In preparing for this year’s HR Technology Conference, one of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the pre-conference “Women in HR Technology” event. Anytime something new is offered on the agenda you just never know how it’s going to be received, but based on the descriptions, panelists, and pre-conference hype, it seemed to have promise to be a solid session. And judging by the overwhelming attendance and standing room only/overflow situation, I’d say for a first time event it exceeded expectations. An all-star panel of female leaders from companies such as ADP, Equifax, Ceridian, Paychex, SAP, Cornerstone, Ultimate, and Oracle (among others!) offered lively discussions and countless bits of great advice on developing and promoting more women into technology roles and leadership roles within technology companies.
Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog
We’re now past the halfway point of September, and summer officially comes to a close this week. That can only mean that the HR Technology Conference is right around the corner! This year’s event moves back to Chicago from its typical Las Vegas location, and will take place from October 4th – 7th at McCormick Place.
This show still holds strong as one of my favorite events in the world of HR conferences, which is why I continue to serve as an official blogger, and am even stepping up to speak this year (shameless plug!). I believe it continues to be more important than ever with each passing year for great HR pros to have a good handle on what technology can do to make our lives easier and businesses more efficient and effective…
Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog
The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.
With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.
The impact of gender discrimination on employees
Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”
Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.
Addressing stereotypical language
Recent research demonstrates that female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.
It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’ while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.
Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews
The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.
How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews
In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.
One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.
In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.
Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.
About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.
Women account for half the world’s working-age population globally. However, the persisting imbalance of women in positions of power has started a debate in corporate circles about the viability of a gender quota so as to encourage gender equality in corporate positions of power. But why so much hoopla about gender equality? For one, reports suggest that more women in higher roles reflect in the form of better performance for the companies. Moreover, companies that have women in leadership roles have traditionally fared better than their counterparts during times of financial crisis, similar to the recent one. Here is a detailed account of why women leadership would work better in certain situations and how can you promote the same in your office.
A study carried out by Pew Research Center on women and leadership; there is little difference between men and women in key leadership traits like ability to innovate and intelligence, while many observing they are even better than men when it comes to being compassionate and organized. Despite these facts, we see a very limited participation of women in boardroom discussions and at the upper management level. The story is same across all the continents, whether it is Asia, Europe and the US. In an extensive survey carried out by 20-first, a UK-based global gender consulting firm in 2014, women held only 11% of the 3,000 executive committee positions in 300 surveyed companies.
It’s good for financial performance of the company
Multiple research studies have been carried out in this direction. In 2007, a not-for-profit organization Catalyst reported that Fortune 500 companies having females as board members show significantly better financial performance than those having low female representation. The surveys took into account three points- return on sales, return on equity and return on the investment and found that companies having better female representation excelled on all the three parameters. Another major research that reports similar findings is that of DDI, (Development Dimensions International), a global talent management firm based out of US. According to DDI survey, companies that had majority of board members as women witnessed a substantial 87% better performance than their competition.
It’s better for the job economy, as a whole
Better financial performance of the organizations obviously leads to a better economic state where there are greater number of job opportunities, better productivity and more development. This improved financial health will directly reflect in the number of jobs that will increase proportionally. Whether it is marketing jobs or healthcare, the industry hardly matters as long as it is working towards better gender diversity.
It’s Better for Relationship Building
We all have a common understanding that women are equipped with better relationship building skills. This is backed by research from Harvard Business Review, which notes that female leaders are consistently rated a notch higher than their male counterparts in the category of relationship building. This is obviously a good thing for the organization as good peer to peer camaraderie is essential for keeping up the productivity at its optimum level. In addition to inter-office relationships, this skill is also going to boost a company’s client satisfaction levels and help expand the business.
It’s better for Collaboration
With good networking skills comes the ability to easily collaborate with colleagues, clients and workers across teams, functions, and departments. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research agrees on the fact that women are more attracted to cooperation than men. Men, often overestimate their capabilities, while downplaying those of their colleagues, while women are a better judge of their abilities and therefore are not averse to suggestions and help from their team members. In short, women make better team players than men.
Women are Better Communicators
While women undisputedly rule the roost when it comes to communication at personal level, does this also extend to businesses? If experts are to be believed, on the whole, women often make better communicators than men. Zenger Folkman, in their survey, also reported the same. A leader should and must have the ability to establish a crystal clear communication with his team members, clients and consumers. Women tend to be better listeners than men, and that’s what makes for a good leader.
