSchoolhouse.com and on the Twitter at @RobinSchooling.
A key project has been heavy on my mind. It’s something I’ve been working on for a very long time. ‘Working’ being a generous way of describing the intent of doing something where action is clearly lacking.
A number of things have gotten in the way. It's the usual suspects – a heavy work schedule, family commitments and a general malaise from not having achieved anything substantial to date. Thinking about it at length, I realized I was battling myself on two different fronts – prioritization and procrastination.
Was I prioritizing it? No, this was clearly at the bottom of the list. I know it is important for me to accomplish but not terribly urgent given it’s a self-imposed objective. So, I let the excuses rule. Was I procrastinating? Yes. Let’s be clear about that.
That’s when it hit me that it could have been one or the other or maybe, it was both. I realized that the line between prioritizing and procrastinating was a fine one indeed. So, having spent some time distilling this myself, I’ve come to some conclusions as to how you can tell these two apart :
Are You Delaying or Arranging?
Procrastinating is dawdling, delaying or postponing. Prioritizing is arranging, itemizing or working things out. Both are intentional behaviors in the sense that it is something you do as opposed to something done to you.
It would be a lie to believe that life simply happens to you. Yes, life does happen but you have a choice as to how it happens to you. You choose what you will do. If you choose to allow things to get in the way or prevent you from the task at hand, accept that you’ve decided to do it that way instead of arguing that it was done to you.
So, what are you doing? Are you allowing this to happen to you so that you can give y
ourself an excuse to do what you want to do anyway?
Now? Or Later?
Procrastinating is putting something off for a later time and urgency is rarely the order of the day. Prioritizing is about identifying what is important to you and deciding the order in which you will give it your time or attention.
Procrastinating is about driving down to the bottom of the list what is not important to you. When you procrastinate, you may identify a relatively loose time frame to get something done and at other times, you leave the things you don’t want to deal with to a later time which usually means that they really will not get done at all.
Prioritizing is about bringing to the top of your list what is important to you. When you prioritize, you decide what gets your attention when.
When it come to procrastination and prioritization, you need to know which you are embracing and whether you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Ensure when you procrastinate that it’s because it is a lesser priority and not something you don’t want to do deal with. Ensure when you prioritize something lower down your list that it’s not because it’s something you’re procrastinating instead. Procrastinating somehow connotes that it is something you need to do, yet are failing to do. There is an element of negativity attached.
Failing to call it right will more likely have an emotional toll on you.
About the author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters Magazine. A lawyer by training, Rowena left practice to embrace her entrepreneurial spirit and has not looked back since. She maintains a blog at Rowena Morais Posterous.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Well, with a caveat. Most of these sites, at this point, are catered toward the crafty do-it-yourself set by providing users a platform to market and sell their products easily. Many of the women who have Etsy shops that are promoted through Pinterest have gone on to encounter business growth, profit margins and notoriety in certain circles. This is all good as it continues to promote women in business.
What about the corporate business sector? For a long time, business school enrollment was only made up of 1/3 women while law school and med school crept closer to that 50/50 ideal. Recent studies indicate that more women are considering business school because GMAT applicants are now comprised of 41% females. This is a small step towards the business world mirroring the society it represents. Yet there is still much work to be done as women business professionals only make up 16% of C-suite level jobs.
Why the disparity between the number of women who obtain an MBA and the number of women CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and CMOs?
If 1/3 of the MBAs granted go to women, shouldn’t the number of women in the C-suite look more like 33%? Yes, it should but it doesn’t. A reason could be that women are still the main caretakers, homemakers, child-rearers. Full time working mothers bring nearly 50% of the household income while doing 90% of the household work. Women still feel they need to mirror some level of June Cleaver-esq domesticity. This need to do it all could stem from
the guilt women feel from not being able to manage a house like their mothers did or the generations before them. This guilt manifests itself in a need to try to balance it all. How does that play out? It plays out by women choosing home responsibilities over professional growth.
In order for things to truly be equal women need to shift gears and ask for spousal/partner help at home. As Sheryl Sandberg stated in her now famous Barnard commencement speech, “A world where women ran 50% of businesses and men ran 50% of houses would be a much better world.” This idealized world Sandberg describes would allow mothers to embrace professional growth and fathers to better connect with their children.
I have to admit to being fortunate in having a husband who has an equal tolerance for mess and takes on the nightly dishes duty after I make dinner (which I actually enjoy). Now if I could only do my part in striving for equality and be better about taking the trash out!
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR and Job Dig.
Do you scare people?
Evidently, I do, on occasion. A male colleague once confided in me that when we first met, “you kind of scared me a little.” That stopped me short. Me, “scary”? I did a quick mental checklist:
- Frightening facial hair and/or markings? No.
- Tendency to growl or make other creepy noises? Nope.
- Verbal references to scary things like zombies, catastrophes, or impending doom? Nuh-uh.
So what gives?
Luckily for me, by the time my colleague shared this with me, we had established a good working relationship. I was able to follow up: “Scary, really? What do you mean?” It turns out that because I approach my work with a sense of purpose and gusto, I appeared formidable to him. My enthusiasm and ability to move a project forward was, to him, a bit intimidating at first.
