Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

(This article was originally published on LatinPost.com http://www.latinpost.com/articles/21389/20140915/ya-time-come-latinos-claim-place-american-society.htm)

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

It’s up to us to have our power match our numbers

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013, it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, and raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billion in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market; it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future power brokers of how things are going to be.

We have a the rest of this month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

Middle Management Women Mentoring Top Management Men at Dell in Europe

The U.K.’s Observer reports that senior male workers at Dell are being mentored by less senior female colleagues in a pioneering move aimed at highlighting the problems women face in the workplace and helping them get into executive positions. Women in middle management roles have been encouraged to share their perceptions of the world of work and their daily challenges, such as making childcare arrangements, with men in top management.

“The feedback from the men was great,” said Ingrid Devin, Dell’s diversity manager for Europe. “They realized that they have a lot to learn about the challenges that women face in the workplace.” Dell hopes more empathetic male executives will help transform the computer company into an environment where middle management women increasingly rise into top positions.

One of the Best Diversity Leaders in the Field: Take Five with Merck CDO Deborah Dagit

Merck (Dagit Deborah Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer)Back in the 1980s, managers repeatedly told Deborah Dagit, now a VP and Chief Diversity Officer at Merck, that she could neither help lead companies nor represent them due to her disability.  They had no idea how wrong they were. In job after job she brought about transformative change and proved herself to be a leader.  Prior to joining Merck, Deb founded and managed Bridge-to-Jobs, a job placement organization through which she placed 400 people with disabilities into permanent employment. Deb is also past chair of the Conference Board’s Workforce Council on Diversity and serves on the board of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. She joined Merck in 2001 where she initiated and led the Diversity Worldwide Business Strategy Team, made up of 26 executive leaders from all divisions who developed breakthrough strategies for diversity implementation. Deb and I have served together on various diversity councils and conference design committees and she is a valued friend who is a fabulous listener full of wisdom.  It’s one of the reasons I end up quoting her throughout my book, “The Inclusion Paradox.” Recently Deb and I had dinner in Manhattan and over seafood platters she graciously agreed to follow up our conversation with a Take Five interview.

Take 1: It is commonly said that without a committed CEO, not much diversity and inclusion work can get done.  Corporate diversity pioneer Ted Childs has remarked that in about three decades of diversity work, he only met three CEO’s who really got what it meant to be fully committed to it: former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner; Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen; and your CEO, Richard T. Clark. What is it about your CEO that stands out in helping you accomplish diversity and inclusion goals at Merck?

DD: Dick Clark does not exhort diversity and inclusion principles, he lives them.  Shortly after he became CEO he designated the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., commemoration as an additional Merck holiday in the U.S., making it a national day of service for all employees to consider giving back to their communities. He also asked me as the diversity leader to rethink our approach to our diversity strategy and recommend ways we could enhance our programs to make them more global, customer-focused, and aligned with our business imperatives. As a result we formed 10 Global Constituency Groups, that collectively represent all dimensions of our global workforce and marketplace. These teams have delivered and begun to help implement innovative solutions for accelerating leadership development, enhancing inclusion, better addressing the needs of customers, and engaging in strategic alliances with key external stakeholders.

Dick is visible and approachable with all employees and is regularly seen in our cafeterias, hallways and offices. When conducting Employee Business Briefings he encourages candor and thanks employees who courageously ask tough questions or challenge the status quo. He regularly hosts breakfast meetings with a random sample of 30 employees at a time to give them a chance to talk about whatever is on their minds. Dick has been an engaged sponsor of our Employee Resource Groups, and comes to meetings to thank employees for their contributions to enriching our culture, help us to recruit great talent, and provide innovative solutions for our customers. Dick’s leadership team is one of the most diverse of any Fortune 500 company: currently reporting to the CEO are three women, four African Americans, one Asian, one Native American, one Hispanic, and five White men. He drives accountability for diversity and inclusion through the personal objectives each of his team members has each year. For Dick, “diversity” and “inclusion” are not buzz words. They are priorities regardless of where he is at or who he is with.