It’s also better for men on the whole
Surprised, you might be, but gender diversity at leadership level or in the corporate in general is a good thing for men. This might sound lopsided, but there are many aspects to this argument. We could deal with them one by one.
Men have the freedom to break the norm
In the male dominated corporate world, a man’s identity is inseparably connected to his job, role and pay package. However, once the corporate world comes to term with the rising prominence of women, and their increasing participation in management decisions, this will take some performance pressure off the men’s shoulders. They will no longer be expected the default bread winner of their families, the sole earning member, who has to earn more than his spouse, and lead the family. Men can also try to be what they really want to be. They can break the stereotype and follow their passion, at least once in a while. It does give some breathing room and creates some kind of financial cushion to which they can fall back in case their plan B doesn’t work out as well.
Men can try to be a better parent
As more women take up careers and become an equally important financial support of the family, men can take some time off their work to be a better parent and run the family in a more involved, holistic fashion. When fathers work fewer hours per week, the family benefits, and it reduces the risk of behavioral problems in the kids that is often witnessed in children who had their fathers missing due to work.
About the Author: Saurabh Tyagi is a career and motivational author who consistently writes articles on various job related themes, including gender diversity in organizations. He has been published on various career sites such as under30ceo.com and blog.
In the hotel industry, the housekeeping department is comprised of room attendants (100% female) and housemen (100% male). Management is typically 90-100% female. This predominantly female management team often has difficulty working with the housemen. Housemen are responsible for public areas of the hotel such as the lobby, hallways, restaurant, and lounges. They range in age from 25-62 and ethnicities include Hispanic, African American, Asian and Caucasian. Most have been employed full time for 15 or more years. Housekeeping managers are often young (25-30) and have little experience. Some have been promoted from room attendant positions while others come straight out of hospitality school having spent a year or two as an intern or junior manager.
This dynamic is not easy to manage. A lot of conflict is generated around gender and experience (Who is she to tell me what to do? I’ve been here 10 years longer), and resistance to authority (She can’t change that- for what?). Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for women to effectively manage an all-male team:
1. DON’T try to be ‘one of the gang.’ You are not one of them, so joining them on break, or inviting them to chat in the office only creates confusion and makes it more difficult to establish boundaries and effectively lead.
DO create an authentic relationship by showing interest in who they are. Notice a haircut, new glasses, logo on a hat or sweatshirt (I see you’re a Yankees fan). This builds a connection- you care about more than just getting the job done.
2. DON’T be defensive. When you are challenged (You’re wrong. Can’t use that chemical) you may automatically attempt to assert your power and position.(Do it my way! I’m in charge) but this will only serve to escalate the conflict.
DO be clear and responsive. You’ll need to make it clear that the worker must show respect even when disagreeing with you (We can discuss this, but no yelling or accusing). Be responsive to the worker’s idea (OK, so if not this chemical, what would you use?). This shows that while you have the final say, you are open to learning from those with more experience and can admit you don’t know it all.
3. DON’T let go of your authority. It is easy to become intimidated and overwhelmed by resistant and angry men. But retreating is not an option. The group needs leadership and structure, so for better or worse, you’re it.
DO lead in your own unique style. Think about what you have to offer: enthusiasm, sense of humor, passion for the work. Whatever you have, USE IT. Be authentic and honest when you don’t know something (I’m not sure what the policy is on X. Let me check it out) and admit your mistakes (Sorry, I was late ordering the supplies you need). Acknowledge the expertise of your staff (You know a lot more about this than I do) and elicit their help and feedback (What do you think and what’s past practice?). All this shows your humanity, which is crucial to building a strong relationship.
Managing an all-male staff as a female has its challenges, but the key is always authenticity. Be clear and direct and work through whatever comes your way. This is not always easy or comfortable, but well worth the effort. Stick with it and you’ll build strong relationships and an effective team.
About the Author: With a background in social work and 2 decades of experience as a union worker, Laura MacLeod created “From The Inside Out Project®,” with all levels of employment in mind to assist in maintaining a harmonious workplace. She is an adjunct professor in graduate studies at the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work. MacLeod speaks on conflict resolution, problem solving, and listening skills at conferences across the country.
