Why Women Mean Business by A.Witenberg-Cox and A.Matiland

Why Women Mean Business by A.Witenberg-Cox and A.Matiland

By Avivah Witenberg-Cox and Alison Matiland, published by Wiley in 2008

« Forget China, India and the internet: economic growth is driven by women »

 The Economist April 12, 2006

Page 3: Goldman Sachs, the leading investment bank, is one of those now using the term “Womenomics” to sum up the force that women represent as guarantors of growth. “Encouraging more women into the labor force has been the single biggest driver of Eurozone’s labor market success, much more so that the conventional labor market reforms”, it says.

Page 5 : Gender is a business issue, not a “women’s issue”.[…] It is time for CEOs to get serious about sex.[…] Business knows that talent is scarce and is seriously worried about how to find more of it. […] the second motive for making gender a top priority is the importance of getting the right leadership team. Companies doing business in a multicultural, heterogeneous and unpredictable world are beginning to acknowledge that changes in the make-up of their teams may be a good idea.

Page 9 An all-female team at Volvo designed a concept car based on in-depth research into women’s motoring needs and desires. […] The investment opportunities have been highlighted by Goldman Sachs which created a “Women 30” basket of shares of companies benefiting of growing female consumer clout. These stocks have performed better than global equities over the past ten years.

Becoming Gender bilingual

Page 15. Corporate initiatives on gender usually start by focusing on women as employees rather than women as customers. […] one of the challenges is that gender is routinely positioned within diversity programmes. Diversity is too often about making minorities more comfortable with a dominant norm.

Page 24. Women are one of three merging forces shaping the 21rst century along with global warming and the internet. We call them the 3 Ws: Women, Weather and Web.

Page 32. Companies with 3 or more female directors had 83% greater return on equity on average, than those with the lowest representation of women, 73´better on return on sales and 112% higher return on invested capital. [i][…] Research from the Conference Board of Canada and from Cranfield school of Management in the UK offers further weight to the business case for top-level gender balance. Having more than one female director seems to be linked to better corporate governance, more activity and more independence on the part of the board.

Page 43. Tips on recruiting women

  • Do not assume your sector in not attractive to women
  • Audit current recruitment statistics by gender
  • Check how attractive your company image is to women
  • Review recruiting ads and announcements for unconscious bias
  • Do the same with the recruitment agencies you use
  • Develop gender-inclusive recruitment communications
  • Have enough women in leadership to be credible to female recruits.

Page 47. Childbearing is usually the first visible fork in the career path for women, coinciding as it does with the time when those on the fast track are moving into their first management positions. High status professional services firms covering law, consulting and accountancy face some of the biggest retention problems.[…] the culture in these firms reflects a round the clock and round the world work ethos. They have struggled to keep women through their 30s and struggle even harder to promote them to partner level. Despite having potentially one of the best flexible forms of knowledge work in the world, many of these firms resist questioning whether theirs is the best way to serve their clients, and appear reluctant to adapt their model to integrate women’s needs and life-cycle. […]One of the tips on retaining women : recognized that men and women career paths may be different and non –linear.

Much of the market

Page 73. “The average American woman will earn more money that the average man within 20 years.  […] There is a perfect correlation between education and income. As a result the balance of power at home has shifted and will shift further. We are seeing women control and direct family discretionary spend. […] It is the first steps in the creation of a matriarchal society where the female uses economic and social power the trend is more pronounced in the US. But the UK, Scandinavia and France are not far behind. Michael Silverstein, Senior VP, The Boston Consulting  Group. [ii]

Page 82: A third of new business in the UK are started by women – wiemn will be richer the men by 2025 and will own 60% of the UK’s personal wealth. [iii] […] a UK survey by Saatchi and Saatchi, the advertising agency, calculated that consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers missed out on £600 m in 2007 by “failing to connect” with female customers. […] “This is supported by qualitative feedback from opinion leaders and consumers who fell patronized and offended by the abundance of pink products available at the expense of the sleek and beautifully designed and packaged products they want to see.”[iv]

Page 85. The first thing that a company needs to recognize is that women today represent a myriad of different market segments. […] the status of women has changed so dramatically over the past 30 years that it is hard for anyone even sometimes women themselves, to work out what “women want”.

Becoming Bilingual

We suspect that women’s leadership styles, if allowed to be authentic, may actually be rather different from men’s. […] the diversity policy in Europe covered women, disability and gays and lesbians, losing sight of the original business imperative of adapting to female customer’s requirements.

Steps to follow to transform a company into a truly bilingual company

  • Awaken your leadership team
  • Define the business case
  • Let people express resistance
  • Make it a business issue not a women’s Make changes before making noise
  • Don’t mix up the messages : gender is not the same topic as work-life balance.
  • Give it a budget, not just volunteers.

