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Gender imbalances in the workplace and solving the dilemma

Without having to impose gender quotas on Americans the way several European countries have, there are some simple ways that businesses nationwide can help to bridge the gender inequality gap.

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Gender imbalances persist today

In many European countries, gender quotas on corporate boards have been in place for several years, first in Norway, then Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands The European Union Commissioner is pushing for quotas in companies as well, stating1 that companies have done little to remedy the disparity between male and female leadership. The quotas could be implemented in coming years if the gender imbalances persist.

Quotas are a contentious issue in Europe, but an even more hot button topic in America. The problem internationally with how the gender imbalance is being portrayed is that when companies report this data, they do not cite stats for the entire company, rather, it is female leadership and management that is reported, and those numbers are admittedly improving in the U.S.

But not so fast – the numbers being reported as women in leadership roles is not necessarily C-level executives, and more often than not, it is low level management being portrayed as female leaders, so just promote a few gals into lower management and your company has solved the gender gap crisis, right?

Not only is reporting flawed and skewing how the dilemma is being portrayed, a new Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report2, there is a dramatic preference for promoting men over women. Here is how the gender balance breaks down by each level, according to the WSJ:

  • Graduate entry level – 53 percent female, 47 percent male
  • Director level – 35 percent female, 65 percent male
  • Senior level – 24 percent female, 76 percent male
  • C-suite – 19 percent female, 81 percent male

Gender imbalances, what is the cure?

A recent report3 unveils that Millennial businesswomen do not ask for raises or promotions as often as their male counterparts, which is fascinating, as the generation grew up under the mantra that we are all equal, no matter our gender, race, or religion. Other generations that were not raised under this banner are also likely to be comprised of women that do not insist on promotions or raises.

For years, I have personally written on the topic of gender equality and have taken the unpopular stance that there is no such thing as a glass ceiling, and that women must not fear being considered a bitch at work if that is what it takes to succeed, and must never see themselves as inferior, particularly when their experience and education level is on par with or better than their male counterparts.

The idea that women are not as assumptive about raises or promotions is a clear indicator that the glass ceiling is somewhat self-imposed, but there are things our nation can do to make progress with gender equality at work without having to follow Europe down the path of gender quotas.

First, reporting must be accurate. Saying a company has a 50/50 balance between men and women, yet there are no C-suite executives that are female, only 5 percent in the senior level, but a massive number in the director level, the reporting is nothing more than back-patting and a back door way to show gender equality.

Secondly, women must push harder and insist on promotions and raises, because their male counterparts are doing it assumptively. Take away the self-imposed glass ceiling and our gender gets one step closer to equality.

Third, new leaders, young leaders must evaluate their company culture. Is twisting numbers a reasonable way to solve a company’s gender inequality problem, or is really looking at the culture a more effective path toward long term change? That’s a rhetorical question.

Lastly, as we’ve written about several times, encouraging young women, mentoring young women, and providing tools for their entry into the workplace as more than a receptionist. STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) careers are always short female talent, and the pool employers have to choose from is very small, so encouraging and empowering young girls to be interested in STEM careers is the best way to bridge the gender gap in the long run.

There are many excuses companies can make as to why the gap exists, and many excuses women can make for themselves as to why they are not in leadership roles, but with improved reporting, improved culture, and mentorship of young women, the next generation has a chance at making some real headway on the gender imbalance dilemma.

1 EU Commissioner to push for gender quotas
2 WSJ Report
3 Report on Millennial businesswomen

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Business News

9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity

(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.

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productivity outside of the challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays

As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.

Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.

Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.

The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.

This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.

During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.

There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).

Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.

Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.

9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.

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Business News

Corporate-franchise relationships: How has COVID affected them?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being a part of a franchise has made sense for a long time for both the corporation and the franchisee, but the long stretch of COVID is adding complications.

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A franchise cup on a wooden table.

Americans love a franchise. We love knowing that every Dunkin Donuts iced coffee will taste the same as it did 3 states away – and every McDonald’s snack wrap will meet our expectations.

Franchises rose in popularity after World War II, and the corporate-franchise relationship since has generally been a happy one – that is, until COVID-19.

What’s their relationship?

Franchises are easier to start than a small business from scratch. You receive a business playbook and brand loyalty from corporate – if the business at large is doing well, chances are your franchise will mirror that. No need for independent advertising!

From the franchises, corporate gets an upfront fee and ongoing royalties. (For a McDonalds franchise, that’s $45k and 4% of monthly gross sales, respectively.)

Basically, it’s win-win. Both parties are happy.