Today’s society is keen on diversity in the workplace and creating equal opportunities for all employees. However, in the contemporary society where women’s rights are prevalent, many people are not embracing egalitarianism as strongly as they could. The good news is that society has come a long way and is making progress. But there is still a long way to go with gender equality within the workplace.
Below are career tips from innovative female executives and their success as leaders within their organizations.
1 – Kelsey Libert (Fractl): “Reward your employees”
Employees need to know that they are appreciated. Sometimes people will toil for years for their employer and never feel as though their progress and effort is worth anything. They begin to question why they are even exerting so much energy. Establish an employee rewards program so that your employees will know how much you appreciate them. Ms. Libert even suggests offering little surprises for your employees just as a reminder of your appreciation.
2 – Meg Whitman: “Do something that you love”
Many people will choose a career that is practical, prudent, or has a wide job market or a lot of opportunity for advancement. But the CEO of Hewlett-Packard suggests that if you are going to invest so much time and energy into something, you have to love what you doing. If you do not truly enjoy it, you will not have a thirst for excellence.
3 – Jacqueline Hinman (CH2M Hill): “Know your industry”
What is your area of expertise, and where in the industry are you starting? If you want to be a CEO or elevate through the corporate ladder, it is not enough to have knowledge in your area of specialization. You need to have knowledge of the entire industry so that you can better navigate through it to success.
4 – Indra Nooyi: “Embrace tough assignments”
This CEO of Pepsi suggest that you seek out the most challenging assignment and do it well. People would be more impressed if you wrote a 200K word academic treatise very well than if you wrote a 50 word blurb well. Seek out the challenging assignments, because people are generally not impressed if you do an easy job well.
5 – Jessica Mah: “Learn your specific customer’s needs”
As the CEO of inDinero recounts the experience of almost seeing her company collapse, she said that what saved her was customer interaction. She visited all of her customers and determined what they needed so that she could fulfill those needs precisely. She was willing to adapt her company model to the needs of her clientele.
6 – Sandy Geroux: “Offer them a platform”
Employees who have been on the job for a while may pick up on things of which a CEO will be unaware. The CEO of WOWplace International suggests that these employees should be given a platform to speak their minds. They have insight to provide. Offering a platform will also let the employees know that their insight is appreciated and noticed.
7 – Melinda Gates: “Make time for your family”
It is important to foster strong bonds with family. But this will also serve as an effective stress reliever. If you are totally consumed in your work with no recreation at all, it will be to the detriment of your success. Make time for your family and make time for recreation.
About the Author: JP grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, she has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.
Editor’s Note: Please welcome Jacqueline Clay, our newest contributor, with a new feature for 2016. Each month, “From the Desk of a Woman of a Certain Age” will take a light-hearted look at HR of yesterday vs. HR of today. We hope you enjoy it!
Hello HR Professionals!
We Are Still Here…..
Office Management, Personnel, Human Resources, People Management, Business Partners. We have lasted decade after decade. We are like the watch, “we take a licking but keep on ticking!” Yes, our name changed, but we are still the same folks that interview, hire, fire (aka terminate, layoff or downsize), listen, coach, counsel, advise, train, write policies, procedures, rules, regulations and stand as the target on the firing line when things go “left”. We are the keepers of the flames of objectivity and provide the ethical, moral, “do the right thing” barometers’ that helps to develop, strengthen and maintain the best practices company acumen. We have walked, strolled and skipped hand and hand with our business leaders for many years…sometimes tripping over bad behavior, falling in the hole of subjectivity or stepping over the grate of ethical concern. Sometimes we have had to go “undercover” and operate in covert ways to make sure that our HR badge of honor, trust and credibility did not become tarnished. We start our profession bright eyed and energetic like Mary in the beginning stages of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and later look like the mature Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show if we don’t come to realistic terms about what we can and can not do. (Yes…I said I am a woman of a certain age).
Life Literally Abounds In Comedy…
Don’t be dismayed though. Personnel, HR, Business Partner….it is a great opportunity and through my many, many years of HR experience, I have encountered and been a part of a ton of humorous and thought provoking observations. We deal with people and people can be unpredictable and very funny. We handle relationships between prospective employees, current employees and the employer and trust me, often times these relationships can fall unexpectedly into the pit of comedy.