Page 169. “At Citibank, we also measure performance of women versus men throughout the organization. Women are 8% more likely to meet or exceed expectations than men are. They do a great job but they don’t apply for the next level or feel they can’t move on.[..] in the late 1990s, the bank decided to turn the idea of flexible working –which often puts women with children into a part)-timers ghetto- on its head. It introduced a program called Work Options that offered flexible work arrangements to anyone, male or female, who wanted it, provided they could negotiate with their manager an arrangement that also worked for the business. It took the female split out of flexible hours, Cannon say. However, there is still a pronounced tendency for women to work reduced hours, and therefore work less money, because they are picking children up from school and child-minders at a fixed time. Men who work flexibly, on the other hand, tend to choose to compress a full working week into fewer, longer days, which means they still earn a full salary. Lots of Senior men take compress hours.”

Culture Counts

Page 183. Many cultures and  governments still seem to believe that this conflict with the goal of making more babies. In reality, the opposite is the case. Economic growth – through better use of women’s talents and skills in the workplace – goes hand in hand with population growth. […] Fertility is positively correlated with High Female Employment. [v] […] The US is the only developed country which does not provide women with any paid maternity leave, according to the 173-nation Project on Global Working Families. […] In the US, it is hard to imagine that the rise of the conservative right and their professed belief in family values will lead to greater support for working families.

Page 211. The Asian region also showed the biggest growth in the percentage of women in senior management in the 3 years to 2007. The highest numbers are in the Philippines, where women make up 50% of senior management, in Thailand (39%) and in Honk Kong (35%). [vi]

Figuring Out Females

Page 224. Women are not yet natives of the business world. They are like second-generation immigrants with one foot in the culture of business, and one foot in the culture of “women”.

Page 228 Women do not usually feel comfortable with the power structures in their organisations. Hierarchy itself and its implicit positioning of people into one-up, one-down positions is actually far from women’s search for establishing series of relationships between equals. […] Women value authenticity. […]

The Top things that motivate them are by order of importance:

  • Making a difference
  • Being challenged
  • Believing in their company’s direction
  • A sense of satisfaction in their team
  • Recognition

Just under half said flexibility. Money came bottom of the list.[vii]

Page 239. Women’s careers often peak a decade later than their male peers. Retaining women in their 30s who leave to balance life is an issue, as is an understanding of how to manage their return after a career absence. Leading investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan have all recently launched programs to lure former employees back from career breaks. […] As societies age, and people work longer, the career experiences or burned-out men in their 50s and 60s may well start to resemble those of women in their 30s – full of desire for flexibility and balance. Women in their 50s and 60s may start to resemble men in their 30s and 40s set on promotion and power. Successful older women may be delightedly wading deeper into the world of work while their husbands are just as delightedly dreaming of sailing off to sea or retiring gently on a golf course in the South of France.

Page 248. For companies, it means being prepared to give parents, not just women, a breather. Focusing parental policies on women reinforces all the stereotypes and disadvantages tripping women up today. As careers lengthen, giving mothers and fathers a few year’s grace to coast to be an internal consultant, or to take up a new skill, need not be an unprofitable exercise but a useful investment in the future. [..;] Women can be intensely loyal to companies which treat them well, partly because they know there are not yet that many of them but also because longevity works for women. It makes sense for women to invest big in their 20s, negotiate some flexibility in their 30s and then gear up into leadership roles in their 40s and 50s.

Tomorrow’s talent trends

Page 272. The dominant linear career path is under pressure from many sides. Working lives are extending and changing shape as older people work beyond retirement age and younger people take bouts of “time-out” to study, travel or work for non-profit organizations. It is not only women who want more flexibility, choice and control in relation to work: increasing numbers of long-serving employees, new entrants, and mid-career executives would like a new deal too.

Tips for companies who want to attract and retain talent:

  • Understanding that flexibility is a desire of men as well as woman
  • Recognising that careers no longer have to be linear and unbroken
  • Raising or abolishing narrow age bands for spotting high potential
  • Making the language of corporate leaders more inclusive
  • Avoiding assumptions about what women or men want for careers.

Page 283. The new model of decentralized but interconnected working used by the youthful consulting and legal businesses we have described above is part of a shift that has been dubbed “disorganization”, by Demos.

Page 290. 3 out of 4 people see work as part of their ideal existence on later life. The do not want to be forced to work, but many envisage a mixture of work and leisure, family time and voluntary activities. Above all – and this is the key factor in our case for a big shift in corporate culture and attitudes – they want flexibility and choice.

Page. 297. We believe that companies which adapt to women and make them feel truly welcome will be able to draw on the widest pool of talent from all sources. To do this, they need to

  • Understand that everyone’ work priorities change at different life stages
  • Recognize that the linear unbroken career model is unsustainable
  • Broaden narrow definitions of the career path to the top
  • Abolish age limits for spotting and developing high potential people
  • Treat flexibility and work-life balance as issues for everyone
  • Measure performance by results, not hours

[i] Catalyst 2007
[ii]Interview with thh authors, April 2007
[iii]Cunningham and Roberts, 2006
[iv] Saatchi and Saatchi 2007
[v]Eurostat and Goldman Sachs calculations
[vi]The International Business Report, Grant Thornton 2007
[vii]Aspire, 2006

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