Feminism. A point of view

Fighting poverty and trafficking, through education is the mission of at least one non-government organization I am familiar with. This ‘good news’ story is important to tell. We all agree that trafficking is a bad thing and that a workable model, to educate as a way to reduce the vulnerability to trafficking is a way that each of us can do something.

In my 14 years working for Microsoft, I accepted a difficult challenge to move the needle on diversity, specifically on gender where there is a chronic problem in attracting, retaining and developing women in technical roles (STEM). Since 10 of those years were spent in Asia I learned some interesting perspectives and, to not least, understand the bias that I and all of us bring into every meeting and interview.

This work on hiring, retaining and developing female talent also brought me into contact with UN Women’s Committee in Singapore who have inspirational programs around education, trafficking, girls and young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and a host of related issues in the South East Asian region.


When the UN Women team asked me to speak as part of their #HeForShe programs it seemed an ideal chance to bring these strands together in a single line of thought, what amazed me was that the thread that would bring that together – feminism.


The young woman who very politely asked me what I (the only man present) was doing, at a Womens’ Networking event, was not prepared for what followed, when she said, “Well, I’m not a feminist…”. Why not? Was my question why wouldn’t you expect your boyfriend, brother, uncle, father to support you in having the same choices that they have? 


Feminism is about choice but has become tainted with the worst of equality. I want equality only in choice. Beyond that I believe in meritocracy and duty. Adding duty ensures that if you are fortunate to be better at something that others then there is a duty to support and give back to others just as you been blessed.


Equality, let’s say an equal number of male vs female airline pilots is a stupid goal. Equality for male and female to choose pilot as a career is what feminism means to me. After that I want the best pilots to succeed and the worst to fail irrespective of gender.


I even heard a senior manager from one of the top accounting firms claim that his company had achieved wage equality across the genders. What he meant by this was that for a given job and experience pay was about equal.


What he did not mean was that if you add up all the money paid to men and all the money paid to women that these would be 50:50. Why is it that we all turn a blind eye to who sits in the lowest paid jobs? Does it really represent any of our experience of the world, our friends and families that mostly women should be secretaries, nurses and primary school teachers? It certainly does not represent my experience which has seen at least as many inspirational, brilliant, warm and talented women as it has men.


Feminism is being curious about things that make no sense, about continuing to say NO! to women being more likely to experience abuse, exploitation, bias and prejudice on our watch.


We must be forced to look out of the window and see that this is far far far from the experience for most women. I am proud to be a feminist and I take responsibility for making sure all the women in my community have the same choices.

Diversity Hiring Research – 5th March Digest

Thought I would share some of the research I am collecting as I dig deep into diversity hiring – not my original work, but great resources:
Hiring For Diversity