Who Am I?
I am a senior level HR professional and have worked my way up the HR ladder to Director/Chief HR Officer for a myriad of companies in my over 20 year career. I have seen it all and trust me, sometimes I wish I hadn’t! From the 1980’s through the decade of the 2010’s, HR has had to make and made tremendous adjustments to stay viable. With some of these changes, we kicked, screamed and were dragged to the change table. Sometimes we just sat at the table of an executive meeting and thought to ourselves, “they know not what they do”. (I must add this one note… once when I was asked to attend an “Executive Meeting”, I noticed that my chair sat lower than the other executives. My chin was not far from the top of the table. There were no other chairs available. I felt like a little kid at the Thanksgiving table! Were they trying to tell me something? However, at the time, I was just happy to have the always desired “seat” at the Executive Meeting., albeit it low). I digress. More on having a seat at the executive table in a future article. In any case, we HR folks stayed afloat.
Going Forward…Please Don’t Shoot The Messenger
Now understand, the upcoming articles, just like this one, will be opinion pieces. I want to make it clear…it is just my opinion…my view. These may not be your experiences…so don’t ask for my SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) card back! I have lived a very observatory life. I am always looking, seeing, questioning, analyzing the whys and why nots of the full realm of this business. The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny.
This series will be an observatory view comparing some aspects of yesteryear HR to today…with some comedic undertones. Or is it overtones?? I love to laugh and hope you will join me on a trip down memory lane as it pertains to all things HR. I am so thankful that I am old enough to take the trip and young enough to still remember!!!!
See you next month!
An HR Woman of A Certain Age!
About the Author: Jacqueline Clay is a freelance HR business consultant working with small and midsize organizations to assist them in meeting the challenging responsibilities associated with the full realm of HR management. With over 20 years leadership experience in all aspects of the HR business, she has helped organizations in a myriad of areas, including on boarding, labor/employee relations, policy and procedure development, organizational effectiveness, coaching and training. She holds a BA in Psychology from Fordham University.
Recently, I gave a talk to the Association for Women in Communications in Springfield Illinois (aka AWC Springfield) called Getting What You Want in the Workplace. Since we focus on women in HR on this blog, I thought it was fitting to share what I discussed here as well, especially since I mention this site during my talk:
So let’s talk about today’s topic which is getting what you want in the workplace. Seeing as this is a women’s program, we will talk about it from a woman’s perspective and getting what you want as a woman. In a blog I wrote for Women of HR, I have talked about the first ten years and The Perfect 10, which was the last ten years of my then-20-year HR career. I loved having the flexibility of being able to be a mom and be a professional at the same time. I talk about credibility in the workplace and bereavement leave. Most recently, a drunk driver killed my brother and I shared what it is like for employees to take bereavement leave. It is really not flexible in most cases.
Let’s start with a true workplace story: How many of you have been engaged? How many remember the details of that day? When I was engaged, I was very excited as most would be, but when I got to work I was asked to take off my engagement ring and not wear it for 6 months! Luckily, I didn’t get married sooner than the 6 months as I had already planned to have a one-year engagement so that my husband and I could pay for the wedding.
How would you have felt if you were asked to take of your ring and not tell anyone else in the company you were engaged? I felt terrible. I did write a blog post, called Bride To Be = Discouraged Employee, about this incident. This experience brings me to my first piece of advice – DO NOT LET PEOPLE WALK ALL OVER YOU. In today’s environment, the Internet, which was not available when I first started my career, makes it possible for an individual employee to understand his or her rights within an organization. That incident would not go over well in today’s workplace. I would say stand up for what you want. If you don’t understand your options, what your rights are, look them up. There is no excuse for not knowing as you each have unlimited resources.
