Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Negotiation Gap

My friend Peter was hiring a marketing manager for his technology company and asked a strong candidate about her salary requirements. She replied, "In my last job, I made $75,000, but I....". Peter stopped her before she talked her way down the pay scale and offered her $85,000 on the spot. He didn't want to deal with the office politics when she found out that others were making more because they had done a better job in their negotiations.

In a recent study published in Time magazine,8599,1843323,00.html, researchers found that sex role stereotypes alone could explain a large proportion of the difference in earnings between men with traditional views of gender roles (ie, men who have a wife to do all the housework and child care) and women with traditional views of gender roles (those with two full-time jobs). Somewhere in the middle were men and women who hold egalitarian views of gender roles. No doubt, some of the persistent wage gap is one's own attitudes and how these attitudes are perceived by employers. Whatever the causes for the persistently large wage gap, an important method for addressing this gap is improving women's negotiation skills through training.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have Millennial Women Moved Beyond Feminism?

Written with Barb Bylenga

Talking to a Millennial (ages 15-29) about feminism is like talking to an Alaskan about heatstroke. They’ve heard of it, sure, and what they’ve heard sounds pretty unpleasant—but it’s not a part of their world. Not at all. Maya, a 20-year-old woman living in New York, rolled her eyes when asked in a market research interview how she felt about women’s issues. “Oh, I’m no feminist,” she said. Rea, a 21-year-old in LA, had difficulty even comprehending a question about competing for jobs with men: “What do you mean? I don’t see any distinction, like, at all. Maybe I would sell myself short as a professional football player, but that’s just because I don’t like football.” Older feminists, like ourselves, initially react to this attitude with concern: How can the fight for gender equality ever be won if the next generation couldn’t care less?

The Millennial attitude towards feminism reflects the general cultural move towards a post-grievance society. They don’t blame men for gender barriers; instead they view them as a personal challenge to overcome. Therefore, success is within their personal power, and not dependent on the work of the sisterhood to achieve. The mindset of the younger generation exalts the power of the individual, so much so that among this generation, identity politics have largely lost their resonance. Challenges are individual challenges, no longer group challenges. It’s even been coined the “splinter generation” by some within the generation. As the website points out, “Our generation is split into a million different cultures and subcultures, whether they are religious, musical, literary, racial, class-based or consumer-based.” They do not see themselves as having power as a group as Boomers did. They identify with much smaller individualistic passions, an attitude that is supported and fueled by advances in technology.

This cultural shift explains much of the divide in how each generation views feminism. Millennial women live in a world where they believe they are equal, for the most part believe they are treated as equal, and importantly, they don’t believe being angry about the past gets you anywhere. In some ways you could claim that the Millenials live in the world Boomer women were fighting for; that they have what Boomer women want. Boomer women, on the other hand, grew up within a culture in which they had to fight for equality and it is fair to say their grievances are still strong. Therefore to them, the fight must continue on or we will lose sacred ground. It’s not surprising that Boomer women look at younger women and say: Wow, they have a very different worldview; I don’t understand these women, they’re not like me.

The outcome of the Democratic nomination process clearly illustrates the changing of the guard. Much of Obama’s magnetism with Millenials comes from the fact that he elevated himself above grievances. His indifference about race gave him credibility as a true catalyst for change, and importantly created a relevancy with the generation that allowed them to believe they have someone who “gets them.” Obama is a visionary in this post-grievance generation.

While Hillary single-handedly achieved extraordinary gains for women’s leadership, she didn’t embrace the post-grievance zeitgeist that is fundamental to the Millennial identity. Unlike many feminists, Millennial women didn’t see her as a critical chance to save the women’s agenda. In fact they could care less that she is a woman because to them it’s not about gender, it’s about embracing their mindset. While Hillary was by no means a battle-axe feminist, she closely aligned herself with an attitude that persists among old school feminists: that you have to fit into the man’s world. She worked too hard at aligning her persona with what she “isn’t” instead of recognizing that times have changed and being a woman is just fine. Beyond a few tears, she never carved her own authentic feminine place.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, does a better job than Hillary of reflecting Millenials’ attitudes about being a woman. She isn’t running as a female trying to be as tough as a male – she is simply a tough female. She’s comfortable with her gender and doesn’t seem concerned about representing women’s voices. In this regard, if perhaps none other, she represents the new generation. Unfortunately for her as a candidate, she did not shed group identity altogether. She relies on class politics in her stump speeches and does not have broad appeal beyond her base. Regardless, greater subject mastery would serve her well in any future race.

The first woman president will be a full-blown post-grievance candidate, not dissimilar to Barack Obama. She will not strive to become a part of the old guard. Instead, she will rise above the fight with her own female persona naturally shining through.

While there is much work to be done in the fight for equal rights, old school feminists and traditional civil rights leaders will not be able to reverse this world-view in the younger generation. Without a change in voice, they will be increasingly seen as out of touch and irrelevant, just as Hillary supporters’ post-nomination demands and Jesse Jackson’s criticisms of Barack have been met with sighs.