How to Encourage Diversity Between Men and Women in the Workplace:
Diversity includes all of the qualities that make us different from one another. When you allow typical gender roles to limit employees in your workplace, you increase inequality and close yourself off to potential talent. By encouraging diversity, you create a feeling of freedom, which allows both men and women to express their ideas and come up with solutions together. Employees should feel that gender diversity is a priority within the company, so you can get the most out of your available talent.
Step 1
Offer flexibility with work schedules. Create an atmosphere of honesty, which allows mothers to attend their children’s school functions and dads to coach their children’s sports teams. Traditionally only mothers asked to have time off for their children. Treat employees equally and allow both mothers and fathers the same time as long as they meet client’s needs.
Step 2
Measure your employee’s performance in the workplace equally. Be objective and look at a person’s work history, success, time management and results rather than their gender. When you treat employees fairly, there will be less resentment among genders, which makes them get along with one another better.
Step 3
Listen when your employees have ideas. Women and men think differently and have different ways to approach things. Hold meetings and ask employees of both genders for their input. Encourage everyone to participate and put the ideas to work. Make all employees feel valued.
Step 4
Pay employees equally. In spite of rules regarding pay secrecy, employees will find out what others are making. Pay men and women equally for the same job. According to Financial News, equality in pay should be in accordance with responsibility and performance and have nothing to do with gender.
Step 5
Hire and train effective management. Good leaders will not show bias toward individuals regardless of race, gender, nationality or other characteristics. Provide training to help management be aware of any behavior misconstrued as gender unfairness. Women in particular will judge whether they are being treated the same as their male counterparts. It’s important that management understand what actions could be taken as prejudice.
Step 6
Recruit employees based on skills and qualifications. Examine your current workforce. Make sure you represent women in all aspects of the company. Make it a point to recruit and promote women for positions on a regular basis. Women should feel they have a chance to move ahead and become successful.
Forms of Diversity in the Workplace:
Workplaces tend to mirror one of the characteristics of the United States — they are melting pots where differences make them stronger. Diversity often refers to race and gender, but there are many forms of diversity at work. As a manager, having a diverse crew can give you multiple perspectives, but it can also be a challenge when different cultures collide. As an employee, it’s easy to be misunderstood if you’re in the minority, but it also means you can bring fresh ideas to the table based on your experiences.
Race and Gender
The two most common forms of diversity are also the most obvious when you walk into your workplace. You can immediately see differences in race and gender without knowing anything else about the people. These two factors lead to different experiences that can broaden the scope of your team; a black woman might have a very different view of the impact of an ad campaign than a white man, for example. The differences can sometimes lead to conflict, but they can also spark new ideas that a homogenous group might never come up with.
Culture and Religion
You can’t tell anything about a co-worker’s culture or religion just by looking at her. People often have a strong emotional connection to their heritages and religions, making this a hot point in diverse workplaces. For example, if most employees follow a mainstream religion and want to celebrate a major religious holiday, employees of different religions might feel offended or excluded. Conversely, as a manager, you might not understand when an employee from a minority religion asks for time off for a religious holiday you’re not familiar with.
Especially during a recession economy, you’re likely to find several generations working in the same office, as the older generation delays retirement. You might have women pushing age 70 working side-by-side with co-workers young enough to be their granddaughters. Each generation typically has its work ethic and style, which can cause dissension among the ranks when the styles clash. However, experienced workers often have great wisdom and tenacity, while the fresh-out-of-college types bring new and trendy ideas. It’s good for the company to value workers of all ages.
Physical Abilities
Businesses accommodate physical disabilities whenever possible, bringing another level of diversity to the workplace. Some disabilities are obvious, such as someone in a wheelchair, while others, such as chronic fibromyalgia, aren’t as noticeable. Accommodations might be as simple as an ergonomic chair or keyboard tray or as complicated as installing a ramp or wheelchair lift.
Education and Life Experience
An employee’s education level and life experiences help to define who she is, how she sees the world and how she relates to co-workers. Someone with a master’s degree might have difficulty finding something in common with a high school graduate. Also, a former stay-at-home mom might have different opinions and ideas from a woman whose main focus has been to climb the corporate ladder. Income levels add another form of diversity, with the “haves” and the “have nots” viewing issues from different perspectives.
Signs of Diversity in the Workplace:
It’s no secret that in a country as diverse and multicultural as the United States, the workplace works best when diversity is celebrated. When workers of different ages, races, cultural backgrounds and beliefs work together, employees are happier, the community is better served and companies show that they are about more than just the bottom line.

A Positive Effect
Diversity in the workplace is as good for the staff as it is for management. A 2002 report by the University of Florida found that in companies that celebrate and respect a diverse staff, productivity and creativity among employees goes up. A sensitive workplace also lessens the likelihood of lawsuits by creating a fair and safe environment in which everyone has access to the same opportunities and challenges.
Far-reaching Success
Business today is global, so doesn’t it make sense that a well-diversified staff would put your company in a better position to reach out to a planet full of potential customers? According to a July 2012 report by the Center for American Progress, companies that hire workers from various backgrounds not only draw from a broader pool of top-shelf candidates, they can more effectively market to customers and communicate with clients from different cultures, backgrounds and languages all over the world.
Support from the Top Down
A company is only as strong as those who run it. When it comes to diversity in the workplace, managers can do many things to make sure the company is on the right track. Social gatherings and business meetings that give every employee the chance to speak — and listen — to each other can create open dialogues. Mentoring programs and sensitivity training for managers also go a long way toward a safe, productive and creative workplace.
Life Outside the Office
Companies today realize that employees have personal lives and families to take care of. The Wall Street Journal reports that benefits such as onsite daycare, childcare subsidies and flexible schedules show employees that their employers are willing to work around important aspects of employees’ lives. And companies that accommodate cultural and religious holidays and celebrate cultural events with fun events like international movie nights also make for great, diverse workplaces.