I can live with that.
What I can’t live with is the way that our society often equates women who are comfortable in their power with fear. Articles like Why Successful Women Terrify Us show that both men and women have trepidations about the interplay of professional women, power and the workplace.
I don’t have a problem with being powerful as long as it’s used properly. It’s not power that’s scary; abuse of power is. Every day, you have the choice to decide: how will I use my power?
Will you use your powe
r to intimidate or to attract?
r to intimidate or to attract?
Fear-based motives produce interactions that are intimidating, which repels people. When you act with the intention to attract people – to invite them into conversation and action, you use the power of who you are to create positive, mutually beneficial work relationships.
The conversation with my colleague did allow for some reflection. Did I come on too strong in our first meetings? Most likely. Was I appropriately collaborative? Yes, but there’s always room for improvement. But I won’t apologize for being intense, upbeat and driven to action. That’s who I am. My colleague’s feedback was a gift: pay closer attention to the impact you’re having on people, Jen. At the same time, if I’m acting with integrity and positive intentions and that still scares someone, then that’s their problem and not mine. I won’t apologize for staying connected to my power.
How do you stay connected to your power?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
How does it feel when we (women) are confident of our looks and know that people look at us and are inspired by us? We feel good, of course!
What wouldn’t we all do to get that stunning look, burn some fat to carve out those wonderful curves that others would kill for and look good in business casuals at work? Who doesn’t enjoy dressing up? Looking good increases our confidence and helps us create a positive impression.
Looks matter when creating an impression. But can looks create a wrong impression? Does a “look” depict who you really are as a person? What if people start to perceive your personality and capabilities wrongly based on your looks – especially in the business world?
The other day few of my male friends were talking about a distraction during an official presentation that happened at work. No, it was not due to an annoying ring because somebody forgot to silence their phone or the noise of the photocopy/fax machine in the background. The reason for their distraction was the low buttoned shirt, big bosoms and beautiful curves of their new colleague making the presentation.
Do you think they caught any actual facts and figures from her power point presentation? Not. When I asked these fellows, they replied, “Even though we were trying to look past her physical appearance, it is the hardest temptation to resist.” And this gets harder when she turns around to reveal her cleavage and brings it into their sight.
Her looks were a distraction in the workplace. We can only imagine how many times these fellow might have taken a walk in front of her desk just to get a glance of her or how many times they must have had small talk over the phone with their male colleagues about it.
This woman, and others, are not being taken seriously in the corporate world because of their looks. There are opinions that women deliberately look this way to garner attentions and favor. Others question if women are even aware of how their “look” impacts the impression they leave with others.
What do you think? If a woman dressed in an “acceptable“ way, would that eliminate the possibility she would not be perceived in less than professional manner? That colleagues would know who she really was as a person?
Can the way a woman looks inadvertently send a wrong message? Should she care?
So, I’m driving home from St. Louis listening to Drive Thru HR, which I usually do on road trips, to catch up on my daily HR news from some incredible HR professionals all over the world.
I hear Lisa Rosendahl, (@lisarosendahl) who I was fortunate to meet last year at HRevolution. On the show, Lisa and William Tincup are talking about credibility and all these memories started popping into my mind, ideas and examples so I thought this is a great topic for my next Women of HR blog post.
The story I thought about occurred in my first couple of years of my HR career.
I was in charge of starting a training department. My initial goals where to hire a training coordinator and a couple of trainers. We had a person from another department with computer experience coming in to provide computer training and she was doing very well performance and training wise. Just for the record, I inherited her and she was not my hire.
She was getting good reviews but there were a few things that started to tick me off, so to speak. Measurable things that reflected poorly on our brand new “start-up” department and the rest of us who worked in the department. The following describes how she presented herself and how I perceived her credibility, NOT good.
I have talked about this story several times but never really sat down and wrote about it.
She repeatedly dressed inappropriately as a trainer and as a representative of the organization in front of 20 to 30 of our 500 employees at any one time. Her “see through” pants were so sheer that you could see whatever kind of underwear she was wearing, thongs and all! She would also come in wearing shirts that showed off her belly button.
This was a 25 to 28 year old woman, so we are not talking about a teenager, but what really topped it off was the office Christmas party attire. And YES I do tell this is a story every time I discuss credibility, or lack thereof, in a business setting.
At our Christmas party that year, she came in late (of course) to make an entrance. I remember looking toward the door as she walked in and what I saw was to be talked about for some time after by everyone there in the office. She had long hair that nearly went down to her bottom and she had it stacked on top of her head in the shape of a Christmas tree with lights and decorations in it. Her earrings were also flashing decorative lights. She was wearing five inch heels, a dress that was extremely short and skin tight. Her dress had almost no back and was cut all the way down to her underwear and everyone stopped and stared.
She was suppose to be a professional in an organization and come Monday morning in the board room the discussion was not what’s going on in the spreadsheets today but, did you all see what so and so was wearing the other night at the Christmas party? From then on, I’m sure her credibility wasn’t that thick because of the clothes she chose to wear to work.
What’s the lesson here?
Credibility goes well beyond your paper credentials. Consider the entire picture and how people perceive you and what you choose to do (or wear).
Photo credit: Unknown