Millennial women represent something hopeful. Instead of being dismissive of their style and approach, the old guard should count the attitude of their daughters and sons as the fruit of their efforts. This mere act of tossing away generations of grievances may seem terrifying, yet we need to better appreciate Millenial attitudes and speak to their beliefs to engage them in the work that is yet to be accomplished.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bad Attitudes Towards Governance: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

"Government is the name we give to the things we choose to do together." Barney Frank

It is this attitude that is more prevalent in France and the UK that allowed Europe to lead the way in resolving the current financial crisis. As Republicans have worked toward reducing government's scope and role in regulation, we have compromised our ability to move quickly and decisively. As Paul Krugman points out, the Treasury Department was almost like FEMA - depleted of its civil service talent by years of departures due to politicization and political appointments of relative novices. Hank Paulson has been pulling some of his trusted direct reports into the Treasury Department out of their gilded retirements from "Government" Sachs to work on the federal bailout. We are lucky that Paulson has such great talent at hand who are interested in serving. Yet, it is unclear that a group of investment bankers from one powerhouse can provide the needed perspectives to create the best solutions.

The French and the British had the varied talent pool that they needed and moved much more quickly and effectively than the Americans. And our anti-government nationalization (quick, is that a new oxymoron?) of the banks will not be as effective. The Europoeans have taken voting stock in the banks that they have nationalized and can get the banks to start lending instead of hoarding capital. Half-measures with the banks, i.e., ownership without representation, will not be enough, unless we get lucky or the European's cure paves our way.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Obama/Biden: When Hope and History Rhyme

Senator Biden made a moving speech today at a fundraiser in Atherton. In closing, he quoted Seamus Heaney's poem:

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

This is our moment. Just by electing Barack Obama, we progress in our dreams for the future.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barack's Pitch Perfect Performance in the Final Debate

In last night's debate, Barack Obama reached new heights in leadership. He let go of the Democratic disease of needing to be right at all costs. He stopped correcting the record on each and every count.

It's an important leadership discipline because defending oneself often feels pedantic, causes the speaker to lose energy and compromises the ability to offer a broader vision. Last night, Obama looked presidential by laying out his plans and only selectively and at times reluctantly responding to McCain's barbs. Barack only responded to the Ayers poke after McCain's second attempt and delivered his finest moment. After he explained his association with Ayers, he went on to name his real advisors, including Richard Lugar. It was a touchdown moment.

By contrast, McCain looked frantic as he tried to bully Barack into defending himself. He looked like a has-been politician in a wrestling match, trying desperately to score points so that he might win a technical victory. For the first time, I felt nostalgia for the old McCain and excitement at having won a big game.

Obama was at the top of his game and this debate will be used often in teaching skills on debate, tough questioning and leadership.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Speech on Race by Head of AFL-CIO in Support of Obama

I'm not usually moved by speeches which feature a lot of shouting. This one moved me and it's obvious why this video is racing around the blogosphere. Watch the head of the AFL-CIO as he makes his appeal about overcoming racism in the Presidential race. This will no doubt be remembered in years to come.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What does Sarah Palin Represent Beyond Her Improv Genius?

I’m taking an Improv class and we’ve been doing work around status and how people achieve status by what they project physically and how other players endow each other with status. Sarah Palin has improvised herself onto the global stage by successfully being herself on a grand scale. She has achieved this status by sucking lots of helium. And many have embraced her new status enthusiastically. So far, hats off: more power to her. We all have much to learn and admire about this rise.

The problem is that Palin has not yet mastered the fundamental beliefs of her party. When asked which Supreme Court decision she disapproves of, she rightly zeroed in on Roe v. Wade. Fine so far. Then, she immediately said she believed in the right to privacy. God, I would love to have seen the looks on the faces of all the members of the Supreme Court, not to mention the Federalist Society. Yikes, the Republican Party has spent decades trying to dismantle the right to privacy and the entire branch of law built upon the 1965 landmark privacy case, Griswold v. Connecticut. And at the outset of the vice-presidential debate, she spoke of ramping up regulation to prevent another meltdown on Wall Street owing to greed and corrumption.

Even in the biggest of tents, these are not acceptable deviations from party orthodoxy. It might be nice to think we could have a national leader who pays no attention to party beliefs. Yet, she will be ceding her power to those around her as they whisper the basic truths to her. It reminds me of Dr. Evil asking for a ransom of $1 million dollars, only to learn that $100 billion would be more in line with the current financial reality. One cannot retain credibility with the Putins of the world with this lack of basic knowledge, even if she can see Putin across her maritime border.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How Much is that Jerk Costing Your Company?

We’ve all worked with someone who creates resentment and bad feelings at the office. Let’s call him Greg. Greg cuts people off in meetings if they don’t get to the point quickly enough and he micro-manages people to try to replicate the exact same result as if he had done the work himself. He thinks he’s being efficient and where would we all be without Greg’s enormous talents? Most likely, he is very well-intentioned. Funny, his team members are miserable and they hide it. I should know. I used to be Greg.

Let’s think about how much the Gregs of the world cost companies in cash. It costs Pizza Hut $2,400 to lose an hourly delivery-man: imagine the cost of losing a highly trained professional. In Bradford Smart’s book ”Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People”, the cost of a mis-hire is 28 times the salary for a person who earns between $100,000 and $250,000. If Greg earns $150,000 and is not performing due to the lack of strong leadership skills, by this calculation, this costs the company over $4 million. And think of the cost of that associate that just left because he couldn’t take Greg.

I hear Greg’s story with varied details all the time. There’s plenty of misery out there and many misguided attempts to correct it. The good news is that complete turnarounds are possible if the leader is open-minded and committed to fixing the problem. Again, I should know. Very quickly with the right assessment and skill-building, my team knew I was serious about change and we moved toward greatly improved team performance in 2 weeks and I continued to rebuild the team over the subsequent year.