Why Is Workplace Diversity So Important in Today’s Business Environment:
Walk down any major metropolitan street on a weekday and notice the diversity of people rushing to and fro, hurriedly going to work, school or running errands. Old and young, women and men, people of all nationalities are looking to get in on business opportunities globally. Encourage and maintain workplace diversity that reflects the diversity you see in the community around you to secure a successful edge in today’s cut-throat business world.
The Best and the Brightest
Open up your hiring pool, extend your recruiting feet into diverse communities, and watch the pool of highly qualified applicants rapidly expand. Recruit at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), job fairs at diverse places of worship, and other events aimed at people who your company has not traditionally reached in the hiring process. Instead of the same pool of workers you’ve been hiring from for years, your business will receive an influx of other qualified candidates, adding to the competitiveness of your hiring process. When you include everyone in your workforce, you end up with the best and the brightest available, whether you’re looking for engineers, sales representatives, or teaching staff. Your company may just secure a reputation as the place to do business when you want the best of the best.
Perceptions, Perceptions, Perceptions
In a Forbes survey from 2011, 85-percent of respondents report the perception that diversity in the workplace is key to innovation. People perceive your diverse company as being innovative and want to do business with you. When navigating our global economy, diversity gives your team the edge of seeming more approachable and easier to work with than companies that do not strive to be inclusive. Focus on diversity in your workplace to foster client and business-partner perceptions that aid in the growth and prospering of your company and all who work to make it great.
Hook Your Customers
More diverse companies have the power to reach and capture a greater percentage of consumers. Instead of marketing towards and communicating with people of a certain age, gender, race or ability, all of a sudden, your company is also reaching families from the new immigrant
community down the street, the multicultural church whose attendance has exploded, and the posh assisted living facility in the neighboring town. You are no longer restricted to hooking one type of customer and your expanding customer base can mean only one thing: expanding profits.
The Bottom Line
Economic growth and diversity go hand in hand. Whether it is the hiring process or securing customers, your company’s bottom line depends on your ability to navigate a diverse cultural landscape effectively, inclusively and enthusiastically. Open doors make your company the place where people want to work, do business and contribute their dollars to your company’s financial success.
Goals for Diversity in the Workplace:
Workplace diversity goes beyond hiring Millennials and Baby Boomers to do the same job. It’s about creating a company culture of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities so that employees appreciate co-worker differences. Brad Karsh, president of Chicago-based JB Training Solutions, works with employers to enhance business skills. He says companies that set and attain workplace diversity goals have productive employees who are happy, career-driven and loyal.
Offer Employee Training
When employees of all abilities, skills, genders and races are given equal training opportunities, employers see an increase in productivity, job satisfaction and company morale, Karsh says. Companies wanting to diversify should offer additional education to employees, such as paid courses from a nearby college or online school, job-enhancement seminars and a strong mentoring program. Employees without proper training have less company loyalty and more workplace frustration, says Douglas N. Silverstein, a Los Angeles-based employment and labor law attorney at Kesluk & Silverstein, P.C. Also, without training, friction between management and employees is more likely.
Stop Discrimination
Put a stop to discrimination by insisting that all executives and managers get harassment and sensitivity training. To create a diverse workplace, the human resources staff should carefully consider candidates who may not be obvious contenders. Women who desire warehouse work, a woman with an accent wanting a sales manager job or a young man applying at a department store make-up counter are examples of people who may not initially seem qualified, but who may possess skills and have life-experiences that are in line with the position. By ending both subtle and obvious discriminatory practices, employers have a better chance at recruiting and retaining the right candidates.
Embrace Employee Differences
Employers who embrace generational, gender and cultural differences have teams with greater synergy. When a team is responsible for creating an advertising campaign appealing to the mass market, for example, it helps to have employees who can bring ideas to the table based on different cultural backgrounds, work and life experience, and job skills. A woman with a learning disability can succeed at a writing job with the help of a tape recorder and extended deadlines; a man in a wheel chair is an efficient delivery man when given the proper vehicle; and an employee from a different country just may be the ticket to scoring a new, global client.
Hire Based on Skill
A diverse workplace culture happens when a company makes a commitment to hire and promote people based on their qualifications and desire to learn, not personality or nepotism. It’s not right for a pretty woman without sales experience to get a coveted sales job simply because she’s attractive, or a workplace that has a “boys’ club” mentality to toss aside applications from qualified women. And, it’s crucial to workplace diversity that a qualified, younger-generation manager be considered for an executive position, even though her subordinates will be older. Her tech-savvy knowledge, efficient communication skills and open-to-change attitude can benefit the company’s bottom line.

