Friday, October 9, 2015

Which Story Will You Believe?

Today’s LA Times reports on a Korn Ferry survey of UCLA Anderson School faculty that concludes that women are underrepresented, underappreciated, and less respected at the graduate school of management in Westwood. 

“Women Faculty Face Bias at UCLA Business School, Study Says” by Larry Gordon.  The study was commissioned by Dean Olian (first female dean of the school in place since 2006) and a faculty committee.  The report concluded that, “Anderson leaders 'have not demonstrated the focused intention and proactive behavior required to increase diversity.'”  And “many faculty do not trust the dean and do not believe she is serious about gender equality.”

A separate study reported in Fortune Magazine in January 2015 found that UCLA under Dean Olian had made tremendous strides in moving the graduate school of management toward closer connections with the burgeoning technology field.  “UCLA's Business School Embraces the Tech Boom” by John Byrne. Other studies cite Dean Olian’s progress in bringing a more diverse international and national student body into the Anderson School.

What appears to be happening is better described in the article, “Harassment vs. the Gender Gap” by psychologist and author Kim Elsesser in today’s LA Times:

Ten years of diversity training has produced little measurable success in reducing the gender gap, according to the author’s research, because diversity training has focused overly on protecting the entity from harassment lawsuits and failed to provide guidance on how the genders can collaborate effectively without suspicions. “Employees generally perceive that the training is provided for the protection of female employees, which carries with it the image of weak women who can’t fend for themselves. … training video[s] left viewers with the impression that women were emotionally weak.” The author suggests that diversity training has resulted in the unintended consequence of creating “gender partitions” that keep men and women operating in separate cultural and social circles in the workforce, rather than fostering genuine collaboration.

Elsewhere, an August 2015 Korn Ferry survey of Senior Human Resources Executives found that “Companies Lack Experiential and Intellectual Diversity.” See:

Korn Ferry reported specifically that “the large majority of [Chief Human Resource Officers] CHROs say finding HR talent with business acumen is the biggest barrier to making strong hires.”  [Emphasis added.] So, if the people behind hiring for diversity and providing diversity training are themselves not intellectua

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who ARE These People?

Herbert, Marc, Michael, J. Michael, George and John?  They are the directors at McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm that co-authored the study with  The study is: Women in the Workplace.

McKinsey has only one woman in leadership, Claudia Funke, the Director at McKinsey’s German High Tech Sector area. She also is a member of McKinsey’s global High Tech Sector leadership group. Brava! Even so, McKinsey at least has presented a balanced perspective on the true causes of women’s under- representation in corporate leadership. The underlying issues truly are complex:  it IS complicated.

The Wall Street Journal presented the research with a slightly more depressing tone: What’sHolding Women Back in the Workplace? by Nikki Waller and Joann Lublin   You know it’s a Wall Street Journal article because it starts with the word “Despite….” is equally depressing in its coverage of the research: Corporate America Not on a Pathto Gender Equality. begins their article with “Women are STILL UNDER-REPRESENTED….” Surprise! Surprise!

What is really different about this study is how balanced are the conclusions. The WSJ and point to everything that men in corporations are doing to “keep women out” of leadership. At least this study itself is beginning to include some of the decisions that women are making that “keep themselves out” of leadership paths and potentials.

Women are finally admitting that many of them (NO, NOT ALL!) do not aspire to leadership roles because they ASSUME that they cannot handle the stress or that they cannot change the environment that existed before.  That is a big assumption and a major deterrent to personal advancement.  If you believe you will fail, you will.  What are we doing to convince women that the only and inevitable result of leadership advancement is the same world that men operated before we arrived on the scene? 

Smart women, like Claudia Funke for example, wait until they reach leadership positions to decide how they will define those roles and relationships.  Brava!

Women are finally recognizing that staff/supportive roles do not provide the same experiences that line/P&L responsibilities do on the way to leadership.  If women really PREFER to stay in the helper mode, then that is where those career decisions inevitably will lead – always helping someone else succeed, rather than helping herself or other women succeed as leaders.