Take 2: In the last few years you have been broadening your global reach as a diversity and inclusion leader. What are two important lessons you’ve learned about what’s required for an organization to succeed when they go global?

Get very good at global inclusion practices. Building trust and making sure all voices are heard in other countries requires knowledge–knowledge of time zones, holidays, languages, and the etiquette of  e-mail, telephone conversations, webcasts, and videoconferences. To have a truly global strategy and approach, you must have a global team, and with the business conditions we are currently all operating in, travel will not always be possible. So you need to become exceptional at leading globally through different media.

While it is imperative that you avoid even the perception of exporting U.S. norms and values about diversity and inclusion, I don’t believe in shying away from addressing universal truths. No matter where you are in the world,  some of  same challenges  may exist if you are LGBT, have a disability, are female, have darker skin color, are part of a faith or age demographic that is in the minority. If you succumb to believing that because you are from the U.S. you must be overly cautious in addressing these common concerns, you will fail to make progress and not be seen as a credible or useful resource to the business or the people who are struggling for and deserving of equality and respect.

Take 3: What do you believe is the greatest challenge CDOs face in terms of their own readiness to lead in a complex global and cost-managed environment?

Understanding of both the emerging trends in Human Resources practices (for example, talent management, workforce planning, market-based compensation, etc) and the business acumen in your industry segment needed to drive revenue, customer satisfaction, reputation, and investor opportunities.

Take 4: Among your many accomplishments over the years, you have led the way in addressing disability issues.  What do you believe the diversity and inclusion movement needs to come to terms with at this point in order to address disability more effectively?

Decide to address disability inclusion and make it measurable like other dimensions of diversity. This is not a philanthropic issue, it is not a medical challenge, it is a social justice/civil rights need and business opportunity.Define the opportunity for your industry.  Get beyond just acknowledging the buying power of consumers with disabilities. Understand the barriers to disability inclusion. If your organization is weak in sourcing candidates for the types of jobs you typically have, develop relationships with social networking sites, universities, and targeted recruitment organizations. If you lack appropriate management training, provide “just-in-time” resources at each stage of the employment lifecycle:  recruiting, interviewing, accommodating, managing performance . . . Cornell University has developed a terrific approach to this that is very cost effective.

Making your business accessible to and respectful of people with disabilities needs to affect the design of your lobby, your websites, and your products and services. Avoid “motivational” speakers on disability. Rather, address this topic like other dimensions of difference – with the intent to get results in order to drive business outcomes, retain talent, enhance productivity/engagement and reflect your marketplace.

Take 5: As CDO at Merck and a popular speaker on diversity issues, you have touched many lives. How have your own particular experiences as a woman and as a person with a disability helped you make a unique contribution?

The only way I can make my life work as someone who is 4′ tall and has had mobility challenges since birth is to be hyperaware of what is going on around me. The physical environment, the people, the logistics of getting from point A to B . . . I am very attuned to everything from the height of a curb or slickness of a floor, to the nuances of facial expressions and vocal tones. As a diversity leader this has given me a rich tapestry of information and insights into the world around me, and helped me to navigate situations, people and cultures with great sensitivity and appreciation for the subtle cues. My life experiences have required that I be agile, resourceful, and good at setting others at ease and gaining their support. I know that I must always be prepared to offer focused, practical and innovative insights and ideas that are useful enough to overcome concerns that people may have, given their limited opportunities to interact with someone who looks like me. I think these are attributes that any CDO needs to function in a global multicultural business environment.

If you want to hear Deb in action, check out this speech she gave at the City Club of Cleveland.

Campbell’s Soup Knows Its Business Success Rides on Women – As Consumers and Leaders

Eighty percent of Campbell Soup Company’s consumers are women. So to improve their market position, the company has embedded diversity and inclusion into how it does business and manages its talent — it is hiring more women and asking them to bring their ideas to the table. Not only has this strategy led to greater sales and greater employee engagement, it has also won it public recognition. In March 2010, Campbell’s was one of four companies to receive the prestigious Catalyst Award that identifies  companies that have done an outstanding job in the advancement of women.