hiring for gender diversity

on the 1st of September 2012, I set myself the goal of hiring 50 of the best female engineers in Asia during the following year. The context is a chronic low ratio in the individual contributor and management population of my teams combined with a rapid rate of growth that allows for these positions to be opening up. With 400+ staff, an attrition rate of 5% opens up 20 jobs and growth rates expected to be even larger – 50 is a reasonable target.

Why am I driving to make an impact here? it’s a moral issue 1st and foremost. A moral issue of fairness, we should leave no-one behind and opportunity should be fairly distributed. However, it is also an issue of strategic imperative  – as diversity and inclusion trend toward the norm, our environment changes. At the cutting edge we have to move faster to stay ahead and in a diverse customer reality, we will gain a commercial advantage in having a rich pool of diverse talent to serve those customers. the third, not completely irrelevant fact is that the more diverse the workplace, the more fun I have!

what I am hoping to learn are transformational behaviours, process and tools that will give me a competitive edge in what would be a proud legacy of diversity and inclusion hiring in Asia.

when starting to prepare some research – there are unlikely to be many more bald a reminder of the attitudes of many past and present. this from http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/gender.htm

In the past, all women in the workplace were automatically assigned to temporary or part-time or low responsibility jobs because it was understood that their first priority was taking care of their families. Unmarried women were likely to quit as soon as they married (often to an up-and-coming executive in the company), and married women were likely to quit as soon as the became pregnant. Women with children were understood to care more about the children than about work. In addition, there was a widespread belief that women were not as capable as men, either physically or mentally or emotionally.

action plan:

1) sourcing : it’s illuminating to compare Computer Science degree and CCIE pass rates and ratios of women to men with the workforce – indeed, I will be using this as the baseline for success in building the pipeline

2) hiring : there are ways that we tell the story of our jobs and careers that inhibit or accelerate attraction to diverse workforce; then there are ways we handle prospects that get in our way, or build even stronger pipelines

3) retention : great! you made the new employee orientation meeting 🙂 but now – how do we ensure and build a career for you?

What does work life balance really mean?

what does work life balance really mean?

Balance and Fulcrum

most weeks I have a coaching session with a colleague or client that involves some discussion around their “work life balance” and what that really means so I will share here what I have learned and encourage you to contribute your own learning: but the most important thing is to understand the role of the fulcrum in achieving balance and understanding what it all really means.

Here we go then. The challenge presented is “how do I achieve a good work / life balance”?

Q1: what do you mean? what I hear is “how do I balance the things I must do with the things I would chose to do” – starting to look more interesting?
Q2: do you understand that the pressure you wish to release is you as the fulcrum with the desire to complete the things you must do with the things you would choose to do?

As soon as you understand the questions above there is a “penny drops” moment – the problem is not so much the balance but the overloading either end of the scales. Too much on either end, even when in balance, is simply too great a pressure on the fulcrum (you).

Take a little bit off both ends… find some things that just don’t matter that much and ease back on just a little of the stuff you merely want to do.

some reference questions I squirreled away:
#WorkLifeBalance How many hours a day do you work? Should employers help their staff find a more efficient way to work within shorter hours?

You deserve what you tolerate

Working more than 11 hours a day increases the risk of heart disease by 67% compared to 8 hours! #WorkLifeBalance http://t.co/covIc7h

4 tips for how to give great review feedback

It’s that time of year for many of us, when staff reviews are due. If like me, you are snowed under with requests for feedback – here are some thoughts on how to make the input you give great and the process as painless as possible for you!

1) Remember it is a privilege to give actionable feedback to peers and colleagues. Authentic engagement in the growth of others is a wonderful attribute (I admit it, this can be challenging after the first 5 or 6). To make it actionable I love the advice Kathryn Britton gives to

  • Tell people what to keep (what you love them to do)
  • Feedback that leads to higher goals
  • Reach for the best of you (not be more like me!)

2) Imagine a face to face conversation. You do need to be honest but don’t say something you would not say looking the colleague in the eye. Most likely you will be very specific with either your good or bad feedback if you are face to face – so don’t waffle with bland hints in your written feedback.