My second piece of advice came from the same manager that told me not to wear the ring. She was trying to look out for me and she did not want me to suffer as she had with male challenges in the work place. What she did do was give me a lot of advice. One thing I have lived my career by is to TOOT YOUR OWN HORN because no one else will. If you do well in something, make sure people know about that. If you have been honored in an organization that perhaps does not have to do with the business but is still an honor, make sure your manager finds that out. SHRM actually recognizes volunteerism and will send letters to your boss on your behalf, which toots your horn for you. Make sure you’re tooting your horn and look into those opportunities. Don’t think of it as a selfish, stuck up, or snobby kind of thing to do. It isn’t. It is the way to get ahead. Men do it. Maybe in a different way, but they do it. Maybe over beer or on the golf course. They do it for each other as well. They do not necessarily promote women like they should as much as they do each other. Women don’t promote women like men promote each other either. How many women would look to another woman to promote her? None, women are competing against each other so they are not promoting each other’s efforts. Sadly this is the truth in my humble opinion. I often ask myself, why is that?
My third piece of advice is ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. If you want a promotion or a raise, ask for it. I’ve had to that a few times in my career. It doesn’t always come easily and it is sometimes challenging to ask. Most recently, I was honored by a call to interview for a high level political HR position that I did not seek out. The call was based on reputation and the recommendation of others. Although, I didn’t fully consider the position due to a variety of reasons, I did use the situation to my advantage. Since they called me, I let my boss know I was interviewing. It was a toot your own horn opportunity at the very least as it was an honor and reflection on the university as well as my own career achievements. Once I discovered what they pay level would be, I did take it to my boss and asked for a raise. I have used it a couple other times as well. Not just that I had a competitive offer but just simply asking for a raise that I felt I deserved. Back to the Internet resources, you can go on salary.com, Indeed, Monster, etc. and do salary surveys free of charge. You can compare jobs and focus your search criteria to specific demographics. You can go to the Department of Labor to look up salaries as well. It is important that before you go to your manager and ask for a raise, you conduct a comparison, do your homework and be prepared with answers to justify your request. You also must understand that despite the fact that you are asking, you may denied. Prepare for that and understand that there is a budget and a profit to be made. If there isn’t a profit, and you’re in a for-profit organization, it may not be possible to offer a raise; but, at least you’ve tried and you’ve asked.
Another topic related to pay is the idea that 10-20 years ago, it was not kosher to talk about salaries. Nowadays, people will talk about wages all the time and there is absolutely nothing an employer can do about it because of the National Labor Relations Boards (NLRB) current administration. There have been many cases that have been turned around on the employer where they have tried to keep the information quiet and an individual fought it. If any two or more people are talking about a workplace issue, this is what is considered a concerted effort. This used to be only with unionized organizations. But now if you go online or onto social media you will see a big campaign called Fight For Fifteen. This started in Chicago after retailers on Michigan Avenue declared they would walk out on Black Friday if their wages were not increased to $15 per hour. Now multiple organizations and people around the country are on board with this initiative. They are using social media to spread the word and becoming a concerted community with the same fight/request/desire to promote a change. Talk about it. You will not get in trouble. If they do, retaliation laws do exist. If they retaliate against you, there are legal implications in place to protect you. Talking with your co-workers can prepare you with an internal audit as well for when you do approach your manager with that pay raise request. These are your rights as an employee, so ask for what you want.
My fourth piece of advice is to BE NICE, CONSIDERATE AND UNDERSTANDING. Be the person you want other people to be and treat people like you want to be treated. Understand cultures and differences. Don’t be a bitch. You don’t have to be a bitch. There is another article I’ve written about being a bitch as oftentimes, people see you as that even if you’re not. If you are being assertive, as a woman, we are being considered a bitch. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are some women that tend to be bullies who are control freaks and narcissistic. You don’t want to be one of those especially if people are coming to you as their manager or supervisor. I’ve never seen myself as that and my prior employers have said I teach them why we have to do what we have to do. Just last week the departments graduate assistant said “On it, boss” but I told her I was “not her boss and if anything, we are a team player”. We are on the same team. I might have a different role but we are on the same team trying to reach the same goal. I might be a catcher and you might be a pitcher but we all have different roles on ONE team. You don’t have to have the “I’m bitchy, better than everyone attitude”. There is help out there if needed! Founder of the Bully Broads program Jean Hollands offered a class for $18k in the early 2000s in Silicon Valley for women considered to be bullies in the workplace which was featured on NBC news. These women can actually go to reform school for being a “bully boss”. So be nice, considerate and understand, and always put your best foot forward.