Here’s the video on Campbell’s “Winning in the Workplace, Winning in the Marketplace, Winning With Women” initiative that garnered them the recognition. Campbell’s Chief Diversity Officer, Rosalyn O’Neale, is among the best in the field, the author of 7 Keys 2 Success: Unlocking The Passion for Diversity, and a friend and colleague. For more on Campbell’s women’s initiative, click here.  Mmm Mmm Good.

New Thinking on Gender and Gen Y in the Workplace — Take Five with Dr. Elisabeth Kelan


Elisabeth Kelan, PhD is Assistant Professor of Management at King’s College in London, where she teaches Corporate Social Responsibility and Managing Diversity and Inclusion. A leading scholar on gender and generational identity in the workplace, she is the author of the groundbreaking Performing Gender at Work (2009). Dr. Kelan’s deep research on these topics lead her to differentiated insights that go beyond best practices. She spoke persuasively about Europe’s glass ceiling in March at the 2010 World Diversity Leadership Summit EU held at the Austrian Ministry of Finance in Vienna. We met there, and we took five at the legendary Palmenhaus café where I asked her some pressing questions about women and Millennials in the workplace.

Take One: You write and speak about the 50/30/10 Rule which describes the seemingly unchanging representation of women in organizations: 50% at the entry level, 30% in middle management, and 10% in executive leadership.  Why has it remained unchanged after one, two, and in some places, even three generations of women in the workforce, and particularly in companies that have been explicitly committed to gender diversity for many years? What keeps companies from getting to 50/50/50?

EK: The 50:30:10 rule emerged from a research study that we did with a wide variety of corporations in Europe. It seems to hold true for many organizations in the world. I think that this is an expression of the fact that most organizations committed to gender diversity have only focused on getting more women into organizations by developing flexible working practices and networks for women, rather than developing women as leaders. Our research has shown that to become a leader, three experiences are essential: undergoing executive training, leading critical business projects and working abroad. Yet few organizations offer women these critical experiences.

Take Two:  Women face multiple dilemmas when it comes to how their managerial and leadership performance is evaluated in the corporation. What are these dilemmas and some of the best antidotes to address them?

My research has shown that most organizations have a dormant stereotype of an ‘ideal worker’ who is able bodied, white and male. Everybody who does not fit into that template is, implicitly, not seen as the ideal worker who can fill important roles in management and leadership. To overcome dormant stereotypes that unconsciously shape behavior, it is important to expose them. This allows us to develop practices to broaden our biases and develop more inclusive ideal workers.

Take Three: When it comes to gender issues in the workplace, the focus has been almost exclusively on women: what additional support they need and how they can connect with other women in the organization. But what about men?  What is their responsibility for improving the gender dynamic in the workplace?

Most organizations follow a fix-the-women approach. It is all about fitting women into models that were designed with men in mind rather than questioning the masculine nature of corporate culture. Although related to the problem of  numerical domination by men, this masculine nature of corporate culture is a distinct issue.

It is vital to include men in the conversation about gender roles. After all, they affect men as well as women. Men are still expected to be the breadwinners and to conform to gender stereotypes at work which restrict their identities and behavior. It is often assumed that men have a lot to lose from gender equality, i.e. the loss of power and status. However I think the opposite is true. Men have a lot of freedom to gain.

Take Four:  Millennials have often been depicted by older generations in superficial, sensational, and judgmental ways.  What do organizations need to understand about Millennials’  needs, wants, and aspirations in order to attract and retain them?

When I started the research on Millennials or Generation Y, I was shocked by much of the literature. Some of it offered negative stereotypes of entitled, selfish young adults that seemed to be based on biased research or the commentators’ experiences with their own children.  I strongly felt that a much more nuanced portrayal of Generation Y was needed.