Pandemic strain

The pandemic has shrunk margins across most industries, and the chain hotels, restaurants and services have been hit hard. As a result, corporate is adding more costs for franchisees, such as big cleaning bills and promotional discounts to bring back some revenue during COVID.

However, with corporate still taking the same amount from the franchises every month, these newly instated policies threaten to drive some stores into the ground – and franchisees are fighting back.

“I get that franchising isn’t a democracy,” said a Subway franchisee, who objected to the unprofitable “2-Subs-for-$10” promotion that corporate was pushing for. “But at the same time, it’s not a dictatorship.”

What I see here is corporate greed at work; they need to keep their margins up in a sinking economy, so they’re looking to the pockets of their franchisees to make up for that lost dough.

The pandemic has not been easy on any business (with the exception, of course, of Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, which is a whole other story). However, that’s the draw of being connected to corporate – you are tied to something bigger than your individual store, and will thus stay afloat as long as they do. It’s a big reason why many opt for starting a franchise as opposed to starting their own, independent small business.

I’m glad to see individuals fighting back against corporate policies that don’t benefit them. They held up their side of the bargain – let’s see if corporate can continue to hold up theirs.

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Business News

What to do if you think you have been wrongfully terminated

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being fired hurts, but especially if you were wrongfully terminated. Here is what you can do if you need to take action.

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Stressed man staring at computer after being wrongfully terminated.

While there are plenty of ways an employer can legally fire an employee, there’s also a long list of unethical and illegal methods. If you suspect you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job, it’s imperative that you fight back.

Common Signs of Wrongful Termination

Research shows that around 150,000 people are unjustly fired every year in the United States. That’s more than 410 people per day – roughly 17 people per hour. Here are some common signs that you’re a victim:

  • Violation of written rules or promises. The vast majority of employment is known as “at-will” employment. This means you may be fired at any time for any reason (so long as the reason is not illegal). However, if there’s a written statement or contract that implies job security, then you’re probably not an at-will employee. Review all of your employment documents to see what sort of language exists around the topic of termination.
  • Discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you’re an at-will employee or not, employers can never fire someone based on discrimination. It’s illegal – point blank, period. If you suspect you’ve been fired because of your color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or pregnancy, discrimination could be to blame.
  • Breach of good faith. Employers are known to breach good faith when they do things like mislead employees regarding their chances for promotions; fabricate reasons for firing; transfer or fire an employee to prevent the collection of sales commissions; and other similar situations.

Every situation is different, but these three signs are clear indicators that you have a potential wrongful termination claim. How you proceed will determine what happens next.

How to Respond to a Wrongful Termination

Emotions tend to run high when you’re fired from a job. Whether you loved the job or not, it’s totally normal to run a little hot under the collar upon being wrongfully terminated. But how you handle the first several hours and days will determine a lot about how this situation unfolds. Now is not the time to fly off the handle and say or do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a diplomatic response that includes steps like:

1. Gather Evidence

Wrongful termination cases are usually more complicated than they first appear on the surface. It’s important that you focus on gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. Any information or documentation you collect will increase your chances for a successful outcome. This may include emails, screenshots, written contracts and documentation, voicemails, text messages, and/or statements from coworkers.

On a related note, remember that your former employer will be doing the same thing (if a claim is brought). Be on your best behavior and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Avoid venting to coworkers or firing off short, snappy emails to your former boss. As the saying goes, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

2. Hire an Attorney

Don’t try to handle your wrongful termination case on your own. Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in situations like yours. This will give you a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome.

3. Get Legal Funding

If you’re like most victims of wrongful termination, you find yourself with no immediate source of income. This can make it difficult to pay your bills and stay financially solvent in the short term. An employment lawsuit loan could help bridge the gap.

As Upfit Legal Funding explains, “Wrongful termination lawsuit loans provide the necessary financial assistance they need to reach a settlement. This funding helps cover basic living costs until the plaintiff is able to get assistance from their settlement.”

The best thing about these loans is that you only have to repay them if there’s a successful outcome. In other words, if the claim gets thrown out or denied, you owe nothing.

4. File the Proper Paperwork

Work closely with your attorney to make sure that your complaints and claims are filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies (and that you meet the required deadlines). Depending on the type of claim, there are different groups that oversee the complaint and can help you move in the proper direction.

Adding it All Up

Getting fired is serious business. And while there are plenty of legal reasons for being terminated from a job, it’s worth exploring what’s actually going on behind the scenes. If it’s found that your employer stepped out of line, you’ll be compensated in an appropriate manner. This won’t typically help you get your job back, but it can provide some financial rectification.

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