Smart women take on leadership responsibilities all along their career path – learning how to be a leader at every possible opportunity.

Did anyone besides me notice that 98% of the comments on the WSJ article were by men?  Where are the women with an opinion on this subject?  Are we all hiding in the background - afraid of the consequences of holding an opinion?   Well, maybe that’s part of the problem as well.

McKinsey’s web site is trying to make a difference by offering management courses, at McKinsey Academy, that will help women learn the basics they need to take on greater responsibility, negotiate and communicate better, and advance in their careers.  Brava! Every woman worth her leadership potential should sign up for those courses.  Even so, McKinsey could do a better job of presenting those courses. All but one of them has men in the principle role of instructor. I can learn a lot from men – I have and always will. But, when it comes time for me to acquire the specific skills of a woman in leadership, I would be more inclined to sign up to hear a woman who actually IS in leadership tell me what I need to know.

Also, it’s time we talked to women about the alternative to the corporate path – and I do not mean the NON-profit, charity path.  I mean the entrepreneurial path.  If women believe that they know a better way to build a business, then come on out into the entrepreneurial space, build the teams and the companies we need for next generation opportunities.  Hire the talent and pay them the decent wages we need to grow this economy again.  Don’t just sit back and whine about how bad corporations are.  Stand up, speak up, stand out, and put up the money and all of the other resources we need to build a better economy. And I don’t mean YET ANOTHER jeans store, a shoe store, or a muffin shop.  I mean serious businesses that solve real and substantive problems that we face as a nation.

There is a lot that women can do to make change happen – to change the frame through which we view business, corporations, and leadership.  This is not your mother’s world.  It is your world.  What are YOU doing to make a difference here and now?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interlocking Directorships

Surprise, surprise.  Donald Trump describes high salaries paid to chief executives a “joke” and a “disgrace” because compensation packages typically are approved by company boards stacked with friends of the CEOs.  Not only are they friends of the CEO, but board members generate comparisons of compensation packages to justify excessive compensation packages by looking at peer companies.  And guess what, those peer companies may have interconnected directorships.

A July 30, 2015 article in Business Insider by Jonathan Marino reported on “How America’s Biggest Companies are Intimately Interconnected.” See:

The research presented in this article was conducted by R.J. Andrews, an engineering graduate of Northeastern University and MIT. His blog, Info We Trust, had the original posting titled, “Board Member Overlap” at: (July 28, 2015). Of the top 30 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, only three companies did not have interlocking directorships: The Home Depot, Verizon, and UnitedHealthcare.

An earlier and more comprehensive research document on interlocking directors was written by Prof. G. William Dormhoff of UC Santa Cruz (first posted August 2005; most recently updated October 2013): “Interlocking Directorates in the Corporate Community” by Professor G. William Domhoff, Sociology Dept. at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  See: A quick scan of the footnotes for his research indicate that interconnected directorships has been a problem long before the emergence4 of excessive compensation, which is a more recent phenomenon.

Even before the meltdown of the financial marketplace, The Corporate Library’s governance database (Board Analyst) provided one of the most comprehensive data analytic tools for assessing director interconnectedness. The Corporate Library was the first to examine the relationship between director interlocks and the backdating of stock options – “Backdating Stock Options: Are There Common Characteristics Among the Companies Implicated?” See:

In September 2011, GMI Ratings (which had taken over The Corporate Library and its Board Analytics tool and is now owned by MSCI) launched its own GMI Analyst tool as a subscriber-only online research and data-visualization tool designed to deepen the analysis of corporate governance practices and a comprehensive evaluation of public company Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks. See the launch press release at:

Since October 2014, MSCI’s Governance Metrics tool is used to map complex board relationship patterns at the individual, organizational, industry and regional levels. See:

For a "poor man's mapping" of interlocking relationships for over 40,000 people, take a look at NNDB Mapper: where you can simply enter a director's name and discover everything about him/her.