In our research on Millennials we narrowed down our focus: we talk about young professionals who are the future leaders of elite organizations. We avoided using a survey but instead listened to what these young professionals had to say. We found that they were not selfish or arrogant. Rather, they are the first generation that has fully incorporated the concept of living with risk. For them risk is a fact of their working life. They know that stable jobs are a thing of the past and to succeed they need to remain employable. Therefore they work to learn and to develop new skills. They want feedback because they know that only this feedback will ensure that they can deliver a top performance. Organizations need to understand this urge to learn in the context of more risky employment.

Take Five: In offering up practical ways to apply your research on gender and Millennials, you have made several recommendations. But there is one recommendation – focusing on leadership development – that shows up on both lists. Why do you believe that this is the most neglected, yet most necessary, support that companies can give to women and young professionals?

Leadership development and the way we deliver it is centrally important. I mentioned before that organizations don’t do the right things to develop women as leaders. If you want to have more female leaders, it is important to make sure that they get the opportunity to collect the right skills. However the problem is much more deep-seated than this. We also need to ensure that men are comfortable in managing women and to be managed by women. I therefore argue that it is important that general leadership training includes a focus on gender diversity to allow leaders to manage effectively in a diverse workplace.

For Gen Y diversity is no longer an issue, and they see the gender problem as solved. Young women in particular are highly skeptical towards women’s groups and often feel that these women’s groups are not for them.  it remains vitally important, however, that in their leadership training Millennials come to understand the intentionality and skill needed to get the best performance from a diverse workforce. Inclusive management does not just happen, and leadership training needs to take it more seriously, even with Generation Y.

Pressure Is Mounting Against Europe’s Gender Glass Ceiling

by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch and Leonardo Sforza —

VIENNA — “Pressure is building against the glass ceilings, glass cliffs, and career labyrinths that women in Europe continue to face,” says Dr. Elisabeth Kelan, Assistant Professor at King’s College in London and a  leading scholar and author on gender and generations. At this past week’s World Diversity Leadership Summit hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Finance and where I met Dr. Kelan, several of the speakers and many of the attendees, three-fourths of whom were women, echoed the sentiment.

When it comes to eliminating gender inequalities, Europe’s record is as varied as the people groups who live there. Back in the 1970s, it was Sweden who pioneered the “equality in government” movement, requiring at least 40 percent of its MPs to be women. Similar laws followed in Norway, Denmark and Finland. Once Scandinavian women began assuming more positions of leadership, a ripple effect began to be felt elsewhere. In Austria today,  more than half of the country’s senior ministers are women and women outnumber men in the Spanish Cabinet.

Despite these advances, I personally have witnessed many situations where the dearth of the presence of women in leadership forums has a distinct retro feel. Did I just step into the 1950s? The women I talked to at and outside the conference concur but many sense that the moment to demand change has come. The contradictions have become more blatant and the pipeline of highly educated and career experienced women is as strong and robust as it has ever been.

The clamor is rising that despite more college-aged women than men complete upper and postsecondary education European women , on average still earn 15-18% less than men in comparable jobs. The gap is widest in Estonia and Cyprus, where men earn 25 percent more than their female counterparts. Furthermore, in every age group more men than women are employed, and women are more likely to be employed part-time.

As is always the case, women’s disadvantages in the workplace are linked to other disadvantages. Women spend less time pursuing leisure activities than men, and more time doing household chores. They stand a greater chance of living in poverty. And although women in Europe tend to outlive men, they also report more longstanding health concerns.

The mood at the World Diversity Leadership Summit in Vienna, was one of, how shall I say it, cynical hope. Cynical about the men in power being willing to do much about the gap, but hope that a growing diversity movement fueled by the rise of highly educated and ambitious women and supported by a growing body of legislation can close the gap. 

As a keynote speaker, I joined in with 200+ participants in brainstorming stategies to most effectively “recruit and manage diverse talent by 2020.” Some European employers are coming to understand that they can do more to close the gender gap, and that they will benefit significantly if they do. A recent study by the European Commission found that Europe would see a 30 percent increase in GDP if the employment gender gap can be eliminated.