Finally, HAVE FUN. I remember my father; he worked for an organization for over 20 years that he absolutely hated. You could see it on his face when he went to work and when he came home from work. He was a good father and husband and he was trying to do ‘the right thing’ for the family, but he could have kept looking and found a job that he loved. I really think you should have a job that you love and that you are passionate about, one that you cannot wait to do. I love to be able to share and educate. I need to see an immediate reaction. Occasionally, 10-15 years after an event, I have run into someone who was in a class I taught and they will say “you really changed my thinking” or “you inspired me” and that makes me feel good in a “not that I am any better than any other person in the world” way, but I feel like I made a difference. You should feel that you love your job, and if you don’t, then start looking for that passion. It is out there, I know it is. If you can’t do it working for somebody else, then work for yourself. Sometimes it’s like taking a bullet to your family financials; in fact, we lost half our salary when I quit my job to start my own business, and it took a while to get back up there, but it was worth it in the end. I had more opportunities with my brand new baby boy, and I was travelling all over the country with my daughter. So I really felt like it was the happy ending for me. This, to me, is how you get ahead as a woman in the work place.
So as a summary, here is my advice in just five steps
- STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
- TOOT YOUR OWN HORN
- ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
- BE NICE, CONSIDERATE AND UNDERSTANDING
- HAVE FUN
Enjoy your job and find something you’re passionate about. It is so important. These are things that I have learned over the years and share with you to wish you success! So to quote my favorite Dr. Seuss:
Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re Off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any directions you choose.
~Oh, the Places You’ll Go
About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @HRWarrior. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.
Today, we officially celebrate national American Business Women’s Day. The date coincides with the September 22, 1949 founding of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). The strides and accomplishments of women in businesses all over the United States have been monumental, giving us the opportunity to recognize the day’s intent all year long.
To put things in perspective, in 1949 no woman had reached the Chief Executive Officer title at a Fortune 500 company. The most recently published list counted 24 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. That’s a record and one that will certainly be surpassed as barriers continue to be broken.
Similar to many business executives – male or female – my path didn’t start out with the intent of becoming an officer of a Fortune 1,000 company. As a matter of fact, I didn’t fully realize that level of leadership was within reach until much later in my career.
Women are breaking barriers left and right every day. While I don’t necessarily view myself as a trailblazer – there are plenty of other women who fit that bill – here are some quick tips to keep in mind when starting down the path to executive leadership:
- Keep your options open. I went to school for computer information technology and worked in that field for a time at General Electric. Eventually, I was asked to lead a specific program for the GE Aerospace business that involved recruiting on college campuses, hiring, training and compensation. This really sparked my interest in HR. GE sponsored me to get my graduate degree in management from Purdue University, and I officially transitioned into HR. The moral of the story here is just because you earned your degree in or began working in one field doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Keep your options open, especially in the earlier points of your career.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Research has shown that women may not be as willing to take on something very new or different as men. Step outside your comfort zone, and you might find that you’re very successful in that area. During my time at Bausch and Lomb, I realized I wanted to take my career to the next level. I knew I had the drive, passion, and work ethic to make that happen, but I also knew there were some necessary skills that I didn’t own at the time. I then purposefully took a role in compensation and benefits knowing full-well they were both areas of expertise I would need to add to my repertoire. I knew nothing about either area, which made it scary and completely out of my comfort zone. It was a very challenging time, but that cross-functional move taught me what I needed to know to further advance my career.
- Develop business acumen. It’s one of the most important competencies for an HR professional to have in their back pocket. HR’s purpose is to ensure the company has a workforce that’s capable of driving the business goals. To do that, you need to understand what the overall business goals are, the financials, the operations, all aspects of the business. Then you can determine how HR will contribute to achieving those goals. Be proactive and strategic in developing HR initiatives that will drive the future success of the company.
- Always be on the lookout to learn new things and have new experiences. Change is constant, and accelerating at a rapid pace. It is critical to keep learning and growing to stay relevant. Look for projects, change jobs or functions within your company or change companies. I did that a few times in my career and it worked to my advantage. Not only do you gain valuable functional experience, you also develop agility and leadership skills.
- Don’t let anything stand in your way. I grew up with two brothers and a dad who didn’t discourage me from getting my hands dirty with him and the boys. Those experiences encouraged me to look at men and women as having the same level of capability. A good part of my career was spent working in male-dominated fields. In fact, I’ve only ever had two women bosses. I worked my hardest and did my best and went for what I wanted. I never thought of myself as a woman leader, I am simply a leader.
