Friday, March 26, 2010

Are quotas really the answer? Check out our thoughts in NYT Opinion Blog- "Using Quotas to Raise the Glass Ceiling"

In 2002, Norway enacted a law requiring that 40 percent of all board members at state-owned and publicly listed companies be women by 2008.

Since then, Spain and the Netherlands have passed similar laws. Now Belgium, Britain, Germany, France and Sweden are considering legislative measures involving female quotas. And although Germany is also debating such a law, Deutsche Telekom, which is based in Bonn, announced last week that it would voluntarily introduce a quota aiming to fill 30 percent of upper and middle management jobs with women by the end of 2015.

Do quotas work? Would they work in the U.S.? Does the U.S. need them?

Marit Hoel, Center for Corporate Diversity, Oslo
Amy Dittmar, University of Michigan
Peter Baldwin, author, "The Narcissism of Minor Differences"
Linda Hirshman, author, "Get to Work"
Sharon Meers, former managing director at Goldman Sachs. Read full opinion below.

Throw Out Old Assumptions- Sharon Meers

Quotas are one way to allocate positions of power — but they come with a lot of risk and resentment. Instead, we should put good process in the place of bad assumptions.
Employers can do a much better job holding social myths in check in the workplace.

Weeding out sex-role attitudes and assumptions is difficult. And it’s especially hard to get started when many leaders don’t think that there’s a problem, that nothing needs to change, that the low presence of women at the top is natural — the result of female preferences, family roles and the demands of the 24/7 workplace.

But research paints a different picture: 80 percent of mothers who leave the work force would prefer to stay on the job; children do at least as well when mothers work outside the home and men are fully engaged parents; divorce risks drops 50 percent when women and men more evenly share earnings and housework.

Unfortunately, popular chatter, from the boardroom to the PTA, does not reflect these facts. We persist in our Mad Men belief that children and marriage benefit if mothers lower their sights and stop shooting for the top.

Employers can do a much better job holding social myths in check in the workplace. At one big company, senior managers met to identify the firm’s future leaders. Everyone agreed that a foreign posting was key. But as they went down the list of prospects, female names were quickly crossed out. “Oh, Anne won’t move. Her husband has a good job.” Then, “I don’t think Sarah would go to China, her kids are in grade school.” When it was about to happen a third time, a senior woman asked: “How about we call Anne and Sarah and let them tell us if they’d really never move?”

At the University of Michigan, with National Science Foundation backing, tenured male professors teach their peers about the data on implicit bias, the tendency we all have to choose John’s resume over Jane’s even when their credentials are identical. Michigan’s hiring committees, bathed in facts about how social attitudes blur vision, now have a more informed process. For the medical and science faculties, it has doubled the percentage of female hires form 15 percent to 30 percent.

Assumptions about work hours also limit women but new studies are starting to unravel them. Harvard Business Review recently published this finding from work at Boston Consulting Group: consultant teams that were forced to work fewer hours had measurably better client results. Better communication, clearer minds and a more disciplined process produced superior results. This supports what other research says: that working parents can excel at work and still eat dinner with their children.

A favorite male boss once joked with me “I’ve no idea how this dual-career thing works – someday, you’ll have to tell me.” His life was different from mine but he had a sense of humor and an open mind. When leaders are willing to educate themselves, to ask and not assume, women advance at the same rate as their male peers.

So how do we embolden more leaders to do the hard work and put good process in place? Let’s turn up the volume on what the studies say is true: That co-ed leadership is good for everyone and results in better profits and no talk of quotas.

For full article check out New York Times opinion blog re European quotas for women at the top - and a better choice for the US.

By Sharon Meers

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why Guys Love 50/50

In 2006, a survey of 360 married men found that men who did more chores at home fared much better in the bedroom. “The more satisfied a wife is with the division of household duties, the more satisfied a man is with his marital sex life,” according to the survey. These married men reported that when wives were happier with their husband's household work, the frequency of sex was also higher. And, confounding many skeptics, the survey found that “the more hours a woman works at the job, the more sex she has at home.