Consider these encouraging signs:

  • The European Union’s “European Strategy for Jobs Growth” set a goal of 60% employment for women by 2010; as of 2008, 59.1% of women were employed.
  • In 2006, Norway passed legislation requiring the boards of all public companies to include at least 40 percent women by 2008, which has resulted in revitalized and more cosmopolitan leadership. At least half a dozen other EU countries are considering similar measures.
  • Successful companies in Europe are promoting women in leadership. Sodexo, Deutsche Bank, and Novartis are all examples of corporations who have become convinced of the business benefits of women in leadership and increased their already existing commitments to help more women enter positions of power. Recently, Paris-headquartered Sodexo CEO Michel Landel declared publicly at an event I attended in New York City that 25% of executives’ bonuses are tied to achieving diversity goals especially one that states that 24% of the top 300 leaders will be women within the next few years. Currently 19% are.  In defending against accusations of using quotas in setting gender representation goals, he replied, “We set goals for every business objective. This is no different.”
  • There is a current campaign “Close the Gender Gap Campaign” by the European Commission’s Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities entity. Here’s an ad from the European edition of Newsweek. It contains a link to the Commission’s web page dedicated to the cause: http://ec.europa.eu/equalpay


Despite these good news of these advances, the economic crisis of the last two years threatens to slow down progress. According to the European Commission:

“Recent analysis of national responses to the crisis confirms the risk of downgrading the status of equality policies or reducing budgets allocated to these policies. Some gender equality measures have been cancelled or delayed and possible future cuts in public budgets may have a negative effect on female employment and on the promotion of equality.”

Despite this warning, given the energy at the WDLS conference and the various legislative initiatives the push for closing the pay gap should yield results. At Hewitt offices in Europe we see increased requests from companies for help with assessing if they have gaps and, if so, how to close them.

The bigger challenge lies in seeing greater promotions of women into managerial and leadership positions. “Until the profile of the  ‘ideal worker’ is named and challenged for being based on the preferred characteristics of white males,” says Dr. Kelan from King’s College, “women as well as people with different racial backgrounds will continue to fall short of being considered.”

Ten Ways the World Has Been Turned Upside Down: Part 2

In my last post I offered  five ways businesses are finding that the world is upside down. Here are five more changes of historic proportions transforming the economic, political and social landscapes in which we do business:

#6 To have a disability is to be differently abled. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans (54 million) has some form of disability, making this the largest minority group, and an increasingly vital sector of the workforce. As I discuss in The Inclusion Paradox, the U.S. Department of Labor has found that more young people with disabilities are graduating from high school and college. And according to the Job Accommodation Network, workers with disabilities have performance and retention ratings comparable to those without disabilities.

#7 Women are losing fewer jobs than men in the recession. According to USA TODAY, men lost 74% of the 6.4 million jobs erased between December 2007 and June 2009. Partly as  a result of the shrinking male-dominated construction and manufacturing markets, women became a majority in the U.S. workforce for the first time in 2009.

#8 Corporate Social Responsibility is about giving AND receiving. Companies around the globe are recognizing that diversity and inclusion are not only social values, but business values–vital to sustained, long-term profitability. Case studies of Bank of America, IBM, Allstate, Sodexo and other corporations tell this story again and again.

#9 White men must be included in diversity efforts. Businesses who successfully leverage diversity as part of their strategy to remain profitable have come to understand that white men are also members of a nuanced cultural group, and that they are integral to helping diversity efforts succeed. Consulting firms such as White Men as Full Diversity Partners, as well as the successful diversity efforts of companies such as Georgia Power and Coca-Cola bear witness to this trend.

#10 Green is the new black. As consumer attention begins to shift more toward environmental concerns, companies are increasingly “going green”. Even more significant, many companies have discovered that there are solid economic incentives for reducing waste and moving toward more sustainable business measures. By “going green” companies have already succeeded in reducing costs and increasing sales.