- Surround yourself with good people. This may go without saying, but form meaningful relationships both at work and at It will do wonders for your productivity and happiness. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook once said, “The most important career choice a woman will ever make is who she marries.” This could not be more true to life. My husband has been incredibly supportive of my career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Surround yourself with people who share your goals, values, and motivations.
- Never stop networking. It’s absolutely critical to stay connected with people. My first two jobs in the HR industry are the only two I landed through traditional ways. Every position since then – especially the ones later in my career – happened due to a connection and recommendation. I am still connected to people at every company I have worked for. It is a great way to learn about best practices and find out about career opportunities. Also, LinkedIn makes networking easier than ever. Make sure your profile is up to date and you are connected to the right people.
Most of these pieces of advice ring true for aspiring male or female HR executives. But it’s American Business Women’s Day, so let’s take a pause to reflect upon and celebrate how taking these steps could help the businesswomen around us advance.
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About the Author: Laurie Zaucha is the vice president of human resources and organizational development for Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of human resource, insurance, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses. In this role, she is responsible for all aspects of human resources, organizational development, and the company’s award-winning training department. Laurie boasts more than 20 years of experiences as an HR executive. Previous positions include vice president at Bausch & Lomb and senior management positions in HR for Footstar, Inc., Starbucks, and Pizza Hut. Laurie has a master’s degree in management from Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. and a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information technology from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.
I’ve spoken a lot about this on my blog, and there are a few allusions to doing the right thing from an HR perspective in my forthcoming book, Unleashing Capacity: The Hidden Human Resources (Charles Pinot, 2015.) But things that must be said bear repeating, and it’s time for me to repeat myself: women and their equal pay and progression in the workplace is a serious problem for capacity.
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Bourree Lam interviews Barbara Annis of the Gender Intelligence Group, over why women shouldn’t have to act like men to progress in the workforce. Within this powerful article (and I really encourage you to read it,) Annis gives a startling statistic embedded in an answer about why she conducts “gender intelligence workshops) for leading companies such as American Express and eBay):
“If you look at technology companies, they’re looking to overcome what they call the “brain drain” or what they call the “talent drain.” They’re losing women: Women come in after having graduated and they last three to five years…”
Three to five years. Think about that. Think about your turnover rate. Think about what that means for your recruiting expense and the costs associated with that seat being open.
Women aren’t sticking around and enduring these issues. If they don’t feel they’re being paid and promoted accordingly, they will go somewhere else. That one issue alone can decimate capacity.
The article goes on to explain that a lot of companies want to know why they’re not making progress, that since middle management looks pretty thick with gender diversity they must be doing something right. But examine the C-suite and suddenly the answer becomes quite clear: those women are still navigating shards of the proverbial glass ceiling, trying to figure out how to rise into the executive suite.
Capacity, by its own definition, is the ability for companies to remain agile within the ever-changing landscape of global business. If the core of your business talent is female and you’re not paying and rewarding them appropriately (or avoiding the motherhood penalty, which is a very real thing in the business world,) then that base of talent is most likely going to leave. You have to start all over again. You have to train someone else to come up the ranks, only to have the same retention issue somewhere else. It amounts to potentially thousands of leaks in what should otherwise be a water-tight craft for smooth sailing in treacherous business waters. Could it sink the business? You bet it could.
From an HR perspective, we have an obligation to see this issue and bring it to our managers in the terms of real business impact. It’s the right thing to do from an HR perspective, but lack of retention hurts. Explain this is plain financial terms. Project each line of business with an estimated turnover of a conservative number of 10% per annum. Add in recruiting costs and lost productivity. The answer is quite simple: it costs less to retain good talent than it does to replace it once it’s gone, particularly if word has gotten out that women can’t advance past a certain level. Your brand will be damaged, and try as you might, you may have a hard time replacing that woman who left. Doesn’t it make sense to keep her?
It may sound like I’m on my soapbox about the issue. Perhaps I am. However, this is a business need that must be addressed, and as HR leaders we can do something about this. Equality in pay and performance reward isn’t just a soft skill, it’s a hard business need…and we in HR are just the ones to find out how to meet it.
About the Author: Rita Trehan is a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, and the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.