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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problem internationally with how the gender imbalance is being portrayed is that when companies report this data, they do not cite stats for the entire company, rather, it is female leadership and management that is reported, and those numbers are admittedly improving in the U.S.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

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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keeping operations lean

The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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startup founders average age is 45

There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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