How is your company responding to these monumental changes? I invite you to respond on this blog with your comments and questions. And if these topics interest you, follow me on Twitter as well, where this list first appeared in abbreviated form.

Women Leaders Rising — Stories and Stats from the 2010 Global Best Practices Session

Increasingly, women are shattering the glass ceiling–and they’re doing so in savvy businesses who actively support gender diversity in leadership. While moderating  Diversity Best Practices’ 2010 Global Best Practice Session in February 2010, I was struck by these stats:

  • At Verizon, 29% of the top 300 leaders are women.
  • At Sodexo, women hold 19% of the top 300 positions. Their goal: 24% within the next few years.
  • At Ernst & Young, the number of women in titled leadership positions has grown to nearly 20%.

To be sure we still have a very long way to go in many companies to see women represented according to their availability in the talent pool and according to the talent, education, and experiences they have. But here, let’s just take a moment to reflect on the gains above, which can be added to what presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling when referring to the votes she got. Not long ago, gains such as these were just pipe dreams. And they still might just be that if executives were not becoming more and more convinced that making leadership gender inclusive makes businesses stronger.

The 2010 Global Best Practice Session hosted by The New York Times focused on gender and corporate social responsibility, and business leaders were there to explain how corporations are helping more of their most talented women step up. Ernst & Young, for example,  is involving men in women’s initiatives, training them to become better coaches for women developing their own leadership styles. And Sodexo ties 25% of executive bonuses to achieving diversity goals around gender representation. It make sense: according to Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand, every $1 Sodexo invests in mentoring sees a return of $19. Though their approaches differ, these companies all see gender diversity in leadership as vital to strengthening their executive talent pool. Said Sodexo CEO Michel Landel:

“We set goals for every business objective. Gender diversity is no different.”

In The Inclusion Paradox, I offer more stories of how gender diversity all along the corporate ladder has made businesses better able to cope with increasingly diverse client bases. What is your company doing to help women enter top positions of leadership?

Work from Home on Way to Becoming the Norm

According to HR.BLR.com, the number of people working at least partly from home has been on the rise–up to 11.3 million in 2005, a 17% increase since 1999. Those who enjoy this kind of flexibility in their work environment are also more likely to report flexibility in scheduling work hours: In 2005, about 23% of home-based workers reported their weekly work hours varied, compared with only 10% of those who worked outside the home.

Given the domestic pressures many women feel, it’s not surprising that over half of these home-based workers are female.

In The Inclusion Paradox, I offer evidence of how meeting the need for work/life flexibility helps employers recruit and retain the best talent in an increasingly diverse workforce. While it will be no surprise to most that the 2010 census will confirm an acceleration of the trend toward working from home, I predict the numbers will be stunning — full-time or part-time work from home will have gone mainstream. Company policies and processes to manage this kind of workforce will continue to lag behind.  This revolutionary change in how we work also calls for a closer synergistic collaboration between the Real Estate, Technology, and Human Resources functions. Currently these three operate separately and sub-optimize what an interdisciplinary approach could accomplish.

What changes do you see need to happen for companies to better accommodatethis inevitable transformative change of where work happens?

Wives and Mothers Rising in the Global Workforce

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research –

As noted in my January 27 post, women by some measures are exceeding men in education—but still not getting equal pay at the end of the work day. The following two news stories from different parts of the Western world, however, illustrate how married women are increasingly becoming valued as indispensable to the 21st century global workforce.

Although a gendered income gap remains, wives in the United States are seeing their economic status increase. According to a Pew Research study titled “New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives,” compensation is more equitable for married women than it once was. In 1970, only 4 percent of marriages included a wife earning more than her husband–even though 20 percent of married women were more educated than their husbands. As of 2007, 22 percent of U.S. marriages involved a woman who earned more than her husband, paralleling more closely the reality that 28 percent of those marriages included women who were more educated than their husbands.

Unfortunately, not all married women in the West have made this much progress.