Why would this be? Aren't dual- career couples more harried and tired? Maybe, but fatigue may be a smaller factor in who gets sex than how couples interact. If you look at the wealth of research, couples who share work and family life more evenly have three factors on their side. First, wives are less likely to see their husbands as slackers at home (less “you jerk” effect); instead, wives may find husbands more appealing because they snuggle their kids (more “Baby Bjorn” effect); third, employed wives are statistically more likely to be happy with themselves (more “self-confidence” effect). —read more here

DadLabs explore this phenomenon a great video- Choreplay: Does it work? Check it out below.

BY Sharon Meers

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Are we better than David Paterson?

David Paterson is keeping me up at night. Whether he remains New York’s governor is not my worry - I live across the country and even liked how he confessed his own foibles while taking office. Since then, the governor’s decline and alleged misuse of power have been sad. But what really troubles me is a more far-reaching sin: Paterson’s failure to stand up against violence. Asked about his girl-friend-choking aid, Paterson minimized, telling The New York Times that what happened was “like breakups you hear about all the time.”

Paterson’s right about one thing: relationship abuse is ubiquitous -- and so are bystanders who, like the governor, don’t do enough to stop it. My grandmother, a teen-age single mom, fell into the arms of a pathologically violent man. The results were so dire that my dad ran away as a 9th grader. I’m lucky my father found a useful outlet for most of his trauma - he put himself in therapy, became a mental health worker and devoted his career to the many patients whose ills start with abuse. But pain still lives in my dad’s eyes. And I ask myself how many bystanders had the power to step in, to protect my grandmother and her children -- but did not.

I know the urge to look away, the feeling of “I can’t deal with this now, how could I help anyway?” I saw it in myself, in how long it took me to read, Crazy Love, a riveting book by my college classmate Leslie Morgan-Steiner, about her marriage to a charming, intelligent man whose rage almost killed her. It was also hard to face the fact that we Gen X’ers aren’t that much better than our parents. As a group, we still don’t acknowledge this violence for the horror that it is. Knowing what Morgan-Steiner’s ex-husband had done, people still invited him to parties and into their homes, as if saying “well, these things happen.”

In the book, a psychologist explains that abusers often come by their disease honestly -- as victims of cruelty themselves. Because of this, predators often live in extreme denial, believing that their brutality is justified or just plain normal. And how much are we each doing to disabuse them of that notion?

"Domestic violence is a brutal crime that shatters millions of lives every year, transcending race, ethnicity, social class and even gender," said Rudy Giuliani ten years ago. While Rudy’s politics differ from mine, I admire his words and wonder what it takes for more of us to speak -- and act on -- them. How many bosses want law-breakers on the payroll? What if more abusers knew that violence could cost them their job? Imagine if Paterson had handed his aid a note: “I care about you. Call this number - get professional help. If it happens again, you’re fired.”

By Sharon Meers

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When you work on a vacation, is it really a vacation?

I recently went with my family on a wonderful trip to the Mayan Riviera, a beach community about 1 hour south of Cancun. A great adventure trip with snorkeling, kayaking, cave explorations and jungle ziplines. It was a perfect week except for one challenge: my blackberry. The red light was blinking. Messages were coming in. I felt a constant pressure to check to see if there was anything important. There wasn’t, but there was always that nagging feeling that I should be checking in.

When is a vacation really a vacation? As a working mom, I truly treasure spending a full week with my kids. I want to give them 100% of my attention. But that nagging red blinking light never stops. Am I a bad worker if I don’t constantly check in while out of town? It seems like everyone else does. But I feel like a bad mother when I am distracted by work even when we are across the country inside a beautiful cave learning about stalagtites and stalagmites.

Perhaps RIM (the company that makes the Blackberry) could create a blinking blue light that folks could activate when there really is an email that needs to be answered on vacation, an issue that no one else can address. Those do occur one in a while, but not often. Usually we check in on vacation because we want to feel important and our voice heard, even when we are not around. For my next trip I am going to try much harder not to pay attention to that blinking red light and really detatch. I am wishing myself luck.

Joanna Strober