3) Be fearless. Just as Edmond Burke said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil was for good men to do nothing” The same is true for reviews and the opportunities to provide feedback for colleagues. Your choice here is to stand up and be counted. It is increasingly important to many corporations that just getting the work done is necessary but not sufficient. This is a great time to pull out the Corporate Values, tenets or other PR / HR material that the organisation uses to set it’s aspirations if you are struggling to benchmark a behaviour that you feel it appropriate to give feedback on

4) Take time: I can’t do more than 3 reviews in a row justice. So if I have fifteen to complete, 3 before lunch each day for the week is my goal.

Other resources:

7 ways to make feedback more valuable

How to give feedback so people can hear it

Critiquing etiquette: six ways to provide gracious feedback

Advocating: a leaders muscle

It is an important challenge to address, and I’ve learned the hard way, that the most powerful advocate for the team is the Leader; the most likely to be out of touch with the will of the group is also me, the Leader.

My enemy is my growing emotional intelligence, which will lull me into believing I am super connected to the zeitgeist when more likely I am growing more influential and powerful which means there is no question that many are beginning to tell me exactly what they think I want to hear. The Emperor is beginning to have New Clothes!

If you take the study of leaders and leadership seriously (highly likely if you are reading this!) are beginning to learn that your experience and growth in part depend on an instinctive intuition, your growing inner compass helping you be more and more effective as a leader – but my experience is that it is exactly this that starts you on a fork from what is really going on in the team.

  • As a wiser soul you spot this and embark on a tactical set of methods to keep your connections
  • Informal chats with co-workers at ‘off duty’ numeral ground, the coffee pot, the corridor, the lunch queue
  • skip level one to ones
  • Listening tours
  • Office hours
  • Employee polls
  • Formal feedback tools

But it is all a waste of time if you have already decided, are not actually listening or even if you are listening slip into post rationalization as a method for proving your intuition was right all along.

It is important to know what is on the mind of the group and not because you should parrot it. That lacks authenticity and I am not a fan of the concept of ‘servant leader’ (not because I am not a fan of the excellent and nurturing shepherd) but because I believe leadership is more than administration, requires risk and inspiration, creativity and failure making the shepherd role necessary but not sufficient for great leaders. It is important because of the critical role of advocate. To trust and to follow you your constituents need to know you will advocate for them with fairness, equity and consistency. How can you do that if you don’t know what matters?

As well as not parroting, you are not seeking popularity – if you learn what the group believes and you know it to be wrong, mistaken, misguided still you must stand against it, offer another way while giving the belief validation and representation anyway.

To hear and not listen is about as stupid as a leader can be. Exercise your advocates muscle every day. Go! Start now..

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So you want to be a leader? Be an evangelist/enthusiast!

Develop the habit of being all about what you stand for, what others can believe in. The bad habit is to be the critic who has become cynical – and can only be evaluated by all the things you are against, dislike or believe worthless.

I would need a sociologist or behavioural physiologist to fully explain the phenomena – but closely related to “Bad News Sells” is the fact that crowds, groups, choose to pay attention to the cynic, the knocker over the evangelist, enthusiast. However, don’t be fooled by that attention – who and what they follow is rich, wholesome and creative when it is the evangelist, enthusiast.

We only need tune into twitter or the TV to find a deluge of folks purporting to lead but with nothing other than bile and negative intent for us to consume because it can be

  • entertaining in small doses,
  • readily available,
  • no doubt cheap
  • a quick road to ‘fame’ if you are shallow enough to buy it.

However, we also find hidden gems, little nuggets of the human spirit making a different choice, to stand up and be counted as being for something we can build or create together – how refreshing and energising is that?!

I talk of this in terms of habits and it is important to think of it thematically that way, since it’s easy to fall into this bad habit everyday, in every meeting or communication. There are tips and tricks, and I’m as sceptical as anyone when they stray toward the politically correct, such as ‘find and replace’ problem with opportunity for example – but that is not what I am talking about here. What I am talking about is an authentic belief in something or someplace that you describe again and again and again.

Good would be things you are going to create, transform, build or become. Bad would be things you would beat, destroy, marginalise.

bottom line – The cynic drags crowds to the bottom – The leader draws followers to the top

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