A New York Times story details how in Germany, working women—mothers, in particular—are still struggling to keep their heads above water. There, the cultural ideal of a nurturing mother being a stay-at-home mother is so strong that most state-run schools dismiss children at 1:00 p.m. Consequently, most working mothers have part-time jobs, or no jobs at all, so they can be home for their children. Lunch and after-school care are not always easily available. Significantly, mothers who work more than part-time have earned a nickname: “Rabenmutter.” This translates to “raven mother,” or a mother who pushes her chicks out of the nest.

The good news is that Germany’s traditional views about mothers and school hours are beginning to change. As the birth rate plummets and concerns about labor shortages in the female-dominated service sector rise, more Germans recognize that women should not be forced to choose between children and career. Since 2003, nearly a fifth of Germany’s 40,000 schools have phased in afternoon programs, and more plan to follow suit.

“This is a taboo we just can’t afford anymore,” says Ursula von der Leyen, the German labor minister. “The country needs women to be able to both work and have children.” This trend turns the question of child care into one of economic competitiveness, notes Karen Hagemann, professor of European and gender history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As German businesses are discovering, career-minded women are not the only ones who benefit when the workplace, and society, adapt to accomodate them.

Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business – Progress?

In November 2009, FORTUNE magazine unveiled their annual 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Their headline: “In 1998 when the Most Powerful Women in Business list premiered, just two of our honorees ran Fortune 500 companies. This year 13 do.”

So let’s do the numbers: in a decade’s time, an increase of nearly 600% which means that women CEOs of FORTUNE 500 companies went from representing .4% of CEOs to 2.6%.

Bottom line: we’ve got a long way to go.

No wonder the French Parliament is contemplating requiring that 50% of all corporate boards be composed of women within the next five years. Can companies get there without requiring government intervention?

And to take it one important step further: when it comes to women of color among the Top 50 women, they can be counted on one hand…

Gender Diversity: Top 10 Things Companies Can Do to Maximize Women’s Contributions

While innovative, current, and relevant strategy is essential to break through into the next generation of diversity work, organizations must continue to be operationally excellent and disciplined in delivering the policies, programs, and processes that have proven to be beneficial to people in groups that have traditionally been marginalized. 

I recently came across this clear and compelling document by Inforum whose mission is “to strengthen the business environment in Michigan by creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed.”  While Inforum is geographically based, their recommendations have universal applicability: Top 10 Things Companies Can Do to Maximize Women’s Contributions and 10 Ways Women Can Rev up their Careers

I explore these and various other issues in my book The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity

– Andrés T. Tapia

Gender Diversity: Double Standard on Female Behavior in Sports and Business?

As I visit my daughter here at the University of New Mexico, the video that went viral of the UNM female soccer player who violently yanked an opponent’s ponytail — among other unsportsmanlike behaviors — is on my mind. The fact that it went viral. raises questions of whether women are trapped in conflicting standards of behavior and in double standards as it relates to men.

The blogosphere has vented quite a bit, and accurately, on the fact that if the player in question had been male this would have been a non-story. Not that soccer player Elizabeth Lambert actions aren’t appalling but culturally what made the difference between a story that would have only been of import only to the two teams playing each other, became a nationwide youtube and ESPN sensation.

As Bruce Arena former coach of the US men’s national team said in a interview with the New York Times, “I think we are somewhat sexist in our opinion of sport. I think maybe people are alarmed to see a woman do that, but men do a hell of a lot worse things. Was it good behavior? No, but because it’s coming from a woman, they make it a headline.”

This soccer incident surfaces the double bind that women in the workplace often face. Play it too softly, and they are not seen as leader material, play aggressively and the B word accusation is triggered to put her in her place. As more women play sports, and as more women rise into positions of leadership in society, politics, and business, all of us as part of it, must take a deep look at our beliefs and intuitive reactions to seeing women be explicitly competitive.

We must be able to clearly and fairly answer: what is truly unacceptable behavior — regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman doing it — and what is a double standard that ends up being detrimental in how women are assessed in their leadership success and potential?